Sunday, August 19, 2018

Upper Deck 2017-18 Maple Leafs Centennial Blaster Box Break

Way to market a set to kids who grew up in the 1990s, Upper Deck!

I was not going to buy a product from UD's commemorative 2017-18 Maple Leafs Centennial set unless it came at a huge bargain, but I decided a blaster box at $24.95 ($5 off) was a good enough deal for a little less than 50 cards, especially since I was guaranteed a numbered card in it that I could probably trade or try to get my money back on if gotten rid of wisely.

Let's see what I got...

38 base cards ranging from the team mascot Carlton to Hall Of Famers Charlie Conacher, Red Kelly and Grant Fuhr, including plenty from my youth (1986-95):
My favourite insert set has to be the Die-Cut cards, of which I pulled five: Jim McKenny, Red Horner, Gary Leeman, Ace Bailey and Auston Matthews:
A close second is this dual jersey card of Nazem Kadri and Connor Brown (of the Materials Duo variety):
Some cards honor Memorable Moments in Leafs history:
Others remember Trophy Winners past:
I pulled two Hockey Hall Of Fame players:
And one Retired Numbers card of Borje Salming:
... but NO CARD numbered to #99.

I'm not sure if these came on average per box or if they're guaranteed in the form of "floaters", but I didn't get one.

Still, there were decent pulls from a decent set that I'll rate as a 7.5/10. I preferred the numbers of autographs from the 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers set, and I thought the player selection was much better with the 2008-09 Canadiens Centennial set, but this one's still a winner.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

2018-19 Upper Deck Hockey MVP Blaster Box Break

I wasn't on the lookout for this, seeing as we're closer to mid-August than the end of the month, but when I came across a blaster box of 21 (20+1) packs of Upper Deck's classic 2018-19 MVP set, I jumped on it.

You'll recall past years had three more packs, for 15 more cards total, but I can live with that. You still get over a hundred cards for $30 (plus taxes, which comes up to just under $35 in Québec, so probably $25 in the U.S. and Canada).

The base cards are pretty cool, as can be seen below, and I didn't get a single double in the entire box:
I got three "Puzzle Back" cards, two of which I believe will form Nathan MacKinnon's card:
The other one probably belongs to Sidney Crosby, meaning both players would hail from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia:
I fell upon three Silver Scripts cards, none of which I will likely keep long-term:
I did get a bunch of rookie cards, one of which was of the "base" variety, of Dylan Sikura:
And (count 'em!) three Copper parallels, of Dominic Turgeon (Pierre's son), Joe Ricketts, and Adam Gaudette:
And there was one that it under the Player Credentials sub-set (i.e. Entry Level Access), of Ryan Donato:
And two players I'd take on my team any day in the "regular" Player Credentials sub-set, Jamie Benn and Brendan Gallagher:
Perhaps the coolest bub-set this year, though, is the 20th Anniversary Parallels, which takes the same picture and stats line as the regular-issue card but puts it in the inaugural 1998-99 MVP template, like these cards from Drew Doughty and Mathew Barzal:
Of note, the 20th Anniversary cards includes a blurb about the player on the back of the card that is absent from the base version.

As usual, this is far from a premium set, but its affordability makes collecting the base cards a perfect starting point for autograph seekers like myself.

I'll rate this one a solid 7/10.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Garry Galley: Three Autographed Cards

Garry Galley is a Montréal-born All-Star defenseman who spent most of his prime playing for two of the Montréal Canadiens' most bitter rivals, the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers.

He actually started his career with the Los Angeles Kings, though, having been drafted 100th overall in 1983; he then spent a year and a half with the Washington Capitals before signing in Boston as a free agent.

Playing behind Ray Bourque on the Bs, Galley was among the best second-pair defenders in the league, helping the team reach the Stanley Cup Final in 1989-90 and playing in the 1991 All-Star Game. He even scored an overtime winner against the Habs in Round 2 of the 1990 playoffs that was compared to Bobby Orr's classic 1970 Cup-clinching "Superman" goal.

In February of 1992, however, the Bruins took advantage of his high value and sent him to the Flyers with Wes Walz for Brian Dobbin, the similarly-talented Gord Murphy and the draft pick that became Sergei Zholtok.

The Flyers ended up very happy with the trade, as Galley had his two most productive seasons in the NHL in Philly, posting 62- and 70-point seasons in the City Of Brotherly Love. He would appear as a member of the Flyers in the 1994 All-Star Game.

Once again taking advantage of his high tgrade value, the Flyers sent him to the Buffalo Sabres for former Habs defenseman/scout - and current player agent of most Czech players - Petr Svoboda. His two full seasons with the Sabres stand as a perfect example of what the mid-1990s clutch-and-grab style did to hockey, as can be attested by his stats line:
from HockeyDB
It's not that Galley regressed, it's that the entire NHL stopped scoring because everybody was imitating the New Jersey Devils' trap system to varying degrees of success, creating what became known as the Dead Puck Era.

