Tuesday, July 22, 2014

David Booth Jersey Card

Earlier today, the Toronto Maple Leafs solidified their second line by signing David Booth to an affordable 1-year contract; just a couple of days ago, I had suggested they try someone else who is often asked and expected to play as a power-forward, Guillaume Latendresse, but Booth fills the same type of role (and has the same history of concussions).

David Booth's time with the Vancouver Canucks may well be considered unsuccessful to say the least, what with just 26 goals and 51 points in 164 points, but keep in mind he came in mid-season after a trade with the Florida Panthers, with whom he'd spent all of his career with until that point; the second year was the lock-out, and the third brought in a new head coach in John Tortorella, who completely changed the style and make-up of the team. That makes for a lot of change in very little time.

His career-high for goals (31) and points (60) may no longer be attainable, because I don't think he can warrant top-line minutes like he used to in Florida, if only because talented new rookies have come in each year since 2008-09, but I still stand by what I said about him last March:
(He) would be an ideal second-liner on a playoff-quality team, and a luxury third-liner with powerplay and penalty-killing time on a stacked Stanley Cup contender like the Chicago Blackhawks or Anaheim Ducks (though possibly a first-liner on the stacked-at-center Pittsburgh Penguins).
Meaning I can see him reaching the 45-50-point plateau, ideally with more than 20 goals, perhaps 25.

Here is a card that dates back to his heyday, showing him wearing the Panthers' white (away) uniform, with the aletrnate captain's 'A':

It's from Upper Deck's 2009-10 Series 1 set, and is card #GJ-DA of the UD Game Jersey sub-set, with a black game-worn jersey swatch (though the white uniform contains no black apart from the dreaded piping).

Monday, July 21, 2014

P.A. Parenteau Jersey Card

A lot has been written about the trade that sent Daniel Brière from the Montréal Canadiens to the Colorado Avalanche for Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau right before free agency kicked in three weeks ago; idiots observers talk about how Parenteau's ''puck possession statistics'' we so much better than Brière's, which just goes to show how flawed those statistics are.

The Corsi rating - the most-used ''advanced stat'' - calculates the amount of shots fired at the offensive net compared to the defensive one whilst a player is on the ice to calculate whether that player is ''in the plusses'' or ''the minuses'', which in itself is wrong on at least a hundred and fifty levels, starting with the quality of players on the ice; last season, for example, Brière was always used in fourth-line duties; even when not paired with grinders, the players he was with were either slumping or pretty much grounded by head coach Michel Therrien, and often played less than 10 minutes per game. Parenteau played on the Avs' top two lines, usually paired with Nathan MacKinnon and Ryan O'Reilly, if not with Alex Tanguay and Matt Duchene. That's two of that season's award winners, a gold-winning Olympian, and a former All-Star.

Also, the Corsi, obviously created by a former goalie, totally ignores the basics of a hockey game. An average, tight NHL game will finish 3-2, with 30 shots apiece. Perhaps 50 each counting blocked shots and deflections. That's one per minute, per team, except hockey isn't basketball: the action doesn't go end-to-end for 60 minutes. It goes in 60-to-100-second spurts of momentum, with players who usually get on for 45-second shifts, and in those bursts, most shots will get rebounds, and the first one or two will have missed, so instead of going 1-for-1 or, in a 45-second shift, 2 shots each way, it's likely going to be a 3-0 count that the player himself had little to do with apart from just being in the play or not.

The quality of your opposition says as much as the quality of your line, and none of that indicates actual possession. Recent Detroit Red Wings teams could have the puck on their sticks for 45 minutes per game and only shoot 20 times - and win 4-1; shots directed simply do not demonstrate possession.

Comparing actual statistics is fairly easy though: Parenteau has zero 30-goal seasons, to Brière's four; Parenteau has one 20-goal season on John Tavares' wing to Brière's seven with lesser players. Brière has played in two All-Star Games, and was MVP of one. Brière is a point-per-game career player in the playoffs, and even led all players in 2010 with 30 (in just 23 games) as the Philadelphia Flyers lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. Brière has been an NHL captain twice.

Internationally, Parenteau has a silver medal, with Team Canada at the 2003 World Juniors; Brière has... gold from the 1997 World Juniors, and gold from the 2003 and 2004 World Championships. (He also won gold at the U-18 before it was ''a thing''). Brière is also a point-per-game player on the international stage.

