Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jamie Storr Autograph Card

Let me tell you about a prodigy goalie... 6'2'', 200 pounds of manhood covering most of the net, and, despite a tendency to not cover his five-hole with his stick, was drafted first overall in the OHL draft in 1991. Things were looking great.

In 1992, he was named to the OHL All Rookie team; he also won a gold medal at the world U-17 championship. In 1993, he again won gold as well as Top Goaltender award at the U-18 Phoenix Cup.

He was drafted 7th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 1994 who were proud to have chosen him when he decided to turn pro after the 1994-95 season, coming off not one but two World Junior Championships gold medals, going undefeated in two years' tournament play.

The kind of player you build a franchise around, perhaps? The Kings must have thought so when Storr was named to the NHL All Rookie team not once but twice, in 1997-98 and 1998-99 - he hadn't played 25 games the first go-around so he was still eligible the second time.

With credentials like that, you'd have to believe he would have been maybe even a step ahead of Carey Price in every statistical category for a goalie his age.

So just who is this wunderkind, this record-breaking goalie who must surely still be active today? None other than Jamie Storr, seen here on his Autograph card from In The Game's 2002-03 Be A Player Signature Series (card #033 - perfect for a goalie meant for big things). He retired last May after 3 seasons of German League play, exiled to Europe as he was unable to move ahead of Cam Ward on the Carolina Hurricanes' team's depth chart, behind Martin Gerber.

Interesting fact: Storr was half-Japanese and would have his name spelled in takatana at the base of his helmet (on his chin, where, for example, Price has his own name written...), the easiest and simplest to read of all Japanese scripts.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Brad Richards Autograph Card

Clutch player. The term is used pretty loosely, and nowadays can even describe a forward with as few as three game-winning goals in a regular season of 82 games, or a superstar who has a knack for finding the twine in the final minutes of a game.

Brad Richards, however, is of the true kind: usually behind the shadow of another great player, he finds a way to be the one who ends up with the most important point, pass, goal, penalty - or any other moment - in the most important games.

He might be the best clutch performer of this era. Here's why: drafted in the third round by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1998, the same year that his friend and perennial-teammate Vincent Lecavalier was taken first overall, Richards saw 62 other players get drafted before him. And, while Lecavalier made the NHL team's cut the very first year, Richards had to go through two more junior years in the QMJHL, eventually being named the CHL's Player Of The Year, scoring leader, plus/minus leader, First team All Star (all titles he also received from the Q) - but, more importantly, he received the Jean Béliveau trophy for being the Q's playoff MVP, as well as the Stafford Smythe Memorial trophy for being the Memorial Cup MVP. I'm sure it goes well with his World Juniors bronze medal.

His ascent to the NHL was fast and furious, though, as he was named to the All Rookie Team in 2000-01, was invited to pay the Young Stars game in 2001-02, and, in 2003-04, not only did he win the Stanley Cup, but he won the Conn Smythe trophy ahead of stellar teammates Lecavalier and Martin St-Louis, the reigning Art Ross winner. This led to an appearance at the 2004 World Cup, in which he helped Canada win the gold.

He holds the record for most game-winning goals in an NHL playoff season, with 7 (breaking Joe Sakic's mark of 6), but all of those achievements tend to vershadow the fact that he's still doing it: on February 26, 2008, he was traded by the Lightning to the Dallas Stars, and, in his first game as a Star, collected a team record 5 assists en route to a 7-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Now playing behind Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow, expect him to carry the load and lead his team far, should the make the playoffs.

This card is the 'silver' version of his Autograph card from In The Game's 2002-03 Be A Player Signature Series (card #016). Less than 100 were made, but the 'gold' version, depite being less pleasing to the eye, is actually rarer and more valuable. This one retails between $5 and $25 - many dealers still don't see In The Game as a premium brand, while others do; I only look for players I like and avoid their sets, myself, but I'm known to own a few of their all-goalie Behind The Mask sets...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Jeff Hackett Autographed Card

Jeff Hackett, to me, was a weird case: he was the best player on the Montréal Canadiens during, arguably, the team's worst seasons ever. He was a bit of a step down from his successor, José Theodore, but much of a step up from his predecessor, Jocelyn Thibault - he was stuck between two JTs.

