Welcome to the inaugural Light the Lamp "Jacket" awards. Let's get started shall we:
Bullet Proof Jacket - it's a long grueling season and to play in every game is a feat all in it's own. This award recognizes the Jackets iron men.
WINNERS: RJ Umberger, Fedor Tyutin & Jan Hejda
A big reason why the Jackets were able to have the season they did was because these guys were able to stay healthy the entire season...especially guys like Tyutin and Hejda on that blueline.
Full Metal Jacket - we love our scorers don't we?! This award goes to the player who led the Jackets in scoring.
WINNER: Rick Nash
With 40g, 39a for 79p in 78 games Rick Nash became the first Blue Jackets to notch two 40 goal seasons and broke Ray Whitney's single season point record of 76. It was a great year for Captain Columbus who has evolved into one of the premier two-way power forwards in the game today.
Green Jacket - we do our part at LTL to contribute to an environmentally safe world. This award goes to the Jackets best rookie (i.e green) player.
FINALIST: Derick Brassard, Jakub Voracek & Steve Mason
WINNER: Steve Mason
It was quite the crop of rookies for the CBJ this season. A probably once in a franchise lifetime group of impact players. Even in light of a terrific season turned in by Jake Voracek (38 points in 80 games) and an explosive start and unfortunate injury by Derick Brassard there there is no denying the profound impact 20 year old rookie netminder Steve Mason had on this Jackets season with 33 wins, 20 losses, a .916 save%, 2.29 GAA and 10 shutouts. Mase truly was the Jackets ace.
Life Jacket - every team needs a boost and the Jackets are no exception. This award recognizes the in-season player acquisition that had the most impact since dawning the union blue.
FINALIST: Antoinne Vermette, Jason Williams, Wade Dubielewicz
WINNER: Jason Williams.
It was a tough call between Vermette and Williams. Ultimately I went with the player that has made the longer impact. After coming on board Williams has gone 12g, 17a for 29 points and +5 in 39 games. He has provided some desperately needed secondary scoring and some huge game and points saving goals (Detroit, Nashville anyone?).... and all of that for Clay Wilson and a 6th round pick.
Field Jacket - somebody has to do the dirty work in the trenches. This award isn't for your sexy stars who grab the headlines but instead goes to the relatively anonymous player whose contributions are often overlooked but not under appreciated.
FINALIST: Jared Boll, Jan Hedja, Andrew Murray
WINNER: Jan Hejda
Jared Boll handles a lot of the rough stuff on this squad with his 24 fighting majors (good for 2nd in the NHL) will tell you. Some of those fights came against true heavy's in Shelley and Parros. He also battled through a lot of early injuries to turn in a solid sophomore season. Andrew Murray is a guy who just keeps his mouth shut, shows up and works hard every shift.
While those guys did their share of the dirty work this award belongs to Jan "black hole" Hejda however. He gets that nickname b/c anybody who challenges his side of the ice usually gets sucked into a black hole. His steady presence on the blueline and superb defensive play in the trenches make him one of the best shut down defenders in the league yet you never hear about him.
Straight Jacket - every fan loves a good quote or interview especially if they are honest and to the point. This award goes to the player or member of the organization who was the most straight up and told it like it is.
FINALIST: Mike Commodore, Jan Hejda, Ken Hitchcock & RJ Umberger
WINNER: Mike Commodore
Most you are probably like "Jan Hejda"....why him? Remember some of those zingers he had earlier this year like Jason Spezza dumping pucks b/c he didn't feel like playing... ahhh.. I eat those up. Umberger is another guy who I've grown to love -- especially his post-game interviews... he really breaks the game down well and is engaging.
This award came down to Hitch and Commodore for me. We all love Hitch, especially his post game interviews and his weekly coach's show. The only problem is he tends to toe the company line on some of the bigger topics of interest, which is understandable, but not nearly as juicy.
Commodore may be the best interview I've ever heard in Union Blue. Even if your an average fan you stop and listen to this guy. He's just so damn engaging and just "gets it"..... he gets the market, he gets the team, he gets the day to day... and he knows what to say and when to say. IMO we don't get to hear this dude enough.
