A natural-born leader. Heart and soul, team-first player, who gives it everything he has on every shift and leaves it all on the ice. We’ve all heard the cliches about pro-athletes for better or for worse. The funny thing is that these players are an important part of every locker room/team dynamic and contribute to a “winning culture” that so many franchises ascribe to. It is players like this who provide that coveted “it” factor. The Columbus Blue Jackets are fortunate enough to have one of them. His name? Although you might not have thought of it, it’s none other than David Savard.
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When you think of the Blue Jackets, a few prominent names come to mind. Players like Seth Jones, Nick Foligno, Josh Anderson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Zach Werenski steal most of the headlines about the sole NHL franchise in Ohio. Of course, we can’t forget about their outspoken head coach, John Tortorella, who never shies from the cameras, or is afraid to say exactly what’s on his mind. Although they have a passionate fan base and following, the Blue Jackets don’t typically attract a national television audience in comparison to other U.S. markets (and rivals) such as Boston, New York, Chicago, or Pittsburgh.
What the Blue Jackets have is a roster filled with character, grit, and substance. They play hard for each other, their coach, and the fans who fill Nationwide Arena night after night. Savard embodies each of the aforementioned qualities and is an important piece of the puzzle in Columbus. Let’s take a closer look at his career, and what he means to the organization.
Rising Through the Ranks
Born in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Savard spent most of his junior career perfecting his craft in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with both the Baie-Comeau Drakkar and Moncton Wildcats. His career in “The Q”, was a major success that ended with several pieces of silverware.
After the 2009-10 campaign, Savard won the Emilie Bouchard Trophy, awarded annually to the best defenseman in the QMJHL. He also won the Kevin Lowe Trophy, awarded to the best defensive defenseman in the Quebec league, before winning perhaps his most prestigious individual trophy to date, the 2010 CHL Defenseman of the Year award, as the top defenseman in the Canadian Hockey League. The icing on the cake was when Savard and the Moncton Wildcats also won the President’s Cup that season as the QMJHL’s playoff champion after defeating the Saint John Sea Dogs in a best-of-7 series, 4-2. Talk about a season for the ages!
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After attending his first NHL training camp with the Blue Jackets, management felt it was in Savard’s best interest (long-term) to spend some time in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the club’s affiliate, the Springfield Falcons. Many players have benefited from the AHL as a development league, and that is exactly what the Blue Jackets had in store for Savard during the 2010-11 season. Notorious for developing talent and focusing on “what it takes” to make it in the NHL, Savard played 176 games in Springfield tallying 20 goals and 96 points. By the end of 2012-13, both Savard and the Blue Jackets knew that he was ready to make the jump.
A Mainstay in the Top-6
A season later, Savard skated in his first full season under the bright lights of the NHL. Most players in their rookie season experience the “jitters”, Savard fit in like a new glove on the Columbus blue line. His size, skating ability, lateral movement, tenacity, physical play, and first pass were all on display. The 6-foot-2, right-shot defenseman even chipped in offensively with 5 goals and 15 points in 70 games, not too shabby for a rookie.
On Sept. 8, 2015, four weeks before the start of the regular season, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen awarded Savard with a 5-year, $21.25 million contract extension. The deal gave Savard $4.25 million annually, but more importantly, kept the Quebec native in Columbus for the next five seasons. The dollar amount and term signified the respect that Kekalainen had for him as a player and person, and what he meant to the city, his teammates, and the organization.
A Blue Jacket Through and Through
Before the NHL hit “pause” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Savard was in his 11th season with the Blue Jackets organization. Often flying under the radar to teammates like Jones, Dubois, and Foligno, Savard remains a crucial member of the team. At 29 years old, he is now a veteran on the defensive corps and an excellent mentor to the younger players. On a team where consistency has been their Achilles heel this season, Savard is as consistent and solid as they come. He plays hard, does things the right way, and takes it upon himself to elevate his play and that of his teammates as often as possible.
During his tenure in Columbus, the coaching staff, fans, and teammates alike, have come to adore Savard because he sticks up for each and every one of his teammates, even dropping the gloves in some instances.
Against the Washington Capitals on Dec. 16, 2019, Savard took it upon himself to come to the aid of fellow Blue Jacket, Vladislav Gavrikov, who suffered a big hit from Capitals winger, Tom Wilson at the tail end of the third period. Savard fearlessly fought Wilson, one of the NHL’s heavyweights, an indication of what’s in his DNA, and how he puts his teammates first. You can’t help but wonder what his teammates must think, and how much they admire Savard, in ging toe-to-toe with Tom Wilson.
Intangibles like these go a long way in an NHL season, and Savard embodies this and so much more in the Blue Jackets’ red, white, blue, and silver. He plays with his heart on his sleeve, loves suiting up for the Blue Jackets, and is the ideal teammate through the highs and lows of a grueling 82-game schedule. On a team with an abundance of skill, savvy, and the ability to overcome obstacles, Savard is the prototypical Blue Jacket.
My name is Domenic Lunardo, and I cover all things Blue Jackets here at The Hockey Writers. I am an avid Toronto Maple Leafs fan living in Toronto, with an unmatched passion for the beautiful sport of hockey.