He was a stand-up goalie who played his angles well and would also use the butterfly technique often, but not as 'a style' - in that regards, I could totally relate: despite my favourite goalie of all time (and the reason why I donned the pads in the first place) being Patrick Roy, I played more like Hackett and another later Habs' goalie, Cristobal Huet. And, quite like them, I was often the most regarded player on terrible teams, and when the team got better, I was on my way out, replaced by someone I felt I could play as well as.

At the time when I met Hackett, though, Huet wasn't even close to being on the radar, so Hackett was, really, the one I identified with the most, which made our encounter that much weirder. It was early September, 2002; Theodore had just won his Hart and Vezina trophies and was the main attraction at the team's Jamboree, held right outside the Bell Centre. Hackett could walk amongst the crowd and barely be disturbed, like the rookies and fourth-liners of the team, while the other 'star' players, namely Theodore, Mike Ribeiro and Saku Koivu had thousands of fans lining up (or, more accurately, ganging up) to seek autographs.

So I approached Hackett with this card, a 2000-01 Stadium Club (by then, Topps had removed the name O-Pee-Chee from most of its products, so while the series had originally begun as O-Pee-Chee Stadium Club, this series was only Stadium Club, with the Topps logo displayed in the back and no mention whatsoever of O-Pee-Chee) card, #19 in the series, showing Hackett drinking water during a break, drops of water flying all around his helmet.

And instead of being happy that he was receiving some kind of attention, he looked angry and gave me a stare that seemed to mean ''now, that fat bastard probably just wants to sell this on Ebay, he doesn't even look like a fan'', which could explain why his autograph seems a bit botched. The only way I can describe the face he made is that he looked exactly the same as if he'd surrendered 7 goals on 15 shots after Theodore had stopped over 40 the night before, and telling a reporter, after the game ''how do you think I feel?'' - he had a temper, and it seemed ignited on that day. Needless to say, I didn't stay around him too long and moved on to someone else, probably Donald Audette.

Regardless, to me, he was the only good thing to come out of the late 90s/early 00s for the Habs. I associate him to the Canadiens just as much as with the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks; yes, I'm aware he was also an Islander, a Bruin and a Flyer (not to mention a Phantom), but I don't associate him with those teams as much.

Saku Koivu And Chris Higgins Jersey Card

My, my how thing change rapidly in sports!

First, let's put this card in context: it's card #WC-KH from Upper Deck's 2008-09 SPX Hockey series; 2008-09 was the beginning of the 15-month span the NHL called ''The Canadiens' Centennial Year'', and to commemorate the 'event', Upper Deck also released a special 'Habs Centennial' set - so they're aware of the team's history, and have a few 'ins' in the team's present.

This card features, on the left, the team's longest-serving captain ever, Saku Koivu, and a red piece of his home jersey. It was widely known that the 2008-09 season was Koivu's final contract year; whether he'd come back or not was a mystery. On the right of the card, with a white patch from the team's away jersey, is Chris Higgins, sporting his alternate captain's A - he'd worn it before, but the summer before the 2008-09 campaign was when he was given the A permanently; from the day he was drafted, he was viewed by the team as the potential next captain. This card, basically, cemented that idea; it was a ''passing of the torch'' thing, full of symbolism.

A year later, Koivu went to the Anaheim Ducks over the summer, and Higgins was traded to the New York Rangers for, essentially, Scott Gomez. The other two drafted-to-be-captains, Mike Komisarek (free agent, to Toronto) and Kyle Chipchura (traded for a sixth-rounder) are also gone; local hero Guillaume Latendresse was traded to Minnesota a few weeks ago and last year's Player With Heart Maxim Lapierre, another local boy, is but a shadow of himself; the team actually has no captain this season.

