Marc Methot came into the second year of a two-year contract in 2009 ready to take the next, and perhaps most important, step of his National Hockey League career.
The 2009-10 season was a valuable learning experience not just for Methot, but for all involved with a hockey club that fell short of expectations following the Blue Jackets' first playoff berth the year prior.
Head coach Scott Arniel was named to his post prior to the 2010-11 season and took a long look at the roster, evaluating how he wanted to structure style of play and his pairings. One of the first things he noticed in training camp and pre-season was Methot's high compete level and determination to get better each time he stepped on the ice.
"Right from the beginning of camp, he's been one of the guys that has played the same way night in and night out," Arniel said at the time. "I don't know if he was inconsistent or not before (I came here), but I really notice that every night he competes."
After one of his best seasons as a professional (0-15-15, +2 in 74 GP), Methot was rewarded with a new four-year contract last week that solidifies his position as a top-four defenseman in Columbus and a huge piece of the core that general manager Scott Howson is constructing.
It's clear to those around him that Methot has the ability to play against the best players in the world on a nightly basis. But for the player himself, the focus throughout this summer has been on what needs to be done to help the Blue Jackets be a contending team each season.
"I'm ecstatic to sign and get things done here in the long term," Methot told BlueJackets.com. "I'm loyal to the Blue Jackets organization and they drafted me.
"I see myself as a top-four defenseman and I'm competitive. To be honest, I'm not concerned with where I play (in the lineup) as much as winning hockey games. My sole focus is on winning games with this team."
So far it has been an exciting and productive summer for the Blue Jackets, who have added All-Star center Jeff Carter and defenseman James Wisniewski to the fold. But it was the signing of a 34-year-old veteran from the Czech Republic that had Methot's attention in recent days.
Radek Martinek – signed to a one-year contract by the club last week – is the early favorite to pair with Methot to form a shutdown tandem. It's a job Methot has excelled at since his junior hockey days, when he went toe-to-toe with Sidney Crosby in the Memorial Cup.
"I talked to (Arniel) and asked him a bunch of questions about Martinek and what kind of player he is," Methot said.
"He's a hard worker, good teammate and puts his body on the line. That's very impressive and awesome to have around the room."
Adding Martinek will allow Methot to shift back to his natural left point, where he also played as a member of Team Canada at the 2011 World Championships (Arniel was an assistant coach). Having bounced from left to the right side on many nights last season, some might think it uncomfortable to switch back.
No big deal for Methot.
"(Playing the left side) is more natural in terms of the transition and moving the puck," Methot said. "I've played on the left side my whole life and that's where I feel the most comfortable.
"Playing with Radek is going to be good – we seem to play similar styles and complement each other. I'm really looking forward to it."
The new season can't start soon enough for Methot or Blue Jackets management, the former eager to improve his game even further. That's exactly what Howson and his staff see in Methot – a player driven to get the most out of his ability.
"We think (Methot) is just beginning to reach his full potential as a National Hockey League defenseman," Howson said.
"He has worked very hard to improve each season and we believe he will continue to be a key contributor on our blueline."