So who do you want to dress for a Game 7?

Speaking of the masters of pressure, it seems Avs head coach Patrick Roy didn't exactly see eye-to-eye with Parenteau, so just obtaining anything in return is considered a win, let alone a ton of leadership come playoff time.

Still, I'm looking forward to seeing a guy who can put the puck in the net playing with Tomas Plekanec on the Habs' second line. I'm hoping for 25 goals, but I really can't tell if that's possible or not. Ironically, I unwrapped a couple of Parenteau jersey cards this winter, and figured I could start with this one:

It's card #AF-PA from Upper Deck's 2013-14 SP Game-Used Edition set (part of the Authentic Fabrics sub-set), and features a big burgundy jersey swatch while showing him wearing the Avs' white (away) uniform.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Guillaume Latendresse Autograph Card

Of course, I have a certain fondness for Guillaume Latendresse. He's a nice enough guy, although that perma-smile can get under the skin of a few people, as does his love of he limelight: he dates singers, accompanies them to red carpet events and, awaiting his official retirement, has become a hockey analyst for RDS, whose parent company (Bell) owns 15 % of the Montréal Canadiens, and half the Toronto Maple Leafs. He loves cameras, and good for him.

I don't think he's good enough for the Habs anymore (they're way too balanced and quick), but he could certainly play on the Leafs' second line tomorrow morning. He was never the fastest guy on the ice, but a shot like his doesn't just go away, despite the concussions and the half-season in Switzerland last year. With Phil Kessel facing the best players the opposition has to offer (and scoring 35-40 goals in the process), Latendresse could easily net 25-35 facing lesser defensive-minded forwards, and with second-unit powerplay time.

As it stands, however, he will be coaching a Midget AAA team next winter in-between commentating gigs; at least he's keeping his skates on the ice.

Here's a card I have been holding on to for a few years, from Panini's 2010-11 Crown Royale set, card #35 of the Scratching The Surface sub-set (numbered #24/100), showing him wearing the Minnesota Wild's white (away) uniform:

What a beautiful sub-set! Possibly the finest hockey autograph sub-set I've seen, and just a notch below the signed-helmet cards from the Sweet Spot football series (which I am just now realizing I have never featured here, despite having a good half-dozen of them).

I love the rink-shaped signing area, the blue-sharpied signature, the team's logo, the fact that they still managed to put a clear picture of his face and a bit of the team's crest... the whole thing!

Oh, and here's something weird: this page has him listed with the Arizona Coyotes...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blake Wheeler: 4 Autographed Cards

The returns haven't exactly been piling up this summer, but what has come in has been pretty cool - and this was no exception.

When all is said and done, Blake Wheeler may be the Winnipeg Jets' finest and most effective offensive weapon; much is said about Andrew Ladd's leadership ability and skills, and Evander Kane's flash and brilliance, but in the three seasons since the NHL moved back to Manitoba, Wheeler finished atop the scoring leaders in points and goals twice each, and not in the same years. The first season, he ranked third in goals (17) but first in points (64), and last season he also led with 69 points - and 28 goals. In the locked-out season before that, he was second on the team with 41 points in 48 games, but led the team with an impressive 19 goals.

A hulking 6'5'' and 210-pound rocket on skates, Wheeler appears to be ready to be the guy on whatever team will have him; he has achieved individual success at every level, from a (multiple-time) team leader in the NHL to having been named the MVP of the 2009 YoungStars game where he registered 4 goals, to as far back as being named the WCHL Final Five MVP in 2007.

He's also probably hungry for team success, having been a member of the 2010-11 Boston Bruins for most of the season before the trade to Winnipeg, as the Bruins went on to win the Stanley Cup without him that spring; he has also represented Team USA at the World Juniors (4th place in 2006), World Championships (8th place in 2011) and Olympics (4th place in 2014); he's been stung by defeat enough to want to win at all costs the next time he's put in that type of situation again.

