Saturday, February 15, 2020

Philipp Grubauer Autographed Card

Philipp Grubauer has come a long way since almost wrestling the Washington Capitals' starting job away from Braden Holtby after the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft; Gru was traded to the Colorado Avalanche with one year of Brooks Orpik's monstrous contract to be bought out, for a second-round draft pick. You'd think not having Orpik attached would have netted the Caps something in the same vicinity as Semyon Varlamov once did - a first and a second.

Don't cry for the Capitals, however, because even though Holtby's deal is up now and no one should re-sign him at anything above $3M per - least of whom Washington - the team still has another blue chip young goalie ready to take over, 22-year-old Ilya Samsonov.

But back to Grubauer, who unfortunately didn't finish the Stadium Series game against the Los Angeles Kings tonight, suffering a lower-body injury when colliding with defenseman Ian Cole after stopping Kings forward Austin Wagner on a breakaway. He was having another terrific season for the Avs:
from HockeyDB
I included his career stats to show that when playing with a team that is good defensively, he can be even better, but the Avs are not that at all. For instance, two members of their top line are in the minuses: Mikko Rantanen (40 points in 41 games, -1) and Gabriel Landeskog (26 points in 41 games, -8), on a team that is two points out of first place in their division after that loss to the Kings earlier tonight, with two games in hand on the two teams that occupy that position.

Grubauer is one of the few Avs players with experience winning championships: he's won the Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires in 2010 and was a member of the Capitals when they won the Stanley Cup in 2018.

Here he is from his final season in the OHL, wearing the Kingston Frontenacs' black (away) uniform, on card #36 from In The Game's 2010-11 Between the Pipes set:
He signed it in blue sharpie in 2017-18, but I had lost track of it in my last move. You'll notice his equipment's not the same colour as his uniform; that's because both the Spitfires and the Caps' colour scheme is red, white and blue, while the Frontenacs chose to lean on the Boston Bruins' black and yellow/gold.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Dean Evason Autographed Card

Bill Guerin, GM of the Minnesota Wild, has made a coaching change with 25 games remaining and the team 3 points out of a playoff Wild Card spot, replacing head coach Bruce Boudreau with Dean Evason on an interim basis until the end of the season.

Boudreau was in the final year of a four-season deal and the fact that he hadn't received an extension was a telling sign that he wasn't going to be Guerin's man going forward. I'm not certain Evason will be either as there are plenty of available other options and he was former GM Paul Fenton's backup plan, but he'll get to interview for the position after the season.

Evason had gotten to know Fenton while both were part of the Nashville Predators organization - Fenton as assistant-GM, Evason as their AHL affiliate Milwaukee Admirals' head coach - but he had also been a seven-year assistant coach with the Washington Capitals and had been bench boss in the WHL for the Kamloops Blazers, Vancouver Giants and Calgary Hitmen.

As a player, he started and finished his NHL career wearing red (he was drafted 89th overall by the Caps in 1982 and suited up for 67 games with the Calgary Flames in 1995-96), but I remember him mostly wearing green, via his time with the Dallas Stars (1993-95), sure, but even more so with the Hartford Whalers (1985-91).

During his 434 games in Connecticut, he scored 87 goals with 148 assists for 235 points and a -29 rating - the team didn't make the playoffs every year - while playing on the third line.

All of this is still vividly clear in my mind, as is the fact that I liked him because his was one of the first O-Pee-Chee cards I landed out of a pack as a child. What I was surprised to find out was how aggressive the 5'10", 175-pound centre was, with four seasons above the 100-PIM mark and another one at 99, with a high of 170 in 75 games in his final season as a Whaler in 1990-91 (and 29 more in 4 playoff games that year).

This is why I'm choosing to feature him wearing #12 in the Hartford's classic green (away) uniform, which is also perfect for inclusion in my Whalers Numbers Project:
That's card #325 from Topps' flagship 1991-92 Topps set. He signed it in black sharpie last season. I had forgotten the design on this card until today, that his helmet and left elbow go over lines into the white border on one side while the stick doesn't on the other. Topps worked on these more seriously than I remembered.

My Whalers Numbers Project

As you may know, 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 , my Team Canada Project and my Expos Numbers Project, so I figured I could also pay tribute to one of the most still-beloved defunct teams, the Hartford Whalers.
Whilst in the NHL, they mostly played in Hartford, Connecticut, but as a franchise, they were brought from the WHA where they were known as the New England Whalers, and they played in Boston. For this project, I will indeed draw from both iterations, since they are the same team.

I may also eventually add players, coaches or managers of the AHL's Connecticut Whale, but since they're not exactly related, I'll refrain for the time being. It would be a nice cop-out, though.

So far, I have featured 16 players representing a total of 15 jersey numbers.

Here they are:

1: Sean Burke: check!
3: Joel Quenneville: check!
7: Randy Cunneyworth: check!
8: Jody Hull: check!
11: Kevin Dineen: check!
12: Dean Evason: check!
21: Andrew Cassels and Blaine Stoughton: check!
23: Nick Fotiu: check!
26: Mark Hunter: check!
28: Paul Ranheim: check!
29: Randy Ladouceur: check!
30: Peter Sidorkiewicz: check!
37: Patrick Poulin: check!
39: Kelly Chase: check!
40: Frank Pietrangelo: check!

Captains: Ladouceur

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Craig Conroy: Two Autographed Cards

Originally a Montréal Canadiens draft pick (sixth round, 123rd overall, 1990), Craig Conroy remained at Clarkson University until 1993-94, at which time the Habs had a bit of a logjam at centre, with Vincent Damphousse, Pierre Turgeon, Kirk Muller and Saku Koivu there during his first two seasons trying to make the team.

Ironically, the Réjean Houle regime would solve that problem by sending both Conroy and Turgeon to the St. Louis Blues, along with Rory Fitzpatrick, for middle-six forward and bad influence Shayne Corson, defensive defenseman Murray Baron and a fifth-round pick. Turgeon would be a better-than-point-per-game player with the Blues (355 points in 327 regular-season games - with an 85-point output to begin his five-year run in St. Louis and an 82-point season to end it with in 2000-01, as well as 45 points in 50 playoff games in the heart of the Dead Puck Era) and continued his run of Selke and Lady Byng Trophy-level play while Conroy also had Selke-worthy seasons (he was actually a finalist in 1997-98 and fifth in votes the following season), but produced a little less offensively, with 151 points in 359 games.

Where Conroy became an offensive force was in his first three seasons with the Calgary Flames, playing alongside Jarome Iginla, where he posted 75-, 59- and 47-point seasons - the latter in just 63 games in 2003-04, where he also collected17 points in 26 games as the team made its way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

He then spent parts of two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings before this happened:

He was thus once again a member of the Flames, with whom he retired in the middle of the 2010-11 season, after being a healthy scratch for many games and going unclaimed on the waiver wire and opting to not report to the AHL. He did play his 1000th game that year, however.

Upon retiring, he was named Special Assistant to the General Manager and has officially had his title changed to Assistant-GM under Brad Treliving in 2014. Many believe he's next in line for the actual position unless a "huge name" comes along to take over.

Here he is wearing Calgary's white (the-home) uniform right after he was acquired from the Blues, on card #41 from Upper Deck's 2001-02 Vintage collection, one that strongly resembles old Topps and O-Pee-Chee sets:
He was named co-captain in his second year with the team and held the title by himself the following year, as can be attested by card #47 from Pacific's 2003-04 Pacific set, showing him wearing the team's then-away "Flaming Horse" black jersey:
He stepped down from the position himself so that Iginla could lead the team, which he did, straight to the Final, that very first year.

Conroy signed both cards while scouting the Habs on behalf of the Flames in 2016 or 2017.

My Flames Numbers Project: An Introduction

I have hinted at it before, but after my Montréal Expos Numbers Project and 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), now's the time to do the same for the Calgary Flames.
The Flames won the Stanley Cup in 1989, the only visiting team to ever win it on Montréal Canadiens home ice. They have been in Calgary since 1980, but the franchise started out as the Atlanta Flames in 1972. For my project, I think I'll focus on the Calgary era only. It may evolve over time but for now, that'll be my goal.

