Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nicklas Lidstrom: 4 Autographed Cards

When Nicklas Lidstrom retired a couple of weeks ago, the Time For Debates was raging again: where would he rank among the best of all time?

While many view Bobby Orr as either the best defenseman - or even the best player - of all time, their arguments usually center around the fact that ''he revolutionized the game'', as he could take the puck from behind his own net, skate with it the length of the ice and score by himself.

Well, guess what? So did Doug Harvey, who did so from 1947 until 1969. Many claim that his ''mere'' 7 Norris trophies show he didn't dominate his position during his era, but those folk ignore the fact that the Norris simply didn't exist for the first decade he was in action... he would likely have received close to 5 more, easily.

Another Montréal native is often cited as a Great, Ray Bourque. But Bourque was overshadowed at times by Chris Chelios, or even Denis Potvin.

In comparison, Lidstrom played at the same time as Chelios and Bourque, and Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger, Rob Blake, Brian Leetch and Scott Niedermayer. And during the last few seasons, Zdeno Chara, Drew Doughty, Shea Weber and Duncan Keith.

Simply put, Lidstrom has played against the strongest competition, and yet has always been considered the cream of that crop. He didn't have Bourque's accuracy, nor MacInnis' power, nor Chara's size or even Weber's grit. But he had Wayne Gretzky's vision and knack for getting out of the way, Andrei Markov's wizard-like passing skills, and while his hits never broke any boards, they did what they set out to do: separate a forward from the puck and get him out of the play.

The first European-born captain to win a Stanley Cup and be named playoff MVP, the seven-time Norris champion is also an Olympic gold medalist to go with his 4 Stanley Cups and trio of World Championship medals (gold in 1991, silver in 2004, bronze in 1994).

He has finished with a +40 or better record 4 times in the dead puck era. He barely has more career penalty minutes (514) than his +/- record (+450); he has collected 1142 points, as a defenseman, in the 1990s and 2000s - numbers worth belonging in the high-scoring 1980s.

Like the Markov cards two months ago, I never thought I'd be seeing these again. I figured the best defenseman in 50 years would have better things to do than to write me back, but I see his generosity extends even outside the Detroit area. A classy guy, for sure. I had sent him these 4 cards on March 30th, 2011 and got them back 15 months later, on June 22nd, 2012, signed in black sharpie, with his soon-to-be-retired jersey number at the end (5).

Here are the cards I chose:
The card on the left is from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Rookie Update set (card #37); there was a time when these sets only included rookies and players who had been traded during the season, but that is no longer the case, as manufacturers found that limited their ''star power''. On that card, he is seen sporting the assistant captain's ''A'' - Steve Yzerman was still playing and wearing the ''C'' - and he's wearing the team's then-away red jersey. The card on the right, from Upper Deck's 2007-08 Victory set (Stars On Ice sub-set, card #S15), sees him wearing the captain's ''C'' on the team's home (white uniform).

And these two:
By looking at these two cards, you notice they're part of a different era: firstly, as the ''C'' is on the right part of his chest, these are the RBK Edge jerseys, which has the team logo slightly higher than its predecessor, thus forcing the Detroit Red Wings' players to have their letters on the opposite side. You'll also notice Lidstrom wearing a visor - that's the result of a 2008-09 pre-season game against my hometown Montréal Canadiens, where he broke his nose off a Christopher Higgins shot.

The card on the left, with the white uniform now being the 'away' colours, is from UD's 2010-11 Victory collection (card #69), while on the right, in the team's home (red) uniform, we have a card from Panini's 2010-11 Score set (card #196) that sees him checking a player from the Nashville Predators, Patric Hornqvist.

I haven't been having the best time ever of late, but receiving these last week sure brought some light in my darkness.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ilya Kovalchuk And Dany Heatley Dual Jersey Card

Now that the Stanley Cup playoffs are over, New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer confirmed what many were suspecting: that Ilya Kovalchuk was playing through a pretty bad back injury.

Many have been on Kovy's back (!) since he signed that huge contract with the Devils two seasons ago, but in  my opinion, he's one of the 5 best players in the league, with Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk and a a revolving door of fifth candidates depending on the season. He's led Russia to consecutive World Championships - the most memorable to me being the one held in Québec City in 2008 - what a dominating performance! I didn't see all of the 2009 WC, but he was named tournament MVP...

