Sunday, May 21, 2017

Roman Hamrlik Autographed Card

One player who came to the Montréal Canadiens late in his career and surpassed expectations was Roman Hamrlik, the former first-overall draft pick (Tampa Bay Lightning, 1992).

Bolts fans remember him as the best defenseman on an awful team, one that accumulated minuses at pretty much the same rate as Wayne Gretzky accumulated assists, but the truth is he was a dependable defender when slotted correctly on teams with some talent. In terms of career points, he ranked fifth of his draft year with 638 (155 goals and 483 assists in 1395 games, again, playing defense), behind Sergei Gonchar (14th overall, 220-591-811 in 1301 games), Alexei Yashin (second overall, 337-444-781 in 850 games which included a year-long holdout and a buyout), Cory Stillman (6th overall, 278-449-727 in 1025 games) and Martin Straka (19th overall, 257-460-717 in 954 games).

What's more, even apart from his career-high 65 points with the Lightning in 1995-96, he has posted 40-point seasons with the Edmonton Oilers (45, in 1999-2000) and New York Islanders (46 in 2000-01 and 41 in 2002-03), then could be counted on for 30-some points in the twilight of his career, 2005-11, with the Calgary Flames and Habs, when he became a very good second-pairing defenseman who brought sound positioning, physical play and very good hockey IQ to the line-up.

He retired following the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season, spent mostly as a scratch with the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers, after which he moved back to the South Shore of Montréal where he holds the Hammer Hockey Camp in the summer, with fellow former NHLer Petr Klima, as well as Martin Hamrlik (his older brother, a coach in the Czech Republic) and Karel Svoboda, former Hab (and Jaromir Jagr's agent) Petr Svoboda's brother, who coaches a Midget AAA team on the island during the season.

Of note, he's a huge P.K. Subban fan, and was so even when they were both on the Canadiens; he says rumours of dissent within the locker room at the time were greatly exaggerated, and that those who did have an issue with him are mostly gone (reading between the lines, Hal Gill and Josh Gorges, who were loud and vocal but did not represent the majority of players, come to mind).

Here he is whilst wearing the Isles' blue turn-of-the-millennium away uniform, on card #119 from Upper Deck's 2001-02 Series 1 set:
He signed it with a beautiful silver sharpie, adding his Habs number (44) at the end, rather than the one he wore with the Isles (4).

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Hannu Toivonen 8X10 Autograph Card

Ah ha! I knew I had my own copy of this Hannu Toivonen signed 8x10 card! I finally got a hold of it while searching for this Jhonas Enroth card I've now traded away... but more on that when I talk about what I'm getting in return!

For now, let's focus on my second #SP-HT 8x10 picture/card from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Be A Player Portraits (the Signature Portraits sub-set:
Since my last post in 2013, Toivonen's been plying his trade in Finland, notably for the Tampere Ilves, the most decorated team in Finnish hockey, Finland's Montréal Canadiens, if you will. And, like the Habs, they haven't won a championship in a long time, in their case, since 1985.

He's had a losing record for the last three years, but his individual statistics are pretty decent:
From HockeyDB
I also found two of Nikolai Zherdev's of the same set, so look for that eventually as well.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers Jersey Card

I was wondering what happened to Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers recently, finding it hard to believe that a player who was a 31st overall pick (Edmonton Oilers, 2002) and played last season in Germany (with the Augsburger Panther) would be out of work at 33 years old.

Well, I found him when perusing stats from the Chinook Hockey League, as he played 3 games with the Lacombe Generals (posting a high 2.98 goals-against average but a decent .917 save percentage). If you remember this story about Ryan Smyth, they're the team Smyth's Stony Plain Eagles were facing in the Chinook League final. Both teams eventually made it to the Allan Cup, but the Generals made it to the final.

Justice was served, however, as the Grand-Falls Windsor Cataracts won the championship. Of note, the Generals brought no less than five goalies to the tournament: Drouin-Deslauriers, who was the third-string goalie, Steven Stanford, the backup, and starter Kramer Barnstable; Marcel Léger and Jacob Deserres were also on board.

So, yeah, that's where JDD is at these days. He hasn't appeared in a postseason game since surrendering a bunch of goals while with the Oklahoma City Barons in 2010-11...

He currently works as a sales and leasing associate at commercial real estate service company Cushman & Wakefield.

Here he is while with the Oilers, with a nice view of his mask, on card #M-25 (Black Version) of In The Game's 2010-11 Between The Pipes set and Game-Used Jersey sub-set:
It features a nice, large, two-colour game-worn jersey swatch from his days with the Oilers.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Aaron Williams Autograph Card

Aaron Williams was a second-round pick of the Buffalo Bills (34th overall) in 2011, becoming a regular in his third season with the team, coinciding with a move from cornerback to (strong) safety.

