Sunday, March 23, 2014

Thomas Vanek Jersey Card

Apparently, the most coveted rental player at this year's trade deadline also turned out to be the most affordable, as the Buffalo Sabres could only extract a second-round pick from the Montréal Canadiens for Thomas Vanek.

The most talented forward the Habs have dressed since Alex Kovalev, Vanek became the team's leading scorer from the get-go, as his 21 goals and 53 points were better than anyone else, and his 4 goals and 5 points in 8 games since have given him an 8-point lead over P.K. Subban although he is now 6 behind Max Pacioretty on the goals front.

Like Frank Pietrangelo, who I featured yesterday, the Austrian Sensation is a University Of Minnesota Golden Gophers alumni, and it has been rumoured for over a year that the Minnesota Wild could be his destination come free agency. But the Wild traded for Matt Moulson at the deadline, and may be content with getting 75% of what Vanek brings at half the cost, if you don't care about selling jerseys and putting asses in the seats.

One thing's for sure, though, having just turned 30, with nine straight 20-goal seasons (including the lock-out shortened 2012-13 season), two 40-goal seasons and two other 30-goal seasons under his belt, and about to finish his sixth 60-point season (with a career-high of 84 in 2006-07), Vanek has been a model of consistency despite an ever-changing cast of linemates (of varying talent levels). And he has at least 4 or 5 more good years left in the tank.

The fifth overall pick of the 2003 draft (perhaps the best draft class of all time), it's pretty hard not to think of him among the 5 best players of his draft year, no matter the rank. Some things are certain, if it had to be re-done, Shea Weber would likely not be chosen in the second round, Ryan Getzlaf wouldn't have been picked as late as the 19th pick, but Vanek would still be a top-5 pick regardless of what values one was looking for (leadership, goal-scoring, passing, star power, being a winner). Simply put, he is a game-changer.

And I thought the same when I found this card in a pack of Upper Deck's 2006-07 Be A Player Portraits (card #FE-TV, from the First Exposures sub-set with a photo shoot-worn piece of jersey), showing him in the Sabres' white (then-home) jersey:
It's the jersey the team wore when transitioning between their classic 1980s garbs and the infamous Buffaslug... when black was fashionable in the NHL. The Sabres seemingly change uniforms and captains every other year anyway, so love them or hate them, they'll be completely different soon enough - don't get attached, don't take it personal.

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