In a year of incredible frustration and disappointment for the Columbus Blue Jackets, it was strangely easy for me to pick out a Most Valuable Player for 2009-2010. My choice for MVP is defenseman Fedor Tyutin.
There's always a discussion about what the MVP really means. Is the MVP the best player on the team? If so, that would be the Most Outstanding Player - an award in some tournaments. For the Blue Jackets, the MOP is Rick Nash, hands down. He's the straw that stirs the drink in Columbus, scoring goals and setting up the ones he doesn't put in the back of the net himself. He's the Gold Medal Olympian, the Captain, the Face of the Franchise. He's Captain Columbus - and he had a decent year considering the mess that his team had to suffer through. He still scored 33 goals, 34 assists and 67 points over 76 games. None too shabby.
But this isn't a blog about the Most Outstanding Player. It's about the Most Valuable Player. It's about the player whose presence, whose participation was simply invaluable to the Columbus Blue Jackets this season. And that player was Fedor Tyutin.
When considering Fedor Tyutin's season, keep this in mind:
- Tyutin played in 80 games this season. Only R.J. Umberger (82), Antoine Vermette (82) and Jake Voracek (81) played in more.
- Among defensemen who played 60 games or more (Tyutin, Stralman, Russell, Hejda and Methot), Tyutin's -7 in plus/minus was second only to Kris Russell's +3.
- Among the same group, Tyutin's 32 points (6G, 26A) were second only to Anton Stralman (6G, 28A) - and Stralman was supposed to be the shooter. Tyutin had 3 power play goals, and Stralman had 4. Again, negligible difference.
- Tyutin's 23:31 average time on ice was far and away the highest of any CBJ player. Captain Rick Nash was second at 20:56. I wasn't kidding when I said that poor Fedor was getting beaten like a rented mule this season.
- In the middle of this season, he was on the Olympic roster for Team Russia. The Russians didn't get too far in the tournament, but they did play a few extra games at a very high energy level. No rest for the weary!
Do you remember the opening night defensive lineup for the CBJ? It was Methot, Hejda, Russell, Roy, Tyutin and Klesla. Now, look at the closing night defensive lineup. Methot, Stralman, Russell, Commodore, Clitsome and Tyutin. When half of your opening night lineup doesn't make it to closing night, you have some terrific problems with blue line stability. But Tyutin was a rock.
As bad as the Jackets' defense was this year, Fedor Tyutin showed up nearly every night. Imagine if he was also part of the revolving door M*A*S*H unit that was the Blue Jackets defense. He took the hard assignments on a near-permanent basis (perhaps most notably playing a significant role in shutting down Alexander Ovechkin in the closing days of the season) and logged minutes at a pace that surely put him past the point of fatigue. That fatigue led to his making the occasional painful mistake that would elicit howls from the CBJ faithful. But can you blame him when he's playing nearly a third of every game? At least he was healthy enough to be in a position to take blame!
They say that 90% of life is just showing up. When your teammates are dropping like flies around you, and you're still logging the minutes, playing the defense and setting up the offense, you didn't just show up. You were duct tape for a team that needed it badly. You were damned valuable.
I often criticize Russian players for lack of work ethic, lack of team play, a prima donna attitude. That's a great generalization, and it sadly fits the bill all too often. Fedor Tyutin, however, is the exception to the rule. He's a classic hard hat player, the type of bedrock that any general manager would want to build upon.
Congratulations, Fedor Tyutin...May your solid performances throughout 2009-2010 provide an object lesson for the Jackets as they clear their heads and retool for the team's 10th anniversary season. We could use many more guys with your ethic, skill, attitude and talent.