History was made for the Centennial Season, just not the history that had been planned upon.

''Passing of the torch'', indeed.

Tomas Plekanec Autograph Card

Just like his teammate and fellow underdog Jaroslav Halak, Tomas Plekanec looks really good wearing the Montréal Canadiens' bleu-blanc-rouge... even if, in this case, it is with a Hamilton Bulldogs' crest on the chest.

Currently sitting 6th among NHL scoring leaders, Plekanec hasn't had it easy, but has improved his play and statistics every single season since reaching the Czech Elite League in 2000. In two full seasons with HC Kladno, he accumulated 18 and 23 points - just about half a point per game; during those two seasons, he also participated in 2 World Juniors tournaments, gathering two points (a goal and an assist) the first time, and 7 in 7 games the next.

He then went to the AHL, playing for the Bulldogs, where, playing alongside Chris Higgins, had seasons of 46, 66, and 64 points, but - more importantly - playoff performances of 5 points in 13 games (2002-03), 7 points in 10 games (2003-04), and 6 points in only 4 games in 2004-05 as the Bulldogs' unchallenged leader.

That performance is what got him to make the team for the Canadiens the following season, where he garnered 29 points in 67 games (as well as 4 assists in 6 playoff games). At this point, he had shown some promise, but the Habs' brass had begun favoring Higgins instead - Higgins was soon promoted to top-line status while Plekanec was seen as en eventual third-line center at best (and trade bait at worst), behind Saku Koivu and Mike Ribeiro.

In 2006-07, he reached the 20-goal plateau for the first time and had 47 points in total. Then came his breakout season: 29 goals and 40 assists, good for 69 points, centering the team's first line between Andrei Kostitsyn and Alex Kovalev, leading the Canadiens to a first-place finish in the conference. Always his own harshest critic (and a terrific team player deflecting the attention from Carey Price's less-than-stellar showing against the Philadelphia Flyers, where he was outplayed by their backup goalie Martin Biron), Plekanec took the blame for the Habs' early exit by claiming he'd played ''like a little girlie''.

The following year, Plekanec took a lot of flak from Montréal media and fans by 'merely' posting 39 points on the board; there was suggestion and misconception that his 'lack of production' might stem from his still ''playing like a girlie'' and not driving to the net as often as he should have, but no one ever mentioned the part about Andrei K's coming in partied-out and unable to perform and Kovalev's hitting the posts three times more often than he shot pucks in the net. Instead, they put the blame on Plekanec, who was relegated to second-line status after the All Star break (still carrying Andrei K around, but with Kovalev moved with Koivu and Alex Tanguay). Additionally, he was still being used as the team's top penalty-killer.

This season, rid of playing under Kovalev's shadow - he has since moved on to the Ottawa Senators - and despite having changed linemates every period for the first 25 games of the season, he has managed to be the most consistent point-getter on an offensively-challenged team. So much so that for the past dozen games or so, not only has he awakened Andrei K - who had been in a scoring coma for the first quarter of the season - but coach Jacques Martin has also assigned the team's most exciting player, sniper Mike Cammalleri, to man the left wing with them - to great success.

Faithful to their usual Habs bi-polarity, media and fans are just now requesting the team sign him to a long-term contract, rather than throw ''the girly man'' to the wolves. Gotta love this town!

Speaking of love, this card has everything a fan could want: the NHL team's colours, the AHL team's logo (adding a 'rareness' effect to the card), and a manufacturer-guaranteed autograph that seems to say 'Tout Pleky' (and really, this year, mostly, has been 'All Pleky' indeed). It's taken from In The Game's 2005-06 Heroes And Prospects series, and is card #A-TPC in the collection.

