Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Brian Elliott Jersey Card

Yesterday, I touched briefly on the fact that the St. Louis Blues added Bob Gainey as a consultant, and considering the puzzling moves made by general manager Doug Armstrong, they actually probably could use his help - particularly when it comes to handling goalies.

It was bad enough that they traded Jaroslav Halak for former top-notch goalie Ryan Miller at last year's trade deadline, leading to a predictable playoff collapse, but they didn't even try to re-sign Miller, therefore pretty much admitting they'd made a huge mistake.

And how did they fix that mistake? By deciding to give the net to prospect Jake Allen, but not without inking good-guy Brian Elliott (who signed 5 cards for me 18 months ago) to a three-year extension. There's nothing wrong with signing a guy who twice posted a GAA below 2.00 in the past three seasons and holds the NHL record for best save percentage in a full season (.940), but it's iffy - to say the least - when the same guy had a 1.90 GAA and .919 save percentage in 6 playoff games in 2012-13 and yet wasn't allowed to play a single minute against the Chicago Blackhawks last year when Miller imploded.

Either you trust him to man the net or you don't - there are no two ways about it.

Not only does it reek of bad improvisation, it stinks of not having an actual plan. For all his faults as general manager with the Montréal Canadiens (over-paying for Carey Price and trading three #1 goalies to make room for him is one, having 13 players turn UFA at the end of the same season is another, a knack for always betting on the wrong free agents can also be one), Gainey always had a plan. It may not have been the right one, but it was a plan nonetheless.

And so the Blues enter 2014-15 with a new uniform that is reminiscent of their old ones, a new consultant who's from the old school, and the same backup goalie they've had for the past three seasons, ready to split time with the latest flavour of the month. With an actual top-line center like Paul Stastny, however, they now have their best forward in over a decade, and therefore have a shot at staying in the conversation with the top teams in the West - your Blackhawks, your Los Angeles Kings, your Anaheim Ducks and your Dallas Stars. And the Minnesota Wild, should they solve their own goaltending issues.

But a lot of the Blues' hopes will be riding on Elliott, who reminds me a lot of another goalie from my childhood, Ron Tugnutt; both were able to play the best game of the decade, had relatively consistent amazing statistics (Elliott even beats Tugnutt on that front), both were ''default'' additions to All-Star Games, and neither was ever considered in the top-20 of their time.

Of course, the Blues will have to protect Elliott better than they have in the preseason thus far. Here he is, wearing the team's white (away) uniform with matching game-worn jersey swatch, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 SP Game-Used Edition (card #AF-BE of the Authentic Fabrics sub-set):

Monday, September 29, 2014

Turner Stevenson Autograph Card

With the news of Bob Gainey joining the St. Louis Blues as a consultant to Ken Hitchcock and Doug Armstrong, I decided to knock off #23 from my Habs Numbers Project with... Turner Stevenson.

It's not that I'm boycotting Gainey for having been a so-so general manager with the Habs or for firing coaches uselessly, but I wrote him in February 2012 sending three cards and he never answered, so I decided to go another route.

Stevenson was the Montréal Canadiens' first-round draft pick (12th overall) in 1990 - one of the deepest drafts in modern hockey history - ahead of All-Stars Keith Tkachuk (19th), Martin Brodeur (20th), Bryan Smolinski (21st), Félix Potvin (31st), Doug Weight (34th), Geoff Sanderson (36th), Mikael Renberg (40th), Vyacheslav (Slava) Kozlov (45th), Alexei Zhamnov (77th), Gilbert Dionne (81st), Sergei Zubov (85th), Roman Turek (113th), Robert Lang (133rd), Peter Bondra (156th), Jaroslav Modry (179th), Espen Knutsen (204th), and enforcers Gino Odjick (86th), Enrico Ciccone (92nd), and Craig Martin (98th).

With 29 goals and 61 points in 62 games (but more importantly 276 penalty minutes) with the Seattle Thunderbirds, the Habs continued their 1980s and 1990s streak of drafting heavy Western Canadian players who would end up not being impact players at the NHL level (or not even playing at all), hoping they'd found that huge power forward who could score a ton of goals for a long time and defend their teammates. Like Tkachuk or Renberg.

Instead, they got a slow, heavy winger who could play 10 to 13 minutes per game and whose highest goals total in Montréal was 10, in 1998-99. He would score 14 in 2003-04 with the New Jersey Devils, with whom he made it to the Stanley Cup Finals twice, losing to the Colorado Avalanche in 2001 and winning the prized trophy in 2003.

