Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Doug Bonner Autograph Card

There's been a lot of talk concerning which goalies would be made available for the future Las Vegas NHL team to choose from at next June's expansion draft, and although I have been one of those who spent a lot of ink and saliva on the subject - even going so far as to email the team to suggest GMs, coaches and perhaps myself as goalie scout - today I want to look forward to the next expansion... to Seattle.

They have yet to build an arena and no owner wants to take on a team, despite interest from nearby Portland and their own billionaire Paul Allen. But it got me thinking about Doug Bonner, a native of Tacoma, Washington who played his junior hockey just over a half an hour North, for the WHL Seattle Thunderbirds.

He was drafted in the sixth round (139th overall) in 1995 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and spent five seasons in their organization, splitting his time at first between the ECHL and AHL, but mostly the former, and entirely so for the final two, with the now-defunct New Orleans Brass.

In 2000-01, he attempted to rise through the ranks of pro hockey by signing a free agent contract with the UHL's Missouri River Otters, but despite similar numbers, only appeared in 18 games to Benoit Thibert's 46.

He does appear in the ECHL's record books, albeit for a reason that has little to do with his skills: at one point, he had made the third-fewest saves in a playoff game in league history.

Here he is wearing the Thunderbirds' white (home) uniform, albeit with the front logo airbrushed out for copyright reasons, from Signature Rookies' 1995-96 Draft Day set (card #5 in the series, numbered 927/4500, signed on-card in blue sharpie):
He currently works in selling educational tools for the company Amplify in Lafayette, where he played from 1997 until 1999, for the ECHL's Louisiana IceGators (not the same as the current version of the team, which plays in the SHL).

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Brayden Schenn Autograph Card

It looks like the Philadelphia Flyers and Brayden Schenn won't go to arbitration after all; indeed, the 24-year-old former fifth-overall pick (by the Los Angeles Kings, 2009) signed a four-year deal that will earn him an average of $5.125M each year.

Of note, current Flyers GM Ron Hextall was the Kings' assistant-GM when Schenn was drafted, so you'd think he figures in his team's long-term plans.

Schenn reached the 50-point mark for the first time in 2015-16, finishing with career highs in goals (26), assists (33) and, of course, points (59). His best point-per-game average came in the 2011-12 playoffs, when he had 9 points in 11 games, which is good news for other Flyers forwards such as Jakob Voracek, Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds and, to a lesser extent, Matt Read and Scott Laughton, who seem to have stalled a bit in their development.

Here he is wearing Philly's classic/retro orange (now-home) uniform, on card #96-SC from Upper Deck's 2012-13 Fleer Retro set (part of the 1996-97 Skybox Autographics throwback design sub-set):
 He looks a little stoned (or very tired) in the picture, which might have been funnier if he was shown with the Kings instead of the Flyers...

Monday, July 25, 2016

Darryl Sydor Autograph Card

In an effort to keep poaching all the available talent in the Central Division in the hopes of repeating last season's pre-playoff choke/terrific regular season, the St. Louis Blues have hired Darryl Sydor to be one of two assistant coaches (with Daniel Tkaczuk) with their AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves.

Sydor had been an assistant coach with the Minnesota Wild for the past four seasons, before a DUI event forced him to step down and enter rehab.

As a player, he'd been in five Stanley Cup Finals - including two Cup wins - to go with a Memorial Cup, two All-Star Games, over 500 regular-season points and over 50 more in the playoffs. He wasn't a Hall of Famer, but he was certainly a star and a good team player.

Here he is wearing the Dallas Stars' original (notwithstanding the Minnesota part of the franchise, anyway) green - away - uniform, showing him taking a slap shot from inside the offensive zone:
It's card #96 from Panini's 2012-13 Classics Signatures set (the signed insert version, signed on-card in blue sharpie - you can tell because the spot where the signature is was airbrushed white to show him where to sign). I'm not sure whether I'd classify that set as higher-mid-range or lower-premium, but boxes are still available for around $60 for 30 cards, with 5 or 6 autographs per.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Cam Ward Swatch Card

Cam Ward was the Carolina Hurricanes' best goalie last year, which put them in a corner when he turned free agent but no other team offered him a contract: they brought him back for two years at half price, even though he never lived up to his previous contract.

Heck, he never lived up to his rookie season, where he overachieved by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy (over the more-deserving members of the losing Edmonton Oilers Dwayne Roloson and Chris Pronger), let alone a deal that paid him $6.3M a year, putting him in the league's top-five well-paid goalies for most its duration.

And so he will be making an average of $3.3M for the next couple of years, the Canes hoping that's how long it takes Eddie Lack to grow into the #1 goalie slot.

Except that some of the best goalies in the league - Ben Bishop and Marc-André Fleury, for starters - are rumoured to be available, and after the Montréal Canadiens traded P.K. Subban, every other GM in the league should be inquiring with GM Marc Bergevin about Carey Price's availability; though price is overrated by a lot, he's still a much better option in goal than Ward.