Here's to wishing he gets a medal at the Olympics - I wonder who they'll pair him with. Jagr?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Serge Savard Framed Autographed Lithograph

You may recognize the image from the previous post: it is, indeed, an oversized lithograph of the Canada Post stamp depicting Montréal Canadiens legend and Hall Of Famer Serge Savard, the first ever defenseman to win the Conn Smythe trophy.

It is printed on canvas and hand-signed by Savard himself (certificate of authenticity as well as an original stamp are in an envelope at the back of the frame), limited to 1018, and fit into a 16X16 frame - and its suggested retail price is $129.95

More information about the man nicknamed 'The Senator'' (and minority owner of the QMJHL'S PEI Rockets) can be found in the previous post.

Serge Savard Stamp Card

I have a pretty extensive collection of stuff to get through, most of which are hockey-related and many of which depicting - or from - greats of the game. However, it's the first time I've posted here about a collectible involving a Hall Of Famer - and I'm starting with Serge Savard, member of the Montréal Canadiens' Big Three defensive corps of the late 1970s.

Seeing as I was born in 1978, I didn't get to witness Savard play, nor was I ever really aware that he had been exiled to the Winnipeg Jets for his final two seasons in the NHL. To me, he was the last General Manager to build a Stanley Cup-winning team in Montréal, a feat he achieved twice (1986 and 1993) - both times with Patrick Roy winning the Conn Smythe trophy, both times with head coaches in their first year with the team. Another Roy-led team lost in the Finals in 1989, with first-year coach Pat Burns at the helm. Do you see a connection?

As a player, though, he was incomparable: 8 Stanley Cups (two more than fellow Big Three member Larry Robinson), a Conn Smythe trophy, 1040 regular season and 130 playoff games played, 4 All Star games, a Bill-Masterton trophy, and #81 in The Hockey News' list of the 100 best players of all time. His #18 is hung from the rafters of the Bell Centre and will never be used again; the last player to wear it will have been Denis Savard (no relation). Ironically, it was Serge Savard who popularized the ''Savardian spin-o-rama'' move that Denis was also known to use.

This specific card commemorates and integrates a Canada Post stamp in Savard's honour that was issued on January 18th, 2003; the stamp is glued to the front of the card, which was co-released by Canada Post and Pacific Trading Cards at the 2003 All Star game. It is #21 in its series.

Mike Ribeiro Jersey Card

As I briefly touched upon when first dealing with a Mike Ribeiro card, this one was issued as he was entering his final year playing for his hometown Montréal Canadiens, as part of Upper Deck's 2005-06 Trilogy series (card is #HS-RI, part of the Honorary Swatches sub-set). What sets this card apart from others is the fact that it contains 2 different colours - red and blue - and, thus, was taken on the jersey's waistline.

Ribeiro entered the 2005-06 season as the team's reigning scoring leader, as well as having spent (part of) the lock-out season with the Espoo Blues of the SM-Liga, where he collected 17 points in 17 games.

There are knocks on 'Mickey Ribs', such as his frequent soccer-inspired dives and pretend injuries and his lack of speed, but his savant passing and deft playmaking abilities are enough to counter such negatives; he has become quite the shootout specialist, often deking goalies out of their underwear with nifty moves that spell poetry on ice.

Ironically, the Habs made him a 45th-overall draft pick - the same spot as another slow-footed former local-boy Canadiens, Guillaume Latendresse, now of the Minnesota Wild. Ribeiro now plays for the Dallas Stars, who used to be based... in Minnesota. Let's hope that's where the comparisons end, because if Latendresse ever becomes an All Star the way Ribeiro has, heads are going to roll, starting with General Manager Bob Gainey's, who traded away Ribeiro, essentially, for washed-up defenseman Janne Niinimaa, who only played 41 games with the Canadiens, registering 3 points (all assists) and clocking in at minus-13 before spending the last 3 seasons in Europe, while Ribeiro led his new team in scoring - twice.

