Barely a minute into Marc Methot’s first session with the media in Ottawa on Tuesday, the sweat was dripping off his forehead.
The heat outside had something to do with it, but it was more about the lights, the cameras and the size of the media horde surrounding him.
Clearly, he’s not in Columbus anymore. Instead, the Ottawa-born, Ottawa-bred defensive defenceman is back in his own backyard, instantly inheriting a far bigger spotlight, larger expectations and increased hype after being acquired by the Senators in the Canada Day swap for Nick Foligno.
Methot was pleasantly surprised when he heard of the trade, only minutes after leaving a family reunion of “about 180 Methots” just east of Ottawa. Ever since, he’s heard from a steady stream of well-wishing friends and family members, through phone calls and texts, many of them naturally wondering if Methot will be thrust into a role as a playing partner for Norris Trophy winning defenceman Erik Karlsson.
Come September, Methot will embrace that opportunity. For now, though, he acknowledges being a bit “overwhelmed” about the sudden change in his life and career.
“You guys (media) aren’t the first to bring that up, obviously,” said Methot. “If I played with Karlsson, I would probably just give him the puck most of the time. He’s an exceptional defenceman. Right now, I have no control over that. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I can control what I can on the ice. I can prepare myself. I’m prepared for that role. I’ve played a similar role before. But right now, that’s up to management and coaches and we’ll see how things work out at training camp.”
It’s often difficult to gauge the importance of a defensive defenceman. When they’re performing their role properly, they tend not to get noticed often, allowing the attention to pass to more offensive-oriented players.
After arriving in the NHL the old fashioned way — working his way up through the American Hockey League to the NHL after being selected in the sixth round, 168th overall by Columbus in the 2003 entry draft — Methot has rather quietly gone about his business as a regular on the Blue Jackets blueline for the past four seasons.
He has non-Karlsson like offensive numbers, delivering seven goals and 44 assists in 275 games with Columbus. Yet he also played 20:03 per game for Columbus last season, a regular in even strength and penalty killing situations, before shattering his jaw in two places last February, ending his regular season.
Methot recovered in time to represent Canada at the world championships, where he received a one-game suspension for a hit on Yevgeni Kovyrshin of Belarus.
He’s not afraid to be physical.
“I’ve always been a defensive defenceman, but what separates me from a lot of guys is that I’m a pretty mobile player for my size (6-3 and 225 pounds) and I like to think I rarely ever get beat, at least one-on-one,” he said. “I’m there to defend my teammates once in awhile, but mostly, I take pride in playing defence and covering for my players, but I like to jump in once in awhile, if possible, and use my speed as much as I can.”
If that job description made him fairly anonymous with the Blue Jackets, who have rarely been able to escape the NHL’s basement, he has suddenly taken on a bigger profile due to his Ottawa roots and the hockey culture here. Before joining the London Knights, Methot went to Brookfield High School.
He now owns a house only a long slapshot away, in the Mooney’s Bay area. He lives with his brother, Matthieu, a former member of the Ottawa 67′s and former University of Ottawa Gee-Gees captain.
“I’m pretty passionate about playing here in my home city,” he said. “I’m really, really excited. It’s overwhelming right now and still has sunk in yet, but hopefully over the next few days, I will be able to relax and think about it a little bit.
“It’s certainly a lot different here (from Columbus). I’m not used to this many cameras in front of me. It’s a change, but in terms of pressure, it’s just something you’ve got to get used to and handle. I’ve played for Canada (at the world championships) and been in those situations in the past, playing in London during the lockout year. It’s a good pressure, a pressure I’m willing to accept. You get up for all your games here. You’re playing in front of your family and friends and you don’t want to let them down and certainly you don’t want to let your teammates down.”