Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Brian Bellows Autographed Card

It required a bit of digging, but I will be able to continue my narrative of the past week - after posts on Patrik Laine and Jimmy Carson - about the four youngest players in NHL history to hit the 100-career-goal mark; of course, Wayne Gretzky is first, Carson is second and Laine is now fourth, which makes Brian Bellows third.

He had a solid Juniors career with the Kitchener Rangers, prompting Sports Illustrated to name him "the hottest prospect since Gretzky" - and yet he was selected second-overall behind Gord Kluzak at the 1980 draft; it would be more honest in retrospect to place him fourth in his draft year, behind Doug Gilmour (134th overall, 450 goals and 1414 points), Kitchener teammate Scott Stevens (three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy, 13 All-Star Game appearances in three separate decades), and Phil Housley (6th overall, 1232 career points and one of the best American defensemen of all time), ahead of the likes of Pat Verbeek (43rd, 1063 points and 2905 penalty minutes), Kevin Dineen (56th), Ron Sutter 94th), Murray Craven (17th), Ray Ferraro (88th), Dave Ellett (75th) and Dave Andreychuk (16th).

He was a power forward in the sense that he hit the 30-goal mark often and the 40-goal mark four times - with a high of 55 in 1989-90 - and didn't shy away from a physical style of play, but he didn't collect penalty minutes like many of his contemporaries, never hitting the 100-PIM mark, and only hitting 81 once, in 1987-88.

His 29 points in 23 games led the Minnesota North Stars as the team went to the Stanley Cup Final in 1990-91, alongside the greatest player in team history, Neal Broten, who had 22 points. While I've got these words in mind, I might as well say that I do not feel it's out of line to speak of Bellows in the same breath as Dino Ciccarelli, Jean-Paul Parisé, and Dave Gagner as the second line of the franchise's best forwards of all time, behind the front-line of Broten, Bobby Smith and Mike Modano.

For some reason, however, Minnesota sent him to the Montréal Canadiens for Russ Courtnall ahead of the 1992-93 season, where he posted 88 regular-season points and 15 more in the playoffs - tied for third in team scoring with Mike Keane, behind Vincent Damphousse's 23 and Kirk Muller's 17 - helping the Habs win the Stanley Cup.

His production dipped afterwards, to 33 goals and 71 points in 1993-94, then 16 points altogether in 1994-95, 49 points in 79 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1995-96, 31 points in 69 games with the Bolts and Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 1996-97 to 36 points in 76 games with the Washington Capitals in 1998-99.

Even though he won the Cup with my hometown team, I usually think of Bellows more as the dominant North Stars right winger from the 1980s, like on card #160 from Score's 1991-92 Score (Bilingual Canadian Edition) set:
He's wearing the team's classic green (away) uniform, and it's actually a tad darker and much more vivid to the naked eye than via this scan. He signed it during the Habs' Centennial celebrations nearly a decade ago already.

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