I, for one, think he's good enough to be a first-line right winger on at least 25 teams; unfortunately for him, he'll never be considered the best of his draft class, as 2004 was the year that also brought Alexander Ovechkin (1st) and Evgeni Malkin (2nd) to the NHL, but his being chosen 5th - right behind Cam Barker and Ladd - is pretty much perfect, although in retrospect, perhaps Brandon Dubinsky (60th), Alexander Edler (91st) or Mark Streit (262nd) would likely have taken Barker's spot. On a better team, Wheeler would probably be able to score 30 goals with at least 70 points for the next three or four years, guaranteeing him another spot at the Olympics and perhaps an All-Star Game or two. If I were a GM, he's definitely a player I'd target right now, perhaps even dangling first-round draft picks to obtain him.

I had sent him 5 cards and a fan letter on March 13th, 2014, and received 4 of them back, signed in (fading) black sharpie, with his jersey number (26) included, 123 days later, on June 18th (2014). Oddly enough, my return envelope carried a permanent Canadian stamp (it was sent to the Jets), but was postmarked from West Palm Beach, Florida; I'd like to extend my thanks to the U.S. Postal service for letting it go through.

Here are the cards, first showing him in the Bruins' alternate uniform (too bad the logo crest doesn't show because of his position) from Fleer's 2009-10 Fleer Ultra set (card #15, the Gold variant) by Upper Deck:

Next up are two UD cards of him wearing the Bruins' black (home) uniform:

On the left is card #17 from the 2010-11 Victory collection, while the card on the right is #34 from the 2010-11 Black Diamond set.

And to close it off, one of him with the Jets' dark blue (home) uniform, from Panini's 2013-14 Score set (#539 in the series):

I'm fairly certain the card he kept had him wearing the Jets' white (away) uniform, because I'm a jersey nerd and tend to want to send / own one of each, but I can't be certain. I just don't remember. This brings my 2014 totals to 27/74.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Anthony Hopkins Clothing Card

So, uh, here's a bit of a downer. I actually got this card in a re-pack of sports cards, which also contained a golf autograph (since traded) and mostly (common) baseball and basketball cards - obviously not a pack meant for me, unless karma wanted to repay me for a past sin. It's from Razor's 2010 Pop Century collection, which was essentially a six-card box containing three autograph cards and three Celebrity-Worn Wardrobe swatch cards, probably at a ridiculously high price; my card is #SW-6 in the set, and features a piece of clothing (either a dress shirt of the inside of a blazer, in my opinion) guaranteed to have been worn by acclaimed actor Anthony Hopkins:

The Good: Sir Hopkins is an Academy Award-winning actor, known worldwide for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence Of The Lambs, Hannibal, and Red Dragon.

The Bad: I'm not a huge fan.

The Ugly: well, the card, overall. It's an awful design - I get the ''actor / theater curtain'' thing, sure, but why blue and not red? And why not a picture? Why so bland?

On the plus side, the celebrity's name is reprinted on the back, so it's not all generic. And my particular swatch has stitching on the side... which I can see because the swatch doesn't even make it to the edge of the hole.

I seriously wonder how little effort went into this sub-set (from images I've seen online, the autograph cards are light-years better), so much so that it makes me doubt the authenticity of the pieces; I don't think a company with so little financial means for a proper card design could be bothered to purchase their ''authentic clothing'' from renowned auctions (Sotherbys?) and instead am leaning towards some garage sale in Dayton, Ohio or a shady Ebay seller with a lower-than ''5'' rating...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mike Ribeiro Autograph Card

Well, congratulations are in order for Mike Ribeiro, who seems to once again have found work centering an NHL team's first line, this time with the Nashville Predators (possibly the last team in the West without a #1 center), where he'll be able to feed James Neal enough perfect passes to once more reach the 40-goal plateau.

The pair had previously been teammates with the Dallas Stars, and a natural passer combined with a natural shooter, both with things to prove, just might be what makes the Preds a playoff-bound team. That, and the play of Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber, of course.

But with the additions of Ribeiro, Neal, Olli Jokinen, and Derek Roy, and with Mike Fisher set to return from injury in December to play along with the young prospects the organization has been grooming, it's safe to say Nashville has never been so deep in their top-6 forwards, despite some being in their twilight years (Jokinen and Roy, particularly).

And it's a cheap group, too, with Ribeiro out to make $1.05M, Roy $1M, and Jokinen $2.5M.