Speaking of goals, 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 45* players for 39 numbers:

1: Tyler Moss: check!
3: Ladislav Smid: check!
5: Mark Giordano: check!
6: Bob Boughner: check!
7:  T.J. Brodie (also wore #66) and Steve Bégin (also wore 26): check!
8: Joël Bouchard: check!
9: Lanny McDonald: check!
10: Roman Cervenka: check!
11: Gary Leeman and Mikael Backlund: check!
12: Jarome Iginla (twice): check!
13: Michael Cammalleri: jersey card check!
16: Cory Stillman, Shean Donovan and Dustin Boyd (also wore #41): check!
18: Matt Stajan: check!
20: Gary Suter: check!
22: Ron Stern and Craig Conroy: check!
23: Sean Monahan: check!
25: Willie Plett and Joe Nieuwendyk: check!
26: Steve Bégin: check!
27: Ed Beers: check!
28: Émile Poirier: check!
29: Joel Otto: check!
31: Réjean Lemelin, Rick Wamsley, Ken Wregget and Curtis McElhinney: check!
34: Miikka Kiprusoff: check!
35: Henrik Karlsson: check!
37: Trevor Kidd and Leland Irving: check!
38: Ben Street: check!
40: Fred Brathwaite and Alex Tanguay: check!
41: Dustin Boyd (also wore #16): check!
42: Mark Cundari: check!
44: Chris Butler: check!
47: Sven Baertschi: check!
48: Greg Nemisz: check!
53: Derek Morris: check!
57: Émile Poirier: check!
59: Maxwell Reinhart: check!
60: Markus Granlund: check!
61: Oleg Saprykin (also wore #19): check!
66: T.J. Brodie (also wore #7): check!
67: Michael Frolik: check!
93: Sam Bennett: check!

captains: McDonald, Nieuwendyk, Conroy, Iginla and Giordano.
*some players appear twice, and therefore count as two.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Jay Bouwmeester Jersey Card

Tonight's game between the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks was postponed after Jay Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench, 12:10 into the game's first period with the score even at 1. It is considered a "cardiac episode".

Here he is from early in his career on card #FP-JB from Topps' 2003-04 Traded & Rookies set and Future Phenoms sub-set:
It shows him wearing the Florida Panthers' original white (home) uniform, with a matching game-worn jersey swatch from his rookie season.

He became the 29th member of the Triple Gold club last June when he added the Stanley Cup to a resume that already included an Olympic gold medal (2014) and World Championship gold (2003 and 2004).

He also holds two World Cup titles (2004 and 2016), World Championship silver (2008) and World Juniors silver (2002) and bronze (2000 and 2001) medals with Team Canada.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Alex Galchenyuk Jersey Card

Honestly, it feels like Alex Galchenyuk is running out of chances and will be facing KHL purgatory for at least two or three years, as he's two days away from his 26th birthday, on the final year of a deal that brings him to unrestricted free agency and is in his fourth organization in a year and a half after getting traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Minnesota Wild earlier today, with a first-rounder and a decent defensive prospect, Calen Addison, a 2018 second-rounder who just won gold with Team Canada at the World Juniors, for Jason Zucker.

It looks like Galchenyuk brought the overall deal's value down, which is why the Pens had to include a pick and a prospect for the three remaining contract years of second-liner Zucker.

This is the second time in less than a year that the teams had agreed on a Zucker move, but Phil Kessel has nixed the first attempt with his no-trade clause, and he's the one Pittsburgh sent to the Arizona Coyotes for Galchenyuk.

Galchenyuk is currently on pace for 8 goals, but he had scored 19 in each of the previous two seasons, 17 the year before that and a career-high 30 in 2015-16 with the Montréal Canadiens, who had selected him third-overall in 2012.

Many people at the time thought he may have been the most talented forward in his draft class - Filip Forsberg (11th) has shown this to be incorrect and Teuvo Teravainen (18th) is making a case to relegate "Chucky" further down the line, with Tomas Hertl (17th) also looking to do the same.

It's a shame, too, because he does did have all the tools to be an elite forward, from size (6'1", 207 pounds) to a good vision to good passing skills to way above-average puck-handling and deking skills to decent speed to a very good wrist shot... but he seems a lot slower now when he should be in his prime, and he can't seem to be able to keep up with the type of players that could help him get back to top-six production numbers.

Let's hope he's put in the proper environment to salvage the rest of his 20s and not one where off-ice temptations are too difficult to resist.

Here he is from brighter days, sporting the Habs' classic red (now-home) uniform on card #GJ-AG from Upper Deck's 2017-18 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a white game-worn jersey swatch that is probably from their away uniform.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Hunter Shinkaruk Autograph Card

Hunter Shinkaruk is still just 24 years old, so not only is it a bit early to call him a first-round bust - he was the Vancouver Canucks' selection at the 2013 draft, 24th overall - but he remains halfway through playing all of the Canadian NHL teams, having also spent time with the Calgary Flames and the Montréal Canadiens' AHL affilitae Laval Rocket.

