Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Stefan Noesen Jersey Card

Another card I got from Ebay two weeks ago was this one, featuring New Jersey Devils prospect Stefan Noesen, whom the team acquired from the Anaheim Ducks off waivers just last week:
It's the "jersey" version of card #125 from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Trilogy set and Rookie Premieres and Level 1 Jersey sub-sets, showing him wearing the Ducks' black (now-home) uniform and featuring a white jersey swatch from a rookie photo shoot. It's extremely thick, and very beautiful, the silver foil looking great with the black and green framing. It's numbered 194/599.

Noesen had originally been an Ottawa Senators draft pick (21st overall in 2011) but had been traded to the Ducks in the Bobby Ryan deal. He was a point-per-game player in Juniors with the OHL's Plymouth Whalers, but had had trouble adapting to the AHL in his first two full seasons, until finding his groove this year with 15 points (6 goals, 9 assists) in 22 games with the San Diego Gulls.

Injuries had been an issue, but as we all know, power forwards take longer to develop than smaller, skilled ones, and perhaps the waiver rules are problematic for those who barely start delivering on their draft promises at age 23 but will likely still just start hitting their peak at 25.

Kids need to be given enough time to develop to their full potential. Perhaps the waiver rule for kids off their Entry-Level deals could be modified, maybe with one exception per team - one that could be traded, like foreign player spots in the MLS.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Cam Atkinson Autographed Card

One of the NHL's leading goal-scorers, Cam Atkinson wasn't on the league's original list of invitees to this year's All-Star Festivities, instead having to wait until Evgeni Malkin desisted with an injury, despite his 24 goals (which puts him on pace for 41 on the year).

All told, the Columbus Blue Jackets superstar scored 3 goals on Sunday, adding 2 assists for 5 total points, tops on the weekend, although former Los Angeles Kings and current Philadelphia Flyers star Wayne Simmonds received the MVP award.

At 27 years old, Atkinson seems to be in his prime, and I think he could be a top producer until the age of 32 or 33, likely with a drop in 2018-19, feeling the pressure of his next contract, which may very well carry double the cap hit he currently takes up ($3.5M).

What he likes to do is hang around right outside the slot on the goalie's right, close to the goal line and wait for a pass; if said pass doesn't come, the Jackets will find a way to get the puck to the net, usually via a shot, where he will enter the slot and look to bury the rebound.

But make no mistake: these aren't "garbage goals", they're sniper goals. He has a terrific wrist shot and a fine snapper that are "so hockey" he could have scored them in any era. He also has some good foot speed that often sees him score on breakaways, too.

I've liked him for a long time, and I think people are finally catching on to what he can do.

Here's one example, wearing the Jackets' blue (home) uniform, on card #135 from Panini's 2013-14 Score set, scoring on the Detroit Red Wings' Jimmy Howard:
He signed it in blue sharpie a year ago, in late January 2016, when his team was in Montréal, adding his jersey number (13) at the end.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Brad Richards Dual Swatch Card

Once every four to six weeks, I go on Ebay to see if there's anything that would inspire me to look at a specific set to buy packs of, or just to see if I had missed anything with sets I was sort of familiar with, which is how I fell onto this card of Brad Richards' two weeks ago:
It's card #TD-RIC from Panini's 2012-13 Limited set and Limited Travels sub-set - one I had never heard of but I find is a terrific concept: it shows him both with the Dallas Stars and New York Rangers, and features a game-worn swatch of each - black for the Stars and white for the Rangers. I like how the picture of him with the Rangers is clearer, as he metaphorically faded from the Stars to the Blueshirts.

The back also has a nice tidbit of information, revealing that he holds Dallas' second-highest point production mark, among other things:
This is a much better alternative to Frankencards, very original, fun and informative. This one is numbered 14/199.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mike Thurman: 2 Autographed Cards

Originally a first-round draft pick (1994, 31st overall) by the Montréal Expos, Mike Thurman was a starter with the team from 1997 until 2001 and a reliever with the New York Yankees in 2002.

At first, he wore #51 in Montréal, then #35 - and #53 with the Yankees. He signed a couple of identical cards in blue sharpie for me around 2000, and here's a closer look at card #81 from Topps' 1994 Stadium Club:
Nowadays, he's a scout for the Yankees and serves on the Board of Directors (as treasurer) for the Pacific Northwest Professional Baseball Scouts Association.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Mike Keane Autographed Card

As I'm gearing to put another set of my cards in binders, I thought it would be helpful to feature Mike Keane once more, if only to put in perspective how much the game has changed since the end of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Take the 1992-93 season as an example, centered around Keane, two years ahead of his short stint as Montréal Canadiens captain. The team won the Stanley Cup that year, after a respectable 102-point season, which was still only good for third in the Adams Division, behind the Boston Bruins (109) and Québec Nordiques (104). Yet, that mark was good for sixth in the NHL, as only the Pittsburgh Penguins (119), Chicago Blackhawks (106) and Detroit Red Wings (103) did better in the entire league.

