Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Erik Cole Autographed Card

A power forward is typically someone who can score at least 30 goals in a season while throwing his weight around enough to get 100 hits; they also usually get close to or more than 100 penalty minutes and act as a net-front presence to attract attention while leaving the puck-carrier free to roam, and to pounce on a rebound or deflect the puck in the net.

In his 13-season NHL career, Erik Cole surpassed the 25-goal mark four times, hitting 30 with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005-06 and 35 with the Montréal Canadiens in 2011-12. He usually led his teams in hits, hovering between 10th and 20th overall in the category.

He also suited up for the Edmonton Oilers (63 games in 2008-09), Dallas Stars (160 games between 2012 and 2015) and Detroit Red Wings (11 games in 2014-15). He retired after spending two full years away from the game trying to convince his body that his style of play and a certain 2006 hit by Brooks Orpik that broke two of his vertebrae wouldn't be able to stop him from playing the game he loves so much, but ultimately, he failed; at least the Canes - with whom he played for in parts of nine seasons over two stints - offered him a one-day contract to retire as a member of the team, before moving on as a team ambassador.

What surprised me most about his short time in Montréal is how much of a team player he was; he came in rocking a four-year, $18M contract and, although he expected top-line minutes, he never complained that those minutes came with a 22-year-old semi-rookie who was essentially to serve the same role as him on the right flank (Max Pacioretty) and his undersized best friend David Desharnais at center, while the team's best centerman (Tomas Plekanec) was given more minutes but tougher assignments (facing the opposition's top line, second-unit powerplay time, penalty killing) while simultaneously asked to revive all struggling (Lars Eller, Andrei Kostitsyn, Travis Moen, Rene Bourque) or injured wingers (Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta).

Even more impressive was when the team's 2009 first-round pick, local boy Louis Leblanc was recalled from the minors to play in his first game, Cole bought Leblanc's parents plane and game tickets so they could see their son face the Anaheim Ducks in California.

That's leadership, right there. That's the kind of thing that makes you forgive his being a Habs-killer for all those years.

I told him as much when he signed my card in blue sharpie in 2012:
That's card #162 from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Victory collection, depicting him wearing the Canes' white (away) uniform.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Bryan Allen: Two Autographed Cards

I was sifting through my signed cards this evening and fell upon these two of Bryan Allen's early days, spanning the years of his being drafted as a high-touted prospect in the first round (4th overall, 1998) by the Vancouver Canucks to his climb in the minor hockey ranks leading to two World Juniors Team Canada berths (silver in 1999, out with an injury in 2000).

Fourteen NHL seasons and 721 regular-season games later, retiring at the tail end of the 2014-15 season having scored 29 goals with 107 assists for 136 points (and 839 penalty minutes), his career not so different from another fourth-overall pick's, Scott Lachance, including the fact that both played for the Canucks and Montréal Canadiens in their careers, both hanging up the blades after half a season in the AHL.

Allen was a solid defensive defenseman who could clear the front of the net and spend some time on the powerplay and penalty kill. His total ice time per game oscillated between 19 and 21 minutes per game in his prime and 16-18 before and after.

Here he is sporting his familiar #5 uniform for the Canadian national team, on card #401 from Upper Deck's 1997-98 Series 2 collection and Program Of Excellence (usually focusing on Canadian Juniors players) sub-set, wearing flip flops and shorts on a snowy hill that I suspect was behind an arena:
And here he is wearing the Canucks' white (home) uniform from the turn of the millennium, on card #478 from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Parkhurst set:
This white uniform is my second-favourite white from the Canucks, behind only the one they wore from 1989 until 1997.

I remember Allen signed these for me in thick blue sharpie, but I do not remember when, though I'm fairly certain it was after the season-long 2004-05 lockout, so likely during his time as an important member of the Florida Panthers (2006-11).

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sam Gagner Autographed Card

Just after trading Cam Talbot for Anthony Stolarz, the Edmonton Oilers went right back at it with another trade, this time sending Ryan Spooner to the Vancouver Canucks to bring back Sam Gagner, the team's single-game points record-holder (with 8, tied with Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey).

You may recall Spooner had been acquired for Ryan Strome, who himself was brought in when Jordan Eberle was sent to the New York Islanders. This corrects two mistakes by former GM Peter Chiarelli, at least providing the Oilers with the second-best player in the sequence (while still having given up the best).

