Monday, February 29, 2016

Torrey Mitchell Autographed Card

The Montréal Canadiens are playing like crap tonight against the San Jose Sharks, but at least GM Marc Bergevin's trade deadline acquisition from last season, Torrey Mitchell, scored against his first NHL team, reducing San Jose's lead to 3-2.

I don't believe it'll be enough, which sucks both because I like rooting for my hometown team (and Mitchell's), but also because it means I'll have to take a day off from insulting the Sharks and comparing their losing ways to those of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

At least I know that even if they make the playoffs, they're still fodder for either the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings or Chicago Blackhawks, as is customary in Choker Central. But hey, the Habs are also making a habit of finishing close to last every three years or so...

So here's Mitchell, wearing the best Sharks white uniform, from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Power Play box set (with card #243 in the series), which he signed in blue sharpie:
Mitchell is almost an ideal fourth-line center, as he's a right-hand shot, wins many face-offs, is sound defensively and can score once in a while; if it wasn't that he takes too many penalties (many in the offensive zone), I'd like him even more.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Eric Staal: 3 Autographed Cards

It's finally done: Eric Staal left one brother, Jordan Staal (and, to a lesser extent, Jared Staal, who plays in the minors), to go play with another, Marc Staal, as the Carolina Hurricanes have traded their long-time captain to the New York Rangers, for two second-round picks and prospect Aleksi Saarela.

New Yorkers seem to call it a blockbuster, but we're talking about a 31-year-old former power forward who has slowed down and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, looking for another huge payday, already parading around with an $8.5M cap hit. He was sixth on the Canes with 33 points in 63 games and, though he led his team last year, could only put up 54 in 77 games.

As a matter of fact, he has only actually reached the point-per-game mark four times in his entire NHL career, with a high of 100 points (good for 8th in the NHL) in 2005-06; the last time he reached the 30-goal mark was in 2010-11.

He was never the quickest guy out there, which is why some of his statistics have gone down drastically over time, but the 6'4'', 205-pound center can probably still contribute somewhat on a second or third line. At the very least, as a Triple Gold winner - a Stanley Cup (2006), as well as World Championship gold (2007) and Olympic gold (2010 with Team Canada), he knows what it takes to win (usually a top-notch goalie, and the Rangers have the best in the business in Henrik Lundqvist).

He also unfairly carries a reputation for being fragile, but he hasn't missed more than 10 games in a single season since 2009-10, the last full season in which he was a point-per-game player (70 in 70).

We'll see how it pans out with the Rangers and which team will offer him way too much money next summer, but my thoughts are as follows: if Rick Nash is having a hard time in the Big Apple, I don't see how a slower Eric Staal can fare any differently.

I met Staal at the 2008 Worlds in Québec City (silver medal) and crossed his path a few times in Montréal. I have three of his cards signed in fading black sharpie (with his jersey number, 12, tagged at the end), showing the evolution of the Canes' uniforms prior to this most recent one. First, here is the pre-lockout era white (home) uniform, a little plain-looking without the shoulder piping, on card #85 from Upper Deck's 2007-08 Victory set:
Here's how it looked with better shoulder definition, from UD's 2007-08 Series 2 set (card #432 in the collection), with the alternate captain's "A", as he was taking on a leadership role:
And finally, a superb view of the Canes' best jersey, the 2007-13 red (home) uniform, on card #54 from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Collector's Choice set, with the team's 10th anniversary patch in front:
It'll be weird to see him in blue after a decade with Carolina and the Canadian team, which both play in red, white and black.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Claude Giroux Swatch Card

Claude Giroux was questionable to play tonight, still recovering from an upper-body injury following a hard, clean hit from the Montréal Canadiens' P.K. Subban, but did play after all, earning his 500th NHL point in the process, helping his Philadelphia Flyers earn a 4-2 victory against the Arizona Coyotes. Mark Streit had three assists.

He currently ranks 14th of all-time on the team's scoring list:
  1. Bobby Clarke:1210
  2. Bill Barber: 883
  3. Brian Propp: 848
  4. Rick MacLeish: 697
  5. Eric Lindros: 659
  6. Tim Kerr: 650
  7. John LeClair: 643
  8. Mark Recchi: 627
  9. Rod Brind’Amour: 601
  10. Simon Gagné: 535
  11. Gary Dornhoefer: 518
  12. Reggie Leach: 514
  13. Rick Tocchett: 508
  14. Claude Giroux: 500
He is definitely in line to surpass three players this season alone, while Gagné and the top-10 will be within reach early next year.

He's still just 28 years old, too, so he has plenty of time to catch up to most of them and reach the 1000-point mark. Clarke may prove to be just a tad too far away, particularly in this day and age where winners of the Art Ross Trophy don't even get to 90 points per season.

Here is card #CG from the Authentic Threads sub-set of Panini's 2010-11 Pinnacle set, showing him wearing the Flyers' current/retro white (now-away) uniform with a black game-worn jersey swatch enclosed:
It's numbered 21/499.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Andy Bathgate Autographed Card

Long-time readers will remember when I last talked about Andy Bathgate in 2012. The Hall Of Famer and former New York Rangers captain died today, at the age of 83.