It has often been said that the Habs won the Cup that year on the back of Conn Smythe winner Patrick Roy and, perhaps, to a lesser extent, the incredible shut-down play of Guy Carbonneau, who silenced the likes of Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Pat Lafontaine, Alexander Mogilny, Dale Hawerchuk, Ray Ferraro and Wayne Gretzky.

While mostly true, this narrative forgoes and forgets the fact that a defenseman, Éric Desjardins, posted a hat trick in the Cup Final. That John LeClair rose from the status of almost-bust to budding clutch player. That Carbonneau was flanked by two terrific two-way players in Keane and Benoît Brunet.

It also neglects to remember that the team was also made up of very productive offensive players, such as Vincent Damphousse, who posted 97 points that year, Kirk Muller (94), Brian Bellows (40 goals, 88 points), and Stéphan Lebeau (80 points in 71 games), and that it also included former 100-point superstar Denis Savard (50 points in 63 games), All-Stars Desjardins and Mathieu Schneider on defense, former 50-goal scorer Gary Leeman, as well as a lot of heavyweights: Lyle Odelein, LeClair, Kevin Haller, Mario Roberge, Todd Ewen, and convicted killer Rob Ramage.

Where did Keane fit in this collection of very good players and rogue assembly of role players? His 60 points had him in fifth place during the season, and his 15 playoff points tied him for third on the team, behind Muller (17) and Damphousse (23).

Nowadays, 60 points is what Jonathan Toews gets; some team scoring leaders don't even get there. 97 points (Damphousse's 1993-94 total) gets you in Art Ross contention - Jamie Benn won it with 87 points in 2014-15, Martin St-Louis won it with 94 in 2003-04.

Don't get me wrong: the fact that he vowed never to learn French despite captaining the Habs, and how head coach Pat Burns would send him and Brent Gilchrist on the ice at all times - I understand when shorthanded, but when down by a goal, wouldn't you want some of your proven scorers there instead? - would anger me and many other fans for years, but perhaps he was better and more important on the ice that we thought at the time.

After all, he did also win the Cup in 1996 (with the Colorado Avalanche, with Roy and Canadiens alumnus Claude Lemieux) and 1999 (Dallas Stars, with Carbonneau and fellow former Habs Brian Skrudland and Craig Ludwig).

Here he is wearing the Habs' classic red (then-away) uniform, battling for position with giant (6'6", 235 pounds) Uwe Krupp of the New York Islanders, on card #92 from Topps' 1993-94 Stadium Club set, which he signed in blue sharpie:
Ironically, Krupp would be a huge part in the Avs' 1996 Cup win, with 16 points in 22 games manning the point, including the series-clinching, third-overtime goal in the fourth game of the team's sweep of the Florida Panthers.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Daniel Alfredsson Swatch Card

There have been a few tear-inducing, touching moments in Ottawa Senators achievements this year, including the team making former coach and GM Bryan Murray the first inductee in its Ring Of Honor.

Closely tied to Murray is Daniel Alfredsson, the Sens' longest-serving captain and team leader in most offensive categories. Alfie himself was honored last month, as the team retired his #11:

Alfredsson isn't just the landmark Senator, the team's first player to win a major award (Calder Trophy), the first NHLer to score a shootout goal, the first European to captain his team to a Stanley Cup Final (losing to the Murray-built Anaheim Ducks in 2007), the only Sen to improve his points total in six consecutive seasons (1998-99 to 2005-06), but he was also Team Sweden's leading scorer in its Olympic gold medal run in 2006.

He will be an IIHF Hall Of Famer (Olympic gold and silver medalist, two-time World Championship silver medalist, with two bronze medals for good measure) as well as a Hockey Hall Of Famer, what with 444 goals, 713 assists and 1157 points (all Sens team records) in 1246 regular-season games (one short of Chris Phillips' team record), as well as 51 goals, 49 assists and 100 points (all Sens records) in 124 playoff games. His 22 points in the 2006-07 playoffs - tied with teammates Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley - were tops in the NHL.

Here he is wearing the Sens' white (away) uniform, on card #9 from Panini's 2011-12 Pinnacle collection and Threads sub-set:
It features a black game-worn jersey swatch.

Alfredsson is currently the Sens' senior advisor of hockey operations, sort of an associate-GM position mixed with player-development capabilities, as he sometimes takes to the ice after team practices to help youngsters with certain parts of their game.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Andrew Walter Jersey Card

For all of you who thought Donald Trump getting elected was weird, I offer you this: Andrew Walter, former Arizona State University Sun Devils star quarterback, breaker of Pac-10 records held by the likes of John Elway turned Oakland Raiders "what if?" perpetual trivia answer was vying for a seat as a Republican House Representative in 2014; trailing behind incumbent Wendy Rogers in the crucial final stretch, he came up with the following means of attracting campaign donations:
Hosting an "Evening of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms" Friday night at a gun club in Scottsdale. Contributors who buy the "expert package" at $1,000 each will get 250 rounds of ammunition and the chance to fire from three weapons. Those donating $250 get a single box of ammo for the opportunity to shoot a Glock 18, a handgun typically used by law enforcement.
Let me remind you that Arizona was the site of a January 2011 mass shooting that killed six and wounded 13, including then-representative Gabby Giffords.