This year, he was released by the Charlotte Checkers after a 20-game stint (4 goals, 3 assists, 7 points, 4 penalty minutes and a -1 rating, so really not much to show for it) and he's since signed on with the KHL's Kunlun Red Star, a team that stands sixth in its division with a 25-25-3-4 record (57 points in 57 games, 131 goals for, 149 goals against) despite dressing a bunch of former top NHL prospects like Brandon Yip, Adam Cracknell, Spencer Foo, Gilbert Brulé, Devante Smith-Pelly, Andrej Sustr, Wojtek Wolski, and Griffin Reinhart, as well as famous sons Jake Chelios and David Bondra.

Here's hoping he finds the inner strength and an agent with jedi-level convincing powers so he can also suit up for the Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs in the next decade. Posterity demands it.

As a player, he has blazing speed - think NHL-elite-level speed - and isn't afraid to park himself in front of the opposition's net despite being just 5'11" and 190 pounds, like a somewhat taller Brendan Gallagher... except the finishing touch he demonstrated when he scored 49 and 37 goals in 60-some games with the Medecine Hat Tigers in Juniors has yet to translate to the pro game. The only time he reached the 20-goal mark was in 2015-16, where he had 21 in 45 games with the Utica Comets, 0 in 1 game with the Canucks, 6 in 17 games with the Stockton Heat and 2 in 7 games with the Calgary Flames.

It's like he never got over being traded the first time and has since wallowed in the middle- or bottom-six of minor leagues, unable to find a prominent role even on sub-par teams.

Here's hoping he puts all the ingredients together in the next couple of years and bounces back enough to ensure he has a future in the game...

In the meantime, this is what he looked like in the Canucks' white (away) uniform, on card #RR-25 from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Contours set and Rookie Resume sub-set:
It features a blue-sharpied on-sticker signature. His #48 slots him perfectly in my Canucks Numbers Project.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

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 29/67 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: Kirk McLean: check! (also: Roberto Luongo 4x6)
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 (twice): check!
14: Alexandre Burrows (twice), Geoff Courtnall and Steve Bozek: check!
16: Trevor Linden once, (then twice): check!
17: Ryan Kesler, Radim Vrbata and Bill Muckalt: check!
18: Igor Larionov: check!
19: Markus Naslund, Petr Nedved 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 and Ronalds Kenins: check!
45: Jordan Schroeder: check!
46: Nicklas Jensen: check!
47: Yann Sauvé: check!
48: Hunter Shinkaruk: check!
49: Zack Fitzgerald: check!
58: Robert Kron (twice): 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.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Blake Hillman Autograph Card

Blake Hillman was part of an entire crop of College players who signed a shorter-term ELC in their early 20s, but unlike a lot of seniors who were free agents for never having been drafted or waiting for their fourth year to not play with the team that owned their rights, he chose to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks, who had selected him 173th overall in 2016.

He got to play in four games at the tail of of the season, scoring a goal in his second game; however, with the Hawks' logjam on defense last year and the NHL limit of 50 active contracts, the team elected not to extend him a qualifying offer last summer, and he became a UFA at the age of 23.

He signed a one-year deal with the ECHL's Toledo Walleye and appeared in five AHL games with the Grand Rapids Griffins, but he hasn't shown the type of offensive game that will make it easy for him to have another shit at the NHL soon.

He may have to sign a few AHL deals or spend a year or two in Europe to show that his defensive game is strong enough to warrant a bottom-pairing role in the Big Show.

Here he is wearing the Hawks' white (away) uniform on the signed insert version of card #146 from Upper Deck's 2018-19 SP Game-Used Edition collection and Authentic Rookies sub-set:
It features a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph with his jersey number (55) tagged at the end.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Jared Cowen Autograph Card

Two-time World Juniors silver medalist, Memorial Cup champion, Calder Cup champion.

Then an up-and-down six seasons in the Ottawa Senators organization, the way most young defensemen spend their time learning their craft.

That was the career trajectory of Jared Cowen, the ninth-overall draft pick of 2009, until February 9th, 2016, when he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, with Colin Greening, Milan Michalek, Tobias Lindberg and a second-round draft pick, for Dion Phaneuf, Matt Frattin, Ryan Rupert, Casey Bailey and Cody Donahey.

Cowen hasn't played since that season - heck, he never even played a game for the Leafs. Instead, they realized he was playing through an injury and bought him out, a move that is against the rules of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement that the NHL let slide because it's the Leafs and their GM at the time was Lou Lamoriello, and the Leafs need to be good for Canadian ratings to be good, revenue to flow in, and Lamoriello was supposed to bring them a much-needed Stanley Cup, like Dave Nonis before him, and Brian Burke before him, and John Ferguson Jr. before him, and Pat Quinn before him, and Ken Dryden before him, and Cliff Fletcher before that.

