Nathan Gerbe had himself quite the season.
Sure, he played only 30 games before the NHL's COVID-19 pause, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a Blue Jackets fan who doesn't vividly remember the many "Gerbe Moments" throughout the season. The 32-year-old was a catalyst during the Blue Jackets' 19-2-5 run that vaulted them into the playoff picture, and in the process redeemed a career future that was, at times, in doubt.
Gerbe has had to fight his way back into the league and he may have found a home in Columbus. The local chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association named Gerbe its 2020 nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, "awarded annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey."
The Professional Hockey Writers Association proudly announces chapters nominees for the 2020 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy: pic.twitter.com/EpBQDoMhe5— PHWA (@ThePHWA) June 9, 2020
This is a guy who knows what it's like to keep going, to keep pushing. The dude dropped the gloves with Zdeno Chara, for crying out loud.
Oh, yeah. Here's a clip of Gerbe crushing Flyers captain Claude Giroux and then fighting Travis Sanheim. How can you not love this guy?
Gerbe went to Europe a few years ago when NHL options were off the table. He wanted to return to North America, so he signed AHL-only contracts and then two-way deals that eventually led him to the Blue Jackets organization. Gerbe served as captain of the Cleveland Monsters last season, and upon his recall to the NHL on Dec. 22, quickly found a role in John Tortorella's lineup.
Fans love Gerbe. His teammates seem to like him, too. And most importantly, there's a lot of respect for him and his journey. The Masterton nomination is fitting.