Another thing to note on this card is the spectator watching Ribeiro play - her face has white spots instead of eyes. Scary!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Michael Ryder Jersey Card

I have written about another Michael Ryder card here, and about other cards in this series here, but I never actually went further in talking about Ryder.

He is a player who, twice, has reached the 30-goal plateau, both times with the Montréal Canadiens. He has also scored 25 (with Montréal) and 27 with the Boston Bruins last year. He also has a terrible 14-goal season with the Habs.

So he can score. His wrist shot is actually what keeps him at the NHL level, because despite his size, he doesn't hit so much, isn't all that quick, and isn't the most reliable defensively. Additionally, he tends to score in streaks.

Knowing all this is why coach Guy Carbonneau didn't give him his usual playing time in 2007-08 (his 14-goal season), because he was, basically, on a season-long no-goal streak. He was a healthy scratch for 12 games, most of them at the tail end of the season, and he only played 4 of the team's 13 playoff games, registering no goals and no assits, instead keeping busy in the press box by eating popcorn and throwing paper airplanes at the crowd.

I'm sure you can tell he wasn't one of my favourite players (I prefer my snipers to be gritty), but you had to respect the fact that he was the only Newfie in the NHL for most of his career so far. All in all, I'm not sad that he's gone, but I'm not happy about it either. Over time, he has left me with a general impression of ''meh''. I just hate that he went to our historic rivals the Bruins just so he could haunt us six times per regular season, plus the playoffs.

So I still keep this one in my collection, but for the right price - think $5 - this 2006-07 SP Game-Used Edition card (#AF-RY) by Upper Deck could end up in your hands. It's from when Upper Deck could actually certify that the jersey in the card had actually been used in an official game by the player on the card - a territory they don't dare to venture in anymore.

Alexander Perezhogin Jersey Card

There are players that your team will try to sell you as 'Future Stars' eventhough they couldn't find the back of the net if they were caught in it (we call them Chipchuras); there are others who get drafted really late and turn out - surprisingly - to be gems, cornerstones, 'Franchise Players' (such as Pavel Datsyuk and Andrei Markov); others have the potential to become stars, but management loses patience with them, or they're never really given a fair shot, and they turn into scoring machines elsewhere (like Mike Ribeiro and John LeClair).

Then there is Alexander Perezhogin.

The team sold the fans on him, they definitely thought he was top talent; he believed so, too. But no one thought he was a headcase, for some odd reason, but it was there all along.

We're talking about a guy who left his home country Kazakhstan with his coach to play with Avanguard Omsk in the late 90s and actually became Russian in the process - he left his roots behind and changed his citizenship.

Then he came to North America to play with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Montréal's farm team, where he didn't even get to finish the season - he was suspended for the remainder of the playoffs as well as the whole following season - the longest suspension in AHL history - for cross-checking an opponent in the face, rendering him unconscious and leaving him convulsing on the ice.

During his AHL suspension, as it would have not been too kosher to have him play in the NHL during that time span, he returned to Omsk.

Upon his return to North America in 2005, he spent the better part of the next two seasons with the Montréal Canadiens, playing over 60 games each year in a relatively limited role, playing mostly with Tomas Plekanec, the Habs wanting to let them develop progressively, at their own pace. While Plekanec became the team's best centerman in the past 3 seasons (despite the presence of Saku Koivu and Scott Gomez), Perezhogin left for the KHL, unsatisfied of 'only' being used between 12 and 15 minutes per game.

In his first year playing with Salavat Yulaev Ufa, so-named in honour of Salavat Yulaev, a national hero of Bashkiria who was from Ufa (thanks, Wikipedia! - kind of like if the Habs were named to ''Maurice Richards'', I guess), he gathered 21 goals and 41 points in 50 games. In his second year, he'd upped that total to 28 goals, 22 assists (good for 50 points) in 55 games, helping his team win the KHL championship, ensuring its place in the 2009-10 Champions League. Also on the team's roster are former NHLers Alexander Radulov, Alexei Medvedev, Dmitri Kalinin, Viktor Kozlov, Oleg Tverdovsky, Patrick Thorensen and Ilya Zubov.

