Monday, September 27, 2010

Guillaume Latendresse Jersey Card

Speaking of the Minnesota Wild's potential for offensive power, here's ''slow-footed'' powerforward Guillaume Latendresse, who started putting pucks in the net on a regular basis when he was traded by the Montréal Canadiens for Benoît Pouliot. 25 goals in a little more than 50 games.

This gave ample ammunition to those who kept requesting he be put on the Habs' top two lines, but Habs brass didn't think he was quick enough to warrant playing there, despite having had some level of success, playing with Saku Koivu while Chris Higgins was injured.

In any event, the big question now is whether he'll be able to repeat last year's performance and - by playing all 82 games - crack the 30-goal mark for the first time in his young career. He has the skill set to do so - terrific hands and an affinity to know where the net is. He just needs to play in a system where he isn't required to be the first man back in his own zone, and it seems he's found it in Minnesota.

This card (#RM-GL) is from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Series 2 set, and features a piece of white jersey that was used in a photo shoot, because by the time it was required for the cards to hit the streets, 'Tender' hadn't played a game yet, thus this being his 'Rookie Jersey' card, from the Rookie Materials sub-set.

Martin Havlat White Jersey Card

Yet again we're left to wonder if this is the year Martin Havlat goes back to his point-per-game production, dips, gets injured, or becomes a true superstar.

He has all the talent in the world, but the luck of... well, if it wouldn't be for bad luck, he wouldn't have any luck at all. Hopefully, this year, playing alongside Mikko Koivu he can garner a ton of goals, and with Guillaume Latendresse on the powerplay he can amass a ton of assists.

At least the Minnesota Wild are proving they like him, having named him assistant captain (Koivu wears the 'C' now).

This beautiful jersey card (# S-MHa) has a big white patch of jersey certified by Upper Deck as having been used in an official game (ah, those were the days!) and is part of the 2005-06 Upper Deck set, the Shooting Stars sub-set of ''Game-Used Memorabilia''. It used to sell around $25 but can now easily be found below $10.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Paul Martin Autograph Card

After making Martin Brodeur look great for 6 seasons with the New Jersey Devils, Paul Martin will now bring some much-needed defensive help to Marc-André Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins, which should help the ever-smiling youngster a lot.

Sure, the Pens let Sergei Gonchar go this summer, but they already had Alex Goligoski and Kristopher Letang to carry the puck out of their own zone; what they needed was a calming presence who knew how to counter opponents when the team didn't have possession - and now they do.

Martin has often represented the United States in international play: from the World Juniors (2001) to the World Cup of Hockey (2004) to the World Championships (2005 and 2008), he has a wealth of playing experience. Ironically, he was named to two Team USA Olympic teams, but never played a single game - he was a healthy scratch as seventh defenseman in 2006 and was injured in 2010.

This beautiful card is from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Be A Player set (card #S-MA), with Martin's black sharpie autograph on a sticker placed on the card. Devils players are usually depicted in their dark (home) uniforms, so I was glad to have this one for contrast's sake.

The UD/BAP packs are expensive - they usually go at $10 a pack (for 5 cards) and there is a 50% chance of an autograph card in them. I stopped buying them because too often, I'd crack open a pack and only get semi-stars and common players from the Panthers, Predators and Stars - cards that would hold little to no sentimental value to me, let alone monetary value. This might be the best card I've ever picked up in these - a defensively-minded player from a team I always cheer against.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Markus Naslund Autograph Card

Writing about one Vancouver Canucks captain made me think of another, Markus Näslund.

 You could argue that Pavel Bure was the Canucks' first true offensive superstar, with two 60-goal, 100-point seasons in the high-scoring early-90s, but Näslund's 104 points (on 48 goals) in the Dead Puck Era (2002-03) are quite a feat as well. Plus, Näslund did it as team captain, with additional pressure on him.

Then again, drafted 16th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Näslund was always supposed to be a superstar. He just needed a strong, physical sniper to help him clear the way, and Todd Bertuzzi needed someone who could keep up with him, pass him the puck - and calm him down. Paired with Brendan Morrison, they were the NHL's best line for a couple of years, taking over from the Philadelphia Flyers' ''Legion Of Doom''.

He was no doubt a great talent, but to this day I still doubt him as a leader. When long-time Canucks leader and former captain Trevor Linden came back to the fold, I would have liked Näslund to offer him the captaincy back, as a sign of respect - the same way Brian Leetch did when Mark Messier went back to the New York Rangers. It didn't take anything away from Leetch, who is still considered one of the best defensemen of all time; if anything, it adds to his prestige.

Ironically, from that point on, his production began to dip: 79, 60 and 55 points, respectively, in his last 3 seasons with the Canucks, before a final NHL season with the Rangers in which he garnered 46 points on the strength of 24 goals.

In a bizarre turn of events, he announced his retirement after his lone season with the Rangers, and moved back to Sweden with his family, to serve on the Modo Hockey Club's board, but midway through the 2009-10 season, Peter Forsberg starting practicing with the team, and the pair suited up for the team's second half of the season, with Näslund amassing 29 points in 29 games to Forsberg's 30 points in 23 games.

Näslund is now officially retired, while Forsberg still contemplates a return to the NHL.

The Canucks will retire Näslund's #19 jersey this season, and his jersey will hang in the rafters along with Linden's and Stan Smyl's - the other two longest-serving captains in team history.

This card (#80) was found in a pack of In the Game's 2001-02 Be A Player Signature Series cards, signed in black sharpie directly on the card. It generally sells between $15 and $25, but some can be found online for as little as $5.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Roberto Luongo Jersey Card

Gotta love Pacific's craze for jersey cards in the first half of the 00s. It saturated the market with game-used collectibles and brought the price of many previously-rare items to an affordable low... until Upper Deck lost patience and struck back-room deals with the NHL and NHLPA for exclusive rights to NHL merchandise.

Still. This beautiful black patch of the Florida Panthers' third jersey (despite the card depicting Roberto Luongo in the team's white jersey) can often be had for around $10 on Ebay, despite its 'value' nearing $35. It's from the eponymous 2004-05 Pacific set (#16 in the Authentic Game-Worn Jerseys sub-set) and is numbered 424/850, a relatively high number for a limited edition.

It's the second Luongo jersey card I've featured here, the first one was when he took over for Martin Brodeur as Team Canada's goalie during the last Olympics. I still have a few more left, so hopefully he keeps making the news so I have reasons to feature him. And he'd better hope it's more positive news than what we've been hearing all summer, which is that his current team, the Vancouver Canucks, are thinking of revoking his captaincy. It seems Montréal isn't the only place where goalie talks occupy summer's dead hockey space.