Maybe that's how you get a quarterback to retire at 27: you use him as the Raiders did, as a crash-test dummy who receives blows to the head on a consistent basis - enough to have him forget to throw or run the ball, finishing with just 2 wins in 9 starts and 15 total games over four seasons, with just 3 touchdown passes for 16 interceptions.

He's then set to not make sense for the rest of his adult life.

Here he is wearing the Sun Devils' burgundy uniform, on card #JC/AW from RC2 South's 2005 Press Pass SE set and Game-Used Jersey sub-set, with a matching swatch:
It is numbered 559/700 and came in a multi-sport re-pack I purchased probably six years ago.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tiffany Selby Autograph Card

So many NHL teams have trouble with their goaltending that a few should perhaps be looking at their options with an open mind; if the traditional route doesn't work, perhaps thinking outside the box will. For instance, the Carolina Hurricanes had their equipment manager Jorge Alves suit up and actually play for 8 seconds in their 3-1 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this season, leaving him with the franchise's best career goals-against average (0.00)...

And we all know Manon Rhéaume played for the Bolts in a preseason game 25 years ago...

So perhaps a team like the Calgary Flames or St. Louis Blues could have a look at Tiffany Selby and see what she can do...
That's a Preview card from Benchwarmer, ahead of their 2013 National convention, which sees her sporting a Koho stick - the brand that Patrick Roy used with the Montréal Canadiens from 1993-95 and with the Colorado Avalanche for the remainder of his career, i.e. three of his four Stanley Cups, two of his three Conn Smythes and a Hart nomination.

The last time we checked in on her, she was a model and aspiring actress. A lot has happened since, including regular appearances on Deal Or No Deal, being the official spokesmodel for Budweiser and Suzuki, the birth of her daughter, and a move back to Jacksonville, Florida instead of remaining in California.

Nowadays, she's a realtor for the Watson Group.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Martin Réway Autographed Card

Back and forth.

Those seem like the best, nay the only words that can aptly describe Martin Réway's career for now.

The Montréal Canadiens' fourth-round pick (116th overall) in 2013, Réway had been developping in Europe, first playing for Praha (Prague) HC Sparta, then Fribourg-Gotteron of the Swiss League after a dispute over ice time. He led Team Slovakia to a bronze medal at the 2015 World Juniors, posting 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) in 7 games.

There was a school of thought that claimed he was remaining in Europe because he didn't want to develop in the AHL here, but that proved to be wrong. As a means of showing good faith, he signed his entry-level deal this summer during one of his frequent visits to Montréal, but remained in Slovakia for the training camp with an illness that attacked his heart.

It is now believed he will miss the entire season; some actually think his career is compromised.

He actually signed this card for me during said 2015 World Juniors, as the Slovaks played most of their games in Montréal:
It's card #76 from In The Game's 2013-14 Heroes And Prospects set; it shows him wearing #98 with the Gatineau Olympiques.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Martin Brodeur Net Fusions Card

Hopefully, I'm not walking down a dangerous path by making an exception for Martin Brodeur - something I've accused the NHL of doing time and time again by awarding him four Vezina trophies when he deserved one at best - by featuring him on a card that is neither signed nor one including a swatch/patch of some kind.

Instead, the Glove-Side Net-Fusions card features a pretend glove netting filling the space between the goal posts:
That's card #12 from Pacific's 2000-01 Paramount set, showing him wearing the New Jersey Devils' red (then-away) uniform. I've seen it selling for $12-15 on Ebay, however, and it's tempting to not shit on it too much so I can pass it on to someone else.

Now you've heard me attack his Vezina Trophy record, but one thing that led to those awards as well as his three Stanley Cups was the Devils' defensive system devised by Jacques Lemaire, which was so effective that not only did it bring about the Dead Puck Era, but gave the team five Jennings trophies, which reward the goalie(s) from the team with the lowest goals-against average - which he's shared with the likes of teammate Mike Dunham but also Philadelphia Flyers goalies Roman Cechmanek and Robert Esche. Ties in this category are uncommon but do happen, as was the case with the Montréal Canadiens (Carey Price) and Chicago Blackhawks (Corey Crawford) sharing it in 2014-15.

Is Brodeur Hall Of Fame material? Of course he is.

