Friday, May 17, 2019

Brian Elliott Swatch Card

This is a weird post-season for me, forcing me to cheer for teams I usually very much dislike (the Boston Bruins) or just don't care about (the St. Louis Blues) to win against teams I hate (the Carolina Hurricanes and San Jose Sharks).

The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and lost in the Final in 2013, so they've already cemented their place as a top team in the decade, and the Blues made the Final in their first three seasons in the league yet had to see fellow 1967 expansion brothers the Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins savor multiple wins - and the Minnesota North Stars reach a couple of Finals themselves before winning the Cup in 1999 as the relocated Dallas Stars. And nothing guarantees St. Louis would win against Boston, the third-best team in the league in the regular season.

The Blues seems to have finally found a goalie who can thrive in their system after many years of regular-season success but year after year of post-season failures in the person of Jordan Binnington. Now, goalies are hard to predict, and it remains to be seen if he can keep it up in the long run, but so far he's posted the third-best playoff performance this year (after still-standing Tuukka Rask and the now-eliminated Ben Bishop), and it doesn't seem like he'll wear down as long as he keeps playing.

These days, I have a thought for Brian Elliott, who manned the net admirably and honestly for six seasons in the Gateway City, posting some of the best goals-against averages of the millennium in the process:
from HockeyDB
Granted, he was Jaroslav Halak's backup and was sheltered by playing fewer games and against lesser opponents, but those are fine NHL numbers regardless of how you look at them.

However, his play hasn't been as effective for the past three seasons and he was surpassed by this year's other star rookie goalie with the Flyers, Carter Hart. Then again, at $2.75M per season, Elliott was pretty much playing on a backup's salary anyway.

His contract is due this summer, and I think he still has another two-year deal in him, likely with a team that needs to play their top goalie less and doesn't have a young gun ready to challenge for the position. I can think of three such teams in the Atlantic: the Montréal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings, as well as the Edmonton Oilers out West.

Here he is wearing the Blues' white (away) uniform, on card #GG-ET from Panini's 2012-13 Titanium set and Game-Worn Gear subset:
The jersey swatch, however, is burgundy - from his 12 games with the Colorado Avalanche at the tail end of the 2010-11 season.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Paul Ranheim Autograph Card

It's now official: the Boston Bruins have swept the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final, in a show of force unseen since the days of the Adams Division and the lowly Hartford Whalers.

Which brings me to Paul Ranheim, who has played for the Whalers and the Canes, spending parts of seven seasons in the organization before spending some time with the Philadelphia Flyers and Phoenix Coyotes.

His best season, statistically, though, was his rookie year with the Calgary Flames, in 1989-90, scoring 26 goals with 28 assists for 94 points - all career highs. As a matter of fact, all three of his 20-goal seasons came in Calgary, and he never went over 10 in any of his other NHL seasons. He never hit the 40-point plateau with any other team either, with a 30-point season (10 goals, 20 assists) with the Whalers in 1995-96 standing as the other outlier year in a career spent as a checking forward.

Here he is wearing the Whalers' dark (away) mid-1990s uniform on the signed insert version of card #87 from Upper Deck's 1995-96 Be A Player set:
I must admit I felt some nice nostalgia when the Canes sported their retro Whalers uniforms this season, especially since they did so against the Bruins.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Sean Burke Autographed Card

I think I'll be saying this until I retire, but the Edmonton Oilers missed the boat when they chose Ken Holland as their next GM last week, choosing another proven salary cap era mismanager instead of new blood like Sean Burke.

Learning the ropes as an exec with the Phoenix Coyotes, Arizona Coyotes and Montréal Canadiens, Burke also plied his trade as GM of Team Canada at several World Championships and the 2018 Olympics - the one where he scoured the globe trying to put together the best possible team of non-NHLers to try to stop the KHL-playing Russians from winning gold.

The five-time IIHF medalist as a player managed to build a roster that won bronze (better than Finland, Sweden, the United States, Slovakia and the Czech Republic), so one can objectively say he did a fairly decent job.

Former goalies are showing they have an eye for talent and management, as the likes of Burke, Ron Hextall (rebuilding the Philadelphia Flyers post-Paul Holmgren), Holland (three Stanley Cups in the pre-cap era) and, to a lesser extent, Patrick Roy (Memorial Cup) and Garth Snow (rebuilding the New York Islanders post-Mike Milbury) have all shown to be able to build decent rosters pretty much from scratch.

I know if I owned a team in, say, Seattle, I'd take a serious look at him to build my team.

As many of you know, Burke was impactful to me as a young goalie in the late 1980s. His exploits with the Canadian National Team and the New Jersey Devils set an example that many Canadian goalies wanted to follow. Sure, Roy was the reason I donned the pads in the first place, but the fact that even in Montréal he was seen as an unattainable God-like figure meant a guy like Burke - who participated in CHL/Team Canada clinics and moved around a lot by changing teams often - was more present, in a way.

And he showed that one didn't have to be a record-setting Conn Smythe winner to be an All-Star and a Hart and Vezina candidate. These days, my favourite goalies are Jaroslav Halak, Ben Bishop, Corey Crawford and Marc-André Fleury, but in the 1980s and 1990s, it was Roy, Burke and, a peg below, Stéphane Fiset. No one else came close.

Here is the 6'4" Burke in the uniform that, to me, best represents the first third of his nearly 20-year career, the Devils' red-and-green classic, on card #66 from Upper Deck's 1990-91 Series 1 set:
He signed it in blue sharpie in one of his few trips to Montréal in the past couple of years.