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Who Is Your Blue Jackets MVP?

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets players and coaches talked about it throughout the final week of the season and even after the final buzzer sounded on 2011-12: they want to use the positive energy generated from the end of the regular season and make amends for a disappointing season that began in September with so much promise.

While the team did not qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs and instead found itself in the NHL Draft Lottery, there’s no denying the fact there were several bright spots this season and a number of players (some familiar, some new) stepped up and became leaders on a team searching for confidence. We’ve assembled our finalists, but don’t let the list stop you: if there is another player you want nominated for the 2011-12 Blue Jackets Team MVP honor, let us know @BlueJacketsNHL on Twitter and use the hashtag #CBJMVP.

Interim head coach Todd Richards mentioned the development of rookie defenseman John Moore, the emergence of Cam Atkinson, and the breath of fresh air provided by Jack Johnson’s arrival in Columbus over the final month of the year as examples of players taking ownership of the team. We also saw Curtis Sanford step up with Steve Mason struggling and nearly stole a win for the Blue Jackets at TD Garden in Boston, only to help Columbus snap its five-year losing skid in Nashville two nights later. There was a new-look Derek Dorsett, one who plays in all situations and put everything on the line for his teammates – including scoring some clutch goals.

Here is a breakdown of the nominees, and don’t forget to cast your vote or let us know on Twitter who you would like to write-in for a vote.

STATS: 30G, 29A, 59 PTS

THE CASE: To say the least, it was a trying and difficult season for the man who proudly adorns his Blue Jackets sweater with the captain’s “C.” There were few players more excited than Nash to get the year started with his new teammates and make a return to the playoffs, but the first two months quelled the optimism. Nash trudged on, and turned in yet another 30-goal season as the leader of the Blue Jackets and earned even more respect in the eyes of his teammates. When Todd Richards took over as coach on Jan. 9, we saw a gradual return of Nash to the penalty-killing unit, which was a regular occurrence under former head coach Ken Hitchcock. Nash played more minutes down the stretch and handled the NHL trade deadline like a true professional, and followed through on his pledge to play hard for the Blue Jackets until the season came to a close. He has scored 25-or-more goals in eight consecutive seasons and recorded at least 30 goals in six of the previous seven season. Is Rick Nash your 2011-12 Blue Jackets MVP? Cast your vote.

STATS: 20G, 20A, 40 PTS

THE CASE: Umberger was admittedly frustrated as he struggled out of the gate, but he wasn’t the only one enduring a rough patch at the start of the year. The native of Plum, Pa. has become the conscience of the Blue Jackets and one of their hardest-working players both on and off the ice. Who can forget his goal just 21 seconds into the team’s first win of the year against the Red Wings? Or his hat trick in late March against the Carolina Hurricanes? Umberger picked up his game after the All-Star break and closed out the year strong, finishing with 20 goals. It marked his fourth consecutive 20-goal season – all of which have come as a member of the Blue Jackets. Columbus was 11-3-0 this year when Umberger lit the lamp, and he did a lot of it down the stretch. He had eight goals in a span of six games late in the season and formed a strong alliance with line mate Derick Brassard. Is “Umby” getting your vote for the Blue Jackets’ 2011-12 MVP?

STATS: 12, 8A, 20 PTS

THE CASE: The list of adjectives runs long for the spectacular season turned in by Dorsett. Not only did he set a career high in goals (12) and points (20), he molded himself into a legitimate shutdown forward in the NHL. Both Scott Arniel and Todd Richards entrusted him with playing against the opposition’s top players on a nightly basis, and Dorsett answered the bell and more with a breakout campaign. He’s still got the rough side, don’t worry: Dorsett ended the 2011-12 season as the NHL’s penalty minutes leader (235), edging out Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo on the final day of the regular season. Dorsett is a top-of-the-rotation penalty killer and showed he can chip in with big goals along the way. We saw his passion all season long, standing up for his teammates after hits and not being afraid to say what needs said on the bench during games. The future is bright for the 25-year-old out of Kindersley, Sask., and if you think he’s your Blue Jackets MVP for 2011-12, cast the vote!

STATS: 10-18-4, 2.60 GAA, .911 SAVE%

THE CASE: Perhaps few saw the impact Sanford would have on the team coming so early in the year, but after Mark Dekanich went down with an ankle injury early in the preseason, Sanford got his chance to return to the NHL. When he signed with the Blue Jackets in the summer of 2011, Sanford saw his role as the organization’s No. 3 goaltender and a likely starter with the Springfield Falcons. But as he mentioned frequently during training camp, his job is to always be on high alert should something happen to one of the goaltenders ahead of him. He was ready, and then some. The players rallied around the guy they call “Sandman” when he beat the Predators in Nashville on Nov. 19 and proceeded to assume the No. 1 goaltending job with the Blue Jackets on strictly a merit basis. The 32-year-old journeyman from Owen Sound, Ont. took the ice to “Enter Sandman” and had the “Sanford and Son” theme song blaring through the Nationwide Arena sound system when he made a clutch save for Columbus. The Columbus chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association nominated Sanford for the 2012 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in March, an award “given annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” What do you think, fans? Is Sanford your 2011-12 Blue Jackets MVP? Get your votes in!


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