Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Zachary Fucale Signed 4x6 Picture

When looking purely at his statistics this season, one may be inclined to think Zachary Fucale is having a pretty bad year. Indeed, with the team standing at 9-7-0-3 near last place of its division, Fucale's 3.09 GAA and .887 save percentage don't necessarily scream out "Next Vezina Winner!", although his 6-3-0 record is pretty good.

As a matter of fact, he's the best on the Brampton Beast in every regard, as can be attested by this screen grab from HockeyDb:
Indeed, Andrew D'Agostini and Bryan Pitton seem to be what's bringing the Beast down this year.

It hasn't been easy for Fucale, once seen as Canadian Junior Hockey's best goalie, which forced the Montréal Canadiens to draft him 36th overall in 2013, though the team didn't want to repeat the growing pains of Carey Price, who took seven years to fulfill the promise that made him a top-5 pick in 2005.

Fucale was the youngest ever to reach 100 wins at the Junior level, a Team Canada gold medalist and holder of the country's record for most tournament wins (8) - tied with Stéphane Fiset and Marc-André Fleury - a Memorial Cup winner and tournament All-Star. In short, he's had one of the best Juniors career of all time.

So it was unexpected that he should fall to the ECHL after the Habs signed veteran Yann Danis as an insurance, but it's not like he is the first-ever to do so. Reigning Vezina winner Braden Holtby spent time there, as did Conn Smythe and two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick. Oh, and one Jaroslav Halak.

He spent a lot of the past two summers in Montréal, training with goaltending coach Stéphane Waite. It was here that he signed this photo in thin black sharpie, showing him wearing the Halifax Mooseheads' white (home) uniform:
The kid's 21. I believe most goalies should reach the NHL around the age of 24 or 25. He's still on the right path, he just has Charlie Lindgren - a U.S. College signee from last season - ahead of him on the team's future depth chart to take over after Price's next contract prices him out of the Habs' lineup.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Troy Gamble Autographed Card

Regular readers know I love writing about journeymen players, particularly goaltenders. I always had a thing for goalies, which is why I was one until Juniors, and I probably have a thing for players who go from team to team every year trying to get paid for plying their trade because that's what I seemed destined to become as a goalie - and eventually became as a musician.

There are hundreds of reasons why some players make it to the NHL on a regular basis despite multiple failings (they could be at a level where they will always fit under the cap while the prospect gets his reps in the AHL, à la Anders Lindback) and hundreds more why others don't get as many chances and eventually fade away, as seems to be the case with Dustin Tokarski.

Some get drafted high and take a while to develop (such as Zachary Fucale) while others start off great but fizzle out (like Cam Ward or Jim Carey).

Troy Gamble falls into another category, one closer to that of Darcy Kuemper, who was just about assured of the Minnesota Wild's starting job a couple of seasons ago and held out for a large contract only to see Devan Dubnyk steal his job and post MVP-caliber seasons.

But for Gamble, it wasn't that he gambled on his talent (sorry), but more that after a promising rookie season in 1990-91 where he appeared in 47 games and posted a .500 record (16-16-6), he suffered a massive concussion in an era where such things were dealt with Tylenol and "real men played through pain". All that while the Vancouver Canucks also had Kirk McLean, who was a pretty decent early-90s puck stopper. Semi-elite, sub-Team Canada, kind of like Dubnyk or Cam Talbot.

Which meant Gamble was never allowed to recover from a 4-9-3 record with a 4.34 GAA and .859 save percentage in 1991-92 and was forced to toil around in the minors - mostly the IHL - until he retired after a pretty bad 1995-96 season with the Houston Aeros (16-25-5, 3.83 GAA and .884 save percentage).

We will likely never know how much of his regression was due to the concussion itself, a lack of conditioning after the concussion, a lack of a helpful goaltending coach or just a lack of confidence. Or he may have been surpassed by a new generation that was just too good.

Here he is wearing the Canucks' best white (then-home) uniform, on card #121 from Pro Set's 1991-92 Platinum set, which he signed in black sharpie:
Post-retirement, Gamble remained in the Houston area, eventually becoming the Aeros' colour commentary analyst. He also worked as an executive in the oil industry, even spending a three-year residence in Libya. With that much Texas in him, it wasn't really a surprise that his son Garrett Gamble volunteered to join the Marines and head off to Afghanistan; Garrett died when he stepped on a field mine.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Tatum Bell Jersey Card

Tatum Bell was a running back who was good enough to rush for 921 yards in 2005 and 1025 in 2006 with the Denver Broncos, who drafted him 41st overall in 2004. He then spent some time with the Detroit Lions before getting re-signed by the Broncos, after spending three months working at a T-Mobile store. He averaged 5.7 yards per rush in his second stint in Denver, but because he was fourth on the depth chart, he was not offered a contract the following season.

He then made a move towards the UFL, signing with the Florida Tuskers, who later proceeded to release him.

Here he is wearing the team's blue (home) uniform, on card #SHS-TB from Fleer's 2006 Flair Showcase set and Showcase Stitches sub-set, manufactured by Upper Deck:
It features a white game-worn "piece of memorabilia".

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Michael Sgarbossa Autograph Card

Michael Sgarbossa is a 24-year-old center who is now proving to be among the AHL's elite point producers, with 3 goals, 3 assists and 6 points in 7 games split between the San Diego Gulls and Springfield Thunderbirds, in addition to two points in 9 games with the Anaheim Ducks at the NHL lever this year, which explains why the Florida Panthers acquired him two weeks ago, in exchange for Logan Shaw.

Sgarbossa's no stranger to packing and unpacking, as he's currently with his fourth NHL organization, and the Thunderbirds are also his fourth AHL team. He also played for three different teams in the OHL - the Barrie Colts, Saginaw Spirit and Sudbury Wolves. He had gone undrafted, but was signed as a free agent by the San Jose Sharks, who traded his rights to the Colorado Avalanche while he was still in Juniors.

Time will tell if the Panthers made a good move by trading for his rights, as time will let us know whether GM Tom Rowe's decision to replace beloved head coach Gerard Gallant - who led the team to its best regular-season finish just last spring - was wise. This after revamping the entire blue line and while young stars Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau were injured, of course.

In the meantime, here is Sgarbossa wearing the Avs' white (away) uniform with the awful piping, on the signed insert version of card #616 from Panini's 2013-14 Score set and Dual Rookie Class and Hot Rookies sub-sets:
It features an on-sticker, blue-sharpied autograph.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Erik Gudbranson: Two Autographed Cards


I reported last June that Erik Gudbranson had been called "captain material" by the Florida Panthers when they signed him to his current contract, just weeks before trading him to the Vancouver Canucks in a complete overhaul of the team's defense.

Well, Gudbranson did something un-captainlike last night when he was heard saying "Matt Martin is fucking dead" following a rough-and-tumble game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

After growing up with the Cats and helping them reach their best regular-season finish ever, Gudbranson landed in Vancouver, where the team is expected to challenge the Arizona Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes for last place, which must be a morale-breaker. On the flipside, missing the playoffs and playing for a Canadian team might earn him an invitation to the World Championships, where he would suit up for Team Canada for the third time, after winning gold at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and silver at the 2011 World Juniors.

Here are a couple of cards he signed a little over a year ago, while a member of the Panthers, wearing their white (away) 20th anniversary uniform, first on card #81 from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 1 set:
And now on card #254 from UD's 2014-15 O-Pee-Chee collection:
He signed both in blue sharpie and spoke to me in French, as he'd heard me speak to a friend and was polite enough to show his bilingual skills, hailing from Orléans, Ontario, a bilingual town I stayed in a couple of weeks ago as I played shows around Ottawa and caught two Sens games (and a Santa Claus parade) while I was at it.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

René Corbet Autograph Card

René Corbet had the pedigree the Québec Nordiques had always made work when the team selected him 24th overall in the 1991 NHL draft: he was a French-speaking Quebecer who had been an offensive dynamo at the Midget and Junior levels.

Réal Cloutier, Michel Goulet, Marc Tardif, Wilfrid Paiement, Jacques Richard, Jean-François Sauvé... the Nordiques had a knack for putting local boys in positions to succeed. Corbet was going to be part of that history, but as the team moved to Denver to become the Stanley Cup-winning  Colorado Avalanche, developing Quebecers to stick it in the face of highway rivals Montréal Canadiens was no longer an issue the team had to deal with; they could just aim at icing the best team possible in the hopes of beating the Detroit Red Wings in the Conference Finals to advance to the Cup Final, which meant it was easy to send Corbet - an AHL Rookie Of The Year recipient - packing (along with Wade Belak and Robyn Regehr) and have the Calgary Flames send Theo Fleury and Chris Dingman the other way.

He spent a total of 68 games spread over parts of two seasons with the Flames before they sent him to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who also used him sparingly. He then spent eight seasons in Germany, playing for the Mannheim Eagles, producing at nearly a point-per-game pace, save for a disappointing 2002-03 season (4 goals and 12 points in 29 games).

He retired following the 2010-11 season, following two years in Norway, playing for the Frisk Tigers, where he was again fairly productive: 41 goals, 42 assists, 83 points and 148 penalty minutes in 72 regular-season games, and another 5 points and 8 penalty minutes in 5 playoff games.

Here he is wearing the Drummondville Voltigeurs' white (home) uniform on a signed insert card from Classic's 1991-92 Draft Picks set:
It's signed in blue sharpie, and numbered 124/950, which to some qualifies as "Extremely Limited".

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rodney A. Grant Autograph Card

As 2,000 veterans make their way to Standing Rock to hopefully alleviate some of the pressure at the pipeline protest site, where members of over 300 Native American and Aboriginal tribes and a few courageous others who defy the local government's threat of daily $1000 fines for standing alongside people trying to protect not just their land but also their entire region's water supply, I thought I could take a moment to feature character actor Rodney A. Grant - a member of the Omaha tribe of Nebraska - who is perhaps more known for his portrayal of Wind In His Hair in the 1990 Kevin Costner epic Dances With Wolves and legendary warrior Crazy Horse in the 1991 TV movie Son Of The Morning Star.

He also had bit parts in Geronimo: An American Legend (1993), The Jack Bull (1999), Ghosts Of Mars (2001) and both iterations of Ghenghis Khan (1992 and 2010). On television, he was a regular on Hawkeye (1994-95) and had guest spots on Due South, Two and Stargate SG-1.

However, for the purpose of this post, I'll show him from his tiny part in the 1999 flop Wild Wild West starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Salma Hayek and Kenneth Branagh, with card #A-13 from Fleer/Skybox's 1999 Wild Wild West collection (and Autograph Series sub-set), with a close-up of his face and an on-card signature in thin (fading) black sharpie:
 I got this card in a re-pack of "Celebrity" cards.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Cliff Floyd Autograph Card

Last year, I traded for this Cliff Floyd card (for three football jersey cards) but stashed it away for no good reason:
It's card #SCA-CF from Topps' 2015 Stadium Club collection and Certified Autograph Issue sub-set.

I fell upon it when unpacking from my eleven-day Canadian tour (seven days in B.C. - Vancouver, Burnaby, and Victoria - and four in the Ottawa region) last weekend and decided I should feature it right away, as it shows him wearing the Montréal Expos' final away (grey) uniform, swinging and hitting a ball.

Floyd had two stints with the Expos (1993-1996, plus an awful 15-game showing in 2002 where he had a .208 batting average) but had his best seasons with the Florida Marlins, including his two 20/20 summers and three straight seasons where he batted over .300; that includes his All-Star Game season in 2001, where he hit 31 home runs, his second-highest career total.

He hit 34 homers with the New York Mets in 2005. He has also briefly suited up for the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays and San Diego Padres. He appeared in one World Series game with the Rays in 2008, with one hit in three at-bats.

He only suited up for more than 125 games in four of his 17 MLB seasons, suffering a multitude of injuries throughout his career.

Nowadays, he is a baseball analyst on TV and Sirius XM Radio.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Charles Hudon: Two Autographed Cards

The Montréal Canadiens and their prized prospect Charles Hudon got some bad news earlier today, when it was announced he had suffered a broken sternum in practice. He seemed to finally be ready to take over a permanent spot on the team, with 2 assists in 3 games at the NHL level and 14 points in 15 AHL games with the St. John's IceCaps, after three seasons in the minors that started with a Rookie Of The Year trophy and two second-place finishes among the team's top points producers.

Back when he was a teenager, he was a mainstay on Team Canada, as can be attested by these two cards that he signed last year from Upper Deck's 2014 Team Canada Juniors/Women set:
On the left is card #52 in the series, showing him wearing his country's white (home) uniform from the 2011 U-18 World Championship, while the card on the right is #108 in the collection, showing him in the red (away) uniform, from the 2014 World Juniors.

He autographed both in blue sharpie, adding both of his jersey numbers, 16 and 10 respectively, at the end. 10 has been his usual number for most of his career, but seeing as the Habs retired it for Guy Lafleur, Hudon currently wears #54 in the NHL.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Yann Sauvé Autograph card

I thought I'd check off #47 from my Canucks Numbers Project by featuring defenseman Yann Sauvé, a Montréal-born, Rigaud-raised player currently suiting up for the KHL's Croatian team, Zagreb Medvescak, with fellow Quebecers Francis Paré (undrafted 29-year-old former Detroit Red Wings prospect), Alexandre Giroux (former member of the Washington Capitals), fellow former Vancouver Canucks prospect Alexandre Bolduc, and Samson Mahbod (a player I'd never heard of before who has toiled in Junior A and the ECHL), as well as former NHLers Mike Glumac (St. Louis Blues, never returned my TTM request), Gilbert Brulé (Columbus Blue Jackets, never returned my TTM request), Bobby Butler (Ottawa Senators), Brandon McMillan (Anaheim Ducks), Lucas Lessio (Phoenix Coyotes), and goalies Drew MacIntyre (Buffalo Sabres) and Michael Garnett (Atlanta Thrashers).

You'd think the team would have a decent shot if you underestimated the KHL's talent level, but it stands at 13-17-0 for second-to-last in its division.

But back to Sauvé, a former Canucks second round pick (41st overall in 2008). He claims to have modeled his play after that of Mike Komisarek, which led many to see him as a failure for a high draft pick (he had also been a first-overall pick at the Juniors level), which is usually reserved for offensive-minded players.

Before playing in a single professional game, following the Canucks' young defensemen's streak of bad luck (R.I.P. Luc Bourdon), he was hit by a car, suffering through a two-month-long concussion.

He played in the AHL and ECHL before deciding to move overseas last summer, although he holds the ECHL's All-Star Game hardest shot record at nearly 100 miles per hour.

Here he is wearing the Canucks' retro stick-in-the-rink uniform, on card #SS-YS from Panini's 2013-14 Score set and Signature sub-set:
It features an on-sticker blue-sharpied autograph with his number tagged at the end.

Not many Montrealers remember him, but those who do do so because he was sent down to the AHL by the Canucks on the day that he was to play at the Bell Centre for the first time, in front of dozens of his friends and family in the stands.