Monday, February 17, 2014

Michael Cammalleri Autograph Card

The question on a lot of people's minds in Canada these days is ''what does Sidney Crosby need (to get going at the Olympics... again)?'', because few people remember, but even in 2010 in Vancouver, before scoring the behind-the-goal-line overtime winner, he'd been overshadowed by Jonathan Toews and a slew of other Canadian forwards, and it's happening again.

The smart-ass answer (and a correct one if not the definitive one), of course, is: Evgeni Malkin's line taking all the pressure off by facing the opposition's best checkers - but since he's Russian, that wouldn't help Team Canada.

Crosby is without a doubt a world-class talent, and going purely on skill, he's among the top 5 forwards in the game, behind Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and on par with Toews.

As a goal-sorer, he ranks in the top-10 behind Steven Stamkos, Ovechkin, Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane and a handful of others, while he's among the best passers in the league with Mike Ribeiro, Jason Spezza and Henrik Sedin.

As far as leadership goes, though, sure, he takes over when the going gets tough, but he also whines to referees when things don't go his way and has a sore-loser mentality where he hits opponents with his stick long after plays and generally isn't the cool-headed example of sportsmanship Toews, Jarome Iginla, Sedin, Spezza, Andrew Ladd, John Tavares, Gabriel Landeskog, Mark Giordano, Malkin, Anze Kopitar and so many others are.

Short and thin, ideally he'd be paired with at least one giant, and it'd be nice if both wingers could have finishing touch on par with his passing skills - and Stamkos would have been ideal. When he fell to injury, Canada's brass could have thought outside the box for a minute and replaced him with Mike Cammalleri, one of the purest goal-scorers in the game, a perennial threat with his super-fast and deadly accurate one-timer. The very definition of ''clutch'', he scored 13 goals in 19 games when the Montréal Canadiens made their deep playoff run in 2010, and his 19 points represented 41% of the team's 46 goal total. Paired with, say, Jeff Carter (6'4'', also a 30-40 goal man), you could have a line that would rival even the Russians'.

Oh well.

But back to Cammalleri. Chosen 49th overall in the second round of the 2001 draft by the Los Angeles Kings, he gave them three solid seasons before being traded to the Calgary Flames at the 2008 draft prior to becoming a coveted free agent; he had 39 goals 82 points with the Flames, then signed with Habs just in time for their Centennial season, where he was almost named team captain. He was the player who was most interested in the team's rich history, meeting with past legends at every opportunity, trying to learn from them, totally immersing himself in the team's winning culture.

Apparently that didn't go well with some of his teammates and it reached the boiling point - and the team's management reached the point of ridiculousness - when Cammalleri was traded back to the Flames for Rene Bourque... in the middle of a game!

He's had 26 goals 53 points so far in 85 games in his second coming with Calgary - an impressive amount, considering who he is playing with. Only he Lee Stempniak had more than 30 points last season, with a team-leading 32...

I'll always be a huge fan of his and, like Jaroslav Halak, will always feel bad about the way they were treated by the Habs' previous administration.

And that's why I was particularly happy to find this card of his in a pack of Upper Deck's 2007-08 SP Authentic that I received in 2012:
It's card #ST-MC, from the Sign Of The Times sub-set, and shows him wearing the Kings' white uniform, back when purple was still in their palette. It's signed on-card in blue sharpie and, though condensed, is signed with the surname he prefers to be called by, ''Michael'', rather than ''Mike''.

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