Friday, July 31, 2015

Randy Cunneyworth Autograph Card

After the Buffalo Sabres hired Randy Cunneyworth as a scout a couple of years ago, it was rumoured he might eventually be tapped to take on its head coaching position should the Ron Rolston/Ted Nolan experiment fail.

Those rumours were only half-founded, as he was instead chosen as the head coach of their AHL affiliate Rochester Americans this week. He had already coached the team for eight years in the past (from 2000-01 until 2007-08) and captained it as a player.

His coaching resume also includes a division title with the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs in 2010-11, and one of the worst seasons in Montréal Canadiens history in 2001-12, one many see as a means to just eject him from the organization altogether as a scapegoat. Hey, at least it allowed the Habs to draft Alex Galchenyuk third overall that summer.

In an NHL career that started in 1980-81 and ended in 1998-99, Cunneyworth played a total of 866 regular-season games (189 goals, 225 assists, 414 points) and merely 45 more in the playoffs, playing for cellar dwellers such as the Sabres (twice), the 1980s Pittsburgh Penguins, less than 30 games with the Winnipeg Jets, the Hartford Whalers, the 1993-94 Chicago Blackhawks, and the mid-1990s Ottawa Senators. In 16 NHL seasons, he played for 15 different head coaches.

He served as the Sens' captain from 1995 until 1998, between Gord Dineen and Alexei Yashin, which is a fitting way to feature him as #7 in my Sens Numbers Project with the signed inset version of card #175 from Pinnacle's 1997-98 Be A Player set:
It shows him in the beautiful, original black (away) Sens uniform (with my favourite logo of theirs), as the captain, and is signed on-card inn thin black sharpie.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Mathew Dumba Jersey Card

Mathew Dumba did a really classy thing yesterday: he contacted Derek Boogaard's family to ask if it was ok to use their son's former #24 jersey, meaning he'll forgo the star-worthy 55 in favour of a more classic number. Boogaard may have been an enforcer, but he resonated deeply with fans and teammates.

A year ago, Dumba was about to enter his actual rookie year as a 20-year-old defenseman, and Minnesota Wild fans were expecting to see his hard hits, hard shot and offensive prowess on full display, but the team decided to work him in slowly, giving him third-pair minutes (he averaged less than 16 per game in 58 games) and asking him to develop a sound, mistake-free defensive game before trying to light up the league.

He had nearly as many points in the NHL level (16 in 58 games) as he did in the AHL (14 in 20 games), but his average with the Iowa Wild was closer to what he'd shown he could provide in the minor leagues.

Then again, it's not every year than an Aaron Ekblad comes in and dominates as a rookie on the back end, and even those who do later take a few years of constant criticism while polishing their game, like Tyler Myers. I think the Wild will play it smart with him and let him develop on his own timeline, as the Montréal Canadiens have done with P.K. Subban and now Nathan Beaulieu.

One thing's for sure, as he gathers confidence and learns to properly gauge the speed at which plays occur, he will lay some bruising hits in his own zone and scare the other team's defenders in the offensive zone with his shot.

He has the tools to dominate for a decade, it's up to him to use them properly, and to the Wild to develop them.

In the meantime, here he is from In The Game's 2011-12 Heroes And Prospects set (card #SSM-05 in the Game-Used Jersey sub-set, the Black Version variant), wearing the WHL All-Stars' white (home) uniforms as they faced off against a group of talented Russian Juniors stars in the Subway Super Series, with a matching game-worn jersey swatch:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Brandon Sutter Autograph Card

I last featured Brandon Sutter two years ago when he'd been traded from the Carolina Hurricanes to the Pittsburgh Penguins; today, the Pens sent him to the Vancouver Canucks for center Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening.

Clendening's a decent defensive prospect from the Chicago Blackhawks' system who had very good statistics in the AHL and just needs to translate that into the NHL, while I still think Bonino has the potential to be a consistent 20-goal scorer in the NHL; still, the best player here is Sutter, who actually not only already is a consistent 20-goal man, but did so on the Pens' third line while Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby monopolized all the best wingers for themselves.

You could argue that by signing free agent Eric Fehr on the same day, though, the Pens ended up even, while the Canucks gave more than I would have but may have cemented their 2C spot for years if they can sign Sutter and not lose him as a UFA by the end of the year.

We're talking about a guy who often gets Selke and Lady Byng votes at the end of the year and has won gold with Team Canada at the World Juniors (2008). At age 26, he's still a guy you can add to your nucleus and will add leadership and help steer the kids in the right direction. He's a Sutter, after all, and has even worn the alternate captain's ''A'' as a young guy with the Canes, as can be attested in card #BSU from Panini's 2011-12 Titanium set (part of the Private Signings sub-set):
The gold foil border's a nice touch, as is the Hurricanes' black (third) jersey. It's signed on-card in thin blue sharpie and just generally has a nice vibe to it.

Ironically, today marked the second time in three years Jim Rutherford has traded and praised him, as he was also the one who sent him to Pittsburgh in the first place when he was GM in Carolina.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Ryan Murray Swatch Card

It was exactly a year ago that I first featured Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray and, well, the second-overall pick of the 2012 draft has yet to shake the injury bug; then again, so do the rest of the Jackets, who lost 508-man-games to injury in 2014-15.

Murray himself only played 12 games last year, and was even injured when teammate Ryan Johansen fell on him. As far as hard luck goes, that's pretty bad. It's even got GM Jarmo Kekalainen worried about his missing out on very important development years.

The irony of the ''most NHL-ready player'' from the 2012 draft being limited to 78 games since because of three injury-plagued seasons and a lockout just means we'll have to wait an extra year for him to reach his prime, in my opinion, which will probably be three or four years from now. Of course, that'll probably mean at least one ugly contract dispute with Columbus, but it's not like they're not used to it by now.

To speed things up, the Jackets made a wealth of changes this summer (and since last year's trade deadline, really) and are mostly seen as one of the most improved teams in the NHL... on paper. Notable additions include Brandon Saad and Greg Campbell, but their defense will remain their biggest question mark, at least until Murray claims the mantle as the go-to guy.

Here he is sporting the Blue Jackets' dark blue (home) uniform with a matching ''event-worn material'' swatch, from Panini's 2013-14 Totally Certified set (card #RR-RMR of the Rookie Roll Call and Dual Rookie Class sub-sets):
We'll see this year if 2014-15 was simply a fluke occurrence or the sign of a cursed franchise - and of its prized blue-chip blueliner.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Boyd Devereaux Autograph Card

Boyd Devereaux was the Edmonton Oilers' first-round pick (6th overall) in 1996 ahead of Ruslan Salei (9th), Marco Sturm (21st), Daniel Brière (24th), Matt Cullen (35th), Steve Bégin (40th), Zdeno Chara (56th), Tom Poti (59th), Mark Parrish (79th), Toni Lydman (89th), Michal Rozsival (105th), Andreas Dackell (136th), Pavel Kubina (179th), Willie Mitchell (199th), Tomas Kaberle (204th), and Sami Salo (239th).

