Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Nicolas Deschamps Autographed Card

Nicolas Deschamps was a second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks (35th overall in 2008) after posting better than point-per-game averages over three seasons in the LHJMQ, mostly with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens.

He then had up-and-down seasons in the AHL, oscillating between nearly point-per-game runs and a few deeply ineffective ones as well, such as his lone assist in 12 games with the Syracuse Crunch in his last go-round in 2014-15.

He mostly toiled around in Europe for the past four seasons, spending time in Austria, Finland, Germany, and Sweden, before finding his niche with France's Rouen Dragons, with 20 goals, 28 assists and 48 points in 44 games so far for the second-place team (with a 30-9-3-2 record in 44 games).

He signed this card for me in 2012-13, a season during which he spent time with both the Toronto Marlies and the Hershey Bears in the AHL:
It's card #97 from In The Game's 2008-09 Heroes And Prospects set. It shows hiom wearing the Sags' beautiful blue (away) uniform.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Eric Brewer Autographed Card

The Olympics are upon us, so what better time to add to my Team Canada Numbers Project! with #3, Eric Brewer , wearing Team Canada's white (home) uniform, on card #256 from Upper Deck's 1998-99 Choice set and World Junior Showcase sub-set:
Brewer was one of the better defensemen to come out of the 1997 draft, as can be attested by both his being taken 5th overall, his 271 career points and 792 penalty minutes in 1009 regular-season games, and his being captain of the St. Louis Blues for parts of three seasons. He's also won Olympic gold (2002), World Championship gold (2003, 2004 and 2007), a World Cup title (2004) and World Juniors silver (1998).

Other notable defensemen selected in 1997 include Paul Mara (7th overall, 253 points and 776 PIMs in 734 games), Nick Boynton (9th, 144 points and 862 PIMs in 605 games), Scott Hannan (23rd, 217 points and 625 PIMs in 1055 games), Henrik Tallinder (48th, 142 points and 378 PIMs in 678 games), Joe Corvo (83rd, 310 points and 241 PIMs in 708 game), Brian Campbell (156th, 504 points and 277 penalty minutes in 1082 games), and Andrew Ference (208th, 225 points and 753 PIMs in 905 games with one Stanley Cup).

All told, yeah, despite finishing with a career -99 and only appearing in the playoffs four times in a 16-year career, Brewer was arguably and objectively in the top-3 at his position in his draft class.

He signed that card for me in blue sharpie whist with the Tampa Bay Lightning, probably during their long post-season run in 2011.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

My Team Canada Numbers Project

Well, I have Numbers Projects for so many teams now (my Habs Numbers Project, my Oilers Numbers Project my Sens Numbers Project, my Canucks Numbers Project, my Nordiques Numbers Project, my Flames Numbers Project and my Expos Numbers Project), I figured why not make one for Team Canada as well?

It'll be easier in some regards with all the national teams at all the levels (including but not limited to the World Juniors, the World Championships, the Spengler Cup, the Canada/World Cup, the Summit Series, and the Mens and Womens Olympic teams), but I'm again at a loss for #99 (Wayne Gretzky) and likely will be for my entire life.

I'm sticking to hockey, but who knows, maybe I'll get to add some from other sports as well.
So far, I have featured 28 players representing a total of 24 jersey numbers.

Here they are:

1: Braden Holtby: check!
3: Eric Brewer: check!
4: Chris Phillips: check!
5: Samuel Morin: check!
10: Brayden Schenn and Charles Hudon (also wore #16): check!
11: Zachary Boychuk: check!
12: Lanny McDonald: jersey card check!
13: Caroline Ouellette: check (and check again)!
14: Thomas Hickey: check!
16: Charles Hudon (also wore #10): check!
17: Marcus Foligno: jersey card check!
19: Alexandre Daigle: check!
20: Guillaume Latendresse and Louis Leblanc: check!
22: Frédérik Gauthier: check!
23: Rob Niedermayer and Daniel Audette: check!
24: Patrice Brisebois and Logan Couture: check!
28: Nathan Beaulieu: check!
29: Marie-Philip Poulin: check!
30: Dustin Tokarski: jersey card check!
31: Geneviève Lacasse and Olivier Roy: check!
32: Charline Labonté: check!
37: Patrice Bergeron: jersey card check!
51: Ryan Getzlaf: jersey card check!
97: Joe Thornton: jersey card check!

