As we recall some of the most important players in Columbus Blue Jackets franchise history, you expect to see players like Rick Nash or Sergei Bobrovsky, who were among the best in the league at their position while wearing the Union Blue. Today I want to profile a player who wasn’t a star, but was nonetheless a fan favorite. Beyond that, I feel like this player perfectly encapsulates the era in which he played. The Blue Jackets of the 2010s were scrappy, hardworking, but lacking in the high-end talent of the true contenders. As a result, not much was expected of them, yet they managed to achieve some success anyway.
This also describes the one and only Matt Calvert.
Calvert could light the lamp for his hometown Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, but his slender 5’11” (on a good day) frame dropped him to the fifth round of the 2008 NHL draft. It took him two years to become a pro, and another two seasons before he became a full-time regular in the Blue Jackets lineup. It didn’t take long before he was a fixture in the middle six, often with Cam Atkinson. The “Atkinvert” twins could give a line both sandpaper and scoring.
The former was on display in March 2014, when Rick Nash made his return to Nationwide Arena as a member of the New York Rangers. After an altercation with Bobrovsky, it was Calvert who answered the bell and fought Nash. In front of a packed crowd of CBJ faithful, it was a moment of catharsis for a fanbase still wounded by their former captain’s departure.
On April 19, 2014, Calvert ascended from his status as a role player to becoming an immortal part of Blue Jackets history. It was just the second postseason appearance for Columbus after a four game sweep in 2009, and they blew a 3-1 lead in Game 1 against Pittsburgh. In Game 2, it was the Jackets who erased a 3-1 deficit, with Calvert contributing a shorthanded goal in the second period. One overtime period wasn’t enough, and early in the second OT Calvert carried the puck into the offensive zone before chipping it behind the goal. Brandon Dubinsky battled and sent the puck to Atkinson for a close range shot. Calvert was there on the other side of the crease for the rebound, and on his own second attempt he scored the winner for the first taste of postseason success for the franchise.
I still have vivid memories of watching this on TV, and the image of the entire team piling on top of Calvert at center ice.
Any player can score one playoff OT winner, but TWO? Ok, probably still a fluke in this case. It was four years later in Washington, and again it was a very Calvert goal. He crashed the net (and was possibly offside, which I had forgotten about) and was perfectly positioned to flip in a rebound of a Zach Werenski shot. This gave Columbus a 2-0 lead in the series and I assume they held on from there. Don’t check me on that.
The most fitting Calvert moment, however, was in a run-of-the-mill regular season game in November 2016. Calvert was known for his defensive prowess, and literally took one for team in the second period, blocking a shot with his face. It looked bad, and we wondered if he would return. He did just that in the third period, with the addition of a massive bandage around his forehead. He looked no worse for wear, scoring a shorthanded breakaway that won the game.
Never has the postgame kepi looked so appropriate. This is some Henry Fleming cosplay.
That moment also highlights the downside of his style of play. He missed some time a few games after that, and throughout his career has suffered numerous concussions. In 2015 he had to wear a darkened visor upon his return from the IR. This season he has donned a pink visor, again to protect from the effects of the glare. Nonetheless, he has been limited to just 18 games this season, and none since late March. He’s in the final year of his contract, and one wonders if this may mark the end of his NHL career.
If it is, then it has been a fine career. You can’t say that Matt Calvert has not left it all on the ice. He gave 100% on every shift, sacrificed his body to defend his zone, and put himself in position to capitalize on scoring opportunities when the team needed it most.
What are your favorite memories of Calvert’s time in Columbus?
What is your favorite Calvert memory?
This poll is closed
First playoff game-winning goal
SH GWG after taking a puck to the face
OT winner in Washington
Other (share in the comments)