Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Jason LaBarbera Autographed Card

Former journeyman goaltender Jason LaBarbera is currently in his third season as the WHL Calgary Hitmen's goaltending coach. My first reflex would be to say that that's the type of consistency that has eluded him in his professional career, considering he played for 13 teams in three leagues in 16 seasons (plus three teams in four WHL seasons in Juniors), but the truth of the matter is he had two relatively solid residencies, the first with the New York Rangers organization (though mostly with their AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack), which was a five-year relationship from 2001 until 2005, and the second with the Phoenix Coyotes where he was the main NHL backup for four straight seasons under the tutelage of Sean Burke, yielding three fairly good seasons:
from HockeyDB
That's twice with save percentages above .920, three times with a GAA under 3.00, with 2009-10 being particularly spectacular at 2.13 and .928.

As a matter of fact, his AHL statistics are pretty impressive overall, with a 162-121 record, a 2.33 GAA and .922 save percentage. These two seasons are impressive regardless of caliber:
That is dominance right there, which is why I mostly have memories of him playing for the Wolf Pack, like on this card, which he signed in blue sharpie in 2013-14:
That's card #33 from Pacific's 2003-04 Pacific Prospects - AHL Edition set, showing him wearing Hartford's beautiful blue (away) uniform, based on the Rangers' "Liberty" jersey.

He won the AHL awards for best goalie twice (2004 and 2007) - earning First Team All-Star nods both times - as well as the league MVP award in 2004, and the trophy for lowest goals-against average in 2004 and 2007.

Time will tell if he'll be successful following in Burke's footsteps - so far, eight goalies have crossed his path with only one signing with an NHL team - but these young men will have a wealth of experience to learn from, including how to handle the long bus rides and earning your way to the NHL.

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