Sunday, March 1, 2020

David Savard Autographed Card

The Columbus Blue Jackets had lost 10 of their past 11 games while dealing with an incredible amount of injuries, but they kept hold of the Wild Card position tonight by defeating the Vancouver Canucks 5-3, overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the process. The Canucks' loss helps the Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames out West.

A key player on the Jackets since the 2014-15 season has been David Savard, an underrated defenseman who plays behind Seth Jones and Zach Werenski but would be a fist-pair defender on most NHL teams.

We're talking about a guy who is built like a cliché'd Canadian Lumberjack - 6'2" with a perfect stature, 230 pounds of muscle and a face that reads "no bullshit" and "no drama" at the same time - who doesn't make mistakes yet plays upwards of 20 rough minutes per night, like a mixture of Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall.

As the Jackets as a whole have taken a step back in terms of offensive production - last year's points leader on the team, Artemi Panarin, produced 87 points in 79 games while this year's leader, Pierre-Luc Dubois, may not hit the 60 mark - so has Savard, yet his PDO (shooting % + save percentage) is a solid 99.7%, which is fine on a bubble team that scores so little.

Internationally, he's only suited up for Team Canada once - at the 2015 World Championships - and the team went to have a perfect 10-0 record to win gold for the first time since 2007. He can't make it all that often because the Blue Jackets are always in the playoffs.

Here he is wearing Columbus' white (away) uniform, on card #297 from Upper Deck's 2017-18 O-Pee-Chee set:
He signed it in thick silver sharpie, which didn't leave him enough room to spell out his entire name. He did attempt to tag his jersey number (58) at the end, though.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Luc Robitaille: Two Autographed Cards

There was a reason why Luc Robitaille was selected in the ninth round, 171st overall, in 1984: scouts from all NHL teams considered him too slow to keep up with the 1980s pro game, despite having posted more than a point-per-game average in his rookie year in Juniors with the LHJMQ's Hull Olympiques; he followed that with a 55-goal, 148-point season in 64 games in 1984-85 and with 68 goals and 191 points in 63 games the following season, convincing the Los Angeles Kings to provide him with a real shot at making the team, which he did.

His 84-point rookie season earned him the Calder Trophy in 1986-87 - the first year I followed hockey full-time - and his 63-goal season in 1992-93 was the NHL record for a very long time, until Alex Ovechkin obliterated it in 2007.

Robitaille retired after the 2005-06 season, in his third stint with the Kings, as the highest-scoring left winger of all time (beaten earlier this season by Ovechkin), Los Angeles' franchise record holder for goals (577), fourth behind Marcel Dionne, Wayne Gretzky and Dave Taylor on the team's all0time assists leaders list( 726), and second to Taylor in career points with the franchise (1154).

He's the quintessential King, which is why he's currently the team's President.

He was interviewed by NBC Sports recently and had an interesting take on Ovechkin's path to beating Gretzky's all-time goals record:
It’s hard to figure out someone that would do it. I’m going to enjoy this ride because it’s special. It’s very special and this is something that’s really good for our game. I’m rooting for him that he does it because it’s going to be absolutely incredible.
Whether he truly wants him to break Gretzky's record "for the good of the game" or because he doesn't want to be alone among former 1990s Kings captains to get surpassed by Alexander The Great remains to be seen; one thing's for certain: it truly is entertaining to keep track of.

Here he is wearing the Kings' 1990s white (home) uniform on card #90 from Topps' 1992-93 Premier set and First Team All-Star sub-set:
And here he is wearing the counterpart black (away) uniform, on card #98 from Upper Deck's 1998-99 UD Choice set:
Those were, in my opinion, the very best Kings uniforms ever. I miss them dearly.

In-between stints in L.A., Robitaille also played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, and Detroit Red Wings - with whom he won the 2001-02 Stanley Cup - as well as Team Canada at the 1986 World Juniors (silver), 1991 Canada Cup (won), and 1994 World Championships (gold medal).

Friday, February 28, 2020

Mike Green Jersey Card

Mike Green is an offensive defenseman who can quarterback a powerplay very well. He has a fine pass, a pretty good shot and can still find speed on the rush although his actual footspeed isn't what it was in his heyday when he was putting up 780-point seasons and scoring 30 goals from the point.

Defensively, it's still a mixed bag, but not as bad as his critics would say; there will not be a quality shot on his team's net every time he hits the ice, but perhaps a quality chance or two per game.

