Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Filip Forsberg Dual Jersey Card

To say last night's game between the Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators was a roller coaster of emotions would be selling it short, as would be saying Filip Forsberg had somewhat of a say in it.

Indeed, the young Preds star scored a hat trick in his team's 6-5 loss, but his goals had them rally from a 4-1 deficit to a 5-4 lead in a 10-minute span. He also factored into the Flames' overtime winner, as the Mark Giordano shot hit his skate and deflected into the net behind backup goalie Juuse Saros.

I'd been holding off writing about the 22-year-old sniper since September, when I purchased this card on Ebay. After signing a huge contract extension last summer, one that will see him make $6M per season for this year plus another five seasons, he was either going to step into the next gear after two consecutive 60-point seasons, including a career-high 33 goals in 2015-16... or he was going to feel the pressure get to him and have a disappointing season. So far, it's been the latter, as even with his hat trick, he's now at 19 goals and 20 assists for 39 points in 59 games, a 0.66 point-per-game average, whereas he'd had us used to a 0.78 rate (63 and 64 points in 82 games, respectively).

The Preds are a work in progress. Pekka Rinne has been up-and-down (as he had been the previous three seasons), and while the defense boasts big names such as Roman Josi and P.K. Subban, coach Peter Laviolette is still struggling to find the right combinations for all three pairs to be as solid as they'd been in years past.

The offense is the biggest sticking point, however, with Forsberg struggling, James Neal falling similarly, Mike Ribeiro being sent down to the AHL and Ryan Johansen being his usual whiny self, recently complaining about not getting recognition from the Columbus Blue Jackets on the Jumbotron to celebrate his time on the team, seemingly forgetting what can only be described as a tumultuous relationship that saw him refer to the team's leader Brandon Dubinsky as their "second-line center", hold out for a contract that would have priced him so high as to cost at least one teammate's job and essentially be a walking - and more importantly, talking - distraction to the entire team.

I mean, shit, here's a guy who is supposed to lead his current team - one that if it can find its groove before the playoffs start just might become a Stanley Cup contender overnight - and instead makes it all about himself. Again. While failing to have either of his elite sniper wingers reach the 30-goal plateau.

Neal's a veteran, he's seen a lot of things happen with both the Preds and the Pittsburgh Penguins in his day, but Forsberg's still a kid. I'm fairly certain he's smart enough to know the difference between right and wrong and how, for example, Subban's limelight-taking is much better for a locker room than Johansen's, but there still needs to be a working environment that is conducive to having success.

GM David Poile seemingly has a knack for acquiring both the good (Hal Gill) and bad (Andrei Kostitsyn) type of leaders at once. Here's hoping he can get his team to change its current course before the season's a write-off in what should have been the first of a three-year window to the Cup with this crew.

And here's Forsberg on card #PM2-FF from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Portfolio set, one that may have featured nice action photos on the regular-issue cards but whose inserts left a ton to be desired, including how the die-cuts that allowed for these jersey swatches were botched the whole way through (click on the picture for a complete zoom-in):
It's great that there are two different-coloured swatches (white and black), but unless UD can guarantee an arm-less child cut those holes with a rock in its mouth to make the card Free Trade, this is simply not acceptable.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Frédérik Gauthier Autographed Card

With leading rookie scorer Mitch Marner again on the injury list, the Toronto Maple Leafs have recalled their first-round draft pick from 2013 (21st overall) Frédérik Gauthier to fill a roster spot.

Though he may develop into a regular contributor, Gauthier so far hasn't shown any signs of becoming the next Cam Neely; he was close to but never a point-per-game performer in Juniors with the LHJMQ's Rimouski Océanic but still made Team Canada twice (U-18s and World Juniors) on the strength of a 6'4" frame carrying around 215 pounds of muscle. He's hard to take off the puck, although he doesn't do much with it (a single assist in 7 games at each of the 2014 and 2015 World Juniors, 1 goal and 5 assists for 6 points in 26 AHL games with the Toronto Marlies this season). He also seems to lack grit and combativeness; he may find it in a couple of years, which could turn him into a 40-point producer, probably a third-line center with the possibility of perhaps becoming a middle-six power forward winger.