Gagner was mostly phased out to the AHL this year (37 points in 43 games with the Toronto Marlies, not half-bad), but what we need to remember is that he's still just 29 years old and has usually mostly been a 40-50-point player; that may not be ideal for a sixth-overall draft pick (2007), but it's pretty darn good by any other measure:
from HockeyDB
Sure, he needs to be a little sheltered, start in the offensive zone a lot and get some powerplay time to reach those numbers, but the Oilers have Connor McDavid or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to pair him with and pretty much no one else who can actually provide what Gagner can.

That's two wins. Add in getting Spooner out of the picture and you've got three wins in a single one-for-one trade for interim GM Keith Gretzky.

Here he is sporting the Oilers' legendary blue uniform, on card #467 from Upper Deck's 2014-15 O-Pee-Chee collection:
He signed it in thick blue sharpie in 2016-17 while playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Cam Talbot Jersey Card

Changes are underway for the Edmonton Oilers!

In a one-for-one goalie trade, the team sent former #1 goalie Cam Talbot to the Philadelphia Flyers for promising 25-year-old Anthony Stolarz.

For the Oilers, the move frees up cap space right now to bring the injured Andrej Sekera back in the lineup under the salary cap, and adds a younger goalie with the same upside as Talbot but not already bummed out by the way the team has under-performed for two years. Stolarz will also be a restricted free agent this off-season (provided he plays in 10 games before the end of the season), so the team technically still has control over him.

The Flyers, on the other hand, already own the rights to two promising young goalies in Felix Sandström and Kirill Ustimenko, notwithstanding their current #1 Carter Hart, who is barely 20 years old. Talbot becomes an option to back him up next year along with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth - but Talbot has an edge, as he's been training with Hart in the summer for a few years and has already been mentoring him from a distance; Hart called Talbot up for tips the night before his first NHL game a few weeks ago.

Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher has also had success in the past with Oilers reclamation projects, as he's the one who brought Devan Dubnyk to the Minnesota Wild. Ironically, with Fletcher gone, Dubnyk's on a much tighter leash than the rest of the elite at his position (for example, Sergei Bobrovsky and Carey Price), and there is talk that the man who was at the NHL All-Star Game just two weeks ago may no longer be the one to lead the team to the postseason.

But back to Talbot who, just two years ago, was on top of the NHL world, lead the league in games played (73) and wins (42), was third in shutouts (7), and also boasted an incredible 2.39 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. He was second to just Bobrovsky in the "best goalie" talks. Just like Dubnyk, he just needs a reset to get back on track.

The only question is whether he'll get that reset in Philadelphia or elsewhere.

Here he is sporting the Oilers' beautiful white (now-away) uniform, on card #GJ-CT from Upper Deck's 2017-18 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a blue game-worn jersey swatch.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Anthony Peluso Autograph Card

Anthony Peluso was a sixth-round pick of the St. Louis Blues (160th overall) in 2007. At the time, the Blues were an overachieving regular-season team that consistently failed in the playoffs when play gets tighter and more rugged, so it was thought the 6'3", 225-pound tough guy North York, Ontario would help the Blues' more talented players feel more "protected" if he were in the lineup.

However, in three full seasons with the St. Louis organization, he never suited up once for the team, instead spending the bulk of his time with the AHL's Peoria Rivermen. He was then signed by the Winnipeg Jets, with whom he was a regular on-ice contributor, mostly via fisticuffs, as his 4 goals, 10 assists and 14 points in 142 games in the 'Peg pale in comparison to his 209 penalty minutes. His presence helped alleviate, to some extent, the emotional and physical workload of players like Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Stuart and Chris Thorburn.

Prior to last season, he signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Washington Capitals, although he only played in four NHL games (and 38 more for the AHL's Hershey Bears).

While he did not participate in the Caps' Stanley Cup victory, he may have a chance to do so this year with the Calgary Flames, who signed him to a similar deal last summer., because sometimes lightning does strike twice.

Here he is sporting the Jets' white (away) uniform, on the signed insert version of card #254 from Panini's 2013-14 Select set(and Dual Rookie Class sub-set):
The mostly-silver foil (but also with some gold) card features a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph.

He will be entered as #14 in my Jets Numbers Project.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Michel Goulet Swatch Card

Wayne Gretzky doesn't own all the NHL offensive records; he doesn't even own all goal-scoring records. As a matter of fact, as far as single-season game-winning goals, Gretzky's best season (1981-82) ties for 12th (with the fifth-highest total), with 12.

