Friday, February 5, 2016

Brian Gionta Jersey Card

I would be remiss if I didn't post about Brian Gionta this week. Gionta's career path is one of putting team achievements ahead of personal glory, though he does hold the New Jersey Devils' single-season goals record (48, in 2005-06). He won the Stanley Cup with them in 2002-03. He then moved on to the Montréal Canadiens, which he captained and reached the Conference Finals with in 2009-10. He was a quiet, almost boring captain who said all the right things but didn't stir the pot and wasn't as outspoken as past wearers of the "C", a top-6 right winger who didn't reach the 30-goal plateau with the Habs, mostly because he had two injury-plagued seasons in the five years he was in town, leaving him with 28- and 29-goal campaigns.

When the Habs offered him a lower-range contract with less term as he reached UFA status for the second time of his career in the summer of 2014, he signed with his hometown Buffalo Sabres, who made him their captain as well. He missed 13 games because of injuries on last year's tanking team, but they're showing clear signs of growth this year.

The Canadiens, on the other hand, are sinking, and captain Max Pacioretty looks like a player who not only has no idea as to how to deal with the situation, but has seemingly also quit. He doesn't have the belief and determination that teammates P.K. Subban and Brendan Gallagher have. He looks helpless out there.

And it was Gionta who put the final nail in the coffin on Wednesday, as the Habs blew a 2-1 lead to open the third period to lose 4-2, with the former captain scoring the empty-netter. In a town he didn't want to leave, against the team he was the leader of.

It's the first big crisis that GM Marc Bergevin and head coach Michel Therrien have faced together, in their third season at the helm of this franchise. As you can tell by the boos in the video linked above, fans are very unhappy. The newspapers are mean. The post-game analysis on both French-language specialized sports stations is vitriolic. People want heads to roll (and, as usual, I disagree with most of them as to which ones should).

They say you only realize what you had when it's gone, and it's time to give Brian Gionta props for having been the right leader for those 2009-14 Canadiens. Here he is wearing the Devils' white (now-away) uniform with an enclosed red game-worn jersey swatch, from Upper Deck's 2006-07 SP Game-Used Edition (card #AF-BG of the Authentic Fabrics sub-set):

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