However, two severe neck injuries forced him into missing 22 games in the past two years, and with the Bills changing coaches, they opted to release him last March, weeks before his 27th birthday.

His football future is now uncertain.

Here he is wearing Buffalo's white (away) uniform, on the signed insert version of card#143 from Panini's 2011 Absolute Memorabilia set and Spectrum and Rookie Class of 2011 sub-sets:
It features an on-sticker, blue-sharpied autograph.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Chris Drury Jersey Card

Chris Drury's had a busy spring, starting with being named co-GM of Team USA's selection at the World Championships (with Bill Guerin), then watching the New York Rangers block the Buffalo Sabres from interviewing him for their own vacant GM position, to finally being assigned to manage their AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack.

It must be pretty wild to have two teams you've captained fight for your services...

Drury is the typical All-American: a Hobey Baker winner in the NCAA (with the Boston University Terriers), a Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) winner and Stanley Cup champion (with the Colorado Avalanche) and, as mentioned previously, captain of the Sabres (held jointly with Daniel Brière) and Rangers.

Now, he will have the opportunity to show what he can achieve in a managerial position, although most of the team's player personnel decisions will stem from the Rangers' top brass (President Glen Sather, GM Jeff Gorton and senior vice-president and assistant-GM Jim Schoenfeld), and the team's record will have a lot to do with injuries to the parent team.

Here's Drury wearing the Sabres' 1996-2006 white (home) uniform, on card #GJ-30 from Upper Deck's 2003-04 Bee Hive set and Game-Used Jersey sub-set:
It features a black game-worn jersey swatch (complete with a white stitch in the middle of it) from the forward who finished his career with 255 goals, 360 assists and 615 points in 892 regular-season games, and 89 points (47 goals, 42 assists) in 135 playoff games.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Martin Parisien Signed EP

Last night, I had the pleasure to headline a unique show that featured three solo performers: Martin Parisien (formerly of Huis Clos) hit the stage first, a solo blues-tinged rockabilly act, then Vincent Letarte (from funk-country act Hangover Lobsters and blues-rock outfit Young Dogs) followed with his "Into The Beat" piece, which is pretty much a 15-to-20-minute drum solo. And then I got up on stage to sing selections from my French and English songbooks (feel free to buy a copy or two).

Letarte's name goes around as someone who can backbone a group of virtuoso musicians and will remain recognized as such, but Parisien is bound to become a household name for his songwriting, if not for his entire act. It's the beauty of being good at something: sometimes, others ask you to do it for them. Songwriters can expand their circle of influence to include that of other songwriters and even interpreters; the growth can be exponential.

I'd traveled with both guys to Toronto for Canadian Music Week in late April - there were nine of us in total, from five different bands, in fact - and we had a blast. At that time, Martin gave me a physical copy of his EP, and he jokingly signed it last night:
It's definitely worth checking out.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Philippe Boucher Autograph Card

Philippe Boucher's career mirrored that of another defenseman of his generation, Patrice Brisebois, in that both were extremely good with the puck, made very good passes, had an accurate shot that was just hard enough to go in on its own but also easy enough for teammates to try to deflect, and whose size had GMs and coaches hoping they'd be more physical and better in their own zone.

In today's NHL, these types of players - exemplified best by the likes of Mark Streit and Kris Letang - are now known as "puck-moving offensive defensemen", and most play top-4 minutes; this was also often the case in the 1990s and early-00s, but physical play was more prevalent (and refereeing was, dare I say, worse) back then, so forwards with lesser talent were usually tasked to hit them - legally or not - to prey the puck loose, and once a cycle was in motion, they had little means to stop it.

Some of these players won Stanley Cups in their heydey - Brisebois with the Montréal Canadiens in 1993, for instance - but others had a harder time at it. Boucher falls into the latter category.

Originally a first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings after failing to make his mark in Buffalo for three seasons. The big knock over his time in L.A. was his inability to remain healthy, only suiting up for 80 games in a season once, in his final of eight seasons in the sun. It was with the Dallas Stars that he would truly find his groove, however, setting the team record for goals by a defenseman with 19, in 2006-07. That year, he made it onto the All-Star Game's starting roster (replacing the injured Scott Niedermayer), finished 12th in Norris voting and even got some Lady Byng votes.

However, as he was nearing the end of his contract and perhaps even his career, at age 35, the Stars sent him to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline of the 2008-09 season, and he provided defensive depth for a team that went on to win the Cup.

He did, in fact, retire after winning the championship, injuries having taken their toll.

