Saturday, November 18, 2017

Theoren Fleury Jersey Card

As is becoming a yearly tradition for me, I took a look at the Hall Of Fame-eligible players this year and was totally underwhelmed. Once again, someone's going to get in who will bring the level of merit down.

In the past, in my opinion, too many "just stars" made the cut, when it's supposed to be the elite of the elite, the world-class, the best of the best, the Immortals. By that, I mean the likes of Mats Sundin, Ed Belfour, Joe Nieuwendyk, Dave Andreychuk, Doug Gilmour, Ron Francis, Larry Murphy, and particularly Mike Gartner.

In the meantime, Rogatien Vachon had to wait 25 years too long to be appointed to his rightful place and Jean-Claude Tremblay and a few others who defected to the WHA are still waiting. And Pat Burns had three chances to be inducted while he was alive but was passed over until he passed on. And people seem to have forgotten just how good Doug Wilson was - much better than Murphy, that's for sure; the fact that he hasn't won anything as the San Jose Sharks' long-time GM shouldn't be a factor in remembering how dominant he was on defense.

Some players absolutely deserve to get in, this year: Boris Mikhailov - the 1970s and 1980s Russian Mario Lemieux - Martin St-Louis, Daniel Alfredsson.

Then there are players that will probably get in that I don't really mind but also wouldn't mind of they didn't, such as Alexander Mogilny; he started out great but didn't keep that pace up throughout his career like Pavel Bure, Teemu Selanne or even Peter Forsberg.

There are players who may get in but in my opinion fall into the "stars, not supertars" category: Sergei Zubov, Curtis Joseph, Jeremy Roenick, and Keith Tkachuk. Alex Kovalev, the first Russian first-rounder and first on the Stanley Cup, had a better career, albeit perhaps not one as consistent - but his peaks were much higher.

Then there's those who just shouldn't even be considered, based on the fact that they accomplished very little on their own, but somehow, perhaps ironically, people have been making campaigns to put in the Hall for years, like Chris Osgood. That's fucking ridiculous. Joseph comes in way before Osgood, and José Theodore comes before any of them with his Hart, Vezina, and success with four different teams. And if Joseph gets in, then you have to consider Sean Burke as well. For me, Theodore and Burke fall short, Joseph falls way short, and Osgood shouldn't even be in the conversation.

Which brings me to players who probably won't get in but kind of should seeing as similar players are in, such as Pierre Turgeon. Theo Fleury is probably tops of that class in my opinion.

455 goals, 633 assists, 1088 points and 1840 penalty minutes in 1084 regular-season games, 34 goals and 45 assists for 79 points in 77 games (with 116 penalty minutes), his name engraved on the Stanley Cup with the rest of the 1989 Calgary Flames, two hart Trophy top-five finishes, and tons of medals with Team Canada  - gold at the 1988 World Juniors, 1991 Canada Cup and 2002 Olympics, and silver at the 1991 World Championships and 1996 World Cup.

All of this, of course, while a "raging alcoholic lunatic" due to suffering sexual abuse at the hands of his former Juniors coach Graham James, with whom he later bought stakes in the WHL's Calgary Hitmen, just to give you an idea of the Svengali grasp James had on his victims.

And, let's not forget, that three years after retiring from the NHL, he came back to competitive sport and was named the UK's Elite Hockey League's Player Of The Year while with the Belfast Giants, posting no less than 22 goals, 52 assists and 74 points (to go with 270 penalty minutes...) in... 34 games.

Fleury was a tremendous player with a ton of heart and matching talent who scored 51 goals in 1990-91, twice more reached the 40-goal plateau, twice exceeded 100 points (plus a 96-point season), and whose worst NHL season deep in the thralls of depression, substance abuse and the Dead Puck Era, consisted of 33 points in 54 games with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2002-03 - or decent second-line numbers by modern accounts.

There are, without a doubt, many lesser players in the Hall.

Here he is sporting the Flames' turn-of-the-millennium red (away) uniform, on Frankencard #GJ-TF from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 2 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a blue game-worn jersey swatch that likely stems from his days with the New York Rangers (1999-2002). It was while with the Blueshirts that he struck Wayne Gretzky enough to have The Great One - Canada's GM - invite him along for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics despite Fleury's drinking and cocaine problems becoming increasingly public. Out of respect to "99", Fleury - who claims to have failed 13 consecutive NHL drug tests but wasn't suspended because he was a star player - went "dry" for the entire tournament.

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