Saturday, February 28, 2015

Emerson Etem Swatch Card

I am half-psychic, I guess. I was talking to friends in the past couple of weeks, saying I really thought another trade was forthcoming between the Montréal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks after the one that sent Louis Leblanc to California and the mutual-problems trade of Rene Bourque for Bryan Allen. I just didn't think it would involve Jiri Sekac for Devante Smith-Pelly (though I'm glad it did) - I had instead imagined the Habs parting ways with blue-chip prospect and tiny guy Sven Andrighetto for Emerson Etem.

Etem, like Smith-Pelly, has proved he could be a point-per-game producer in the AHL and has had one successful postseason with the Ducks: DSP had 5 goals in 12 playoff games with the Ducks in 2013-14, while Etem had 5 points in 7 games with the club in 2012-13. They're both rugged power forwards who play right wing (though Etem shoots left) and who should reach their peak in three years or so, and it's believed Etem (a late first-round pick) has a higher upside than Smith-Pelly, a mid-second-rounder, but only time will tell. With the proper nurturing and environment, it could become as moot a debate as when the Dallas Stars had to choose between Jamie Benn (who became their captain) and James Neal (who has a 40-goal season on his resume).

And Etem's already made his presence felt in the Ducks' current run to keep their playoff position by dominating last night's game against the Los Angeles Kings, and Sekac's assist on his goal gave him his first point on his new team.

There are three ideal scenarios for the Stanley Cup Finals in this point in time for a hockey fan like myself:
1. the Habs could win the Cup
2. the Nashville Predators facing the Washington Capitals (Barry Trotz, Joel Ward and goalie coach Mitch Korn facing their opposing team, Mike Ribeiro doing the same, the best goalie in the world this year Pekka Rinne with a shot at the Cup, Peter Laviolette in a position to win as a first-year coach for the third time)
3. the New York Islanders and my favourite goalie (Jaroslav Halak) versus the reigning champs Kings (with Thomas Hickey facing the team who had given up on him, and the best playoff goalie of the current era in Jonathan Quick)
But as a fan of the game itself, I'll have fun watching all four rounds no matter what, and the Ducks once again promise to be worth sleeping 4 hours less every other night, thanks to the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Emerson Etem. (Unless the Habs snag him now that I've brought it to their attention).

Which brings me to this card, featuring a head shot of Etem wearing the Ducks' black (then-alternate, now-home) uniform, from Panini's 2013-14 Crown Royale set (card #HT-EE of the Heirs To The Throne sub-set, featuring a matching event-worn ''material'' swatch:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Teddy Purcell: 4 Autographed Cards

Yes, I was one of those who thought the Edmonton Oilers would turn things around this season, in part because of their adding Teddy Purcell from the Tampa Bay Lightning. I actually thought they'd lose the Wild Card race to the Colorado Avalanche by a point or two. You win a few, you lose a few - and as a life-long Oilers follower, trust me, I know what that's like.

They have been a .500 team since Todd Nelson took over the head coaching position, though, so that part may have been true had he started out earlier. Purcell, for his part, made his way to Edmonton in the three-team trade that sent Sam Gagner to the Arizona Coyotes last summer.

Undrafted, the 6'2'', now-200-pound power forward from Newfoundland played in the USHL and at the University of Maine before signing on with the Los Angeles Kings organization and starring for their AHL affiliate Manchester Monarchs, earning an All-Star Game nod in his first year and becoming the first rookie to ever score a hat trick in the AHL All-Star Game. He also won top rookie honors that year (the Dudley "Red" Garrett Memorial Award).

The Kings needed veterans for a playoff run, though, so he was sent to Tampa with a third-round pick for dependable third-line center Jeff Halpern at the 2010 trade deadline. He really took off with the Lightning under head coach Guy Boucher, who appreciated ''the relentless attitude in his game'', which led to 18 points over an 11-game scoring streak in the 2011-12 regular season, but also a 17-point postseason in 2010-11 (in 18 games) helping the Lightning keep the pace with the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals; he tallied 5 goals in that series: the game-winner in Game 1, and two two-goal efforts in the other two games his team won (Games 4 and 6).

He followed that terrific postseason (which itself followed a 17-goal and 51-point regular season) by scoring 24, along with 41 assists for 65 points in 2011-12, and an 11-goal and 36-point effort in the 48-game lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. It's safe to say that on a decent team, surrounded by decent teammates, he's a 20-goal, 60-point man in the NHL, which means he could have a peak season where he scores 30 and combines for 70-plus points. And the Oilers have the kind of players that should enable that to happen; he's currently on a line with Derek Roy and Nail Yakupov, and if they find the right chemistry (and it looks like they might have), maybe they could remain a unit next season as well, which could enable him to reach those numbers.

