Friday, February 12, 2016

Chad Johnson Autographed Card

In the seven seasons from 2009-10 until 2015-16, Chad Johnson has played in at least one NHL game in six of them. For five different teams - the New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes, Boston Bruins, New York Islanders and now the Buffalo Sabres. He's also played in the AHL for the Hartford Wolf Pack/Connecticut Whale and Portland Pirates, so I'm guessing it was goal of his to play everywhere in New England at some point...

He is also an Adirondacks and a Rochester team away from playing all over New York State, and with one appearance with the New Jersey Devils could also include all of the NYC's hockey-represented burroughs. I mean, while we're at it...

He doesn't always look like a Vezina winner out there, but his .915 career save percentage and 2.42 GAA are decent for a backup goalie - and that's counting his sub-par season with the Isles last year where he went 8-8-1 with a 3.08 GAA and .889 save percentage in 19 games, which accounts for roughly a quarter of his career NHL games so far.

He won against the Montréal Canadiens tonight, in an entertaining 6-4 game that saw all kinds of goals (from one-timers to penalty shots to the puck hitting a linesman for a bad bounce), with three four players (Sven Andrighetto, Alex Galchenyuk, Marcus Foligno and Evander Kane) having two-goal nights.

It wasn't a stellar night for goaltending, and I had a bit of fun with my friends (one of whom quoted me on Twitter), joking that we were lucky to have two of the 500 best goalies in the world in nets - and that was before Ben Scrivens was replaced with Mike Condon:

In any event, Johnson won, which brings me to card #54, from In The Game's 2010-11 Between The Pipes set (and Future Stars sub-set), which he signed in blue sharpie:
It shows him wearing the now-defunct Whale's green uniform; the team's since gone back to their former moniker, the Wolf Pack. That uniform was just... too green for hockey.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Seth Jones Jersey Card

The Seth Jones trade that sent him from the Nashville Predators to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Ryan Johansen really got the ball rolling this year as far as pre-deadline moves. It was a "hockey trade", one that was immediately good for both teams, with Nashville sacrificing one of the best young defenders in the game to acquire potentially the cornerstone of their offense for the next decade.

However, Johansen had already proven to be difficult when it came to how he perceived himself to be worth in terms of salary demands and contract negotiations, while Jones, who for a long time was viewed as the top prospect in his draft class and unexpectedly fell to #4 as three teams decided they'd rather fill offensive needs than go through the growing pains that usually come with young defensemen making their way into the NHL, has been a team player from day one.

First-overall pick Nathan MacKinnon won the Calder as the best rookie in 2013-14, while Jones finished 11th in voting, behind other defensemen Torey Krug (4th), Olli Maata (5th), Jacob Trouba (6th), and Hampus Lindholm (7th).

So far in 2015-16, though, he's a +2 on the Jackets' blue line (and a -3 on the year, considering he was a -5 with the Preds), and while he's yet to score a goal in Columbus, he's got 19 points in 55 games on the season. He now plays over 24 minutes per game under head coach John Tortorella, who can be credited with helping Ryan McDonagh reach his full potential with the New York Rangers.

Here is my first "pull" of that 2013 draft class (save for the MacKinnon Young Guns card I traded as soon as I got it), a Jones jersey card featuring a nice dark blue game-worn jersey swatch, from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Series 1 set (and UD Game Jersey subset), card #GJ-SJ in the series:
It shows him wearing the Predators' white uniform, with all that useless blue piping and misplaced and disparate golden patches. I really miss their alternate (blue) jersey from a few years ago, which they should have kept as their home uniforms, and I wouldn't mind their yellow/gold current one as much if it was their road jersey, i.e. if they didn't wear it against teams playing in white.

Jones will look better in blue anyway.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jaden Schwartz Autograph Card

A lot of time has passed since I last featured the St. Louis Blues' Jaden Schwartz; he's considered a key part of the Blues' offense after a 28-goal and 63-point season in 2014-15 - good for third on the team behind Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen - though he only had 4 assists in 7 games this year when a fractured ankle made him miss the next 49.

He's set to return on Friday, as the team activated him earlier today. Paul Stastny's having a better season with the Blues, who could use a return to health to get in playoff shape... which could still mean a first-round exit to the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars or Los Angeles Kings.

Tarasenko, Steen and Stastny are regular contributors, Alex Pietrangelo (out for four more weeks), Jay Bouwmeester, Colton Parayko and Kevin Shattenkirk (who may be on the move) make for a reliable defensive corps, and goalies Jake Allen (still injured, probably until mid-March) and Brian Elliott have been playing lights-out, but what used to be St. Louis' bread and butter - their offensive depth - has been a very shallow pool this year.