Russian scoring machine Alex Ovechkin hit 11 three times: in 2007-08, 2010-11 and 2014-15.

The leader this season, with some 25 games (seven weeks) remaining in the schedule, is Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, with 9.

The player with the most pro rated to the fewest games played is Conney Weiland, who scored 14 in just 44 games with the Boston Bruins in 1929-30; as a matter of fact, he had 43 goals and 30 assists for 73 points that year, 12 ahead of teammate Dit Clapper. The Bs led the league with a 38-5-1 record but failed to defend their Stanley Cup Champion title, losing to the Montréal Canadiens in a three-game sweep.

However, only two players share the distinction of having scored 16 game-winners in the same season: Phil Esposito did it twice with Boston (1970-71 and 1971-72), and Michel Goulet with the Québec Nordiques in 1983-84.

This card pays tribute to that achievement:
That's card #RA-MGO from Panini's 2013-14 Crown Royale set and Regal Achievements sub-set; it features a white game-worn jersey swatch and the artistic rendition depicts him wearing the Nordiques' blue (away) uniform.

I got it in a trade in exchange for three or four "regular" Crown Royale jersey cards.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Randy Carlyle Autographed Card

It's finally done.

After a 12-game losing streak earlier this season and riding a current seven-loss streak and losing 19 of their last 21 games, the Anaheim Ducks have relieved head coach Randy Carlyle of his position; GM Bob Murray steps in to fill the vacant slot until the end of the year.

We're talking about a head coach who, in two stints with the Ducks, made the playoffs in seven out of eight full seasons, is the franchise's all-time wins leader (with 384), brought them a Stanley Cup, two other Conference Finals (including one in 2016-17) and had a 111-74-35 record in his second go-round despite having been handed an aging roster that has consistently under-performed in comparison to its salary cap hit.

For instance, this season, none of their leading scorers are close to the point-per-game average, and most are along the 0.5 line:
Corey Perry has missed most of the year and only registered an assist in 5 games; the ghost of Ryan Kesler has 4 goals, 2 assists, 6 points, 29 penalty minutes and a -21 rating in 48 games.

Is the coach to blame, or the players? A bit of both? You can't fault Ryan Getzlaf's presence and will, as he's answering the media after every game saying the team needs to respond and play better, but if he can't rally the troops, maybe he's no longer worthy of the "C" on his chest. He sure can't carry the team's offense on his own anymore, leaving John Gibson to handle the load of the entire team between the pipes.

I'm not certain this was Carlyle's curtain call as a coach, either, because a team like the Philadelphia Flyers may want to return to a heavier style of play, or the Boston Bruins in the future; heck, if the Edmonton Oilers are waiting for Murray to get fired in the summer, who's to say the duo wouldn't get reunited in the tundra?

Regardless of your opinion of Carlyle as a coach, however, the fact remains that he was a very good defenseman in his day. He won the Norris trophy in 1980-81 and captained two teams: the Pittsburgh Penguins (1981-84) and Winnipeg Jets (1989-91).

He retired having scored 148 goals with 499 assists for 647 points with 1400 penalty minutes in 1055 regular-season games, and another 9 goals, 24 assists, 33 points and 120 PIMs in 69 playoff games. He had been drafted in both the NHL (Toronto Maple Leafs, second round, 30th overall) and WHA (Cincinnati Stingers, first round, 7th overall) in 1976.

He also won a silver medal with Team Canada at the 1989 World Championships, playing on a team that included Steve Yzerman, tournament leading scorer Brian Bellows, Kirk Muller, Sean Burke, and teammate Dale Hawerchuk. He tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs after a game against West Germany, but his B sample was found to be clear, so he was awarded his medal.

Here he is wearing the Jets' purple/blue (away) uniform (with a head shot in the white/home jersey) on card #288 from Score's 1991-92 Pinnacle (French-Candian Edition) set:
He signed it in blue sharpie when he was the Leafs' head coach (2012-15).

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Slater Koekkoek Autograph Card

A couple of weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning essentially gave up on trying to find room for Slater Koekkoek int heir lineup, sending him to the Chicago Blackhawks for Jan Rutta. Koekkoek, on the verge of turning 25, had been a first-round draft pick (10th overall in 2012); Rutta is an undrafted 28-year-old Czech star who is proving to be too good for the AHL but who also failed to make the Hawks a decent defensive team.

