Richard Allen Umberger, Jr. That’s not a name many people outside of, say, his family would recognize on sight, but say the shortened version of it, and at the very least Columbus Blue Jackets fans will know whom you’re talking about.
R.J. Umberger is one of the guys who epitomizes “unsung hero” in the NHL. He’s not flashy by any means, and his numbers aren’t top-ten, but he gets the job done, and he’s done that pretty consistently throughout his career. As a Blue Jackets fan explained to me, “He’s gritty. Blue-collar. Local. Outspoken.”
“Blue-collar” is certainly one way to describe Umberger’s style of play. As his career developed, he’s maintained good offensive talent while also honing the defensive aspect of his game. He’s got very good size, and apparently, some good strength to go along with it.
Points-wise, he’s scored 20+ goals in each of his four seasons as a Blue Jacket, and on top of that he’s only missed three games (77 GP in 2011-12). That kind of durability and/or willingness to fight through anything is certainly a positive trait in the sport of hockey. He’s also been touted for his work ethic, tireless play on the ice and vocal leadership in the locker room, all of which have earned him an “A” on the sweater.
Off of the ice, he’s been a part of various charitable functions, including participation in You Can Play, a great organization dedicated to helping LGBT athletes find a safe, accepting place to play. Clearly he’s a leader in more ways than one.
Unfortunately, last season he took a bit of a hit in his stats, finishing 2012 with an even 20 goals, 20 assists; that being said, it’s still a 20-goal season. Plus, Columbus went through a prolonged malaise at the hands of Scott Arniel before the organization finally cut him loose. Still, some fan blogs are calling for him to come back to form soon.
Of course, with the lockout looming before us, this year may not be the year that he does it. But even with the hiccups, R.J. Umberger is by and large an “unsung hero.”