All things considered, he was definitely worth selecting in the first round (as would have been those I mentioned, though not in the same order), and he must have made the Oilers proud after scoring the game-winning goals in both the semi-finals (against Russia) and Finals (against Team USA) at the 1997 World Juniors, to lead Team Canada to gold. He was going to be clutch, and the Oilers were going to need that.

Also, keep in mind every Edmonton first-round selection between Jason Arnott (1993, 7th overall) and Ales Hemsky (2001, 13th overall):
1994: Jason Bonsignore (4th overall)
1994: Ryan Smyth (6th)
1995: Steve Kelly (6th)
1996: Devereaux (6th)
1996: Matthieu Descoteaux (19th)
1997: Michel Riesen (14th)
1998: Michael Henrich (13th)
1999: Jani Rita (13th)
2000: Alexei Mikhnov (17th)
Not exactly generational talents, save for Smyth, who was captain material. Which also makes Devereaux stand out as an NHL-caliber player, playing in 627 regular-season games (67 goals, 112 assists, 179 points) and winning the Stanley Cup in 2002 with the Detroit Red Wings. It probably would have been much more had his first AHL game not garnered him a concussion, and had he not suffered another one on a Dallas Drake hit that left him in convulsions.

And, to top it all off, after two seasons spent shuttling between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Marlies in 2007-08 and 2008-09, he moved to the Swiss League's famed HC Lugano, which is currently celebrating its 75th anniversary; unfortunately for both the team and himself, as the season was paused and the team participated in the Spengler Cup, he was on the wrong side of a check that left him with fractured vertebrae. His career was over.

But he's always had an interest in artistic endeavors, having started his record label Elevation Records while still in the NHL, and now operating a video production company called Waking Sound Productions. Full disclosure: Elevation released a record by Thisquietarmy, who have ties to my UnPop Montréal festival via the Montreal Nintendo Orkestar/Symbiose family.

That being said, of course I was going to feature Devereaux as an Oiler, and he also counts as #19 in my Oilers Numbers Project with this card showing him in the team's late-1990s blue (away) uniform, with the ''oil driller'' shoulder patch:
It's the signed insert version of card #237 from Pinnacle Brands' 1997-98 Be A Player set, signed on-card in thin black sharpie.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Daniel Audette Autographed Card

The Montréal Canadiens announed yesterday they'd signed their 2014 fifth-round pick (147th overall) Daniel Audette to a three-year entry-level deal after a fine showing at this month's rookie development camp.

The striking image of his father, Donald Audette - same face, both standing at 5'8'', Donald playing most of his career at 180 pounds and Daniel now hovering around 175 - the younger Audette is currently a center rather than a winger.

Playing in the LHJMQ (fresh off a 29-goal, 74-point season with the Sherbrooke Phoenix as alternate captain for the second year in a row), he can get away from staying in the periphery and using his terrific puckhandling and playmaking skills in Juniors, but he'll have to adapt some part of his game if he's to succeed first in the AHL, and even more so at the NHL level. There is, after all, a reason why a point-per-game producer from a 30-goalscorer's bloodline was only drafted in the fifth round. He also has a bit of a temper, which leads to many penalties; he'll need to find a balance between earning respect and not losing patience any time someone challenges him or his lineage.

Maybe he'll find his inner Brendan Gallagher, or perhaps he'll be moved to the wing - or both But he is, for sure, an exciting development project for the Habs. Team Canada certainly thinks he's good enough to excel so far, having named him to a U-18 and three U-17 teams, and he has 9 points in his last 17 games wearing either the maple leaf or the fleur de lys.

Speaking of which, Upper Deck featured him in their 2014 Team Canada Juniors/Women set, as can be attested by card #22, which he signed in blue sharpie:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Anze Kopitar Jersey Card

Let's be honest - if I ever want to get through featuring all of my Anze Kopitar jersey cards, I have to get started.

Whether you look at it from his draft year or at present time, Kopitar is a hockey phenomenon. He was arguably the second-best center chosen in the 2005 draft (behind Sidney Crosby, though I might build a team around him more than Crosby myself), a strong draft that also included Bobby Ryan (2nd), Jack Johnson (3rd), Carey Price (5th), Marc Staal (12th), Jakub Kindl (19th), Tuukka Rask (21st), T.J. Oshie (24th), James Neal (33rd), Marc-Édouard Vlasic (35th), Paul Stastny (44th), Kris Letang (62nd), Jonathan Quick (72nd), Keith Yandle (105th), Vladimir Sobotka (106th), and Patric Hornqvist (230th).

But he's also a 6'3'', 225-pound center who plays with speed, scores at the same pace as Jonathan Toews in the postseason, has two Stanley Cups while leading the league in playoff scoring both times, and consistently is a top-5 vote-getter for the Lady Byng and Frank J. Selke trophies, as well as a usual suspect when it comes to the Hart.

Some fear this past year might be an indication that he's slowing down, but I think it was just the entire Los Angeles Kings team that collectively had a sub-par season to live through to realize they need to turn the machine on before March comes along and not just put the effort in come playoff time.

He's entering his final contract year on a deal that paid him just under $7M per season over seven years, and it's widely expected his next one will be huge; some are anticipating a contract similar to that of Toews and Patrick Kane with the Chicago Blackhawks ($84M over eight years, each), while others speculate that he and Steven Stamkos will be the first $12M men in hockey.

For some reason, Kopitar seems like more of a team player to me; he's seen the Hawks team get decimated by the salary cap for the second time in three Cup wins, and probably prefers to leave the Kings with more leeway to keep their better players and contend for a few more championships. Particularly with the rise of the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars (should they ever improve their goaltending on the consistency front) in the West. I think he could ''settle'' for a deal within the $9-9.5M range with a full no-movement clause and a job for his brother in the Kings organization.

He would be my choice to captain Team World (what an awful idea) at the upcoming 2016 World Cup, and will probably play in his fourth All-Star Game this year.

Here he is rocking the Kings' former/possibly future black and purple (home) uniform with matching game-worn purple jersey swatch, from Upper Deck's 2010-11 Series 1 set (card #GJ-KA of the UD Game Jersey sub-set):
He's also sporting the alternate captain's "A" in the picture. Chances are, he'll be the Kings' next captain.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Nicklas Grossmann Autograph Card

Nicklas Grossmann was much-maligned with the Philadelphia Flyers, particularly last season. ''Fans'' were putting it on in online forums, and even when he wasn't making mistakes nor taking penalties, he just had some asking ''is he a disaster waiting to happen? When will the floor fallfrom under him?''

He's a former winger turned into a defenseman, and has now just had two consecutive 14-point seasons (including 5 goals in 2014-15), and he just finished with a +8 on the worst defense in the league and an anemic offense as well. But his ''possession statistics'' didn't match up to the rest of the team's, so ''analytics fans'' were angry.

He's not a first-pairing defenseman, that's a given. Ideally, on a contending team, he could be a 15-minute-per-game guy, and  17-minuter, bottom-pairing guy on an average team. You need those types of players to make up a team. But Flyers fans needed a scapegoat, and found him and Andrew MacDonald.

So this summer, GM Ron Hextall ''made a miracle happen'' according to some by trading Grossmann and Chris Pronger's contract to the Phoenix Coyotes for Sam Gagner.

Here's a card of Grossmann's before the spelling of his last name was corrected in North America (it ends with two Ns):
It shows him wearing the Flyers' current/retro white (away) uniform and is from Upper Deck's 2012-13 Artifacts set (card #A-NG of the Autofacts sub-set); it's part of two cards of the same set I found in an old box that I had totally forgotten I had.

Unlike many who criticize him, Grossmann has two World Championship medals, bronze (2009) and silver (2011), acquired while playing with Team Sweden.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Two Steve Rogers Autographed Cards

Of course, I wasn't just going to tease an Expos Numbers Project and let it remain idle; no, as the first post-announcement post, I decided to feature one of the three greatest Montréal Expos pitchers of all time, Steve Rogers.
Sure, Dennis Martinez had a perfect game, and Pedro Martinez won a Cy Young, but they were just as good in at least one other MLB city, whereas Rogers only played in Montréal, and only had a contending team in front of him in 1981 and 1982, which coincided with some of his best years, though the five-time All-Star (1974, 1978, 1979, 1982 and 1983) was by far one of the few bright spots of those 70s teams.

Statistically, he may have deserved the Cy Young in 1982 when he went 19-8 with a league-leading 2.40 ERA and 4 shutouts. He led the National League with 5 shutouts in both 1979 and 1983, and in complete games with 14 in 1980.

In 393 career starts, he has completed an astounding 129, 37 of them shutouts.

Former manager Dick Williams wasn't too fond of Rogers, often falsely claiming he couldn't handle the pressure of big games, but his playoff statistics speak otherwise, with a 3-1 record overall, but mostly 2 decisive wins over the Philadelphia Phillies and their ace Steve Carlton in 1981, a one-run win and a 3-0 shutout to lead the Expos to the League Championship, in which his 4-1 win as a starter was another proof of his undeniable mastery of the mound; his lone loss, handing out a home run in relief on just two days' rest, remains a heartbreaker in the city's annals as one of the worst coaching decisions of all time, regardless of the sport.

And although I already have Michael Barrett penciled in for #45 of my Expos Numbers Project, Rogers will also take his rightful place in it with these two cards, the first of which, from Topps' 1983 Topps set (#320 in the collection), shows him in the team's red Spring Training garbs:
The second one shows him in the team's classic blue (away) uniform, from Donruss' 1985 Donruss set (with card #219):
Both cards were signed in person in blue sharpie, the Topps one in a charity event in 2013 (''Pitch And Catch Rally''), while the second was at Felipe Alou's induction in the Canadian Baseball Hall Of Fame last month.

When he became eligible for the Hall Of Fame in 1991, he didn't garner a single vote - not one! - and his candidacy was therefore revoked for subsequent years. That's despite a better career ERA than Nolan Ryan, and pitching more innings per season than Sandy Koufax. And completing roughly a third of his games.

I think he'd be in were it not for injuries; two to five extra years, even average ones, would have gotten him in on his fifth or sixth try.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Sean Burke Jersey Card

Sean Burke had been quoted as saying he was interested in becoming an NHL General Manager this summer, but the vacant spots have mostly been filled - apart from the three-headed monster over at Toronto Maple Leafs headquarters, which I'm sure he wanted no part in, having to be the lame duck while Kyle Dubas, Brendan Shanahan and Mike Babcock made the actual personnel calls.

Instead, I have a hunch that he may take over for his current boss when Arizona Coyotes GM Don Maloney inevitably gets canned; sure, Maloney has another assistant who has actual GM experience, but that man is Darcy Regier, who turned the Buffalo Sabres into a joke and cut corners in their scouting and drafting departments large enough that years of futility are still years away from bearing any fruit.

The ideal job for him would have been with the Edmonton Oilers, in my opinion. He knows the Western Conference extremely well, having been with the Coyotes in either a coaching or managerial role since 2008. He's also the goaltending coach who ''made'' #1s out of Ilya Bryzgalov, Mike Smith and Devan Dubnyk, and made Chad Johnson (1.21 GAA, .954 save percentage, undefeated in 4 games with 1 shutout), Jason LaBarbera (2.64 GAA and .918 save percentage over 4 seasons), Curtis McElhinney (1.64 GAA and .944 save percentage), Matt Climie (1.88 and .938), and Al Montoya (2.08 and .925) look the part - and the Oilers kind of need an eye for goaltending, and someone who can provide valuable tips.

In today's NHL, Burke is that guy, ahead of even Patrick Roy.

So I guess it's fitting that I feature him as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes, with this card from Pacific's 2000-01 Private Stock Titanium Draft Day set (card #75 of the Authentic Game-Worn Jersey sub-set, mentioning he was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the second round in 1985):
I'm particularly fond of the back, which specifies that the jersey swatch is from a Coyotes game in 1999-2000; it's also numbered 134/1010.

I've mentioned it before, but Burke was one of my favourite goalies growing up. Roy was the unattainable God, and Burke was the best underdog. Roy may have his (record) three Conn Smythes, and his Vezinas (while Burke has one nomination and three top-10 finishes), but Burke has an Olympic medal (silver, 1992) with Team Canada.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Christopher Gibson Autographed Card

I talked last month about getting mail from an old apartment, and how I had a few pleasant surprises waiting for me there. Now's the time for another, this time from Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Christopher Gibson, who I've seen play in Juniors many times:
It's card #181 from In The Game's 2011-12 Heroes And Prospects set, showing him in the beautiful Chicoutimi Saguenéens blue uniform (which used to look better without the Reebok piping, obviously), in a relaxed/idle position looking at the scoreboard. It's signed in blue sharpie, matching his jersey and equipment.

I hadn't sent him anything since the return I got last year, so my guess is this was purely a gift.

I started following his career in 2010 while he was dominating in the ''Q'', and he has now elevated his game to the point of being one of the AHL's top goalies; he had a 2.44 GAA and .916 save percentage in 12 games in 2013-14 with the Toronto Marlies in a third-stringer role, and had a slightly better 2.42 GAA and .921 save percentage in 45 games (24-17-3) as the starter last season on an awful Marlies team, bad enough that the entire coaching staff lost their jobs this summer.

He still carries the unjustified and unfair ''inconsistent'' tag, so he'll likely have to repeat last year's performance this upcoming season before getting a shot at the Leafs' backup position, but I'm certain he'll prove his doubters wrong once more.

He already has a bronze medal with Team Finland at the 2010 World U-18 Championships and participated in the 2012 World Juniors, so I'm also confident he'll get to represent his country at future World Championships, although for the Olympics roster, he does have perennial Vezina contenders Pekka Rinne and Tuukka Rask well ahead of him on the depth chart.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Billie Jo Powers Autograph Card

I mentioned yesterday that I purchased a complete set of Benchwarmer Father's Day cards (eleven from 2012, one from 2010 and four from 2014). One of those from 2012 was a duplicate to me, because I'd received a similar one as a Redemption Card a year ago:
The only difference is that last year's Billie Jo Powers card I got was signed in purple/pink, while this one was signed in green. It'll join yesterday's Foursome on Ebay.

It would have been nice if BW had included ''new'' cards for 2015, and I wouldn't have been averse to Powers being one of them, as the Pittsburgh native reflects a positive energy that is a welcome change to the usual hard-nosed Steel Town attitude.

Not that she doesn't fight for what she wants: she runs a company with her mom that they built from the ground up, it's just that she seems to hold all the good cards in the deck of Life.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Benchwarmer Autograph Foursome Card

I ordered the Benchwarmers Father's Day set a while ago, and I received it in the mail yesterday, with a couple of bonus cards. This is the first one:
It's a dealer-specific quad-auto ''Thank You'' card meant for dealers as a thanks for conducting business with the brand, and features four on-card signatures in black sharpie or BW regulars Cassandra Lynn, Jennifer Korbin, Michelle Baena, and Paige Peterson, with pictures recycled from previously-released cards.

It's a bizarre card for me, considering I'd previously featured Cassandra Lynn Hensley when she died last year, and because I've met Michelle Baena and have actual in-person cards of hers signed - and there's the fact that I've featured Paige Peterson twice already.

I have hundreds of BW and model cards in general that I may get to feature eventually, but this particular compilation card rings weird; that, plus the fact that as a quad-card, I wouldn't know where/how to classify it in my alphabetically-stored binders, so I think this one will go straight to Ebay.

When I feature Benchwarmer cards, I usually write relatively complete summaries of the models' careers, but this being a quad-card, I feel it may be best just to go through it quickly and delve deeper when each one is featured by themselves.

A recap on Cassandra Lynn Hensley: she was Playboy's Playmate Of The Month in February of 2006 and she had a daughter when she died, at the age of 34.

Jennifer Korbin is mostly known as a model, whether in photo shoots or appearances on TV (including on Jimmy Kimmel Live!), but has also tried her hand at horror movies and was a regular and the star of the TV series Lingerie.

Michelle Baena only got into modeling at age 31, and even then, she didn't start out at the top. She participated in swimsuit competitions (finishing anywhere between 4th and 19th), but she caught her big break when Playboy made her Playmate Of The Month for May 2005. Since then, she's graced the cover of over 30 magazines and has been the most sought-after participant at conventions including Comic Con, and has been featured in the Lingerie Bowl.

Paige Peterson, well, she's been off the grid for a while now. Also a Lingerie Bowl alumnus, also a bit of an actress, she can do anything she sets her mind to. I hope she's happy wherever she is.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Martin Biron Swatch Card

Martin Biron retired after a rough start to the 2013-14 season, posting a 7.61 GAA with a .763 save percentage in a couple of games that forced head coach Alain Vigneault to turn to Cam Talbot to back up Henrik Lundqvist.

He had done fine work in the previous three seasons, finishing his parts of four years with the Original Six franchise with a 22-15-3 record, a 2.47 GAA and .908 save percentage, settling into the backup role after fighting for the #1 spot with the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers as well as an unclear 2009-10 with the New York Islanders where he outplayed Dwayne Roloson at times but couldn't sustain the rhythm, and was eventually sent to the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers to make room for Rick DiPietro who had been cleared to play although he was clearly not in game shape.

All told, Biron played in the NHL for 16 seasons, most of them in New York State, save for two and a quarter seasons right across the New Jersey turnpike, for the Flyers. He gave great post-game interviews and had funny moments on-camera when the NHL started allowing color commentators near team benches, which led to his post-career as a TV analyst, mostly for the MSG Network but also part-time with Canadian broadcasters RDS/TSN. Everybody loves him, and he's really fun to listen to, at times overly excited, yet always on point and pertinent.

Here he is wearing the Rangers' classic white (now-away) uniform with a great shot of his mask and piercing blue eyes, from Panini's 2013-14 Titanium set (card #GG-MBI of the Game-Worn Gear sub-set), featuring a game-worn blue swatch:
For some reason, I'll always identify him as a Sabre, despite their sandwiching him between Dominik Hasek and Ryan Miller, but my ''Biron Highlight'' will forever remain his performance in the second round of the 2007-08 playoffs as a Flyer, where he nearly single-highhandedly (with the help of timely R.J. Umberger goals) eliminated the Montréal Canadiens and their prized goalie Carey Price in the midst of the team's centennial celebrations, bringing Price to tears by Game 5. It was poetic injustice to see a local kid eliminate his hometown team so intensely and squarely in what was supposed to be its rebirth and re-positioning into the league's elite.

I won't go overboard and say it was one of the finest displays of goaltending I've ever seen because I've seen Patrick Roy will his way onto four Stanley Cups and three Conn Smythe trophies, and Jean-Sébastien Giguère, Ron Hextall, and Miikka Kiprusoff get their weaker team to the Final by forgetting they could let goals get by them, but as far as amazing performances while coming up short of the Final, Biron's 2008 is only overshadowed by Jaroslav Halak's 2010.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Jakob Silfverberg Autographed Card

Since entering the NHL three seasons ago, Jakob Silfverberg had provided a steady half-point-per-game average while playing sound defensively and projecting the kind of skill level coaches love, with top-six capabilities and great two-way play.

The promise was realized in these past playoffs, as the former second-round pick (39th overall by the Ottawa Senators in 2009) scored 4 goals and added 14 assists for 18 points in 16 postseason games playing alongside Ryan Kesler as the Anaheim Ducks reached the Conference Finals.

It remains to be seen if he'll become a playoff specialist (à la Justin Williams and Andrew Cogliano) or if he can translate it to the regular season as well, but at age 24, this could very well be his breakout season.

The key player in the trade that sent Bobby Ryan to the Sens, the slick Swede has already represented his country five times, and has three medals to show for it, two silver (2011 World Championships and 2014 Olympics) and a bronze (2010 World Juniors). He has a good decade of fine play ahead of himself to keep adding to his resume.

He's currently a restricted free agent, so I'm bound to feature him again soon enough - or during the season. I have other cards of his with the Sens, but I'd like to add a Ducks one (or two) this year, though I have yet to secure tickets to any Sens or Montréal Canadiens games for the upcoming season.

In the meantime, here he is sporting #33 with Ottawa (and thus earning a spot in my Sens Numbers Project), wearing the Senators' red (home) uniform:
It's card #504 from Panini's 2012-13 Score set (part of the Hot Rookies sub-set, thus making it his official rookie card), which he signed in blue sharpie during his first season, probably during the playoffs, as that's when I saw the most games between the Sens and Habs.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Dave Parker Bat Card

It's summer, and once in a while, someone reminds me that baseball still exists. I no longer care for the ball or its teams, but the larger-than-life heroes it created at the turn of the last century, into the 1950s, then into the 80s and 90s for my time - that's different; you knew watching the never-ending games that someone, somewhere would find magic in what just happened, and would enter it in one of the sport's numerous history books.

70 games without making an error. 51 home runs in a single season. 40 homers and 40 stolen bases. Perfect games. A home run from each side of the plate. Batting for .400. The World Series, which barely qualifies as such because only one team isn't from the U.S., and the first Canadian team appeared in 1968. The Chicago Cubs never winning.

One such character was Dave Parker, the brash, outspoken man who seemed like an egomaniac and always talked about how good he looked, who played balls-out and ran into every catcher he ever played against, and whose turning baseball into a contact sport may have ended up causing his Parkinson's - the incurable disease that has him with a permanently shaking right hand, and causes the man who used to be a loud mouth to now speak slowly and more softly.

He now has a foundation that teaches kids how to play ball as well as about Parkinson's, and many other former Cincinnati Reds are part of it.

On the field, he won World Series titles with the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates and 1989 Oakland A's, a batting title in 1978, played in seven All-Star Games including being named the MVP of the 1979 edition after throwing out Jim Rice at third base and Brian Downing at home plate from the outfield, and contributing one RBI. Baseball's first million-dollar man is still waiting for his entry in the Hall Of Fame, partly because he admitted to cocaine use in 1985.

He attended Courter Tech High School, whee he was both a star right fielder and running back, and it's the running back in him that took over every time a catcher stood between Parker and the plate. Even if it meant breaking his cheekbone, like in a 1978 collision with New York Mets catcher John Stearns that probably also resulted in a concussion.

Speaking of which, on this Century Collection card (#69 in the set, numbered 94/100) from the 2010 Donruss Americana set by Panini, he is shown wearing his high school uniform although the piece of game-used bat is ''guaranteed'' to have been used in a ''professional'' game:
The picture is obviously a crop from a team photo.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Eric Gryba Autograph Card

At the draft, the Edmonton Oilers made a few moves to bolster their line-up immediately, from drafting Connor McDavid first overall to acquiring Cam Talbot from the New York Rangers to trading for the Ottawa Senators' Eric Gryba.

The 6'4'', 220-pound hard-hitting defenseman is probably best remembered for knocking out Lars Eller from the Montréal Canadiens in a playoff game in 2013, as Eller was caught looking at a Raphael Diaz pass rather than his environment; Gryba was suspended for two games for the blindside hit.

The trade now has the Oilers with the following defensemen:
Andrej Sekera - Nikita Nikitin
Justin Schultz - Andrew Ference
Griffin Reinhart - Eric Gryba
Mark Fayne - Oscar Klefbom

It is a bit of an improvement from last season, that's for sure, and Gryba's physical presence was definitely needed.

I'm not sold on coach Todd McLellan, nor a trio of Talbot, Ben Scrivens and Anders Nilsson fighting for net time instead of a true, proven #1 goalie. But I'm willing to watch the show happen.

Here's the silver version of card #A-EG from Panini's 2013-14 Prizm set, showing Gryba in the Sens' white (away) uniform, from the Dual Rookie Class sub-set, obviously from a game in Philadelphia (from the fans sitting behind him):
I'd sent him 4 custom cards, care of the Sens, in August of 2014 and never heard anything back from him, so I guess I'll start showcasing my insert cards. This one is thus the one that will count for my Sens Numbers Project.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Shawn Horcoff Swatch Card

Shawn Horcoff didn't remain out of work for too long after the Dallas Stars chose not to re-sign him. In the third day of free agency, he was already a member of the Anaheim Ducks, who needed to add some playoff experience to a relatively young core, and the former Edmonton Oilers captain was a key member of a team who got to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final with their back-up goalie in 2006.

He has a career winning record in the playoffs, and provides the Ducks with a third-line center who can produce offensively and fill in on the wing on a second line once in a while as well. He had 11 goals and 29 points in Dallas last year, playing behind Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza, with little powerplay time and not playing with elite talent, though he did have former Oilers linemate Ales Hemsky at his side for a few games. In 2013-14, he had 6 points in 6 postseason games with the Stars.

In addition to captaining the Oilers, he did so with the NCAA's Michigan State Spartans as well, and was an alternate in Dallas. He has also has played for Team Canada at the World Championships three times, winning gold twice (2003 and 2004) and silver (2009).

Here he is in the Stars' current beautiful green (home) uniform, from Panini's 2013-14 Titanium set (#GG-SH of the Game-Worn Gear sub-set), featuring a dark blue Oilers patch:

Friday, July 10, 2015

Xavier Ouellet Autographed Card

After multiple call-ups totaling 21 games with the Detroit Red Wings last season, Xavier Ouellet is about to have his first legitimate shot, at age 21, at an NHL roster spot next season. He probably won't want to get sent to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins as often as last year, as it ended up taking its toll on his morale.

In my opinion, he's shown enough to be used as a #6 defenseman while he rounds his game and learns the ropes, and has the potential of being a #4 for a long time, with the added bonus of first-unit powerplay specialist. I see the 6'1'', 185-pound point man developing into a Jeff Petry type, or a better-defensively Ron Hainsey type.

Every team needs those, and with Niklas Kronwall entering his mid-30s, so will the Wings.

He was drafted in the second round (48th overall) in 2011, ahead of Scott Harrington (54th), Keegan Lowe (73rd), Jonathan Racine (87th), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (96th), Reid Boucher (99th), Johnny Gaudreau (104th), Andrew Shaw (139th), Frank Corrado (150th), Alexei Marchenko (205th), and Ondrej Palat (208th), and proceeded to be named to two consecutive First All-Star Team selections in the LHJMQ for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, who named him an alternate captain.

He had been drafted out of the same franchise, but before it moved to the suburbs, as can be attested by this 2011-12 Heroes And Prospects card (#183 in the set) from In The Game, showing him in the Montréal Junior's burgundy (a bit of a tribute to former NHL team the Montreal Maroons) away uniform:
He signed it in thin blue sharpie when he came back to town a couple of weeks ago, through a contact with the Armada as he went home to Terrebonne, on Montréal's North Shore. I thought I'd also brought one of him with the Armada, but I'd forgotten it, so I guess I'll have to try it through the mail (TTM) this winter instead.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Magnus Paajarvi Swatch Card

HUGE news on the RFA font today, as the St. Louis Blues have avoided arbitration by signing Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson to a $700,000 one-way contract for next season.

Once regarded as the most skilled player outside the NHL with his shootout moves, Paajarvi has yet to translate his talent to the best league on earth, his six-goal, seven-assist, 13-point production in 65 games over parts of two seasons with the Blues resulting in the following career NHL numbers: 32 goals, 39 assists and 71 points in 228 games.

He did manage to put up 11 goals and 18 assists (29 points) in 36 games playing for St. Louis' AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves, so the 24-year-old's almost there. Maybe.

Originally the Edmonton Oilers' first-round pick (10th overall) in 2009, he was acquired by the Blues in the trade that sent David Perron to play in the tundra.

Speaking of the Oilers, here he is wearing their awful Reebok Edge post-lockout white (away) pajama/practice-like uniforms, from Panini's 2010-11 Zenith set (card #MP of the Winter Warriors sub-set):
It features an orange swatch of game-worn ''material''.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Luke Richardson Autograph Card

After much speculation that he would join the Buffalo Sabres as their new head coach and their subsequent surprise hiring of Dan Byslma, Luke Richardson has decided to keep his old job as head coach of the AHL's Binghamton Senators for another year.

He's the one most responsible for the young players called up by the Ottawa Senators being NHL-ready and having a tremendous immediate impact, including Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone.

Himself a veteran of 1417 regular-season games (201 points, 2055 penalty minutes) and 69 playoff games (8 assists, 130 PIMs), he reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1999-2000 with the Philadelphia Flyers, and this card is a tribute to that achievement:

It's the signed insert (on-card in thin black sharpie) version of card #103 from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set, showing him in the Flyers' white 1980s and 1990s home uniform.

He was tough as nails, but clean. I'm guessing as a coach he's tough and fair. One thing's for sure, he knows how to get to young adults and teach them the foundations of the game, because all of the Sens' young kids come in as effective two-way players who contribute right away.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Norm Ullman Autographed Card

Come to think of it, I probably should have featured this card two days ago, on July 4th. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

Unless you're Norm Ullman, then you win, mostly, as if Life were a lottery.

Growing up in Edmonton, Ullman played his midget years with Johnny Bucyk, then moved to the WCJHL's Edmonton Oil Kings and led the league in scoring two years in a row, prompting the Detroit Red Wings - who owned the team - to officially sign him to a contract. They first sent him to their AHL affiliate, the - as luck would have it - Edmonton Flyers, before giving him a chance in Detroit.

After an 18-point rookie season, the Wings were impressed enough to slot him on the first line alongside Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay in 1956-57. Playing with those superstars (though Lindsay would get traded soon after for attempting to start a players' union, Howe remained a long-time linemate as would be Alex Delvecchio), Ullman may well have invented the type of forecheck that is prevalent in today's game: relentless, close enough to the opponent to have them thinking about a check but a few feet away to intercept attempted passes.

By 1960, he was playing in his first All-Star Game (part of a streak of 9 in 10 seasons, and 11 overall), and he led the Wings in goals in 1960-61, 1964-65 and 1965-66. In 1964-65, he actually led the league (with 42), and his 83 points were second only to Stan Mikita's 87 in the Art Ross race. He even surpassed Mikita for the end-of-season First All-Star Team, the Chicago Blackhawks' legend being relegated to the Second All-Star Team.

Post-season success would not come to him, however, as he was on the Wings during the Montréal Canadiens' dynasty (1956-60, 65-66) as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs' (1962-64, 1967), but he did lead the league in playoff scoring twice.

But as the 1960s were winding down, so were the Wings, who were closing in on the New York Rangers at the bottom of the standings and felt they needed to shake their roster up, prompting a blockbuster trade with the Leafs that sent Ullman, Paul Henderson (yes, that Henderson, who scored the most famous goal in Canadian hockey history), Floyd Smith and Doug Barrie to Toronto for Frank Mahovlich, Carl Brewer, Garry Unger and Pete Stemkowski.

In modern terms, that's like trading Jonathan Toews, Ryan Smyth, Brian Gionta and Nathan Beaulieu for Steven Stamkos, Kimmo Timonen, Ryan Kesler and Justin Williams - all in their prime or right before it.

In Toronto, he once again arrived post-championship, as he had in Detroit. Still, George ''Punch'' Imlach, who didn't earn his nickname by handing out compliments, said of Ullman he was the best center he'd ever had. Ullman enjoyed an 85-point season in 1970-71 playing with Henderson (60 points) and Ron Ellis (53), which made it all the more puzzling when head coach John McLellan started slotting him on the wing or benching him altogether, making for a frustrating final two seasons with the Leafs, until Ullman bolted to the WHA to play with his hometown Edmonton Oilers, with whom he scored 47 goals and registered 83 assists for a total of 130 points in 144 games over two seasons to end his career on a high note following the 1976-77 season.

He was elected to the Hockey Hall Of Fame in 1982, after a prolific career which saw him post sixteen 20-goal seasons in 20 years, finishing with 490 goals and 739 assists for 1229 points in 1410 NHL games, which is where this card comes in:
It's card #78 from the Ultimate Trading Card Company's (no idea who they are, I got this card - unsigned - in repackaged packs of different brands) 1992-93 Ultimate set (part of the Detroit Red Wings Ultimate Hall Of Fame sub-set), which the legend signed for me in blue sharpie during the Habs' centennial celebrations in 2008-09. I'm particularly fond of the Wings' retro uniform, which the team wore for 10 games during the NHL's 75th Anniversary season in 1991-92.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Two Miikka Kiprusoff Swatch Cards

Whether you see it as one franchise or separate the Atlanta Flames from the Calgary Flames, the greatest goalie to have ever worn a flaming letter on the front of his jersey is undoubtedly Miikka Kiprusoff. He had the best glove hand of his era (post-Patrick Roy), the best reflexes and agility after Dominik Hasek in his prime, and may have made the most ''paddle saves'' in the history of the NHL, as can be attested by this highlight reel:



That last sequence in the video is part of a three-minute ovation Flames fans gave him during his final game in Calgary, a 3-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks in which he stopped 32 of 33 shots, as usual. Kipper managed to win a well-deserved Vezina but also a Jennings trophy on what was arguably one of the worst teams in the league during his 10-year, 9-season tenure as a starting goalie.

He retired prior to the 2013-14 season as the franchise leader in wins (305) and shutouts (41).

He was my favourite goalie post-Roy, a position now held by Jaroslav Halak. Both also care about their fans enough to send them autographed cards, which has been my case.

Here he is in the Flames' red (home) uniform, in two cards from Panini's 2013-14 Titanium set (card #GG-MK of the Game-Worn Gear sub-set), with different-coloured swatches:
I could have easily ended this post here, but that would have been too easy. For too long, Kiprusoff's gone underrated, and I felt I needed to set the record straight about just how good he was, so I decided to analyse every goalie since the year I was born 1981-82 (when the Vezina stopped being awarded to the lowest GAA), and compare three things: who actually won the Vezina (and the runners-up), who I felt deserved to be named the best goalie, and the three best in the playoffs. If all goes well, I'll be able to separate the goalies as ''best of their eras'' afterwards:

1981-82: Vezina: Billy Smith; ahead of Grant Fuhr and Michel Dion.
               Best: Smith; ahead of Fuhr and Dan Bouchard.
               Playoffs: Smith; ahead of Richard Brodeur and Tony Esposito.

1982-83: Vezina: Pete Peeters; ahead of Roland Melanson and Murray Bannerman.
               Best: Peeters; ahead of Andy Moog and Billy Smith.
               Playoffs: Smith (Conn Smythe); ahead of Moog and Peeters.

1983-84: Vezina: Tom Barrasso; ahead of Réjean Lemelin and Pat Riggin.
               Best: Barrasso; ahead of Lemelin and Bouchard.
               Playoffs: Fuhr; ahead of Steve Penney and Smith.

1984-85: Vezina: Pelle Lindbergh; ahead of Barrasso and Lemelin.
               Best: Lindbergh; ahead of Barrasso and Riggin.
                Playoffs: Fuhr; ahead of Lindbergh and Smith.

1985-86: Vezina: John Vanbiesbrouck; ahead of Bob Froese and Fuhr.
               Best: Clint Malachuk; ahead of Froese and Vanbiesbrouck.
                Playoffs: Patrick Roy (Conn Smythe); ahead of Mike Vernon and Greg Millen.

1986-87: Vezina: Ron Hextall; ahead of Mike Liut and Fuhr.
               Best: Hextall; ahead of Liut and Eldon ''Pokey'' Reddick.
                Playoffs: Hextall (Conn Smythe); ahead of Brian Hayward and Fuhr.

1987-88: Vezina: Fuhr; ahead of Barrasso and Kelly Hrudey.
               Best: Fuhr; ahead of Vernon and Roy.
               Playoffs: Fuhr; ahead of Lemelin and Sean Burke.

1988-89: Vezina: Roy; ahead of Vernon and Kirk McLean.
               Best: Roy; ahead of Vernon and Peeters.
               Playoffs: Vernon; ahead of Roy and Hextall.

1989-90: Vezina: Roy; ahead of Daren Puppa and Moog.
               Best: Roy; ahead of Liut and Lemelin.
               Playoffs: Moog; ahead of Bill Ranford (Conn Smythe) and Don Beaupre.

1990-91: Vezina: Ed Belfour; ahead of Roy and Mike Richter.
               Best: Roy; ahead of Belfour and Beaupre.
               Playoffs: Barrasso; ahead of Jon Casey and Moog.

1991-92: Vezina: Roy; ahead of McLean and Bob Essensa.
               Best: Roy; ahead of Vanbiesbrouck and McLean.
               Playoffs: Barrasso; ahead of Belfour and Ranford.

1992-93: Vezina: Belfour; ahead of Barrasso and Curtis Joseph.
               Best: Félix Potvin; ahead of Belfour and Joseph.
               Playoffs: Roy (Conn Smythe); ahead of Potvin and Joseph.

1993-94: Vezina: Dominik Hasek; ahead of Vanbiesbrouck and Roy.
               Best: Roy; ahead of Hasek and Vanbiesbrouck.
               Playoffs: Richter; ahead of McLean and Martin Brodeur.

1994-95: Vezina: Hasek; ahead of Belfour and Jim Carey.
               Best: Hasek; ahead of Vanbiesbrouck and Carey.
               Playoffs: Brodeur; ahead of Vernon and Hextall.

1995-96: Vezina: Carey; ahead of Chris Osgood and Puppa.
               Best: Hextall; ahead of Guy Hebert and Carey.
               Playoffs: Roy; ahead of Vanbiesbrouck and Barrasso.

1996-97: Vezina: Hasek; ahead of Brodeur and Roy.
               Best: Roy; ahead of Hasek and Moog.
               Playoffs: Vernon (Conn Smythe); ahead of Roy and Garth Snow.

1997-98: Vezina: Hasek; ahead of Brodeur and Barrasso.
               Best: Hasek; ahead of Barrasso and Belfour.
                Playoffs: Olaf Kolzig; ahead of Osgood and Joseph.

1998-99: Vezina: Hasek; ahead of Joseph and Byron Dafoe.
               Best: Ron Tugnutt; ahead of Hebert and Arturs Irbe.
               Playoffs: Roy; ahead of Hasek and Belfour.

1999-00: Vezina: Kolzig; ahead of Roman Turek and Joseph.
               Best: Roy; ahead of Jeff Hackett and Kolzig.
               Playoffs: Belfour; ahead of Roy and Joseph.

2000-01: Vezina: Hasek; ahead of Roman Cechmanek and Brodeur.
               Best: Cechmanek; ahead of Burke and Hasek.
               Playoffs: Roy (Conn Smythe); ahead of Turek and Joseph.

2001-02: Vezina: José Theodore; ahead of Roy and Burke.
               Best: Theodore; ahead of Roy and Burke.
               Playoffs: Irbe; ahead of Roy and Patrick Lalime.

2002-03: Vezina: Brodeur; ahead of Marty Turco and Belfour.
               Best: Turco; ahead of Roy and Cechmanek.
               Playoffs: J.S. Giguère (Conn Smythe); ahead of Brodeur and Lalime.

2003-04: Vezina: Brodeur; ahead of Miikka Kiprusoff and Roberto Luongo.
               Best: Kiprusoff; ahead of Luongo and Theodore.
               Playoffs: Kiprusoff; ahead of Nikolai Khabibulin and Evgeni Nabokov.

2004-05: NHL lockout. Booooooooooooooo!

2005-06: Vezina: Kiprusoff; ahead of Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist.
               Best: Kiprusoff; ahead of Lundqvist and Tomas Vokoun.
               Playoffs: Dwayne Roloson; ahead of Ilya Bryzgalov and Cam Ward (Conn Smythe).

2006-07: Vezina: Brodeur; ahead of Luongo and Kiprusoff.
               Best: Kiprusoff; ahead of Niklas Backstrom and Lundqvist.
               Playoffs: Luongo; ahead of Giguère and Turco.

2007-08: Vezina: Brodeur; ahead of Nabokov and Lundqvist.
               Best: Giguère; ahead of Backstrom and Kiprusoff.
               Playoffs: M.A. Fleury; ahead of Osgood and Lundqvist.

2008-09: Vezina: Tim Thomas; ahead of Steve Mason and Backstrom.
               Best: Thomas; ahead of Vokoun and Luongo.
               Playoffs: Fleury; ahead of Osgood and Jonas Hiller.

2009-10: Vezina: Ryan Miller; ahead of Bryzgalov and Brodeur.
               Best: Miller; ahead of Nabokov and Kiprusoff.
               Playoffs: Jaroslav Halak; ahead of Antti Niemi and Michael Leighton.

2010-11: Vezina: Thomas; ahead of Pekka Rinne and Luongo.
               Best: Thomas; ahead of Rinne and Luongo.
               Playoffs: Thomas (Conn Smythe); ahead of Jimmy Howard and Luongo.

2011-12: Vezina: Lundqvist; ahead of Jonathan Quick and Rinne.
               Best: Lundqvist; ahead of Halak and Brian Elliott.
               Playoffs: Quick (Conn Smythe); ahead of Lundqvist and Mike Smith.

2012-13: Vezina: Sergei Bobrovsky; ahead of Lundqvist and Niemi.
               Best: Bobrovsky; ahead of Craig Anderson and Lundqvist.
               Playoffs: Corey Crawford; ahead of Quick and Tuukka Rask.

2013-14: Vezina: Rask; ahead of Semyon Varlamov and Ben Bishop.
               Best: Rask; ahead of Bishop and Lundqvist.
               Playoffs: Quick; ahead of Lundqvist and Rask.

2014-15: Vezina: Carey Price; ahead of Rinne and Devan Dubnyk.
               Best: Dubnyk; ahead of Price and Fleury.
               Playoffs: Crawford; ahead of Bishop and Lundqvist.

Honestly, before starting with this exercise, I thought the one-hit wonders would be more numerous and would help determine which one goalie stood out in an era, with two to five sub-contenders per, but a far cry behind. For example, when Patrick Roy had his coming out party in the 1986 playoffs, I was under the impression that he relegated Grant Fuhr and Mike Vernon to second-tier status - which he did - but the podium didn't just have two spots, as John Vanbiesbrouck, Tom Barrasso, Réjean Lemelin and Andy Moog also put in a good number of strong seasons, well into the 1990s for all except Lemelin.

And let's be honest: while I did my best to ignore Ed Belfour's milestones and achievements while he was playing, he was a definite top-10 goalie most times, and could have runs where he was top-5. Same thing for Dominik Hasek; there were years when the Buffalo Sabres' system protected him so well his job was almost too easy, but there are others where he was leading the elite by too wide a margin to ignore.

And while many claim the same about Martin Brodeur, this was a worthwhile exercise to show that GMs (who vote for the Vezina) can and do make mistakes, as can be attested by his run of 1998-02 where his save percentage was .906 three of four years and still he finished in the top-5 for voting, on a team so well defended that he saw less than 25 shots per game, none of them from the slot. That was followed by 4 Vezinas in 5 years and a runner-up in the middle, usually with a save percentage 15 points below that of the league leader.

Which leads, using 5 points for a first place, 3 for second and one for third, plus 5 for extra NHL Awards not counted here, to the following aggregated results of 29 goalies with over 10 points:

Patrick Roy: 117 points
Dominik Hasek: 60 points
Martin Brodeur: 40 points
Tom Barrasso: 37 points
Grant Fuhr: 34 points
Ed Belfour: 32 points
Miikka Kiprusoff: 31 points
Mike Vernon: 30 points
Tim Thomas: 30 points
Henrik Lundqvist: 29 points
Billy Smith: 28 points
Ron Hextall: 27 points
Jonathan Quick: 21 points
John Vanbiesbrouck: 19 points
Jean-Sébastien Giguère: 18 points
Carey Price: 18 points
José Theodore: 16 points
Andy Moog: 16 points
Roberto Luongo: 16 points
Corey Crawford: 15 points
Pelle Lindbergh: 13 points
Pete Peeters: 12 points
Chris Osgood: 12 points
Tuukka Rask: 12 points
Olaf Kolzig: 11 points
Réjean Lemelin: 11 points
Curtis Joseph: 11 points
Marc-André Fleury: 11 points
Devan Dubnyk: 11 points

I guess it's safe and fair to say anyone with over 30 has had ''their era'' (damn you, Brodeur!), and that Lundqvist and Quick will likely get there as well. Crawford, Rask and Price could, although Price will need to repeat his 2014-15 many times for that to happen.

What I get from this is that Billy Smith and Fuhr owned the early-to-mid 1980s, that Barrasso almost had the mid-80s were it not for Roy, whose success was constant from 1988 until 2003, though he had to share the glory with Hasek, mostly, from the mid-1990s on, with Brodeur often the third wheel, but far behind.

Tim Thomas had an almost unprecedented level of success in a three-year run, but the early-to-mid-00s saw a Kipper dominance, and Lundqvist has held the mantle almost alone since, save for Quick in the playoffs and Rinne as this generation's third wheel.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Calvin Pickard Autograph Card

This is probably the year where a ''goalie controversy'' emerges with the Colorado Avalanche, leading the team to shop Calvin Pickard next summer, when the market won't be as saturated as this year (I envision Dustin Tokarski to also be available and one of the Tampa Bay Lightning's goalies, while this year Cam Talbot, Eddie Lack, Robin Lehner, Jhonas Enroth, Michal Neuvirth, Anders Lindback, and Martin Jones were available via trade and Antti Niemi and Devan Dubnyk were set to become free agents).

For my money, Pickard's already better than some #1 goalies out there (San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames), so the Avs were smart not to attempt to trade him in a buyer's market and instead wait until they've got the upper hand.

The third goalie chosen at the 2010 draft, he's already surpassed Jack Campbell and Mark Visentin in his draft class, as well as the Avs' official backup Reto Berra last season, head coach Patrick Roy preferring to send in freshly-recalled Pickard instead of his official backup whenever Semyon Varlamov was feeling under the weather. he's also surpassed his older brother Chet Pickard, a former Nashville Predators first round pick now playing in Denmark.

The Avs will hold on to Varlamov for the next decade, seeing as he's a proven commodity - an Olympian and Vezina nominee - but if I had a billion dollars to buy an NHL team, I would be very comfortable selecting Pickard and Tokarski as my goalies.

I met Pickard last year when he played in his first NHL start in Montréal, so look for another post whenever he makes the news again. For now, though, here's a 2014-14 Prizm card (#A-2P of the Dual Rookie Class sub-set, the silver version) by Panini, showing him in his awesome cat-like stance, wearing the Avs' burgundy (home) uniform:
It's signed on a sticker, in thin blue sharpie.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Scott Young Autograph Card

Well, the St. Louis Blues are certainly keeping busy this off-season, signing a ton of players and shaking up their roster with a couple of trades so far, acquiring Konrad Abeltshauser from the San Jose Sharks, and Troy Brouwer, Phoenix Copley and a draft pick from the Washington Capitals for Team USA Olympic hero and playoff underachiever T.J. Oshie.

It reminds me a bit of the late 1990s - ironically during the era where their uniforms were the same as their current/throwback ones - when they went through an awful lot of player changes, with Al MacInnis coming in, Pierre Turgeon passing by, along with the likes of Scott Young, Craig Conroy, Doug Weight, Marty Reasoner and Geoff Courtnall.

It's been five and a half years since I last featured Young, who returned to his alma mater Boston University Terriers as Director of Hockey Operations last year, after doing the same coaching the St. Mark's hockey team at the high school level for three years.

Young brings a wealth of experience, not just as a good scorer (one 30-goal season with the Québec Nordiques and a 40-goal season with the Blues) with a tremendous slap shot in the NHL, but also some international experience, with gold (1996 World Cup), silver (2002 Olympics) and bronze (1986 World Juniors) medals with the American team at various levels and in different decades. Oh, and Stanley Cups with the 1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins and 1995-96 Colorado Avalanche.

He's been around the block a few times and knows a thing or two about a lot of things, so the kids at BU are in good hands to learn about Life in a sports context.

Here he is wearing the Blues' dark blue (then-away) uniform:
It's the signed insert of card #278 from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set, signed on-card in thin black sharpie.