COLUMBUS, Ohio – With new faces and plenty of depth on the Columbus Blue Jackets blue-line this season, it looked like Marc Methot would be the odd man out of the rotation.
But the 23-year-old Ottawa native wasn’t going to bow out quietly.
In training camp, Methot voiced some frustration at his lack of a role with the Jackets but more importantly, backed it up with quality play. It enabled him to crack the lineup and the bruising defenceman has recently become one of the Jackets’ biggest contributors on the team’s defence.
“Getting the opportunity has been huge for me, especially this year,” says Methot, Columbus’ seventh-round selection in 2003. “It’s tough, we have so much depth here on defence.
“It’s been a battle. I’ve been going as hard as I could, trying to please whoever it takes to please. I’ve been satisfied so far.”
The Jackets blue-line is one of the team’s stronger attributes. Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman arrived from New York in the off-season trade for Nikolai Zherdev, while Mike Commodore signed as a free agent in the summer.
Methot’s reputation is that of a defensive stopper, his six-foot-three, 225-pound frame allowing him to play physical hockey. But given the opportunity, the former London Knight is showing he can carry the puck up ice and register points.
He didn’t dress in the Jackets’ first four games of the year but did score his first NHL goal in his season debut in Nashville on Oct. 18. On Monday, he scored to trigger a three-goal, third-period comeback against the New York Islanders. The game ended up in a 4-3 overtime loss but Columbus still salvaged a point from a game in which they trailed 3-0.
Methot’s four points (2-2) in nine games going into Wednesday night’s contest with visiting Edmonton not only had him tied for the lead among Jackets defencemen, it also equalled his output in 29 career NHL games over the past two seasons.
“With me, I find that things open a little more when I move my feet,” he said. “When you’re standing still, everything closes up on you and you don’t really have any room. I have been fortunate offensively, moving around and jumping in when I have the opportunity. It’s been working out.”
Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock says that Methot has settled down and found his game again.
“When he was in the American Hockey League, because he played so many minutes there, he was all over the place,” Hitchcock said of Methot’s time with the Syracuse Crunch. “He was on the power play, he was killing penalties, he was playing against the other team’s best player.
“We needed him to just come and find a foundation. His foundation is he’s a mobile, defending defenceman. He’s been able to really play well in that role and now we have a base to draw from.”
Methot’s junior career in London was crucial to building that base. Playing under former NHLer Dale Hunter, the Knights players were exposed to a professional atmosphere.
In 2005, Methot capped his career with a Memorial Cup on home ice in London with a 4-0 win over Sidney Crosby’s Rimouski Oceanic. Methot was tasked with shadowing the future NHL superstar.
“Playing against a guy like Crosby is something every player wants to do,” he says. “It’s a good challenge.
“Going through what we went through in ’05, especially with the lockout year and having all that media attention, you can’t compare it to too much other than maybe winning a Cup. Having that experience under our belts that year helped us out big time in terms of preparation for the pro level.”
That Knights team produced a number of NHL players, including Corey Perry, Dan Fritsche, Dave Bolland, Daniel Girardi and Methot’s best friend, captain Dany Syvret. After a few frustrating seasons, he’s happy to have his name among them.
“When you win a championship, it’s funny, you spend so much time around those guys that it turns into a brotherhood,” Methot says. “We’re so close. I talk to all those guys.
“It’s pretty cool to play against them.”