But you can't fault a guy for being who and what he is, and Turner Stevenson was a player who would suit up in 644 NHL games, scoring 75 goals and tallying 190 points in the process. He didn't ask to be a first-round pick, and he finished with his name engraved on the sport's ultimate trophy.

Here he is waiting for a pass, wearing the Canadiens' white (then-home) uniform, from Pinnacle's 1997-98 Be A Player set (card #181), an insert card signed in thin black sharpie with his uniform number added (23):

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Steve Sullivan Jersey Card

Steve Sullivan has had a storied and fulfilled NHL career that could have gone even better were it not for injuries, especially back injuries. He played in 1011 games, scored 290 goals and accumulated 747 points while playing a complete decade in the Dead Puck Era. He had eight straight 20-plus-goal seasons including two in the 30s (34 in 2000-2001 and 31 upon returning from the lock-out in 2005-06), and seven straight 60-point seasons (with highs of 75 in 2000-2001 and 73 in 2003-04).

He won the Bill Masterton trophy after coming back from a 23-month absence in 2008-09, and led the league in shorthanded goals (with 8) in 2000-01, garnering a lot of Selke votes in the process. He's had a few Lady Byng votes in his time as well.

Originally drafted 233rd overall by the New Jersey Devils, they traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Doug Gilmour; six years later, when sent from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Nashville Predators, his trade value had dropped to two second-round picks (Michael Blunden and Ryan Garlock). Still, he played in 6 seasons with the Preds, tallying 263 points in 317 games and made them improve from a basement team to a playoff contender.

After signing one-year contracts with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Phoenix Coyotes, he was traded back to where it all began - New Jersey - making for the third-longest length of time between two stints with the same team in NHL history.

And because he's constantly had to battle through adversity (from the injuries and his 5'8'', 160-pound frame) while putting up decent numbers, the Arizona Coyotes felt he was the best person to be their new player development coach.

I didn't have a card of his with the Coyotes, but I do have this jersey card of him in the Predators' dark blue (away) uniform with matching swatch, from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Series 2 set (card #J2-SS of the Game Jersey sub-set):

He was an alternate captain for most of his tenure in Nashville.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Jacob Markstrom Autograph Card

Despite a rumoured 4 teams having shown interest, Jacob Markstrom cleared waivers today, meaning the Vancouver Canucks can now assign him to the AHL's Utica Comets.

I had had a 3-card return from Markström in April, where I talked about how often he'd represented Team Sweden internationally despite his young age, and assumed he'd also dress for them at the 2014 World Championships... it turns out I was wrong. Sweden won bronze on the terrific play of New York Islanders goalie Anders Nilsson, and the backup, while also a member of the Canucks, was Joacim Eriksson.

It is therefore pretty safe the say the past 6 months haven't been especially kind to the young goaltender, but he's still just 24, and I still stand by what I said in April:
He has a good butterfly and the perfect size (6'6'' and just under 200 pounds) for his style, a good glove hand, good agility and covers his angles well. With a proper goaltending coach to look for the best angle to put his legs in, he'll be able to cover up the five-hole and reach the space next to the post accurately enough to only have to work on his blocker-side and lateral push for the next decade or so.
We're talking about a guy who's possibly ranked between the 50th and 70th in the world at his position, and a few very slight tweaks could bring him up to top-15 level in just months.

I do have a suspicion as to why teams allowed him to go through waivers, though: the Montréal Canadiens still have Dustin Tokarski in camp, and he could be made available for trade or via waivers in the next few days as well, and teams really liked how he handled the pressure of not just playing in Montréal, but performing well in the Eastern Conference Finals while handling the toughest job in the NHL.

I'd like to think Markstrom has a higher potential ceiling than Tokarski, but Tokarski is currently ahead in his development curve. We'll see how this plays out in just a few days anyway.

In the meantime, I thought I could feature this card from Panini's 2013-14 Crown Royale set (#SO-JM of the Sovereign Sigs sub-set), featuring Markstrom with the Florida Panthers' white (away) uniform, but mostly a great view of his mask - and an on-sticker blue-sharpied autograph:

The foil on the crown and text is actually golden in real life, while the print at the bottom is silver/grey, just as the scan shows. The top of the card is die-cut, which adds to the coolness of the set.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Olaf Kolzig Jersey Card

In The Game has a thing for Olaf Kolzig, I guess, seemingly always featuring him in their sets of game-worn jerseys - and I sure won't complain. In the case of their 2003-04 In The Game-Used set, this card (#GUJ-32 in the collection) shows him in his prime, with the Washington Capitals' dark blue (then-away) uniform with the Capitol building logo and a matching swatch:

I prefer the Caps wearing red, but this was a decent jersey nonetheless, though the gold/bronze stripes didn't look as good on players' equipment as it did on the uniform.