I mean, look at these statistics from the last few seasons:
2012-13: 17 games, 2.84 GAA, .908 save percentage
2013-14: 30 games, 3.06 GAA, .898 save percentage
2014-15: 51 games, 2.40 GAA, .910 save percentage
2015-16: 52 games, 2.41 GAA, .909 save percentage
So, in the past four seasons, he has posted unspectacular backup numbers while playing a starter's amount of games for the last two, getting paid as an elite player at his position.

The Hurricanes have failed to make the playoffs for as far as I can remember, and with good reason: their starting goalie, by failing to stop over 91% of shots against him, has been worse than a plywood dummy in over 100 games in the past two years, and 150 in the past four.

He makes for a good alternate jersey model, however, as can be attested by the game-worn jersey swatch insert version of card #14 from Panini's 2010-11 Luxury Suite set:
It contains a white jersey swatch that's as plain as the Canes have been since the card was issued.

Friday, July 22, 2016

André Benoit Autographed Card

After one year in the St. Louis Blues organization where he only suited up in two games at the NHL level (and 72 with the AHL's Chicago Wolves, posting 33 points), André Benoit will now take his talents to Europe, signing a one-year deal with the SHL's (Swedish League) Malmö Redhawks.

Last season, the Redhawks had a roster that included former NHLers T.J. Galiardi, Peter Mueller, Derek Meech, Kent McDonnell, and goalie Mika Noronen.

Casual NHL fans won't know much about Benoit, but he's an underrated #5-6 defenseman who rarely makes mistakes, except that one year where he finished -19 with the Buffalo Sabres, who were a laughingstock and a pity to watch; unfortunately, his safe playing style means that he doesn't get the recognition he deserves when he makes the right play, either, but let's just say that he was never on championship teams and yet was only a -1 for the 122 other NHL games he suited up in, with the Ottawa Senators, Colorado Avalanche and those two games with the Blues (+1).

He'd been a point-per-game player from the blue line with the Kitchener Rangers over the course of five seasons, and then had three very decent seasons (over five years, there was a two-year European stint in there) with the Hamilton Bulldogs, who at the time were the Montréal Canadiens' AHL affiliate. When the Habs failed to give him a real chance, he bolted to the Sens.

He was also serviceable with the Avs, whose defense has had many a hole to plug since he left as a free agent after their Central Division title two years ago, off a strong 7-goal, 21-assist, 28-point season, good for third among the team's defensemen.

I wish him the best - and a third return to North America in 2017 to finish his NHL career in style, perhaps even in Las Vegas.

He signed this 2011-12 Score (Hot Rookies) card from Panini for me a few years ago, which slots him into #47 in my Sens Numbers Project:
It shows him wearing the Sens' red (home) uniform that he wore for 8 games in 2010-11; he switched to #61 the following year, a number he kept for his entire NHL career.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mikhail Grigorenko: Two Autographed Cards

Mikhail Grigorenko signed a one-year "show-me" contract with the Colorado Avalanche yesterday, after a season that Buffalo Sabres fans will call disappointing ("27 points in 74 games, unfit for a 12th overall pick, what a bust! Glad we got Ryan O'Reilly!"), whereas Avs fans, while unsure at the beginning of the season with the healthy scratches, under 10 minutes of ice time and looking out of shape, are happy with how he progressed throughout the year and looked worthy of a top-6 role on a very skilled team offensively.

What happened was the Sabres stalled his development, first by keeping him in the NHL but sitting him in half the games in 2012-13, then by sending him to Juniors midway through his sophomore season whist burning a year on his entry-level deal, and finally by demoting the disgruntled forward to the AHL and never really giving him a shot at showing what he can do.

This is, after all, a guy who had 70 goals and 139 points in 92 regular-season games with the LHJMQ's Québec Remparts (plus another 24 points in 22 post-season games) before even being drafted. And that time the Sabres sent him back against his will? He still put up 15 goals and 39 points in 23 games, plus 9 more in 5 playoff games.

The game that brought him to life last year - the first time he played over 15 minutes in a game in 2015-16 - was at the Bell Centre, against the Montréal Canadiens, in November, where he had a goal and two assists, which also sparked the Habs' downfall.

It was after that game that he signed these two cards in blue sharpie, first the one showing him with the Remparts, on card #100 from In The Game's 2011-12 Heroes And Prospects card (and CHL Rookie sub-set):
And a card from the dark days of the Sabres not knowing what to do with him, on card #213 from Panini's 2013-14 Prizm set and Dual Rookie Class sub-set (the regular silver version):
His second half was terrific; it was where he posted 15 of his 27 points and became a fixture on the ice, more often than not hitting the 15-minute mark, including seven games at or near the 20-minute mark.

Essentially, he should be getting second-line minutes and second-unit powerplay time next season, which should at worst get him in line to sign a long-term deal (five or six years) at $4-5M per; at best, he could become the team's second-line center if Matt Duchene becomes expendable and gets traded for a good defenseman, which the team sorely lacks behind Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Jordan Schroeder Autograph Card

How dickish are the Minnesota Wild? Well, they spent all of last season praising Jordan Schroeder's talent, versatility, patience, and team spirit and, just as he's about to get his arbitration hearing in the hopes of securing a one-way contract, have placed him on waivers.

