Sunday, July 15, 2018

Mike Smith: Two Autographed Cards

On November 14th, 2017, I sent the following three cards to Mike Smith of the Calgary Flames:
Possibly because his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning was mostly sub-par, he didn't sign the 2010-11 Black Diamond card I sent in:
But along with it, in an envelope received in June, were these two signed cards, in fading black sharpie:
I had told him he was now on a team that didn't need him to play like during his Vezina-nominated 2011-12 season with the Phoenix Coyotes, where his spectacular play led his team to its lone Conference Final, that all he needed to be was himself and that would already be not only good enough but the team's first quality netminder since Miikka Kiprusoff.

All told, he finished with a 25-22-6 record, 2.65 GAA, .916 save percentage (just about league average) and three shutouts (above league average) on a team that underperformed enough to see its coach get fired.

Here's a closer look at the cards he signed, first featuring him in the Arizona Coyotes' white (away) uniform, on card #38 from Upper Deck's 2016-17 MVP set (and a Puzzle Piece for Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux on the back):
And here he is wearing the home burgundy uniform, on card #63 from UD's 2017-18 Artifacts set:
He tagged his uniform number (41) at the end of each signature.

I still believe the Flames - like most teams - don't need a savior in net and that Smith, under these circumstances, can thrive in Alberta. At least one 8-year-old fan thinks the same way.

He was the third-string goalie for Team Canada as it won gold at the 2014 Olympics and the starter with the same result at the 2015 World Championships.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Steve Larouche Autographed Card

Like many Montrealers, I keep moving (on average every other year); with each move comes a trial period while I try to figure out how to display some of my stuff (DVDs and Blu-rays, signed cards, signed pictures in frames, paintings, show artwork) and I always temporarily misplace stuff.

Right now, I can't find the thousand cards I had slated to feature next starting in April, but I did find another box of "unused" autographs like this one of Steve Larouche, sporting the Ottawa Senators' old white uniform, with the somewhat-rare #74:
It's card #38 from Topps' 1995-96 Topps set, which he signed in blue sharpie in 2010-11.

He had his finest NHL moments with the Sens, posting 15 points in 18 games, including his lone NHL hat trick against the team that drafted him 41st overall in 1989, the Montréal Canadiens, on April 3rd, 1995.

I have many more of his cards... somewhere!

Stay tuned, I should be able to post them before 2030.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Tyler Ennis Autographed Card

The Toronto Maple Leafs made a huge splash in free agency this summer by signing former Buffalo Sabres first round pick (26th overall in 2008) Tyler Ennis to a one-year deal earlier today.

Having been bought out by the Minnesota Wild on a deal that paid him $4.6M per year for four years, Ennis will be making the league minimum this year ($650K) trying to relaunch his career and playing on what many consider to be a top Stanley Cup contender.

However, the Leafs are also the team that wasted the best years of players such as Lanny McDonald, Doug Gilmour, Ed Belfour, Curtis Joseph, Wendel Clark, Mats Sundin, Rick Vaive, Borje Salming, Tomas Kaberle, Phil Kessel, and Darryl Sittler, as well as the pre-retirement years of Brian Leetch, Mike Gartner, Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk, Alexander Mogilny, Ron Francis, James van Riemsdyk and Jean-Sébastien Giguère.

It must be something in the water.

Which is why I'm not to worried about the Northern San Jose Sharks making a splash in free agency this year (that John Tavares player is pretty good) after adding has-been Patrick Marleau last year.

Had I been Ennis' agent, I would have advised him to try to get signed by his hometown Edmonton Oilers instead.

Here he is sporting the Sabres' white uniform from the beginning of the decade, a bit of a throwback to their classic garbs with the unfortunate defect of showing the uniform number on the front, on card #184 from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Series 1 set, which he signed in blue sharpie, making sure to add his uniform number at the end:
Ennis is a three-time 20-goal scorer, although it seems his best years are behind him. In his defense, he hasn't put up terrific numbers these past three years because they have been injury-plagued seasons that have seemed to slow him down a bit.

Maybe he can evolve into a dependable third-liner for the rest of what should be his prime years (he's still just 28), although he would have had a better shot at it away from the spotlights and tough press of Toronto, in my opinion.

He signed that card for me around 2014 or 2015, whist with the Sabres.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Zachary Fucale Autographed Card


Who knows best how to build a team, a GM who takes over a team two years removed from a Conference Final and manages to miss the playoffs three times in five years and mortgages 15% of his salary cap on a goalie three years removed from his lone good season, or a GM who builds a Stanley Cup Finalist out of rejects from the other 30 teams in his first year on the job?

