Monday, June 7, 2021

Tim Cheveldae Autographed Card

(team links go to sponsored Amazon products, player links go to related pages on my blog, news links go to source pages)

This series was over the moment Mark Scheifele decided venting his frustration was more important than attemptiong a comeback, some time around midway in the first game of the series, way before he actually crossed the line and deliberately injured Montréal Canadiens rookie Jake Evans. He left the Winnipag Jets - already without second-line center Paul Stastny, on the cusp of losing #2 defenseman Dylan DeMelo for a long time - without their top playmaker, a point-per-game player who had helped shut Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers down in the first round.

As his eyes got more and more filled with rage from being stifled by Phillip Danault and clobbered by Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Joel Edmundson and Ben Chiarot, you could almost read the prediction of how the series would go by the expression on his face, from "Jets in 6" at the opening faceoff to "Jets in 7" in the middle of the second period to "Habs in 7" to start the third, "Habs in 6" five minutes later, and "Habs in 4" when it became clear Scheifele would get a lengthy suspension.

The referees did a good job of not letting any part of this series get out of hand, even calling out Stastny for a penalty for a cross-check after a goal in Game 3, making sure the last ten minutes of play isn't just scrum-after-scrum of frustration masquerading as "message sending" with the potential for more useless injuries.

I love a tough game; I would love for every team to have a Blake Wheeler on one wing and a Josh Anderson on the other to bang and bruise their way to the opposition's net, but dirty plays at the speed of this spot cannot be tolerated, and as much as I really love the Jets, that the series was decided on a bonehead play after an empty-net goal is well-deserved. Wheeler seemed to agree that the suspension changed the course of the series:
You can't describe the impact of losing him. He's a top-10 player in the NHL. I'm not saying that we would win the series in five games because he was in the lineup. But it just changes our team. He makes me better, he makes Kyle Connor better. It just makes our team look a lot different, so it's a damn shame.
I don't believe Scheifele gets the Nazem Kadri treatment and gets shipped out of town, and hopefully he learneds his lesson from this unfortunate situation.

Still, these are good times for Jets fans. They have had a very good team for the better part of a decade now, have the best goalie in the game (Connor Hellebuyck), are exciting to watch, have a good tactician in coach Paul Maurice (although at this point perhaps a motivator might be what they should be looking for)... they did not sweep the Oilers by accident.

They are missing two key elements for me: a top-four defenseman and a return to one of their old uniforms, such as the mid-1990s oen as sported by Tim Cheveldae on card #212 from Pinnacle Brands' 1995-96 Score set:
The Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes have recently all embraced the retro trand, as has Adidas with their "Reverse Retro" series, I think the Jetsshould also embrace the pre-rebirth history of the NHL in their town.

Cheveldae was a typical Detroit Red Wings goalie: a workhorse for a small number of seasons (three), not quite an established #1 that gets you palyoff success, a scapegoat for postseason failures, and not a Vezina-caliber game-changer, although he did garner some votes in two of his seasons in recognition for games played (72 in 1991-92, for a total of 4236 minutes, and 67 games/3880 minutes the following year, but he had no chance of actually winning with Patrick Roy and Ed Belfour in their prime).

He was replaced in Detroit by Chris Osgood before moving to Winnpeg where he shared the net with Bob Essensa and Nikolai Khabibulin before phasing out of the NHL and into the IHL (Fort Wayne Komets in 1996-97, Las Vegas Thunder in 1997-98, both with a .878 save percentage and nearly identical 3.96 and 3.95 goals-against averages). He rocked the Heaton equipment well in Winnipeg, but my best memories of him are donning the Vaughn pads in Detroit.