Should he be considered on the same plane as Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy in his era, and Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante, Georges Vezina, Ken Dryden or Tony Esposito in the broader spectrum of NHL history? Absolutely not. He did not dominate at any point, hidden between the defensive fortress of Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko, although he was the best at moving the puck in his time, even forcing the NHL to change its rules bout goaltenders leaving the crease to play the puck. But as far as him being the stopping force that brought his team to the promised land, despite three Cups, he has no Conn Smythe to his name; also, the only time he faced Roy in a Final, he lost while watching Roy get the shut out, which should have been the ultimate mic drop.

And with Team Canada, he was sad to look at in the 2010 Olympics when Roberto Luongo was forced to take over.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Clarke MacArthur Autographed Card

Sad news today, as it was learned that Ottawa Senators power forward Clarke MacArthur was shut down for the entire season because of a concussion suffered during the preseason, his fourth in 19 months.

A veteran who has suited up for four different NHL teams - he'd been a Buffalo Sabres draft pick (74th overall), was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers and signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs when the Thrashers declined to accept his arbitration salary - he had found his niche in Ottawa as a 25-goal, 55-point second-liner who wasn't afraid to throw his 195 pounds around to make room for himself in the offensive zone.

This doesn't bode well for the remainder of his career, but I wish him the best - and a complete recovery. We'll see about his career later, but he won't have to worry about his future, with three more seasons after this one in which he will receive $4.75M apiece (and account for $4.65M on the salary cap).

Here he is wearing the Sens' red (home) uniform, on card #14 from Panini's 2013-14 Titanium set, the first regular-issue card from that set I ever got signed:
It's a beautiful silver foil card that he signed in blue sharpie that he signed during the 2014-15 playoffs, which the Sens lost to my hometown Montréal Canadiens.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Jordan Subban: Two Autographed Cards

P.K. Subban is set to return to game action soon after missing some time with a herniated disc, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention his brother Jordan Subban was finally called up by the Vancouver Canucks earlier today.

Like his siblings P.K. and Malcolm Subban, Jordan spent his Juniors career with the OHL's Belleville Bulls, where he was a near point-per-game defenseman every year, one who scored 25 goals with a hard and heavy shot from the point in 2015-16. However, he was only selected in the fourth round (115th overall in 2013) because of his diminutive stature, as he stands at just 5'9" although he weighs 185 pounds of muscle.

In his first season with the AHL's Utica Comets last year, he posted a respectable 11 goals, 25 assists and 36 points in 67 games - best on the team at his position, 3 points better than 27-year-old Taylor Fedun - and had improved his per-game average this year with 22 points (9 goals, 13 assists) in 34 games with the Comets at the time of his recall, which came two weeks after he'd been named an AHL All-Star.

Like P.K., he relies on his superior shot and doesn't shy away from physical play, but his lack of size betrays the fact that his skill-set is not in the same category as his older brother's; he will need to make up for his not-quite-elite talent level by playing a dependable, sound defensive game and wait to accumulate points on the powerplay.

Here he is wearing the Bulls' black (home) uniform, on card #98 from In The Game's 2011-12 Heroes And Prospects set and CHL Rookie sub-set:
And here he is in white, on card #3 from ITG's 2013-14 Heroes And Prospects set:
He signed both cards in blue sharpie during the 2013-14 season.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tim Raines Swatch Card

It's finally done!

My favourite baseball player of all time and childhood hero Tim Raines will enter the Hall Of Fame, as a member of the Montréal Expos no less, joining Andre Dawson and Gary Carter as such! And, in true Raines fashion, he personally answered a ton of congratulatory tweets before his fingers probably went numb from all the typing. He's just that classy.

Although I have recently lost my day job, I may still make the trip to Cooperstown this summer for the induction ceremony. It could very well be my final nod to baseball, what with my interest in it waning dramatically after the shit that went down in the team's final decade.

And Raines was there nearly until the end; his return in 2001 and subsequent trade to the Baltimore Orioles so he could play with his son - just the second time a father-and-son tandem had played for the same team after the Griffeys (Ken and Ken Jr.) - were probably the lone heartwarming story after Pedro Martinez' Cy Young win in 1997, which makes for just two feel-good stories after the 1994 Players' Strike.

And so I present you with a card I traded for this summer (for a bunch of signed basketball and baseball cards), #SS-TR from Upper Deck's 2008 Sweet Spot set and Sweet Swatch Memorabilia sub-set:
It shows him wearing the Expos' classic powder-blue (away) uniform, but contains a white game-worn jersey swatch.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Doug Weight: 2 Autographed Cards

I'd been hinting at it since 2013, but the New York Islanders have finally fired head coach Jack Capuano and replaced him with former captain Doug Weight.

Weight was a successful player, both in the NHL and internationally as a member of Team USA, the leading scorer of the 1991 World Juniors (ahead of one Eric Lindros), a 1996 World Cup champion and Olympic silver medalist (2002).

