Saturday, May 1, 2021

Jake Virtanen Autographed Card

(team links go to sponsored Amazon products, player links go to related pages on my blog, news links go to source pages)

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

(team links go to sponsored Amazon products, player links go to related pages on my blog, news links go to source pages)

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

(team and set links go to sponsored Amazon products, player links go to related pages on my blog, news links go to source pages)
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

(team and set links go to sponsored Amazon products, player links go to related pages on my blog, news links go to source pages)
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.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Christian Wolanin Autographed Custom Card

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Three days after clearing waivers, Christian Wolanin was traded to the Los Angeles Kings while Michael Amadio will make his way to the Ottawa Senators.

Waivers nowadays are a bit of a crapshoot, with the majoriy of players staying put, but more and more moves occur not when someone is grabbed on the wire - which seems to be more of a goaltending thing recently - but instead a player getting traded with another contract going back the other way, which serves two purposes: the first takes into consideration the 50-contract limit, whereby NHL teams cannot have more than 50 players signed to an NHL-accessible deal at once; the second makes acquiring the player a lower-risk proposition, because having already cleared waivers once, said player can be assigned directly to the taxi squad or AHL/ECHL affiliate without needing to pass through waivers again, and the current Collective Bargaining Agreement no longer includes the provision in which players called up from the minors had to clear waivers again. In Wolanin's case, he will report to the AHL's Ontario Reign until the Kings see fit to give him a shot at a roster spot. My guess is the team wants their own staff to evaluate where he's at in his development and if he looks solid after two to five games where he accumulates a point per game or something near that, he'll be called up for regular NHL duties.

He had fallen out of favour with Sens head coach D.J. Smith, and the team's depth on the left side currently starts with Thomas Chabot logging the most minutes and Mike Reilly eating another chunk; in terms of prospects, Erik Brannstrom has also been singled out by Smith as not having a complete enough game at the moment to warrant second-pairing minutes but was still ranked ahead of Womanin, and College prospect Jake Sanderson was probably also slotted ahead of him as early as next season.

At 26, Wolanin should be entering his prime, but injuries have derailed his development a bit, having only suited up in 12 professional games during the 2019-20 season. Here he is wearing the Sens' red (home, 2007-2020) uniform on a signed custom card by BG:
Ironically (considering his defensive short-comings), he is, of course, former Québec Nordiques shutdown defenseman Craig Wolanin's son. Like Paul Stastny, Christian was born in Québec and holds dual citizenship, but considers himself American.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Samuel Morin Jersey Card

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Seven and a half years after getting drafted 11th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers (2013), Samuel Morin finally scored his first NHL goal, although to be fair it was in just his 14th NHL game, as his career had been derailed by serious injuries. He had never suited up for more than 17 games in a single season - all levels combined - since appearing in 75 (74 of them with the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms) in 2016-17.

Two consecutive ACL tears in the same knee in a 19-month span and a number of other injuries caused him to be limited to 20 games in 2017-18, 7 in 2018-19 and 4 in 2019-20, and in order to have him dress at the NHL level, Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault even tried Morin at left wing earlier this season, before the team's record and depth injury status had the organization review its plan.

Morin's goal was the game-winner, ending a four-game losing streak.

Here is the 6'6", 200-pound gentle giant wearing the Flyers' current/classic orange uniform, on card #RM-SM from Upper Deck's 2017-18 Series 2 collection and Rookie Materials sub-set:
It features a rather large jersey swatch that probably comes from a photo shoot, with a small black thread at the bottom.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

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!
95: Olivier Michaud: 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
96, 97, 98, 99: have never been worn