He was also a part of the Russian team who won the gold medal at the last World Championships, playing alongside Ilya Kovalchuk and 5 Ufa teammates, defeating Canada for a second straight year; he is likely also to make the cut for the Russian team in the upcoming Olympics.

Meanwhile, the Canadiens have struggled to find a top-6 forward to complete their second line... (and have another headcase on board who hasn't even scored yet - hi, Sergei!)

This is card #FE-AP from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Be A Player Portraits series and sports a piece of jersey that Perezhogin has worn in a photo shoot.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Autographed Scott Young Card

I wasn't a fan of my hometown Montréal Canadiens growing up - it was too easy: they were everywhere, they were always winning, everyone knew at least one of them in person, and too many people loved them, not just here, but all over the continent; to this day, in any given arena where they're the visiting team, you'll see a strong contingent of Habs fans supporting the winning-est team in the sport's history.

No, I was a fan of the Québec Nordiques. Blue to the Habs' red, Quebecers to the Habs' Canadians, the new kid in town rather than the establishment, the underdog instead of the favourite. After the Stastnys and Goulet came Sakic, Sundin, Nolan and Stéphane Fiset - a new generation ready for prime time, a high-scoring machine built through both five years of mediocrity and some of the best trades of the past 25 years.

Not quite part of the elite of that squad but a key piece nonetheless was Scott Young, the team's second-line right winger and point man on the power play. His shot was as accurate as it was hard, and his passing skills could also be used at that position, while also giving prime powerplay time to the other offensive weapons on the team (Joe Sakic, Owen Nolan, Mike Ricci, Mats Sundin, Wendel Clark) while giving either Leschyshyn or Duchesne a well-deserved break if they'd been on the ice as the other team's penalty was called.

He was the most important 'not-quite-star' player on that team, which is what I told him when I met him (he wasn't too impressed despite acknowledging that I meant well). In 5 years with the organization, three times he scored 20 goals or more, but only once reached 30, winning the Stanley Cup when the team moved to Denver in 1995-96; he had already won it as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990-91. He was traded entering his final year under contract, as all parties knew he'd be on his way out anyway, looking for greener pastures with a more prominent role elsewhere - and it sort of happened with the St. Louis Blues, although it did take him until his third year there to score 40 goals.

This was signed during those St. Louis years, but I couldn't resist having him sign a Nordiques card - and this one is my favourite of him in that uniform because of the back of the card: the most beautiful jersey in the game - and the Château Frontenac as the backdrop - a terrific sight. It's signed in black sharpie - one that seemed to be on the verge of dying.

This card was from the 1993-94 Leaf series (card # 108), made by the same company that used to produce Donruss cards, before they were acquired by Pinnacle Brands in the mid-90s (Score, Pinnacle) and Panini recently.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Luc Richard Mbah A Moute Autograph Card

I'll be the first to admit that I'm no basketball fan - it doesn't really appeal to me, and I was never quite sure why. Yes, it was invented in Canada, it is similar to hockey in that the same players on the surface play both offense and defense and there are offsides, and the goal is to score in the net... I don't know.

But I do understand the game, and I do like the highlights they show on TV - and the dunk contests at the All Star Game. And I know who the star players are - Bryant, Allen, Anthony, Shaq, King James...

But I have no clue who Luc Richard Mbah A Moute is - I just love his name. So when I was presented with a chance to purchase this card on Ebay, I jumped on it. A quick glance at Wikipedia will tell you that he's from Cameroun, has in twin playing College ball, and that he was chosen by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round. You'll also learn he's a prince, as he is a son of the elected village chief, Camille Mouté à Bidias.