For a long time, he was the lone bright spot on an awful Rangers squad, enjoying an impressive three-year run as a Hart Trophy nominee, winning it the third year, in 1958-59, ahead of Gordie Howe, Jean Béliveau, Terry Sawchuk and Dickie Moore.

After playing parts of 12 seasons with the Rangers, he then went on to play in two seasons each for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins, retiring in 1970-71, before playing a final 11 games in the WHA with the Vancouver Blazers in 1974-75.

He was named to the end-of-season First All-Star and Second All-Star Teams twice apiece, playing the same position as regular honorees Howe and Maurice "Rocket" Richard. His career numbers stand at 349 goals, 624 assists and 973 points in 1069 regular-season NHL games (plus another 21-14-35 in 54 playoff games), as well as 7 points in 11 WHA games after a four-year retirement, which may be even more impressive.

He passed the point-per-game average eight times, consecutively, with highs of 40 goals and 88 points in 1958-59. He also had the most points in the league (with 84) in 1961-62 but lost the Art Ross Trophy to Bobby Hull because Hull had more goals, which meant Bathgate led the league in assists, with 56.

Looking at my previous post, it was from the turn of the millennium, before Parkinson's disease had truly taken its toll on him; you can clearly see the shaking in his signature on this card, though his signature remains fairly clear regardless:
It's card #516 from Upper Deck's 2011-12 O-Pee-Chee set (and Marquee Legends sub-set) , which he signed in thin black sharpie.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Andrew Ladd Jersey Card

Most people expected the Winnipeg Jets to trade captain Andrew Ladd, but few thought he'd land with the Chicago Blackhawks, with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 2010. While they were one of my favourite landing spots for him (along with the Montréal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames or Ottawa Senators), I was curious to see how GM Stan Bowman would fit him under the salary cap; easy-breezy, the Jets will retain exactly 36% of his salary.

Ladd is a complete player: he's big (6'3'' and 205 pounds), he's tough, he can score goals - he'll likely hit the 20-goal mark for the fifth time in the last five full seasons in a couple of week and can be counted on for some 50-odd points - and he's a terrific two-way power forward, having garnered some Selke votes three times despite being a winger.

He was reportedly eyeing a big payday (he's an unrestricted free agent this summer), and after signing Dustin Byfuglien, the Jets just didn't have the means to sign Ladd as well, a situation both players had gone through previously, following the Hawks' 2010 win.

This makes the Hawks the favourites for a repeat, slightly ahead of the Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars and Washington Capitals. Then he could move on either to the highest bidder... or any organization of his choice, really. By himself, he could make the St. Louis Blues actual contenders by taking over the leadership role there; or he could do the same with any of the four Canadian teams I named in the first paragraph. He'd also be a nice cornerstone to lead the youth movement with the Carolina Hurricanes should they themselves move on from captain Eric Staal.

Speaking of the Hurricanes, Ladd won the Cup with them as well, in 2006. This is what he looked like in their old red (home) uniform:
It's card #J-LA from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Series 1 collection and UD Game Jersey sub-set, featuring a white game-worn jersey swatch.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

T.J. Brodie Autograph Card

T.J. Brodie is fast becoming recognized as an elite NHL defenseman. Last year, he finished 18th in Norris voting despite the consensus pick before suffering a season-ending injury after Christmas being teammate and captain Mark Giordano; 49 games into this season, Brodie is 5 points away from his career high of 41 set last year, and has already surpassed his assists total, with 32 so far (including 11 in 9 games in February alone, with five games remaining on the Calgary Flames' schedule this month).

At 25 years old, he's just entering his prime, and at a $4.65M cap hit, he's signed to a team-friendly deal. I like the guy enough to pick him in nearly all my hockey pools, and those are just some of the reasons why I paid a premium for this card on Ebay last week:
It's the autographed insert version of card #123 from Panini's 2010-11 Contenders set (his Rookie card in the Season Ticket sub-set), signed on-card in this blue sharpie. Look closely: he's also not wearing his current #7 in the picture, instead sporting #66, a number he only wore for three games in the 2010-11 season, the only Flame ever to wear it in a regular game, so I needed it for my Flames Numbers Project, particularly in the same week that I made it official.

So, uh, $6.66 was my winning bid, because I'm a geek like that.

The Team Canada alumnus (from the 2013 IIHF World Championships) and fourth-round pick (114th in total) from the 2008 draft now sports the alternate captain's "A" in Calgary.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Jody Hull: 2 Autographed Cards

When Jaromir Jagr passed Brett Hull as the NHL's third-highest scoring player last night, my mind wandered in a million places - as it usually does; I was reminded how I wasn't a huge Jagr fan when he came up (because I tend do dislike all things Pittsburgh Penguins-related, and he was a bit cocky); of how his O-Pee-Chee Premier rookie card was once worth upwards of $50 apiece and I had literally over a hundred of them at one time, most of them lost in a flood during the 1998 Ice Storm; how he set the New York Rangers' single-season points mark in his 30s; how he was shunned by NHL teams and had to go play in the KHL for three seasons; how the Montréal Canadiens keep refusing him his wish of playing with fellow Czech Tomas Plekanec.

How Hull was a goal-scoring machine at the turn of the 1990s; how he scored a controversial goal when the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup against the Buffalo Sabres; how he won another with the free-spending 2000s Detroit Red Wings.

How many people my age thought Jody Hull was his brother.

Nope.

Jody Hull was born in Ontario, and rose through the hockey ranks like many Canadian NHLers, through the high midget categories, then Junior B, then playing for the OHL's Peterborough Petes, a team he now coaches.

He was drafted 18th overall in the first round by the Hartford Whalers in 1987 and went on to play in over 800 NHL games, including two stints with the Ottawa Senators. He also played in the AHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Binghamton Whalers, the Binghamton Rangers, and retired following a 34-game stint with the Binghamton Senators. I'm kind of surprised he didn't relocate there after his career was over.

In his coaching career, he was the Petes' assistant coach for seven seasons before being promoted to head coach, a position he's held since the 2012-13 season. He's also risen through the ranks of Hockey Canada's U-18 program, going from video coach to assistant to head coach two summers ago.

Here he is in the two uniforms I associate him the closest to, in two cards he signed in black sharpie in the early-to-mid 1990s, first showing him with the Whalers' classic green uniform, from Upper Deck's 1990-91 Series 1 set (with card #322 in the series):
And here he is in the Sens' original white (then-home) uniform, from UD's 1992-93 Series 2 set (it's card #539):
All told, the rugged right winger finished with 124 regular-season goals and 261 regular-season points in 831 games to go along with 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) in 69 playoff games. He reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1995-96 as a member of the Florida Panthers, suffering a sweep at the hands of the mighty Colorado Avalanche.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Bobby Ryan Jersey Card

Last season, a lot of people were afraid that Bobby Ryan's numbers would fizzle after signing a huge contract that gave him a $7.25M cap hit for six seasons after this one. His 18 goals and 54 points in 78 games were, indeed, below what he had accustomed us to, but he has bounced back in style this year.

59 games into 2015-16, he has already hit the 20-goal mark, and his 46 points are just two short of his total for the 2013-14 season, which he'd reached in 70 games. His goals also happen to be spectacular.

At 28 years of age, he'll be part of the Ottawa Senators' core for years, along with Erik Karlsson and Kyle Turris. The 2010 silver medal-winning Team USA Olympian should make the World Cup roster next September as well, possibly showcasing his skills on the second line (with Phil Kessel manning the first), giving the Americans a strong, balanced offense that can keep attacking in waves.

For now, however, here is a card showing him in the Sens' beautiful "O" alternate uniform on card #FA-BR from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Artifacts set (and Frozen Artifacts sub-set):
It contains a matching black game-worn jersey swatch, which cool. I have yet to purchase an actual pack of this year's Artifacts collection, but I found this in a re-pack, somewhat surprised to have a current non-flagship "hit" card in it, to go with various 1990s common cards.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Josef Beranek: 2 Autographed Cards

As I mentioned when I initially made my list for my Oilers Numbers Project, I was fairly certain I had a signed card of Josef Beranek's with the Edmonton Oilers, but I cannot seem to be able to get my hands on it, no matter which box I look into.

Still, I managed to find two where he's with the Philadelphia Flyers, tonight's guests in town, as they were facing the Montréal Canadiens at the Bell Centre:
Beranek was the Oilers' fourth-round pick (78th overall) in 1989, the year Mats Sundin was chosen first overall by the Québec Nordiques. There were a few very good players left from the third round onwards, such as Olympians Rob Zamuner (45th), Nicklas Lidstrom (53rd, yeah, I know), Kris Draper (62nd), Robert Reichel (70th), Pavel Bure (110th), Anatoli Semenov (120th), Vladimir Malakhov (191st), Arturs Irbe (196th), and Evgeny Davydov (235th), as well as All-Star Donald Audette (183rd).

Beranek had a knack for beginnings; upon being traded from the Oilers to the Flyers midway through the 1992-93 season, he scored 10 goals in his first 29 games in Philadelphia, ending with 13 in 40 with the team and 15 goals (and 33 points) in 66 games in total. At the beginning of the 1993-94 season, he went on an even hotter streak, with no less than 18 goals in his first 23 games (including an 8-game goal streak), but finishing with 28 goals and 48 points in 80 games that year.

He signed both cards in ball-point pen in the mid-1990s; here's the first one, in his own zone in from of goalie Tommy Soderstrom (I had the same Jofa helmet as Soderstrom's at the time), from Score's 1993-94 Score (Canadian Bilingual Edition) set, with card #439 in the collection:
And here he is moving in on the Washington Capitals' Don Beaupre, from Pinnacle Brands' 1994-95 Score set (card #77 in the collection):
On both cards, he's wearing the Flyers' orange uniform from my youth, with the black sleeves and white arms with black lines, a truly classic look.

The Czech winger retired in 2010 after nine seasons with Slavia Praha (Prague) of the Czech League.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Nathan Marsters Autograph Card

Posting about Jean-Sébastien Giguère last night got me thinking about this former prospect, Nathan Marsters, seen here wearing the AHL's Portland Pirates' beautiful red (away) uniform, from In The Game's 2005-06 Heroes And Prospects Series 2 set:
It's card #A-NM in the series, with a black-sharpied on-sticker autograph affixed to it.

Masters was drafted 165th in the 2000 draft by the Los Angeles Kings but they let him go a few years later and he signed on as a free agent with the Anaheim Ducks. He never got to play in an NHL game, but he did suit up for one when Giguère fell to injury in practice in 2005-06.

His 23-9-2 record (with a 3.10 GAA and .900 save percentage in 37 games) with the Pirates that year would prove to be his best professional record, save for a .917 and 2.61 performance in an 8-game stint with the CHL's Laredo Bucks the following year.

After a couple of seasons with a GAA near 4.00 in the ECHL, he tried his luck in Germany in 2007-08, playing 9 games for the Krefeld Penguins.

We'll never know if he would have pulled an Andrew Hammond on the hockey world, because he died in the summer of 2009, his truck being the second that hit a deer, which crushed his windshield and hit him directly.

He is survived by his wife, Olivia.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Jean-Sébastien Giguère Jersey Card

For the longest time, my memories of this Jean-Sébastien Giguère card were that it was a one that contained a piece of a game-used glove; I was wrong:
As you can see, though the sub-set is called Great Gloves, it actually contains a white game-worn jersey swatch under a goalie-shaped die-cut hole. It's card #GG-JG from Upper Deck's 2002-03 Mask Collection set, which I was once offered $30 for.

It shows J.S. Giguère in perhaps the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim's best white (then-home) uniform, devoid of purple and where teal isn't overly dominant a colour, and black and grey make for perfect highlights.

The Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winner, at this point, was wearing the same equipment - Koho - as his boyhood idol, Patrick Roy, and the card not only shows this extremely well, but it also shows the square butterfly drop with which he would stifle opponents during his prime.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Carter Hutton Autographed Card

I often say that goalies nowadays are not like in the past; there aren't a half-dozen on which you can rely to never have a bad season, save for Henrik Lundqvist (except for his Octobers) and Pekka Rinne. Well, Rinne's not having the best season of his career, which means Carter Hutton's outplayed him, though he's appeared in some 35 less games, so the sample size is to be considered.

Hutton's statistics are superb this year, with a 2.17 GAA and .922 save percentage and 2 shutouts in 10 games, and a stellar 0.33 and .967 in his three starts prior to last night's game versus the best offense in the league, the Dallas Stars, which he forced into overtime, stopping 29 of 32 shots after a 22-save shutout performance against the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

Now, I am by no means comparing Rinne and Hutton's careers, nor do I think that Hutton has reached his prime at 30 years old and will dominate the NHL for years to come; but the Nashville Predators are legitimate contenders this year, and head coach Peter Laviolette may have to make a hard decision come springtime.

The undrafted Hutton signed on with two different teams (the Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks) before getting his first taste of NHL action with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2012-13, suiting up for a single loss before the Hawks let him go and the Preds came calling.

I have a Score card of his that he signed showing him with the Flyers while listing him as a Shark, but I can't find it at the moment, so I'll instead feature him via this card he signed last season, showing him in the Sharks' best white (away) uniform (though I would have taken the number on the front of the jersey off), from Panini's 2010-11 All Goalies set (card #75), signed in blue sharpie:
I like that his equipment is a rag-tag mix of different manufacturers, with a Sher-Wood (originally a stick-making company from Sherbrooke, Québec) glove, Bauer (originally an equipment manufacturer specializing in helmets and skates) stick, and Vaughn blocker (a taste I used to share in my playing days).

Monday, February 15, 2016

Anthony Duclair Autographed Card

Sure, Oliver Ekman-Larsson was a huge piece of the Arizona Coyotes thumping the Montréal Canadiens tonight, but Anthony Duclair's goal and assist in the first period really set the tone for an offense that would plow through goalie Mike Condon, with captain Max Pacioretty doing nothing but watching idly, managing a mere shot on goal and a -3 rating in the process.

This is the game that finally got the first Canadian sports news outlet (in this case, Sportsnet) to call out for head coach Michel Therrien's head, though I don't agree with some of their points, namely that Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban and Tomas Plekanec had abandoned because they combined for a -1 rating; I mean, come on, minus-one playing over 20 minutes (i.e. a combined 60-plus minutes...) in a 6-2 thumping? That's practically a miracle, right there.

With GM Marc Bergevin already stating Therrien's job was secure until the summer, it falls on him to either provide the coach with players who can reinvigorate this team, or to go in full tank mode; unfortunately, both he and the coach subscribe to the generally-accepted notion that this team is centered around goalie Carey Price and that all hope is lost when he's out, a dubious claim at best.

For starters, he has yet to score an NHL goal, meaning if it was all up to him, the best the Habs could hope for would be 0-0 ties going into the shootout. Also, as a starting netminder, he's set to appear in some 60-to-65 games, leaving 20-25 to someone else in the best-case scenario, which means you need to give that time to someone capable, lest you deliberately choose to forego a quarter of your season.

And preparing for injuries to your starting goalie goes two ways: first, your defensive system must allow for some protection that suits your backup (see: the Los Angeles Kings, who made Ben Scrivens look like Jonathan Quick), and secondly, the backup must be ready to take on a larger workload on a whim (case in point: Cam Talbot posting better numbers than Henrik Lundqvist - the actual best goalie in the world, by the way - when The King went down last season with the New York Rangers).

But the Habs' defeat to the Coyotes wasn't just about their own failings; Arizona's young stars played a terrific game, though I see Max Domi inherited his father's dislike of Montréal and temper, which might be costly later in his career (see Milan Lucic somehow always costing his teams games against the Canadiens).