Wow, that's a lot of GMs since the 1990s. I wonder how long they've been without a Cup for, must be a while. I guess that's what you get when you're better at managing "assets" than "players".

That being said, Cowen did get a look at the Colorado Avalanche's camp the following pre-season, but he didn't make it very far. My guess is he's still suffering from all the injuries he fought through.

Here he is from better days, sporting Team Canada's white (home) uniform, on card #108 from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Team Canada collection:
He signed it in blue sharpie in 2014-15, adding his number (2) at the end.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

My Habs Numbers Project: An Introduction

So many hockey collectors have ''special projects'' they pursue to make their hobby even more fun, from trying to gather specific cards from every single Vancouver Canucks goalie to having an autographed card of every player who has reached the 1000-point mark.

I decided to start a project myself: to gather a special piece (jersey cards could work, but ideally an autographed card) from a player from every number worn by a member of the Montréal Canadiens.
Here's a look at the task that's ahead of me, starting with those I have:

Head Coach: Scotty Bowman: check!
1: Brian Hayward, Roland Melanson and Rick Wamsley: check!
2: Gaston Gingras (also wore #29): check!
3: Sylvain Lefebvre once (then twice), and Brian Engblom: check!
4: the one and only Jean Béliveau: check!
5: Stéphane Quintal and Guy Lapointe: check!
6: Ralph Backstrom: check!
8: Brandon Prust: check!
10: Guy Lafleur: check!
11: Claude Larose and Ryan Walter: check!
12: Yvan Cournoyer and Mike Keane: check! (also: Darcy Tucker)
13: Alex Tanguay: check!
14: Mario Tremblay: check! (also, Tomas Plekanec, who also wore #35)
15: Réjean Houle once, (then twice), and Bobby Smith: check! (also: George Parros)
16: Henri Richard: check!
17: Georges Laraque and Benoît Brunet: check!
18: Valeri Bure: check!, and Serge Savard: signed lithograph check!
20: Phil Goyette and Nicolas Deslauriers: check!
21: Brian Gionta: once, then twice, and Christopher Higgins: check!
22: Steve Shutt, Steve Bégin and Gilbert Dionne: check!
23: Turner Stevenson: check! (twice)
24: Andreas Dackell: postcard check!
25: Vincent Damphousse: check!
26: Josh Gorges: check!
27: Alex Kovalev: jersey card check!
28: Kyle Chipchura and Éric Desjardins: check!
29: Gaston Gingras (also wore #2) and Brett Clark: check! 
30: Mathieu Garon: postcard check, Peter Budaj, and David Aebischer: check!
31: Carey Price: check! (also Jeff Hackett)
32: Travis Moen: check!
34: Peter Popovic: check!
35: Alex Auld: check! (also, Tomas Plekanec, who wore #14 as well)
36: Marcel Hossa (also wore 81) and Matt D'Agostini: check!
37: Steve Penney and André Racicot: check!
38: Nikita Scherbak: check!
39: Cristobal Huet: check!
40: Maxim Lapierre: check! (also, this Éric Chouinard postcard)
41: Jaroslav Halak: check!
42: Alexander Perezhogin: check!
43: Patrice Brisebois and Andrew Cassels: check!
44: Stéphane Richer: check!
45: Gilbert Dionne: check!
46: Andrei Kostitsyn: 8x10 check!
47: Brendon Nash and Stéphan Lebeau (also wore #50): check!
48: Jean-Jacques Daigneault, and James Wyman: check!
49: Brian Savage: check!
50: Stéphan Lebeau (also wore #47): check!
51: David Desharnais: check! (also wore #58)
52: Craig Rivet: postcard check!
54: Patrick Traverse: postcard check!
55: Francis Bouillon (also wore #51): check!
57: Blake Geoffrion: check!
58: David Desharnais: check! (also wore #51)
59: Brock Trotter: check!
60: José Theodore: check and check again!
61: Raphael Diaz: check!
62: Artturi Lehkonen: check!
63: Craig Darby: check!
64: Greg Pateryn: check!
65: Robert Mayer and Andrew Shaw: check!
67: Max Pacioretty: check!
68: Yannick Weber: check!
70: Zachary Fucale: 4x6 picture check!
71: Louis Leblanc and Mike Ribeiro: check!
72: Mathieu Carle: check!
73: Michael Ryder: check!
74: Alexei Emelin: check!
75: Yann Danis: check!
76: P.K. Subban: jersey card check!
77: Pierre Turgeon: check!
79: Andrei Markov: check!
80: Ben Maxwell: check!
81: Lars Eller: check!
84: Guillaume Latendresse: check!
91: Scott Gomez: check!
94: Yanic Perreault and Tom Pyatt: check!

