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.

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