So here's a card featuring speedster and scorer extraordinaire Duclair, who will definitely be an All-Star someday, from In The Game's 2012-13 Heroes And Prospects collection (card #245, part of the CHL Rookie sub-set):
It shows The Duke wearing the Québec Remparts' classic red uniform, and he signed it in (fading) blue sharpie last Spring, making sure to add his jersey number (10) at the end.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Kelly Buchberger Autograph Card

Roughly a year and a half ago, I posted about a terrific return from Kelly Buchberger, mostly featuring cards of his wearing the Edmonton Oilers' classic uniform; since then, in my Oilers Numbers Project as in all of my other personal collections projects, I have decided to also list the teams' captains of whom I have autographed cards.

Buchberger served as captain from the time the title was stripped from Shayne Corson (mostly for his off-ice behaviour) until the Atlanta Thrashers selected him in the 1999 expansion draft.

Here is Buchberger wearing the "C", in the Oilers' turn-of-the-millennium uniform (darker blue, bright orange replaced with rusty light brown, simple lines on the arms, traditional "hockey" shoulder design replaced with "oilman" patch):
It's the autographed insert silver version of card #201 from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set, which he signed on-card in thin black sharpie.

After a few seasons as an assistant coach with the team, he was re-assigned to the player personnel staff last summer as part of the team's general overhaul.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Anze Kopitar Jersey Card

As Anze Kopitar goes, so do (pretty much) the Los Angeles Kings. It's therefore fitting that, as we enter the final stretch leading to the playoffs, the team that currently stands first in the Pacific Division is starting to get into nearly-unbeatable gear, with Kopitar possibly playing his best game of the season thus far last night, with a hat trick on four shots, five hits, and a whopping 65% success rate in the face-off circle.

Things aren't all rosy for the Kings, though, as superstar goalie Jonathan Quick is out day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, and sniper Marian Gaborik did not finish the game after a hard collision.

But with Kopitar dominating up front and Drew Doughty doing the same on the back end, it's less of a challenge for the other 18 skaters to step up to face it.

Here's Kopitar in the Kings' current white (away) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2012-13 SP Game-Used Edition set (card #AF-AK of the Authentic Fabrics sub-set):
It includes a purple game-worn jersey swatch from one of L.A.'s retro uniforms (either the purple or gold one).

Friday, February 12, 2016

Chad Johnson Autographed Card

In the seven seasons from 2009-10 until 2015-16, Chad Johnson has played in at least one NHL game in six of them. For five different teams - the New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes, Boston Bruins, New York Islanders and now the Buffalo Sabres. He's also played in the AHL for the Hartford Wolf Pack/Connecticut Whale and Portland Pirates, so I'm guessing it was goal of his to play everywhere in New England at some point...

He is also an Adirondacks and a Rochester team away from playing all over New York State, and with one appearance with the New Jersey Devils could also include all of the NYC's hockey-represented burroughs. I mean, while we're at it...

He doesn't always look like a Vezina winner out there, but his .915 career save percentage and 2.42 GAA are decent for a backup goalie - and that's counting his sub-par season with the Isles last year where he went 8-8-1 with a 3.08 GAA and .889 save percentage in 19 games, which accounts for roughly a quarter of his career NHL games so far.

He won against the Montréal Canadiens tonight, in an entertaining 6-4 game that saw all kinds of goals (from one-timers to penalty shots to the puck hitting a linesman for a bad bounce), with three four players (Sven Andrighetto, Alex Galchenyuk, Marcus Foligno and Evander Kane) having two-goal nights.

It wasn't a stellar night for goaltending, and I had a bit of fun with my friends (one of whom quoted me on Twitter), joking that we were lucky to have two of the 500 best goalies in the world in nets - and that was before Ben Scrivens was replaced with Mike Condon:

In any event, Johnson won, which brings me to card #54, from In The Game's 2010-11 Between The Pipes set (and Future Stars sub-set), which he signed in blue sharpie:
It shows him wearing the now-defunct Whale's green uniform; the team's since gone back to their former moniker, the Wolf Pack. That uniform was just... too green for hockey.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Seth Jones Jersey Card

The Seth Jones trade that sent him from the Nashville Predators to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Ryan Johansen really got the ball rolling this year as far as pre-deadline moves. It was a "hockey trade", one that was immediately good for both teams, with Nashville sacrificing one of the best young defenders in the game to acquire potentially the cornerstone of their offense for the next decade.

However, Johansen had already proven to be difficult when it came to how he perceived himself to be worth in terms of salary demands and contract negotiations, while Jones, who for a long time was viewed as the top prospect in his draft class and unexpectedly fell to #4 as three teams decided they'd rather fill offensive needs than go through the growing pains that usually come with young defensemen making their way into the NHL, has been a team player from day one.

First-overall pick Nathan MacKinnon won the Calder as the best rookie in 2013-14, while Jones finished 11th in voting, behind other defensemen Torey Krug (4th), Olli Maata (5th), Jacob Trouba (6th), and Hampus Lindholm (7th).

So far in 2015-16, though, he's a +2 on the Jackets' blue line (and a -3 on the year, considering he was a -5 with the Preds), and while he's yet to score a goal in Columbus, he's got 19 points in 55 games on the season. He now plays over 24 minutes per game under head coach John Tortorella, who can be credited with helping Ryan McDonagh reach his full potential with the New York Rangers.