Captains: Béliveau, Gionta, Turgeon

Which means I'm looking to fill these:

7: This will be the hardest, seeing as Howie Morenz died in 1937 and the number was soon retired...
9: There are signature cards of Maurice 'The Rocket' Richard, but I don't think I'll ever be able to afford one!
19: This one will likely be between Terry Harper and Larry Robinson
33: Of course, my boyhood idol is Patrick Roy. Richard Sévigny would also be fine.
53: Rory Fitzpatrick and Ryan White have worn this number the longest
56: David Wilkie, Alain Nasreddine, Scott Fraser and Stéphane Robidas are the only ones to have worn this number in Montréal
66: Has only been worn in pre-season games
69: another pre-season number
78: I probably have some Éric Landry stuff somewhere...
82: It'd be nice to have Donald Audette's signature on a Canadiens' product
83: I don't even remember Éric Bertrand, but I'll gladly take the refresher course
85: never been worn, huh
86: Jonathan Ferland
87: never been worn
88: Chris Higgins wore it for a short while, as did Xavier Delisle
89: never been worn
90: I have lots of Joé Juneau cards, none of them signed
92: never been worn
93: the one and only Doug Gilmour
95: goalie Olivier Michaud would make my day, but Sergei Berezin would be fine as well
96, 97, 98, 99: have never been worn

Cristobal Huet Autographed Card

Because of their usual lack of offensive firepower since the days of Alexei Kovalev Saku Koivu Vincent Damphousse Stéphane Richer Bobby Smith Guy Lafleur, the focus and props for Montréal Canadiens results usually go to the starting goalie, while the blame usually goes to the head coach or GM.

This explains why the Molson Cup, given annually to the player who received most "Three Stars" votes since 1972-73 usually goes to the netminder regardless of star status. As a matter of fact, here is the complete list of winners and number of times the award's been given out:

1. Carey Price (Goalie, 8 times)
2. Guy Lafleur (Left Wing, 7 times including a record six consecutive)
3. Patrick Roy (Goalie, 4 times)
    José Theodore (Goalie, 4 times)
4. Jeff Hackett (Goalie, 2 times)
    Stéphane Richer (Right Wing, 2 times)
    Mats Naslund (Left Wing, 2 times)
    Mark Recchi (Right Wing, 2 times)

And all the following players have each won it once: Ken Dryden (Goalie), Larry Robinson (Defense), Mario Tremblay (Right Wing), Steve Penney (Goalie), Guy Carbonneau (Centre), Russ Courtnall (Right Wing), Kirk Muller (Centre), Pierre Turgeon (Centre), Saku Koivu (Centre), Alexei Kovalev (Right Wing), Cristobal Huet (Goalie), Jaroslav Halak (Goalie), Alex Galchenyuk (Centre/Left Wing), Brendan Gallagher (Right Wing).

Of course, those results are rigged, because Price got First Star of games in which he let in 4 goals or when the other option would have been to give all three stars to opposing players on home ice, so Koivu probably should have at least one more and Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Markov should also have at least one each, but the fact of the matter is that ever since Jacques Lemaire instilled a defense-first system in 1984 that every head coach except Carbonneau has followed to a T, the goalie has been the focus and recipient of all the attention, warranted or not.

Speaking of Carbonneau's system, Huet's win came in 2006-07, when the Habs finished fourth in their division and narrowly missed the playoffs, by a single game, with Halak carrying the team on his shoulders down the stretch but Huet insisting on playing the final game after returning from injury and getting blown out and letting six Toronto Maple Leafs goals go past him on 35 total shots; the team made up for lost ground the following season by winning their division. This signalled the end of his tenure in Montréal and he was traded to the Washington Capitals the following season.

While he received end-of-season All-Star Team votes during his tenure with the Canadiens, it was his season split between the Habs and Caps that got him some Vezina Trophy votes, five in total, including one for second-place and a third-place vote from the NHL's 30 GMs. In a controversial move, Martin Brodeur won it that year when it clearly should have gone to Jean-Sébastien Giguère (2.12 GAA and .922 save percentage) ahead of Henrik Lundqvist, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeni Nabokov, Roberto Luongo, Tim Thomas and Huet.