So it's a great time to feature this signed insert from In the Game's 2001-02 Be A Player Signature Series set (card #237, his First Signature Card as stated on the back, signed on-card in thin black sharpie with his jersey number - 71 - tagged at the end), showing him in the Montréal Canadiens' white (then-home) uniform:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chris Pronger Jersey Card

I mentioned a trade I made recently on yesterday's Don Beaupre post, which was two cards for one, with Frank from Frank's Hockey Autograph Blog. The second player going my way in the trade was Chris Pronger:

It's card #J-CP from Upper Deck's 2007-08 Series 1 collection, featuring a black jersey swatch to match with the picture of the towering defenseman, then suiting up for the Anaheim Ducks. The design is a little simplistic, and the card's corners are a little worn out, but I don't care.

I used to really not like Pronger. He started off with the Hartford Whalers, who picked him second overall in 1993. Perhaps it had to do with the team he was on, but he looked lost on the ice back then, like a deer in the headlights. And he had a multitude of off-ice problems, including bar-room brawls and DUIs. He only played in Hartford for two seasons before getting traded to the St. Louis Blues.

It was while in St. Louis that I really started to dislike him. He was thuggish, mean, and pretty much just evil, using his 6'6'' frame and 220 pounds to attempt to injure opponents rather than just take the puck away from them and try to get it in the opposing net. He played for Team Canada at the 1998 Olympics alongside other brutes like Eric Lindros, and I was happy when they choked, though I was sad for Wayne Gretzky and Joe Sakic. He was eventually made the Blues' captain and won the Hart and Norris trophies - three titles I think should have gone to teammate Al MacInnis instead.

He was traded to the Edmonton Oilers prior to the 2005-06 season, and was selected for the Olympics for a third straight time - and second major choke job, finishing in 7th place. But something special happened in the playoffs, where Pronger actually, magically, for a two-month period, became the best player in the NHL, putting up 21 points in 24 dominant games as the Oilers came up one goal short of the Stanley Cup, losing it to the Carolina Hurricanes in 7 games.

He would win the coveted salad bowl the next season... as a member of the Ducks, after having requested a trade out of the tundra and perpetual snow. I didn't follow him as much in Anaheim, but I had stopped hating him as a player, because he seemed to concentrate on actually playing the game, rather than always going for the kill.

His trade to the Philadelphia Flyers in June 2009 made a whole lot of sense, seeing as the Broad Street Bullies had an identity he fit right into, were contenders every other year (and a playoff-bubble team the next), and loved tough-playing giants with some talent. Unfortunately for them - and him - karma happened, and not only was his vision impaired after a high-stick to the eye by Mikhail Granovski, but a career of bone-crushing hits caught up to him in a (normal, hockey-play) collision with Martin Hanzal, leaving him with post-concussion issues that all but ended his career.

In the grand scheme of things, I think he would have deserved to play out his contract for having cleaned up his game of late, but it's also hard to cry for a guy who's won a Cup, a Norris, a Hart, Olympic gold, captained two teams, and made millions of dollars while injuring dozens of his peers. The Hall Of Fame will likely come calling, possibly even as a first-ballot inductee.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Don Beaupre Autographed Card

I agreed to a trade months ago, but because both the people involved were in the process of moving, we waited until last week to actually pull the trigger. I sent him one of these two Jamie Benn cards I featured last year, and he sent two cards my way, the first of which is this Don Beaupre autographed card:

It's card #310 in Upper Deck's flagship 1992-93 Series 1 set, and comes neatly signed in thin blue sharpie, which looks awesome on top of his red (away) Washington Capitals uniform (and red-white-and-blue Vaughn Legacy 2000 blocker). I had successfully written Mr. Beaupre a little over two years ago and he'd signed the three cards I'd sent him.

He was one of the most consistent goalies in the NHL from 1985 until 1994, getting the most starts on his teams with a good wins-loss record (save for one season where the Minnesota North Stars were pretty bad), with two All-Star Game appearances and finishing in the top-5 for goals-against numerous times, and first in shutouts once.

