As of this writing, the Jackets are sitting at a 61 percent chance of earning a spot in the playoffs, according to Don Luszczyszyn’s projections for The Athletic.
This is huge, considering the Jackets’ slower-than-slow start to the season — their inability to score, especially on power plays, stalwart players falling like dominos to injuries, the list of bad goes on. Fortunately, a small battalion of players was called up, originally to fill the holes in the roster, but they’ve actually ended up dragging a lethargic team out of their slump and back into playoff contention.
The leader of this campaign has been Nathan Gerbe.
Standing at 5’4 and weighing 176 pounds, it would be easy to write Nathan Gerbe off as non-threatening. However, Gerbe has hit the ice in 14 games this season and made his presence known in every one, toppling 6-foot-plus players like trees and contributing 3 goals and 5 assists so far this season.
After a two-year hiatus from the Blue Jackets, Gerbe has returned with a chip on his shoulder — ready to prove to everyone that he isn’t just a call-up, but that he should have a permanent spot on this team.
John Tortorella is clearly aware of Gerbe’s hustle, referring to him as a “bundle of energy” in post-game comments. Gerbe is certainly doing his best to present Torts with some tough decisions to make when the lineup returns to maximum health.
“I have known him and I’ve watched him play for a long time,” Tortorella said after Gerbe scored a tying goal against the Anaheim Ducks on January 7. “I know the enthusiasm and I know the will that he brings to the game. That’s a big part of why I think we’ve kept ourselves afloat here with such a crazy situation with some people in and out.”
His hustle is clearly impressive and noticeable to anyone watching, but for Gerbe, the hard work is simply a necessity.
“You just never know how it’s going to mesh together, but with the character that’s in this group ... these guys play hard, so when you come here there’s no choice,” Gerbe told The Dispatch’s Brian Hedger.
And in just 14 games this season, Gerbe has proved he can work hard and won’t back down from a fight — clocking 18 minutes in the penalty box so far, ranking him sixth on the team this season in PIM.
There’s a lot of season left, and it’s exciting to think of where Gerbe can continue to grow and lead the team. He’s gone ahead and set the standard for the work ethic expected of every player who wishes to stay on the Blue Jackets roster. Gerbe doesn’t back down and doesn’t listen to anyone who says he can’t — he just does.
This photo of him sweeping the puck out from under Zdeno Chara in the Jackets’ shutout of the Bruins on January 14 pretty much says it all:
He’s a living exemplification of the irrelevance of the size of a dog in the fight — what matters is the size of the fight in the dog.