Huet would sign with the Chicago Blackhawks the following summer and go on to win the Stanley Cup platooning with Antti Niemi in his second and final season with the team before returning to Europe. In 2014-15, he was clearly the best goalie in Europe, smack-dab in the middle of a six-year stint with Lausanne HC, posting a 24-11-2-4 record in 41 games with a 1.86 goals-against average and .931 save percentage, coming at the heels of a season where he had had a 2.06 GAA and .928 save percentage.

Still, I choose to remember him most as the Habs' #1 goalie, the second to hold that title and be shipped off to make room for Price (after Theodore, before Halak). He had a semi-stand-up style reminiscent of Hackett's and a butterfly that was square and bulky, as shown on this picture that was probably taken during a pre-game warmup session:
That's card #106 from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Victory set, and he signed it in black sharpie just weeks before getting traded to Washington for a second-round pick.

He is now Lausanne's goaltending coach and will be the Ambassador for the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympics. He's also a perfect entry as #39 in my Habs Numbers Project.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Tony Hrkac: Two Autographed Cards

The last time I featured two autographed Tony Hrkac cards, I purposely skimmed through his time with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim because I knew I had this post as a back-up.

His 140 games with Anaheim was the third-most he spent with any one organization, after the 201 with the St. Louis Blues and 160 with the Atlanta Thrashers. His 38 points with the Mighty Ducks in 2000-01 at age 34 is his fifth-highest total in the NHL, coming in the heart of the Dead Puck Era and his even (+0) plus/minus rating was tied for second-best on the team, with only Antti Aalto falling into the positives at +1, in only 12 games, mind you. The team's stars were all in deep minuses: Paul Kariya (67 points, -9), Teemu Selanne (59 points, -8), Oleg Tverdovsky (53 points, -11), Marty McInnis (42 points, -21) and Matt Cullen (40 points, -23) all brought forth a negative differential, making life difficult on goalies Guy Hebert (41 games, 12-23-4, 2 shutouts, 3.12 GAA and .897 save percentage) and Jean-Sébastien Giguère (34 games, 11-17-5, 4 shutouts, 2.57 GAA and .911 save percentage).

Card #5 from Pacific's  2001-02 Pacific series encapsulates his time in California very well:
The purple (technically "eggplant") and jade uniform was their main away gear from the team's inception in 1993 until 2006, when Disney sold the team and it changed its look and took the "Mighty" out of its name to not interfere with Disney's copyrights from the kids' film franchise, with the team opting to modify its brand and look at the same time.

However, I mostly tend to remember Hrkac as a member of the Blues and Québec Nordiques, as the early 90s were when I followed the sport and the NHL the most religiously, and I also have him sporting the Nords' beautiful blue (away) uniform from the late 80s/early 90s, before they started incorporating red on the contours of the numbers:
That's card #172 from Topps' 1990-91 Bowman set, which enables me to enter Hrkac as #28 in my Nordiques Numbers Project. You might recall he's also there as #40, and he is a rare player who went from wearing a "regular" (read: below #35) number in 1989-90 to a "high number" (40 and up) in 1990-91; back in the day, it was customary for goalies to wear #1, #20, #29, or a number between 30 and 35, while tough guys and goons were given available numbers between 30 and 39 and other skaters typically had lower numbers - except for stars, who could get "the doubles" (11, 22, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88 and 99). The numbers above 40 were typically reserved for rookies who had yet to "earn" their lower number.

Hrkac signed these in blue sharpie when he came out of retirement at age 42, from 2008 to 2010, with the Houston Aeros of the AHL. His 2008-09 playoff run was particularly impressive, as he posted 14 points in 19 games in a deep postseason run.

He's been a pro scout with the Tampa Bay Lightning since 2015, who have acquired the likes of Anton Stralman, Michaël Bournival, Gabriel Dumont, Peter Budaj, Louis Domingue, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev, Eddie Pasquale, Cameron Gaunce, Danick Martel, J.T. Miller, Curtis McElhinney, Jan Rutta, Luke Schenn, Kevin Shattenkirk and Pat Maroon via other means than drafting during his tenure, so either he is passionate about my blog or he travels from Montréal to New York a lot.

