Who is your pick for Bluejackets MVP after this season? (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Jackets have kicked off a campaign for fans to vote for their team MVP for this season, along with a heavy social media push on Twitter and Facebook.
The candidates they list are fairly expected - Rick Nash, R.J. Umberger, and Curtis Sanford, but props for also including Derek Dorsett as a fixed candidate. The team will also take fan suggestions via twitter (hashtag your posts with #CBJMVP), and offers fans a nice bribe: voters are also entered into a drawing to win a signed Nash jersey.
While I like the fact that Dorsett is included (he may not be the actual MVP, but I think you can make a strong case for him being the team's Most Improved player by a wide margin), I think they're missing three candidates that I'd like to put up for consideration.
Write In Candidate #1 - Vinny Prospal
We already talked about how Vinny was the team's best offensive driver when it came to scoring chances. In pure point production, he was second to Rick Nash, but I think there's a few differences between the two in both on and off ice performance that makes Vinny stand out.
Let's start with the elephant in the room: Vinny wants to stay in Columbus. He came as a free agent, he saw the state of the room, and he made the decision to work on making things better. He was willing to call out the team's work ethic. He addressed the issue of how practices were being conducted. He demanded better from his teammates, and he worked hard to lead by example.
Then, when he had every right to ask to be traded to a contender (I think the Rangers would have taken him back in a heartbeat. I have no doubt that the Flyers would have loved adding him at the deadline. San Jose? No doubt.), he asked to negotiate an extension instead. He's shown a commitment to the franchise and it's success that is admirable.
Meanwhile, on ice, Vinny simply made everyone he played with better. His line mates consistently benefited from his experience, both defensively and offensively, and it's no mistake that he spent time working with both Cam Atkinson and Ryan Johansen. I think you can make a strong case that without him, this season would have been even worse. There's no bigger criteria for an MVP in my mind.
Write In Candidate #2: Nikita Nikitin
His English may still be a work in progress, but there's nothing wrong with Niki Six's hockey sense. After being acquired from St. Louis Nikitin was a strong performer at both even strength and the power play, delivering a career year and ending up #37 overall among NHL d-men in scoring with his seven goals and 25 assists. Instantly developing chemistry with Fedor Tyutin, the RFA d-man was a silver lining during some of the darkest parts of the season, though it's arguable that he was overshadowed at points by both James Wisniewski and Jack Johnson.
Write In Candidate #3: Jack Johnson
Though he only appeared for a quarter of the season, it's worth pointing out the impact the former University of Michigan star had once he arrived. Helping to lead the team on their late season tear, JMFJ teamed with Prospal and James Wisniewski to demand a higher standard of performance from the club than many both within and outside of Columbus expected from the 30th place squad. A top level offensive defender, he was also surprisingly solid defensively despite his reputation of being a bit of a loose cannon coming over from LA.
In addition, much like Prospal, he's clearly excited about both the franchise's future and playing for fans here in Columbus, and that cannot be undervalued as the club goes into what is likely to be an offseason of upheaval.
So, there you have it. Got a favorite from these suggestions or the club's default slate? Think we missed the boat on someone? Vote over at Bluejackets.com and let us hear your thoughts here in the comments!