Battalion Breakdown is a closer look at the Blue Jackets' past season on a player-by-player basis. Today, BlueJackets.com continues the series by looking at Cam Atkinson's season and how it impacted Columbus in the 2018-19 campaign.
Birth date: June 5, 1989
Height/Weight: 5-8, 177
Position: Right wing
Stats (Games, G-A-P, point shares): 80 GP, 41-28-69, 8.8 PS
Contract: Signed through 2024-25
Like a cast iron skillet, a fine whiskey or Justin Timberlake, some things just get better with age.
Cam Atkinson is on that list.
If you look at the Blue Jackets sniper's goal and point totals, he simply gets better every season. The only blip was in 2017-18, a season that included missed time for a broken foot and an admitted case of burnout that left him searching for his passion for the game.
Since that was rekindled, Atkinson has been playing the best hockey of his career, and a 2018-19 season in which he set new career highs for goals and points was just one sign of that.
How long will that type of consistent improvement on the stat sheet continue? Time will tell. Atkinson is now 30, and Father Time always wins, especially in an NHL that seems to get younger and faster by the day. But for now, he's at the top of his game. Atkinson simply has become an iconic Blue Jacket, now second all-time in franchise annals in goals (186) and points (342) and one of the great success stories in franchise history since being selected in the sixth round of the 2008 draft.
Entering the season: One of the most dependable Blue Jackets in franchise history, Atkinson was expected to be one of the top scorers on the squad. He finished the 2017-18 season strong, posting four points in six playoff games after posting an 18-15-33 line in his final 33 regular-season games.
What happened: Atkinson surpassed even the highest expectations for him, you'd have to say, unless your idea of expectations for him included tying the franchise record for goals in a season.
But that's exactly what he did, matching Rick Nash's Rocket Richard season with 41 goals during the campaign to place tied for sixth in the NHL. Atkinson also notched a career high with 69 points.
He got off to a flying start with double digits in points in each of the first three months, and through December, he had a 24-18-42 line in 38 games including a career-long 12-game point streak from Nov. 10-Dec. 6 (13-7-20).
Though he couldn't quite keep the same pace the rest of the season -- who could? -- Atkinson still was an impact player in the second half, finally tying the franchise goal mark with a two-goal showing March 30 in a win at Nashville. Though goal No. 42 never came, it was still a historic season for the CBJ sniper, who racked up tallies in just about every fashion.
He had eight multigoal games (including two hat tricks), 29 even strength goals, eight power-play tallies, four shorthanded goals, eight game winners, a penalty shot goal and two tallies in shootouts as well, plus a pair of playoff goals in the series win vs. Tampa Bay.
In addition, he was one of the top penalty killers in the NHL, as in more than 100 minutes of PK time during the regular season, the Blue Jackets scored five goals when he was on the ice -- four by Atkinson himself -- and gave up just five as well.
"Listen, for me I'm never satisfied," he said after the season. "So I don't like looking at personal accolades. It was a good year, I put up some good points, but I always think there is room for improvement. It wasn't my best series (vs. Boston). It's upsetting but there's always a chance to get better and learn from it."
It's hard to pick just one, but for our money, no game was Atkinson's brilliance more obvious than the comeback win at Vegas on Feb. 9 that clinched a perfect 3-0 road trip for the Blue Jackets. Columbus trailed by a 3-2 score with six minutes to play, but Atkinson tied things up with 5:12 to go when he scored on a breakaway off a long breakout pass from Artemi Panarin. Then with 2:39 on the clock, Atkinson wired a power-play wrister past Marc-Andre Fleury, and the pair of goals gave the Blue Jackets the 4-3 victory.
Video: Blue Jackets rally to beat Golden Knights, 4-3
By the Numbers
19:23: Atkinson averaged 19:23 of ice time per game this past season, a career high.
1: While playing in his second career All-Star Game, Atkinson was the only sixth-round pick to take part in this year's event.
6: With six career hat tricks, Atkinson now owns the Blue Jackets career record in the category.