Friday, March 27, 2015

Pierre Turgeon Jersey Card

515 goals. 812 assists. 1327 points in 1294 games, plus 97 more in 104 playoff games. Five All-Star Games, one Lady Byng trophy, two 100-point seasons (with a high of 132 in 1992-93), three 38-goal seasons, a 40-goal season and a 58-goal season.

Hall Of Fame numbers? Perhaps, but so far, Pierre Turgeon isn't a Hall Of Famer. I understand the reasoning: no Stanley Cups, no scoring titles, no MVP trophies (though he finished in fifth place in Hart voting once), just often - by far - the best player on lousy teams.

The former first-overall pick in 1987 was the Montréal Canadiens' captain in 1995-96, and had been a replacement captain for both the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders prior to that. He was a very skilled top-line center who should not be forgotten.

Here he is wearing the Colorado Avalanche's original burgundy (away) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Series 2 set (card #J2-PT of the Game Jersey sub-set), featuring a matching game-worn jersey swatch:

He retired after two seasons with the Avs, the last one mostly lost to injury.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ron Stern Autograph Card

Ronnie Stern certainly didn't steal his inclusion in In The Game's 2013-14 Enforcers II set with card #A-RS of its Autographs sub-set, showing him wearing the Calgary Flames' classic red (then-away) uniform:

After all, he retired having played 638 regular-season NHL games - mostly with the Flames, but also with the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks - with 2077 penalty minutes to show for it (good for 47th overall in NHL history), and 75 goals (less than Brett Hull scored in a single season), 86 assists and 161 points as well.

He didn't just fight anyone who asked him to - including some heavyweights way out of his category - but also killed penalties effectively and was often a team leader in checks, a lot of them of the ''ouch, that had to hurt'' variety.

He reached double digits in goals three times, with a high of 13 in 1991-92, and passed the 20-point mark the same number of times, with a high of 29 in 1993-94, which is also the year where he scored his lone career hat trick. He was forced to retire at the turn of the millennium because of back injuries, but he was an honest grinder who at times may have hit dirty (I remember a few knee checks).

Upon retiring, he tried his hand at banking, and now supplies gas companies with drilling equipment. He was born a Quebecer (in Sainte-Agathe-Des-Monts, circa 1967) but I guess he became an Albertan as an adult - and that's fine. (/End of political innuendo). He was also involved in fundraising activities for an organization that facilitated the adoption of orphaned African babies.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lanny McDonald Jersey Card

I'm a sucker for hockey players, defunct teams, winners, and amazing mustaches, so you can imagine how much I value any Lanny McDonald collectible, let alone one that isn't from a ''pure'' hockey set, such as this one, from Upper Deck's 2010 World Of Sports set (card #ASA-36 of the All-Sports Apparel sub-set) showing him wearing Team Canada's red 1970s uniform (most probably from the inaugural 1976 Canada Cup) with a small white jersey swatch:

The back of the card claims the jersey was ''used in an official hockey game'', though it's unclear if that's internationally or in the NHL, which it wouldn't be allowed to name in this set because it's not an officially licensed product. I acquired it in a trade about a year ago. That's one thing I've learned from Hockey History: always trade for Lanny McDonald (even if it costs you a couple of Anze Kopitar cards).

This is the fifth time I've featured McDonald here, and maybe the fifth time I'll mention he captained the 1989 Calgary Flames, the only visiting team in the history of the NHL to ever win the Stanley Cup on the Montréal Canadiens' home ice. Ever.

He was one of the Toronto Maple Leafs' all-time best players, but the uniform I'm fondest of him in is that of the Colorado Rockies. I had a signed card of his from that era when I was a kid, but I think I lost in in a flood in 1998.

He was elected to the Hall Of Fame in 1992, the first former Flame to receive that honor. I only mention it because earlier today, he was named its Chair of Board of the famed institution. Congratulations!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Manny Malhotra Autograph Card

In my continuing analysis of who lost the Trade Deadline, I bring you today's candidate, Manny Malhotra. When I last featured him, he had just suffered an eye injury whilst with the Vancouver Canucks, who subsequently shut him down and refused to let him play with the team again.

