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Friday, October 16, 2020

Lost Cards: 1988-89 OPC Willi Plett

  Willi Plett is the career leader in all statistical categories for players born in Paraguay.  Willi Plett is the only player born in Paraguay to play in the NHL.  His parents immigrated from Russia to Germany and then to Paraguay after World War II.  Willi born in 1955, moved with his family to Canada in 1956.
  Drafted in the 5th round, 80th overall, in the 1975 Draft, by the Atlanta Flames, Plett made his debut on December 17, 1975 against the Minnesota North Stars, notching two shots on goal in a 3-2 loss.  Plett played 4 games for the Flames in 1975-76, without scoring a point or a penalty minute.  He spent the majority of the season with the Tulsa Oilers of the CHL.  Plett had 9 points in 9 play-off games as the Oilers won the Adams Cup as CHL Champions.
  Plett made a big impact with Flames in 1976-77, culminating with winning the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.  Willi began the season in the CHL but was recalled after scoring 12pts and 68 PIM in 14 games.  His first career NHL goal came against Gary Simmons of the Cleveland Barons on November 12, 1976 in a 3-3 tie.  Plett scored 7 goals and 7 assists in his first 10 games.  For the season, Plett scored 33 goals, 56 points and 123 PIM.  He led the Flames, and all NHL rookies in goals.  
  The next three seasons were a bit of a disappointment for Plett, as his scoring totals dipped from his rookie season.  He had 43 points in both 77-78 and 78-79 before dropping to 32 in 80-81.  In the same stretch his PIM increased each season, a trend that would continue during his tenure with the Flames franchise.  The Flames were a disappointment in Atlanta as well.  Although they were better than .500 in the regular season during Plett's four seasons, the team lost in the first round each year, going a cumulative 2-10 in those four play-offs.  Off the ice, the situation was more dire, as the team struggled to have 10,000 home attendance for its games and were playing in an out-of-date arena.
  The team was sold and relocated to Calgary for the 1980-81 season.  OPC gave the team the airbrush treatment for its set, removing the logo from the jerseys.  A few seasons later when the Colorado Rockies moved to New Jersey, OPC took a set of early or pre-season photos and had all the players in their new uniforms.  I'm going to give Plett the Rockies/Devils treatment and update his 1980-81 card in a Calgary Flames jersey.

1980-81 OPC Willi Plett

  The move to Calgary seemed to energize the team and Plett.  In Calgary's first NHL game, Plett a goal and two assists.  Plett set, or tied, career highs in several categories, including goals, 38, and points, 68.  He seemed to particularly like playing in Calgary, scoring 25 goals and 46 points in 38 home games.  The Flames finally won a play-off round, with Plett scoring the series winner in double-overtime, as they advanced all the way to the Conference Final.  Plett had 12 points in 15 play-off games.
  There was a dip in Plett's scoring the next season, as he dropped to 21 goals and 57 points.  Plett set a Flames record, since broken, with 288 PIM.  The Flames as a team regressed, as they dropped from 92 points to 75 in the regular season, and were swept in the first round by the Vancouver Canucks.
  In the 1982 offseason, Plett, along with a 4th round draft pick, was traded to the Minnesota North Stars for Steve Christoff, Bill Nyrop, and a 2nd round draft pick.  It's a unremarkable trade as neither of the draft picks amounted to anything, Nyrop opted to play in Germany instead of Calgary and Christoff was dealt away after a season.  
  Plett score a goal and assist in his first game as a North Star and two minutes into his in second game, he got suspended for 7 games for a retaliatory lumberjack chop with his stick to the back of Greg Stefan's head.  Plett finished the season with 25 goals, 39 points, 170 PIM in 73 games.  Prior to this season, Plett had increased his PIM total in each of his 6 full seasons as a Flame.  Plett had a card in the 1983-84 OPC set.  It turned out to be his last during his career.
  Decreasing PIM was a trend that found Plett being a healthy scratch from the Stars line-up early in the 1983-84 season.  Plett and coach Dave Mahoney were having differing views as to Plett's style of play and amount of ice time.  16 games into the season, Plett had 6 points and 25 PIM.  Frustrated by Plett's decreasing truculence, Plett was benched.  Plett must have hot the message.  After retruning to the line-up, Plett had 33 points and 291 PIM in 55 games.  He set a career high with 316 PIM during the 1983-84 season.  

1984-85 OPC Willi Plett

  The following season was marred by injuries for Plett.  He missed time due to shoulder and groin injuries, which would resurface during the rest of his NHL career.  In 47 games, Plett scored 14 goals, 28 points and 157 PIM.  He had a good play-offs, scoring nine points and 67 PIM in nine games.

1985-86 OPC Willi Plett

  The 1985-86 season saw the continued decline of Plett's offensive numbers, while shoulder injuries continued to limited him.  Plett scored 10 goals, 17 points and 231 PIM in 59 games. 

1986-87 OPC Willi Plett

    The trend continues as Plett fails to score double-digits in goals for the first time in his career.  He has 6 goals, 11 points and 261 PIM in 67 games played.

1987-88 OPC Willi Plett

   Plett's time in the Black and Blue Norris Division had taken a toll on him.  In the 1987 offseason, the North Stars signed up and coming enforcer Basil McRae as a free agent.  As the beginning of training camp, Plett was traded to the New York Rangers.  Plett never played a regular season game with the Rangers, as he seemed a bit hesitant to fight during the preseason.  He was left unprotected for the waiver draft and was picked up by the Boston Bruins.  
  Plett set career lows in goals, assists and points, while racking up 170 PIM in 65 games.  Willi had a bit of a resurgence in the 1988 play-offs, with points and 74 PIM in 17 games.  The Bruins lost in the Stanley Cup final against the Edmonton Oilers.  Willi retired in the 1988 offseason.  
  His career started out with a lot of promise.  He was one of the top power forwards in the game at the turn of decade in 1980.  Injuries and age caught up with him.  Willi was the NHL career play-off PIM leader when he retired.  He is currently 5th on the list.  
  OPC/Topps dropped Willi pretty quickly after his trade to the North Stars.  It's really surprising he didn't get a card in the 19854-85 set, the last of the decade to have 396 cards.  By the time he was in Boston, he was shell of his former self and had been long off of OPC's radar.  I did this picture and design used on another blog, but it didn't give Willie an authentic 1988 OPC treatment as it didn't list his entire career stats on the back.  With the lack of an official career caper and missing in action in the OPC sets for the last half of his career, I decided I would do a Lost Card career caper of Willi Plett.  

1988-89 OPC #274 Willi Plett

1988-89 OPC #274 Willi Plett


  1. Plett's RC is one of my all-time favorite cards.

    If I start talking hockey cards with an old school friend, he will always bring up Plett sitting in the penalty box.

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