As we finish up our awards series, the logical end is with Most Valuable Player.
In a year filled with great performances from many, many players, it's nearly impossible to pick out one player as the most valuable.
Nonetheless, as a staff, we each made a pick for the Blue Jackets' Most Valuable Player.
Jeff Svoboda: Sergei Bobrovsky
There are so many choices here that would be worth honoring. Zach Werenski and Seth Jones remade the team’s blue line became a No. 1 defensive pair with enough youth and skill that you can’t help but wonder how much they can grow together. Cam Atkinson took yet another step and now clearly belongs in the discussion as one of the NHL’s top snipers. Nick Foligno had an important bounce-back year, and even Alexander Wennberg made the kind of jump that helps a team reach that next level.
But none of that would have mattered if Sergei Bobrovsky’s 2016-17 season looked like his 2015-16 season, and for that the goaltender is my team MVP. His postseason performance might be what sticks in the head of many fans, but taken as a whole, the way Bobrovsky played during the campaign was the single biggest part of the team’s renaissance.
Bobrovsky’s impressive season goes beyond numbers, though those were plenty impressive as well. After a couple of injury-plagued seasons, he was a workhorse, a factor that became more and more important as the year went on thanks to the release of Curtis McElhinney and uneven play of Joonas Korpisalo. Bobrovsky’s incredible season also allowed the team’s mobile, aggressive defense to slide into its newfound role as the engine of the team without being too afraid to make mistakes.
Simply put, there’s a reason Bobrovsky is a finalist for the NHL MVP and to me is the runaway most valuable player on the Blue Jackets. No player in the NHL meant more to his team than Bob did to the Blue Jackets.
Rob Mixer: Cam Atkinson
Part of what made this year’s Blue Jackets team so entertaining is the number of players who seemed to thrive on the importance of their contribution. The team wasn’t built to be driven by any one specific player; if they were to do anything of significance, it would require everyone pitching in. Everyone having a better than year the year prior, making for a driven-from-within team that wanted to prove a lot of experts wrong.
That being said, how do you pick just one guy? Sergei Bobrovsky is an obvious contender, winning 41 games and likely winning the second Vezina Trophy of his career. Zach Werenski was outstanding, Seth Jones elevated his game, and a guy like Alex Wennberg took a huge step forward to occupy the No. 1 center role.
But I’m going to go with Cam Atkinson, who really needed a big season because the Blue Jackets really needed goal scoring. That was one of their big questions: where would the goals come from? How would they produce enough offense to go from a lottery team to a playoff team? It starts with players like Atkinson, who puts up 20-plus goals every season, finding another level to their game. He’s at the point in his career - in his age-28 season with enough experience now - where he needs to find an extra gear and he certainly did that in 2016-17, filling the net 35 times and earning an All-Star Game nod for the first time.
Sam Blazer: Sergei Bobrovsky
Like what Jeff and Rob said, it is so unbelievably tough to pick one player this year.
The top pairing of Seth Jones and Zach Weresnki were fantastic. Any other year with their kind of output, they would have a chance at this distinction. Cam Atkinson, Alex Wennberg and Brandon Saad all had great years for different reasons. Atkinson obviously the stand out of the bunch.
But, one player makes the selection a little easier after diving into the numbers.
Sergei Bobrovsky not only had one of his best seasons ever, he also had one of the best seasons from a goalie, ever. His numbers were Dominik Hasek level great and are only really surpassed in the modern era by Carey Price's season a couple of years ago.
Goalies have an up hill battle when trying to get recognition for their work. Each year, you could easily give the award to a goalie. Without a great one, you aren't going anywhere and the playoffs are only a pipe dream.
Bobrovsky handled a heavy workload and bailed out the Blue Jackets on many occasions. Despite a poor postseason, that should discount what Bobrovsky did all season long. He was the reason the Blue Jackets got to the point they did. That is pretty darn valuable.