Essentially, I see him having a career of ups and downs like Lars Eller.

The Leafs don't need him to surpass expectations à la Jamie Benn, what with the likes of Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly already on the roster, but the fans may always be vocal about the team spending a first-round pick to draft him instead of a second-round one, although that is not Gauthier's fault.

Here he is on card #50 from Upper Deck's 2014 Team Canada Juniors/Women set:
He signed it in blue sharpie last year, in the midst of a season that saw him post 18 points (6 goals, 12 assists and just 10 penalty minutes) in 56 AHL games in his first professional season.

Thus far, he has 4 points (2 goals and 2 assists) in 25 career NHL games, with 21 penalty minutes, 15 of them coming against the Montréal Canadiens.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mike Hough Autographed Card

Another day, another story about Arizona Coyotes arena trouble, another one about the New York Islanders' arena trouble, and another story about the Carolina Hurricanes playing to empty stands.

Which brings me to the Québec Nordiques, or rather, the absence thereof.

In the mid-1990s, there was no salary cap in the NHL and revenue-sharing was just about a joke, a minuscule blip on the radar, which meant the larger cities with the most hockey history usually had the largest fanbases, which in turn meant those teams had the highest revenue in a league where ticket sales were the #1 source of income and paraphernalia was a distant albeit non-negligible second.

That meant the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers and Montréal Canadiens could, technically, afford to pay the highest salaries (from homegrown talent as well as free agency), leaving the rest of the league to fight for scraps, particularly smaller markets; this led to the Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets, Hartford Whalers and Minnesota North Stars being forced to relocate, no longer able to survive in small markets.

The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames were in similar dire straits, as were the Ottawa Senators.

Since then, the economic conjecture has changed, and even smaller towns have joined the NHL, such as the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators; the league has gone back to Winnipeg and Minnesota (with the Wild), and next season will bring the Vegas Golden Nights.

And yet, there remain teams that struggle in their own markets - the above-mentioned three, plus the billionaire toy club Florida Panthers - who are there just so owner Vincent Viola can have the right to book high-grossing concerts at his team's arena - while Québec has a brand-new amphitheater with no NHL tenant.

But this uniform would look great in it:
That's Mike Hough, wearing the Nordiques' final (and best-looking) iteration of their blue (then-away) uniform, with red contours on the jersey numbers and name plate. He's seen wearing the alternate captain's "A", though he did also serve as co-captain for a season. His #18 uniform fits perfectly in my Nordiques Numbers Project as well, in addition to being today's date.

Hough was one of many Montréal-born Nordiques players, which just added to the rivalry between both teams. In 707 NHL games, he posted 100 goals, 156 assists and 256 points with 675 penalty minutes; he was a tough, grinding defensive specialist who could, at times, contribute offensively.

Afraid they were going to lose him in the expansion draft, the team traded him to the Washington Capitals (for Réginald Savage and Paul MacDermid), who in turn left him unprotected, so the Panthers did indeed end up selecting him; he played with them for four seasons, scoring the double-overtime elimination goal against the Flyers which would be the last NHL goal scored at the Philadelphia Spectrum.

Following his time in Miami-Dade county, he signed a two-year deal with the Isles as a free agent, retiring after the 1998-99 season.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ryan Walter Autographed Card

Sure, I officially made Claude Larose my entry for #11 in my Habs Numbers Project, but throughout my youth, only Ryan Walter was worth mentioning as the number's keepsake, until the courageous and talented Saku Koivu came along and elevated it even higher - on any other franchise, possibly even as high as the rafters.

Walter was a different sort of beast altogether.

