Monday, June 7, 2021

Tim Cheveldae Autographed Card

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This series was over the moment Mark Scheifele decided venting his frustration was more important than attemptiong a comeback, some time around midway in the first game of the series, way before he actually crossed the line and deliberately injured Montréal Canadiens rookie Jake Evans. He left the Winnipag Jets - already without second-line center Paul Stastny, on the cusp of losing #2 defenseman Dylan DeMelo for a long time - without their top playmaker, a point-per-game player who had helped shut Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers down in the first round.

As his eyes got more and more filled with rage from being stifled by Phillip Danault and clobbered by Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Joel Edmundson and Ben Chiarot, you could almost read the prediction of how the series would go by the expression on his face, from "Jets in 6" at the opening faceoff to "Jets in 7" in the middle of the second period to "Habs in 7" to start the third, "Habs in 6" five minutes later, and "Habs in 4" when it became clear Scheifele would get a lengthy suspension.

The referees did a good job of not letting any part of this series get out of hand, even calling out Stastny for a penalty for a cross-check after a goal in Game 3, making sure the last ten minutes of play isn't just scrum-after-scrum of frustration masquerading as "message sending" with the potential for more useless injuries.

I love a tough game; I would love for every team to have a Blake Wheeler on one wing and a Josh Anderson on the other to bang and bruise their way to the opposition's net, but dirty plays at the speed of this spot cannot be tolerated, and as much as I really love the Jets, that the series was decided on a bonehead play after an empty-net goal is well-deserved. Wheeler seemed to agree that the suspension changed the course of the series:
You can't describe the impact of losing him. He's a top-10 player in the NHL. I'm not saying that we would win the series in five games because he was in the lineup. But it just changes our team. He makes me better, he makes Kyle Connor better. It just makes our team look a lot different, so it's a damn shame.
I don't believe Scheifele gets the Nazem Kadri treatment and gets shipped out of town, and hopefully he learneds his lesson from this unfortunate situation.

Still, these are good times for Jets fans. They have had a very good team for the better part of a decade now, have the best goalie in the game (Connor Hellebuyck), are exciting to watch, have a good tactician in coach Paul Maurice (although at this point perhaps a motivator might be what they should be looking for)... they did not sweep the Oilers by accident.

They are missing two key elements for me: a top-four defenseman and a return to one of their old uniforms, such as the mid-1990s oen as sported by Tim Cheveldae on card #212 from Pinnacle Brands' 1995-96 Score set:
The Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes have recently all embraced the retro trand, as has Adidas with their "Reverse Retro" series, I think the Jetsshould also embrace the pre-rebirth history of the NHL in their town.

Cheveldae was a typical Detroit Red Wings goalie: a workhorse for a small number of seasons (three), not quite an established #1 that gets you palyoff success, a scapegoat for postseason failures, and not a Vezina-caliber game-changer, although he did garner some votes in two of his seasons in recognition for games played (72 in 1991-92, for a total of 4236 minutes, and 67 games/3880 minutes the following year, but he had no chance of actually winning with Patrick Roy and Ed Belfour in their prime).

He was replaced in Detroit by Chris Osgood before moving to Winnpeg where he shared the net with Bob Essensa and Nikolai Khabibulin before phasing out of the NHL and into the IHL (Fort Wayne Komets in 1996-97, Las Vegas Thunder in 1997-98, both with a .878 save percentage and nearly identical 3.96 and 3.95 goals-against averages). He rocked the Heaton equipment well in Winnipeg, but my best memories of him are donning the Vaughn pads in Detroit.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Josh Morrissey: Two Autographed Cards

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I didn't post my usual NHL playoff predictions on my regular blog this year, so you'll just have to take me at my word that I'm not looking like Nostradamus right now...

The Winnipeg Jets taking their first game against the Edmonton Oilers didn't really make a dent in my prediction that the Oilers would win in 5, but their taking a 3-0 series lead looking for a sweep tomorrow - particularly when trailing 4-1 with 9 minutes left in the third in Game 3 - reinforces my belief that this team is built with great character (Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers), is a deep offensive juggernaut (Mark Scheifele, Paul Stastny, Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois) and has the best goalie in the game today (Connor Hellebuyck).

But the Oilers have the best player in the past 30 years (Connor McDavid) and Leon Draisaitl, who qiualifies as one of the five best forwards in the world right now as well - they supporting cast just hasn't been able to do what it takes to either steal or keep the lead in a game.