That's right - the coolest name in sports (Ochocinco being a really close second) - and a fucking prince. He is a prince, and his name is funky.

As for the details of the card itself, it's from Upper Deck's 2009-10 SP Signature Edition series (the card is #I-LM, from the Ink Credible sub-set), and sports a beautiful signature, in blue sharpie, on a sticker that was later put on the card. It is numbered 218/499.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pierre Turgeon Autograph Card

And now... the captain... of YOUR... Montréal No-Names... Pierre Turgeon!

Yes, another one from the worst card series of all time... Upper Deck's 1995-96 Be A Player set.

This time, it's the now-centennial Montréal Canadiens who have the honour of not having their team name nor logo appear anywhere on the card - they even airbrushed it off of Turgeon's chest. I'm glad they kept the captain's ''C'', though, as well as his number and the brand name on his gloves.

Turgeon holds a particular place in the Habs' history. He was the last to have been near producing a 100-point season for the team since Mats Naslund in the 1980s (he got 96 in 1995-96), had actually achieved that goal before (106 in 1989-90 for the Buffalo Sabres and 132 in 1992-93 with the New York Islanders), and was only named captain because he was the most talented (read: skillful) player on the team that year, not because he was the most vocal or hardest-working player in the locker room. He was also a member of the team for a mere 106 games spread over three seasons (the end of one, a full one, then was traded at the beginning of the third year), so his reign as captain turned out to be uneventful.

It's fun to note that on his way here, he cost the team Kirk Muller (captain) and Mathieu Schneider but on his way out, he was only worth Shayne Corson; mind you, the guy who traded him away, Réjean Houle, is also the guy who gave away the best goalie of all time (Patrick Roy) and his team's captain (Mike Keane) for an overhyped skinny #2 goalie (Jocelyn Thibault) and two somewhat talented enigmatic lazy forwards (Andrei Kovalenko and Martin Rucinsky). Trades like that are the reason why the team went from perennial contender to bottom-feeder in two years (and for almost a decade) - and why they have remained near the ''last available playoff position'' spot for the better part of the last 6 years as well.

Oh well.

Needless to say, this local superstar's card, possibly the only one I own of him wearing the local team's colours (but not crest...) ranks and sits... in the middle of every pile I end up stacking it in. It's card #S152, for those keeping count.

Braydon Coburn Rookie Jersey Autograph Card

In the same vein as Chris Davis' all-dressed card, here's another triple-threat rookie-jersey-and-autograph card, this time depicting young defenseman Braydon Coburn when he was with the Atlanta Thrashers (who sent him to the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2006-07 trade deadline for over-the-hill defenseman Alexei Zhitnik in the hopes of going all-in to secure the team's first - and only - ever playoff spot, one of the most lop-sided trades in recent memory).

Coburn is a 24 year-old 6'5'', 225-pound defenseman from Calgary whose upside compared to other stellar Albertans as Dion Phaneuf and Jay Bouwmeester in that they all have grit and size but also spectacular speed and a knack for putting points up on the board. Coburn actually holds (in a six-way tie) the record in the WHL for the most goals in a game by a defenseman (with 4). He also brings leadership to the table: look at the picture closely, you'll see he is sporting the Captain's C. Keep in mind this is his rookie card... a rookie captain in a team loaded with veterans and with two star players (at the time, both Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk were still with the team)? Oh yes. I'd take him on my team any day.

This particular card, from the 2005-06 SPx series by Upper Deck (Rookie Jersey sub-set, card #181, numbered 156/1499) sports a jersey worn in a photo shoot and an autograph on a sticker that was apposed to the card later - therefore, it's ''all fake'' if you're looking for a game-worn jersey or a card that the player actually touched with his hands - but it's still a testament to Coburn's talent that they couldn't wait to have him play an actual game before releasing a card depicting him (as a captain, no less).