Friday, April 7, 2017

Joe Nieuwendyk Autographed Card

I consider things as being "back to normal" when teams from my youth such as the Montréal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames make the playoffs, so things are, indeed, back to normal on that front. The Toronto Maple Leafs are also on the verge of clinching a playoff spot ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders, which I would have preferred been avoided, but considering they'll be facing either the Washington Capitals or Ottawa Senators, I'm fairly confident they'll lose in the first round anyway.

The Flames played in the strongest division of the 1980s, with the Oilers and Winnipeg Jets as powerhouses, which didn't stop them from winning the Presidents Trophy in 1987-88 and 1988-89, and winning the Stanley Cup to close out the decade year as well, in addition to losing to the Habs in the 1986 Final. They were truly a force, with the likes of Doug Gilmour, Theoren Fleury, Joe Mullen, Sergei Makarov, Joe Nieuwendyk and Joel Otto up front, Al MacInnis and Gary Suter out back and Mike Vernon between the pipes.

Sure, I put Nieuwendyk fifth on that list, and I always viewed him as an over-achiever, but the truth of the matter is he did achieve all the things that had him inducted in the Hall Of Fame in 2011 and among the league's Top-100 players at last February's Centennial All-Star celebrations (that part is definitely an aberration, considering players like Jarome Iginla and Joe Thornton didn't make the cut).

Here are the facts: he was only the second rookie to ever score 50 goals in a single season, winning the Calder Trophy in the process. He won Stanley Cups with three different organizations (the Flames in '89, the Dallas Stars in '99 and the New Jersey Devils in 2003), winning a Conn Smythe in 1999 that could have easily gone to Mike Modano (who had two more points), Brett Hull (who scored the winning goal and played fine two-way hockey), Ed Belfour (who posted a .930 save percentage and 1.67 goals-against average with three shutouts) or even Dominik Hasek (.939 and 1.77 despite losing the Final 4 games to 2).

He played in two Olympics, posting 5 points in 6 games as Team Canada choked like never before or since at the 1998 Nagano Games but won gold at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games as a fourth-liner, with two points in 6 games. So, yeah, you can add Olympic gold to his resume, as well as silver from the 1986 World Juniors.

Add to that a King Clancy Trophy (for community and charity work) and you have yourself a fairly distinguished career...

All told, he scored 564 goals to go with 562 assists and 1126 points in 1257 regular-season games, having hit the 90-point mark twice, but never 100. He also has 116 points (66 goals and 50 assists) in 158 playoff games. Failing to post a career point-per-game average in either regular-season or postseason play, to me, says "semi-star" instead of "superstar", which should have excluded him from the Hall, but I'm still glad to have him serve as #25 and captain in my Flames Numbers Project:
That's, fittingly, card #25 in Fleer's 1992-93 Fleer Ultra set, which he signed in blue sharpie either in 2003-04 (while with the Leafs) or 2005-06 (with the Florida Panthers), after a game against the Sens in Ottawa.

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