Thursday, June 27, 2013

Brandon McMillan Swatch Card

Writing about that Brandon Sutter swatch card the other day reminded me about this one, then-Anaheim Ducks sophomore Brandon McMillan:


It too is from Panini's 2011-12 Certified set (card #3, the Fabric Of The Game sub-set), and shows a nice black swatch from the Ducks' home - or third - jersey.

McMillan was only a point-per-game player once in Juniors - in his last (fourth) season. He is a half-point per game player in the AHL, and has so far played 91 NHL games and tallied 11 goals and 15 assists. He was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes at the deadline last April so, really, who knows where he'll be playing next season - Phoenix, Portland (AHL), Seattle or Québec.



Sunday, June 23, 2013

Thierry Boutsen Autographed Postcard

I wish I'd found this two weeks ago, when the Grand Prix was in town... it's a signed postcard from former Formula 1 race car driver Thierry Boutsen, from Belgium. It shows several of his cars, and right in the center is his Williams-Renault car, in which he won 3 races, including the manufacturer's very first F1 win. It's signed in (fading) black sharpie:



Although Boutsen retired from F1 in 1993 - two years before I started paying closer attention to the sport thanks in part to the man who took the brand to new heights, Jacques Villeneuve - I was familiar with him for having finished third in Montréal in 1988 (while with Benetton-Ford, behind the McLaren-Honda star duo of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost), and winning it in 1989, ahead of Williams teammate Riccardo Patrese and Andrea de Cesaris (on Dallara-Ford).

Simultaneous to his F1 career - and more steadily afterwards - he also participated in the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans race, his teams finishing second from 1993 to 1995 (on a Peugeot the first year, Porsche the next two), and winning in 1996 (also on Porsche).

I've had this signed postcard framed on my wall for about a decade or so - what will soon be three apartments ago (moving, in Montréal, is the second national sport, right after hockey; for many, it is a yearly occurrence).

I'd originally been communicating with Boutsen through email, and at the third or fourth exchange, I asked if I could get an autograph, which he promptly sent.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Brandon Sutter Swatch Card

I guess I was destined to acquire this card... I participated in another Ebay box break last week, and lots were sold for two teams at a time. I took the lot combining the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes and ended up with Brandon Sutter, who is now a Pen after a trade last summer with the Canes.

Many, had they known they were going to ge a guy who played for both teams, would have set their sights on Jordan Staal - not me, not at all. The Sutters are hockey royalty, and I was a big fan of the first wave - already have autographed cards of Brent Sutter and Ron Sutter - and have been following Brandon's (Brent's son) career since the day he was drafted - the ninth in the family to have that happen. I was hoping he'd land with the New York Islanders or Chicago Blackhawks (like his father), or the Calgary Flames (where the family comes from, and a team suited right for their style of balls-out play), but really, it's a dream come true to get drafted, and beggars can't be choosers.

Now, onto the swatch card:


It's from Panini's 2011-12 Certified set (card #31, numbered 21/399), and features a nice black swatch, either from the team's third jersey, or the sleeve or belt line of their home (red) uniform. The Certified cards have a long, white border that the swatch doesn't come close to filling, so perhaps I'll try to have the card signed some day.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Andrei Kostitsyn Autographed 8 X 10

One of the biggest mysteries of recent Montréal Canadiens history, Andrei Kostitsyn is an enigma wrapped in a riddle surrounded by questions... about his desire.

Drafted 10th overall in 2003, many considered him the most talented forward available, ahead of Stanley Cup champions Eric Staal, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Patrice Bergeron and Mike Richards, 30-goal scorers Thomas Vanek, Zach Parise and Milan Michalek, but a number of teams were worried about AK-46's history of epilepsy, which made him available when the Habs were up.

With a 6'1'' frame carrying 215lbs of pure power, a slap shot clocked around 100mph, dazzling speed, soft hands, a killer wrist shot that is both swift and accurate and a bit of a mean streak, you'd think he would have produced more than three 20-goal seasons playing alongside the likes of Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu and Tomas Plekanec.