Here is my first "pull" of that 2013 draft class (save for the MacKinnon Young Guns card I traded as soon as I got it), a Jones jersey card featuring a nice dark blue game-worn jersey swatch, from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Series 1 set (and UD Game Jersey subset), card #GJ-SJ in the series:
It shows him wearing the Predators' white uniform, with all that useless blue piping and misplaced and disparate golden patches. I really miss their alternate (blue) jersey from a few years ago, which they should have kept as their home uniforms, and I wouldn't mind their yellow/gold current one as much if it was their road jersey, i.e. if they didn't wear it against teams playing in white.

Jones will look better in blue anyway.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jaden Schwartz Autograph Card

A lot of time has passed since I last featured the St. Louis Blues' Jaden Schwartz; he's considered a key part of the Blues' offense after a 28-goal and 63-point season in 2014-15 - good for third on the team behind Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen - though he only had 4 assists in 7 games this year when a fractured ankle made him miss the next 49.

He's set to return on Friday, as the team activated him earlier today. Paul Stastny's having a better season with the Blues, who could use a return to health to get in playoff shape... which could still mean a first-round exit to the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars or Los Angeles Kings.

Tarasenko, Steen and Stastny are regular contributors, Alex Pietrangelo (out for four more weeks), Jay Bouwmeester, Colton Parayko and Kevin Shattenkirk (who may be on the move) make for a reliable defensive corps, and goalies Jake Allen (still injured, probably until mid-March) and Brian Elliott have been playing lights-out, but what used to be St. Louis' bread and butter - their offensive depth - has been a very shallow pool this year.

Coach Ken Hitchcock is showing signs of impatience and, sure, captain David Backes could probably do a lot more, but the Blues need three other top-six forwards to contend with the likes of Chicago, L.A. and Dallas in their own conference, and the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning (at least on paper) and Florida Panthers in the East. That won't be an easy fix for GM Doug Armstrong and assistants Martin Brodeur and Bob Gainey. (Full disclosure: I'm not a fan of either of those three in a managerial position).

Which means Schwartz' shoulders (and ankle) better get ready to handle some serious weight - perhaps even more than they should be expected to. Here he is wearing the Blues' white (away) uniform, from Panini's 2013-14 Score set (card #SS-JH in the Score Signature sub-set):
It contains a blue-sharpied, on-sticker autograph that is as hard to read as the last time I featured him.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Vincent Trocheck Autographed Card

Former Saginaw Spirit captain Vincent Trocheck is fast becoming a clutch player on winning teams - not unlike a certain Mike Richards - and he's also leaving his mark on the stacked and surging Florida Panthers, having been named one of the NHL's Three Stars for this past week on the strength of six points (3 goals and 3 assists) in 3 games, capping off a five-game point streak.

The Pittsburgh-born 22-year-old right-shooting center has already won World Juniors gold with Team USA in 2013, producing 6 points in 7 games in Ufa including two points in the championship game against Team Sweden.

Though he was a top producer in Juniors, making the OHL All-Star Team and all, I think Gerard Gallant's plan (with Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad who can center the top two lines) is to transform Trocheck into a two-way center in the same vein as Patrice Bergeron, then increase his ice time as he gets more and more reliable without the puck.

He's smart and a hard worker, like Bergeron, so that could end up an ideal spot for him - and realistic.

Here's a card he signed in black sharpie (with his number, 89,tagged at the end) roughly a year ago, I forget if it was after a game versus the Montréal Canadiens or Ottawa Senators, as they were back-to-back and I was in both cities at the time:
It's card #80 from In The Game's 2012-13 Heroes And Prospects set, showing him wearing the Spirit's beautiful blue uniform - wit hthe captain's "C" clearly visible.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Tyler Toffoli Jersey Card

It's been roughly a year since I last featured young Los Angeles Kings star Tyler Toffoli, so I thought I could revisit him with card #GJ-TT from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set, showing him wearing the team's white (away) uniform with a matching game-worn jersey swatch included:
The Kings are currently dominating the Western Conference, and those you would expect to be the team leaders are doing their part, whether it's Drew Doughty pulling a DiCaprio and playing for the Norris Trophy, Anze Kopitar playing himself into Selke contention again, Jonathan Quick showing his playoff form all season long for just the second time of his career, or Vincent Lecavalier pulling a resurrection act.

But who isn't impressed by Toffoli, who has already matched his career high set last year with 23 goals in just 51 games, good for first on the team - 10 ahead of Kopitar and Jeff Carter? He's also second to Kopitar in points, though he's 8 behind him with 38. Still, that leaves him just 11 short of last season's 49, his career-high so far.

He plays a heavy game that goes hand-in-hand with L.A.'s style, which is just to go about it methodically, in a straight line, plowing through everything that's in their way at second-tier speed. He'd probably not be as good a fit on an Eastern Conference team, but that's probably why the Kings got to draft him and not a speedy team.

