Friday, January 21, 2011

Pascal Leclaire: 4 Autographed Cards

It doesn't happen too often, but I was wrong.

At the beginning of the season, I predicted the Ottawa Senators would squeak into the playoff picture - but that wasn't enough, I had to dig my hole even deeper. I predicted they'd be in the Final Four come playoff time, because they were one defenseman short of perfectly balanced. The summer addition of Sergei Gonchar stabilized the powerplay, captain Daniel Alfredsson - while no longer the 90-plus point getter of yore - is still a more-than-capable top-line right winger and a hell of a leader, Jason Spezza is one of the league's premier playmakers, Chris Phillips is a very dependable defenseman who makes a terrific first pass and is also a definite leader, Alex Kovalev knows when to step his game up and be a star player, Mike Fisher is one of the league's 10 best two-way players, Milan Michalek is a guaranteed 20-goal scorer, they have two very promising kids on defense with Brian Lee and Erik Karlsson, and the goaltending tandem of Brian Elliott and Pascal Leclaire is among the top-tier in the NHL. The table was set for a rough season, but enjoyable playoffs. Or so I thought.

But I was right about one thing - the play of Pascal Leclaire. Sure, he was injured in awkward and fluke plays that made no sense whatsoever and was limited to 14 games of play so far; but in these 14 games, 10 times he was the best player on the ice - for either team. He's played better than anyone could or should have expected. Unfortunately, he didn't play enough, and despite a 2.83 GAA and .910 save %, his record stands at 4-7-1, as his team has failed to score more than 2 goals in more than half his starts.

As the Sens look to miss the playoffs for a second straight season, expect Leclaire's salary to drop by a large margin as he becomes a free agent this summer; on the other hand, also expect him to be one of the best deals on the market, as he will continue to perform to high standards whenever he's healthy.

I sent him these 4 cards and a fan letter on September 29th, 2010, and got them back on January 20th, 2011, all signed in black sharpie with his then-jersey number (31) at the end. The first two see him wearing the Columbus Blue Jackets' old jersey with the 'CBJ' logo, a jersey design close to the original Reebok jerseys in that it looks more like pajamas or a sweat shirt than a hockey jersey:
The card on the left is from Upper Deck's beautiful 2006-07 Ovation set (card #115), his rookie card in that set - one that not only has a great design for the look, but also the feel of the cards, as every ripple of ice and line on the player's equipment is accentuated on the card, giving it a 3-D effect; the card on the right is from UD's 2007-08 Victory set (card #128), also a pretty one.

The other two cards see him sporting the Jackets' ''star'' logo, inspired by Ohio's state flag:
These jerseys distance the Jackets from the New York Rangers more in their look, and give them more of an identity. They still suck, and prior to making the playoffs in 2009, they were the only active team to have never, ever made the playoffs - ever! - but at least they look like a hockey team now. The card on the left is from the 2008-09 Upper Deck Series 1 set (card #141), greeting fans as he is about to step onto the ice, while the card on the right is from the 2008-09 Victory set (card #138), where he's sporting the team's white jersey.

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