In Gary Bettman's league, he surpassed the 100-point mark with the Edmonton Oilers - whom he also captained - in 1995-96, and was a huge part of a contending veteran core with the turn-of-the-millennium St. Louis Blues with fellow American legend Keith Tkachuk.

He's also a four-time All-Star, a Stanley Cup champion (Carolina Hurricanes, 2005-06), and one of only 84 players with 1000 career points.

Will he actually get to right the ship, or are the Isles just waiting for Gerard Gallant to agree to contract terms? Or perhaps GM Garth Snow is waiting on the Boston Bruins to fire Claude Julien, who knows?

In the meantime, here's Weight as an Islander, first wearing their white (away) uniform on card #256 from Upper Deck's autograph-friendly 2009-10 O-Pee-Chee set:
And here he is wearing the team's blue proto-retro/current home uniform, on card #378 from Upper Deck's 2010-11 Series 2 set:
He signed both in blue sharpie during his tenure as Isles assistant coach and assistant-GM.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Matt Stajan Jersey Card

Matt Stajan appeared in his 900th career NHL game last night against the Edmonton Oilers, a feat made all the more important when one realizes the plights he's been through, from being a fan-criticized star with the Toronto Maple Leafs to losing his newborn son three years ago to being a buy-out candidate this summer after a disappointing 2015-16 season with the Calgary Flames (17 points in 80 games), and a possible expansion draft candidate next summer.

46 games into 2016-17, he's already just about matched last year's production (4 goals, 12 assists, 16 points) and he's found a comfort zone playing on the third line of a playoff contender. In my opinion, the Flames are one big-name goalie from securing a postseason berth for only the second time since their failed Stanley Cup run in 2003-04 - and the market's flooded with them, from Jaroslav Halak to Ben Bishop to Marc-André Fleury to Steve Mason to perhaps just taking a flyer on Keith Kincaid.

I live Stajan and I've always liked the Flames, so of course I wish them well.

Here he is wearing their red (home) uniform, on card #TS-MS from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Artifacts set and Treasured Swatches sub-set:
It features two game-worn jersey swatches, one white and one red.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Cédrick Desjardins Two Autographed Pictures

Cédrick Desjardins' NHL statistics look very good as a whole, what with a career 2.42 GAA and .919 save percentage, but the last two times the Tampa Bay Lightning gave him ice time, his numbers took a bit of a hit:
from Hockey Reference
On a team that employed the likes of Vezina nominee Ben Bishop, Latvian Olympic hero Kristers Gudlevskis and super-prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy, there was no way he was going to be given another chance after that.

Following his second stint with the Bolts, which was itself linked with two stints within the Montréal Canadiens organization, he signed two-way contracts with the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings organizations, but marred by injuries was unable to sign with an NHL-affiliated team for the current season, which is why he's now playing with the LNAH's Jonquière Marquis, sharing the net with another former Habs prospect, Loïc Lacasse.

His save percentage might look low with the Marquis at 0.893, but his record stands at 6-1-1 in 8 games; Lacasse is showing an .898 save percentage - good for third in the league - with a 12-3-1 record.

The Marquis have used a ton of current and former NHL prospects this season, including Calgary Flames draft pick Hugo Carpentier, Slovakian star Juraj Kolnik, Washington Capitals pick Benoit Gratton, Jean-Simon Allard (Buffalo Sabres), Stefan Chaput (Carolina Hurricanes, Boston Bruins), Jonathan Paiement (Rangers), Samuel Groulx (San Jose Sharks), Jean-Michel Bolduc (Minnesota Wild), Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau (Sharks, Nashville Predators), and Maxime Sauvé (Bruins). That's a lot of talent for a league considered to be "semi-pro"...

Not many goalies have been able to be relegated down to the LNAH and make their way back to the NHL, but it's not impossible; Sébastien Charpentier comes to mind as one, perhaps Desjardins will be able to as well.

In the meantime, here's a look back at what he looked like in Tampa, first with the regular-issue white (away) uniform, which perhaps would look NHL-worthy if it didn't have the TAMPA BAY typefont:
And here he is wearing the Bolts' blue (home) uniform:
It shows him in his final NHL game, February 6th, 2014, post-fight with the Toronto Maple Leafs' Jonathan Bernier (18:17 of the third period), after teammate J.T. Brown had run into Bernier in the final throes of a 4-1 loss.

Both 4x6 pictures were signed in person in blue sharpie, in April that year, when he faced the Hamilton Bulldogs in a road game (I think the Bulldogs, with Dustin Tokarski in net, lost 3-1 that night). Ironically, the Habs - the Bulldogs' head team - had acquired Tokarski in exchange for Desjardins...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Jean-Sébastien Giguère Patch Card

Here's a pretend patch card manufactured by Upper Deck for their 2003-04 Trilogy set, featuring Jean-Sébastien Giguère of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks:
It's card #108 as per the back, probably a variant of the original.