Flak Jacket - not everything goes as planned during the season. This award goes to the aspect of the organization that took the most flak (from media/fans alike) during the season.
FINALIST: Powerplay, Christian Backman, Game Ops, Toronto War Room
This one came right down to the wire. Christian Backman was the leader most of the season but his streak of healthy scratches and decent stretch of play towards the end here saved him from this award.
Game Ops has quickly reached new lows this season. While they have thankfully given us the canon they continue to be unaware of the pulse of the game, they force feed us Will Ferrel videos and Spongebob and generally try to keep the focus on anything but the reason we are there for -- the hockey game.
The War room hate has simmered down the stretch as the Jackets propensity for getting screwed by Toronto faded.
Instead it's the league's 30th ranked PP that took the most flak and receives this award. From the official Claude Noel powerplay meter to boos by the home fans to just general ineptness the PP was a target of much Jacket fan angst this year and deservedly so.
Chef's Jacket - we know the players have to execute but somebody has to go shopping for the ingredients and cook the meal. This award goes to that off ice individual who contributed most to the team's success.
FINALIST: Scott Howson, Ken Hitchcock, Don Boyd
WINNER: Co-winners Howson and Hitch
Don Boyd received a lot of positive press this season as the job his scouting staff is doing in producing some tangible results. From 1st round successes like Brassard and Voracek to late round contributors like Methot and Dorsett to 3rd round steals like Steve Mason by my count some 10 CBJ draft picks were regular contributors this season.
The two men most directly responsible for the success this season are the two men who shouldered most of the pressure to do so and that is Ken Hitchcock and Scott Howson....and to me both did such a fantastic job that I couldn't choose one over the other (yeah I copped out).
Howson is the anti-Maclean. He is calm, cool and calculated. He let's his staff do their jobs, he understands player development, he recognizes his assets and he knows the blueprint it takes to ice a competitive team in a budget market. He's patient and doesn't make moves just to make them or to generate headlines. Instead he quietly goes about his business adding pieces that make sense now and for the future. Every move is made in the hopes of improving the Columbus Blue Jackets. Here are the names he's added to this organization since last offseason: Umberger, Commodore, Huselius, Torres, Tyutin, Backman, Williams, Gratton, Vermette, MacDonald, York and Dubliewicz.
Hitchcock lives in the now. He was shouldered with breaking down this team, clearing out the sour taste of losing and rebuilding the foundation from the ground up. With the mess he inherited that was a task that even Ethan Hunt couldn't manage. Fast forward one and half years later and the man has indeed accomplished the impossible. The foundation has been layed, the stink swept out and the culture of winning has followed. The Columbus Blue Jackets are now a team on the rise and a team that has opened eyes around the league heading into the playoffs.
The players have to perform and do their jobs but this season does not happen without the competent leadership of Scott Howson and the world class coaching and dedication of Ken Hitchcock. This Chef's Jackets is for you both.
Blue Jacket - is awarded to the Jackets most valuable player.
FINALIST: Rick Nash, Steve Mason
WINNER: Steve Mason
Remember that stretch when the Jackets were down some 8 regulars including franchise player Rick Nash? Somehow, someway, they were able to hold it together and squeak out some wins and remain the playoff fight. The biggest reason for that of course is the play of rookie goaltender Steve Mason.
Straight from junior, to a 3 game stint in the AHL to NHL star. This kid was on nobodies radar heading into this season. Most thought, including myself, that Mase would spend at least a year in the AHL and this net was Pascal Leclaire's. My how quickly things change.
Steve Mason is the biggest reason the Jackets are where they are. He has come in and given everybody in front of him confidence. He has played through mono, he has upset the league's best snipers, he led this team to the playoffs for the first time this franchise's history...he is without question the MVP of this team and completely worthy of the Blue Jacket award.
Thanks to the all of the Columbus Blue Jackets for a wonderful season. Now let's go kick some ass in the playoffs..!!
"I would like to thank the Academy".... "my mom"... "my dad"...................."my 4th grade gym teacher"........................"my dog named puck"..................."the organ-I-zation"........................."Stinger"................"the usher in 108".....
*raises Jacket award statuette*