Battalion Breakdown is a closer look at the Blue Jackets' past season from a numerical standpoint, starting with the highest jersey number and counting down to the lowest. Today, BlueJackets.com examines Cam Atkinson's season and how it impacted Columbus in the 2017-18 campaign.
Birthdate: June 5, 1989
Height/Weight: 5-8, 179
Cam Atkinson was heading for the worst season of his NHL career.
He'd set career-highs in nearly every offensive category in 2016-17, including 35 goals and 62 points, so having just six goals, seven assists and 13 points in his first 32 games last season was a major source of frustration.
The only early positive was signing a seven-year contract extension Nov. 17, 2017 worth $41.125 million. It was hoped that signing the new deal might spark a hot streak, but even that couldn't pull him out of his funk - which included time missed with a hip-pointer and severe illness.
A third health issue finally did the trick.
Atkinson fractured a bone in his right foot Dec. 23 at Nationwide Arena, when struck by a slapshot launched by teammate Seth Jones, and the month of recovery that followed allowed him to reset mentally and correct a flaw in his shot.
Upon returning in late January, Atkinson proved how much the time off helped. He scored a game-winning goal in his first game back and rolled that into a hot streak that covered the final 33 games of the regular season - helping the Blue Jackets earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in consecutive seasons.
He added two goals and two assists in six playoffs games against the Washington Capitals before helping the U.S. win the bronze medal at the 2018 IIHF Men's World Championship in Denmark.
It was a tale of two seasons for Atkinson, all rolled into one, and this is a glance back at it by the numbers:
Atkinson finished the regular season with 24 goals, which was the fifth straight season he'd reached the 20-goal plateau. Eighteen of those goals were scored in the final 33 games, after Atkinson had returned from his broken foot. He credited of-ice work he put in during his down time in January for fixing his shot.
After returning from the foot injury, Atkinson was a point-a-game player. He had 33 points on 18 goals and 15 assists in the final 33 games of the regular season to finish with 46 points for the season. It was the fifth straight year he'd reached the 40-point mark. Atkinson finished the season with an average of 0.71 points per game. That was less than the 0.76 per game he averaged in 2016-17, when Atkinson posted a career-high 62 points in 82 games.
The Blue Jackets struggled to put the puck in the net last season as a team, but they didn't have much trouble getting off shot attempts. Atkinson was one of the ringleaders in peppering opposing goalies, finishing with 380 shot attempts in just 65 games. That was only 19 less attempts than 2016-17, when he played all 82 games.
Prior to last season, Atkinson's career-high in face-offs was nine. He'd taken just 17 face-offs total in his first six seasons, winning eight for a success rate of 47.1 percent. Last season, Atkinson took 65 and won 21 for a 32.3 percent success rate. His time spent at the dot likely increased as the result of playing on the top line opposite left wing Artemi Panarin, who almost never takes draws. Atkinson became the first replacement option on that line whenever rookie center Pierre-Luc Dubois was kicked out of the circle.
Despite playing 17 less games than 2016-17, Atkinson finished with just nine fewer shots on goal (231). That worked out to a career-high average of 3.55 shots per game for Atkinson, who had eight games with six shots to his credit and three with a season-high eight on goal.
After the Blue Jackets' first-round loss to the Capitals in the playoffs, Atkinson accepted an invitation to play for the U.S. team at the world championships in Denmark. He wore No. 89, to represent his birth year, because his No. 13 was already taken by Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau, a fellow alum of Boston College. Atkinson's hot scoring continued in Europe, where he had seven goals, four assists and 11 points to help the U.S. win a bronze medal. After tying for sixth in scoring for the tournament, Atkinson said he might consider changing his number to 89 in the NHL too. Instead, he decided to keep No. 13, which he's worn since his college years.