His spectacular comeback last season, first with the AHL's Charlotte Checkers then the Carolina Hurricanes was impressive, and over the summer he came to the Montréal Canadiens specifically to help win faceoffs (league leader, so, check), and kill penalties (check), thus freeing Tomas Plekanec for more offensive-zone minutes (well, Plek's chemistry with Max Pacioretty on the PK making them perhaps more dangerous short a man than at even strength still gave both pillars of the Habs' offense a lot of time when a man down).

But as the great philosopher Meat Loaf put it, ''two out of three ain't bad''.

However, when the Canadiens acquired hometown grinder Torrey Mitchell from the Buffalo Sabres, it was Malhotra who lost his spot, he of the one goal and four points in 57 games stat line. I mean, I get it, it makes sense, but it's cruel, considering Malhotra had done what had been asked of him, he just couldn't add to that with any secondary scoring to speak of, some of it due to bad puck luck, none of it due to lack of effort.

He had started his career with the New York Rangers, who had made him the seventh-overall pick in 1998, and when playing at home, this is what he looked like:

It's the gold variant version of insert card #241 from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set, featuring an on-card autograph signed in black sharpie.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Francis Bouillon Autographed Card

He came back to the Montréal Canadiens in 2012-13 so he could retire as a Hab, finishing where it all started after three seasons in his second stint with the Nashville Predators (all told he's spent 11 years in three stints in Montréal); unfortunately for him, at the end of last year, Francis Bouillon felt he still had some gas left in the tank and didn't want to retire anymore, and the Canadiens wanted to make way for their youngsters.

Both sides compromised with Bouillon showing up for training camp on a tryout, but ultimately he was cut and opted to move to Switzerland on a two-year deal with HC Ambri-Piotta, where he had a decent season, accounting for 11 assists in 31 games so far, on a team that stands in third place in its division with two games remaining in the regular season. Also on the team this season are former NHLers Ryan O'Byrne, Adam Hall, Keith Aucoin, and Alexandre Giroux.

I've always liked Bouillon, a hard-working defensive defenseman with some speed who can pass well and has a decent shot from the point (he was usually on the second wave of the powerplay). Though barely 5'8'', he hit hard in those corners as if he was a full foot taller; his low center of gravity and 200-pound muscle mass definitely had something to do with that, but he was also super-strong, definitely the strongest relative to size in the entire league. He rarely made mistakes on the back end, but he was starting to slow down as he neared the ripe old age of 40 (which he will attain in October).

I met him a few times in the past decade, as he was always a willing participant in team promotions and events, but this particular card was signed last summer, when he came around at the arena that now bears his name a few blocks from my place (and his), where I teach young goalies one weekend per month. It was our last practice before the league's award ceremony (probably in June), and I was happy to have this iconic card of his:

He's raising the team's mythical torch, the emblem of over 100 years (older than the league itself!) of blood, sweat, tears, broken bones and 24 Stanley Cups, most of them as underdogs save for a series of two as a dynasty, wearing the classic bleu-blanc-rouge formerly flannel jersey, the last one to hold it during the inaugural game's player presentation, an honor usually reserved for the captain or star goalie, this time savoured by the comeback hometown kid.

It's from Panini's 2013-14 Score set (card #266 in the collection), a brand that was good at showcasing special moments (such as Nik Antropov modeling the Winnipeg Jets' uniform in front of a plane), and it was signed in thin blue sharpie (the hue and blur is from the penny sleeve).

And though he wore #51 for most of his career, in his final two seasons (100 regular-season games) as a Hab, he wore #55, thus cementing his place in my Habs Numbers Project.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Michal Handzus Jersey Card

Last month, Michal Handzus' agent Matt Keator told reporters his client was eying a return to the NHL next season, after spending this one recovering from injuries and playing in his home country of Slovakia. The news is a bit surprising, considering his last team, the Chicago Blackhawks, chose not to re-sign him and no other team tried to obtain his services.