Essentially, it was a net gain when the Edmonton Oilers acquired him from the Detroit Red Wings for Kyle Brodziak's LTIR cap hit and conditional draft pick that is at best a third-rounder and at worst a fourth. As an immediate replacement for the injured Oscar Klefbom and Kris Russell, he was an immediate fit on the NHL's top powerplay unit and would provide defensive depth for the playoff run.

Except he got injured in his second game with the Oilers, and will be out three-to-four weeks with a sprained MCL. Ouch.

Edmonton is currently second in the Pacific Division, four points behind the Vegas Golden Knights who sit in first, but also just four ahead of the Arizona Coyotes, who are outside the playoff picture in fifth place, with the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks sandwiched in between and a mix-and-match quality and quantity of games in hand (the Coyotes have the fewest games remaining, however).

It's going to be a tight race, but hopefully Green comes back with stored energy and helps boost the Oilers upon his return.

Here he is sporting the Washington Capitals' white RBK Edge (away) uniform with the alternate captain's "A" on his chest, on card #AF-GR from Upper Deck's 2013-14 SP Game-Used Edition set and Authentic Fabrics sub-set:
It features a matching game-worn jersey swatch.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Bobby Ryan Autographed Card

Sometimes a Cinderella story just seems to write itself... over 100 days after self-entering the NHL/NHLPA's substance abuse program for alcohol dependency, Bobby Ryan made his home return for the Ottawa Senators and in his second game back started with a Gordie Howe hat trick and turned it into a regular one.

I don't know if I buy in as much of the BFR love as Silver Sevens has, but I do agree he, as a human being and a person, has lived up to what it means to be an honest professional hockey player. As far as his contract, cap hit and production goes, I understand that being selected second-overall after Sidney Crosby and ahead of Anze Kopitar (11th), Paul Stastny (44th), Kristopher Letang (62nd), Marc-Édouard Vlasic (35th) - and even to some extent Carey Price (5th), Tuukka Rask (21st), Jonathan Quick (72nd) and Ben Bishop (85th) - comes with pressure and expectations, but the fact of the matter is that he's missed some 60 games to injury and another 50 to dealing with his off-ice problems, he's still sixth of his draft year in points, slightly ahead of a very good goal-scorer in James Neal, and he's fourth in goals (behind Crosby, Kopitar and Neal) in goals, just ahead of Stastny, and a season's worth of putters ahead of the likes of T.J. Oshie and Patric Hornqvist.

Again: Bobby Ryan was raised in a violent household that was so messed up that he went through a name change so his father could escape jail for a while, was heavily criticized by Team USA GM Brian Burke and left off the 2014 Olympic team despite helping his country win silver in 2010, lost his mother just as he was finding his game in the Canadian capital, battled through criticism from the press because of his cap hit and still had three 30-goal seasons and was a key part in taking the Sens to overtime of Game 7 of the 2016-17 Eastern Conference Final (with the psychological help/acumen of then-head coach Guy Boucher).

There are no two ways about it: his story has been one of trials and success. He is not a "bust".

Unfortunately, he's about to exit his prime having spent a fair chunk of it hurting his body off the ice as much as on it, and when the Senators become competitive again, he may have to ride the young stars' coattails instead of helping lead the way through his play, but with the way his story has gone, at least he may be there to see it through, unlike Ottawa-born Jean-Gabriel Pageau, unfortunately.

Here's Ryan wearing the same uniform he got his comeback hat trick in, Ottawa's red (home) one, on card #171 from the 2018-19 O-Pee-Chee set by Upper Deck:
He signed it in blue sharpie after a Senators practice last season.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Cameron Gaunce Autograph Card

Cameron Gaunce knew he was a depth piece on defense when the Tampa Bay Lightning re-signed him to a one-year, two-way deal at league minimum ($700K), and they knew what they were getting: a 29-year-old veteran who had very little to prove as a role/defensive player but was starting to find his offensive game in the professional ranks as well, having come off a 46-point, 65-penalty minute season in 59 games with their AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch; he'd also chipped in with a +3 rating and 7 penalty minutes at the NHL level.

This season, he's been called upon to provide more than hits and has delivered, posting 4 points in 3 games wit the Bolts so far (+2, 4 penalty minutes) to go with a 30-point output (36 PIMs, +10) in 49 games wit the Crunch.

