Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Two James Van Riemsdyk Swatch Cards

There was semi-big news yesterday, when the Toronto Maple Leafs fired head coach Randy Carlyle, two days after center James Van Riemsdyk had urged fans to ''calm down'' - apparently the message didn't get to GM Dave Nonis, who is probably afraid to lose his own job right now.

It was to be expected, though, as Carlyle wasn't Nonis' man to begin with; on the other hand, Nonis isn't President Brendan Shanahan's man either...

Van Riemsdyk was the Philadelphia Flyers' first-round draft pick (second overall) in 2007, and while a case can be made for Logan Couture (9th), Ryan McDonagh (12th), Kevin Shattenkirk (14th), Max Pacioretty (22nd), David Perron (26th), P.K. Subban (43rd), and Jamie Benn (129th) in retrospect, JVR remains a logical choice; he was ranked third among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting (behind first pick Patrick Kane and Kyle Turris, who was picked third), and his play in the 2009-10 playoffs (along with Michael Leighton's top-notch goaltending) were an important part of the Flyers' eliminating the Montréal Canadiens in the Conference Finals.

He was traded to the Leafs for Luke Schenn, each team figuring they were receiving a first-unit player. Schenn hasn't exactly turned out that way, but two and a half seasons in his tenure in Toronto, maybe JVR has. He has 17 goals and 37 points in 41 games so far (on pace for 35 goals and 70 points), and had 32 points in 48 games two years ago in the lock-out-shortened season, to go with his 30 goals and 61 points in 80 games last year, not always playing with super-sniper Phil Kessel but averaging around 20 minutes per game nonetheless.

But because it's the Leafs and they never come close to being a winning team, it's hard to gauge their players' actual value.

I would put Van Riemsdyk in the 1A-winger category: a good, dependable first-liner on most teams, a luxury second-liner on a contender (Chicago, Los Angeles, and to a lesser extent, Dallas, Vancouver and Montréal).

He still has room to improve, and yet he has already been a part of some important teams. After all, the 2010 Flyers were only the third team ever to come back and win a best-of-7 series after trailing 3-0; he suited up for Team USA five times as a Junior - winning bronze at the 2007 World Juniors, and silver (2007) and gold (2006) at the U-18s - and twice with the mens' teams, finishing 8th at the 2011 World Championships, and 4th at the 2014 Olympics, leading the tournament with 6 assists, as well as in +/-.

I believe the 25-year-old, 6'3'', 210-pound speed-and-strength machine will become a clutch playoff performer - provided he ever plays for a decent playoff team. He's got ''power forward'' written all over him, and the Flyers will come to regret not keeping him, if they don't already.

Here he is wearing their current/retro white uniform on two nearly-identical cards I got from Panini's 2011-12 Titanium stet (#75 of the Game-Worn Gear sub-sets, featuring bright orange swatches):
Ironically, in person, the card with the white mesh sticking out is a tad lighter and more fluorescent, but the scan and the penny sleeves give off the illusion that it's the other way around. You can also tell by the number of air holes that the swatches are from different parts of the jersey.

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