After captaining Team Canada at the 1978 World Juniors, he was drafted second overall by the Washington Capitals that year, behind Bobby Smith and ahead of Wayne Babych (3rd), Mike Gillis (5th), Ken Linseman (7th), Dan Geoffrion (8th), Brad Marsh (11th), Larry Playfair (13th), Steve Tambellini (15th), Al Secord (16th), Dave Hunter (17th), Steve Payne (19th), Joel Quenneville (21st), Curt Fraser (22nd), Steve Christoff (24th), Don Maloney (26th), Al Jensen (31st), Tony McKegney (32nd), Stan Smyl (40th), Paul Messier (41st), Curt Giles (54th), Kevin Reeves (69th), Lou Franceschetti (71st), Ted Nolan (78th), Jim Nill (89th), Tom Laidlaw (93rd), Keith Acton (103rd), Paul MacLean (109th), Don Wadell (111th), Jerry Price (Carey's father, 126th), Craig MacTavish (153rd), Kevin Constantine (154th), Bob Froese (160th), Risto Siltanen (173rd), Steve Weeks (176th), Darryl Sutter (179th), Anton Stastny (198th), Viacheslav Fetisov (201st), Chris Nilan (231st), Rick Wilson (232nd), and Louis Sleigher (233rd), in a draft that was heavy on players who would become coaches and managers.

Walter himself would eventually become a motivational speaker and an assistant coach with his hometown Vancouver Canucks in his second career, after experiencing such highs as a player as being made the NHL-record (since broken many times by the likes of Steve Yzerman, Vincent Lecavalier, Sidney Crosby and Gabriel Landeskog) youngest captain in history with the Capitals, posting a 38-goal and 87-point season with them in 1981-82, being traded to the Montréal Canadiens (with Rick Green, for two-time Norris winner Rod Langway, Selke winner and NHL ironman record-holder Doug Jarvis, Craig Laughlin and Brian Engblom) to play with Guy Lafleur and Doug Wickenheiser, getting named to the 1983 All-Star Game, winning the Stanley Cup in 1986 and losing it to the Calgary Flames in 1989, to signing with the Canucks as a free agent at the turn of the 1990s.

Throughout his playing career, he went from playing like a power forward and accumulating penalty minutes from his hard checks to being an offensive force to being a terrific shut-down center and penalty killer. He did it all for the team, and his teams had success when he was around.

He finished his career with 264 goals via seven 20-goal seasons, 382 assists, 646 points and 946 penalty minutes in 1003 regular-season games, and another 16 goals, 35 assists and 51 points in 113 playoff contests, with just 62 penalty minutes in the postseason.

Here he is wearing the Habs' classic red (then-away) uniform, on card #275 from O-Pee-Chee's 1984-85 O-Pee-Chee set:
He signed it in black sharpie when Bob Gainey hired him to speak with player prior to the start of the season a few years ago.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mike Comrie Autographed Card

I certainly hoped I'd get to talk about former Edmonton Oilers star Mike Comrie in another light, but the day after Valentine's Day seems like as good a time as any for him to be accused of rape - which allegedly involved someone he had known for a long time, in a three-way, meaning the third party will likely be the most reliable witness, leading to a likely "not guilty" decision. Comrie has already said he expects "his name will be cleared".

Hilary Duff's former husband, now 36, hasn't played professional hockey since the 2010-11 season due to a hip injury that three surgeries hadn't completely fixed. His career 443 penalty minutes show he played much bigger than his 5'9", 185-pound frame.

Through ten NHL seasons, Comrie has played for the Oilers and the Ottawa Senators twice apiece, as well as the Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, New York Islanders, and Pittsburgh Penguins - i.e. many of the teams former Oilers tend to end up playing with (Doug Weight, Bill Guerin, Luke Richardson, Ken Linseman).

He hit the 30-goal and 60-point marks twice each (once with the Oilers, once in Arizona) and was a consistent point producer until 2008-09 - especially considering he started out playing in the Dead Puck Era - but his later years have hit his career stats line, where he finished with 168 goals, 197 assists and 365 points in 589 regular-season games, with just 4 goals, 6 assists and 10 points in 32 playoff games.

Of note, he is one of the rare players who came up as part of Edmonton's young core at the turn of the millennium who didn't stick around long enough to make it to the 2005-06 Stanley Cup Final, instead reaching it the following year as a depth player with the Sens, whose offense was carried by Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.