Ultimately, Koekkoek's failing will have been that he was unable to knock off a veteran from a line-up that included Jason Garrison, Anton Stralman, Andrej Sustr and Braydon Coburn, which morphed into the star-studded current lineup of Norris winner Victor Hedman, All-Star Ryan McDonagh, Stralman, eventual Norris winner Mikhail Sergachev, Coburn and a dependable second-rounder from 2015, Erik Cernak.

Not that he wasn't good. It's just that every time he finally found a roster spot, GM Steve Yzerman (maybe accidentally) added one or two left-handed defensemen that slotted ahead of him, with the  latest instances being former New York Rangers captain McDonagh and former Montréal Canadiens first-rounder Sergachev (actually, both are technically former Habs first-rounders).

It's hard for a young player to fight for ice time on a championship-caliber team - which the Bolts have been for years now - especially a young defenseman. Tampa will likely continue to be the cream of the crop for a few years as well. The Hawks, on the other hand, have big decisions looming with another expansion draft coming and two defensemen (Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook) with no-trade clauses they'll have to protect unless they can find a way of letting (at least one of) them go before the end of next season.

It may be of little comfort to a guy like Koekkoek who is about to enter his prime and might have had his development stalled a bit by remaining in the stands a tad too long in Florida, but an actual NHL roster spot will be available for him in 2020, in Chicago, Seattle or elsewhere.

Here he is wearing the Bolts' white (away) uniform, on card #152 from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Trilogy collection and Rookie Premieres (Level 2) sub-set:
It's numbered #379/499 and features an on-sticker blue-sharpied signature. The scan made it blueish with green highlights, but to the naked eye, it's actually mostly silver with golden highlights.

Friday, February 8, 2019

My Canucks Numbers Project: An Introduction

After my Habs Numbers Project, my Oilers Numbers Project and my Sens Numbers Project, might as well get started publicly admitting I'm also on a Canucks Numbers Project.
The team as it is known now was founded in 1970 and has changed uniforms a lot since, at the rate of once every five years or so, usually in a complete overhaul.

The Canucks' and Sens' players have been the most responsive in answering my requests, I think, when it comes to current players, in the many years since I've started blogging about cards and collectibles, and I've been getting a decent amount of in-pack hits as well to get me started on my quest, with 28/66 worn uniform numbers accounted for so far, which is why I decided to pursue the task.

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

Head Coach: Marc Crawford: check!
1: Roberto Luongo: 4x6 check!
2: Dan Hamhuis: check!
3: Kevin Bieksa, Brent Sopel and Doug Lidster: check!
5: Bryan Allen (twice): check!
6: Adrian Aucoin: check!
7: David Roberts: check!
10: Pavel Bure: check!
12: Stan Smyl: check!
14: Alexandre Burrows (twice) and Geoff Courtnall: check!
16: Trevor Linden once, (then twice): check!
17: Ryan Kesler, Radim Vrbata and Bill Muckalt: check!
18: Igor Larionov: check!
19: Markus Naslund and Jim Sandlak: check!
21: Mason Raymond: check!
22: Daniel Sedin: jersey card check!
24: Curt Fraser: check!
25: Dan Kesa: check!
26: Frank Corrado: check!
27: Sergio Momesso: check!
33: Henrik Sedin: jersey card check!
35: Alex Auld and Troy Gamble: check!
36: Jannik Hansen: check!
40: Maxim Lapierre: check!
41: Curtis Sanford: check!
45: Jordan Schroeder: check!
46: Nicklas Jensen: check!
47: Yann Sauvé: check!
49: Zack Fitzgerald: check!
58: Robert Kron: check!