Captains: Poulin, Hickey

Friday, February 2, 2018

Brandon Prust Autographed Card

I got a great surprise in the mail today, one I had abandoned any hope of getting back:
That's a return from Brandon Prust, who signed card #269 from Panini's 2013-14 Score set in black sharpie adding his Montréal Canadiens uniform number (8) at the end and returned it by mail.

It's been so long that I no longer remember the year when I sent it (probably two years ago), but I remember I'd also sent him cards of his with the Calgary Flames and New York Rangers.

I guess he has time now that's he's retired and joined the coaching staff of the OHL's London Knights.

I met him last summer, and he really thought he still had a shot at making an NHL lineup, so much so that I believed him. In his prime, particularly with the Rangers and Habs, he was a terrific grinding third-liner who played with a physical edge. he could score 5 goals per year, get 15-20 points and 150 penalty minutes while playing against the opposition's second line and killing penalties.

Now he'll be able to share his passion with teenagers and young adults, showing them that playing balls-out with your heart on your sleeve can lead to fanbases still respecting you years after you've left town and marrying a local celebrity.

What's cool about this card is that it also features captains Brian Gionta and Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins) in the background, proving my point about his usage and usefulness.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

My Habs Numbers Project: An Introduction

So many hockey collectors have ''special projects'' they pursue to make their hobby even more fun, from trying to gather specific cards from every single Vancouver Canucks goalie to having an autographed card of every player who has reached the 1000-point mark.

I decided to start a project myself: to gather a special piece (jersey cards could work, but ideally an autographed card) from a player from every number worn by a member of the Montréal Canadiens.
Here's a look at the task that's ahead of me, starting with those I have:

Head Coach: Scotty Bowman: check!
1: Brian Hayward, Roland Melanson and Rick Wamsley: check!
2: Gaston Gingras (also wore #29): check!
3: Sylvain Lefebvre once (then twice), and Brian Engblom: check!
4: the one and only Jean Béliveau: check!
5: Stéphane Quintal and Guy Lapointe: check!
6: Ralph Backstrom: check!
8: Brandon Prust: check!
10: Guy Lafleur: check!
11: Claude Larose and Ryan Walter: check!
12: Yvan Cournoyer and Mike Keane: check! (also: Darcy Tucker)
13: Alex Tanguay: check!
14: Mario Tremblay: check! (also, Tomas Plekanec, who also wore #35)
15: Réjean Houle once, (then twice), and Bobby Smith: check! (also: George Parros)
16: Henri Richard: check!
17: Georges Laraque and Benoît Brunet: check!
18: Valeri Bure: check!, and Serge Savard: signed lithograph check!
20: Phil Goyette: check!
21: Brian Gionta: once, then twice, and Christopher Higgins: check!
22: Steve Shutt, Steve Bégin and Gilbert Dionne: check!
23: Turner Stevenson: check! (twice)
24: Andreas Dackell: postcard check!
25: Vincent Damphousse: check!
26: Josh Gorges: check!
27: Alex Kovalev: jersey card check!
28: Kyle Chipchura and Éric Desjardins: check!
29: Gaston Gingras (also wore #2) and Brett Clark: check! 
30: Mathieu Garon: postcard check, Peter Budaj, and David Aebischer: check!
31: Carey Price: check! (also Jeff Hackett)
32: Travis Moen: check!
34: Peter Popovic: check!
35: Alex Auld: check! (also, Tomas Plekanec, who wore #14 as well)
36: Marcel Hossa (also wore 81) and Matt D'Agostini: check!
37: Steve Penney and André Racicot: check!
38: Jan Bulis: postcard check!
40: Maxim Lapierre: check! (also, this Éric Chouinard postcard)
41: Jaroslav Halak: check!
42: Alexander Perezhogin: check!
43: Patrice Brisebois and Andrew Cassels: check!
44: Stéphane Richer: check!
45: Gilbert Dionne: check!
46: Andrei Kostitsyn: 8x10 check!
47: Brendon Nash and Stéphan Lebeau (also wore #50): check!
48: Jean-Jacques Daigneault, and James Wyman: check!
49: Brian Savage: check!
50: Stéphan Lebeau (also wore #47): check!
51: David Desharnais: check! (also wore #58)
52: Craig Rivet: postcard check!
54: Patrick Traverse: postcard check!
55: Francis Bouillon (also wore #51): check!
57: Blake Geoffrion: check!
58: David Desharnais: check! (also wore #51)
59: Brock Trotter: check!
60: José Theodore: check and check again!
61: Raphael Diaz: check!
63: Craig Darby: check!
64: Greg Pateryn: check!
65: Robert Mayer: check!
67: Max Pacioretty: check!
68: Yannick Weber: check!
70: Zachary Fucale: 4x6 picture check!
71: Louis Leblanc and Mike Ribeiro: check!
72: Mathieu Carle: check!
73: Michael Ryder: check!
74: Alexei Emelin: check!
75: Yann Danis: check!
76: P.K. Subban: jersey card check!
77: Pierre Turgeon: check!
79: Andrei Markov: check!
80: Ben Maxwell: check!
81: Lars Eller: check!
84: Guillaume Latendresse: check!
91: Scott Gomez: check!
94: Yanic Perreault and Tom Pyatt: check!

