Saturday, October 28, 2017

Rollie Melanson Autographed Card

Many thought Roland Melanson would take the 2016-17 season off completely when he announced he wanted to spend more time with his mother and fiancée, but he eventually reached an agreement with the Vancouver Canucks where Dan Cloutier would take over as goalie coach in the NHL and Melanson would be more of a consultant dealing with the prospects and AHLers, traveling from Utica to Montréal to Moncton by car when required.

Then he left the Canucks' organization altogether and joined the New Jersey Devils this summer, reuniting him with former Vancouver prospect Cory Schneider.

Today, I'd like to focus on the short time he spent with the Montréal Canadiens - as a player, that is. It started off with a lop-sided trade by GM Serge Savard, who receive "Rollie The Goalie" and the Devils' captain, Kirk Muller, in exchange for two-time 50-goal scorer Stéphane Richer and Tom Chorske. While both teams would win a Stanley Cup in the next five years, the Habs won it first (1993 vs 1995), and Richer never again reached even the 40-goal mark, while Muller was almost a point-per-game player in Montréal, culminating in a 94-point season in 1992-93.

For his part, Melanson stole the backup job away from prospects André Racicot, Frédéric Chabot, Jean-Claude Bergeron and Les Kuntar on the strength of an incredible training camp performance (two shutouts and two one-goal games in four appearances). He continued his strong play with two regular-season shutouts in 9 games in 1991-92 (against the Philadelphia Flyers and division rivals Buffalo Sabres), but did do poorly against the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals, letting in 4 goals against each team. Racicot would also suit in for 9 games, but at that point, the Habs were solely Patrick Roy's show, as #33 hit the ice in 67 contests.

And yet, here's Melanson, wearing the Habs' classic red (then-away) uniform, sporting the now-retired #1 (for Jacques Plante), on card #187 from Topps' 1992-93 Bowman set:
He signed it in black sharpie in 2002-03, when he was the Canadiens' goaltending coach.

I personally relate to his season in Montréal because, like him, I earned a roster spot on my most competitive team yet that year, as coaches dubbed me "Rollie" or "Hellie", seeing as I too came in not expected to make the Pee-Wee "A" team as a guy who'd only been a "C"-level player before then; I was just supposed to be a body who would get cut, someone present to make others look good and boost their confidence. Instead, I became the starting goalie and led the team to three tournament finals and the City Championship, earning MVP honors at every turn.

Meeting him while he was coaching the likes of José Theodore and Jeff Hackett inspired me to offer my services to coach kids myself, which I eventually got to do.

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