Perhaps the problems were of the off-ice variety: during the Habs' centennial, he was tied to local drug lord Pasquale Mangiola, the police having phone recordings of him ordering ''radios'', ''large screen TVs'', code for quantities of cocaine. Since being a customer isn't a crime, though, Brother Andrei was never charged, but his connection will be behind bars for a long time.

When the Habs sent him to the Nashville Predators, it took him about a month to influence young star Alexander Radulov into a late night out, resulting in the both of them being suspended by the etam for two playoff games, then leaving for the KHL.

In any event, he was a world-class talent, and he signed this for me in 2010:


The picture shows the elder Kostitsyn diving while fighting for a puck in front of Curtis Joseph, in his return season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. I got him to sign it in blue sharpie at a team function. I had sent him 2 cards and a fan letter on September 13th, 2010 but never heard back, so this 8 X 10 kind of makes up for it.

If you're counting, that's one more down for my Habs Numbers Project; there are 30 to 40 left.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bobby Ryan Swatch Card

Did I say something about a ''last one in my batch of Panini's 2011-12 Pinnacle hits''? Well, thanks to Ebay, I landed another one for 99 cents - Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks, card #14 in the set:


Ryan is a proven goal-scorer with four 30+-goal seasons and a silver-medal Olympian (Team USA, 2010), but for a high-priced hockey player - his cap hit is evaluated at $5.1M - it is odd to notice that the closest he ever came to being a point-per-game player on a Ducks team that also includes Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne was in his rookie season, where he produced 57 points in 64 games.

In the playoffs, he is 10-5-15 in 26 career games.

Don't get me wrong - I'd likely take him on my team any day, and his numbers are worthy of having been the 2nd overall pick (in 2005) - and, at 26, he is likely to have his four best seasons ahead of him, but some guys who generate points at the same type of rate he does make between 3 and 4 million a year, is all I was pointing to.

All in all, this is a fine piece, with a nice, large black swatch, likely from the Ducks' home jersey - or the alternate jersey pictured on the front of the card. There's a bit of a dent in the swatch, likely partly responsible for having brought the card's price down a tad, but I find it adds value to it, giving more credibility as having been game-worn.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Marcell Dareus Swatch Card

I've been relatively lucky with my (American) football 'hits' in the card world these past few years, especially since I pretty much only purchase one or two packs per year. Other times, I go to Ebay for a Colin Kapernick 99-cent jersey card.

In this instance, I pulled a first-round draft pick jersey card, Marcell Dareus of the Buffalo Bills, who wears jersey #99 - one that will never again be worn in NHL hockey. It's from Panini's 2011 Rookies And Stars Longevity (card #17 of the Freshman Orientation sub-set, serial numbered 152/249), and is an event-worn swatch:


I am particularly fond of the many double-entendres on the back of his card, in a year where homosexuality was discussed at great lengths in American sports:


Dareus had 82 tackes and 11 sacks in 2 full seasons with the Bills. He is an alumni of the reigning NCAA champions Alabama Crimson Tide, the third Alabama player drafted by the Bills.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre Autographed 8X10 Picture

Not exactly an offensive defenseman, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre does have a career stat over the one-per-game mark in the NHL: 311 penalty minutes in 269 games, to go with 7 goals, 13 assists and 20 points. He's also 4-for-4 (PIMs) in the playoffs.

If you don't remember the player from his career with the Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals but think you may have seen his name somewhere before, it could be when I was reminiscing about my teenage years in this Alexandre Burrows post...

If you didn't, I'll say this much: I played with Grand-Pierre in high school, for the Collège Notre-Dame Sabres (an omen?), alongside other future NHLers Mathieu Darche and Ben Guité. I was the starting goalie. Ironically, neither of those who ''made it'' to the big time were first-liners back then. Some even entered Grade 7 not even knowing how to skate... a good bunch of us played in Juniors and/or College/University, though, so that could be a testament to the strength of our team, which finished second in the standings - one team totally demolished everyone else, though, but I forget which school they were from; I got crushed for 7 goals in a 15-2 loss to them in one game, and lost 3-2 in overtime in another, but I had a 9-0 record against all other the teams and a GAA below 2.00.