We are starting to see the two-time OHL All-Star emerge, after he'd been drafted 50th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 2008. He'd also spent time with the Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets organizations, for a total of 37 NHL games so far with the Avs (11), Stars (9), Pens (12) and Bolts (5).

He seems to have a knack for signing with one team and one of their main rivals (Dallas/Colorado; Pittsburgh/Columbus; Florida/Tampa); he's going to have to find two more teams next or try the Minnesota Wild (Colorado and Dallas rivals), Philadelphia Flyers (Pittsburgh) or Montréal Canadiens (the Florida teams) to keep with the theme.

One thing's for sure, though: he's playing on a legitimate Stanley Cup contender and earning his playing time, so his next deal might be of the $1M cap hit variety.

Here he is wearing the Avalanche's RBK Edge piping-heavy burgundy (home) jersey on a card that mentions he's now with the Stars, #SI-CG from Panini's 2013-14 Select set and Select Signatures sub-set:
It's a silver foil card and the sides are green - even if the scan shows it all black. Over his head reads "DALLAS STARS" in yellow and top-right, over his left shoulder, a note says he was traded to the Stars on "4/2/13". The card features a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph that just has his initials, a typical pet peeve among autograph collectors.

His brother Brendan also plays professionally, in the Boston Bruins organization.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Malcolm Subban Jersey Card

He turned 26 years old in December and yet Malcolm Subban - a 2012 first-round pick by the Boston Bruins, 24th overall - is already with his third NHL team after the Vegas Golden Knights traded him, a draft pick and a prospect to the Chicago Blackhawks for Robin Lehner.

Neither Gerard Gallant nor Peter DeBoer have been able to trust him enough to give him games unless Marc-André Fleury fell to injury, and I guess that's what you get when your career save percentage is at .899 and this season's stands at .890, but he was at .910 and still only saw 22 games in 2017-18, when the G-Knights went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.

The Hawks' situation in net is somewhat puzzling with Corey Crawford's concussion issues these past three seasons and Subban not yet rising up to the challenge, but I'm certain GM Stan Bowman has a plan that's more fleshed out than just hoping P.K.'s younger brother reaches the same level as his draft classmates Connor Hellebuyck (130th overall, Vezina finalist), Andrei Vasilevskiy (19th, Vezina winner), Frederik Andersen (87th, fan favourite in Toronto), Matt Murray (83rd, two-time Cup winner), Joonas Korpisalo (62nd, having a breakout season with the Columbus Blue Jackets) and Linus Ullmark (163rd, doing the same in Buffalo).

Here he is wearing the Bruins' third jersey - with matching swatch from a photo shoot - on card #RM-SU from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Series 2 collection and Rookie Materials sub-set:
Internationally, Malcolm has suited up for Team Canada at the 2014 World Juniors, finishing in fourth place.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Jean-Gabriel Pageau: Two Autographed Cards

I wasn't sure if it would, but it's a done deal: the Ottawa Senators have traded Jean-Gabriel Pageau to the New York Islanders for a 2020 first-rounder (top-3 protected, but the Isles will likely make the playoffs, so that pick's safe), a 2020 second-rounder and potentially a 2022 third-rounder (if the isles win the Stanley Cup this year, which they probably won't).

If the Sens re-sign Pageau this summer, it's a landslide victory. I honestly have some difficulty picturing him in another uniform, let alone other colours than red, white and black. I may have preferred to see him go to the Calgary Flames.

He's one of my favourite players, one of the best two-way players in the league who has found his offensive upside again this year after a sub-par season last year - funny what outlier shooting percentages can do, eh? I hope he earns more post-season experience. He sure made an impact in 2017-18, with 10 points in 19 games, part of a balanced three-headed monster at centre with Derick Brassard (11 points) and Kyle Turris (10), helping the Sens to an Eastern Conference Final Game 7 overtime loss to eventual Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins.

Here he is wearing the Sens' white (away) uniform, checking an Arizona Coyotes player into the boards with a high elbow, on card #128 from Upper Deck's 2018-19 Series 1 collection:
And here he is wearing Ottawa's red (home) uniform with the alternate captain's "A" on his chest, on card #340 from the 2019-20 O-Pee-Chee set from UD:
I really think the Ottawa native and French-Canadian is an essential veteran to help lead the Senators' young guns, including the French-speaking Thomas Chabot and Maxime Lajoie. I hope they bring him back in July.

(edit, the Isles re-signed him for six years at a reasonable $5M per, for $30M total).