He probably was just as good even after that, but playing for the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs only got you the league lead in losses at that time (25, in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, playing in 38 of the Sens' 48 games)...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ryan O'Reilly Swatch Card

Ah, the curious case of Ryan O'Reilly. The 33rd pick of the 2009 draft, ahead of Robin Lehner (46th), Brandon Pirri (59th), Tomas Tatar (60th), Tyson Barrie (64th), David Savard (94th), Stanley Cup winner Linden Vey (96th), Gabriel Bourque (132nd), and Gabriel Dumont (139th) already has NHL hardware - he won the Lady Byng trophy this summer after notching just two penalty minutes all season, for playing with a broken stick no less - but is also entering his second contract dispute with the Colorado Avalanche in less than two years.

He signed an offer sheet with the Calgary Flames a year and a half ago, a trap if there ever was one, considering he made $1M (with a 2.5M signing bonus) the first year, and a whopping $6.5M the second, meaning as a Restricted Free Agent, the team who would own his rights (be they the Flames the Avs or any team he would have been traded to) had at least match the final year's worth just as a qualifying offer, or lose him to Unrestricted Free Agency. Of course, since then, teams were awarded the right to bring a player to arbitration and lower their salary - which they have applied for, and both sides enter the next couple of weeks a little on edge.

And there was that thing with O'Reilly's dad, angry at the organization for not having named his son captain, his Twitter rants, and his attack on how the team views character.

Except character isn't about crying the minute you don't get what you want, it's about getting up when you're down, manning up to your shortcomings, and doing what's best for the group, not yourself. O'Reilly led the team with a lowly 55 points in 2011-12 as the Avs failed to make the playoffs, and he thought it was a good idea to get paid more than 10% of the team's cap - higher than its actual first-liners - hindering their chances at adding outside help; they finished last in their conference the following year, obviously.

To me, those are signs of a mercenary, and those guys don't deserve a letter on their jersey, least of which a 'C'. They are those you use while your prospects develop, then send to places where folks would rather watch NASCAR than hockey, or in a desert on an always-bankrupt team, or a teal-coloured ''perennial contender'', or in frigid Manitoba. You forget they ever existed, save for the three draft picks they got you when you set them free.

But maybe I'm just a romantic when it comes to Colorado. Maybe I've been spoiled by Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy and Milan Hejduk, and maybe I believe Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog are made of the same cloth.

And yet, after saying all this, I didn't hate it when I unpacked this 2012-13 Certified card by Panini (#FOG-RO of the Fabric Of The Game sub-set, numbered /49/299), showing him in the Avs' dark (home) uniform with a white jersey swatch:

The silver foil actually looks better scanned than in real life, which is pretty rare. I wouldn't mind white swatches so much if the picture on the card at least depicted the player having some on him... not doing so just tells me they buy those because they're cheaper, which is likely because it looks bland, or else it'd be on the card. Unless three wrongs make a right...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Louis Leblanc Jersey Card

The Anaheim Ducks signed former Montréal Canadiens prospect Louis Leblanc to a one-year, two-way contract earlier this weekend, probably as a means to really show what he can do in their own system, and be assessed by their own staff rather than look at the raw stats and read dumb comments like ''what a bust'' from anonymous internet bloggers who have never seen him play.

Every single one of his statistics can be used in a positive and negative light: he played 8 games with the Habs last year, without registering a single point - but he played less than 10 minutes a game and was a +1; he only scored 13 goals for the Hamilton Bulldogs this past year - it was the 4th-best total on the team despite being the third-line center (behind Martin St. Pierre and Gabriel Dumont); he only scored 13 the year before - yeah, but that ranked second on the team, despite missing 20 games with a serious injury.

To me, all of that shows promise, and how a difficult context can hinder one's progress. Of course, he'll have to either put the past behind or use it as motivation, but he can't solely focus on the time he's lost with the Habs, because that might lead him the Angelo Esposito route and have him play in second-tier Italian leagues in no time.

This won't be his last chance to play in the NHL by any stretch of the imagination, but it could be the last time someone offers him a legitimate chance at proving he can be a  long-time quality second-line player.

And so this should be my last post on Mr. Leblanc until he scores his first NHL hat trick or something; what better way to do it than with this beautiful 2012-13 Artifacts (card #141) by Upper Deck, numbered #11/125, featuring two swatches - one of them a two-colour one - of him playing for Canada:

He medalled twice for Canada, having won gold at the 2008 U-18 / Ivan Hlinka tournament, and silver at the 2011 World Juniors, posting 12 points in 11 games in those tournamants, finishing first and fourth in team scoring, respectively.