I have featured Giguère many times before and will feature him many more times as well, as he was one of my regular pulls - and a goalie I admired very much. That Conn Smythe performance was one for the ages...

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Bobby Butler Autograph Card

Former Hobey Baker finalist Bobby Butler has been plying his trade abroad for the past two seasons, first in Sweden with famed MoDo Ornskoldsvik Hockey Club last season (19 points in 49 games), and this year in the KHL; he started with Zagreb Medvescakand and is now playing for Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo (3 points in 6 games).

The Ottawa Senators had originally signed him as a free agent out of college before buying him out, enabling him to sign with the New Jersey Devils, who eventually waived him, prompting the Nashville Predators to pick him up before trading him to the Florida Panthers for T.J. Brennan.

To be honest, I don't really remember him from any other team than the Sens...

Which is fitting, because that's how I'm featuring him today, wearing their white (away) uniform:
That's card #A-BU from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Artifacts set and Autofacts sub-set, featuring a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Jaime Hammer Autograph Card

Jaime Hammer realized she wanted to appear in the famed Playboy magazine when she and a number of her classmates spent a night at the Playboy Mansion in what was dubbed the Midsummer Night’s Dream Pajama Party, back in 1999... when they were 17.

A little over four years later, she became the first Arizona State University student to grace the magazine's front page for its College Girls edition. She went on to appear in numerous editions of the famous nudie zine, as well as Penthouse, where she was Pet Of The Month for November 2007.

She has also appeared in Perfect 10, Exercise & Health, and Open Your Eyes.

A Chicago native, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her modeling career, but has since relocated to Las Vegas.

Nowadays, there are videos of her floating around porn sites where she undresses and lightly touches herself. She is also credited with appearing in some 40 softcore porn films as Sophia Taylor, though I do not know the extent of her, uh, participation in any of the scenes.

Prior to today, I wasn't aware of her doing anything but appearing in picture spreads and trading cards. I have a few of her Playboy trading cards I'd wanted to get signed in person eventually...

In any event, here she is, from Benchwarmer's 2006 Holiday set (card #14 of 16):
It features a beautiful on-card autograph in black sharpie. BW cards use some kind of coating that makes penny sleeves reflect badly when scanned, but this is a beautiful card to the naked eye.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Grayson Boucher Autograph Card

Grayson "The Professor" Boucher is a "streetball" (street basketball, i.e. looser rules, more spectacular, less attention to defensive positioning) athlete who played conventional basketball in community college but wasn't even a standout star there, explaining why he never got a call from the NBA. That, plus the fact that he's 5'10".

Here he is pissing off a 6'8" Chinese player with tactics that don't go over in "regular" basketball:

He was an extra playing on two separate teams in the 2008 Will Ferrell vehicle Semi-Pro; I'll have to watch it again to see if I recognize him in there. Honestly, any excuse to watch Ferrell as Jackie Moon perform Love Me Sexy is good enough for me...

Here he is on card #27 from Panini's 2011 Americana set and Private Signings sub-set:
It shows him wearing normal street clothes and features a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph. It's numbered 205/799.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Henrik Karlsson Jersey And Autograph Card

It's time to get cracking on #35 in my Flames Numbers Project, Henrik Karlsson.

Back when Miikka Kiprusoff was the best goalie in the world, the Calgary Flames had two youngsters they thought would one day be able to relieve him when he retired, Leland Irving and Karlsson.

Considering Irving is currently playing in Finland (for the Kouvola KooKoo) and Karlsson is with the KHL's Astana Barys this year (2.64 GAA and .918 save percentage with 6 shutouts in 39 games so far with former NHLers such as Kevin Poulin, Nigel Dawes, Dustin Boyd, Brandon Bochenski, Martin St-Pierre, Kevin Dallman, Cam Barker, and Vitaly Kolesnik), one can assume they were wrong.

However, since leaving for Europe, Karlsson has posted elite-level numbers:
From HockeyDB
Goalies usually take longest to develop (compared to forwards, who may be NHL-ready by 18-22, and defensemen, who usually enter their prime around 24-26), and large-sized players as well; Karlsson was both, standing at 6'5" and weighing 215 pounds, though he moves quickly and has a good glove hand.

He's now 33; I'd give him a shot as an NHL backup, for two or three years. A couple of teams are either thin at the position or have poor luck with their goaltending this year; it wouldn't hurt to look at other options for next season...

Here he is wearing the Flames' current red (home) uniform:
That's the "all dressed version" of card #185 from Upper Deck's 2010-11 SPX set - his rookie card - which includes both an on-sticker blue-sharpied autograph and a big, black, event-worn (rookie photo shoot) jersey swatch. And not a cheap jersey; the card specifies: "Authentic Jersey". Thanks, UD. The card is numbered 521/799 and was pulled from a multi-sport repack box.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Mariusz Czerkawski Jersey Card

If you didn't know anything about hockey and read about Mariusz Czerkawski's career on Wikipedia or something of that ilk 100 years from now, you'd think he was Brett Hull.