After that, Galley spent three seasons with the Kings before playing out his final year with the New York Islanders.

Nowadays, he lives in Ottawa, where he provides game analysis to Ottawa Senators games on local radio and colour commentary on CBC's and Sportsnet's coverage of Hockey Night in Canada.

He's pretty cool in person, which is how I got him to sign these three cards in blue sharpie, starting with this one of him wearing the Bruins' classic black uniform from my youth, on card #71 from Score's 1991-92 Series 1 set:
And there are two from the Flyers, with the home and away variations of their 1980s/1990s uniforms:
On the left is the orange (away) uniform, featured on card #156 from Fleer's 1992-93 Fleer Ultra set, while on the card shows him sporting the white (home) uniform, from Upper Deck's 1992-93 Series 1 set (card #319).

For each of them, he also added the correct jersey number - 28 with the Bruins, 3 with the Flyers - in a bubble below his signature.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Mike Smith: Two Autographed Cards

On November 14th, 2017, I sent the following three cards to Mike Smith of the Calgary Flames:
Possibly because his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning was mostly sub-par, he didn't sign the 2010-11 Black Diamond card I sent in:
But along with it, in an envelope received in June, were these two signed cards, in fading black sharpie:
I had told him he was now on a team that didn't need him to play like during his Vezina-nominated 2011-12 season with the Phoenix Coyotes, where his spectacular play led his team to its lone Conference Final, that all he needed to be was himself and that would already be not only good enough but the team's first quality netminder since Miikka Kiprusoff.

All told, he finished with a 25-22-6 record, 2.65 GAA, .916 save percentage (just about league average) and three shutouts (above league average) on a team that underperformed enough to see its coach get fired.

Here's a closer look at the cards he signed, first featuring him in the Arizona Coyotes' white (away) uniform, on card #38 from Upper Deck's 2016-17 MVP set (and a Puzzle Piece for Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux on the back):
And here he is wearing the home burgundy uniform, on card #63 from UD's 2017-18 Artifacts set:
He tagged his uniform number (41) at the end of each signature.

I still believe the Flames - like most teams - don't need a savior in net and that Smith, under these circumstances, can thrive in Alberta. At least one 8-year-old fan thinks the same way.

He was the third-string goalie for Team Canada as it won gold at the 2014 Olympics and the starter with the same result at the 2015 World Championships.

Monday, July 9, 2018

My Sens Numbers Project: An Introduction

Has it really come to this, a gimmick worth repeating many times over, after my initial Habs Numbers Project and my Oilers Numbers Project?

Actually, it's more that I realized I had a lot of this one down already: so far, I have featured 41/70 numbers used in previous posts:

1: Damian Rhodes: check!
2: Lance Pitlick and Jared Cowen: heck!
3: Zdeno Chara: jersey card check!
4: Chris Phillips: check (and once more)!
5: Christoph Schubert: check!
6: Wade Redden: check!
7: Randy Cunneyworth: check!
9: Milan Michalek: check!
10: Brandon Bochenski: check!
11: Daniel Alfredsson: check!
12: Mike Fisher: check (and once more)!
14: Andrej Meszaros and Colin Greening: check!
15: Shawn McEachern: check!
16: Brian McGrattan, Bobby Butler, Clarke MacArthur, and Mark Stone: check!
17: Jody Hull: check!
19: Jason Spezza: check! (also wore #44 and #39)
21: Dennis Vial: check!
22: Shaun Van Allen: check!
24: Stéphane Da Costa: check!
25: Bruce Gardiner: check!
26: Bob Kudelski: check!
27: Janne Laukkanen: check!
30: Brian Elliott: check!
31: Peter Sidorkiewicz: check! (also Alex Auld)
33: Jakob Silfverberg and Pascal Leclaire: check!
38: Erik Condra: check! (also wore #22)
39: Matt Carkner: check!
40: Robin Lehner: check! (also Jeff Glass and Patrick Lalime)
41: Craig Anderson: check!
43: Roman Wick: check!
44: Jason Spezza: check! (also wore #19) (also, Jean-Gabriel Pageau)
46: Patrick Wiercioch: check!
47: André Benoit: check!
53: Ilya Zubov: check!
57: Derek Grant: check!
59: David Dziurzynski: check!
61: Mark Stone: check!
62: Eric Gryba: check!
65: Erik Karlsson: jersey card check!
74: Mark Borowiecki and Steve Larouche: check!
89: Cory Conacher: check!

Captains: Cunneyworth, Alfredsson.

I'll reiterate that I'm looking for collectibles - ideally signed cards, but also signed pictures or, at the very least, jersey cards of players from every possible Sens jersey number that has been worn.

Here are examples of things I'll be featuring soon - or am looking to add to the list:

13: Peter Regin, Vinny Prospal or Ted Drury I remember
18: Marian Hossa will be in the HoF some day, but Jim O'Brien works too
20: Antoine Vermette and Marek Svatos are players I followed
23: Kaspars Daugavins' number
28: neither Zenon Konopka nor Matt Kassian replied to my TTMs
29: I could totally go for Martin Gerber and his black mask here
32: only Rob Ray and Daniel Berthiaume have ever worn this number
34: only Darren Rumble and Shane Hnidy have worn this one
35: only 5 goalies have worn this one, including Auld, Tom Barrasso and Mike Bales
36: only Josh Hennessy wore it for more than a few games
37: only Dean McAmmond wore it for more than one calendar year
42: Julien Vauclair would be cool for a goalie nerd like myself
45: only worn by Denis Hamel or Alexandre Picard
48: Jared Cowen wore it briefly
49: Michel Picard or Francis Lessard
51: Derek Smith
52: Colin Greening had it for a short spell
55: Sergei Gonchar never replied to my TTM, but Brian Lee also works
56: Lance Pitlick
58: Cody Bass, briefly
60: Mark Stone (who also wore 61)
68: Mike Hoffman
71: Nick Foligno
73: Guillaume Latendresse or Jarkko Ruutu
76: Radek Bonk
77: Joe Corvo
78: Pavol Demitra
82: Martin Straka
83: Ales Hemsky, very briefly
90: Alex Chiasson
91: Alexandre Daigle
93: Mike Zibanejad
94: Stan Neckar
97: Matt Gilroy

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Steve Larouche Autographed Card

Like many Montrealers, I keep moving (on average every other year); with each move comes a trial period while I try to figure out how to display some of my stuff (DVDs and Blu-rays, signed cards, signed pictures in frames, paintings, show artwork) and I always temporarily misplace stuff.

Right now, I can't find the thousand cards I had slated to feature next starting in April, but I did find another box of "unused" autographs like this one of Steve Larouche, sporting the Ottawa Senators' old white uniform, with the somewhat-rare #74:
It's card #38 from Topps' 1995-96 Topps set, which he signed in blue sharpie in 2010-11.

He had his finest NHL moments with the Sens, posting 15 points in 18 games, including his lone NHL hat trick against the team that drafted him 41st overall in 1989, the Montréal Canadiens, on April 3rd, 1995.

I have many more of his cards... somewhere!

Stay tuned, I should be able to post them before 2030.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Tyler Ennis Autographed Card

The Toronto Maple Leafs made a huge splash in free agency this summer by signing former Buffalo Sabres first round pick (26th overall in 2008) Tyler Ennis to a one-year deal earlier today.

Having been bought out by the Minnesota Wild on a deal that paid him $4.6M per year for four years, Ennis will be making the league minimum this year ($650K) trying to relaunch his career and playing on what many consider to be a top Stanley Cup contender.

However, the Leafs are also the team that wasted the best years of players such as Lanny McDonald, Doug Gilmour, Ed Belfour, Curtis Joseph, Wendel Clark, Mats Sundin, Rick Vaive, Borje Salming, Tomas Kaberle, Phil Kessel, and Darryl Sittler, as well as the pre-retirement years of Brian Leetch, Mike Gartner, Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk, Alexander Mogilny, Ron Francis, James van Riemsdyk and Jean-Sébastien Giguère.

It must be something in the water.

Which is why I'm not to worried about the Northern San Jose Sharks making a splash in free agency this year (that John Tavares player is pretty good) after adding has-been Patrick Marleau last year.

Had I been Ennis' agent, I would have advised him to try to get signed by his hometown Edmonton Oilers instead.

Here he is sporting the Sabres' white uniform from the beginning of the decade, a bit of a throwback to their classic garbs with the unfortunate defect of showing the uniform number on the front, on card #184 from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Series 1 set, which he signed in blue sharpie, making sure to add his uniform number at the end:
Ennis is a three-time 20-goal scorer, although it seems his best years are behind him. In his defense, he hasn't put up terrific numbers these past three years because they have been injury-plagued seasons that have seemed to slow him down a bit.

Maybe he can evolve into a dependable third-liner for the rest of what should be his prime years (he's still just 28), although he would have had a better shot at it away from the spotlights and tough press of Toronto, in my opinion.

He signed that card for me around 2014 or 2015, whist with the Sabres.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Zachary Fucale Autographed Card

Who knows best how to build a team, a GM who takes over a team two years removed from a Conference Final and manages to miss the playoffs three times in five years and mortgages 15% of his salary cap on a goalie three years removed from his lone good season, or a GM who builds a Stanley Cup Finalist out of rejects from the other 30 teams in his first year on the job?

GM #2 in this story, the Vegas Golden Knights' George McPhee, just signed former second-round pick, 23-year-old Zachary Fucale, to a one-year, two-way deal, banking on his youth, his pedigree as a three-time Team Canada gold medalist and the fact that despite posting a career-low in save percentage with the AHL's Laval Rocket last year, was the team's best goalie - both from an eye test and statistically. It was just an awful, awful team that was terribly outcoached every single game.

GM #1 truly believes Carey Price is the only player he needs to have that is an NHL-level talent (although, considering last season, even that last bit of sentence is up for debate).

We'll see who's right in due time, but I'd like to say to those who think Fucale is overrated that at the same stage of his career, Price had been supplanted at the Montréal Canadiens' #1 goalie by Jaroslav Halak for three years straight despite the job being Price's every training camp, and Price finished with pedestrian numbers every year:
From HockeyReference
And, of course, it was much worse come playoff time:
Fucale, despite playing on the worst AHL team of the past decade, displayed some fine control when facing NHL-level talent:

So, yeah, I still believe Fucale can develop into a fine NHL backup before the age of 25 and a starter before he reaches 28, following the career trajectories of Carter Hutton, Cam Talbot, Antti Raanta, Scott Darling (well, he might not be the best example) and Craig Anderson.

Here he is sporting the Halifax Mooseheads' beautiful white uniform, on card #244 from In The Game's 2012-13 Heroes And Prospects set and CHL Rookie sub-set:
He signed it for me in blue sharpie last season, when the Habs called him up without playing him a single second.

Monday, July 2, 2018

2017-18 Upper Deck Hockey Series 2 Box Break

Time for a second-straight box break, yesterday's twin in a way, for Upper Deck's 2017-18 Series 2:
Ah, Connor McDavid! I already know I'm in for a better treat than with Series 1!

The first clue to that is that the box is shock-full of Vegas Golden Knights and has players in their new uniforms (too bad Jaromir Jagr didn't last the year with the Calgary Flames):
I thought I could show some nice horizontal base cards as well:
The O-Pee-Chee glossy rookies (in their own special pack) were a treat, and I got a nice selection with Alex DeBrincat, Brock Boeser and Clayton Keller:
And while I could have done away with actual O-Pee-Chee Marquee Rookies in a box of another product, I did land Oscar Fantenberg and Jan Rutta in the regular-issue versions:
And I'll try to get the variant of Christian Jaros signed next year to add to my Sens Numbers Project:
I also got a Young Guns card of Alex Iafallo:
And I was most surprised to fall onto a Rookie Materials insert of Jonny Brodzinski:
And those weren't the only rookies, either, as I fell upon Alex DeBrincat and Ivan Barbashev in the UD Portraits inserts as well:
I also got a pair of veterans in the UD Canvas sub-sets, Johnny Oduya and the long-retired Ed Olczyk, seen here messing around Rick Wamsley's net:
Maybe I was luckier with my pulls, or maybe it's just a much better set, but this one's a pretty big upgrade from Series 1.

I give it a solid 8/10.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

2017-18 Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 Box Break

This post has been four months in he making...

I moved on April 1st, and it was pretty hectic, to say the least. It took me about a month to have all of my things in the new apartment, it took a while to get the internet service connected, then my laptop died (and with hit a couple of hundred scans I'd prepared for upcoming posts).

That, and my new job is taking so much of my time.

However, I wanted to celebrate my new place with a couple of box breaks...

So here is the first one, for Upper Deck's 2017-18 Series 1.
 Parkhurst rookies? Yep, and they're good too:
Here's what the regular-issue base cards look like:
As usual, a nice, clean design from Upper Deck, the picture bleeding all the way to the side of the card, weird and unique angles, oddball jerseys, and the player's complete career statistics on the back, complete with at least one fun fact.

I also got a good selection of Young Guns rookie cards in Haydn Fleury, Jack Roslovic and Evgeny Svechnikov:
There were three Shining Stars, Jeff Skinner, Nicklas Backstrom and this one of Alexander Wennberg:
These have a look reminiscent of the Black Diamond series, where the rest of the play is faded out to leave the player front and center.

Then there's the now-classic UD Canvas cards, like this one of Nikolaj Ehlers (and another one of Rick Nash):
These are nice to get signed, as their texture really lends itself to the marker's permanence well.

I fell upon two UD Portraits, one of David Krejci and this one featuring Marc-Édouard Vlasic:
These are standard fare at this point, black-and-white bust shots more often than not.

There are a bunch of cards I can't wait to get signed in this batch, but nothing that really stood out. I could have done without a Leaf on the front of the box, particularly in a year when there's an all-Leaf set (Centennial), but the Parkhurst rookies made up for that.

I rate this one a 7.5/10.