2013/14 Season Review: Matt Calvert, and how I became a CBJ fan
The roots for my fandom of the Blue Jackets can be traced back to “NHL 11”. It introduced a sweet new feature called “Hockey Ultimate Team”, which I spent hours, days and months playing. I assembled teams for specific situations in order to maximize the “career games” of my players. I had a team to use online, a team to use vs weak CPU teams, and a team to use vs good CPU teams to try and collect as many bonus dollars possible.
One of my teams featured an “All-WHL” line featuring Calgary Hitman Brandon Kozun, and Brandon Wheat Kings Scott Glennie… and Matt Calvert. My other team featured a young New York Islander forward named Blake Comeau.
Fast forward to summer 2013, as another bonehead series of moves by the brass of the Toronto Maple Leafs have me searching for a new team to lay claim to. The shortlist featured Edmonton, San Jose and Columbus. My fierce loyaly to my old Hockey Ultimate Team members helped sell me on the Jackets, and I haven’t looked back since.
Naturally, these would be the two guys I begin my contributions to the Season in Review series with. First up:
Let’s just get this out of the way, because it’s awesome and it needs to be a part of this:
Ahhh, there we go.
Matt Calvert is probably one of the more anonymous top six forwards in hockey. His counting stats don’t bely a top six skater, as he finished 209th in points/60 amongst all NHL forwards [in the echelon of “7th/8th forward”], and doesn’t have the skillset that “wows” anyone, but his importance to the Jackets can’t be overstated. Columbus was just 10-13-3 when Calvert was out of the line-up, and a whopping 33-19-4 in games that he did play in. That’s a 102 point pace over a full season! Is Calvert solely responsible? Likely not. But there is a small bump in possession amongst most of his teammates when he’s in the line-up, and even a 1%-2% bump is significant over the course of a full season.
Finishing with nine goals and 15 points in 56 games [1.60 points/60 – 10th on the team] while playing nearly 16 minutes a game seems like it would be difficult to be called a “good” season, but Matt Calvert’s 2013/14 season may be an exception to this. His possession numbers are always solid, and he had another plus-possession season for the club this season. Matt finished eighth on the team in Corsi Close [52.7%], with a positive goal differential [51.4%], despite getting lower-half zone starts [48% OZ] and upper half quality of competition.
[full credit to www.sportingcharts.com for the heat map!]
Calvert played the majority of his icetime with Brandon Dubinsky [66.1% of his even strength icetime] and Cam Atkinson [59.4%] to form what was, for long stretches, Columbus’ first line. For his solid possession numbers, Calvert doesn’t personally own the shot attempt categories while he’s on the ice. He averaged just six shots/60, and only 10.5 shot attempts/60 – both 9th on the team – while his most frequent linemates were 1st and 4th on the team in the same marks. Calvert’s shot selection is predominantly wrist-oriented, as 52 of his 90 shots were identified as wristers. Also of note, Calvert is shown to have only attempted ONE slapshot all season! That’s pretty remarkable for a guy who plays as much as he does.
The diminuitive speedster is one who seems to have a full grasp on his specific capabilities, and doesn’t often try to play “over his head”. Since he’s not a guy who’s going to fill the scoresheet with goals and assists, Calvert’s contributions to the team were more of the off-puck variety than anything else. His speed allowed him to dash past defenders and retrieve dump-ins. His corner battles were frequent, as he did a lot of digging for pucks despite being outsized and outmuscled regularly. His shiftiness distracted the opposition and opened space for his linemates. He didn’t often carry the puck, unless it was a necessity, allowing his more stick-skilled teammates to instead gain the zone. On special teams, Matt was a tertiary option on both the powerplay and penalty kill, playing roughly 27% of each while he was in the line-up.
With the development shown so far, and continued usage similar to what was shown this year, it can be reasonably expected that Calvert should be a candidate for a 17+ goal season in 2014/15, while still playing on both the powerplay and penalty kill. The hard-hitting, “get dirty” game that Calvert plays does not lend itself to large periods of health, however, which could be an obstacle preventing this goal from being achieved. With an active off-season, Columbus could bring in additional left wing depth, which may bump Calvert down to a third line role, which is probably a more ideal position for the speedster to occupy at this point.
Next post, we’ll cover Blake Comeau’s polarizing 2013/14 season.
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