Captains: Béliveau, Gionta, Turgeon

Which means I'm looking to fill these:

7: This will be the hardest, seeing as Howie Morenz died in 1937 and the number was soon retired...
9: There are signature cards of Maurice 'The Rocket' Richard, but I don't think I'll ever be able to afford one!
19: This one will likely be between Terry Harper and Larry Robinson
33: Of course, my boyhood idol is Patrick Roy. Richard Sévigny would also be fine.
39: I think I also have a Reid Simpson one, but I'd love to upgrade to a Cristobal Huet or Enrico Ciccone
53: Rory Fitzpatrick and Ryan White have worn this number the longest
56: David Wilkie, Alain Nasreddine, Scott Fraser and Stéphane Robidas are the only ones to have worn this number in Montréal
62: It's a toss-up between Duncan Milroy and Frédéric St-Denis, but I did send St-Denis cards this season
66: Has only been worn in pre-season games
69: another pre-season number
78: I probably have some Éric Landry stuff somewhere...
82: It'd be nice to have Donald Audette's signature on a Canadiens' product
83: I don't even remember Éric Bertrand, but I'll gladly take the refresher course
85: never been worn, huh
86: Jonathan Ferland
87: never been worn
88: Chris Higgins wore it for a short while, as did Xavier Delisle
89: never been worn
90: I have lots of Joé Juneau cards, none of them signed
92: never been worn
93: the one and only Doug Gilmour
95: goalie Olivier Michaud would make my day, but Sergei Berezin would be fine as well
96, 97, 98, 99: have never been worn

Sunday, January 28, 2018

2017-18 Parkhurst Hockey Blaster Box Break

The minute I saw this blaster box of Upper Deck's 2017-18 Parkhurst, I knew I was going to buy it, and I knew I was going to write about it. And I'm fairly happy with the cards I pulled, too.

First, though, this is what the cards themselves look like, starting with the regular-issue base cards:
Green is the defining colour of Upper Deck's current iteration of the brand, as can be attested by these and last year's cards, and it's a good look.

That being said, there are different-coloured parallels, such as the "red" variants:
I was also happy I pulled quite a few Vegas Golden Knights players:
One of them was even part of the Prominent Prospects sub-set:
One semi-original, semi-cool but come-to-think-of-it,I've-never-seen-before sub-sets is East vs West, as can be attested by these Jonathan Toews and Evgeni Malkin cards:
Perhaps the nicest-to-have sub-set is the Rookies:
And one of them was of the "grey" variation, of prized prospect Owen Tippett:
I was happy to land one of the most exciting young players in the game, Patrik Laine, in the Blow The Horn red foil sub-set:
And if the East vs West sub-set reminiscent of past All-Star Games isn't enough, the pseudo-Olympic International sub-set gets the job done:
Cool side note: even though it wasn't the case at the time, all three players I pulled are now captains of their teams.

Perhaps even more so than last year, I think UD scored a home run with this set this year.

Another 8.5 in my book.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Brandon Sutter Autographed Card

Mark this one as the biggest success story of the evening: Vancouver Canucks second-line center Brandon Sutter scored the game winner in his return from a 21-game absence due to a lower-body injury.

The former first-round draft pick (11th overall, Carolina Hurricanes, 2007) has only reached the 40-point mark once in his nine-year NHL career so far, but I do feel like he's a fine #2 center on a playoff team or an excellent #3 on a Stanley Cup contender; he is good at keeping and retrieving the puck, won 54.3% of his faceoffs last year (but realistically should hover around the 52% mark most years), draws penalties and takes very few, leading some to speculate that he may have been the Canucks' most useful player last year. Then again, the Canucks were a tire sale last year.

But he does fall into the third tier, below the elite stars (Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrice Bergeron) and the dependable veterans who are sometimes award-worthy (Tomas Plekanec, Ryan Kesler).

Still, it's nice to see him get his legs back. Welcome back!

Here he is from his WHL days, wearing the Red Deer Rebels' burgundy (away) uniform, on card #118 from In The Game's 2006-07 Heroes And Prospects set (and Prospect sub-set):
He signed it in blue sharpie during the 2014-15 season.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Gilbert Brulé Jersey Card

Congratulations are in order for Gilbert Brulé, who was named to Team Canada's 25-man Olympic roster for the 2018 Winter Games. He'll be joined by the likes of Rene Bourque, Ben Scrivens, Chris Kelly, Christian Thomas, Maxim Lapierre, Mason Raymond, Derek Roy, Chris Lee, Maxim Noreau, Justin Peters and Kevin Poulin.

He was drafted 6th overall in 2005 by the Columbus Blue Jackets, while many thought the Montréal Canadiens would have jumped on the chance to take a francophone center with the fifth pick; instead, the Habs chose Carey Price, but the behemoth center they should have taken fell to the 11th spot (Anze Kopitar).

While Brulé could never muster up a 20-point season in three tries with the Jackets, his passage with the Edmonton Oilers was slightly more memorable, because although he spent parts of two seasons in the AHL in his three years with the Oilers organization, he also put up 17 goals, 20 assists and 37 points in 65 games with the team in 2009-10, more than doubling his production from the four previous seasons combined.

His time in Edmonton was marred by injuries, though, from a knee injury off a dirty Adam McQuaid hit to a severe flu to a high-ankle sprain to a stomach virus to an abdominal injury to a concussion, he was seemingly never in good enough shape to play.

Then there was the issue with the Phoenix Coyotes sending him to the AHL and Brulé opting to "retire" instead, effective January 1st, 2014... a situation that lasted four months, as he signed in the KHL in May, for the following season.

His stat line was average for his first three seasons in the Kontinental League, but he's had a star-like production since last season:
Courtesy of HockeyDB
Point-per-game seasons are pretty rare in the KHL.

At 31 years of age, he may have a year or two left of "prime" play left in him, but perhaps he's burnt too many bridges for an NHL return.

In any event, being named to the Canadian National Team in an Olympic year is quite an achievement, and while I'm not sure hiring Willie Desjardins as head coach was the wisest decision, GM Sean Burke sure knows what he's doing.

Here's Brulé on a Frankencard that represents how most people see him in North America*, as a doomed prospect from the Jackets and Oilers, on card #GJ-GB from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a dark blue game-worn swatch from a jersey worn during his time in Columbus.

*of course, there was that time when he gave a hitchhiking Bono a ride...

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

1994-95 Action Packed Pins

Regular readers know my fondness for one of the nicest collectors out there, sometimes The Hockey News/Beckett Hockey contributor and creator of PuckJunk, Sal Barry.

I can easily credit Sal for getting me back in the collectibles game, because I abandoned card collecting in the mid-1990s when cards I could see worth worthless were being sold at $50-100 a pop, roughly a year before I took a decade-long hiatus from following my hometown team, the Montréal Canadiens, although I did continue following the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche in the postseason.