My Nordiques Numbers Project: An Introduction

You're probably used to it by now, what with my Habs Numbers Project, my Oilers Numbers Project, my Sens Numbers Project, and my Canucks Numbers Project, but I decided long ago that I would also have one for my favourite team growing up, the Québec Nordiques.

As a reminder, the goal is to have an autographed card of a player representing each jersey number worn/used by the franchise. If I can't find an autographed card, autographed pictures, postcards or jersey cards can count.
Originally founded as a WHA team in in 1972, they joined the NHL with the New England/Hartford Whalers, the Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets when the WHA folded with the agreement that four teams would merge with the NHL, pending a transfer fee and the loss of their superstars whose rights belonged to existing NHL teams.

Because the franchised relocated to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche in 1995, it's a tad harder to complete this set than my previous ones, because it gives me a limited number of years to access and fewer players having the chance to wear certain jersey numbers.

I'm starting this project with the mindset of limiting myself to the 1972-1995 time period, ignoring the Avs part of the team's history - and also skipping over former teams based in the same city, such as the Stanley Cup-winning Québec Bulldogs.

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

1. Ron Tugnutt and Richard Sévigny: check!
2. Sylvain Lefebvre: check!
4. Paul Baxter: check!
5. Réjean Houle and Brent Severyn: check!
6: Craig Wolanin: check!
7: Robbie Ftorek: check!
9: Réal Cloutier: check!
10. Guy Lafleur: check!
12. Chris Simon: check!
16. Michel Goulet once: (and twice) check!
18: Marian Stastny and Mike Hough: check!
19. Michel Dion (also wore 30): check!
21: Randy Moller: check!
22. Ron Sutter: check!
28: Tony Hrkac (also wore #40): check!
30. Michel Dion (also wore 19): check!
31. Stéphane Fiset: check!
32. Dale Hunter: check!
33. Mario Gosselin: check!
36: Adam Deadmarsh: check!
40: Tony Hrkac (also wore #28): check!
44: Mario Marois: check!
48. Scott Young: check!
49: Kip Miller: check!
51: Andrei Kovalenko: check!
55: René Corbet: check!
59: Dave Karpa: check!

That's 27 numbers. Some will be harder than others to acquire (Peter Stastny's 26 and Joe Sakic's/Owen Nolan's 88), but I'm actually fairly confident with this one. This and the Habs one, fittingly, should near completion before I get bored with having these projects!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Drew Bannister Autographed Card

Drew Bannister was a second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning (26th overall in 1992) who ended up playing 164 NHL games with the Bolts (two stints), Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Mighty Ducks (two stints) and New York Rangers, plus nine seasons in Europe, including the final two where he was a player and a coach at the same time.

He had previously won two OHL titles, a Memorial Cup and a gold medal at the 1994 World Juniors with Team Canada, contributing 4 assists in 7 games, which is where card #460 from Pinnacle Brands' 1993-94 Pinnacle set and World Junior Championship sub-set comes in:
As previously mentioned, he spent the 2011-12 season as player-coach of the British League's Braehead Clan, posting 42 points in 51 games but, more importantly, taking the second-year club to 6th place, ahead of established teams like the Hull Stingrays and Edinburgh Capitals, as well as the Dundee Stars and Fife Flyers.

This led to an offer to be assistant coach with the OHL's Owen Sound Attack for thee seasons (2012-15), which was followed by a three-year stint as head coach of the Soo Greyhounds (2015-18), highlighted by an OHL Final loss in 2018. The team's 55-7-3-3 record was a franchise best, paving the way for OHL and CHL Coach Of The Year honours.

It was once again time to graduate to the AHL, and he was named the San Antonio Rampage's first bench boss with their new NHL affiliation to the St. Louis Blues. Despite not making the playoffs last year in his first season with the Rampage and looking like he'll repeat this year, he did oversea pasrts of the season with players such as Samuel Blais, Jordan Schmaltz, Robby Fabbri, Carl Gunnarson and goalie Jordan Binnington, who all had their names engraved on Lord Stanley's salad bowl at season's end.

It's good to remember that the AHL is mostly a Prep League for the NHL, and that while winning a Calder Cup may help teach young players how to win and the pleasure of winning, it should be a place where they finish their development and learn how to be adults living on their own in new cities. Sometimes even AHL coaches seem to forget that winning shouldn't be the end-all of their job descriptions, as Bill Peters can now probably attest to.

That being said, I think Bannister's next step up the ladder would be as an assistant at the NHL level rather than directly being the man in charge.