It's been a crazed week personally with my real job, so we'll do an AGM who's career was short and somewhat sweet. Much like the others, known as a sure thing-- picked in the top-10 of the 2001 NHL Draft, but then because of maybe being rushed too much and maybe a pre-existing condition-- he was in the game for only a short time. However, when he did try to garner a comeback he became inventive and memorable. This week, the AGM profile of Dan Blackburn.
Born in Montreal, but raised in Western Canada, Blackburn came onto the scene with the Junior "A" Bow Valley Eagles of the AJHL. In his first season in 1997-98, he only saw 20 games and finished with a 9-6-1 record. He returned for another season in 1998-99, where he would play in 38 games, but finish with a subpar 7-19-6 record, then going 0-2 in the playoffs.
Blackburn moved up to the WHL in the 1999-2000 season with the Kootenay Ice, where he would outplay veteran BJ Boxma in camp to take over the starting job. With such an opportunity and a solid team in front of him, Blackburn seized the day and went 34-8-7 in 50 games for the Ice, then going 16-5 in the playoffs, to help the Ice win the WHL and head to the Memorial Cup. However, Kootenay lost all three games in the round-robin; but it didn't take away from Blackburn's season; one in which he took home WHL Rookie of the Year honors and Playoff MVP honors. While it was hard to top a rookie season like that, Blackburn came back to the Ice for the 2000-01 season, playing in 51 games and sporting a 33-14-2 record, however he wouldn't have the same playoff magic-- only going 7-4 in 11 games. That as it was, Blackburn was named WHL Goaltender of the Year and WHL East First Team All-Star.
With his credentials at an all-time high, Blackburn was a blue-chip prospect in the 2000 NHL Draft, where the New York Rangers picked him 10th overall. Heir apparent to Mike Richter's spot, Blackburn was placed on the team's roster in his rookie season, backing up Richter in 31 games with a 12-16-0 record. He would also see time with the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL, going 2-1-1 in four games there. Blackburn would be back in 2001-02, as there was a goaltending carousel in New York due to Richter sustaining a concussion. Blackburn would play in 32 games, going a dismal 8-16-4. That's when it seemed the good times ended, in more ways than one.
Before the start of the 2003-04 season, Blackburn went down with a shoulder injury. While it wasn't seen as much at first, as it lingered-- Blackburn's prognosis became worse and worse, as a nerve in his shoulder continued to give him issues. Exploratory surgery was done in order to see if they could cure the problem, but they could not. Blackburn was not able to rotated his left shoulder properly because of the damage in his shoulder.
The 2004-05 was one that was a lockout season for the NHL and gave Blackburn more time to see if there were any other options he could use in order to play in the NHL again. While playing with the ECHL's Victoria Salmon Kings, Blackburn tried using a system where he would use two blockers instead of one. While he had the normal blocker on one side, the blocker on what would be his catching side was designed as such to protect the back of his hand from shots, as he couldn't rotate his shoulder to make a normal glove save. The underside of the odd-blocker was a modified catching glove as he would usually wear if he wasn't injured. Blackburn played only 12 games with Victoria, going 3-9-0.
While he tried to make an attempt to come back with the Rangers in 2005-06, he was in danger of ruining his $6M insurance payout-- plus he strained his MCL while in training camp. Blackburn hung up the pads at only age 22.
It wasn't all bad for Blackburn, he went to Arizona State University for a semester and then started with the Goaltender Development Institute in Dallas, Texas. Currently, Blackburn is the President of GDI and also does work with the Junior "A" Texas Brahmas.
While he didn't have a long career, he did have a promising one and many wonder what could have been. Yet, Blackburn doesn't dwell on it and has taken this move in stride-- not holding resentment or bitterness towards one thing or another. He has moved on with his life and seems to be in a good head space. Yet, at the same time....what if....