I sent Purcell a fan letter and the following four cards showing him with Tampa's different uniforms on January 27th, 2015, care of the Oilers, and got them all back, signed in blue sharpie with his jersey number (16) tagged at the end, on February 26th, 2015 - a mere 30 days later.

First, here are the first Reebok Edge uniforms, which I didn't like because of the jersey number on the chest and the weird colour patterns under the arms:
They are both from Panini's 2011-12 Score set; the card on the left shows the white (away) uniform, and is card #414 in the collection, while the one on the right shows the black (home) uniform, and is #8 of the Playoff Heroes sub-set.

And here are the current - and much better - uniforms, though the pants are a bit cheesy and I could do without the TAMPA BAY lettering on top of the logo on the white one:
The card on the left, where he's wearing the white (away) uniform, is from Panini's 2012-13 Score set (card #421 in the collection), while the one on the right, with the blue (home) uniform, is from Panini's 2013-14 Score set (card #464).

I tell you, he's one of the pieces I'd see on all the teams I watch and root for (in order: Oilers, Montréal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Ottawa Senators). Here's how I would build a team as an NHL GM: two stud defensemen, two top centers who can pass, a sniper winger, a top-10 or top-15 goalie, then Purcell - before another first-line winger, which is a spot he can fill at times if need be, but I'd prefer having him on my second line, just because if you can stop the one-two punch from my first line, the second one (starring Purcell) will wear you out, particularly in a 7-game series.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Shaun Van Allen Autograph Card

It's time to check off another card from my Sens Numbers Project, this time with #22, Shaun Van Allen. The 105th player chosen at the 1987 NHL draft, Van Allen spent the majority of his career playing for teams I follow: the Edmonton Oilers (1990-93), the Montréal Canadiens (2001-02) and the Ottawa Senators (1996-2000 and 2002-04). He also spent a few years with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and the Dallas Stars.

When he was in the Oilers' system, he won the AHL's award as its points leader (the John B. Sollenberger Trophy) as well as a Calder Cup with the Cape Breton Oilers. However, in the NHL, he was more like a decently-producing checking-line centerman. His two best seasons for points came in his first full season (1993-94, 33 points with the Mighty Ducks) and his second-to-last one (32 points with the Sens), which was also his best for goals (12).

He was raised in Climax, Saskatchewan, where the back of the town's welcome sign (''Welcome To Climax'') reads ''Come Again!''; it is also the end of the line for what used to be known as the ''Honeymoon Route'', starting at Havre, Montana (''have her''), going to Turner (''turn her''), and ending in Climax.

Nowadays, he's an assistant coach with the Carleton University Ravens, and remains loyal to the team and its head coach despite having received offers to further his career elsewhere. He and his family have decided to remain in the Ottawa area, having spent two stints in the quiet capital region.

Here he is wearing the Sens' turn-of-the-millennium red (away) uniform, from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set (a signed insert version of card #245, autographed in black sharpie with his jersey number, 22, tagged at the end):

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mark Giordano Swatch Card

I was a guest on a friend's podcast earlier today, talking about the Calgary Flames' current position in the standings, where they are in 8th place in the Western Conference, holding onto one of the final playoff spots - of the Wild Card variety. They have 23 games remaining on their schedule, with a grueling 7-game road trip starting tonight against the New York Rangers, and six teams vying for their spot.

My contention was that the Flames - big on effort and long-term talent but not quite ''there yet'' nor as deep as the other Western teams - could very well make the playoffs but would likely be subject to a first-round sweep at the hands of a stronger, better team, one with a huge one-two punch at center and whose goalie would out-perform Jonas Hiller. The only position where the Flames would have an advantage - depending on the opponent - would be through their #1 defenseman, Mark Giordano.

This is the year where his name is finally on the same level as the other defensemen who made the All-Star Game and are usually in the conversation for the Norris Trophy - Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Kris Letang, and P.K. Subban. He's currently leading the league's defensemen in points, is in the top-20 for +/-, and 10th in average ice time. He's the captain and sole star on a Calgary team that has surprised everyone in the league.

He has suited up for Team Canada twice, winning the Spengler Cup in 2007, and finishing 7th at the 2010 World Championships. He followed a different career path than most, though more and more players end up being exceptions in this day and age; he went undrafted out of Juniors, despite pacing the OHL in points at his position, and spent three seasons in the Flames' system before bolting to Russia with the famed Moscow Dynamo in 2007-08, where he honed his already-impressive skating and puck-handling abilities.

From the next season onwards, he became a fixture on Calgary's blue line, improving each year and adding more and more responsibilities with each passing season, to become part of the elite last year, and a Norris front-runner this season. I actually thought of naming him as my prediction for the Norris back in October, but I went with the ''safer'' choice in Weber instead.