Captains: 5 of 13: Smyl, Lidster, Linden, Naslund, Luongo, H. Sedin

Which means I'm looking to fill these (luckily I have all 4 retired numbers):

4: GM Jim Benning, Gerald Diduck or Nolan Baumgartner would be nice
8: Willie Mitchell and Chris Tanev
9: I sent Zack Kassian mail years ago, might have to ask Brad May instead
11: no one's worn it since Mark Messier's odd turn as a Canuck
13: Nick Bonino's number, Raffi Torres' too
15: the most-worn number in team history
20: I really liked Alexander Semak back in the day
23: Alexander Edler or Marc Bergevin work well here
28: I've been meaning to write Dave Capuano...
29: Aaron Rome or Tom Sestito work
30: I'll try Ryan Miller and Garth Snow
31: Eddie Lack did not respond, I'll try Corey Hirsch
32: I tried Dale Wiese last year, I'll give it more time
34: I probably have a Jassen Cullimore
37: Jarkko Ruutu would be cool
38: Pavol Demitra or Jan Bulis would be nice
39: this is Dan Cloutier's number
42: Josef Beranek wore it first
44: I have a Todd Bertuzzi signed insert card somewhere...

And the following numbers have only been worn by one or two players: 48, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 57, 62, 64, 66, 71, 72, 77, 79, 81, 89 and 96.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

My Team Canada Numbers Project

Well, I have Numbers Projects for so many teams now (my Habs Numbers Project, my Oilers Numbers Project my Sens Numbers Project, my Canucks Numbers Project, my Nordiques Numbers Project, my Flames Numbers Project and my Expos Numbers Project), I figured why not make one for Team Canada as well?

It'll be easier in some regards with all the national teams at all the levels (including but not limited to the World Juniors, the World Championships, the Spengler Cup, the Canada/World Cup, the Summit Series, and the Mens and Womens Olympic teams), but I'm again at a loss for #99 (Wayne Gretzky) and likely will be for my entire life.

The plan is to stick to hockey, but who knows, maybe I'll get to add some from other sports as well; it might be my only shot at a #99.
So far, I have featured 30 players representing a total of 24 jersey numbers.

Here they are:

1: Braden Holtby: check!
3: Eric Brewer: check!
4: Chris Phillips: check!
5: Bryan Allen and Samuel Morin: check!
10: Brayden Schenn and Charles Hudon (also wore #16): check!
11: Zachary Boychuk: check!
12: Lanny McDonald: jersey card check!
13: Caroline Ouellette: check (and check again)!
14: Thomas Hickey: check!
16: Charles Hudon (also wore #10): check!
17: Marcus Foligno: jersey card check!
19: Alexandre Daigle: check!
20: Guillaume Latendresse, Jason Ward and Louis Leblanc: check!
22: Frédérik Gauthier: check!
23: Rob Niedermayer and Daniel Audette: check!
24: Patrice Brisebois and Logan Couture: check!
28: Nathan Beaulieu: check!
29: Marie-Philip Poulin: check!
30: Dustin Tokarski: jersey card check!
31: Geneviève Lacasse and Olivier Roy: check!
32: Charline Labonté: check!
37: Patrice Bergeron: jersey card check!
51: Ryan Getzlaf: jersey card check!
97: Joe Thornton: jersey card check!

Captains: Poulin, Hickey

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

My Jets Numbers Project: An Introduction

It was just a matter of time before I had the Winnipeg Jets join my esteemed "Numbers Projects" alongside my Habs Numbers Project, my Oilers Numbers Project, my Nordiques Numbers Project, my Sens Numbers Project, my Canucks Numbers Project, my Flames Numbers Project, my Team Canada Numbers Project and my Expos Numbers Project.

What's nice is I get to cheat here, because I will use all professional iterations of the Jets in Winnipeg: the WHA team that became an NHL team, and the one that was created when the Atlanta Thrashers moved up North; I will not be including Atlanta numbers nor those of the Phoenix Coyotes, the team that was moved to the desert after the 1995-96 season.
It's hard not to have a soft spot for the perennial underdogs, the team with the smallest arena, from the smallest city and metropolitan area, that always faces nearly insurmountable odds just to exist - let alone succeed - and whose fanbase has stuck with them through thick and thin. They kept the dream alive amid not really having a chance at all to see it materialize. They certainly were never given any hope by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman at any point.

They won AVCO Cups in the WHA in the 1970s, were merged into the NHL along with the Hartford Whalers, Québec Nordiques and Edmonton Oilers in 1979, kept losing to the dynasty Oilers in the 1980s, moved to Arizona in the 1990s, came back (albeit from the ruins of another franchise) in the 2010s. Their history is rich in superstars, hard-knocks, and the inevitable small-market reality of icing a bunch of journeymen players.

