Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blake Wheeler: 4 Autographed Cards

The returns haven't exactly been piling up this summer, but what has come in has been pretty cool - and this was no exception.
When all is said and done, Blake Wheeler may be the Winnipeg Jets' finest and most effective offensive weapon; much is said about Andrew Ladd's leadership ability and skills, and Evander Kane's flash and brilliance, but in the three seasons since the NHL moved back to Manitoba, Wheeler finished atop the scoring leaders in points and goals twice each, and not in the same years. The first season, he ranked third in goals (17) but first in points (64), and last season he also led with 69 points - and 28 goals. In the locked-out season before that, he was second on the team with 41 points in 48 games, but led the team with an impressive 19 goals.

A hulking 6'5'' and 210-pound rocket on skates, Wheeler appears to be ready to be the guy on whatever team will have him; he has achieved individual success at every level, from a (multiple-time) team leader in the NHL to having been named the MVP of the 2009 YoungStars game where he registered 4 goals, to as far back as being named the WCHL Final Five MVP in 2007.

He's also probably hungry for team success, having been a member of the 2010-11 Boston Bruins for most of the season before the trade to Winnipeg, as the Bruins went on to win the Stanley Cup without him that spring; he has also represented Team USA at the World Juniors (4th place in 2006), World Championships (8th place in 2011) and Olympics (4th place in 2014); he's been stung by defeat enough to want to win at all costs the next time he's put in that type of situation again.

I, for one, think he's good enough to be a first-line right winger on at least 25 teams; unfortunately for him, he'll never be considered the best of his draft class, as 2004 was the year that also brought Alexander Ovechkin (1st) and Evgeni Malkin (2nd) to the NHL, but his being chosen 5th - right behind Cam Barker and Ladd - is pretty much perfect, although in retrospect, perhaps Brandon Dubinsky (60th), Alexander Edler (91st) or Mark Streit (262nd) would likely have taken Barker's spot. On a better team, Wheeler would probably be able to score 30 goals with at least 70 points for the next three or four years, guaranteeing him another spot at the Olympics and perhaps an All-Star Game or two. If I were a GM, he's definitely a player I'd target right now, perhaps even dangling first-round draft picks to obtain him.

I had sent him 5 cards and a fan letter on March 13th, 2014, and received 4 of them back, signed in (fading) black sharpie, with his jersey number (26) included, 123 days later, on June 18th (2014). Oddly enough, my return envelope carried a permanent Canadian stamp (it was sent to the Jets), but was postmarked from West Palm Beach, Florida; I'd like to extend my thanks to the U.S. Postal service for letting it go through.

Here are the cards, first showing him in the Bruins' alternate uniform (too bad the logo crest doesn't show because of his position) from Fleer's 2009-10 Fleer Ultra set (card #15, the Gold variant) by Upper Deck:
Next up are two UD cards of him wearing the Bruins' black (home) uniform:
On the left is card #17 from the 2010-11 Victory collection, while the card on the right is #34 from the 2010-11 Black Diamond set.

And to close it off, one of him with the Jets' dark blue (home) uniform, from Panini's 2013-14 Score set (#539 in the series):
I'm fairly certain the card he kept had him wearing the Jets' white (away) uniform, because I'm a jersey nerd and tend to want to send / own one of each, but I can't be certain. I just don't remember. This brings my 2014 totals to 27/74.

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