Here he is wearing the Flames' throwback red (then-away) uniform, from Panini's 2011-12 Titanium set (card #51 of the Game-Worn Gear sub-set), featuring a matching red swatch:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Jared Cowen: 2 Autographed Custom BG Cards

A few years ago, a very friendly trader/collector from Calgary with an extensive Wayne Gretzky collection, KC, sent me a hockey puck signed by Jared Cowen (I don't remember why, probably through one of our many trades), before taking some time out from blogging/posting; unfortunately, I never received it, but I don't doubt for a second that he sent it.

It was at that time that I started following Cowen's career more closely, as I'd only been aware of the giant defenseman through his suiting up for Team Canada at various minor-league competitions, such as his gold- and bronze-winning turns on the U-17 teams in 2008, and his silver medals at the 2010 and 2011 World Juniors, the latter as an alternate captain.

The Ottawa Senators' 9th-overall first round pick in 2009, Cowen now towers at 6'5'' and 230 pounds, which - in my opinion - is the main reason why he was suspended for a hit to the head of the Florida Panthers' Jussi Jokinen; he would have had to get down on his knees to hit him in the chest, the type of move that cost the Cats' Dmitri Kulikov a few games recently himself.

There's something to be said about all these giants getting drafted on defense and how they are sometimes at a disadvantage when it comes to hitting now that the NHL is cracking down on hits to the head to save face for decades of not doing enough to protect players from concussion-related issues. However, with his skill set - good foot speed, a good first pass, the ability to complete checks and extremely sound positioning, particularly at such a young age - he was a no-brainer to be chosen at his rank.

If he could only improve his stick-handling and decision-making with the puck when skating towards opponents (rather than, say, getting rid of the puck along the boards), he could actually develop into more than the #4-D he already is.

He's a nice building block for the Sens, having captained the WHL's Spokane Chiefs and having won the Calder Cup with the Binghamton Senators.

I picked up these two custom cards from Ottawa-area collector BG on Ebay a few years ago, from their 2010-11 Hot Prospects set (and Future Watch sub-set), both signed in blue sharpie and showing him having just been drafted:
The more I think about it, however, the more I think custom cards should find their own sub-set names rather than lift them from major manufacturers - particularly two different ones, as seen here.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Éric Desjardins Autograph Card

I saw the news items about Éric Desjardins being inducted into the Philadelphia Flyers Hall Of Fame - but it didn't compute until I had already written this post on Janne Laukkanen last night.

Desjardins is a bizarre case for Montréal Canadiens fans, because even though he was a big part of the team (alternate captain, a key member of the 1993 Stanley Cup-winning team with a hat trick in the Finals against the Los Angeles Kings, a member of Team Canada at the 1991 Canada Cup), he himself identifies more with the Flyers, which is normal considering he spent 11 years there, with some success, twice finishing in the top-5 in Norris Trophy votes, and twice on the NHL's Second All-Star Team, captaining the team for nearly a hundred games.

And yet, while they should, many Flyers fans and bloggers don't remember just how great he was. We're talking about their #1 defenseman, a powerplay quarterback with a hard, low shot perfect for deflection and rebounds, and a near-perfect penalty killer. With the Flyers, he made the Canadian team twice more - at the 1996 World Cup and 1998 Olympics. He even won the team's ''best defenseman award'' a record 7 times - the only other multiple winner is Mark Howe, who merely earned it 4 times.

He played in three All-Star Games - once representing the Habs (1992), and twice the Flyers (1996 and 2000). He was also an impact player when the playoffs came around, as can be attested from the following statistics when he made deep runs:
1992-93: 4 goals, 10 assists, 14 points in 20 games
1994-95: 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points in 15 games
1996-97: 2 goals, 8 assists, 10 points in 19 games
1999-00: 2 goals, 10 assists, 12 points in 18 games
He has also posted over 40 points six different times, with a high of 55 in 1999-2000. He was part of one of the two trades that shaped the Flyers for a decade - the first one being the Eric Lindros trade - coming from the Habs along with the preeminent powerforward of his era (John LeClair) and sniper Gilbert Dionne for Mark Recchi and the pick that became Martin Hohenberger.

And while I do have a card of his with the Habs that was signed in person, I thought it'd be fair to showcase him solely with the Flyers for today, showing him in their white (home) uniform from my youth, from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set (card #253, the 'Gold' variant of the signed insert series, with an on-card black sharpie autograph and his jersey number, 37, tagged at the end):
For most of his tenure in Philadelphia, he was an alternate captain, so I'm happy this card shows that.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Janne Laukkanen Autograph Card

It's time to cross another number off my Sens Numbers Project, this time with #27, Janne Laukkanen. The 156th pick of the famed 1991 draft (the one that brought us Eric Lindros, Scott Niedermayer and Peter Forsberg), Laukkanen played for four different NHL franchises, and his longest tenure was with the Ottawa Senators.