As a reminder, the point of this project is to feature memorabilia from players who represent each uniform number ever worn in team history; ideally, for the purposes of displaying it upon completion, it'd be nice to have those all be signed cards; however, because I'm far from rich, sometimes these may be other types of signed items, or even jersey cards.

So far, I have featured the following 26 players for 22 numbers:

4: Fredrik Olausson: check!
6: Phil Housley: check!
7: Keith Tkachuk: check!
8: Randy Carlyle: check!
10: Dale Hawerchuk and Alexei Zhamnov (twice): check!
11: Paul Fenton: check!
14: Anthony Peluso: check!
16: Andrew Ladd: check!
17: Kris King and Jim Nill: check!
18: Bryan Little: check!
19: Brian Mullen and Shane Doan: check!
21: Aaron Gagnon and Chad Kilger: check!
22: Moe Mantha: check!
25: Thomas Steen: check!
26: Blake Wheeler: check!
31: Rick Tabaracci: check!
33: Dustin Byfuglien: jersey card check!
34: Darrin Shannon: check!
35: Bob Essensa: check!
38: Paul Postma: check!
40: Edward "Eddie" Pasquale: check!
80: Nikolai Antropov: check!

Captains: King, Hawerchuk, Steen, Ladd

I still have a lot of work ahead of myself, but I'm up to the challenge!

Monday, February 4, 2019

My Oilers Numbers Project: An Introduction

Long-time readers are probably familiar with my Habs Numbers Project, where I'm attempting to get a collectible item - ideally an autograph, but a jersey card will do - of a representative of every jersey number ever worn by a member of the Montréal Canadiens.

Since it's well underway and moving along nicely, I thought I could do the same for the Edmonton Oilers, seeing as I've already published 53, so I'm more than halfway there just by what I've already written, without counting my existing and extensive backlog.
Spoiler alert: I don't have anything from Wayne Gretzky. I don't think I'll ever be able to afford to, either, and he doesn't sign TTM, understandably - though many collectors confuse his autopen for an autograph. Which, when I get there, I might also count, myself (though I don't have one of those either).

Here's what I have:

1: Ty Conklin: check!
2: Eric Brewer and Lee Fogolin: check!
4: Kevin Lowe: check!
5: Steve Smith and Ladislav Smid (again here): check!
6: Jeff Beukeboom: check!
8: Joe Murphy: check!
9: Bill Guerin: check!
10: Shawn Horcoff, Pat Falloon, and Nail Yakupov: check!
12: Adam Graves: check!
13: Ken Linseman and Andrew Cogliano: check!
14: Raffi Torres: check!
16: Kelly Buchberger: check!
17: Jari Kurri: jersey card check!
18: Craig Simpson: check!
19: Boyd Devereaux and Patrick O'Sullivan: check!
21: Vincent Damphousse and Andrew Ference: check!
22: Charlie Huddy: check!
23: Sean Brown: check!
24:  Theo Peckham and Kevin McClelland: check!
25: Mike Grier: check!
26: Mike Krushelnyski and Brad Winchester: check!
27: Scott Mellanby, Georges Laraque and Boyd Gordon: check!
28: Craig Muni: check!
29: Ty Conklin: dual jersey card check, will look to improve
30: Bill Ranford: check!
31: Grant Fuhr: jersey card check!
33: Dan McGillis: check!
35: Mikhail Shtalenkov: check!
37: Lennart Petrell: check!
38: Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers: check!
39: Doug Weight: check!
40: Devan Dubnyk: check!
42: David Oliver: check!
44: Chris Pronger: jersey card check!
48: Ryan Hamilton: check!
49: Theo Peckham: check!
51: Philippe Cornet and Andrei Kovalenko: check!
54: Chris VandeVelde: check!
56: Teemu Hartikainen: check!
57: David Perron: jersey card check!
58: Jeff Petry: check!
62: Mark Arcobello (also wore #26): check!
64: Nail Yakupov: check!
67: Benoit Pouliot: check!
68: Tyler Pitlick: check!
77: Tom Gilbert: check!
78: Jordan Eberle (also wore #14): check!
81: Taylor Fedun: check!
83: Ales Hemsky: check!
85: Petr Klima: check!
89: Sam Gagner (twice) and Mike Comrie: check!
91: Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson: check (twice)!
94: Ryan Smyth: check and check again!

