The offseason is a chance for hockey players to get a break that they can’t take during the season. It’s a time to rest up during the early part before getting back to work. This is when players have a chance to work on skills they need to improve and their overall game. It can also be a stressful time if they are at the end of a contract and not sure where they will be headed next.
We hear a lot about the big names in free agency every summer. They usually have a number of different teams interested in signing them. Other players are just hoping to get to come back to the team they spent the duration of their entry level contract with. That was the case for David Savard who resigned with the Columbus Blue Jackets to stay with the team for one more year.
“I was pretty excited. You never know what’s going to happen at the end of your contract. They wanted me to keep going with them,” Savard said. “It’s nice to have the team want you and I’m really excited about this year.”
The 6’2 defenseman from Quebec was drafted during the fourth round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets. He is looking forward to going into his fourth pro season only having played in one organization.“I think it’s good to be part of the same organization. You know all the players and the staff. I’m happy and I’m pretty lucky to stay with the Blue Jackets,” said Savard.
With camps currently underway, Savard is in Columbus hoping to earn a spot on the NHL roster. He has been through camp a number of times before and feels like he knows what to expect. Being familiar with the people and the process makes it a lot easier for him to be comfortable.
“I think it’s different because you know what’s going to happen. You know how the schedule is and how hard it is. So, I think it’s just you’re really ready to be going through the next two or three weeks,” said Savard. “You’re ready to be going to the rink and working out. You know to try to have fun on the ice but also show what you can do.”
Even with being familiar with the process, he is still doing his best to show his hard work. The season is just around the corner and Savard wants to be on that 23-man roster for Columbus. He’s had a taste of call-ups and is ready to show the team what he can do on a more full time basis.
“I’m getting pretty excited about the season starting and I just want to show what I can do. Hopefully I can show that I can help the team to win games and that I’m ready to play in the NHL,” Savard said. “If they keep me, I would be real happy. But, if not, I’ll go back to Springfield and work hard to hopefully get back up.”
Savard spent the better part of his first three season with the Springfield Falcons, the AHL affiliate of the Blue Jackets. While he hopes to make Columbus, he understands that the Falcons are a good team and he would make the most of playing there if he was sent down. He even acknowledges that there are still things he could learn from more veteran players in Springfield.
“Obviously there are a few new guys and I’m just going to try to do my best. I’ve been in the AHL for three years now, it’ll be my fourth year with Springfield if I end up there,” Savard said. “There’s younger guys I might be able to help a little bit to tell them what the league is like. We still have veterans coming in that will still show the younger guys and me how to do things. Hopefully it’s a good team that makes it far.“
Springfield was the team Savard spent most of his rookie season with. After an impressive junior season where he won a number of awards, he decided to forgo his final season of eligibility in juniors to make the jump to professional hockey. Although he really enjoyed his time in Moncton of the QMJHL, he felt it was easy to decide to start is professional career.
“I was hoping that I could have a spot on Springfield. When they told me I could stay, I was pretty pumped about staying in the AHL and trying to get better,” Savard said. “It’s a big change from juniors to the AHL. I knew I had to do it at some point and the younger you do it, the better. I had the chance to play a lot that first year. It was key for me.”
That first season, Savard learned a lot about the pro game with all the playing time he got. He also had some help from his teammates who had been in the game a little longer. That type of help is something he will likely provide if he does find himself in the AHL for any part of the season. It can be hard to make the transition from junior to professional hockey.
“The hardest part is just that the game changes a lot. Everybody knows what they have to do. In juniors, more guys are just running around. That was a change. The easiest part was probably that the guys talk to you more about the game,” said Savard. “You get used to the speed pretty quickly just by listening to your teammates. My first year I played a lot with Nick Holden and he was a great partner for me. He made it really easy for me to switch from juniors to the pro.”
The 2012-2013 season saw the Springfield Falcons make the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2003-2004 season. They also won their division for the first time since the 1997-1998 season. Although he points to teammates as the secret to the team’s success, Savard played a key role.
“We had such a good group of guys. Our captain, Ryan Craig, was unreal. We had a great goalie with Curtis McElhinney,” said Savard. “That was a big difference from the year before that. Our group was so tight together that it would show on the ice.”
Through his first three seasons as part of the Blue Jackets organization, he has learned what is expected of him and what he needs to do to make the NHL full time. He’s working hard in training camp now to show his skills. He also worked hard all summer to prepare himself for a new season.
“I just have to play my game. I have to focus on what I can do to help the team and just show them the best part of my game. If I play how I can play, I think that should be good,” said Savard. “You always need to work on your whole game. I was just trying to get my foot speed quicker. I worked on that a lot this summer. I worked with a coach to just keep getting better. I’m hoping it’s enough to make the NHL.”
Savard hopes all his hard work has paid off and he will once again get to start the season with Columbus as he did his second season. Not only did he get to start his second professional season in the NHL, he also got into his first NHL game. That game happened to be the home opener for Columbus, a feeling he won’t soon forget.
“There’s a few moments that stick out. I think your first NHL is going to be up there. It’s a dream come true. Since you’re five years old, you’re thinking about being in the NHL. To finally get your first game, it’s pretty amazing,” said Savard. “I was lucky that it was a home opener and it was even better. But when we won the QMJHL, it was awesome too and I won’t forget it. But I would say my first NHL game is my best memory so far.”
Wherever David Savard ends up, he will be an asset to the team. Between his size and skill, he is destined to make the NHL roster soon.