It's hard to remember he's still just 23, what with a Stanley Cup championship on his resume already and two fine postseasons under his belt. The Kings are one of two Western teams I want to have reach the Final this year, with the Chicago Blackhawks. If the Kings make it, I'd like it to be against another heavy, tough team, the Washington Capitals; if the Hawks get there, I'd like it to be against the New York Islanders.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Maxwell Reinhart Autograph Card

Maxwell Reinhart was once viewed as a top Calgary Flames prospect, a third-round pick (64th overall) in 2010, but after being surpassed on the depth chart by the likes of Josh Jooris, Markus Granlund and Bill Arnold, he was traded to the Nashville Predators in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2016.

In 42 games with their AHL affiliate Milwaukee Admirals so far this year, he has 20 points (11 goals, 9 assists); he had 39 points in 69 games last year with the Adirondack Flames, good for third on the team, four points behind team leader Kenneth Agostino.

He and brothers Griffin (currently in the Edmonton Oilers' system) and Sam (with the Buffalo Sabres) are the three professional hockey-playing sons of former Flame Paul Reinhart.

The 6'1'', 200-pound two-way center will likely eventually stick in the NHL as a third-line checker, and in the meantime will serve as #59 in my Flames Numbers Project, with card #TR-MXR from Panini's 2013-14 Titanium collection and Titanium Reserve sub-set:
It shows him wearing the Flames' white (away) jersey, and has a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph on the front.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Brian Gionta Jersey Card

I would be remiss if I didn't post about Brian Gionta this week. Gionta's career path is one of putting team achievements ahead of personal glory, though he does hold the New Jersey Devils' single-season goals record (48, in 2005-06). He won the Stanley Cup with them in 2002-03. He then moved on to the Montréal Canadiens, which he captained and reached the Conference Finals with in 2009-10. He was a quiet, almost boring captain who said all the right things but didn't stir the pot and wasn't as outspoken as past wearers of the "C", a top-6 right winger who didn't reach the 30-goal plateau with the Habs, mostly because he had two injury-plagued seasons in the five years he was in town, leaving him with 28- and 29-goal campaigns.

When the Habs offered him a lower-range contract with less term as he reached UFA status for the second time of his career in the summer of 2014, he signed with his hometown Buffalo Sabres, who made him their captain as well. He missed 13 games because of injuries on last year's tanking team, but they're showing clear signs of growth this year.

The Canadiens, on the other hand, are sinking, and captain Max Pacioretty looks like a player who not only has no idea as to how to deal with the situation, but has seemingly also quit. He doesn't have the belief and determination that teammates P.K. Subban and Brendan Gallagher have. He looks helpless out there.

And it was Gionta who put the final nail in the coffin on Wednesday, as the Habs blew a 2-1 lead to open the third period to lose 4-2, with the former captain scoring the empty-netter. In a town he didn't want to leave, against the team he was the leader of.

It's the first big crisis that GM Marc Bergevin and head coach Michel Therrien have faced together, in their third season at the helm of this franchise. As you can tell by the boos in the video linked above, fans are very unhappy. The newspapers are mean. The post-game analysis on both French-language specialized sports stations is vitriolic. People want heads to roll (and, as usual, I disagree with most of them as to which ones should).

They say you only realize what you had when it's gone, and it's time to give Brian Gionta props for having been the right leader for those 2009-14 Canadiens. Here he is wearing the Devils' white (now-away) uniform with an enclosed red game-worn jersey swatch, from Upper Deck's 2006-07 SP Game-Used Edition (card #AF-BG of the Authentic Fabrics sub-set):

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Adam Hauser Autograph Card

I wanted to get back to a few of my passions tonight, namely goalies (particularly non-stars and journeymen), and defunct teams. Today, I get to do that with this card of Adam Hauser's with the Manchester Monarchs from In The Game's 2005-06 Heroes And Prospects set (it's the signed insert version of his card, #A-AH instead of the usual #47 card, featuring an on-sticker black sharpie autograph):
Hauser was originally an Edmonton Oilers draft pick, 81st overall in 1999, ahead of other goalies Sébastien Caron (86th), Cory Campbell (92nd), Rob Zepp (99th), Evan Lindsay (109th), Jean-François Nogue (133rd), Ryan Miller (138th), Matthew Kinch (146th), Seamus Kotyk (147th), Martin Prusek (164th), Michael Leighton (165th), Matt Underhill (170th), Don Choulakos (179th), Kevin Swanson (189th), Vadim Tarasov (196th), Phil Osaer (203rd), Kyle Kettles (205th), Vladimir Kulkov (211th), Jonathan Charron (227th), and Antti Jokela (237th).

Oh, and regular NHLers Niclas Havelid (83rd), Mike Comrie (91st), Chris Kelly (94th), Brian McGrattan (104th), Ryan Malone (115th), Fedor Fedorov (182nd), Ivan Rachunek (187th), Martin Erat (191st), Tom Kostopoulos (204th), Henrik Zetterberg (210th), and Radim Vrbata (212th).

And it was pretty much his rightful position, considering he was viewed as the best Minnesota Golden Gophers goalie of all time. Yet he didn't stick with the Oilers, instead signing with the Los Angeles Kings prior to the 2004-05 season. In the Kings' system, he set Monarchs' season records for best GAA (1.93), best save percentage (.933), and most shutouts (7). He also holds the team's career shutouts mark, with 15. Martin Jones now owns the career wins total, with 84.

He just played one game with the Kings in 2005-06, letting in 6 goals on 24 shots in 51 minutes, for a .750 save percentage and 7.08 GAA.