In their press conferences, Jets head coach Paul Maurice also looks not only more in control and better able to communicate his messages to his players (and the media), he also constantly adds value to his answers with tactical information or historical tidbits, whereas Edmonton's Dave Tippett looks like someone who once coached the Phoenix Coyotes.

The key play that got the Jets back in the game was Josh Archibald's dangerous and useless "tripping" (actually clipping the kees) penalty on rookie defenseman Logan Stanley, for which he'll get a hearing tomorrow, opening the possibility of a suspension which would facilitate Tippett's removal of his top checker from the next game.

Obviously, with a pair of goals including the goal that sparked the comeback and the overtime game-winner, Ehlers was celebrated as the game's hero, but Josh Morrissey, with an assist on Wheeler's 4-3 goal and the tying one just seconds later, both on similar plays where he took full control of the puck at the blue line to set up and maintain the attack, arguably had just as much impact on Winnipeg's comeback win. The defenseman had been blanked in the first two games of the series after a 21-point regular season (to go with 86 blocked shots, 78 hits and 25 penalty minutes). He had had back-to-back 31-point seasons before that, earning then cementing his place as the team's top defender.

It's odd to think he was a rookie not so long ago, as can be attested from card #282 from Upper Deck's 2016-17 MVP set, showing him wearing #36, meaning the picture was taken dring his lone NHL game in 2015-16:
He has since worn #44, as can be seen on card #NL-21 from Upper Deck's 2016-17 Overtime hockey collection and Next In Line sub-set:
It's a beautiful silver foil card, even though it appears as teal in the scan.

He signed them in thin blue sharpie in 2018.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Chris Drury Autographed Card

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What a year for the New York Rangers!

They bought out future Hall Of Famer Henrik Lundqvist to make room for two rookies in net, told Tony DeAngelo to stay home, had Mika Zibanejad take two months to recover from COVID-19, which also forced head coach David Quinn miss six games, and superstar Artemi Panarin missed a fair chunk of the season as well, dealing with (possibly politically-motivated) problems in Russia, yet the team was in the playoff picture until today.

Today is a weird day, culminating with the nomination of Chris Drury as President and General Manager of the team, after serving as assistant-GM for a handful of seasons; John Davidson and Jeff Gorton, respectively, were relieved of their functions today, a day after distancing themselves from a tweet that I fully endorse and support, myself:
Honestly, Tom Wilson should have been suspended for at least 10 games for what he did to Panarin, who will not play again this season. If your owner has the balls to call the player and the NHL's Director Of Player Safety, George Parros, out, you should have the principle that standing up for your player against an unpunished criminal action is the only right thing to do.

(edit: distancing themselves from the team's statement seems to have hurried the announcement, but many sources now confirm divergence of opinions on the state of the team's rebuild and roster priorities would have seen both men lose their jobs before the next draft anyhow).

It's a safe bet Davidson will return to his previous job as President of the Columbus Blue Jackets, I just hope that doesn't mean their own GM Jarmo Kekalainen will not be in constant danger of losing his own job to Gorton.

As for Drury, after a decorated career as a hockey player that included a Calder Trophy (1998-99), a Stanley Cup (2000-01), and the captaincy of both the Rangers and Buffalo Sabres, his turn as an executive has also yielded impressive results so far, with a successful run as GM of the Rangers' AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack (2017-21) and for Team USA at the 2019, 2020 (cancelled) and 2021 World Championships, where he had rpeviously served as assistant-GM (2015-2017).

Here he is wearing the Sabres' black (away) uniform (1996-2006) on card #9 from Upper Deck's 2003-04 SP Authentic collection:
He signed it in blue sharpie near the end of his playing career with the Rangers.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Jake Virtanen Autographed Card

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I wish I were writing a "Jake Virtanen scores a hat trick, cements his position on the Vancouver Canucks' second line for the next decade" type of post but, alas, the 24-year-old (who an important part of the Canucks' fanbase had already turned its back on) is in the news because of an alleged sexual assault that would have taken place in September 2017.

As of yet, there have not been any (formal) accusations although the victim has expressed themselves on Twitter and the police is seemingly aware of "a recently reported incident".

As is common in these cases, there is an important contingent that wants him cancelled, fired, hung by the balls and put on a million type of lists without any sort of trial, and a vocal group disputing the accusations as a cash grab - or worse: a disappointed fan looking to attack the slow-to-develop winger personally for his on-ice play. There are probably a few moderates of the "let's see how this plays out with more facts and perhaps a trial" school left, but I'm not holding my breath anymore.

