Sunday, January 14, 2018

Brandon Sutter Autographed Card

Mark this one as the biggest success story of the evening: Vancouver Canucks second-line center Brandon Sutter scored the game winner in his return from a 21-game absence due to a lower-body injury.

The former first-round draft pick (11th overall, Carolina Hurricanes, 2007) has only reached the 40-point mark once in his nine-year NHL career so far, but I do feel like he's a fine #2 center on a playoff team or an excellent #3 on a Stanley Cup contender; he is good at keeping and retrieving the puck, won 54.3% of his faceoffs last year (but realistically should hover around the 52% mark most years), draws penalties and takes very few, leading some to speculate that he may have been the Canucks' most useful player last year. Then again, the Canucks were a tire sale last year.

But he does fall into the third tier, below the elite stars (Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrice Bergeron) and the dependable veterans who are sometimes award-worthy (Tomas Plekanec, Ryan Kesler).

Still, it's nice to see him get his legs back. Welcome back!

Here he is from his WHL days, wearing the Red Deer Rebels' burgundy (away) uniform, on card #118 from In The Game's 2006-07 Heroes And Prospects set (and Prospect sub-set):
He signed it in blue sharpie during the 2014-15 season.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Gilbert Brulé Jersey Card

Congratulations are in order for Gilbert Brulé, who was named to Team Canada's 25-man Olympic roster for the 2018 Winter Games. He'll be joined by the likes of Rene Bourque, Ben Scrivens, Chris Kelly, Christian Thomas, Maxim Lapierre, Mason Raymond, Derek Roy, Chris Lee, Maxim Noreau, Justin Peters and Kevin Poulin.

He was drafted 6th overall in 2005 by the Columbus Blue Jackets, while many thought the Montréal Canadiens would have jumped on the chance to take a francophone center with the fifth pick; instead, the Habs chose Carey Price, but the behemoth center they should have taken fell to the 11th spot (Anze Kopitar).

While Brulé could never muster up a 20-point season in three tries with the Jackets, his passage with the Edmonton Oilers was slightly more memorable, because although he spent parts of two seasons in the AHL in his three years with the Oilers organization, he also put up 17 goals, 20 assists and 37 points in 65 games with the team in 2009-10, more than doubling his production from the four previous seasons combined.

His time in Edmonton was marred by injuries, though, from a knee injury off a dirty Adam McQuaid hit to a severe flu to a high-ankle sprain to a stomach virus to an abdominal injury to a concussion, he was seemingly never in good enough shape to play.

Then there was the issue with the Phoenix Coyotes sending him to the AHL and Brulé opting to "retire" instead, effective January 1st, 2014... a situation that lasted four months, as he signed in the KHL in May, for the following season.

His stat line was average for his first three seasons in the Kontinental League, but he's had a star-like production since last season:
Courtesy of HockeyDB
Point-per-game seasons are pretty rare in the KHL.

At 31 years of age, he may have a year or two left of "prime" play left in him, but perhaps he's burnt too many bridges for an NHL return.

In any event, being named to the Canadian National Team in an Olympic year is quite an achievement, and while I'm not sure hiring Willie Desjardins as head coach was the wisest decision, GM Sean Burke sure knows what he's doing.

Here's Brulé on a Frankencard that represents how most people see him in North America*, as a doomed prospect from the Jackets and Oilers, on card #GJ-GB from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a dark blue game-worn swatch from a jersey worn during his time in Columbus.

*of course, there was that time when he gave a hitchhiking Bono a ride...

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

1994-95 Action Packed Pins

 
Regular readers know my fondness for one of the nicest collectors out there, sometimes The Hockey News/Beckett Hockey contributor and creator of PuckJunk, Sal Barry.

I can easily credit Sal for getting me back in the collectibles game, because I abandoned card collecting in the mid-1990s when cards I could see worth worthless were being sold at $50-100 a pop, roughly a year before I took a decade-long hiatus from following my hometown team, the Montréal Canadiens, although I did continue following the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche in the postseason.

In 2000 and 2001, I started seeing packs of cards at dollar stores and would buy one or two once in a while, and in 2002 I bought a decent bunch and fell upon this Nikolai Antropov autograph card, which piqued my interest and brought it back to a 6/10; when my interest in though-the-mail (TTM) autographs peaked in 2009, Sal's website, personal blog, and tips on how to obtain autographs made it go up to 11, so much so that I also went digging through my old stuff that was in my Mom's attic. (Coincidentally, she was about to throw them out).

A couple of weeks ago, Sal wrote an article for Beckett on ill-fated 1994-95 hockey sets by a company named Action Packed and went more specifically into their set of lapel pins in another article on PuckJunk, then proceeded to hold a contest on his Twitter feed to draw three "packs" at random.

And I won!

This is what they look like as photographed by my smartphone:
Clockwise from left, that's Patrick Roy in his iconic Habs mask, Mike Modano, Doug Gilmour and Sergei Fedorov, four of the best players of their era. There's a case to be made for Roy as the best goalie of all time (and I often do), and there's also one to be made for Hart Trophy winner Fedorov as the most important piece of the Detroit Red Wings' 1997, 1998 and 2002 Stanley Cup-winning teams; where Modano stands as one of the best American-born players of all time may be up for debate, but he certainly makes my current Top-5, and Gilmour was tremendous in 1988-89 and 1992-93, perhaps the best player skater not named Wayne Gretzky of those two seasons.

This was supposed to be a 50-player set of the best players in the world.. and Terry Yake:
from PuckJunk
Well, Alexandre Daigle did play a long time but ended up being a marginal player instead of the Pierre Turgeon-like superstar he was sold as being by the scouts of the era. The same can be said of Pat Falloon, and there were a couple of, uh, fighters in the lot (Dave Manson, Marty McSorley, Bob Probert) as well as serviceable players who were not necessarily stars, such as Dmitry Khristich (wrongly spelled on the checklist), Stéphane Richer, Geoff Courtnall, Rick Tocchet, All-Star by default Geoff Sanderson, Tomas Sandstrom, Steve Thomas and Kevin Stevens.

Like I told Sal, I probably would have purchased the Roy at the time if it'd been below $25, but I wouldn't have bought a pack out of fear of landing a few too many Yakes...

It's a great product, though.

Thanks again, Sal!