Here he is retrieving or playing the puck ahead of Brenden Morrow of the Dallas Stars on card #34 from Upper Deck's 2001-02 SP Authentic set, which he signed in blue sharpie, tagging his uniform number (89) at the end:
It shows him wearing the blue (away) uniform the team wore from 1996 until 2007, with the oil driller patch on the shoulder and bronze instead of orange in the colour palette.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ciara Price Autograph Card

Happy Valentine's Day!

To get there, here's card #RB-CP from Benchwarmer's 2015 Signature Series set, featuring none other than Ciara Price, the Maine-born model-turned-DJ:
It features a black-sharpied on-card autograph (with a heart tagged at the end of it) and a superb gold/black/red design and colour palette.

Here's the back:
If I remember correctly, she now has a tattoo on the left side of her back where her bikini top is, and another on her right butt cheek.

Formerly linked to rugby player Mitchell Pearce, UFC fighter Sean Loeffler and the Dallas Stars' Tyler Seguin, she usually likes her men built and slightly bearded - and her sports tough and physical.

She was Playboy's Playmate Of The Month in November 2011, and also graced the cover two more times after that.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Glenn Close Swatch Card

I recently watched Guardians Of The Galaxy for the second time, as the sequel's trailer made the rounds at the Super Bowl, looking good enough to go see in theaters, which in turn made me think of this card I got in a trade earlier this winter:
That's Glenn Close  - playing the role of Nova Prime - and two wardrobe pieces from the set of the first film, on card #CS-9 from Marvel's 2014 Guardians Of The Galaxy set and Cosmic Strings sub-set, manufactured by Upper Deck.

She will reprise her role as chief of the intergalactic police force in the next movie as well.

You may recall her from 101 Dalmatians (1996), but she received Academy Award nominations for The World According to Garp (1982), The Big Chill (1983), The Natural (1984), Fatal Attraction (1987), Dangerous Liaisons (1988), and Albert Nobbs (2011) - the first three sor Best Supporting Actress, the latter for Best Actress.

While she has yet to win an Oscar, she has three Tonys, three Emmys, two Golden Globes, a Drama Desk Awards and a Screen Actors Guild Awards. She has also been inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Craig Anderson Jersey Card

It's been a hell of a season for Craig Anderson, what with staying home to help his wife in her battle against cancer, yet coming back for shutout wins against the Edmonton Oilers and now the surging New York Islanders.

I've been a fan of Anderson's since he came to the Ottawa Senators in 2011 and just took possession of the net, never relinquishing his starter status even when the team had such viable and younger backups as Ben Bishop, Brian Elliott and Robin Lehner. He just wouldn't budge and kept offering strong performances, which is why I'm not surprised he's currently in the top-5 in the NHL with a 2.34 GAA, .927 save percentage, and 4 shutouts in 20 games, for an average of 1 every 5 games.

I've said it before, but I'll display the staggering statistics, just for fun: he's also bested Carey Price in both playoff series they've faced each other, which happened to be in a three-year span, starting with 2013:
Oh yeah, Price has a tendency to get injured when things don't go his way, and let the other goalie face elimination
But even when the Sens lose, Anderson's still on top, as can be attested by when they faced each other in 2015 (keep in mind Anderson came into game 3 without having played in months due to injury, the Sens losing the series 2-0, as they'd played Andrew Hammond first, who was in better game shape and had just been in a Cinderella run):
Both did well in 2015 (it was Price's dream season, after all), but Anderson was better. He just has that ability to shut the door when it matters, under pressure.

And this is why I'm giving him another nod today, as he's making a strong case for the Bill Masterton Trophy, which recognized perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game, with card #GJ-CA from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It shows him wearing the Sens' red (home) uniform, wearing his Colorado Avalanche blocker and glove; it features a white (presumably from his days with the Avs, perhaps going as far back as his days with the Chicago Blackhawks or Florida Panthers) game-worn jersey swatch.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Steve Bégin: 3 Autographed Cards

Steve Bégin was an impossible-to-dislike grinder and penalty-killing specialist with a huge heart who was almost a spiritual captain on the Montréal Canadiens from 2003 until 2009, often needing a ridiculous injury to keep him off the ice, usually two at once.