Kolzig spent 16 years in the Caps' system, upon being drafted in 1989. If it wasn't for 8 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008-09 in which he obtained just 2 wins, he would have spent his entire career with Washington.

He has a Vezina to his name as well as a King Clancy and a First-Team All-Star nod, two All-Star Games, another Vezina top-5 run, Hart votes in two seasons, and a Stanley Cup Finals loss on his NHL resume to go with a Butterfield trophy (playoff MVP) and Hap Holmes award (best GAA) in the AHL, and a league championship in Germany during the 2004-05 lockout.

He was the Caps' goaltending coach last year, but asked to be re-assigned this season to player development coach; he will also serve as part-time goalie coach, but will no longer have to be on the road with the team at all times, so he can spend more time with his family.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jarred Tinordi Jersey Card

As I mentioned a few days ago in my post about Nathan Beaulieu, he and Jarred Tinordi are involved in a three-man race (with Greg Pateryn) as the Montréal Canadiens' 6th and 7th defensemen behind Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin, P.K. Subban, Tom Gilbert and Mike Weaver. Magnus Nygren has also impressed at camp so far, but he started as a man on the outside looking in.

Then again, Tinordi hasn't had that great a camp, but he has shown what he can do despite his young age in 30 regular-season and 5 playoff NHL games so far, as well as in two seasons in the AHL. At still just 22 years of age, I wouldn't mind seeing Tinordi go back with the Hamilton Bulldogs for one more season, and take on the role of #1 defenseman, perhaps even hone his leadership skills on a team that promises to not finish at the bottom of the standings for once. He has captained the U.S. Development Team as well as the OHL's London Knights, his Juniors team, after all.

Let's not kid ourselves, though, like his father Mark Tinordi, Jarred is a shut-down defender who can hit hard with his 6'6'' frame and 225 pounds (which may go up to 235 in time), and players of his type take longer to develop and rarely become 40-point producers, but a year manning the powerplay and penalty-kill in the AHL may improve his shot accuracy and passing skills, which would only help at the NHL level.

He has already represented Team USA twice, going medal-less at the 2012 World Juniors but winning gold at the 2010 Under-18 tournament. In both cases, he had a goal and an assist.

Some fans may have been hoping for a Chris Pronger-type of player when the Habs chose him with the 22nd pick in 2010, because he has the size and decent speed considering, but if he can develop into a tougher Hall Gill / faster Zdeno Chara (or somewhere in between), that'll still be a very worthwhile pick.

I'll have plenty more cards of his to showcase this year, but since I also went with the 2013-14 SP Game-Used Edition set by Upper Deck (#RF-JT of the Rookie Fabrics sub-set) for Beaulieu's, I figured the Tinordi post could use the same treatment, so here he is wearing the Habs' white (away) uniform with an all-red swatch from a photo shoot:

It's interesting to note that in his rookie season, Tinordi wore #42; he has since switched to #24, and should the team retire it for Chris Chelios (which I doubt, considering he spent the bulk of his career elsewhere and only won one Stanley Cup and Norris here, out of three each in total), he'd be the last to have worn it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Guillaume Latendresse (Dual) Jersey Card

Guillaume Latendresse concurred with Rick Nash in today's La Presse, in an article that essentially talked about the fear of getting back into the thick of things after a concussion when it seems opponents are deliberately trying to re-injure you - or worse.

It's rare that an active star player will be as candid as Nash was in an interview earlier this week. As a retiree, Latendresse went even further, accusing the Minnesota Wild's doctors of sending him back in a game despite his head hurting so much he would cry between periods.

Now seemed like as good a time as any to feature this 2006-07 Ultimate Collection card from Upper Deck, #DJ-GL of the Ultimate Debut Threads (numbered #99/150) sub-set that I got in a trade earlier this summer:

I like the encyclopedia feel the left side of the card has, and the fact that both swatches  - although white, i.e. ''bland'' - match the uniform he's wearing on the card. I also like the foil team logo and classy design. It's probably not worth much to the ''average collector'' anymore, but I liked Tender, and feel his statistics were fine for his playing time. I put him above the ''bust'' category, for sure.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Matt Dumba Swatch Card

Mathew Dumba is one of almost too many prized prospects coming up the ranks in the Minnesota Wild organization. The 6-foot, 185-pound defenseman chosen 7th-overall in 2012 - ahead of Jacob Trouba (9th), Filip Forsberg (11th), Mikhail Grigorenko (12th), Cody Ceci (15th), Tomas Hertl (17th), Teuvo Teravainen (18th), Scott Laughton (20th), Olli Maata (22nd), Malcolm Subban (24th), and Tanner Pearson (30th) - comes with an impressive resume, having captained Team Canada at U-18 tournaments and winning a bronze medal with the team.

