Friday, October 24, 2014

Cam Ward Jersey Card

I'd hinted back in August that I thought Cam Ward might finish the season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, reunited with Jim Rutherford, the GM who gave him his current contract, but it hasn't happened so far. Plus, I have another card I can show if and when that happens.

He's currently in his 10th NHL season - all with the Carolina Hurricanes -  and, while he has struggled so far this year on a weak team, he did win the Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup in his rookie season, and twice finished in the top-10 in Vezina Trophy voting. On the other hand, that last time was in 2010-11. And his save percentage has been in steady decline ever since, from .923 to .915 to .908 to .898 to .829...

I'm not sure I would trade for him if I was a general manager myself, but I will say this: he's an option I'd consider way before Martin Brodeur if I were a contender in need of an insurance policy as my backup. But I'd call Ilya Bryzgalov first, who would come much cheaper and would be a fun distraction for the media and fans, taking the pressure off my star players.

And so here's card #FE-CW of Upper Deck's 2006-07 Be A Player Portraits collection, part of the First Exposures sub-set featuring a white swatch from a photo shoot-worn jersey; the card shows him in the Canes' original red (away) uniform:

Because he plays on a team that usually doesn't contend come playoff time, he has represented Team Canada at three World Championships, earning gold in 2007 and silver in 2008; Canada lost to Slovakia in the quarterfinals in 2012.

I had written him and sent 4 cards (care of the Hurricanes) in March 2012, but never heard back.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Slava Voynov Autograph Card

The talk of the hockey world of late has been the alleged charges against the Los Angeles Kings' Slava Voynov, his subsequent suspension by the NHL, his lawyer's preictable affirmation that Voynov is innocent, and the media and fan speculation.

I'm one to let the justice system run its course. We'll see when all the facts are out.

In the meantime, we know this much: the 32nd pick of the 2008 draft is a heck of a hockey player. He is a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Kings, and holds the team record for most playoff goals by a defenseman. He was in his fourth season, and had two points in 6 games so far.

I have this on-card autographed insert of his, signed in blue sharpie, from Panini's 2011-12 Donruss Elite set (#252 in the collection, similar to his regular Rookie Card, but with an airbrushed space for him to sign in, with a blue foil border that hints on rainbow-y colours):

We'll see his situation plays out, but for now, we live in a system where all are equal, and innocent until proven guilty.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mike Ribeiro Jersey Cad

What does Mike Ribeiro usually do when facing his old teams? He steals the show. And he was at it again last night, as the Nashville Predators were facing the Arizona Coyotes, who had bought him out then made a public spectacle of it last summer. Have a look:

Ribeiro is by no means a ''complete'' player like Jonathan Toews or Tomas Plekanec; perhaps he isn't even ''elite'' anymore. What he is, however, is one of the best 5 passing centers in the league, perhaps top-15 all positions considered; he is also clutch, and extremely cocky - a mix which enables him to always elevate his level of play when it counts, in this case when playing against a former team.

He's also the type that, when slotted as a second center, will out-perform the first-liner. It has led him to two All-Star Games (one YoungStars), a Team Canada bronze medal, and the scoring lead with the Montréal Canadiens and the Dallas Stars (as well as the whole CHL in Juniors).

Here's another blast from the past, from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Series 2 set (card #J2-MR of the Game Jersey sub-set), showing him wearing the Habs' white (then-home) uniform, accompanied by a red swatch;

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Daniel Brière Autographed Card

I had meant to write Daniel Brière last season, when he was a member of the Montréal Canadiens, but as early as New Year's Day the trade rumours began due to the limited ice time he was getting from head coach Michel Therrien, and I didn't want the mail to get lost in the shuffle should he indeed have to change teams again. Also, I had already knocked off #48 from my Habs Numbers Project with Jean-Jacques Daigneault and James 'J.T.' Wyman, so I felt I could wait a bit.

The trade came this summer, and I wrote about my feelings toward it here. We'll see how he fares with the Colorado Avalanche, but for now head coach Patrick Roy is trying to give him top-9 minutes by slotting him on the right wing, although he'll be counted on for leadership more than his total points; chances are he'll see more ice time in the playoffs in Denver than he did in Montréal, though.

The Avs were in town last weekend, and I had the chance to tell Brière my appreciation of his patience while he was in town; I didn't have anything for him to sign, but he did remember having signed for me back in his days with the Philadelphia Flyers, so I thought I could feature that card here:

I didn't have a card of his with the Flyers at the time (it must have been in his first year with the team in 2007-08), so instead I brought this 2002-03 Rookie Update card by Upper Deck (#15 in the set), showing him in his first season with the Buffalo Sabres, wearing the team's white (home) turn-of-the-century uniform. He signed it in blue sharpie.

A first-round draft pick (24th overall) of the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996, Brière had been a star player in Juniors with the Drummondville Voltigeurs, racking up seasons of 123 points (including 51 goals, in 72 games) in 1994-95, 163 points (on 67 goals, in 67 games) in 1995-96, and 130 points (thanks to 52 goals, in just 59 games) in 1996-97.

He spent the 1997-98 season with the AHL's Springfield Falcons, scoring 36 goals and adding 56 assists for 92 points in 68 games, then spent the following three seasons hovering between the AHL and the NHL, finally settling with the Coyotes in 2001-02 (with 60 points in 78 games), but the team dealt him to Buffalo at the tail end of the following season.

He had tremendous success with the Sabres, with 230 points in 225 games in the Dead Puck Era despite his diminutive stature (5'10'', 180 pounds), sharing the team's captaincy with Chris Drury from 2004 until 2007.

Both left in the summer of 2007, being the highest-coveted free agents that summer; Drury signed with the New York Rangers, while Brière went to Philadelphia. With 283 points in 364 games with the Flyers and an 'A' on his jersey, Brière was definitely an impact player in the City of Brotherly Love; he was even more of a monster come playoff time, with 72 points in 68 post-season games with the team, including a league-leading 30 in their 2009-10 Stanley Cup bid, which was also a team record.

He also has four gold medals in four tries with Team Canada. That's winner and clutch, right there. I wish him the best with the Avs, and here's hoping he's found enough stability for me to write to him this year...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ryan Kesler Swatch Card

Ryan Kesler might be on a new team this year, but he still gets people talking; this time, it was for a dirty/late hit at 19:59 of the third period of the Anaheim Ducks game against the Minnesota Wild:

He didn't get suspended because he glided those 25 feet across, and delivered a shoulder-to-shoulder hit, but the Wild's Zach Parise - an Olympic teammate of Kesler's with Team USA - called it ''stupid'', and I tend to agree in this case.

I think it's too early in the season to try to pick up on trends regarding teams, such as winning or losing streaks, or individual players' statistics - I usually wait 10 to 30 games before passing judgement. But there is a trend towards less supplementary discipline than in years past, as many moves that were borderline legal but showed a clear malicious intent have not been further punished, when just one game would have sent the message that the league's at least paying attention; instead, Milan Lucic got fined for simulating masturbation because, well, the kids, I guess.

But going back to Kesler, the one positive about his end-of-game check is that I get to feature this card, from Panini's 2011-12 Titanium set, #24 of the Game-Worn Gear sub-set, showing him in the Vancouver Canucks' white (away) uniform, with matching jersey swatch:

I'm not the biggest fan of blue-meets-green in general, but the thing I dislike the most about the Canucks' uniforms is the word VANCOUVER on them. If they just had the logo, it probably wouldn't be so bad. Though I preferred their uniforms from the mid-1980s and all of those from the 1990s.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Jaden Schwartz Autograph Card

One of last year's most expensive set on a per-card basis was without a doubt Panini's 2013-14 Playbook set, with packs going for $85-100 for three cards (many stores have since discounted them to $75, which still makes for a whopping $25 per card, made out of cardboard, without any gold or diamonds incrusted in it). There was no way I could afford or justify spending that kind of money on paper, but a dealer was offering to get in on his opening a case (12 packs, 36 cards in total) provided he could keep the jersey cards of superstars and all booklet cards - and I was fine with that.

Arguably my ''biggest pull'' was this card of the St. Louis Blues' Jaden Schwartz, #FD-JSC of the First Draft sub-set:

Schwartz was chosen with the 14th overall pick in 2010, ahead of teammate Vladimir Tarasenko (14th), Beau Bennett (20th), Jarred Tinordi (22nd), Brock Nelson (30th), Justin Faulk (37th), Tyler Toffoli (47th) and Brendan Gallagher (147th). All told, a wise pick by the Blues.

He'd been breaking records and awing onlookers since his bantam years, leading his school to a Saskatchewan championship, then in midget when he broke Vincent Lecavalier's 39-goal record, as well as Brad Richards' 72-assist mark.

He was either a Rookie Of The Year or scoring leader until he reached the NCAA, where he still led his team in scoring - just not the league - in both years he played.

He also dressed for Team Canada twice at the World Juniors, with a silver medal in 2011 and bronze in 2012; he was the captain of the 2012 squad.

He decided to forgo his final two seasons of College hockey to play with the Blues immediately after signing his entry-level deal in March of 2012, and scored on his first shot, in his first NHL game. He seems to be the perfect fit for the Blues' system, as a dependable two-way forward who can be counted on to eventually crack the 30-goal barrier (he had 25 last season in his second full year), and he should crack the 60-point on a regular basis (he had 56 last year).

He's quick and has a great set of hands; he just needs to bulk up a bit to be more effective in the long run and come playoff time, when opposing defensemen use their size and the lax application of the rule book to their advantage.

