First, I think it should come as no surprise to my readers that I have found the post-Thanksgiving Columbus Blue Jackets to be a fantastic disappointment. And, sadly, any positive momentum on the ice from the outstanding opening has been more than overwhelmed by what we've seen since that home-and-home with Detroit.
To that end, I suggest that no Columbus Blue Jackets players are worthy of a Most Valuable Player label...at least at this point of the season. Therefore, here are my awardees:
MOST VALUABLE PARTICIPANT: The Columbus Blue Jackets fans - The bloggers, the fanatics and the charitable
The Bloggers: It started in the off-season as Light The Lamp was castigating General Manager Scott Howson for not making any significant personnel moves. It's time to face facts: LTL was right. We had largely the same roster, and we got largely the same result.
Beyond LTL, there are countless other bloggers - and seemingly more as the season has moved on - offering their analysis, thoughts and support for the team. Many of them are listed in the blogroll on the right-hand column. These folks show up day in and day out, filled with dedication and (pragmatic?) hope.
The Fanatics: With season ticket sales plummeting, and the team struggling to put 10,000 butts in seats on weeknight games, a grassroots effort arose to bring the fanaticism of Columbus Crew soccer to the Columbus Blue Jackets. I have not seen the Arch City Army in action yet (I was on vacation), but the shockwaves of their cheering and energy reverberated around Nationwide Arena and far out into Central Ohio. You can love the name or hate the name of this group - I honestly don't care either way - but you cannot overlook that regular people have come together to make the CBJ home experience all that more special.
The Charitable: In an act of fan desperation, CBJ fan Tyler Schweinfurth posted "Money On The Board" via Twitter - offering to make a donation to charity if the CBJ beat the Detroit Red Wings on January 14. This act of passion and generosity was picked up by The Fan's Lori Schmidt, and we were off to the races. Over $5,000 in donations were generated - an amount doubled by the CBJ players - and the Blue Jackets pulled out a victory in overtime. This concept is now being picked up across by fans across the NHL.
RUNNER-UP: The Columbus Blue Jackets marketing department
WHAT, you ask? How could the crew that gave us Boomer and the (phallic?) hot-dog cannon get an award?
Simple. They also gave us the new third jersey. For that, I can overlook just about everything else.
They went about this process methodically, carefully and involved their fans at critical junctures to give them an identity that they could be proud of:
The results speak for themselves. Look around Nationwide Arena, and you'll see that CBJ fans have embraced the new jersey and its cannon-themed logo in droves. Fashion "critics" (whose taste in fashion surely won't land them at The Limited or Abercrombie & Fitch) have panned the jersey for being too similar to other "blue with circle logo" jersies, but - You know what? - the CBJ fans couldn't care less.
This is a powerful, successful team identity. Period. I would not be surprised at all to see it become the new regular home jersey in the upcoming seasons.
As for Boomer...it was launched, it was panned and now it's gone. Who knows if the hot dog cannon will see the same fate, but I won't be surprised. This marketing department might be a tad tone-deaf at times, but they know how to make a fast recovery. As opposed to the team's ticket office.
So those are my picks for the MVP awards thus far. We can hope that actual players get the award at the end of the season. Until then, let's celebrate ourselves and our new threads.