Coach Ken Hitchcock is showing signs of impatience and, sure, captain David Backes could probably do a lot more, but the Blues need three other top-six forwards to contend with the likes of Chicago, L.A. and Dallas in their own conference, and the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning (at least on paper) and Florida Panthers in the East. That won't be an easy fix for GM Doug Armstrong and assistants Martin Brodeur and Bob Gainey. (Full disclosure: I'm not a fan of either of those three in a managerial position).

Which means Schwartz' shoulders (and ankle) better get ready to handle some serious weight - perhaps even more than they should be expected to. Here he is wearing the Blues' white (away) uniform, from Panini's 2013-14 Score set (card #SS-JH in the Score Signature sub-set):
It contains a blue-sharpied, on-sticker autograph that is as hard to read as the last time I featured him.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Vincent Trocheck Autographed Card

Former Saginaw Spirit captain Vincent Trocheck is fast becoming a clutch player on winning teams - not unlike a certain Mike Richards - and he's also leaving his mark on the stacked and surging Florida Panthers, having been named one of the NHL's Three Stars for this past week on the strength of six points (3 goals and 3 assists) in 3 games, capping off a five-game point streak.

The Pittsburgh-born 22-year-old right-shooting center has already won World Juniors gold with Team USA in 2013, producing 6 points in 7 games in Ufa including two points in the championship game against Team Sweden.

Though he was a top producer in Juniors, making the OHL All-Star Team and all, I think Gerard Gallant's plan (with Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad who can center the top two lines) is to transform Trocheck into a two-way center in the same vein as Patrice Bergeron, then increase his ice time as he gets more and more reliable without the puck.

He's smart and a hard worker, like Bergeron, so that could end up an ideal spot for him - and realistic.

Here's a card he signed in black sharpie (with his number, 89,tagged at the end) roughly a year ago, I forget if it was after a game versus the Montréal Canadiens or Ottawa Senators, as they were back-to-back and I was in both cities at the time:
It's card #80 from In The Game's 2012-13 Heroes And Prospects set, showing him wearing the Spirit's beautiful blue uniform - wit hthe captain's "C" clearly visible.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Tyler Toffoli Jersey Card

It's been roughly a year since I last featured young Los Angeles Kings star Tyler Toffoli, so I thought I could revisit him with card #GJ-TT from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set, showing him wearing the team's white (away) uniform with a matching game-worn jersey swatch included:
The Kings are currently dominating the Western Conference, and those you would expect to be the team leaders are doing their part, whether it's Drew Doughty pulling a DiCaprio and playing for the Norris Trophy, Anze Kopitar playing himself into Selke contention again, Jonathan Quick showing his playoff form all season long for just the second time of his career, or Vincent Lecavalier pulling a resurrection act.

But who isn't impressed by Toffoli, who has already matched his career high set last year with 23 goals in just 51 games, good for first on the team - 10 ahead of Kopitar and Jeff Carter? He's also second to Kopitar in points, though he's 8 behind him with 38. Still, that leaves him just 11 short of last season's 49, his career-high so far.

He plays a heavy game that goes hand-in-hand with L.A.'s style, which is just to go about it methodically, in a straight line, plowing through everything that's in their way at second-tier speed. He'd probably not be as good a fit on an Eastern Conference team, but that's probably why the Kings got to draft him and not a speedy team.

It's hard to remember he's still just 23, what with a Stanley Cup championship on his resume already and two fine postseasons under his belt. The Kings are one of two Western teams I want to have reach the Final this year, with the Chicago Blackhawks. If the Kings make it, I'd like it to be against another heavy, tough team, the Washington Capitals; if the Hawks get there, I'd like it to be against the New York Islanders.

My Flames Numbers Project: An Introduction

I have hinted at it before, but after my Montréal Expos Numbers Project and all my hockey ones (my Habs Numbers Project, my Oilers Numbers Project my Sens Numbers Project, my Canucks Numbers Project, and my Nordiques Numbers Project), now's the time to do the same for the Calgary Flames.
The Flames won the Stanley Cup in 1989, the only visiting team to ever win it on Montréal Canadiens home ice. They have been in Calgary since 1980, but the franchise started out as the Atlanta Flames in 1972. For my project, I think I'll focus on the Calgary era only. It may evolve in time, but for now, that'll be my goal.

Speaking of goals, the point of this project is to feature memorabilia from players who represent each uniform number ever worn in team history; ideally, for the purposes of displaying it upon completion, it'd be nice to have those all be signed cards; however, because I'm far from rich, sometimes these may be other types of signed items, or even jersey cards.