I'm usually an "extreme moderate" myself in cases like these: I would protect the victim regardless and offer them all the help they need to get their life back on track, whether the accusation is true or not, and whether the attacker gets penalized or not. Yes, even if the accusation isn't true, I would offer the alleged victim state-provided psychological help, because they would need it, to help cure the situation that made them invent the story in the first place, and to deal with the backlash of now having this very public cloud to live with for the rest of their lives.

There is also the possibility that the person does in all truthfullness feel wronged but that a third party rules that they are incorrect in their assessment of the situation, which also deserves care and help; and this being North America, historically, the system being built on proving guilt being harder in situations where there are no witnesses, if the defendant did commit a crime but doesn't crack at the trial, he could get away with it - which also requires a host of services provided to the victim.

In Virtanen's case, however, it is too early to tell on any of this. But I would advise the victim to go through the proper channels of Justice for this one, as the system is thirsty for a public case to right past wrongs, and there has pretty much never been a better time - strategically - to bring someone to court on matters like these and hope for a win (see: Derek Chauvin, the rare police murderer who was found guilty).

For now, the young man has been put on leave by his hometown team. He was already thought by many to being on his way out of town, and this may very well seal the deal, but it also brings the team's expected return down by a lot; I'm not sure even a talented (alleged) racist like Tony DeAngelo is a fair return today.

Back in the day, Virtanen used to suit up for Team Canada often; here he is wearing the team's red (away) uniform on card #44 from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Team Canada Juniors/Women set:
It shows him wearing #19. He signed it in thin blue sharpie. I got the card by mail a couple of seasons ago.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Corey Perry Swatch Card

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Let me preface this by saying that Corey Perry's production this season with the Montréal Canadiens has exceeded expectations for a banged-up 35-year-old, for a player signed to $750K for a single season and for a player who had to go through waivers to be put on the taxi squad to start the season, as a healthy scratch for the opening game. Just like Michael Frolik.

He's had games where he's been a game-breaker, but he's also had games where he's been largely invisible, tired.

After stepping in to help a struggling powerplay under former head coach Claude Julien, Perry pretty much just stayed on despite the team middling in 21st position in that regard, an accepted fact like Daylight Savings Time. What should have happened before the Habs blew their allocated post-trade deadline call-up limits was alternating him and Frolik so whoever slotted in would give it their all knowing they didn't have to keep any energy for the next game.

Interim head coach Dominique Ducharme is on a tight leash: he doesn't have a contract for next season, but he also doesn't owe his veterans anything. He should have the leeway to make bold moves and think outside the box, unlike Julien, who has historically preferred benching and punishing his rookies and sophomores for every minor mistake they made while giving older guys the benefit of the doubt, usually with disappointing results.

And yet there are Perry, Jonathan Drouin, Shea Weber, Carey Price, Eric Staal et al., getting their regular shifts in despite younger players outperforming them, in the hopes that they'll turn their season around at some point.

Considering the team was the last one invited to last season's post-season play-in and had missed out on the playoffs the previous three seasons, it's a trend you would have hoped would have been bucked with a new coach, a fresh face, a new message. So either Ducharme's been told directly by GM Marc Bergevin to toe the company line or he feels it's his best bet for an extension; either way, it's short-sighted, and he's not showcasing anything special for any of the other 30 (soon to be 31) teams to keep him in mind for their future vacant coaching jobs.

And I mean all of that specifically out of respect for the former Hart and Rocket Richard Trophy winner, as attested from this card commemorating his heyday:
That's card #1 from the Banner Season sub-set of Panini's 2011-12 Limited collection, featuring a two-colour stitch from a game-worn jersey swatch.

Perry has won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks, played in a Final with the Dallas Stars last season, and has two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada (2010 and 2014), World Championship gold (2016, as captain), a Canada Cup (2016), World Juniors gold (2005) and a Memorial Cup (2004-05).

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Anthony Mantha Jersey Card

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The comments sections of all hockey news sources (and pretend-pundits) were adamant that Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman had essentially committed highway robbery when he traded power forward Anthony Mantha to the Washintgton Capitals for - admittedly - a large haul, namely forwards Richard Panik and Jakub Vrana, plus a first-round pick in 2021 and a second-rounder in 2022. A lot of those folks were saying Vrana himself was worth Mantha because they had similar statistics this season.

Yeah... no. Sure, Mantha only has 11 goals so far, but that placed him first on the Wings, whereas Vrana's 11 put him in a three-way tie for fourth on the team, and he played in five more games than Tom Wilson, who would have jumped ahead anytime soon. Mantha's struggles this season can be attributed to how bad the roster in Detroit is, and how coach Jeff Blashill has allowed every single individual on it to regress.