In the NHL, he has won the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals in a season and was on his merry way to win the Calder as top rookie when he got injured... and was surpassed by his Atlanta Thrashers teammate Dany Heatley.

I used to not mind Heatley, who has a rocket of a shot and could have 50-goal seasons playing asleep, but the fact that he has asked twice to be traded from a team (and was traded by the San Jose Sharks barely a year after acquiring him in a blockbuster trade) makes me think he may not be the ideal team player.

This awesome card holds both players, and a swatch of each one's jerseys. It's card #25 from Pacific's 2003-04 Luxury Suite set, and because it is creased in the front and slightly chipped at one corner, I managed to get it for $1.99 post-paid on Ebay. The pieces of jerseys are pristine, and match the colours they're wearing in the photos used. For the swatches alone, the piece is likely worth a lot more than what I paid for it!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Patrik Elias Jersey Card

As I had predicted, the New Jersey Devils will lose in 6 to the Los Angeles Kings tonight. Probably.

Sure, the Kings could have won in 4 and spared us valuable time - almost a week! - but in this day and age of salary caps and parity, statistical anomalies are bound to play a huge part in how things end up being played.

For example, the Kings hadn't lost on the road yet, in 10 games. They were due, so they lost Game 5.

Also, a Stanley Cup Finals has never - so far - been won in 6 after one team took a 3-0 series lead; the favourite had won in 4, 5, and 7 countless times, and the neglected had won it 7 twice. But ''in 6'' had never happened before. It's bound to happen tonight.

One man who cannot be blamed for the Devils' losses is assistant captain Patrik Elias, whom I had featured almost a month ago.

I got this card - and another one I'm saving for later - from a seller on Ebay who was letting them go at $1.99 each, shipping included. This one's from Upper Deck's 2010-11 SP Game-Used Edition (card #AF-EL) and sports a big white swatch of ''material'' (jersey? sock? the card is unclear about the origins), but it's guaranteed to have been used in a game, by a winner and tremendous athlete, and that's good enough for me.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

David Aebischer: 5 Autographed Cards (Part 1)

David Aebischer has had good and not-so-good seasons in the NHL but can find solace in the fact that he was indispensable a few times in his career, notably for Team Switzerland at the 1998 World Juniors (bronze medal) and for the Colorado Avalanche, when he replaced newly-retired superstar Patrick Roy in 2003-04 en route to a 32-win, 2.09 GAA and .924% efficiency season. From a man who had gone 13-6-0 (1.88 GAA, .931 save %) in 2001-02, things were sure looking up...

But the lock-out cut his momentum short, and he would never have a GAA under 2.98 for the remainder of his NHL career, be it with the Montréal Canadiens or Phoenix Coyotes.

He then spent 4 full seasons in the Swiss league, with pretty much the same results while wearing the HC Lugano uniform, before coming back to North America this season and leading the AHL St. John's IceCaps (the Winnipeg Jets' farm team) to a regular season championship.

Here he is with the Avalanche, first in the burgundy (away) uniform:
The card on the left is from Topps' 2002-03 Topps Total set (card #201), packs of which I purchased at a dollar store a year after it was printed, just to see what the cards looked like; the card on the right is from Upper Deck's 2005-06 SP Authentic set (card #27), a simple but pretty design.

There's also one of him in the white (home) uniform, from Fleer's 2005-06 Fleer Ultra set (card #54):
And a card of him with my hometown Habs, with the team's post-lockout white (away) uniform:
It's from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Victory set (card #102), one that always has a 90s-type of design, remains a complete set with lots of players and is relatively inexpensive to purchase by the pack.

(continued in the next post)

David Aebischer: 5 Autographed Cards (Part 2)

(continued from the previous post)

I had sent Aebischer these 4 cards on April 11th, 2012, with a fan letter telling him how we might have needed his services this season, and he got them all back on May 31st (2012), signed in black sharpie - the white Avs one didn't ''stick'' so well to the card - and he included a fifth card:
It's from the 2011-12 IceCaps Team Set (#1), manufactured by Choice Sportscards, which is fast becoming the leader in AHL team sets.

It is rumoured Aebischer will move back to Switzerland next season, so I was quite happy to get this amazing return.