So far, I have featured the following 32 players for 27 numbers:

1: Tyler Moss: check!
3: Ladislav Smid: check!
5: Mark Giordano: jersey card check!
8: Joël Bouchard: check!
9: Lanny McDonald: check!
10: Roman Cervenka: check!
11: Gary Leeman and Mikael Backlund: check!
12: Jarome Iginla (twice): check!
13: Michael Cammalleri: jersey card check!
16: Cory Stillman and Dustin Boyd (also wore #41): check!
18: Matt Stajan: check!
20: Gary Suter: check!
22: Ron Stern: check!
23: Sean Monahan: check!
25: Willie Plett: check!
26: Steve Bégin: check!
29: Joel Otto: check!
31: Réjean Lemelin, Rick Wamsley, and Ken Wregget: check!
34: Miikka Kiprusoff: check!
37: Trevor Kidd and Leland Irving: check!
40: Fred Brathwaite and Alex Tanguay: check!
41: Dustin Boyd (also wore #16): check!
42: Mark Cundari: check!
47: Sven Baertschi: check!
48: Greg Nemisz: check!
53: Derek Morris: check!
59: Maxwell Reinhart: check!

captains: McDonald and Iginla.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Maxwell Reinhart Autograph Card

Maxwell Reinhart was once viewed as a top Calgary Flames prospect, a third-round pick (64th overall) in 2010, but after being surpassed on the depth chart by the likes of Josh Jooris, Markus Granlund and Bill Arnold, he was traded to the Nashville Predators in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2016.

In 42 games with their AHL affiliate Milwaukee Admirals so far this year, he has 20 points (11 goals, 9 assists); he had 39 points in 69 games last year with the Adirondack Flames, good for third on the team, four points behind team leader Kenneth Agostino.

He and brothers Griffin (currently in the Edmonton Oilers' system) and Sam (with the Buffalo Sabres) are the three professional hockey-playing sons of former Flame Paul Reinhart.

The 6'1'', 200-pound two-way center will likely eventually stick in the NHL as a third-line checker, and in the meantime will serve as #59 in my Flames Numbers Project, with card #TR-MXR from Panini's 2013-14 Titanium collection and Titanium Reserve sub-set:
It shows him wearing the Flames' white (away) jersey, and has a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph on the front.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Brian Gionta Jersey Card

I would be remiss if I didn't post about Brian Gionta this week. Gionta's career path is one of putting team achievements ahead of personal glory, though he does hold the New Jersey Devils' single-season goals record (48, in 2005-06). He won the Stanley Cup with them in 2002-03. He then moved on to the Montréal Canadiens, which he captained and reached the Conference Finals with in 2009-10. He was a quiet, almost boring captain who said all the right things but didn't stir the pot and wasn't as outspoken as past wearers of the "C", a top-6 right winger who didn't reach the 30-goal plateau with the Habs, mostly because he had two injury-plagued seasons in the five years he was in town, leaving him with 28- and 29-goal campaigns.

When the Habs offered him a lower-range contract with less term as he reached UFA status for the second time of his career in the summer of 2014, he signed with his hometown Buffalo Sabres, who made him their captain as well. He missed 13 games because of injuries on last year's tanking team, but they're showing clear signs of growth this year.

The Canadiens, on the other hand, are sinking, and captain Max Pacioretty looks like a player who not only has no idea as to how to deal with the situation, but has seemingly also quit. He doesn't have the belief and determination that teammates P.K. Subban and Brendan Gallagher have. He looks helpless out there.

And it was Gionta who put the final nail in the coffin on Wednesday, as the Habs blew a 2-1 lead to open the third period to lose 4-2, with the former captain scoring the empty-netter. In a town he didn't want to leave, against the team he was the leader of.

It's the first big crisis that GM Marc Bergevin and head coach Michel Therrien have faced together, in their third season at the helm of this franchise. As you can tell by the boos in the video linked above, fans are very unhappy. The newspapers are mean. The post-game analysis on both French-language specialized sports stations is vitriolic. People want heads to roll (and, as usual, I disagree with most of them as to which ones should).