We're talking about the almost-perfect current-day NHL defenseman: booming slap shot, dazzling speed, and a knack for open-ice ''big'' hits. All he needs is to put on maybe 25 to 30 pounds and he'll be all he can be. Whether that happens with the Wild's stacked defense remains to be seen, though...

Because he played 13 games last season, he still qualifies for all rookie honors, but is now considered in his second contract year. While with the Wild, he was loaned to the Canadian team for the World Juniors, but the team finished in fourth place; he was also traded from the Red Deer Rebels, with whom he'd spent his previous 4 WHL seasons, to the Portland Winterhawks, with whom he was a point-per-game player from the back end.

Here he is with the Wild's green alternate uniform, from Panini's 2013-14 Titanium set (card #RG-MDB of the Rookie Gear sub-set, part of the Dual Rookie Class), with a matching event-worn swatch:

I like that almost every single picture he's in shows him with stoner eyes. I had made custom cards to have signed by him last year, I forget if I sent them or not.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Magnus Paajarvi Autograph Card

Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson remains an enigma for many fans and general managers, but it's easy to see why he was drafted 10th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2009: at barely 23 years of age, the 6'3'', 210-pound rocket has impressed at every single level he has played at, usually at a much younger age than all of his peers; he made Team Sweden's Under-16 team at just 14, enabling him to earn three World Juniors medals (silver in 2008 and 2009, bronze in 2010), and two World Championship medals (bronze in an incredible 2010 season, silver in 2011). He was the youngest Swede ever to make the team, then medal at the World Juniors.

And it's not like he was a passenger on either the Junior or Men's teams: he has 41 points (on 16 goals and 25 assists) in 30 games in Juniors, and 7 goals, 9 assists and 16 points in 18 games with the adult teams, making the 2010 Worlds All-Star team in the process.

And that's not counting Sweden's win at the 2008 Ivan Hlinka U-18 tournament. In North America, the Oilers didn't have enough players of his level on the team for him to shine, and their AHL affiliate wasn't much better, though he did accumulate 11 goals, 24 assists and 45 points in 72 games over two seasons with the Oklahoma City Barons.

He has improved his defensive play, and because of that may become relegated to third-line duties, which really shouldn't be his spot, because putting him in a long-term defensive capacity may lead him to grow tired of not using his skills and eventually to some laziness. He has all-world speed, all-world hands, and all-world moves; he loves making spectacular plays; he has size and back-checks - he belongs at least on a second line, and second-unit powerplay.

As a power forward, I expect him to enter the 20-to-25-goal stage of his career this season, and to be a threat for 35-to-40 from ages 26 to 31. Ironically, what hurt him in Edmonton - lack of able bodies to surround him - is no longer the case with the St. Louis Blues, where the team's depth may force the them to start him with less playing time than he'd require.

And so this may have been my favourite pull from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers Collection (#FI-MP of the Franchise Ink sub-set), featuring a blue-sharpied autograph (with his Oilers jersey number - 91 - tagged at the end) on a sticker:

It therefore checks #91 off my Oilers Numbers Project, and makes me 28-for-78 in collecting autographed cards of ''used'' Edmonton numbers.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Paul Bissonnette Jersey Card

NHL enforcer and Twitter superstar Paul Bissonnette (a.k.a. Biz Nasty) may have found a new home with the St. Louis Blues, as the Stanley Cup contenders have extended him a invitation to their training camp.

You may remember him from the best and most epic Ice Bucket Challenge of the summer:

Even if he doesn't make the team, at least he'll get to showcase his skills during camp and perhaps another team will come calling should the Blues release him.

That said, I've been waiting all summer to feature this 2013-14 Totally Certified card by Panini (#TC-PBI in the red ''regular'' jersey sub-set) - a set that for $70 gave you 20 cards, including one autograph and three jersey cards; this particular card features a big burgundy swatch with some white stitching hanging from it, and shows Bissonnette wearing the Phoenix Coyotes white (away) uniform: