Mathieu Olivier was a pleasant surprise for the Blue Jackets in the 2022-23 season. Added to bring some toughness and protect the young team, he also chipped in offensively and became a bit of a square peg in a square hole for the fourth line. But, is he at risk of being pushed out by younger, more skilled depth options?
RW Mathieu Olivier
6’2”, 210 lbs
2022-2023 stats: 66 GP, 5 G, 10 A, 15 PTS, -20, 81 PIMs
Acquired: Trade with Nashville, June 2022
(Originally undrafted, signed as a free agent out of junior)
Contract: $1.1m AAV through 2024-2025
Role: Fourth Line Winger
The big, stocky winger was a needed acquisition after the team was pushed around quite a bit in the 2021-22 season, and Olivier added grit and snarl to a team that desperately needed to get tougher. While not a major offensive threat, Oliver brought surprising speed and quickly developed chemistry with Sean Kuraly and Eric Robinson on the 4th line, making the line a formidable threat.
As for the 2023-2024 season, Olivier is expected to play a similar role. There are a lot of forwards vying for a spot in the lineup, so he’ll have his work cut out for him right away. He will likely not play higher in the lineup than on the 4th line, and may have to spend some time in the press box. But, he brings toughness and grit to the lineup, which are attributes that not many of the other forwards on this team bring.
One bold prediction: Olivier will score 15 goals this season. If Olivier plays consistently on the 4th line and isn’t scratched very often, there is a decent chance that his offensive numbers improve from last season. The improvement of the forward group is imminent, with many young players pushing for spots. If Olivier were to play with more offensively talented 4th line players (I’m talking about Center Dmitri Voronkov), then there is a decent chance that his offensive numbers rise.
Three keys to success:
- Know your role. New coach Mike Babcock will clearly define what he wants from Olivier this season. It’s time to understand that role and run with it. That’s what aided in Olivier’s success this past season.
- Do more than fight. In the old NHL, tough guys were slow and didn’t do much other than hit and fight. Today’s NHL tough guy needs to be much more than that. Olivier is much better suited for today’s NHL tough guy. He can chip in offensively and be good on the forecheck. He needs to prove he can take on a greater role.
- Don’t get complacent. As mentioned, there are a lot of forwards pushing for a spot in the lineup (17 or 18 guys pushing for 12 spots). That will make it difficult for Olivier to be a staple in the lineup. He will need to continue to play hard and be effective to earn ice time.
Mathieu Olivier earned a new contract after his decent season in 2022-2023. He is signed for the next two seasons with the CBJ. However, that does not guarantee that he will be in the lineup, as many others are pushing for playing time. Olivier will need to continue his upward trajectory in order to cement his position in the lineup.