Captains: Fogolin, Lowe, Buchberger, Ference, Smyth

Numbers 50, 53, 61, 63, 66, 69, 70, 72, 73, 74, 75, 79, 82, 86, 87, 90, 92, 95, 96, 97, and 98 have not been worn by Oilers players, which means I'm looking to fill these:

3: Al Hamilton is the only one who's worn this number in team history
7: Paul Coffey, Martin Gélinas, Jason Arnott and Dan Cleary are good calls
11: Well, that's Mark Messier
15: This number changes owners almost yearly
20: Five players wore it in 1994 alone, 27 in total
31: Eddie Mio, Grant Fuhr and Curtis Joseph have all worn this with success
32: Miroslav Satan, Ron Tugnutt and Mathieu Garon come to mind
34: I'll be writing Donald Dufresne next year, but Fernando Pisani would also be nice
36: Tough guy Dennis Bonvie may have worn it the longest - 2 years
41: Brent Gilchrist or Jean-François Jacques might be the easiest to get
43: Dennis Bonvie and Jason Strudwick have worn this one
45:  I liked Shawn Belle
46: Tough guy Zack Stortini would rule
47: Paul Comrie or Marc-André Bergeron work here
52: Allen Rouke and Jerred Smithson have worn this one
55: Igor Ulanov and Alex Henry were tough defenders
59: Brad Hunt is the lone bearer, and it happened this year
60: Sébastien Bisaillon wore this in 2010
65: Mark Napier wore this in 1987
67: Gilbert Brulé never replied to any of my TTMs
71: It's a toss-up between Petr Sykora and Lubomir Visnovsky
76: Bryan Young had it for one season
80: Ilya Bryzgalov, may have missed my chance with this one
84: Oscar Klefbom wore it last year
88: Rob Schremp wore it half a decade ago
93: It's between Petr Nedved and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
99: The Great One, Wayne Gretzky

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Darnell Nurse Autographed Card

As is customary during Super Bowl weekend, the Montréal Canadiens hosted matinee games on Saturday and Sunday against the New Jersey Devils and Edmonton Oilers, respectively.

You may have heard how much of a trainwreck the Oilers are this year, with the firings of head coach Todd McLellan and GM Peter Chiarelli, Milan Lucic's year-long goal drought, the team's inability to find Connor McDavid a winger (save for second-line center Leon Draisaitl filling in at times), and the litany of bizarre-to-comical roster moves, such as, trading reigning NHL MVP Taylor Hall one-for-one instead of with a draft pick, essentially trading proven scorer Jordan Eberle for a player that was put on waivers, signing a goalie no one wanted to a three-year deal...

One of their smarter moves, though, was signing defenseman Darnell Nurse to a two-year bridge deal worth $3.2M per season; if they keep making smart moves, his next deal should be around $5.4M per before a top-dollar long-term deal is made.

Nurse is one of the team's few, good core pieces, with McDavid, Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom and Alex Chiasson, in addition to prospects Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Caleb Jones, and Evan Bouchard. That's half the building blocks Stanley Cup contenders have.

Nurse posted two assists in today's overtime loss to the Habs, bringing him to 26 points on the year, in 52 games - the same amount he got in 80 games last year. His next goal, assist and point will be career-highs.

Here he is wearing the Sault-Ste-Marie Greyhounds' red (away) uniform, on card #28 from In The Game's 2013-14 Heroes And Prospects set:
He signed it in thin blue sharpie before the game.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

My Expos Numbers Project: An Introduction

Why limit a good and fun concept to just hockey when I have enough signed baseball cards to seriously consider adding a Montréal Expos Numbers Project to all my hockey ones (my Habs Numbers Project, my Oilers Numbers Project, my Sens Numbers Project, my Canucks Numbers Project, and my Nordiques Numbers Project).

It'll be harder to finalize because baseball has more players in uniform (factoring in spring training and the 40-man roster after the trade deadline), but I start with the advantage that the team no longer exists, and no new number will be worn.

The first Canadian (and first non-U.S.) team to join Major League Baseball (in 1969), the team had its two best seasons when strikes disrupted play: the 1981 division win, and the magical 1994 season where they were leading the majors with a month left of play when the playoffs were cancelled as players walked out, which rang the beginning of the end for the team, who started its first official fire sale.

