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Most Improved Player - The Carrot for Competitive Spirit Written by Carl O'Linacanes - December 18th, 2008
A month into the season, Carolina GM decided to try something new with his team. He went down to the locker room after practice one day to talk to coach Granato and the rest of the team.

Exactly what AsmodeanReborn told his team is something this reporter never had access to, but I believe it went something like this. "Team - I have decided to give you something to compete for internally, a carrot so to say. I have decided to every month or two select one of you as the 'Most Improved Player.' Then before the initial faceoff of the next home game, you will have a small ceremony in your honor in front of the fans. How about that?"

Coach Granato admits that he was slightly pessimistic about the idea, but since he wants to keep his job and not cause any drama, he kept his mouth shut. "I had a feeling this would backfire somehow, start jealousy within the ranks... but now I'm eating crow - and crow has never tasted so good!"

Before the game versus Columbus Bluejackets, Dainus Zubrus was told that he had earned the first "MIP" award. The crowd of 22,000 (an amazing improvement over early season crowds in the 13,000s) in a sold out arena roared as he came on to the ice, waving to the fans. Dainus, who started the season slow and kept getting caught on the ice when the opposition scored, decided to be the leader of his line and take the reins. What followed was an impressive streak of goals, assists, and a much better 2-way effort than earlier in the season. After being honored, Dainus also stepped up and scored a goal and tallied another assist in the winning effort against Columbus, one of the best teams in the league.

Asked about it, he sheepishly grinned and said: "You know, even though I play on the third line, I knew I could make a difference. I think watching a legend like Jagr every day in practice and games has really inspired me. I thought 'you know, what is it that separates me from him?' and I realized that it's the intensity with which he plays the game. He may have a bit more talent than me, but that's not the REAL difference. He gives his all on every shift, and I realized that I really didn't. The difference in my game as of late is that I now give it my all out there. I don't want anybody to be able to say that I take shifts off. As a line, York, Laich, and I all decided that we were going to give 110% on every shift, and it has worked. We can't be perfect every night, and we make mistakes, but you will never be able to say that we didn't give our all."

With 14 goals and 9 assists through 31 games, Zubrus is one of the most efficient thirdliners in the CMHL. He's earned time on the powerplay, and his teammates are inspired by his hard work. Is the carrot working? This reporter would have to say that everything is pointing in that direction.
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I think the extra 8,000 people were there to see the Jackets play some hockey. Shame they were dissapointed! :D

Written By: habsfan93 (2008-12-18 14:14:51)

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