GM #2 in this story, the Vegas Golden Knights' George McPhee, just signed former second-round pick, 23-year-old Zachary Fucale, to a one-year, two-way deal, banking on his youth, his pedigree as a three-time Team Canada gold medalist and the fact that despite posting a career-low in save percentage with the AHL's Laval Rocket last year, was the team's best goalie - both from an eye test and statistically. It was just an awful, awful team that was terribly outcoached every single game.

GM #1 truly believes Carey Price is the only player he needs to have that is an NHL-level talent (although, considering last season, even that last bit of sentence is up for debate).

We'll see who's right in due time, but I'd like to say to those who think Fucale is overrated that at the same stage of his career, Price had been supplanted at the Montréal Canadiens' #1 goalie by Jaroslav Halak for three years straight despite the job being Price's every training camp, and Price finished with pedestrian numbers every year:
From HockeyReference
And, of course, it was much worse come playoff time:
ditto
Fucale, despite playing on the worst AHL team of the past decade, displayed some fine control when facing NHL-level talent:


So, yeah, I still believe Fucale can develop into a fine NHL backup before the age of 25 and a starter before he reaches 28, following the career trajectories of Carter Hutton, Cam Talbot, Antti Raanta, Scott Darling (well, he might not be the best example) and Craig Anderson.

Here he is sporting the Halifax Mooseheads' beautiful white uniform, on card #244 from In The Game's 2012-13 Heroes And Prospects set and CHL Rookie sub-set:
He signed it for me in blue sharpie last season, when the Habs called him up without playing him a single second.

Monday, July 2, 2018

2017-18 Upper Deck Hockey Series 2 Box Break

Time for a second-straight box break, yesterday's twin in a way, for Upper Deck's 2017-18 Series 2:
Ah, Connor McDavid! I already know I'm in for a better treat than with Series 1!

The first clue to that is that the box is shock-full of Vegas Golden Knights and has players in their new uniforms (too bad Jaromir Jagr didn't last the year with the Calgary Flames):
I thought I could show some nice horizontal base cards as well:
The O-Pee-Chee glossy rookies (in their own special pack) were a treat, and I got a nice selection with Alex DeBrincat, Brock Boeser and Clayton Keller:
And while I could have done away with actual O-Pee-Chee Marquee Rookies in a box of another product, I did land Oscar Fantenberg and Jan Rutta in the regular-issue versions:
And I'll try to get the variant of Christian Jaros signed next year to add to my Sens Numbers Project:
I also got a Young Guns card of Alex Iafallo:
And I was most surprised to fall onto a Rookie Materials insert of Jonny Brodzinski:
And those weren't the only rookies, either, as I fell upon Alex DeBrincat and Ivan Barbashev in the UD Portraits inserts as well:
I also got a pair of veterans in the UD Canvas sub-sets, Johnny Oduya and the long-retired Ed Olczyk, seen here messing around Rick Wamsley's net:
Maybe I was luckier with my pulls, or maybe it's just a much better set, but this one's a pretty big upgrade from Series 1.

I give it a solid 8/10.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

2017-18 Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 Box Break

This post has been four months in he making...

I moved on April 1st, and it was pretty hectic, to say the least. It took me about a month to have all of my things in the new apartment, it took a while to get the internet service connected, then my laptop died (and with hit a couple of hundred scans I'd prepared for upcoming posts).

That, and my new job is taking so much of my time.

However, I wanted to celebrate my new place with a couple of box breaks...

So here is the first one, for Upper Deck's 2017-18 Series 1.
 Parkhurst rookies? Yep, and they're good too:
Here's what the regular-issue base cards look like:
As usual, a nice, clean design from Upper Deck, the picture bleeding all the way to the side of the card, weird and unique angles, oddball jerseys, and the player's complete career statistics on the back, complete with at least one fun fact.

I also got a good selection of Young Guns rookie cards in Haydn Fleury, Jack Roslovic and Evgeny Svechnikov:
There were three Shining Stars, Jeff Skinner, Nicklas Backstrom and this one of Alexander Wennberg:
These have a look reminiscent of the Black Diamond series, where the rest of the play is faded out to leave the player front and center.

Then there's the now-classic UD Canvas cards, like this one of Nikolaj Ehlers (and another one of Rick Nash):
These are nice to get signed, as their texture really lends itself to the marker's permanence well.

I fell upon two UD Portraits, one of David Krejci and this one featuring Marc-Édouard Vlasic:
These are standard fare at this point, black-and-white bust shots more often than not.

There are a bunch of cards I can't wait to get signed in this batch, but nothing that really stood out. I could have done without a Leaf on the front of the box, particularly in a year when there's an all-Leaf set (Centennial), but the Parkhurst rookies made up for that.

I rate this one a 7.5/10.