Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Brad Richards Autograph Card

Clutch player. The term is used pretty loosely, and nowadays can even describe a forward with as few as three game-winning goals in a regular season of 82 games, or a superstar who has a knack for finding the twine in the final minutes of a game.

Brad Richards, however, is of the true kind: usually behind the shadow of another great player, he finds a way to be the one who ends up with the most important point, pass, goal, penalty - or any other moment - in the most important games.

He might be the best clutch performer of this era. Here's why: drafted in the third round by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1998, the same year that his friend and perennial-teammate Vincent Lecavalier was taken first overall, Richards saw 62 other players get drafted before him. And, while Lecavalier made the NHL team's cut the very first year, Richards had to go through two more junior years in the QMJHL, eventually being named the CHL's Player Of The Year, scoring leader, plus/minus leader, First team All Star (all titles he also received from the Q) - but, more importantly, he received the Jean Béliveau trophy for being the Q's playoff MVP, as well as the Stafford Smythe Memorial trophy for being the Memorial Cup MVP. I'm sure it goes well with his World Juniors bronze medal.

His ascent to the NHL was fast and furious, though, as he was named to the All Rookie Team in 2000-01, was invited to pay the Young Stars game in 2001-02, and, in 2003-04, not only did he win the Stanley Cup, but he won the Conn Smythe trophy ahead of stellar teammates Lecavalier and Martin St-Louis, the reigning Art Ross winner. This led to an appearance at the 2004 World Cup, in which he helped Canada win the gold.

He holds the record for most game-winning goals in an NHL playoff season, with 7 (breaking Joe Sakic's mark of 6), but all of those achievements tend to vershadow the fact that he's still doing it: on February 26, 2008, he was traded by the Lightning to the Dallas Stars, and, in his first game as a Star, collected a team record 5 assists en route to a 7-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Now playing behind Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow, expect him to carry the load and lead his team far, should the make the playoffs.

This card is the 'silver' version of his Autograph card from In The Game's 2002-03 Be A Player Signature Series (card #016). Less than 100 were made, but the 'gold' version, depite being less pleasing to the eye, is actually rarer and more valuable. This one retails between $5 and $25 - many dealers still don't see In The Game as a premium brand, while others do; I only look for players I like and avoid their sets, myself, but I'm known to own a few of their all-goalie Behind The Mask sets...

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