Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mike Grier Autograph Card

For a good stretch spanning the late 1990s and the first couples of seasons of the 2000s, Mike Grier was one of my favourite players on the Edmonton Oilers. He reached the 20-goal mark twice with the team, and played a rugged, power forward-type of game to which he added a sound defensive game element relatively early on.

He was a leader on those teams, and I really didn't understand how they could ever let him go, particularly for two Washington Capitals draft picks (a second-rounder who became Evgeny Tunik and a third-rounder who became pugilist Zach Stortini). To me, he, Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky were the type of solid foundation up front that a team required to be perennial contenders.

He didn't stay long in Washington, soon traded to the Buffalo Sabres, with whom he would probably have his most gratifying seasons, including an Eastern Conference Finals in 2006. He did spend three seasons with the San Jose Sharks in the middle of his two stints in Buffalo, but I tend to not pay attention to players in teal - even my favourites.

It was during that second half of his career that he became tasked less with providing secondary scoring and more with continuing to bring a very physical style of play that would have felt right at home on his hometown Boston Bruins, but also shut down the opposition and lead the penalty-kill. He rarely took penalties despite his style of play, finishing with merely 510 PIMs in 1060 games.

He garnered some Selke votes in 4 of his final five seasons, despite being in the minuses for three of them - that's how valuable his work was, how thankless his job of facing the opposition's best players was. He also won a bronze medal with Team USA at the 2004 World Championships.

But mostly, I'll remember him as an Oiler, and a very good one at that. And so the first card of his I will feature is this one, showing him in Edmonton's blue (away) uniform with the oil driller shoulder patch, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers Collection (it's card #FI-GR of the Franchise Ink sub-set, featuring a blue-sharpie on-sticker autograph):
He retired in 2011, and now works as a scout for the Chicago Blackhawks, though his heart is still with the Sabres. And he now represents #25 in my Oilers Numbers Project.

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