He has posted decent statistics this year, though, with 18 points in 22 regular-season games with Banska Bystrica HC '05 - the second-highest points-per-game percentage on the team - and 5 points in 5 playoff games so far.

He had won a Stanley Cup with the Hawks in 2012-13 and played in all 19 of their post-season games last year as they fell in the Conference Finals to the eventual champion Los Angeles Kings, but the team felt it would be better served taking their chances with their prospects rather than with the veteran, who had slowed down in the past few seasons.

His defensive play was still stellar, but he could be counted upon less and less in terms of secondary scoring as he seemed to have trouble keeping pace with the play in the offensive zone. But perhaps healing from his injuries gave him enough life back to play in the NHL again - I hope it did.

He has suited up for Team Slovakia eight times in international men's tournaments, posting 9 goals and 28 points in 43 games, with three World Championship medals: one gold (2002) and two silver (2000 and 2012).

Throughout his NHL career, he has garnered Selke Trophy votes nine times, once finishing as the runner-up (1999-2000), and bested the 40-point mark seven times (with a high of 58 in 2003-04 with the Philadelphia Flyers) and four times reaching the 20-goal plateau (with a high of 25 in 1999-2000 with the St. Louis Blues).

Here he is wearing the Hawks' classic white (now-away) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 1 set (card #GJ-MH of the Game Jersey sub-set), featuring a black swatch from a game-worn jersey:

He's a pretty big guy at 6'4'' and 220 pounds, and does not shy away from physical play, but the only time he surpassed the 40-PIM mark was in 2003-04, when he spent 82 penalty minutes in the sin bin.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Brian Mullen Autograph Card

Brian Mullen was an above-average NHLer (in today's parlance, a ''top-six forward'') and brother of Hall Of Famer and three-time Stanley Cup winner Joe Mullen, who retired as the all-time leading American points collector in the NHL (since passed). Brian played a more rugged style, while Joe's was based more on finesse, but both played in All-Star Games.

Growing up in Hell's Kitchen (Midtown Manhattan), the Mullen brothers were immersed in the New York Rangers' universe; their father even got Brian a job as the visiting team's stick boy at Madison Square Garden, which got him an opportunity to shoot pucks at Atlanta Flames (and Team USA / Miracle On Ice gold medalist) Jim Craig once.

He played College Hockey for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers under legendary coach Bob Johnson (who coached Joe on the Cup-winning 1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins) after being drafted in the seventh round (128th overall) by the Winnipeg Jets in 1980; there were still fine players available at that point, including Andy Moog (132nd), Doug Lidster (133rd), Steve Penney (166th), Randy Cunneyworth (167th), Patrik Sundstrom (175t), Hakan Loob (181st), and Andy Brickley (210th).

He scored over 25 goals five times (with a high of 32 in 1984-85), and topped the 60-point mark six times (with a high of 71 - in 69 games - that same year).

After five seasons in Winnipeg, he spent four years with the Rangers, then one each with the San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders, that year where they ousted the two-time defending champion Pens in 1993. He suffered a stroke prior to the 1993-94 season, and tried to come back, but a seizure laid those hopes to waste and he retired after accruing 260 goals, 362 assists and 622 points in 832 games.

He wore #19 for  the first ten of his eleven NHL seasons, and here he is with the Jets, wearing their former purplish-blue away uniform:

It's card #26 from Panini's 2012-13 Classics Signatures set (the signed insert version, signed on-card in blue sharpie - you can tell because the spot where the signature is was airbrushed white to show him where to sign. I'm not sure if I'd classify that set as higher-mid-range or lower-premium, but boxes are still available for around $60 for 30 cards, with 5 or 6 autographs per. This one was from a group break.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Dustin Brown Jersey Card

Dustin Brown laid a nice hit on Corey Perry last Wednesday in the game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks:

Too bad it led to a teammate looking to ''avenge'' it, seeing as it was a clean hit (which even Brown detractors - and there are many - will admit).