We're talking about the first Polish player to play in the NHL, a guy who, when playing for his national team, accumulated 39 points (27 goals, 12 assists) in 25 Juniors-level games and 34 points (17 goals, 17 assists) in in 36 mens' teams games, despite often being the only NHLer on the roster, more often than not playing against teams made up entirely of stars and semi-stars. He was doing it by himself.

And if, again, you didn't know anything about hockey and read up on the NHL, some teams would would appear as more important than the others, namely the Original Six, and perhaps the 1980s dynasties Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders. Well, Czerkawski played for both the Oil and the Isles, as well as three Original Six teams: the Montréal Canadiens, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. If you didn't have the context that we do - how they all sucked at the end of the 1990s and early 00s - you'd think he may be the link, the one common thread, between great and historical teams.

And he had two 30-goal seasons, and two more over the 25 mark - in the Dead Puck Era. Heck, his All-Star game participation, in the midst of a 70-point season, was probably fully warranted, seeing as he led the Isles with nearly 30 points more than the team's second-best scorer and the fact that the goalie they used the most that year was Kevin Weekes, with 32 games played (Roberto Luongo followed with 24, and Félix Potvin appeared in 22; Luongo had the best save percentage of them all at .904).

Those of us who followed the latter stages of his career, however, feel he fizzled greatly at the end, putting a damper on a relatively fine career, not unlike Sergei Berezin or Sergei Samsonov.

Here is a card showing him wearing the Habs' white (then-home) uniform, which is #14 of Pacific's 2003-04 Exclusive collection and Authentic Game-Worn Jerseys sub-set:
The back is even super-specific as to where the blue game-worn jersey swatch is from:
It's from his days with the Isles, with a matching picture on the back! That's what I call attention to detail!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre Autographed Card

Well, it's done: the Columbus Blue Jackets' all-time consecutive wins streak - and one short of the NHL's mark, held by the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins - ended at 16, with a loss to the Washington Capitals, who needed it more badly anyway in their effort to catch up to the Pens, Jackets and New York Rangers atop the Metropolitan Division.

I went to high school and played on its hockey team with two guys who ended up playing in Columbus, so I thought I could feature them in the next few days, starting with Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre, who still lives in the region.

Our school team was the Collège Notre-Dame Sabres and, being from Montréal, we got to see Eastern teams a lot more often than their Western counterparts in person, and when I would look at Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche or Los Angeles Kings games on TV, I would usually avoid watching them play third-wave expansion teams, except for the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers, for some reason.

All of this meant I saw Jean-Luc play for the Buffalo Sabres a lot more often than with the Jackets, and since we played on a Sabres team, that's the team I identify him with the most; however, he sees himself as a Jacket, what with being on the team for their inaugural season, living through its first win... and becoming a realtor in the area during as well as following his playing career.

Even when he played overseas in Sweden, Finland or Germany, he kept his home in Columbus. And because he was a publicly-affable, genuinely nice person, and a stable defender who was pretty good at dropping the gloves on the ice, the fans took a liking to him immediately, and never wavered. And he's humble enough to not overuse it.

On the ice, he tried to mimic his childhood idol, Chris Chelios, in every way except offensively, as that was not his strongest suit - though he did finish with 20 points (7 goals and 13 assists) that will forever be part of the NHL's record books. Even in Juniors, JLGP was never a point-per-game player, nor was he in Europe, but he had a 17-year professional career (1997-2013) he can be proud of.

Here is a card he signed in blue sharpie, showing him wearing the Jackets' first white (then-home) uniform:
It's #281 from Upper Deck's 2000-01 Series 1 set.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Mardy Collins Autograph card

Maurice "Mardy" Collins was a first-round draft pick (29th overall, New York Knicks, 2006) who was mostly regarded for his defensive skills. His NBA career seemed to be going well until he committed a hard foul against Denver Nuggets guard J. R. Smith, resulting in a brawl that got ten players ejected - and Collins suspended for six games (and Carmelo Anthony for ten).

He was soon traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, then sent to the D-League, before opting to ply his trade in Turkey (Bornova Belediye), Israel (Maccabi Ashdod), Venezuela (Guaros de Lara), Italy (Sutor Montegranaro), Greece (Olympiacos Piraeus B.C.), Poland (Turów Zgorzelec), France (Strasbourg IG) and now Russia (PBC Lokomotiv Kuban).

His play with Olympiacos allowed him to play in the EuroLeague championship.

You can't say the guard from Philadelphia doesn't get around...