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Marcus Foligno Autograph Card

Marcus Foligno is quietly having his most productive season in the NHL so far, one point behind the career-high 23 points he put up in three straight seasons from 2015 until 2018, with over 20 games left in the regular season calendar.

He's only made the playoffs once - in 2017-18 in his first season with the Minnesota Wild, with one goal in five games played and no less than 16 penalty minutes. The 6'3", 225-pound former fourth-round pick (104th overall in 2009) is usually good for three to five fights per year, standing up for his teammates at every opportunity.

He's cemented his position as a shut-down checking forward, finishing in the pluses (+5 as we speak) every year despite playing on poor teams. Relative to his teammates, he's actually a more positive force out there than more expensive options and his $2.85M cap hit is good for another year after this one.

Glad to see he's building his own path without being in the shadow of his father Mike (a former Buffalo Sabres star)  and brother Nick, captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Here he is wearing the Sabres' 2010-12 "Wordmark" blue (third) jersey on card #CS-MF from Panini's 2012-13 Certified set and Certified Signatures sub-set:
It features a blue-sharpied, on-stick autograph. It's actually a very nice silver foil card, but my scanner refused to acknowledge it as such.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Shawn Horcoff Autograph Card

Upon retiring after the 2015-16 season that had him sign with the Anaheim Ducks and suspended by the NHL for 20 games for a performance-enhancing drug violation - essentially for using human-growth hormones to heal from an injury quicker - he was named the Detroit Red Wings' Director of Player Development, and was promoted to Director of Player Personnel last summer.

You may find it bizarre that a 13-year member of the Edmonton Oilers didn't join the team in some capacity, but they're trying to steer clear of their perceived Old Boys Club mentality and are looking outside the organization for help nowadays.

And Team Canada is hoping NHLers will be going to the next Olympics, so they're saving their key positions for NHL GMs and coaches instead of alumni who have won two gold medals (2003 and 2004) and one silver (2009) at World Championships.

So why Detroit? Well, for starters, his wife is from Michigan, and after following her husband around for 15 years, it was time for him to help her settle down where her roots lay. He met her while playing for the Michigan State University Spartans, where he was named CCHA Defensive Player Of The Year and a Hobey Baker finalist.

This is how I remember him best, wearing the Oilers' white turn-of-the-millennium uniform:
That's card #TS-HO from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Trilogy collection and Trilogy Scripts sub-set, featuring a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Karl Alzner Autographed Card

With injuries to Victor Mete and Xavier Ouellet and the Marco Scandella trade, Karl Alzner - who's pretty much played for the AHL Laval Rocket for the past two years - becomes the Montréal Canadiens' second left-side blue-liner when Claude Julien had seemingly relegated him to 15th d-man role by consistently publicly asking GM Marc Bergevin for help at that position, dissatisfied as he was with his options.

Alzner had a great attitude in the AHL, always had a smile on his face when meeting fans and journalists, and other players all said he was a terrific teacher who made good points and was always willing to help. Of course, he's even happier to be back in the NHL right now. Even if it means he's earning less money - his $4.25M contract is guaranteed, but every day spent in the NHL comes with escrow - which theoretically could make its way back to him but never actually ever does - while there is none in the AHL because it's not based on the NHL's overall revenue pyramid.

It's still odd to think that a two-time World Juniors gold medalist (2007 and 2008, the latter as Team Canada's captain), WHL Defenseman and Player Of The Year (2008), two-time Calder Cup-winner and two-time Presidents Trophy winner, one-time active NHL iron man and always among the top-10 in blocked shots has been reduced to wearing an "A" on his chest playing in a suburb while the most storied franchise in hockey history pays his salary without using his services despite being in the thick of a historically-awful period.

In case you're wondering, this is what he looks like in bleu-blanc-rouge, namely the Habs' classic red (home) uniform:
That's card #96 from Upper Deck's 2018-19 Series 1 set, which he signed in blue sharpie just a little over a year ago, tagging his jersey number (22) at the end. Even though he has mostly spent two of the three seasons of his current five-year deal in the minors, it's not his signing per se that left a bitter taste in Habs fans' minds; it's GM Bergevin's training camp quote, after rejecting star defenseman Andrei Markov's plea to remain a member of the Canadiens for two more seasons and claiming (and doubling down on) to have a "better defense than last season" when he clearly didn't, which put undue pressure on the entire defense corps, which they still have not recovered from, three years in.