In 2011, he was named President and GM of the LHJMQ's Rimouski Océanic, until he stepped down to become GM and head coach of the rival Québec Remparts after their own owner, President, GM and head coach Patrick Roy signed on to be head coach and VP of Player Personnel of the Colorado Avalanche.

In the three seasons the team has been under his watch, the perennial contenders reached the league final once, and were ousted in the first round twice, including a clean sweep this year against the Gatineau Olympiques.

Here he is while with the Kings, wearing their best-looking black (away) uniform, on the signed insert version of card #74 from Pinnacle Brands' 1996-97 Be A Player set:
He signed it in thin black sharpie... pretty much directly on the black jersey. Look for it, though, it's there!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Scott Hartnell Swatch Card

Scott Hartnell is a polarizing figure in today's NHL. Known mostly as a bruiser, folks tend to forget he's a three-time 60-point man whose career-high is 37 goals with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011-12, prompting the team to sign him to a contract extension that was sure to come bite them in the ass later, unless they traded him away eventually. Which they did, to the Columbus Blue Jackets, with whom his points totals went from 60 to 49 to 37 this year.

That's fine production for a 35-year-old physical player, by the way. But his playing time dipped in his second season in Ohio, a trend that will continue as the Jackets continue to improve with their current crop of youngsters. Hartnell has already lifted his no-move clause, so the Vegas Golden Knights may want to pick him up this summer. His actual salary will only be $3M while his cap hit sits at $4.75M, which could help the Knights underpay to reach the cap floor, exactly like the poorly managed and always-tanking Arizona Coyotes have been doing for years now. Except I trust the Knights to be a much better team than the Coyotes from the get-go.

I used to dislike expansion teams. The San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks and the like, they meant nothing to me and I mostly wanted to watch them fail time and time again. It was different for the Minnesota Wild and the Blue Jackets, because those teams were in actual hockey markets (Columbus had a team in the very first professional hockey league, along with Pittsburgh, Detroit, Sault Ste Marie (Ontario) and Sault Ste Marie (Michigan), with Montréal, Toronto and Ottawa, but the teams in non-traditional markets used to anger me. Especially the relocated teams. The Dallas Stars started out rich and bought themselves a championship early on, but I could never get behind the Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes. I still hate that the Canes have a Stanley Cup, and I hope the Sharks never do.

For some reason, though, I'm rooting for Vegas to do well. Just like I always root for the Jackets and Flyers to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins. Which brings me back to Hartnell, seen here wearing Philly's retro/current home jersey, on card #97 from Panini's 2010-11 Pinnacle set and City Lights sub-set:
It features a white game-worn jersey swatch and is numbered #235/499.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Tandon Doss Autograph Card

The Baltimore Ravens selected Tandon Doss in the fourth round in 2011, but cut him loose twice in three seasons, first waiving him, then re-claiming him when the Green Bay Packers did the same, then letting him become a free agent and sign on with the Jacksonville Jaguars, with whom he spent an entire season on the injured list before getting cut prior to the start of 2015, never actually suiting up for a game.

Technically, he won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2013, but was released before the next season even started. Apart from the championship, his most remarkable individual feat was an 82-yard punt return touchdown on his 24th birthday.

The lowlight of his career was probably his arrest for disorderly conduct, although he was eventually released from that as well, without charges.

Here he is wearing the Ravens' #89 purple (home) uniform, on the signed insert version of his rookie card (#19+5 in the set) from Panini's 2011 Crown Royale collection:
It's numbered #491/499. I got it from a multi-sport repack box a couple of years ago. It features an on-sticker autograph in blue sharpie.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Matthew Halischuk Jersey Card

After years of mostly splitting his time between the NHL and AHL organizations of the New Jersey Devils, Nashville Predators, and Winnipeg Jets, Matt Halischuk went overseas for the 2016-17 season, signing on with the German League's Iserlohn Roosters.

The right winger scored 4 goals with 6 assists (for 10 points) in 23 games, a decent point-per-game production on a team where the leading scorer, former Bridgeport Sound Tigers player Blaine Down, posted 33 points 18 goals and 15 assists) in 48 games.

It's also the team where former Preds goaltending prospect, 2008 first-rounder Chet Pickard (Calvin's brother) plies his trade, as Matias Lange's backup.

Halischuk's main issue has always been his size. Though he grew to stand at 6'0", his lanky 180-pound stature makes it easy to knock him off the puck, regardless of the league he's playing in.

Here he is wearing the Devils' red (home) uniform, on card #FT-MH from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Ice set and Fresh Threads sub-set:
It features two jersey swatches from a rookie photo shoot, one all-black and the other mainly white with a trace of red, encompassing all three of the Devils' current colours.