Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Brian Elliott Jersey Card

Yesterday, I touched briefly on the fact that the St. Louis Blues added Bob Gainey as a consultant, and considering the puzzling moves made by general manager Doug Armstrong, they actually probably could use his help - particularly when it comes to handling goalies.

It was bad enough that they traded Jaroslav Halak for former top-notch goalie Ryan Miller at last year's trade deadline, leading to a predictable playoff collapse, but they didn't even try to re-sign Miller, therefore pretty much admitting they'd made a huge mistake.

And how did they fix that mistake? By deciding to give the net to prospect Jake Allen, but not without inking good-guy Brian Elliott (who signed 5 cards for me 18 months ago) to a three-year extension. There's nothing wrong with signing a guy who twice posted a GAA below 2.00 in the past three seasons and holds the NHL record for best save percentage in a full season (.940), but it's iffy - to say the least - when the same guy had a 1.90 GAA and .919 save percentage in 6 playoff games in 2012-13 and yet wasn't allowed to play a single minute against the Chicago Blackhawks last year when Miller imploded.

Either you trust him to man the net or you don't - there are no two ways about it.

Not only does it reek of bad improvisation, it stinks of not having an actual plan. For all his faults as general manager with the Montréal Canadiens (over-paying for Carey Price and trading three #1 goalies to make room for him is one, having 13 players turn UFA at the end of the same season is another, a knack for always betting on the wrong free agents can also be one), Gainey always had a plan. It may not have been the right one, but it was a plan nonetheless.

And so the Blues enter 2014-15 with a new uniform that is reminiscent of their old ones, a new consultant who's from the old school, and the same backup goalie they've had for the past three seasons, ready to split time with the latest flavour of the month. With an actual top-line center like Paul Stastny, however, they now have their best forward in over a decade, and therefore have a shot at staying in the conversation with the top teams in the West - your Blackhawks, your Los Angeles Kings, your Anaheim Ducks and your Dallas Stars. And the Minnesota Wild, should they solve their own goaltending issues.

But a lot of the Blues' hopes will be riding on Elliott, who reminds me a lot of another goalie from my childhood, Ron Tugnutt; both were able to play the best game of the decade, had relatively consistent amazing statistics (Elliott even beats Tugnutt on that front), both were ''default'' additions to All-Star Games, and neither was ever considered in the top-20 of their time.

Of course, the Blues will have to protect Elliott better than they have in the preseason thus far. Here he is, wearing the team's white (away) uniform with matching game-worn jersey swatch, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 SP Game-Used Edition (card #AF-BE of the Authentic Fabrics sub-set):

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