There'd been prior instances of the team trading highly-paid veterans for youth when they were being priced out of the team's budget (Gary Carter), but post-1994, it actually became official team policy to always trade players when they hit their prime and were about to earn serious dough. From the first wave (Delino DeShields, Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker, John Wetteland) to the second (Pedro Martinez, Jose Vidro, Vladimir Guerrero) to seasons where it was a single player to when the Evil Twins came from New York with empty promises and ran the team to the ground so they could profit from its sale and trade up, to the Florida Marlins.
So, here I am attempting to collect autographed/memorabilia stuff from players representing every number worn by a member of the Expos. So far, I have featured 35; here they are:

Managers: Bill Virdon and Buck Rodgers.

3: Jose Vidro and Junior Noboa: check!
4: Mark Grudzielanek: check!
6: Ryan McGuire: check!
11: John Tamargo: check!
12: Wilfredo Cordero: check!
13: Jeff Fassero: check!
15: Curtis Pride (also wore #16) and Jeff Huson: check!
16: Tom Foley: check!
19: Fernando Seguignol: check!
20: Mike Fitzgerald and Brandon Watson: check!
21: Larry Jaster: check!
22: Rondell White: check!
23: Mitch Webster and Grant Jackson: check!
24: Darrin Fletcher: check!
25: David Segui: check!
27: Andy McGaffigan: check!
29: Tim Wallach (and again here): check!
30: my favourite ball player of all time, Tim Raines (and Cliff Floyd): check!
32: Dennis Martinez: check!
33: Carlos Perez and Peter Bergeron: check!
34: Gil Heredia (also wore #52): check!
35: Otis Nixon: check!
37: Buck Rodgers: check!
41: Brian Barnes (also wore #47): check!
44: Tim Burke and Ken Hill: check!
45: Michael Barrett (also wore #5), Carl Pavano and the great Steve Rogers: check!
46: Kevin Gross: check!
47:  Brian Barnes (also wore #41): check!
50: Jay Tibbs: check!
51: Randy St. Claire, Mike Thurman, and Scott Stewart: check!
54: Tim Scott: check!
55: Bill Sampen: check!
57: John Wetteland: check!
62: Henry Mateo: check!
64: Keith Evans: check!
66: Andy Tracy: check!
73: Josh Labandeira: check!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Antoine Vermette Autographed Card

Just a few hours ago, Antoine Vermette announced his retirement from the NHL, having been unable to find a suitor, as he was looking for a job as a checking center on a contending team.

Having already had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup thanks to a short stint with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014-15 (19 regular-season games, 20 playoff games); his postseason run was memorable, as he tallied 4 goals, 3 assists and seven points, with three of his goals being game-winners, two of them coming in the Cup Final. His 58.9% playoff faceoff wins percentage was also dominant, although it may have ironically cemented his transition from the top-line center he was with the Arizona Coyotes to the defensive specialist he ended his career as.

I mention the Coyotes because he was often among the team leader in points in the parts of five seasons he spent in the desert, but statistically speaking, his best seasons came with the Columbus Blue Jackets (27 goals and 65 points in 2009-10) and Ottawa Senators (24 goals and 53 points in 2007-08), but those teams had better rosters than the Yotes.

At his best, he was one of the very good #2Cs in the NHL, but he didn't necessarily have the #1C prerequisite star power. He was instead better left in the shadows, accumulating Selke Trophy votes in four separate seasons and Lady Byng consideration in 2009-10. He was dependable on both sides of the puck and finished with the ninth-highest career faceoff percentage since the league started keeping tack of such things in 1997.

His worth can certainly be felt in the returns teams got for him in trades: the Sens got a #1 goalie (Pascal Leclaire) and second-round pick from the Jackets for his services in 2009; the Jackets got Curtis McElhinney, a second-rounder and a fourth-round pick from the Coyotes for him in 2012; and the Hawks gave away a defensive prospect and a first-rounder to secure his services for that Cup run in 2015.

I actually met him earlier this winter, and he signed a couple of cards for me, but today, I wanted to showcase an old card that reminds me of when it all started to come together for him, on card #83 from Upper Deck's 2000-01 Upper Deck Prospects set, which he signed in blue sharpie in 2013-14:
It shows him wearing the Victoriaville Tigres' white (home) uniform, sporting the alternate captain's "A" that he would also inherit in Columbus and Arizona. He'd scored 30 goals with 41 assists for 71 points in 71 games the previous season and had just been drafted 55th overall (second round) by the Sens, making the LHJMQ's Mike Bossy Trophy as best prospect.