Mantha is about to enter his prime as an elite-scoring power forward - think "Tom Wilson with more goals and no suspensions". He went from 24 goals and 48 points in 80 games 2017-18 to 25 goals and 48 points in just 67 games (injury) in 2018-19 to 16 goals and 38 points in 43 games in last year's Covid-reduced season. He's about to enter a sequence of four or five 30-goal seasons in a six-year span, and now that he's surrounded by elite talent in Washington, he can actualy aim for 40 once or twice. I don't know that Vrana will be a permanent fixture in Detroit, if only because their structure seems to rely so much on having three second lines and no elite talent up front, which leaves me with the impression tha the could be dealt for a few picks himself at next year's deadline.

Mantha sure started things off on the right foot with a goal and an assist in his first game as a Cap, and he's been quoted as being ecstatic about moving from a last-place team to a Stanely Cup contender. I'm not sure their defense compares to that of the Tampa Bay Lightning or Colorado Avalanche, and we have yet to see them in action against the Toronto Maple Leafs or Edmonton Oilers, and their goaltending is unproven in the postseason, but the Capitals have shown that they can dominate against the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, at least, and having a sniper of Mantha's caliber on their second line will give them that much more of a chance.

Here he is wearing the Wings' white (away) uniform on card #GJ-AM from Upper Deck's 2018-19 Series 1 collection and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a matching white game-worn jersey swatch.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

David Savard Autographed Card

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With apologies to the ghost of Taylor Hall, the biggest "get" at the 2021 NHL trade deadline has to be the trade that sent rugged defenseman David Savard to the Tampa Bay Lightning by way of the Columbus Blue Jackets retaining 50% of his salary and the Detroit Red Wings taking on 25% of their own for a fourth-round pick in the next draft. Columbus grabbed a 2021 first-rounder and a 2022 third-rounder. Detroit also unloaded Brian Lashoff to Tampa in the deal, which gives them even more depth and experience.

This sets the Bolts up as the heavy favourites to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, as Savard not only replaces last year's trade deadline rentals Kevin Shattenkirk and Zach Bogosian, but he's also an upgrade on both of them; despite slowing down a bit in the past couple of years and his offensive game giving way to a more robust defending acumen, the Team Canada alumnus (2015 World Championship gold with a perfect 10-0 record) remains a force, a legitimate top-four option and an ideal stay-at-home counterpart to, say, a Victor Hedman on the first unit, or the type of player who can make Mikhail Sergachev look like Hedman out there. And he's hungry for a Cup. And he's fresh off playing for John Tortorella for a long time, so he's disciplined and hard-working.

He makes an already perfect team even better, retaining its favourite status despite the upgrades the Vegas Golden Knights, Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins or Washington Capitals might try to pull.

Here he is wearing the Blue Jackets' blue (home) uniform, on card #400 from the 2016-17 O-Pee-Chee collection by Upper Deck:
He signed it in silver sharpie at the same time as the card I featured last year, I had just misplaced it when writing that post up.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Box Break: 2020-21 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey

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For the past couple of months, every time I'd seen boxes of Upper Deck's 2020-21 Series 1 boxes, they were well over $200, because the market was going nuts for a certain rookie card. They're back around $120 at the moment for retail boxes, so I thought I'd give the product another try.

I was able to land a couple of foil Dazzler cards of Anze Kopitar and Sidney Crosby, though the Crosby is dented and has the bottom-right portion of the card bent:
It'll have no retail value, but my kids will be able to play with it and I won't get a heart attack if they tear it apart

I got three "regular-issue" Canvas cards, featuring Jonathan Huberdeau in a weird angle, Roman Josi playing soccer, and a view from the ceiling of Bell MTS Place of Kyle Connor (look closely, he's there):
There was also this great-looking Canvas Young Guns card of Pavel Francouz:
I pulled a jersey card of Braden Holtby, featuring three-dimensional round spots:
I guess I'll have to not only get used of the Portraits sub-set, but also of getting repeated duplicates of Jack Hugues, Max Domi and Nathan MacKinnon:
But this Portraits Rookie card of Martin Kaut was a pretty sweet pull:
Of course, the main reason why the cost of these boxes went sky-high is the Young Guns inserts, such as Lucas Carlsson and Martin Kaut:
There is also Artem Zagidulin and Ryan McLeod:
And, yes (FINALLY! On my second Retail box, after two Tins!) Alexis Lafrenière and Kieffer Bellows:
Of note, because of the closed border and confinement rules, the picture was taken at my alma mater, Collège Notre-Dame, where (former) NHLers Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre, Ben Guité, Mathieu Darche, Tom Draper and Alex Burrows also played, as well as Team Canada Olympians Ann-Sophie Bettez and Lauriane Rougeau.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Chandler Stephenson: Two Autographed Cards

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Chandler Stephenson had decent statistics in Juniors, nearly a point per game going into the 2012 draft, a point per in 2012-13 after the Washington Capitals made him their third-round pick (77th overall) and 89 points in 69 games in 2013-14, before making the leap to the AHL with the Hershey Bears, where he also improved yearly from 14 to 28 to 38 points, but it was still a toss-up whether he'd end up being a third-liner or on one of the offensive lines, and whether he'd be a winger or a center. He was a full-time NHL rookie in 2017-18 (18 points in 67 regular-season games and 7 points in 24 playoff games) when the Caps won the Stanley Cup.

The Capitals were disappointed with his next season and a half, and he was moved to the Vegas Golden Knights - ironically the team they beat in the Cup Final - midway through last season, and his performance to close out the 2019-20 campaign (8 goals, 14 assists, 22 points and a +19 rating in 41 games) was obviously part of the decision-making process when it was decided the Knights would trade Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets to make room under the salary cap to sign Alex Pietrangelo. With 20 points in 32 games, he's well worth the $2.75M cap hit.

The 2012 draft featured a terrific crop of hardware collectors; among those selected before Stephenson are Tom Wilson (16th, Stanley Cup), Teuvo Teravainen (18th, Cup), Andrei Vasilevskiy (19th, Cup and Vezina Trophy), Olli Maatta (22nd, two Cups), and Tanner Pearson (30th, Cup), and among those selected after him are Oskar Sundqvist (81st, Cup), Matt Murray (83rd, two Cups), Colton Parayko (86th, Cup), Cédric Paquette (101st, Cup), Connor Hellebuyck (130th, Vezina) and Christian Djoos (195th, Cup), as well as a bunch of Cup finalists in Filip Forsberg (11th), Malcolm Subban (24th), Pontus Aberg (37th), Colton Sissons (50th), Chris Tierney (55th), Esa Lindell (74th), Matt Grzelcyk (85th) and Colin Miller (151st), and a dominant Jaccob Slavin (120th).

But the Golden Knights will have to make do without their seventh-leading scorer for the next three games after he was suspended for elbowing Los Angeles Kings defenseman Tobias Bjornfot. This punishment comes on the heels of fines to Connor McDavid (for elbowing forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi of the Montréal Canadiens) and Nathan MacKinnon (throwing a helmet at Conor Garland of the Arizona Coyotes), signaling that star players have started retaliating to the myriad of uncalled questionable shots they themselves have received for the past few years.

Here he is from his Juniors days with the WHL's Regina Pats, first with the white (home) uniform on card #236 from In The Game's 2011-12 Heroes And Prospects Update boxed set:
And here he is wearing their blue (away) uniform, on card #138 from ITG's 2012-13 Heroes And Prospects collection:
He signed them in black sharpie while playing with the Bears in the Capitals organization, adding his jersey number (22) and trying to blend it in with the uniforms.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Philipp Grubauer Autographed Card

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Colorado Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer has just passed important milestones, hitting the 100-win mark (career, including his first 43 with the Washington Capitals) in the same game where he broke the Avs franchise record for most wins in a single month, his 11 surpassing the previous mark held by Semyon Varlamov, Craig Anderson, Peter Budaj and Daniel Bouchard (with the Québec Nordiques). That's right - goaltending legend Patrick Roy didn't hold that record, though his childhood idol Bouchard achieved it in probably just the right period for Roy to take notice.

Which is not to put Grubauer in the same league as Roy yet - he's still 450 wins and, more importantly, three Vezinas and three Conn Smythes away from entering the conversation - but it does cement his position as the Avalanche's current undisputed #1 goalie in a league where that position (on the same team) has a shelf life of three to five years at the moment.

The team is one of two clear powerhouses in the Western Conference these days - with the Vegas Golden Knights - and it's reasonable to think Grubauer might win a Stanley Cup or two in the next few seasons.

Here he is wearing the Caps' red (home) piping-heavy Reebok Edge (2007-2017) uniform on card #273 from Upper Deck's 2016-17 O-Pee-Chee collection:
He signed it in thin blue sharpie, I believe in March 2018.