But back to Grand-Pierre, who is still active in Europe, for the Karlskrona HK in Sweden. He moved overseas because he'd only been offered AHL contracts since the first second lock-out (2004-05), while he can play in the first-division leagues there - in Sweden, Norway and Germany.

He's had 23- and 19-point seasons in Germany (in 40-some games), the first while accumulating a staggering 176 penalty minutes, the second with ''only'' 63 PIMs. This year, he had a goal and 14 penalty minutes in 11 games.

He signed this 8 X 10 picture for me at a high school reunion prior to the lock-out, a season he'd spent playing for 3 NHL and one AHL team, although it shows him with the Sabres, the team I identify him the most with despite the fact that he played for Columbus for the longest stretch:

It shows the 00s pre-Buffaslug jersey, though it's halfway there... it's the white (home) version, a nice one even though I preferred their original garbs. He signed it in blue sharpie and added his jersey number (34).

Friday, June 14, 2013

Brian Gionta: 3 Autographed Cards

A nice surprise was waiting for me at home when I finished work early today, these four signed cards from Montréal Canadiens captain Brian Gionta:


I had sent them to him with a fan letter, care of the Habs, on January 31, 2013, and got them all back today, June 14th, 2013, signed in thin blue sharpie, with his jersey number (21) tagged at the end. He's wearing the captain's 'C' on all of them, which wasn't the case the first time I had a success from him two years ago.

He has just finished his fourth season in Montréal, his third as captain, his second in which he played all regular-season games - both resulted in first-round exits, oddly enough. While I wasn't convinced when the team named him captain, he has proven to be a rugged, hard-nosed reliable scorer who leads by example. There may be louder voices in the dressing room now, but he could serve as the best example for Brendan Gallagher - just like Erik Cole was for Max Pacioretty last season.

It's fitting that he scored the 20,000th NHL goal in team history last March. He is entering his final contract year next season, but GM Marc Bergevin seems to like the team spirit he's seeing and want to continue with more or less the same group moving forward, so I wouldn't be surprised if Gionta were extended for two or three more seasons, albeit at a salary lower than his current $5M per season - possibly 3.5.

I was happy to get him to sign cards in both regular uniforms, as attested below, first with the red (home) uniform:


It's from Panini's 2012-13 Score set (card #253), and shows him in his regular spot in front of both an opponent's net and a defenseder twice his size.

The next two cards show him in the Habs' white (away) uniform, first a beauty from the 2010-11 Crown Royale collection (die-cut, card #54) by Panini (probably their prettiest set):


And also from the 2011-12 Score set (card #248), still by Panini:



I try to avoid writing to players too close apart because I don't want to annoy them, but this time, I figured two years was a decent wait, and he hadn't had cards published where he's sporting the 'C' yet, and that could account for some forgiveness.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Claude Giroux Swatch Card

The last one in my batch of Panini's 2011-12 Pinnacle hits is yet another in the Game Night sub-set , card #38, Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux:


It is my second jersey card of his after this rookie one, and since he's one of my favourite forwards in the game, I will cherish it for a long time!

The Flyers almost made the playoffs this year despite beginning the season deprived of their top-4 defensemen from the previous year; many have blamed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, but most Flyers have said he may have been their best player all year; others pointed at Giroux leadership skills, but most attest that he did everything in his power to try to raise his own -and his teammates' - level of play down the stretch. He'll likely have a shot at Olympic gold next year, part of a crowd of amazing young Canadian forwards with Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, and Milan Lucic.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Henrik Lundqvist Swatch Card

Why not take advantage of a week-long eternity between hockey games to talk about the best goalie in the world - the New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist. Of course, you have to take that fact with a bit of a grain of salt, if only because many of the aspects we use to weigh that are easily debunked.

Case in point: he's the only goalie in history to record 7 consecutive 30-win seasons to start his career. Then again, back in Terry Sawchuk's day, seasons got as long as 50 games, so King Henrik's 70 games played per year certainly factor in, as do the fact that there are no more tied games, with overtimes now having a 50% chance of a win, better for quality (read: playoff-bound) teams like the Rangers.

However, posting GAAs and save percentages consistently among the top-5 over a long stretch of time become more impressive, so Lundqvist's career 2.25 GAA and .920 save % is not only great, but almost mind-boggling. The fact that his career stats are exactly the same (2.28 and .920) in the playoffs, against necessarily better teams (the league's top-16 rather than the entire 30 teams) is even better and speaks even more of his consistency.

He holds Elitserein (Swedish league) records for both GAA and save percentage. He has accumulated the most shutouts in Madison Square Garden history (again, also a factor of playing so much), but his Olympics record for most shutout minutes (over the course of two sessions, 2006 and 2010) is impressive as well, standing at 172 minutes and 34 seconds - or just about three straight games.

He has an Olympic gold medal (2006), as well as World Championship silver (2003 and 2004).

A former goalie myself - and current youth hockey goaltending coach - I am often asked to rank the NHL's goalies, usually because people want me to rank the Montréal Canadiens' Carey Price. This season has been mayhem on my rankings, but in general, had we had a full season with everyone starting on time and having had the same training camp periods, it would have looked like this in September:

1. Henrik Lundqvist
2. Jonathan Quick
3. Pekka Rinne
4. Craig Anderson
5. Miikka Kiprusoff

Kipper was injured and had an off year, but has been the second most consistent of the last decade, so he can be forgiven. Tuukka Rask is definitely on the rise, and I have faith in Ben Bishop to crack the top-10 next year, while Roberto Luongo shouldn't be counted out yet.

And so, getting this white-swatch card from Panini's 2011-12 Pinnacle set (card #41 of the Game Night sub-set) was truly a blessing - my 'hits' aren't usually impressive, or are other people's favourites; this time, I had a guy I truly regarded as one of the best in his profession:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Alexandre Burrows: 4 Autographed Cards

I've been sitting on this one for roughly two years - since January 18, 2011 - first because I was overwhelmed and didn't know how to tell the story, then because I stashed them in such a safe place that when I moved, I couldn't find them anymore until today, while I was preparing to... move again.In any event, here's where I was at:
In high school, everything apart from the classes was fun. Many teachers took their roles seriously enough to impact many of our lives, I was on both the football and hockey teams, and the girls were smart and beautiful. On those football and hockey teams, I'd play alongside future NFLer Jean-Philippe Darche and NHLers Benjamin Guité, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre, and Mathieu Darche. As it turns out, my close friend Catherine's younger brother, Alexandre Burrows, also made it.

That's in addition to those from All-Star  Québec teams, including the gold-winning U-17 team in 1995. They were the best years of my life, my Glory Days as Bruce Springsteen so aptly described.

But let's go back to Alex Burrows, as his story is worth telling. A solid player in the LHJMQ for the Shawinigan Cataractes, he was a nonetheless a long-shot for NHL stardom, although he already proved to be a strong pressure and playoff performer, with a 9-goal, 19-point post-season in 10 games in 2001-02. Undrafted, he made his way through the ECHL, then to the AHL's Manitoba Moose, where he again started at the bottom of the barrel, culminating with a 2005-06 season that saw him post 30 points in 33 egular-season games, and 13 points in 13 playoff games. Which is where this card comes in, from In The Game's 2005-06 Heroes And Prospects set (card #391):
From that point on, he got the attention of the Vancouver Canucks, with whom he once again went from role player to impact player, going from 9 goals in his first full season with the team to four straight 25-plus goal seasons (28, 35, 26, and 28) before the lock-out-shortened season.

And from his time in Vancouver, I have these mementos, first with the white (away) uniform:

That one's from Upper Deck's 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee set (card 450, the Gold / Chrome variation), while the one below is from Panini's 2010-11 Score set (card #458):

There's also this cool 2010-11 Victory card (#185 in the set) from UD, showing him in the Canucks' third - completely retro - uniform:

I'd sent him the three Canucks cards and a fan letter on November 23rd, 2010, and I got them all back on January 18th, 2011, signed in black sharpie, with the Moose one thrown in as well. As big a fan as I was beforehand, it doubled right there and then!

Sometimes I wish our hometown Montréal Canadiens would have picked him up and / or had the Canucks' insight by offering him a minor-league contract, but on the other hand, we didn't have the team to cash in on his talents, and he got to play with the Sedins - on their line! - in Vancouver, so, clearly, he did end up in the better situation.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dustin Byfuglien Swatch Card

The off-season is nearly among us, which means we'll soon be due for a ''Dustin Byflugien is fat'' news story, where we'll learn the star defenseman has gained 100 pounds - which he'll lose by the end of training camp - and which will not stop him from scoring 20 goals and topping the 50-point mark as the Winnipeg Jets' leader on the blue line.

The Minneapolis native is a Stanley Cup champion (Chicago Blackhawks, 2010) and two-time NHL All-Star who has a slap shot clocked at nearly 103 mph. I sent him a fan letter and 5 cards in February 2012, and since I never heard back, I jumped on the chance to purchase this card when I saw it on Ebay for under $2:


It's from Panini's 2011-12 Pinnacle collection, and is #36 in the set, the Game Night sub-set. It features a nice, light-blue (though you can't tell so much from the scan!) swatch. While I'm not much of a fan of the Jets' dark (home) jersey, I'm liking the white (away) one more and more as time passes. It's definitely a keeper, though I'd like to see a retro version of their old garbs for their home games.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Simon Després Autograph Card

Last week, I participated in my first two Ebay group box break... and won in both. The first one netted me this card, from Panini's 2011-12 Contenders (card #221, the Calder Contenders sub-set, numbered ##469/800):


The sub-set 'Calder' implies this also serves as Simon Després's rookie card. In Juniors, as a defenseman, he had a better than 0.5 point-per-game ratio, and won silver at the 2011 World Juniors and the Memorial Cup. He is considered the heir to Kristopher Letang for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who picked him 30th overall at the 2009 draft.

The way these breaks go is the seller usually puts for sale lots of all 30 NHL teams, and winning bidders receive the cards from the break that matches the team they picked. For this box break, I decided to not take any chances and went for my favourite team - the Montréal Canadiens, for $2.25 - as well as the other team geographically near mine filled with young talent - the Ottawa Senators, for $1.99 - and the Pens, for $3.55. Obviously, I chose Pittsburgh for the chance at a Letang, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal or another big name, but am still very happy with this home-grown talent.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pavel Datsyuk Swatch Card

Pavel Datsyuk is a phenomenon onto himself. Some see him as the best two-way forward of his time, as can be attested by his 3 Selke trophies, but I think it's unfair to award that trophy to a point-per-game player, although his hockey IQ is undeniable.

Others consider him the most-skilled player in the NHL, whereas I put him in the top-5, but not on top, a spot I reserve to Evgeni Malkin. However, with his skill set, I do believe he should be over the 1000-point mark rather than 767 in his NHL career (in 779 games), especially considering he's played pretty much his entire career with Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom, and a few seasons with the likes of Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille - all point-producing machines.

Still, he has won 2 Stanley Cups, been chosen for the All-Star Game 4 times, has a Lady Bing to go with his 3 Selkes and has also led the league in plus-minus once. He has one end-of-season Second All Star Team, a World Championship All-Star nod (and a best forward title as well, both in 2010). Internationally, he has 4 titles while playing with Team Russia, winning the gold at the 2002 Olympics, and a trio of World Championship medals: gold in 2012, silver in 2010, and bronze in 2005. With two more NHL seasons, he'll crack the 1000-game and 1000-point barriers and be a lock for the Hall Of Fame, so he still deserves props for an amazing career.

The following card showcases this Detroit Red Wings superstar, with a game-worn white swatch; it's from Panini's 2011-12 Pinnacle, and is #12 in the set, the Game Night sub-set.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Logan Couture Swatch Card

There's something I can't totally get into when I see Logan Couture play, and I could never quite put my finger on it, until, when researching him to showcase this card, I realized his favourite player growing up was Buffalo Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek. Having grown up a Patrick Roy fan myself, not only could I not stand Hasek, but also feel he stole a few Vezinas from Roy - at least he retired with 0 Conn Smythes to Roy's record of 3...

But back to the San Jose Sharks' 30-goal man, who managed 21 in this lockout-shortened season... well, he's an NHL All-Star, might have a shot at playing for Team Canada in the Olympics, but will never win a Stanley Cup as long as he remains in San Jose... the Hockey Gods have decreed it.

This card features him wearing the Sharks' white (away) jersey, perhaps the nicest white jersey they've ever had. The enclosed swatch is also white, and most likely from that same uniform. The card is part of Panini's 2011-12 Crown Royale set (card #3, the Heirs To The Throne sub-set), and is die-cut, which is a neat look:


There's a white spot at the top-left of the card, in the cut; it's dust that was on the scanner, the card itself is pristine.

Monday, June 3, 2013

James Neal Swatch Card

James Neal is a goal-scoring machine. He's also a tough power forward who has become a lock to play for Team Canada whenever he's available - he has already won gold at the 2007 World Juniors and silver at the 2009 World Championships, and has accumulated 8 points and 12 penalty minutes in 9 games with the men's team.

In the NHL, he was drafted 33rd overall by the Dallas Stars in 2005, who chose to keep Jamie Benn over him as trade bait, sending Neal and Matt Niskanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Alex Goligoski. In his draft year, he and Paul Stastny were the two prospects I vowed to watch most closely. Jonathan Quick, Carey Price, Tuuka Rask and Anze Kopitar were also products of that amazing year.

Neal scored 24 goals in his rookie season in 2008-09, and improved to 27 (and 55 points) the next year. And he had 21 goals in 59 games when the Stars sent him to Pittsburgh in his third year, where he would have the chance to play with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. I predicted he'd become a 40-50 goal scorer with those two, and he did reach 40 last year in his first full season with the team; he had 21 in 40 games in this lock-out-shortened season.

And so, when I fell on this beautiful 2011-12 Titanium card by Panini (card #76 in the set, the Game-Worn Gear sub-set) showcasing him in the Pens' superb dark alternate jersey (I'm not a fan of the lighter one), I was more than thrilled:


The actual card is much brighter and flashier than the scan.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Kjell Magne Bondevik Autographed Picture

Back in the early-to-mid 2000s, as I was a more active musician and even more active, uh, activist for peace, I was often in contact with political leaders, such as Canada's Jean Chrétien (a friend of my friend's dad), and France's Jacques Chirac. Another prominent promoter of peace was Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, who has since gone on to form The Oslo Center (using his contacts to help improve world peace, human rights and inter-religious tolerance world wide).

Though he was officially elected under a religious party's political wing, mainly because he is by trade a Lutheran minister, he would have run as part of the Socialist Party had his Young Christian Democrats not accepted the left-leaning reforms he brought forth, inspired by having been involved in the 1968 worldwide protests movement.

In the lead-up to the Iraq war in 2003, he was one of the voices of reason... that was ignored by the U.S. He sent me countless letters that I have misplaced, but also this autographed 4x8 picture:


You can tell it's not a pre-print because the dot on the ''i'' at the end differs from many others found online. Like Bill Clinton and his Clinton Initiative, he now uses his past experience trying to help improve the world without having to worry about the day-to-day operations inherent to running a country.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Mark Mancari Autographed Custom Card

I'll take advantage in this break from hockey news and feature another card I purchased off Ebay from an Ottawa-area collector, this time former Ottawa 67s star and current Buffalo Sabres minor league player Mark Mancari:


It's from BG's 2010-11 model of Future Watch / Hot Prospects custom cards. Mancari started slowly in Juniors, but was a point-per-game player in his final two years, prompting the Sabres to select him with the 207th overall pick in 2004. He started off slowly in the AHL as well, but has been a point-per-game player since, earning a few call-ups with the Sabres, and culminating with a 64-point season in 56 games wit the Portland Pirates, earning an AHL First All-Star Team nod in 2010-11.

He then signed a free agent contract with the Vancouver Canucks before returning with Buffalo after just one year.

He is seen here sporting the Sabres' infamous ''buffa-slug'' logo on a white jersey that is otherwise very nice-looking.