Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Justin Abdelkader Jersey Card

For the third time this season, the Detroit Red Wings - the worst team in the NHL - beat the Montréal Canadiens earlier tonight; newcomer Ilya Kovalchuk had two assists and now has three points in two games for the Habs, as he's seemingly taking a liking to the positive reception he's getting.

Montréal's current seven-game winless streak isn't its worst of the season: they had an eight-loss streak in November. Some fans have started chants encouraging the team to tank to increase its odds of landing local kid Alexis Lafrenière as the first-overall pick of the upcoming draft, the most inventive of them being "Finir en dernière pour Lafrenière" ("Finish last for a Lafrenière draft"), especially since this year's event is being held at the Bell Centre.

They'll have to compete with the San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings and Wings for that, however.

Detroit is saddled with seemingly untradeable contracts to aging veterans, such as 35-year-old Valtteri Filppula ($3M until the end of next year), Frans Nielsen (35, $5.25M until 2022), Darren Helm (32, $3.85M until the end of next year), Mike Green (34, $5.75M), Jonathan Ericsson (35, $4.25M), Trevor Daley (36, $3.167M), Jimmy Howard (35, $4M), Jonathan Bernier ($3M for a backup until the end of next year), and Justin Abdelkader (32, $4.25M until 2023).

Abdelkader, a Michigan native, is probably the one who gets the most flack because at his peak, he was a big-bodied (6'2", 215 pounds) winger who may have been able to post 40-point seasons on a second line, with a second-round draft pick pedigree.

He fell to 19 points last year and only has 3 so far in 27 games this season (and is injury-prone). But he's one of the last remaining Wings with Stanley Cup Finals experience, something the current crop of young prospects could use. He also scored important goals in his heyday, including the winner for Michigan State against Boston College in the Frozen Four Final, where he was named Most Outstanding Player. His first two NHL goals came in the Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009.

He's been clutch.

 He would probably be a perfect bottom-six guy were it not for his cap hit, and he'll probably be an excellent development coach some day. However, paying him $4.25M isn't a problem in itself: he's a local kid, a great leader, has a wealth of experience (the Cup Final, but also a member of the bronze-winning Team USA at the 2007 World Juniors, the 2012 and 2014 World Championships and 2016 World Cup), can help other players come to grips with line-bouncing and is further proof that the Wings treat their veterans with respect and loyalty - a key point in enticing free agents to sign with the team.

Building a team isn't only about grabbing the best players available on the free market (New York Rangers), tanking (Buffalo Sabres) or playing a near-perfect defensive system (Barry Trotz' Nashville Predators, Jacques Lemaire's Minnesota Wild). After all, only X first-overall picks from the past 30 years have won Stanley Cups: Vincent Lecavalier, Marc-André Fleury, Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Patrick Kane - and two of them, Fleury and Crosby, won as part of the same team, with a second-overall pick (Evgeni Malkin) with them.

No, successful teams are usually built through a cohesive unit that includes veterans and young guys, stars and bruisers, leaders who inspire others to play above their heads for a limited amount of time, a good goalie, and guys who are willing to sacrifice themselves so their teammates can reap the benefits.

Adbelkader can be one of those ingredients, for sure. Here he is sporting the Wings' white (now-away) uniform on card #GJ-JA from Upper Deck's 2017-18 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a red game-worn jersey swatch that could be from either their home or away uniform - they're exact opposites and are only made of red and white.

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