He took a while to sign his most recent contract with the Blues, but eventually agreed to a two-year bridge deal with the team; he currently has 7 points in 4 games so far in 2014-15, including his first career hat trick last night.

You'll notice on the card his hard-signed autograph, in thin blue sharpie, with the number 9, which was his jersey number until this season; he has since changed for 17, in honor of his late sister Mandi, who wore that number at Yale.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

P.A. Parenteau Swatch Card

There are a lot of story lines heading into tonight's NHL games and events that transpired in recent ones, but I decided to go for one of the more positive ones, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau's first regular-season home game with the Montréal Canadiens against his former team (Colorado Avalanche) and former coach (Patrick Roy).

Parenteau scored twice in his home debut against the Boston Bruins last Thursday, and his line with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais - another long-time minor-leaguer - has been on fire to start the season. The Habs' newest winger has two goals and three assists for 5 points in 5 games so far.

Like the card I featured earlier this summer, this one sees him wearing the Avs' white uniform, and showcases a burgundy swatch:
It's from Panini's 2013-14 Totally Certified set (#TC-PAP in the red ''regular'' jersey sub-set).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Delone Carter Swatch Card

Delone Carter was considered a top running back prospect at the 2011 NFL Draft, and yet dropped to 119th place as the Indianapolis Colts took a chance on the diminutive (5'9'') and bulky (232 pounds) tough runner.

Carter ranks third of all time in rushing with the Syracuse Orange, with 3104 yeards, and played in the NFL with the Colts for two seasons, and a few games with the Jacksonville Jaguars last year. He had been a free agent until last week, when he signed with the CFL's Hamilton Tiger -Cats, who are in a playoff race with my hometown Montréal Alouettes at the moment.

If he stays out of trouble, he could make some serious damage on the field.

I didn't know much about him when I pulled this 2011 Certified card by Panini (#274 in the set, part of the Freshman Fabric sub-set, numbered 4/50) in a multi-sports re-pack last year, but it fit right in to start the weekend:

When a card mentions ''MVP'' twice in the same paragraph, you've got some skill. Also, notice in the fine print how while they mention the swatch is from an event (NFL Rookie Premiere), they specify the exact date it was worn; I really like that about football cards, they're specific and accurate.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mark Stone Autograph Card

When the Ottawa Senators drafted Mark Stone in the sixth round (178th overall) in 2010, they saw him as a ''project''. He was already huge (6'3'' and 200 pounds as an 18-year-old), with deft hands and a good shot, and liked to get dirty in the corners to retrieve the puck. He also had a history of leading his teams to finals, from Midget AAA to Major Junior. Injuries were a concern, but his foot speed was the main reason why he wasn't picked in the first three rounds.

He was part of Team Canada's bronze-medal 2012 squad at the 2012 World Juniors, leading the team with 7 goals and 10 points.

And now here he stands, entering the final year of his entry deal, playing on the Sens' first line with Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur, scoring his first goal of the season with his father in attendance against the Tampa Bay Lightning's Ben Bishop.

He'll probably never win a race for the puck against Blake Wheeler or Nathan MacKinnon, but he can score a bunch of goals from the slot, like a cross between Michael Ryder and Guillaume Latendresse. I can see him scoring 30 some day, in the right context.

Here he is in a close-up shot, sporting the Sens' white (away) uniform, from Panini's 2013-14 Crown Royale set (card #SO-MST of the Sovereign Sigs sub-set, die-cut and signed on a sticker in thin blue sharpie):

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Simon Gagné Jersey Card

Congratulations are in order for Simon Gagné, who signed a one-year deal with the Boston Bruins yesterday. You'll recall he'd been on a training camp try-out offer...

A long-time member of the Philadelphia Flyers and part of the Los Angeles Kings' Stanley Cup-winning team in 2012, Gagné is no stranger to aggressive and bruising teams with black uniforms, so he should fit in nicely with the Bruins, provided they forgive him for netting the series-clinching goal in 2010, when the Flyers came back from a 3-0 series deficit to eliminate the Bs.

The former two-time 40-goal scorer will start on the fourth line, but may get powerplay time - and might move up should rookie Seth Griffith falter on the first line; however, Gagné just wants to play:
''My conversation with (the team) was: whatever it takes; I'll be whatever. If I have to be the extra guy, if I have to be on the fourth line or a guy that will replace others when things aren't going well, or injuries, playing the penalty kill, the power play - whatever it takes. I'm here to help the team win, and I'm really happy that I have a chance to get back into the League with a good team. So I'm open to everything.''
He'll make yet another good leader on a team that already has plenty; he's also good buddies with Patrice Bergeron, so that helps.

This news gives me a chance to feature him wearing a pre-Reebok Flyers black (away) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Ice set (card #CT-SG of the Cool Threads sub-set), with a white swatch and simple, effective design: