Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Stephen Weiss Jersey Card

It's official: the Detroit Red Wings have bought out the last three seasons of the 5-year, $24.9M contract they'd given Stephen Weiss coming out of the lockout.

The Wings at the time had a dilemma: they could try out team-grown Valtteri Filppula in the second-line center spot so that Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg could play together, or look at the free agent market for a better option.

One such option was the Florida Panthers' long-time first-line center (and four-time leading scorer) Weiss, coming off a sub-par season where he'd suffered a wrist injury. They chose the former fourth-overall pick (2001) from Toronto over the homegrown Finn and, well, have paid dearly since.

I'll be the first to say it isn't fair to look at it from a purely statistical standpoint; of course, at a $4.9M cap hit, 4 points in 26 games (2013-14) and 25 in 52 games (2014-15) looks awful, particularly coupled with a -6 over the two seasons. But it's also and mostly due to the 86 games missed to various injuries, coupled with the desire to prove his worth and playing while affected by injuries that ended up hurting his statistical line - and the team, when it comes to playing at less than 100% when others might be better-suited to play.

It's hard to imagine the two-time 60-point center ever getting back to that level, what with a long history of injuries, having passed the age of 30, and the wealth of young talent entering the league each year, but on a team where the third line is expected to provide some secondary scoring and have some level of talent, I could see him hovering between 30 and 40 points for another three years. At a low cost, probably.

Here he is, from far better days, when he wore the alternate captain's ''A'' with the Panthers, from Upper Deck's 2010-11 Series 1 collection (card #GJ-WE of the UD Game Jersey sub-set), showing him wearing Florida's white (away) uniform, with a black game-worn swatch enclosed:


Monday, June 29, 2015

Craig Anderson Autographed Card

By trading away Robin Lehner along with David Legwand to the Buffalo Sabres, the Ottawa Senators kept their most proven goaltender - and legitimate #1 goalie - within the organization. Craig Anderson's contract runs for three more years, thus securing the position for the mid-term.

The San Jose Sharks reportedly had interest in the American netminder, and with good reason: although he was injured and then had to sit while Andrew Hammond enjoyed a career run, when Hammond faltered against the Montréal Canadiens in the playoffs, Anderson stepped right in, winning two of four games and outplaying Hart, Pearson, Jennings and Vezina winner Carey Price in three of them, the other game being an equal battle.

Since the Sens are the second team I follow most, and because I probably rank Anderson among the top-10 most dependable goalies in the league, I was glad they kept their association going; I'm also a fan of the Sharks losing, a trend he might have helped buck.

I met him twice during the last playoffs after games in which he'd been nothing short of spectacular. On one occasion, I had him sign a Sens card and a Team USA card, but today I decided to feature him with the Colorado Avalanche, another team for which he was solid, so that I could store all my Avs cards of his together on the same row in my binder:
It's card #27 from Upper Deck's 2009-10 Champ's set and shows him with the Avs' traditional burgundy uniform. My previous two of his in the Avalanche uniform were of the white variety, when he signed for me through the mail in 2011.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Milan Michalek: 3 UD Ice Jersey Cards

I hadn't written about Ottawa Senators winger Milan Michalek since 2010, which is mind-boggling considering he may be the player I have the second-most insert/jersey cards of (after Anze Kopitar), and I'm a fan of his play. It's probably because I'd written him again with more cards to sign in March 2014 and was trying to pace my posts, but since I haven't heard anything in over a year, I might as well move on to these cards, all from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Ice set, usually one of my favourites each year (along with Artifacts):
That's right: three different jersey cards (each with a different-coloured swatch!) of Michalek sporting the San Jose Sharks' millennium-era white (home) uniform, all from the same set.

First, there's card #FF-MM of the Frozen Fabrics sub-set, featuring a teal game-worn swatch:
Then there's the two variants of #FI-MM, from the Fresh Ice sub-set:
These are different themselves in many ways; first, the colours are different - not just the swatches but the card itself: the top one (white swatch) is dark teal on its top half while the one on the bottom is grey with a lighter teal as the separation colour. There's also the fact that the one on top is actually made of see-through plastic (the Ice logo is completely transparent), while the bottom one is a regular cardboard card.

Much has been written about Michalek's perceived drop from a consistent 20-goal man (with a peak of 35 in 2011-12), but it hasn't been from lack of effort of lack of chances; a lot of it was just plain dumb luck, as can be attested from a particular 2-goal, 3-point night in February where he could have had four goals in the first period alone and missed an open net to finish the hat trick in the third, capping off an 11-point-in-13-games stretch, which enabled him to finish with 25 points in his last 30 games.

The 6'2'', 220-pound winger is still fast and hard to get off the puck, and drives the play forward most of the time; his 17 goals in 2013-14 were just three away from the 20-goal mark, which would have registered as a fine season; his 13 goals in 66 games last year is a fine average as well - and one that resembles his postseason output of 15 goals in 63 games; it's just that since he doesn't rack up a ton of assists, not reaching 20 goals nor 40 points looks like a letdown to some.

I don't think he'll reach the 30-goal mark again in this NHL where goals are at a premium and those numbers are reserved for top-line players nowadays, but as a second-liner, I definitely see him flirting with 20 for two or three more years, easily. He's barely 30, after all.

A former All-Star Game starter, he plays for the Czech team internationally, which has garnered him a trio of bronze medals (at the 2002 U-18s, as well as the 2011 and 2012 World Championships). He played at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi (where his team finished sixth) and should also be part of the 2018 squad should the NHL send its players; he'll no doubt also take part in the 2016 World Cup - chances are Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Petr Nedved won't play, so he should be able to get first- or second-line duties on the team.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Devan Dubnyk Autograph Card

I couldn't think of a better card to sum up the day in the hockey world:
It's card #SOT-DD from Upper Deck's 2012-13 SP Authentic set, part of the Sign Of The Times sub-set, showing Devan Dubnyk sporting the Edmonton Oilers' white (away) uniform, signed on-card in this blue sharpie.

Dubnyk, fresh off winning this year's Bill Masterton Trophy, signed a six-year contract extension today, worth $25M in total. Not bad for a guy who was sent back to the AHL the year before, but pretty much a sign of the times (see what I did there?) that the guy who played for 5 franchises in the past two seasons now surpasses the three goalies who were already with the Minnesota Wild at the beginning of the 2014-15 season, creating the league's biggest goalie controversy at the time.

And this on the same day where the Oilers nabbed Cam Talbot in a trade with the New York Rangers, Edmonton being the team who tried the likes of Ilya Bryzgalov, Ben Scrivens, Viktor Fasth, Jason LaBarbera, Richard Bachman, Tyler Bunz and Laurent Brossoît with varying levels of small success in replacing the relatively underwhelming Dubnyk since 2013-14.

A lot of people are high on Tablot after he kept the Rangers in contention when Henrik Lundqvist went down with an injury, but they fail to keep in mind he was playing behind the best defense in the East; the same had been said of Scrivens behind the Los Angeles Kings defense, Fasth with the Anaheim Ducks, and Bryz with then-defensive powerhouse Phoenix Coyotes.

I'm not sure how much of Dubnyk's Vezina-caliber season was because of the Wild's back end and system, how much was him fulfilling his talent and expectations, or just the focus he had while fighting for the right to keep playing at any level, but we'll see soon enough. As will Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom...

Friday, June 26, 2015

Ryan O'Reilly Swatch Card

Is the drama over? Probably. He'll still have to sign a contract with the Buffalo Sabres, but Ryan O'Reilly will no longer have contentious negotiations with the Colorado Avalanche now that he was traded.

Indeed, the Avs have sent O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn to Buffalo for a second-round pick, Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, and J.T. Compher, whom I know nothing about. Zadorov is a highly-rated defensive prospect and Grigorenko was a star in Juniors under Patrick Roy with the Québec Remparts; having them united could help him on his path to becoming an NHL star instead of another talent wasted from a failed Buffalo regime.

But the key player remains O'Reilly, the Lady Byng Trophy winner in 2013-14 who will probably win a Selke in his career. He's a terrific hockey player, but whenever he either led the Avs in points or was their highest-paid player, they failed to make the playoffs.

Unlike Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews with the Chicago Blackhawks who will be earning their market value starting next season, forcing the Hawks to trade a couple of players to adjust to the cap while remaining contenders, O'Reilly's greed was always in the optic of himself, to be the highest-paid, the top earner right away, not just hindering the team's cap management issues but the hierarchy in the dressing room - letting future players know he's the king in there, but also his current teammates as well, even those putting up more points than him.

I understand wanting your efforts to not go unrecognized, and wanting to play an active role in your team's success; at some point, though, your ego might become detrimental to the group. That works for the cap situation, but also if/when the Sabres make the playoffs and he's forced to play with an injury to contribute, and he'll have to decided if he's worth more to the team at 50% of his capacities than someone else - a teammate - at 100% of theirs. He wanted to be the Avs' captain so bad, but true leadership is about putting the team's benefit first, and letting everyone enjoy their time in the limelight.

Don't get me wrong: he's a terrific hockey player. But I wouldn't want him on my team at this point of his maturing process.

Here he is rocking the Avs' alternate uniform, featuring a black, game-worn material swatch, from Panini's 2013-14 Titanium set, card #GG-ROR of the Game-Worn Gear sub-set:
Here's hoping he matures into a dependable leader in Buffalo and doesn't hit a brick (Tim Hortons) brick wall.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Slava Voynov Jersey Card

Lots of long-standing story lines in the NHL, such as expansion talks (now official), the status of the Arizona Coyotes, and the Slava Voynov saga. Parallel to his time in court in an alleged domestic violence case, the Los Angeles Kings have now suspended him for having incurred an injury they deem was not hockey-related, freeing cap space towards the free agent market - where their top priority is likely signing their own restricted free agents.

It's been a trying year for Voynov, his wife, and the team, who failed to make the playoffs after winning the Stanley Cup the previous season; hopefully it all gets sorted out sooner than later.

This marks the third time I feature him since the charges arose, and all three cards featured have shown the same Kings black (home) uniform as that pictured on this card from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 2 set (card #GJ-SV of the UD Game Jersey sub-set):

It's also the second jersey card, and both times the game-worn swatch has been white. Ironic how his life is nothing but black and white for the moment.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Jake Allen Autographed Card

There are many stories I will cover between now and the NHL draft, a lot of them in connection to the NHL Awards which were handed out tonight.

But I thought I could begin with how St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong, fresh on being named Team Canada's head honcho for the 2016 World Cup, reaffirmed how clueless he was about his own team's goaltending situation going into next season.

Indeed, like Ken Hitchcock prior to the playoffs three months ago, he's going in with the mind frame that he has two goalies capable of earning the #1 mantle in Brian Elliott and Jake Allen, and that one of them is bound to take it and run with it. And they very well could. And maybe they will. But he could have shut up about it and not let the media turn it into a story.

Allen wasn't really supposed to become such a highly-touted prospect. He started his Juniors career with sub-par statistics with the St. John's Fog Devils and Montréal Junior Hockey Club, with save percentages barely hitting .900 in the regular season and below that in the playoffs, and yet the Blues chose him with the 34th pick of 2008, right at the beginning of the second round, ahead of a lot of good forwards and defensemen, but in terms of goalies, the noteworthy ones to follow were Michael Hutchinson (77th), Braden Holtby (93rd), 6'8'' wonder Jason Missiaen (116th), Dustin Tokarski (122nd), Kevin Poulin (126th), and Anders Lindback (207th).

At the time, I may have ranked Tokarski ahead of him, and at this point, it's safe to say Holtby holds the edge as one of the five best Canadian goalies in the entire NHL (Carey Price, Roberto Luongo and Corey Crawford are my top-3, not always in that order).

Like the five I just mentioned, Allen played for Team Canada; like Price, his first memorable experience to the general public came at the World Juniors, as an over-aged player - he was 20 years old. Price won the gold, Allen settled for silver. Later that year, though, he was named the CHL's best goalie, so there's comfort in that.

What really put the New Brunswick native's career in high gear, however, was his impressive AHL rookie campaign where he set Peoria Rivermen records for wins (25), minutes played (2805), saves (1306) and shutouts (6), earning the starter's job for the AHL's All-Star Game, representing the Western Conference.

His next couple of seasons saw his save percentage regress from .917 to .915 to .904 and his GAA go from 2.52 to 2.93 to 2.89. As the Blues' farm team moved from Peoria to become the Chicago Wolves, his numbers went back to elite levels, with a 33-16-3 record in 53 games, a 2.03 GAA, .928 save percentage and 7 shutouts to earn the Baz Bastien Award (most outstanding goalie in the AHL); his playoff statistics, however, remained sub-par, with a 3.29 GAA and .879 save percentage.

So who's the real Jake Allen - the regular-season wonderkind who surpasses expectations in the regular season (though with certain consistency issues), or the guy who can't step up when the competition gets tougher? That remains to be seen. He'll need to work on covering his top corners better, on keeping his concentration after letting a goal in and near the ends of periods, and continue playing the puck well and passing it to his defensemen.

He'll turn 25 by the time the next season gets going, an age where goalies start hitting their prime and comfort zone. He's already been named to the NHL's All-Rookie Team twice, so that's a start; the only other player to have achieved that feat was Jamie Storr, a fellow netminder.

I'd mentioned earlier this spring how I had fallen on a box of early-alphabet cards I'd forgotten about, well this card showing him in the Rivermen's blue uniform, signed in blue sharpie, was one of them:
I don't remember if it was signed in person or by mail, honestly. It's card #117 from In The Game's 2011-12 Heroes And Prospects set, showing him in the modern stance of the glove hand held too high for my taste.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chris Chelios Autographed Card

It's funny, I wrote this line in a previous post about Chris Chelios just last month:
I talked about how I viewed him in the top-5 or top-10 of all time about a month and a half ago, and that still stands and will until another suitor is actually worth reconsidering for, which may or may not happen in my lifetime.
After which two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith had a Conn Smythe-winning run for the ages, averaging more than 30 minutes of ice time per game at a dominant rate. He was seemingly involved in every play, both defensively and offensively, so much so that it didn't matter that neither Jonathan Toews nor Patrick Kane had any noteworthy input in the Final.

Keith's play was very Chelios-like, Chicago Blackhawks era. A dominant force, a true leader. Remember Chelios being the guy who put Jeremy Roenick back in his place after losing in the 1991-92 Stanley Cup Final and two Conference Finals, Roenick claiming ''it's ok, we'll win it next year'' and Chelios letting him know he may never play in another Cup Final - and he didn't, while Cheli won two more Cups with the Detroit Red Wings (in addition to the one he won in Montréal in 1986). Different types of leadership, sure, but exactly what the Hawks needed in each of their eras.

Chelios works for the Wings nowadays, having spent this past season as special advisor to GM Ken Holland, and he will be a special assistant coach next year, in addition to being an assistant coach for Team USA at the World Juniors. I'm certain he'll be a huge help for both teams.

Now, if he could train most Wings the way he trained, Holland might have a team of superheroes on his hands...

Last month, I showed Chelios wearing the Hawks' red (then-away) uniform; now it's time for the white (home) one:
The card itself is #31 from Parkhurst's 2003-04 Original 6 (Chicago Blackhawks) manufactured by In The Game. ITG made boxes of each Original Six team, and Chelios had a card in half of them (#31 in both the Hawks and Montréal Canadiens' sets, #2 in the Wings set). I got him to sign it in black sharpie when he played his last game in Montréal, in 2007, as a member of the Wings. I was under the impression I also had a card of his with the Habs that day, but I can't find it - maybe it's with my McFarlane figurine, which I've also misplaced.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Brandon Convery Autographed Card

Brandon Convery was the Toronto Maple Leafs' first-round pick (8th overall) in 1992, ahead of such players as Sergei Gonchar (14th), Martin Straka (19th), Peter Ferraro (24th), Jim Carey (32nd), Valeri Bure (33rd), Mike Peca (40th), Brent Gretzky (49th), Patrick Traverse (50th), Manny Fernandez (52nd), Sergei Zholtok (55th), Craig Rivet (68th), Matthew Barnaby (83rd), Adrian Aucoin (117th), Joël Bouchard (129th), Ian Laperrière (158th), Christian Proulx (64th), Anson Carter (220th), and Dan McGillis (238th).

Toronto fans and media types are usually quick to label him a ''bust'', but honestly, the two times he did get a fair shake, he produced at the NHL level: in 1995-96, with the Leafs, he had 5 goals and 7 total points when he was recalled in the last 11 games of the season, and in 1998-99 with the Vancouver Canucks, he got 9 points in 12 games.

But injuries took their toll, including a broken leg that took a year off his development, a shoulder injury that got him off the Leafs' opening roster, and a history of concussions that forced him to retire at a young age. Nowadays, the well-spoken redhead uses his past experience as a consultant and motivational speaker.

I played against him in the mid-1990s (my guess is 1995 or 1996) at a summer hockey school - I was a teacher's assistant/student at the Jacques St-Jean school but it may have been when we'd take off and ''tour'' on weekends and play other programs in the Ottawa or Toronto areas. It was customary to have players from the Midget and Juniors levels such as myself get demolished by young pros, and he was one of them. I think his team won by more than 10 goals, and he must have scored two hat tricks on us, likely one on each of myself and Jean-François Labbé.

That would have been when he signed this card for me in black sharpie:
It's card #59 from Classic's 1993-94 Pro Hockey Prospects set, showing him in AHL's St. John's Maple Leafs' white (home) uniform. Notice behind Convery, Kevin Kaminski of the Halifax Citadelles getting roughed up by Ted Crowley.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Two Claude Lemieux Jersey Cards

Sometimes, a series of events ring a bell enough to remind you of a subject, or a person. In my case today, it was the lull between the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the start of free agency, where this year's top available forward will be regular-season average player but playoff (and particularly Game 7 beast), Conn Smythe winner Justin Williams which, coupled with the ongoing Arizona Coyotes saga, making a perfect storm that led me to thinking about Claude Lemieux.

Lemieux is a touchy subject for many - and has been pretty much since he debuted in the NHL in his third attempt, in 1985-86, winning the Stanley Cup with the Montréal Canadiens and a whole bunch of young studs including Conn Smythe record holder (having won it three times) Patrick Roy, as well as youngsters Guy Carbonneau, Gaston Gingras, Chris Chelios, Mike McPhee, Brian Skrudland, Stéphane Richer, Kjell Dahlin, David Maley, Mike Lalor, Craig Ludwig, Randy Bucyk, John Kordic and Petr Svoboda, established stars Bobby Smith, Mats Naslund and Chris Nilan, and seasoned veteran Hall of Famers Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey. Lemieux scored 10 goals and had 6 assists in 20 games that postseason, the biggest goal coming in a Game 7 overtime against the Hartford Whalers.

From the get-go, he had a knack at getting under opponents' skin. Well, opponents and coaches. Pat Burns famously told team medic to not attend to him faking an injury on the ice by saying ''Qu'il crève!'' (literal translation: ''Let him die!'') in the 1989 Stanley Cup Final, just months after a run-in at practice where Lemieux, trying to take on a leadership role, asked Burns to ease up on the powerplay unit which had gone on drills for a while, with Burns retaliating by putting his stick's blade under Lemieux's chin with what seemed like the intention of slicing it.

But the rugged forward was mostly known for infuriating opponents. In the 1986-87 season, the Habs were involved in three bench-clearing brawls in two games, the first two occurring against the Québec Nordiques in the infamous Good Friday (''Vendredi Saint'') game, and the third against the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs.

Lemieux had a habit/superstition of shooting a puck into the opponent's open net after the pre-game skate, and the Flyers, as a tough team trying to mark their territory, had told him to stop. So of course, he and fellow trouble-maker Shayne Corson waited for the Flyers' players to leave the ice and go to their dressing room to get back onto the ice with a puck and shoot it in the net, prompting all 24 Flyers skaters to head back onto the ice and engage in a veritable alleyway fight with the 20 Habs players - with no referee in sight.

Obviously, most people remember him for the dirty hit on the Detroit Red Wings' Kris Draper:
... and his turtling instead of answering the bell when Darren McCarthy went to fight him in retaliation.

And that hit - and his reaction to it - was what brought the Avs-Wings rivalry onto the next level for the next half-dozen years, as both teams were Cup contenders and frequent postseason adversaries. However, we tend to forget that it happened the year the Colorado Avalanche won their first Stanley Cup (the year they moved into town, no less), and that it was Lemieux's second consecutive championship, having won the Cup and the Conn Smythe the previous year with the New Jersey Devils where he scored 13 goals to lead all playoff skaters. He won another one in Jersey in 2000.

He was the fourth player ever to win Cups with three different teams, and the fifth to win consecutive ones with different teams. He has twice the number of Cups as Mario Lemieux (let that sink in... and remember Mario played with Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis, Paul Coffey, Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy, Mark Recchi, Ulf Samuelsson, and regularly had multiple 100-point scorers on his team), and two major victories with Team Canada, a Canada Cup (1987), a World Juniors gold (1985), and was on the runner-up team at the inaugural World Cup (1996).

He also got a few Selke Trophy votes three times, once finishing in sixth place. But after slowing down while with the Phoenix Coyotes and splitting a season between Arizona and the Dallas Stars in 2002-03, he retired... only to return for a final swan song in 2008-09, playing 18 games with the San Jose Sharks. All told, he ranks third in playoff game-winners with 19, behind Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull (at 24 apiece), ahead of the likes of Joe Sakic, Maurice Richard, Mike Bossy and Glenn Anderson.

The first time he retired, he became team president of the ECHL's Phoenix RoadRunners, and participated in the Spike TV show Pros vs. Joes; the second time he retired, he participated in CBC's Battle Of The Blades in 2009, finishing as runner-up, and in 2011 became chairman of the board of directors at GRAF, a hockey and figure skating equipment manufacturer from Alberta.

So while most of the hockey world remembers him as the Avs' pest, and people in Jersey seem to have forgotten his stellar play for them, most Montrealers remember him as a member of the Canadiens, a local boy (he grew up in Buckingham, Quebec) who made the big team and won the Cup at home.

I'm halfway, because the Avs were my mid-90s team. So I didn't mind when I pulled card #GJ-CL from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 1 set (part of the UD Game Jersey sub-set), though getting two the same day may have been slightly exaggerated:
It shows him wearing the team's white (then-home) uniform with matching game-worn jersey swatches (one seemingly more used than the other), at the old Forum, back when board ads were less prevalent and pervasive.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mikael Backlund Swatch Card

The Calgary Flames have secured the services of their best two-way center Mikael Backlund today with a three-year deal that includes his first two seasons of UFA eligibility, showing good faith on both sides that he truly wanted to be an integral part of the team's rebuild and, correspondingly, that they wanted him to be.

The 26-year-old collects point at a one-every-other-game pace, and that could remain stable if he keeps getting third-line minutes, but he could probably reach the 55-point mark with second-unit powerplay time and/or should an injury to either Sean Monahan or Sam Bennett occur.

He's got soft hands, terrific passing ability, and a better-than-average shot. At 6'1'' and 200 pounds, he's pretty strong and will only get harder to knock off the puck. His skill-set led many Flames fans to end up disappointed in his production, but his play at both ends of the ice make him indispensable to the team, and his offensive output ranks above the median rank for centers whose job it is to cover the opponents' top lines.

He's also shown a flair for the dramatic with an overtime goal at home against the Anaheim Ducks last month, in the second round of the playoffs, for the Flames' lone win of the series.

With the wealth of talent now on Calgary, I'm no longer positive he'll eventually play in an All-Star Game (Mark Giordano and Johnny Gaudreau will likely get the bulk of the nods in the next 5 years), but with his two silver medals at the World Juniors (2008 and 2009) and silver (2011) and bronze at the World Championships (2010 and 2014), he'll be a fixture on Team Sweden for a while, and will have excellent chances at an Olympic medal.

Here's card #GG-MBA from Panini's 2013-14 Titanium collection, part of the Game-Worn Gear sub-set:
It shows him wearing the Flames' red (home) jersey, with a matching game-worn swatch that looks much brighter to the naked eye than via scan.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Evgeni Malkin Swatch Card

For my 1001st post, I thought it was fair to feature the player whom I feel might be the best on the planet, Evgeni Malkin. I was going to wait until the trade rumours either fell or came through (I personally doubt it'll happen, I would keep him if I were GM, even if it meant I had to trade away my captain), but it seemed appropriate to start a new millennium of posts with the best of the best.

Ironically, I have never pulled a Malkin (nor a Sidney Crosby, nor Alexander Ovechkin, nor Wayne Gretzky), so I usually never even look for some on Ebay, always assuming they're out of my price range as a half-starving musician; there's actually a funny story about this card, #27 from Donruss' 2011-12 Elite set from Panini, numbered 96/418, showing him in the Pittsburgh Penguins' black (home) uniform but embedded with a light-blue (alternate) swatch:
I was actually bidding on other cards from the seller, and lost out on all of them, save for this one, which I got for $3 (plus $3.50 shipping); I'd even bid higher on Andrei Markov cards.

The second overall pick of the 2004 draft (behind Ovechkin) has won all the individual awards you can think of: two Art Ross Trophies, a Hart, a Ted Lindsay, and even one that Crosby never will (a Calder) and one he hasn't yet (the Conn Smythe, as playoff MVP, the first Russian to win the award).

He was a key component of the Pens' 2009 Stanley Cup-winning team (obviously), and seems to have the ability to rise up in the most important games and just take charge of the play. He's highly-decorated on the international stage as well, with gold medals at the World Championships 2012, 2014) and World U-18s (2004), silver at the Worlds (2010, 2015) and World Juniors (2005, 2006) and bronze at the Worlds (2005, 2007) and U-18s (2003).

At 6'3'' and 210 pounds, he's a cross between Eric Lindros' physical invulnerability in that three-year stretch in the mid-1990s and Jaromir Jagr's raw talent, and the only time I've ever seen him let up is in the Final Game at the 2015 World Championships a month ago, when he could have laid a devastating semi-blindside hit to a Canadian player to perhaps turn the 4-0 game around in the offensive zone; that player, however, was Crosby, and ''Geno'' just stopped in his tracks as Sid was rounding his own net, his eyes looking at the puck that was just ahead of his skates. Had Geno not let up, Crosby might still be concussed today (regardless of when you're reading this).

But apart from that, every time I've seen him play was like watching the world's strongest man reading the best poem of all time, that he just happened to improvise right in front of our eyes. He's a beast, plain and simple.

He's literally all-world: he's a multiple NHL First-Team All-Star (2008, 2009, 2012), but also a three-time World Championship All-Star (2007, 2010, 2012), as well as Best Forward and MVP (2012 for both).

He scored a goal in each of his first six games in 2006, a feat that hadn't been achieved since the NHL's inaugural season in 1917-18, and is the only player not named Gretzky to have led the NHL and the Worlds in scoring in the same year.

He's merely 587 games into his NHL career (with 712 points to show for it) and already has first-ballot Hall Of Fame credentials. That's in addition to his 111 points in 101 playoff games in this Dead Puck Era II.

1000th Post!

Wow, I'm not sure if I ever thought I'd get to 1000 posts, but here I am.

That's 628 autograph posts, 166 of them in-person, 196 by mail.
926 card posts.
19 on American football and 22 on baseball.
2 on politicians, though I have many more.
868 pertaining to hockey.

160 of the Montréal Canadiens.
58 of the Edmonton Oilers.
50 of the Ottawa Senators.
49 of the Calgary Flames.
40 of the Los Angeles Kings.
38 of the Colorado Avalanche.
35 of the Vancouver Canucks.
28 of the Boston Bruins.
28 of the Philadelphia Flyers.
24 of the Buffalo Sabres.
24 of the Florida Panthers.
24 of the New York Rangers.
23 of the Chicago Blackhawks.
18 of the Hamilton Bulldogs.

51 of Hall Of Famers.

And one of the unique Velvet la Touche.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tyson Sexsmith Autograph Card

Tyson Sexsmith had a tremendous 2007 Memorial Cup tournament in which he led the Vancouver Giants to the title on the strength of a 1.40 GAA and .936 save percentage in 5 games after a WHL playoffs in which he went 14-7 with a 1.79 GAA and .914 save percentage in 22 games.

The San Jose Sharks chose him in the third round (91st overall) at the 2007 draft, making him the first WHL goalie to hear his name called out that year. He led his Juniors league in goals-against average two years running, and holds the career record for shutouts with 26.

He spent the three seasons after his Juniors career in the Sharks' system, mostly with the AHL's Worcester Sharks, but also suiting up for the ECHL's Kalamazoo Wings and Stockton Thunder. He then plied his trade in three different leagues for the 2012-13 season, first with the KHL's Novokuznetsk Mettalurg (based in Siberia), then with the AHL's Abbottsford Heat, and finishing in Italy for a short playoff run with the Bolzano HC Foxes (which now plays in the Austrian League, EBEL, where they won the championship this year); the Foxes currently has a goalie who bears the same last name as me, Günther Hell, an Italian.

I don't know what became of Sexsmith for the last two years, but I'd like to find out. Panini believed in him enough to feature him in their 2013-14 Score set, as seen here in card #SS-TSE of the Signature sub-set, sporting the nicest Sharks white uniform of all time, which would be even better without the football-style jersey number on the front, above the logo:

It features an on-sticker autograph, signed in thin blue sharpie with the number 31 tagged onto it, though he's pictured wearing #37. This card was an add-on from a trade last year.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Nicklas Lidstrom Jersey Card

His Hall Of Fame career may be over, but I still have a lot of Nicklas Lidstrom cards to feature as I take my important cards from boxes to alphabetized binders, and few are more dear to me than my Lidstroms - the best defenseman of his era, a true gentleman who signed four cards for me roughly three years ago.

He spent his entire career with the Detroit Red Wings, winning four Stanley Cups, seven Norris Trophies, one Conn Smythe, was the first European-born captain to get handed the Cup and stands as the single player who has appeared in the most games (1564) with the same team.

He also has medals of every kind with Team Sweden, from an Olympic gold (2006) to World Championship gold (1991), silver (2004) and bronze (1994), a feat that's hard to achieve on a team that's appeared in 25 straight postseasons (and would usually get past the second round).

He has played in 12 All-Star Games, made the First All-Star Team ten times (1998-2003, 2006-08, 2011) and the second All-Star Team twice (2009, 2010), proving he was an elite player until the very end; he was even fifth in Norris voting in his final season.

He amassed 1142 regular-season points and 183 more in the playoffs, all while facing the opposition's top players, and finished with an astonishing +450 (and +61 in the playoffs). That means he was on the ice for 500 more goals for than against, not counting the powerplay. That's a whole lot of one-sided play.

His individual achievements are superior to that of individual teams'.

Two of his four sons currently play hockey in Swedish leagues, so we may yet hear the Lidstrom last name uttered again, hopefully in Detroit.

Here's a card from back when he was sporting the alternate-captain's ''A'' in the Wings' white (then-home) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Series 2 collection (card #J7-NL of the UD Game Jersey sub-set):
It features a red, game-worn jersey swatch and shows him wearing the Wings' classic white uniform.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jarrod Skalde Autographed Card

I have featured Jarrod Skalde twice before (here and here), focusing on his playing career and unique career path, spanning 19 seasons with a total of 29 teams in 8 leagues and 6 countries.

After retiring from the game, he became a head coach, first as a player/coach with the Bloomington PrairieThunder of the IHL, then winning a championship and best coach award in the ECHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones (a team he'd played for in the IHL in the 1990s) before starting as an assistant and graduating to head coach with the AHL's Norfolk Admirals. As the Admirals' parent team - the NHL's Anaheim Ducks - decided to move their team closer to home to become the AHL iteration of the San Diego Gulls (a team he's played for in the 1990s when it was in the IHL), he and the team agreed to part ways.

It's unclear whether he was tired of moving his family around (though in March, he seemed pleased to move back to an area he and his wife had loved) and/or the Ducks had found the perfect scapegoat for finishing with a 27-39-10 record with a team whose top talent was either in the NHL (John Gibson, Emerson Etem) or injured (Max Friberg, Chris Wagner, Nicolas Kerdiles) - but the fact remains that he is now currently unemployed.

I'm fairly confident he'll find work soon enough - or whenever he's ready, at least; it's what he's always done.

Here he is wearing the New Jersey Devils' white (then-home) 1980s and early-1990s uniform (with red and green as highlight colours instead of red and black), from Score's 1991-92 (Canadian) set (card #282, part of the Top Prospect sub-set), signed in-person in the 1990s in black sharpie:


Monday, June 15, 2015

Adrian Aucoin Autograph Card

Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks for their third Stanley Cup in six years. Captain Jonathan Toews received the Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman's hands and immediately handed it to Kimmo Timonen, who can now retire as a champion after having been on the losing end of every championship game he'd ever played in, including the Stanley Cup loss to the Hawks in 2010 back when he was with the Philadelphia Flyers. Timonen had also captained the Hawks' division rival Nashville Predators.

Speaking of defensemen and captains, I thought it was time I featured this card of Adrian Aucoin, wearing the Hawks' black (alternate) jersey, from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Be A Player set (card #AA of the BAP Signatures sub-set):

Aucoin was the Hawks' 42nd captain, following Alexei Zhamnov and preceding Toews (with Martin Lapointe serving in the role when Aucoin was injured and one time where he was a healthy scratch).

While his time in Chicago didn't showcase the best he had to offer nor was the team the powerhouse it is now (yes, I dare call it a Dynasty), Aucoin was a fine top-4 defenseman, often times a top-pairing guy for most of his career.

He hit the 30-point mark six times (with a high of 44 in 2003-04 with the New York Islanders), once held an NHL record for most powerplay goals in a single season by a defenseman (18, in 1998-99 with the Vancouver Canucks, since passed by Sheldon Souray of the Montréal Canadiens), played in the 2004 All-Star Game (and co-winning the hardest shot competition with Souray), hit the 10-goal mark six times and helped the Phoenix Coyotes to a division title and the Conference Finals in 2011-12.

He has also suited up for Team Canada three times, winning gold at the 1993 World Juniors and silver in the 1994 Olympics, and finishing 7th at the 2010 World Championships.

The 6'2'', 220-pound hard-hitting sharp shooter retired after playing the 2012-13 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was one point short of the 400 mark, with 121 goals and 278 assists in 1108 regular-season games, and 6-15-21 in 65 playoff games. There were rumblings of his joining the Hawks in a player development capacity at some point, but that has never materialized or been formally announced.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Sedin Twins Dual Jersey Card

I'm not usually one to be happy about pulling cards depicting multiple players, because I store my good ones (personally autographed and ''hits'') in binders, alphabetically, by player. This one of the Sedin twins, however, was ideal, because I can create a sheet with both players in it, both separately and together:
It's card #WC-SS of the 2011-12 SPX set by Upper Deck, part of the Winning Combos/Dual Jersey sub-set, and refers to each's Art Ross-winning season. The incorporated game-worn jersey swatches don't match the pictures next to them, but I've gotten used to that from UD by now.

Henrik Sedin (blue jersey, #33, white swatch) won his for the 2009-10 season, after scoring 29 goals to go with his league-leading 83 assists and 112 points. He also brought home the Hart and a First All-Star Team nod that year, and also got some Lady Byng and Selke votes in the process. He also repeated as First All-Star center the following season.

Daniel Sedin (white jersey, #22, green swatch) earned his after a 41-goal, 63-assist season good for 104 points. He was the runner-up for the Hart (which went to Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks), but did earn the Lester B. Pearson Trophy (Best Player, as voted by the players themselves) with his First All-Star Team nod; he'd been voted to the Second All-Star Team the previous year, despite suiting up in just 63 games. He also routinely garners Lady Byng and Selke votes for sportmanlike conduct and two-way play, respectively.

Having played their entire professional careers together, the pair have similar international achievements with Team Sweden as well: Olympic gold (2006), World Championship gold (2013) and bronze (1999, 2001), World U-18 gold (1998) and World U-17 silver (1997).

Daniel has an extra Olympic medal, though: silver at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Henrik having to miss the event because of a rib injury after a Martin Hanzal cross-check.

As of now, having both played their entire NHL careers with the Vancouver Canucks, their statistics are fairly similar:

Henrik has 211 goals, 704 assists and 915 points in 1092 regular-season games, with another 23 goals, 55 assists and 78 points in 105 playoff games.

Daniel has 327 goals, 554 assists and 881 points in 1061 regular-season games, with another 23 goals, 44 assists and 67 points in 96 playoff games.

They are under contract for two more years, so both will likely surpass the 1000-point mark with the Canucks before then - and they'll be 36 at that point, so perhaps they won't hang 'em up right then either.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Erik Gudbranson Autograph Card

The Florida Panthers almost made the playoffs this year, and have shown they will be contenders for years to come with the firepower they already have up front (Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, and Brandon Pirri, with veteran presence Jaromir Jagr to lead the way) a solid defense anchored around Aaron Ekblad, with Dmitri Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson as a tremendous supporting cast, and goaltender Roberto Luongo still in Vezina nominee form.

And they have the 11th pick in this year's deep draft class, which might enable them to add to that core. Let that sink in. They have a decade or so of great hockey ahead of themselves, in addition to future drafts, without so much as needing to adjust their top-6 forwards, top-3 defensemen and #1 goalie - and if they do, they could potentially become young contenders like the Tampa Bay Lightning this year... as early as next season.

Gudbranson was the third-overall pick at the 2010 draft, behind Taylor Hall (first) and Tyler Seguin, and ahead of Ryan Johansen (4th), Jeff Skinner (7th), Cam Fowler (12th), Jaden Schwartz (14th), Vladimir Tarasenko (16th), Bjugstad (19th), Jarred Tinordi (22nd), Emerson Etem (29th), Justin Faulk (37th), Devante Smith-Pelly (42nd), Tyler Toffoli (47th), Teemu Pulkkinen (111th), Peter Mrazek (141st), Brendan Gallagher (147th), and Mark Stone (178th). It was also a very deep draft, and third seems like the perfect place for the 23-year-old giant (6'5'', 210 pounds).

He's coming into his own in the points-production department though Brian Campbell and Ekblad usually get the best chances to put points on the board, but his hard shot and accurate passes will eventually garner him some top-unit powerplay time. He's also sound in his own zone, capable of delivering punishing checks, and a smart, tireless worker who could eventually wear a letter on his chest.

Born and raised just outside of Ottawa, he speaks fluent French and has suited up for Team Canada twice, winning gold at the 2009 U-18 championships and silver at the 2010 World Juniors. I see him playing with the big boys in an Olympics, and eventually wearing a letter on his jersey if he plays on a World Championship team.

He can also grow a great mustache, as can be attested in this card from Panini's 2011-12 Contenders card (#222 in the set, part of the Calder Contenders sub-set, signed on-card in thin blue sharpie, numbered 585/800):
It shows him wearing the Panthers' red (home) uniform.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Antoine Vermette Jersey Card

So... the never-ending Arizona Coyotes saga, well, never ends. The Glendale city council voted to terminate the team's lease last night, and the team threatened to sue for $200M. But first: an injunction (court order to temporarily put the termination on hold while awaiting further proceedings), of course.

Here's the short story: the Winnipeg Jets left Canada in 1996 to become the Phoenix Coyotes. It didn't work out so great because the arena the team shared with the NBA's Phoenix Suns wasn't adapted to hockey, so they looked at other options, including another downtown Phoenix location, and some suburbs, including Scottsdale, which has more expats from the East and North who are familiar with hockey.

Through backroom deals and the pipe dream of building ''another Las Vegas'' in the desert complete with facilities for all four major team sports, golf courses, upscale malls and hyper-expensive condo towers, the owners decided to settle on Glendale, a not-so-rich suburb full of college football fans. It didn't exactly pan out, and the neighbourhood-building never really occurred.

The team went through tough times on the ice, people stopped coming to games, one ownership group declared bankruptcy, many people tried to buy the team but were rejected by the league (including Canadian billionnaire Jim Balsillie who wanted to move it to Hamilton, Ontario), and the team was operated and self-owned by the NHL for a few years, until four guys came in (Anthony Leblanc being the most vocal) a couple of years ago and bought it for $150M. Last summer, they sold 51% of their share of the team to Andrew Barroway for... $150M, meaning the original bunch kept half the team without paying a penny for it. There are now talks of Barroway selling some of his shares.

The team was said to lose $25M per year and complained they weren't making enough money from arena revenue, so they forced the city of  Glendale, which technically owns the arena, to hand them a contract to ''manage'' the building, in exchange for $15M per year and basically a free lease; in return, they were to fill it on non-hockey nights with concerts, sporting events, trade shows and the like to ring in enough tax revenue for Glendale to recoup most of the money they gave the team.

Which they didn't. There were only 15 non-Coyotes events at the arena last year, raking in less than $6M in revenue (taxes and concession stands included). Ironically, that alone IS NOT grounds for termination of contract. Indeed, Glendale is instead insisting on one anti-corruption clause of the lease contract which forbids a City employee who worked on the deal to start working for the team. And one of them, an attorney who supported the deal, no less, was indeed getting paid on both sides of the fence at one moment in 2013.

This, of course, was to be expected. I could have booked that arena 100 times and would have done it for less than $5M myself, including cab expenses (I don't drive). Anything more is a scam and a sham - and not being able to achieve it in a year where  both Madonna and the Rolling Stones were touring, let alone circuses, mid-level rock acts and current-day chart toppers touring almost non-stop.

Then again, I could also probably manage the Coyotes to better than 29th place with a coach like Dave Tippett behind the bench. Don Maloney at least got some kind of return for the likes of Keith Yandle (Anthony Duclair!) and Antoine Vermette (a first-rounder and defensive prospect Klas Dahlbeck), but he got rid of his best goalie (Devan Dubnyk) because he was hindering starter Mike Smith's confidence, and has done nothing in any off-season to make players feel welcome, buying out veterans after throwing them under the bus (Mike Ribeiro) and letting his best players walk as free agents (Radim Vrbata).

Speaking of Vermette, he's enjoying a rather eventful postseason with the Chicago Blackhawks, going from healthy scratch to overtime hero. In his second Stanley Cup Final (he was on the losing side with the Ottawa Senators in 2007 against the Anaheim Ducks), his ability in the face-off circle is proving to be an important part of the Hawks' game plan. His 6 points in 18 games so far don't tell the whole story, scoring's at an all-time low across the board this year, for everyone. He's having a decent year.

Here he is sporting the Coyotes' alternate (black) jersey - with a matching game-worn swatch - from the 2008-14 era, from Upper Deck's 2012-13 Series 1 set (card #GJ-AV of the Game Jersey sub-set):
He has also played with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who had acquired him from the Sens in exchange for Pascal Leclaire and the draft pick that would eventually become Robin Lehner.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Richard Sévigny Autographed Card

A silver medalist at the 1978 World Juniors with Team Canada, Richard Sévigny was drafted 124th overall by the Montréal Canadiens in 1977, a year in which they also drafted fellow goalies Rob Holland (64th), Barry Borrett (152nd), Mark Holden (160th), Carey Walker (174th), Jean Bélisle (179th), and Bob Daly (180th), literally stocking up at the position.

He would appear in 11 games with the Habs in 1979-80, but really started to make his mark the following season (sharing the Vezina Trophy with Bunny Larocque and Denis Herron in the process), but because he'd served as a backup in the previous season's Stanley Cup run, he had his named engraved on Lord Stanley's Mug before even playing in a single NHL game.

One of his most memorable appearances came in the infamous Good Friday Game (''Le Match Du Vendredi Saint'') which pitted the Canadiens against provincial rivals the Québec Nordiques in which two bench-clearing brawls occured. Sévigny fought the Nordiques' Clint Malarchuk that night and was thrown out of the game.

Ironically, he signed with Québec as a free agent two years later, his workload decreasing with each passing season in the white-and-blue, going from 20 to 11 to just 4 in 1986-87.

He coached in France for four seasons upon retiring, then worked as a homeroom attendant in a Montréal suburb high school until 2012.

I'd never met him when he played, nor when I played, but did so at many charity events where he was a featured guest. It was at one of these last year that he signed this 2012-12 Between The Pipes card (#140 of the Decades - The 1980s sub-set) from In The Game, showing his Jofa helmet while with the Nordiques:
Most goalies in the 1980s evolved from a helmet to a mask, but Sévigny went the other way, as he'd worn a complete face mask in his days with the Canadiens:
That was a great look! He was also the last Hab to wear #33 before Patrick Roy, whom it was retired for. Of note that Sévigny signed the Nordiques card above in thin blue sharpie and tagged it with #33, but he wore #1 with the Nordiques.

My Nordiques Numbers Project: An Introduction

You're probably used to it by now, what with my Habs Numbers Project, my Oilers Numbers Project, my Sens Numbers Project, and my Canucks Numbers Project, but I decided long ago that I would also have one for my favourite team as a child, the Québec Nordiques.

As a reminder, the goal is to have an autographed card of a player representing each jersey number worn/used by the franchise. If I can't find an autographed card, autographed pictures, postcards or jersey cards can count.
Originally founded as a WHA team in in 1972, they joined the NHL with the New England/Hartford Whalers, the Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets when the WHA folded with the agreement that four teams would merge with the NHL, pending a transfer fee and the loss of their superstars whose rights belonged to existing NHL teams.

Because the franchised relocated to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche in 1995, it's a tad harder to complete this set than my previous ones, because it gives me a limited number of years to access and fewer players having the chance to wear certain jersey numbers.

I'm starting this project with the mindset of limiting myself to the 1972-1995 time period, ignoring the Avs part of the team's history - and also skipping over former teams based in the same city, such as the Stanley Cup-winning Québec Bulldogs.

Here's the list of those I have featured here thus far:

1. Ron Tugnutt and Richard Sévigny: check!
2. Sylvain Lefebvre: check!
4. Paul Baxter: check!
5. Réjean Houle and Brent Severyn: check!
7: Robbie Ftorek: check!
9: Réal Cloutier: check!
10. Guy Lafleur: check!
12. Chris Simon: check!
16. Michel Goulet once: (and twice) check!
18: Mike Hough: check!
19. Michel Dion (also wore 30): check!
21: Randy Moller: check!
22. Ron Sutter: check!
30. Michel Dion (also wore 19): check!
31. Stéphane Fiset: check!
32. Dale Hunter: check!
36: Adam Deadmarsh: check!
40: Tony Hrkac: check!
44: Mario Marois: check!
48. Scott Young: check!
51: Andrei Kovalenko: check!

That's 21 numbers thus far. Some numbers will be harder than others (Peter Stastny's 26 and Joe Sakic's/Owen Nolan's 88), but I'm actually fairly confident with this one. This and the Habs one, fittingly, should near completion before I get bored with having these projects!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Marty Turco Jersey Card

Marty Turco's a unique figure in goaltending, where you either consider him elite or average, and just about nothing will change your mind. I'm in the latter category, mostly, though I do respect that he was a unique stickhandler and, with perhaps Martin Brodeur, may have been the top puck-moving goaltender of his era, with Rick DiPietro and José Theodore vying for third place.

He never won the Vezina Trophy but was a finalist once and in the top-5 for votes another two times despite starting his career with three of four seasons consisting of GAAs below 2.00 and the other at 2.09. Sure, he was a Second Team All-Star in 2002-03 when he compiled a .932 save percentage, but that's pretty much as far as it goes in terms of achievements at the NHL level. In his era, and particularly his peak (2000-06), Patrick Roy was still King Of The Hill, Brodeur was building his legend, Miikka Kiprusoff was dominant, and Ed Belfour, Theodore and Jean-Sébastien Giguère were solid and consistent, as were Curtis Joseph, Olaf Kolzig, Nikolai Khabibulin and Tomas Vokoun. That didn't leave much room for the second tier of good goalies, which Turco was a part of.

Not that it's his fault with a .914 save percentage a low 2.17 in the postseason, but he never really had playoff success with the Dallas Stars, finishing with a losing record (21 wins, 26 losses) in 47 games and a bit of a reputation as a choker (which may very well be unfair); he was named the third goalie for Team Canada at the 2006 Olympics after Theodore tested positive for hair-growth product Rogaine, which can be used to mask steroids (he had a medical exemption, but chose to keep his perfect hairdo instead of watching the Games from the stands in Torino, which Turco was proud and honored to do).

I'll tell you what: I was kind of glad to see Turco have success, because it meant he got to replace Belfour, a goalie I liked even less. I'll also admit his glory years happened when I was shying away from regular-season hockey because Colorado Avalanche games were unavailable at the time in Canada, and my hometown Montréal Canadiens were a wreck that wasn't worth paying attention to; I'd also recently retired from the sport after two seasons in Juniors where I'd been a goon/third-string goalie, so I was a tad disillusioned with hockey in general, until 2002.

So, all told, perhaps I simply didn't get to witness the best that Turco had to offer.

He looked good in the Stars' ''original'' (in Dallas, at least) Star-shaped jersey, pre-golden pads:
It's card #FF-MT from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Ice set (and Frozen Fabrics sub-set), always one of my favourite designs year in and year out. It features a game-worn black jersey swatch, possibly from the away (inversed colours from this picture) uniform.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Greg Nemisz Autograph Card

The Calgary Flames went to the second round in these playoffs, so as an organization, they've improved a lot from previous years. They have built a sound playing structure and attitude under head coach Bob Hartley, centered around youthful enthusiasm and toughness.

The Flames have drafted well in the past couple of seasons and have developed and nurtured their talent, for the most part. They may have dropped the ball on Sven Baertschi, whom they traded away to the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline after stalling him in the AHL.

Another one of their formerly prized prospects is the player they selected in the first round (25th overall) in 2008, Greg Nemisz, ahead of Tyler Ennis (29th), Jacob Markstrom (31st), Derek Stepan (51st), Travis Hamonic (53rd), Marco Scandella (55th), Michael Hutchinson (77th), Adam Henrique (82nd), Braden Holtby (93rd), Dale Weise (111th), T.J. Brodie (114th), Gustav Nyquist (121st), Dustin Tokarski (122d), Greg Pateryn (128th), Mark Barberio (152nd), and Jared Spurgeon (156th).

But the 6'3'', 190-pound center had been a point-per-game player for the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL (on the same team as Henrique and Taylor Hall), and he certainly fit the mold the Flames were looking for: big and talented. He capped off his Juniors career with Memorial Cups in 2008-09 and 2009-10, as well as silver with Team Canada at the World Juniors in 2010.

Power forwards typically take a longer time to develop, so with that in mind, his lone assist in 15 games over two seasons with the offensively-challenged Flames isn't necessarily cause for concern. The fact that they opted to trade a former first-rounder for an enforcer (Kevin Westgarth) was puzzling, especially considering said enforcer now plays in Ireland.

Nemisz has already had serious injury troubles, including a hernia and shoulder injury, which may be cause for concern, but could also excuse his less-than-stellar stats (14 points in 21 games) on the Charlotte Checkers team last year.

But at 25 years old, if he is to become a power forward-type of player, now would be the time to start putting pucks in the net and bumping and grinding his way onto the Caroline Hurricanes and proving the Flames wrong for having given up on him.

Here is is sporting the Flames' red (home) jersey, from Panini's 2011-12 Contenders (card #203, the Calder Contenders sub-set, numbered ##470/800), signed on-card in thin blue sharpie with his number (48) tagged at the end:

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Peter Forsberg Jersey Card

Because injuries cut his Hall Of Fame career short yet he was still good enough to make the cut, many like to compare Peter Forsberg's statistics with those of the likes of Eric Lindros to make the case for less deserving players, except with Forsberg, the numbers - while great - don't tell the whole story.

We're talking about a two-time Stanley Cup champion, who was the third ever member to have enough championships to join the Triple Gold club twice, and his domination at the international level is unparalleled, from his record 31 points in 7 games at the World Juniors to World Championship gold at age 18 to his gold-winning shootout goal at the 1994 Olympics to his back-to-back MVP titles (of both the league-awarded and player-voted variety) in Sweden to Calder, Hart and Art Ross trophies in the NHL.

And then there's the top-5 marks in points-per-game and assists-per-game which ranks him with the likes of Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr. He wasn't merely ''very good with a couple of dominant years'', whenever he had skates on, he was often the best player on the ice - and I say this as a guy whose favourite player was Joe Sakic. He was the Sergei Fedorov to Sakic's Steve Yzerman, where there was no way teams could shut both down, and if they were lucky, they could contain one of them - they just had to pick the lesser of two evils. But even that didn't work all the time, and both were tremendous two-way players anyway, so even on the rare occasions where they didn't make it onto the score sheet, they were useful on the ice, smart and crafty, positionally sound, and Foppa with the added physical element to his game.

This card (#FF-PF) is from Upper Deck's flagship 2003-04 Upper Deck set, the Franchise Fabrics sub-set, and shows him in the Colorado Avalanche's burgundy (then-away) uniform, with a blue game-worn jersey swatch:
The color scheme and font make this look a little too "retro" for my taste, but I do not find it displeasing to the eye.