In 2000 and 2001, I started seeing packs of cards at dollar stores and would buy one or two once in a while, and in 2002 I bought a decent bunch and fell upon this Nikolai Antropov autograph card, which piqued my interest and brought it back to a 6/10; when my interest in though-the-mail (TTM) autographs peaked in 2009, Sal's website, personal blog, and tips on how to obtain autographs made it go up to 11, so much so that I also went digging through my old stuff that was in my Mom's attic. (Coincidentally, she was about to throw them out).

A couple of weeks ago, Sal wrote an article for Beckett on ill-fated 1994-95 hockey sets by a company named Action Packed and went more specifically into their set of lapel pins in another article on PuckJunk, then proceeded to hold a contest on his Twitter feed to draw three "packs" at random.

And I won!

This is what they look like as photographed by my smartphone:
Clockwise from left, that's Patrick Roy in his iconic Habs mask, Mike Modano, Doug Gilmour and Sergei Fedorov, four of the best players of their era. There's a case to be made for Roy as the best goalie of all time (and I often do), and there's also one to be made for Hart Trophy winner Fedorov as the most important piece of the Detroit Red Wings' 1997, 1998 and 2002 Stanley Cup-winning teams; where Modano stands as one of the best American-born players of all time may be up for debate, but he certainly makes my current Top-5, and Gilmour was tremendous in 1988-89 and 1992-93, perhaps the best player skater not named Wayne Gretzky of those two seasons.

This was supposed to be a 50-player set of the best players in the world.. and Terry Yake:
from PuckJunk
Well, Alexandre Daigle did play a long time but ended up being a marginal player instead of the Pierre Turgeon-like superstar he was sold as being by the scouts of the era. The same can be said of Pat Falloon, and there were a couple of, uh, fighters in the lot (Dave Manson, Marty McSorley, Bob Probert) as well as serviceable players who were not necessarily stars, such as Dmitry Khristich (wrongly spelled on the checklist), Stéphane Richer, Geoff Courtnall, Rick Tocchet, All-Star by default Geoff Sanderson, Tomas Sandstrom, Steve Thomas and Kevin Stevens.

Like I told Sal, I probably would have purchased the Roy at the time if it'd been below $25, but I wouldn't have bought a pack out of fear of landing a few too many Yakes...

It's a great product, though.

Thanks again, Sal!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Corey Crawford Jersey Card

In the past few years, one goalie has usually dominated the entire NHL season to the extent where they overshadow the rest (Sergei Bobrovsky last year, Braden Holtby in 2015-16, Carey Price in 2014-15), with Devan Dubnyk usually pulling the short end of the stick; only Bobrovsky has been able to replicate such high-level performances onto multiple seasons, although a case can also be made for Holtby last year.

This year, the goalie towering over everybody else is Corey Crawford.

I mean, it's no surprise, really; Patrick Kane said he deserved the Conn Smythe more than he did himself when the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2012-13 after posting a 16-7 record with a 1.84 GAA and .932 save percentage, but the fact is that "Crow" was just as good when the Hawks won again in 2014-15 on the superhuman play of Duncan Keith with a 13-6 record (he had trouble against the Nashville Predators in the first round, which didn't stop his overall statistics line falling at 2.31 and .924).

And he's been just as good and steady in the regular season, too, with two Jennings Trophies in the past five years and a fifth-place Vezina finish in 2015-16 when he posted a league-leading 7 shutouts (in just 58 games).

This year, he stands second in the NHL for save percentage, and he missed three games to injury earlier in the season, where the Hawks lost all three games; upon his return, they won five in a row. Talk of Hart Trophy nominations should not be off the table for Crawford, especially if the Hawks sneak into the playoffs on his strong play.

They'll need Anton Forsberg to hold down the fort while Crow's injured, though.

Here he is wearing the Blackhawks' white (away) uniform, on card #AS-20 from Upper Deck's 2015-16 SP Game-Used Editions set and All-Star Skills Fabrics sub-set:
It features a decent-sized red swatch that is either from one of the horizontal lines or the team's red jersey.