He was forced to retire after years of enduring hip pain that the Boston Bruins' medical team had told him was "normal" for "many" hockey players, that could be operated on upon retiring. Three and a half years after retirement, he still ails, despite an operation by the Nashville Predators staff.

Still, he and Georges St-Pierre held a press conference earlier today promoting Challenge U, an app that enables folks to earn their high school diploma. Bégin, who had to quit school to move from Trois-Rivières to Val d'Or to play Juniors, has now vowed to finish high school before his teenage daughters, one of whom is a Senior.

So, yeah, he's still impossible to dislike.

Here he is with the Calgary Flames, the team who drafted him 40th overall (second round) in 1996 and with whom he retired, wearing their red turn-of-the-millennium red (away) uniform, on card #299 from Topps' 2000-01 O-Pee-Chee set and NHL Prospects sub-set:
Like most Quebecers, however, I will remember him most fondly from his days with the Habs.

First, here he is wearing the team's white (then-home) uniform, on card #257 from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Parkhurst collection:
And here he is with the classic red uniform, on card #264 from UD's 2006-07 O-Pee-Chee set:
With that, he is included in both my Habs Numbers Project and Flames Numbers Project (twice).

He signed all three cards in blue sharpie, adding his uniform numbers (7 and 22) at the end, though it seems he mixed up the numbers on the Flames and white uniform Habs cards!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cam Neely Jersey Card

It had been years in the making, but Boston Bruins President Cam Neely has finally okayed the firing of head coach Claude Julien, whom he inherited from previous regimes; indeed, Julien had been head coach of the Bruins since June 2007, whereas Hall Of Famer and former star power forward Neely returned to the organization in a front office capacity first as VP in September 2007, then as President in 2010.

In the meantime, Julien had coached the team to a Stanley Cup (2011), another Final (2013) and a Presidents Trophy (2013-14), earning the Jack Adams Trophy (2008-09) in his tenure as well, which he concluded as the franchise's winningest head coach. He had missed the postseason these past two years and was outside the playoff picture as of his firing as well.

Neely, on the other hand, has fired GM Peter Chiarelli and hired Don Sweeney to replace him; the next coaching nomination could spell the end for either or both of these Bruins alumni.

Neely had also been a contested inclusion in the Hall Of Fame, having never won a major award - the only hardware he owns from his playing days is a Masterton for his comeback season in 1993-94 - nor participated in noteworthy international competitions.

He had three 50-goal seasons in the high-scoring 1980s, and retired short of the point-per-game mark (395 goals, 299 assists and 694 points in 726 games, plus another 57-32-89 in 92 playoff games, reaching the Final twice and losing to the Edmonton Oilers both times).

Was he good? Undoubtedly. Great? That's debatable. In an era that featured most of the record-setting seasons of all time, he stands behind contemporaries Brett Hull, Jari Kurri, Mike Bossy, Pavel Bure, Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne and Sergei Makarov for sure. Alex Kovalev - a 1000-point man and Stanley Cup winner of whom Mario Lemieux once said had the "greatest hands (he'd) ever seen" - as well.

At best, he's equal to Dino Ciccarelli, Alexander Mogilny, Steve Larmer, Owen Nolan and Theo Fleury, which means slightly superior to Claude Lemieux, Mike Gartner, Brian Bellows, Glenn Anderson and Brendan Shanahan (in that order, probably).

Because he came before the likes of Keith Tkachuk, Éric Dazé, Tony Amonte and Todd Bertuzzi, I will gladly slot him ahead of them. Later, however, Jarome Iginla, was much more dominating at his position (right wing), as was Daniel Alfredsson.

Here he is wearing the Bs' classic 1980s black (away) uniform with the alternate captain's "A" on card #WM-CN from Upper Deck's 2010-11 SPX set and Winning Materials sub-set:
It features black and yellow game-worn jersey swatches. I got it in a trade a couple of years ago, I forgot what I sent in exchange.