They say you only realize what you had when it's gone, and it's time to give Brian Gionta props for having been the right leader for those 2009-14 Canadiens. Here he is wearing the Devils' white (now-away) uniform with an enclosed red game-worn jersey swatch, from Upper Deck's 2006-07 SP Game-Used Edition (card #AF-BG of the Authentic Fabrics sub-set):

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Adam Hauser Autograph Card

I wanted to get back to a few of my passions tonight, namely goalies (particularly non-stars and journeymen), and defunct teams. Today, I get to do that with this card of Adam Hauser's with the Manchester Monarchs from In The Game's 2005-06 Heroes And Prospects set (it's the signed insert version of his card, #A-AH instead of the usual #47 card, featuring an on-sticker black sharpie autograph):
Hauser was originally an Edmonton Oilers draft pick, 81st overall in 1999, ahead of other goalies Sébastien Caron (86th), Cory Campbell (92nd), Rob Zepp (99th), Evan Lindsay (109th), Jean-François Nogue (133rd), Ryan Miller (138th), Matthew Kinch (146th), Seamus Kotyk (147th), Martin Prusek (164th), Michael Leighton (165th), Matt Underhill (170th), Don Choulakos (179th), Kevin Swanson (189th), Vadim Tarasov (196th), Phil Osaer (203rd), Kyle Kettles (205th), Vladimir Kulkov (211th), Jonathan Charron (227th), and Antti Jokela (237th).

Oh, and regular NHLers Niclas Havelid (83rd), Mike Comrie (91st), Chris Kelly (94th), Brian McGrattan (104th), Ryan Malone (115th), Fedor Fedorov (182nd), Ivan Rachunek (187th), Martin Erat (191st), Tom Kostopoulos (204th), Henrik Zetterberg (210th), and Radim Vrbata (212th).

And it was pretty much his rightful position, considering he was viewed as the best Minnesota Golden Gophers goalie of all time. Yet he didn't stick with the Oilers, instead signing with the Los Angeles Kings prior to the 2004-05 season. In the Kings' system, he set Monarchs' season records for best GAA (1.93), best save percentage (.933), and most shutouts (7). He also holds the team's career shutouts mark, with 15. Martin Jones now owns the career wins total, with 84.

He just played one game with the Kings in 2005-06, letting in 6 goals on 24 shots in 51 minutes, for a .750 save percentage and 7.08 GAA.

He then plied his trade in Europe from 2006 until 2012, until he retired to join the Gophers' alumni and coaching teams. He also spent time as the Iowa Wild's goaltending coach in 2014-15.

The Monarchs' story is a whole other beast. They were the Kings' AHL affiliate from 2001 until last season (2015), but were part of the re-alignment/folding/restructuring that went down in the minor leagues where the Pacific Division teams relocated their AHL teams to California and (for the most part) kept their past AHL cities as their ECHL teams, meaning the name Manchester Monarchs is now that of the Kings' ECHL affiliate, while the Ontario Reign now serves as their AHL affiliate. In their final season as L.A.'s main affiliate, the Monarchs won their only Calder Cup.

In an even odder twist, the California division of the AHL plays less games than their counterparts from the other divisions this year, so not only do they travel less for games, but they also have a less strenuous schedule.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Steve Mason Jersey Card

Earlier today, I received this note from Bobby Clarke's management team informing me that he no longer signs autographs for free and wants folks to donate to a diabetes association before they get signed items from him, which I find is noble:
As a diabetes-stricken adult myself (I've been off insulin for two years but it's pretty much inevitable that one day Metformin will not be enough and I will have to go back to the needle), I may very well do that in the future.

For now, however, I still wanted to feature a member of the Philadelphia Flyers as a link to that, but also because against all odds, they are still clinging to playoff hopes by what seems to be pretty much Shayne Gostisbehere's sheer will.

Although, to be fair, The Hockey Writers aren't wrong when they claim that the rest of the Broad Street Bullies' season lies on the shoulders of starting goaltender Steve Mason, the former Calder Trophy winner and Vezina runner-up who has given new life to his career after stagnating (and perhaps even regressing) with the Columbus Blue Jackets for a few years.

Indeed, though he is having an okay year thus far (outplayed a bit by backup Michal Neuvirth), he had a Vezina-worthy season last year, going 18-18-11 on a team that missed the playoffs, with a 2.25 GAA and .928 save percentage with 3 shutouts, following the previous year's stellar playoff performance (2-2, 1.97 GAA and .939).

In 2012-13, after starting the year in Columbus, he went 4-2-0 with the Flyers in the final stretch, with a 1.90 GAA and .944 save percentage in Philadelphia.

It's now clear the former Team Canada alumnus (a 2008 World Juniors gold medal winner, with Best Goalie and Tournament MVP awards to go with it) is back among the elite at his position, and I'm starting to like the way he looks in orange:
That's card #GJ-SM from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Series 1 collection and UD Game Jersey sub-set, showing him in Philly's current/retro orange (home) uniform, with a matching game-worn jersey swatch inserted on the ideal spot considering the picture used.