Sunday, September 8, 2019

Zemgus Girgensons Jersey Card

(As per years past, this is a twin-post with my "regular" blog, where I predicted the Buffalo Sabres would finish sixth in the Atlantic Division in 2019-20).

I'll admit it right off the bat: Latvians weren't the only ones who massively voted for Zemgus Girgensons for the 2015 All-Star Game; I must have done so 15 to 20 times as well, and convinced others to do the same. I appreciate his honest, gritty two-way play and want to watch this video as much as I can:

Also, face it, OLAS' trap style forebode the U.S. mainstream by three full years.

Girgensons was the Sabres' 2012 first-round pick (14th overall), a draft that is seen nowadays as a bunch of shots in the dark, where the first four picks (in order: Nail Yakupov, Ryan Murray, Alex Galchenyuk and Griffin Reinhart) are considered disappointments despite their former "blue chip" statuses.

The picture gets clearer when we look at the top-20 point producers of that draft year:
from HockeyDB
Seven years in, we're already seeing a pattern of no career point-per-game forwards and strong-to-solid defensemen, with a handful of long-shots for the Norris Trophy (Morgan Rielly, Jacob Trouba, Hampus Lindholm, Shayne Gostesbehere, Matt Dumba, Jaccob Slavin and Colton Parayko).

We're also seeing a couple of good two-way forwards in there, like Chris Tierney and Girgensons, so while it may not have produced an elite or "generational" player, there was some good in there.

He signed his third-straight short-term contract this summer, emulating his $1.6M cap hit from the previous two seasons, but he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of it unless he re-signs with the Sabres. It's hard to see them being able to afford him a raise, though, what with the gross overpayment on star players Jack Eichel ($10M per until 2025) and Jeff Skinner ($9M until 2025), as well as depth pieces Kyle Okposo ($6M until 2024) and Zach Bogosian ($5.15M this season).

"Z" himself is a smooth-skating 6'2", 190-pound centre with a decent shot and leadership skills who likes to play a physical game. If they weren't overpaying Kevin Hayes themselves, he would probably be a good fit on the middle-six of the Philadelphia Flyers.

If I can, I would like to vote Girgensons into the All-Star Game again this year, so he can earn himself a fine raise as a UFA this summer, what with his two-time All-Star credentials. For now, however, let's take a look at him wearing the Sabres' white (away) uniform, reminiscent of their 1980s garbs except for the useless numbering on the chest:
It's card #GJ-ZG from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set and features a blue game-worn jersey swatch either from the shoulders of this one, or (more likely) from the team's blue (home) one.

Of note, Zemgus' father, Aldis Girgensons, had a fruitful career with Dynamo Riga in the Soviet system of leagues.

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