Here he is sporting the Knick's white jersey on the signed insert version of card #85 from Topps' 2006-07 Topps set:
The all-foil card includes an on-sticker blue-sharpied signature; as indicated, it acts as his rookie card for the brand. I got it in a multi-sport re-pack, close to ten years ago.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Marc-Édouard Vlasic Swatch Card

Marc-Édouard Vlasic is seemingly doing better after getting struck in the face by a Shane Gostisbehere slap shot when the San Jose Sharks faced the Philadelphia Flyers on December 30th.

The Team Canada shut-down defenseman - one of the best in the entire NHL - is one of the reasons why the Sharks went to the Stanley Cup Final last year and are leading the Pacific Division so far this year.

After performing very well offensively with Patrick Roy as his head coach with the LHJMQ's Québec Remparts, "Pickles", a 2005 second-round draft pick (35th overall), has two 30-point seasons to his name: 39 last season in just 67 games as he's evolved into one of the game's premier two-way defenders, and his third season with the team, in 2008-09, when he had 36 points, learning the game from Stanley Cup winners Rob Blake and Dan Boyle while Douglas Murray took care of the back end.

I know two things: First, it's better to get injured in January than in June. Second, the Sharks don't stand a chance without Vlasic, an Olympic gold medalist, a World Cup champion and a World Championship silver medalist. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau aren't the type of leaders that guarantee a win, and Logan Couture and Brent Burns can't do it all on their own.

So here's Vlasic, sporting one of the team's ugly and too-basic black uniforms, on card #GG-MEV from Panini's 2013-14 Titanium set and Game-Worn Gear sub-sets:
It features a teal game-worn jersey (?) swatch. That patch in the picture, GGIII, was in honor of the team's co-founder, George Gund III, who you may recall also owned the California Golden Seals, Cleveland Barons and Minnesota North Stars at some point; he passed away in 2013.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Steve Larmer Two Autographed Cards

The Winter Classic has just ended in a 4-1 St. Louis Blues win against the Chicago Blackhawks, with the final minute indeed looking like many outdoor games in the park, with Brent Seabrook acting as the pad-less goalie to keep the puck out of his team's net for as long as he could; Vladimir Tarasenko had a two-goal outing and led the way for his team against perhaps their fiercest rivals.

Yesterday, the Alumni game was filled with stars, including a relatively unexpected Wayne Gretzky suiting up for the Blues:
Notice anything weird beyond the fact that St. Louis had six more players and two more coaches dressed? Where were the 1980s Hawks stars, particularly Denis Savard and Steve Larmer? And what about hometown hero Chris Chelios?

To right that wrong, today, Larmer will be my featured player.

We're talking about a Calder Trophy winner, five-time 40-goal scorer, someone who had an 884-consecutive game streak halted by a contract dispute, perhaps the only player who actually had a legitimate shot at Doug Jarvis' record of 964 straight games in my lifetime.

A guy who won the Stanley Cup with the New York Oilers Rangers in 1994 and retired after achieving two important milestones (1000 points, 1000 games played) after the following season.

We're also talking about the guy who led the 1991 Canada Cup in goals (6), including the game-winner that gave Team Canada its fourth title against Team USA in the Final; he was also second only to Gretzky in points during the tournament. This, mere months after helping the Canadians win silver at the 1991 World Championships.

He also held the Hawks' team record for most points by a right winger (101) until Patrick Kane surpassed it last season (106).

All told, the hard-working leader from Peterborough was extremely consistent over his 13-year NHL career. And so, I will show him wearing two slightly different iterations of the Hawks' classic red (then-away) uniform, first on card #53 from Pro Set's inaugural 1990-91 Series 1 set:
Then there's card #266 from Score's 1992-93 Canadian Edition set, which has the added bonus of featuring the NHL's 75th Anniversary patch:
If you notice the crest on the shoulders (which the Hawks were seriously lacking in today's game, as it was located closer to the elbows), there was a slight variation of colours in the tomahawk; the shaft is easier to see when it's green (1992-93) than when it's red (1990-91), which means the hatchet went from green to white for differentiation purposes.

Cool, eh?

Larmer signed both cards using a black sharpie.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Michel Goulet Jersey Card

Happy New Year!

Usually, people like to start things off by looking forward, with New Year's Resolutions and such, but I'd like to go back to my childhood, to rooting for the Québec Nordiques, to owning white Wayne Gretzky-model red-lettered Titan sticks and blue Jofa helmets, to spending winter playing on outdoors rinks as a forward and playing indoors with my official teams as a goalie.

To the innocence of dreaming of better days ahead. To not realizing the importance and omnipresence of war, greed and corruption. To not having lost my job as translator and marketing analyst effective February 17th, six weeks from now.

And I do this with card #GJ-GO from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set, featuring Michel Goulet wearing the Nordiques' classic blue (away) uniform:
It features a white game-worn jersey swatch with hints of blue thread.

White, like snow. Like a clean slate. Like a blank page.

I hope everyone who had a bad 2016 gets to start anew, and those who ended it on a high note to use it as a springboard to even better things. I wish you all health, happiness and success.