Friday, August 7, 2020

Roman Hamrlik Autographed Card

We'll have all summer to dissect the reasons of the Edmonton Oilers' loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in this season's play-in - and we certainly will. We will talk about lineups with past Stanley Cup champions, having the highest high-level talent versus "regular" high-level talent, how elite goaltending can steal a game, the pressure of being a favourite versus the liberty of being the underdog, and possibly even the salary cap and how to disperse the cap hits in a way that nourishes and nurtures the top-level talent.

But today, we'll look at one hard fact: the Oilers have the best player in the world (Connor McDavid) and the best NHL player of the 2019-20 season (Leon Draisaitl), and now have a 12.5% chance of getting their hands on this year's first-overall draft pick, Alexis Lafrenière, one of the most serious heir apparents to those titles, who will be under total salary control for the first three years of his career and then under some level of control for another five.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, who lost to the Montréal Canadiens and were eliminated on Thursday, also boast a similar level of high-end talent with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, will also have the same chance to add Lafrenière to their roster, ensuring that two of the teams who require the least help in their rebuilds might land a franchise cornerstone out of sheer bad luck and great timing.

Not all first-overall picks are ever equal; generational players like Crosby, Malkin, McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon come around as often as those considered flops, like Alexandre Daigle (still a decent hockey player in is own right eventually), Patrik Stefan and Nail Yakupov (currently in the KHL, not yet a star player there either).

Most times, though, a team can draft an All-Star if not a franchise changer: a Taylor Hall, a Marc-André Fleury, a Mats Sundin, an Owen Nolan... or a guy like Roman Hamrlik.

Younger folks may not realize just how good Hamrlik was and might want to take a jab at me for putting him in the same category as Fleury - a guy who has a legitimate shot at entering the Hall Of Fame someday despite never winning an individual award, so let me reiterate what I've already said about The Hammer in three different posts: he was a very good, dependable defenseman.

He was a three-time All-Star (1996, 1999 and 2003), where he represented three different teams: the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Oilers and the New York Islanders. Even after that, he still managed to run the Calgary Flames' powerplay and ran second-unit PP and PKs with the Habs, before trying his hand at a Cup with the Washington Capitals as a bottom-pairing veteran in 2011-12.

He also helped the Czech Team win gold at the 1998 Olympics and played for his hometown Zlin ZPS HC on four separate occasions: as a teenager before starting his NHL career (1990-92), during Gary Bettman's first lockout (1994-95), after his contract with Edmonton expired and they didn't make the playoffs (1999-2000) and during the season-long shutdown (2004-05).

He suited up in 1395 regular-season games and managed to collect 155 goals and 483 assists for a very respectable 638 points from the blue line, plus another 41 points (3 goals, 38 assists) in 113 playoff games, usually on poor teams. His deepest run was the 2009-10 Conference Final with Jaroslav Halak's Canadiens, which was still very much an underdog.

Believe it or not, despite being a defenseman, he ranks fifth-overall in points production in his draft class, behind Hall Of Famer Sergei Gonchar (220-591-811 in 1301 games), Alexei Yashin (337-444-781 in 850 games), Cory Stillman (278-449-727 in 1025 games) and Martin Straka (257-460-717 in 954 games).

Hockey Reference estimates his point shares as over 6 - and even over 7 in 2010-11 - per season well into his mid-to-late 30s.

This is all to say that every first-overall pick is different, but most of them are very good players, and a lot of them seem to end up playing in Edmonton. Here is what Hamrlik looked like in their beautiful white (home) turn-of-the-millennium uniform, on card #96 from Upper Deck's 1998-99 Series 1 set:
I really like the foil that contours this card, in addition to the UD logo and player's name. It feels like they tried something other than maximizing picture space that didn't hinder the action. He signed it in (fading) blue sharpie during his final season in Montréal, so in 2010-11.

No comments:

Post a Comment