Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Scott Niedermayer Jersey Card

I wasn't sure what angle to go with this player. On one hand, he's great. On the other, he's never had to prove himself on his own, as he always had a supporting cast of superstars to make him look good. So I decided to have it both ways: one post full of positive achievements, one (this one) more, shall I say... realistic.

The draft isn't an exact science; Scott Niedermayer was chosen 3rd overall in 1991, behind Eric Lindros and Pat Falloon, but ahead of Peter Forsberg and Alexei Kovalev... (for the record, my draft order would have been Forsberg, Niedermayer, Kovalev, Ozolinsh, Lindros, Palffy, Rolston, Naslund, Perreault, Falloon)

There were high expectations for Niedermayer coming off a World Juniors championship, but he had the luxury of playing behind Scott Stevens, Vyacheslav Fetisov and Bruce Driver - and alongside Eric Weinrich and Ken Daneyko - not too shabby. Not to mention that, should any of the defensemen make a mistake, chances are goalie Martin Brodeur would correct it.

Much has been said of Niedermayer's speed and prowess to start up an attack, but it helps when the guys you can pass the puck to are finishers like Peter Stastny, Claude Lemieux and Stéphane Richer to start, and later Patrik Elias, Alexander Mogilny, Petr Sykora and Jason Arnott...

That's in addition to playing in the trap-controlled New Jersey Devils system.

And then he was named captain of the team, only to leave it in 2005 to join the Mighty Ducks Of Anaheim, where his brother played, a team that had reached the Cup Finals two years before and that could still hope to attain it again, with a goaltending tandem comprised of Conn Smythe winner Jean-Sébastien Giguère and Russian Olympian Ilya Bryzgalov, in addition to proven scorers like Teemu Selanne - willing to play in Anaheim almost for free - kids like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry - and the best defensive line in the league (led by Samuel Pahlsson and Rob Niedermayer).

But he couldn't make it on his own as the sole leader on the D, so the team went and got Chris Pronger from the Edmonton Oilers to help hold the fort, fresh off a Cup Finals in which he was favourite to win the Conn Smythe had his team won. And Pronger took Niedermayer and the rest of the boys to the promised land.

Sure, Niedermayer won the Conn Smythe that year, but the main reason he did was that the league couldn't possibly give it to Pronger after he'd been suspended twice in the playoffs - and Giguère already had one, for which he had been more than spectacular, in a losing cause, and since that particular trophy doesn't come easy (only one player has won it three times, Patrick Roy) they couldn't just hand it to him again on such a powerhouse team that could have won it five times in a row. So Niedermayer got the pity vote.

After that, he contemplated retirement. Contemplated, yes, but he couldn't quite get to it. Every day, from the start of training camp to the month of December, journalists inquired his teammates about his possible return or retirement. He was a distraction for the first 28 games of the season before he announced he'd be coming back - even after the team had already named another captain (Pronger). His return, instead of sparking his team, just added to the confusion, as they were ousted in the very first round against the Dallas Stars. Some leader, eh?

Also note that this beating around the bush occured in the summer of 2007; we are currently in 2010, and he's still playing. Pronger and François Beauchemin (the other member of the Anaheim Big Three) are gone and, coincidentally, probably, the Ducks could very well miss the playoffs. And what's the biggest story to come out of Anaheim these days? That their captain may have requested a trade to a contender.

Smells like team spirit, eh?

On this card, you can see him wearing the last jersey of the Mighty Ducks - before they became, simply, the Anaheim Ducks. Notice how they were going for a retro feel. This is card #GJ-SN of the 2006-07 Upper Deck Series 1 collection, and sports a white jersey patch.

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