The Vancouver Canucks would be wise to pick him up the same way the Wild stole him from them in the first place...

I could also see the Arizona Coyotes - who are in harsh negotiations with Tobias Reider themselves - making a play for the former first-rounder.

Here he is as a Canuck, wearing their blue (home) uniform, from Panini's 2013-14 Dominion collection and Private Signings sub-set:
It's card #PS-OE (numbered 81/199) in the set and was hard-signed in thin blue sharpie. I really like the gold foil all around the card, it gives it an aura of semi-class.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mika Zibanejad Autographed Card

The trade that sent Derick Brassard from the New York Rangers to the Ottawa Senators yesterday also took Mika Zibanejad by surprise; the Swede was comfortable playing on the Sens alongside countryman Erik Karlsson and with former team captain Daniel Alfredsson now in the team's administrative staff.

He'd been trending upwards and improving ever since he came to the NHL and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future, likely garnering him a huge raise from his current #3.25M salary:
A 30-goal and/or 70-point season is not out of the question for the now-23-year-old in the next few years - perhaps even for the next few years. He's also likely to be a staple of Team Sweden, with whom he already has gold (2012 World Juniors), silver (2011 World U-18 Championships) and bronze (2010 World U-17 World Championships) medals.

Here he is sporting Stockholm's famous Djurgårdens IF Hockey team's away uniform, on card #9 from In The Game's 2011-12 Heroes And Prospects set and International sub-set:
He signed it in blue sharpie two seasons ago after a game against the Montréal Canadiens.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Derick Brassard Autographed Card

One thing's for sure, NHL teams are not afraid of making moves this summer; GMs are probably weary of their own shelf life, and each one wants to save his ass by having his team make the playoffs, although only half of them will.

Today, Derick Brassard went from the New York Rangers to the Ottawa Senators for promising young gun Mika Zibanejad, in a move that has many puzzled. Don't be.

Statistically, they both had similar 2015-16 campaigns, with Brassard posting 58 points (27 of them goals) and Zibanejad 51 (21 goals), but Brassard is a better, more complete player right now, although Zibanejad is five years younger and probably has more upside, including at least one 30-goal, 70-point season ahead of himself.

Brassard also has just $10M left to be paid over the next three years with a $15M cap hit now that the Rangers just paid him his bonus for next year, while Zibanejad is a RFA-to-be who is making just under $3M next year... but will probably be in line for a raise that nets him over $5M on his next deal, which is something the (notoriously cheap) Sens wanted to avoid. They now have bought themselves three years to draft and bring up his replacement.

This move was about math, but economics math. And the Sens know that if they can reach the playoffs and face the Montréal Canadiens in the first round, Craig Anderson can probably outplay Carey Price for the third time in five years, which would entirely justify making the trade in the first place.

Here is Brassard in his Juniors days, playing for the Drummondville Voltigeurs, who were coached by none other than Guy Boucher, the Sens' new bench boss, on card #135 from In The Game's 2005-06 Heroes And Prospects set, which he signed in blue sharpie:
He's wearing their white (hom) uniform - and looks like a child. Going to the Sens is a homecoming for Brassard, as he's from Ottawa suburb Hull.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Jamie Benn Jersey Card

There were two big pieces of news regarding Jamie Benn today: first, he signed a new monster contract that will pay him $9.5M per season for eight years, and second, the Dallas Stars' captain might miss the World Cup because of abdominal surgery to repair a muscle injury.

Let's talk about his deal first, which kicks in for the 2017-18 season. Is he worth that kind of top-player money right now? Absolutely, seeing as he won the Art Ross Trophy in 2014-15 and was runner-up in 2015-16, he's definitely a top player worthy of being "in the conversation" in terms of rare franchise players. However, he still has a year to go on a contract that currently pays him $5.75M, which makes him one of the most affordable and valuable players in the league at the moment, meaning some view him as currently underpaid.

His style of play is straight-up power forward, but he doesn't get that many penalties called against him, which differentiates him from the prototypical/stereotypical power forwards of the past, such as Keith Tkachuk, Eric Lindros, Todd Bertuzzi, or Jeremy Roenick. He does hit and get hit a lot, though, which means his body may get some bumps and bruises over time.

As I wrote somewhere else:
Ironically, the one thing that could save him with his physical style of play is a serious injury that takes a year for him to recover from, as every other bone and muscle in his body will also get some rest and he’ll be able to bounce back and buy back some time.
If not, the last couple of seasons may seem like overpayment and some disgruntled fans may scream for a buyout, which would be unfair for a true leader who really gives everything he's got for his team.

I'd featured Benn in the Stars' post-lockout black (home) atrocity a little over a year ago, so now it's time to do so with its counterpart white (away) monstrosity on card #DALL-JB from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Black Diamond set and Double Diamond Jerseys sub-set:
I'm so glad Dallas changed their uniforms to the current green and white ones with an actual logo instead of just letters; there are limits to identifying with colleges, i.e. amateurs.