Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Jaroslav Balastik Autograph Card

One team I expected to win more in this year's playoffs is the Columbus Blue Jackets, who currently trail their series against the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1. They had finished the season 4th overall on the strength of team defense, team toughness, the goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky, the coaching of John Tortorella and the rise of defenseman Zach Werenski.

The Pens, however, just seem to be able to pull rabbits out of their collective hats every game - and that's saying nothing of Bobrovsky, the heavy favourite to win the Vezina Trophy this season, allowing upwards of 3 goals per game (3.61 average).

Which brings me to a failed Jackets experiment from a decade ago, Jaroslav Balastik, featured here in the team's white (then-home) uniform, on card #JB from Upper Deck's 2005-06 SP Authentic set and Sign Of The Times sub-set:
Balastik was a star in the Czech Extraliga, its best forward for the 2004-05 season and two-time league leader for goals (29 in 2003-04, a mark he replicated in 2007-08, and 30 in 2004-05), as well as playoff goals (9) and points (18), both set in 2003-04, when he led is team to the league championship.

He also won a silver medal with the Czech Team at the 2006 World Championships, which makes it harder to conceive that he only managed to put up 13 goals, 11 assists and 24 points in 74 NHL games over two seasons, and 5 goals, 6 assists and 11 points in 20 games with the AHL's Syracuse Crunch over the same span.

He retired following the 2014-15 season, having spent most of his career with PSG Zlín (parts of 15 seasons), finishing with 277 goals (6th all-time) and 202 assists for 479 points (15th all-time) in 725 games in the best Czech league.

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