Brown and the Kings have stepped into gear in the past month, when pressure started to mount on them as they were falling dangerously far out of playoff contention. Statistically, most of their players are having off years (Jeff Carter, a former 50-goal scorer, currently has 25 and is on pace for just 30 to lead the team; Mike Richards is in the AHL; Anze Kopitar is 14 points away from a point-per-game pace; and the Kings' captain himself barely has 10 goals), but as we saw both times L.A. have won their Stanley Cups, all they need is to enter the playoffs - even as the final seed - to win it all.

It won't necessarily be pretty, but when these guys turn it on, it's on!

After featuring the Team USA stalwart twice in his team's former uniforms, I thought I could mix it up with the current white (away) one, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 SP Game-Used Edition set (card #AF-BR of the Authentic Fabrics sub-set), featuring a huge, matching white swatch from a game-worn jersey:

It's a decent colour scheme for the Kings, reminiscent of the 1990s Wayne Gretzky era, but with modern lines rather than a single colour except for the extremities. I probably prefer the 1990s garbs, but not by too much.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mark Stone Autograph Card

I don't know if you saw this goal from last night, but wow, what a play by Kyle Turris, finished by Mark Stone. Play of the year candidate, for sure:

And with that (and the spectacular play of Andrew ''The Hamburglar'' Hammond, of course), the Ottawa Senators move to within just four points of the Boston Bruins and the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, with Hammond riding a 11-0-1 record so far in his NHL career, and the team itself having gone 14-2-2 in its last 18 games.

Stone himself is one of the league's top rookies so far this year, with 18 goals, 28 assists and 46 points in 67 games. The 6'3'', 200-pound, 22-year-old power forward likes to check along the boards to retrieve pucks, has a good shot, and passes better than most good shooters usually do; he has improved his skating (though he still is no Taylor Hall, obviously), and his Hockey IQ is often referred to as being ''off the charts'', pretty much becoming a take-over machine (ranking along the lines of Marian Hossa and Ryan O'Reilly, ahead of Pavel Datsyuk!), and he could eventually turn into a threat on both the power play and penalty kill, à la Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec.

As long as he keeps a cool head about it and continues forward with the same work ethic, there is no limit to what the former sixth-round draft pick (178th overall) can achieve.

He now wears #61 for the Sens, but wore #16 a couple of seasons ago (which belongs to Clarke MacArthur now), as can be seen here:

It's card #45 from Panini's 2012-13 Prime set (part of its Prime Signatures sub-set), signed on-card in blue sharpie and numbered 3/99.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Brett Clark Autograph Card

From 2005-06 until 2010-11, Brett Clark had an interesting run as a reliable shut-down defenseman who could pass the puck and block shots - the type of player who would nowadays earn close to $4M per season, manning the second powerplay unit, not unlike Josh Gorges today.

Clark may have been drafted by the Montréal Canadiens (6th round, 154th overall in 1996), but he spent his best and most productive years with the Colorado Avalanche, with whom he had two of his three 30-point seasons, and his lone 10-goal season.

He left the team as a free agent prior to the 2010-11 season, as he had 31 points (on 9 goals) in 82 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning that year, only to regress the following season with 2 goals, 13 assists, 15 points and a minus-26 rating in 82 games on a disappointing Lightning team that missed the playoffs.

After that, he had to go through the AHL (via the Oklahoma City Barons) before signing on for 8 games with the Minnesota Wild to finish the 2012-13 season, and things went full circle as he ended his career playing 53 games with the Lake Erie Monsters, the Avs' AHL affiliate in 2013-14.

All told, he played 102 games over two seasons with the Habs in the early stages of his professional path, as can be attested in this card from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set (the gold variant of the signed insert card):

It shows him wearing the Canadiens' classic bleu-blanc-rouge uniform (then-away, now-home), as he wore #29 before it was retired for legendary goaltender Ken Dryden, and is signed on-card in thin black sharpie.