He then plied his trade in Europe from 2006 until 2012, until he retired to join the Gophers' alumni and coaching teams. He also spent time as the Iowa Wild's goaltending coach in 2014-15.

The Monarchs' story is a whole other beast. They were the Kings' AHL affiliate from 2001 until last season (2015), but were part of the re-alignment/folding/restructuring that went down in the minor leagues where the Pacific Division teams relocated their AHL teams to California and (for the most part) kept their past AHL cities as their ECHL teams, meaning the name Manchester Monarchs is now that of the Kings' ECHL affiliate, while the Ontario Reign now serves as their AHL affiliate. In their final season as L.A.'s main affiliate, the Monarchs won their only Calder Cup.

In an even odder twist, the California division of the AHL plays fewer games than their counterparts from the other divisions this year, so not only do they travel less for games, but they also have a less strenuous schedule.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Steve Mason Jersey Card

Earlier today, I received this note from Bobby Clarke's management team informing me that he no longer signs autographs for free and wants folks to donate to a diabetes association before they get signed items from him, which I find is noble:
As a diabetes-stricken adult myself (I've been off insulin for two years but it's pretty much inevitable that one day Metformin will not be enough and I will have to go back to the needle), I may very well do that in the future.

For now, however, I still wanted to feature a member of the Philadelphia Flyers as a link to that, but also because against all odds, they are still clinging to playoff hopes by what seems to be pretty much Shayne Gostisbehere's sheer will.

Although, to be fair, The Hockey Writers aren't wrong when they claim that the rest of the Broad Street Bullies' season lies on the shoulders of starting goaltender Steve Mason, the former Calder Trophy winner and Vezina runner-up who has given new life to his career after stagnating (and perhaps even regressing) with the Columbus Blue Jackets for a few years.

Indeed, though he is having an okay year thus far (outplayed a bit by backup Michal Neuvirth), he had a Vezina-worthy season last year, going 18-18-11 on a team that missed the playoffs, with a 2.25 GAA and .928 save percentage with 3 shutouts, following the previous year's stellar playoff performance (2-2, 1.97 GAA and .939).

In 2012-13, after starting the year in Columbus, he went 4-2-0 with the Flyers in the final stretch, with a 1.90 GAA and .944 save percentage in Philadelphia.

It's now clear the former Team Canada alumnus (a 2008 World Juniors gold medal winner, with Best Goalie and Tournament MVP awards to go with it) is back among the elite at his position, and I'm starting to like the way he looks in orange:
That's card #GJ-SM from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Series 1 collection and UD Game Jersey sub-set, showing him in Philly's current/retro orange (home) uniform, with a matching game-worn jersey swatch inserted on the ideal spot considering the picture used.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Simon Després Autograph Card

There was one deadline deal I did not understand last year, with the Pittsburgh Penguins sending promising defenseman Simon Després (a potential #2-3 D) to the Anaheim Ducks for Ben Lovejoy (a #6 at best).

Sometimes, teams need to trade talent to acquire grit - that's fine; in this case, however, it was NHL-ready talent for grit that wasn't even good enough to dress every game. Even GM Jim Rutherford admitted to regretting it just a few weeks later.

Després is tall at 6'4'' and strong at 225 pounds, but he isn't overly physical; he doesn't need to be, because he has the speed to make plays and correct mistakes without needing to make the violent checks a stay-at-0home defender would.

He even has he physical skill-set to develop his offensive game - all he needs to find out is when to move up-ice with the offense and he'll be a very valuable piece of the Ducks moving forward, in the same vein as Cam Fowler.

Here's a nice card of his in the Pens' white (away) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2011-12 SP Authentic set (and Future Watch sub-set):
It's signed on-card in blue sharpie, numbered 416/999; it's card #274 in the series.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Éric Desjardins Autographed Card

After Andrei Markov and Larry Robinson, why not continue with a third All-Star defenseman from the Montréal Canadiens? As I hinted to last year at around this time, I got this Éric Desjardins card autographed in person a long time ago:
It's card #467 from Pro Set's inaugural 1990-91 Series 1 collection, showing the Team Canada alumnus in the Habs' classic red (then-away) uniform, probably in Buffalo. He signed it in blue sharpie, which dates this either from 1995 or 2002-06.

For a while, probably relating to Pro Set's failed flooding of the card market that almost killed it with cheaper and cheaper cards, I'd grown unhappy with this set. But talking about it with other collectors (including Puck Junk's Sal Barry a few years back), I remembered how much I loved the design, how many players were included in it, how it could be found anywhere, and how the pictures were clear action shots... when they were of the correct player, that is.

It was an error-filled set, which is ironic to say in a post about Desjardins, who rarely made any. He was as clutch as can be in that second-tier of defensemen, just below Hall Of Famers such as Chris Chelios, Ray Bourque and Chris Pronger.

I love that boxes of it can still be found between $5-10, and that many of the players in it are now coaching or managing in the NHL or AHL, and therefore still relevant in a way.

Habs fans still view Desjardins as the #1 defenseman on their last Stanley Cup-winning team in 1993, a key cog in their last great very good team. Philadelphia Flyers fans actually got him at the peak of his career when he finished in the top-5 for Norris Trophy voting and made the end-of-season Second All-Star Team twice while captaining the Broad Street Bullies deep into the playoffs three times.