Originally drafted by the Québec Nordiques, the then-Colorado Avalanche traded him to Ottawa midway through their first season in Denver - the year the Avs won the Stanley Cup. He played 244 games over parts of 5 seasons in the Canadian capital, producing at a 20-point pace per season, while mostly playing well in a defensive role.

He also had a decent stint with the pretty bad turn-of-the-millennium Pittsburgh Penguins before suiting up for a couple of Tampa Bay Lightning games in 2002-03.

He's been very successful internationally, suiting up for Team Finland regularly - the by-product of playing on poor NHL teams - winning three World Championship silver medals (1992, 1994 and 1998) and two bronze Olympic medals (1994 and 1998).

Here he is wearing the Sens' beautiful former black (away) uniform, from Pinnacle Brands' 1997-98 Be A Player set (card #90, signed on-card in black sharpie):

Apparently, he was also witty and quotable, as seen in this post-game interview with Pittsburgh reporters: ''Look, I know all your questions and you know all my answers. Aren't we just wasting each other's time? Just write down what you'd think I'd say and, at the end of the year, I'll give you a bottle of vodka and we'll be even.''

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Patrick Marleau Jersey Card

It seems the San Jose Sharks have begun their annual free fall earlier than usual; indeed, instead of waiting until the playoffs, they seem to have decided to crash and burn ahead of the trade deadline this year, perhaps because some of the players feel they might need a fresh start... elsewhere.

One of the two key pieces of what used to be called the team's leadership group, Patrick Marleau has been at the center of many a trade rumour in the past decade or so, as has been Joe Thornton. As a matter of fact, both former star players share another common trait: they are still playing for a team that has removed them from the captaincy, Marleau having been tossed aside for Thornton, and Jumbo Joe not currently being replaced this season... though he remains one of four skaters with an 'A' on his jersey.

Everything about the Sharks spells ''improvisation'' and ''lack of a definite plan'' after last postseason's meltdown, where they led their series against the Los Angeles Kings three games to none but ended up losing the series, becoming just the fourth team to surrender a 3-0 lead in the playoffs in NHL history; the team then swore they were rebuilding, promised they weren't, changed their leadership group (though they didn't), and spent the whole season so far with the same GM, same coach, same starting goalie, and same line-up, though they did trade Jason Demers for Brenden Dillon... which seemed to be the point where the players just lost any semblance of consistency and, dare I say, desire to play.

No Sharks player is currently on a point-per-game pace (though Joe Pavelski comes closest), and Marleau himself trails even defenseman Brent Burns. Things have been brighter for the former captain on the international stage, as he was a reserve member of Team Canada's 2004 World Cup team, and was on its 2010 and 2014 gold medal-winning Olympic teams, and won gold (2003) and silver (2005) at the World Championships. He is a rare case of a player never suiting up for Canada at the World Juniors to do so on the mens' teams.

Here he is wearing the Sharks' former white uniform dating from his captaincy days, in card #AF-PM of Upper Deck's 2005-06 SP Game-Used Edition collection (part of the Authentic Fabrics sub-set), featuring a black piece of game-worn jersey:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Nathan Beaulieu Autographed Card

I told you back in December I'd be ready when Nathan Beaulieu scored his first NHL goal, and that happened tonight (just a few minutes ago, actually), in a 4-2 Montréal Canadiens loss to the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa. His goal came against rookie Andrew Hammond, who made 40 saves on 42 shots for the win, in his first NHL game.

Beaulieu started the season by playing just 10 minutes against the Toronto Maple Leafs after winning his job ahead of Jarred Tinordi and Greg Pateryn, and three times even spent less than 9 minutes on the ice, but since his last call-up, he's been a steady presence, surpassing the 20-minute mark three times and stepping up to fight the Leafs' David Clarkson after a dirty hit on his partner Sergei Gonchar last Saturday night.

It's nice to see he's coming out of his shell and entering a certain comfort zone - one in which he's comfortable in displaying his skill set, not one where he takes things for granted, like earlier in the season, earning him a trip back to the Hamilton Bulldogs.

His days of riding the bus and sleeping in cheap motels are probably over, as he'll need to clear waivers to be assigned to the AHL starting next year, but that just means guys who don't put the effort in sit in the press box, and those aren't fun times for players. Still, I'm confident he'll keep climbing the spots and progressing, probably to the #4 defenseman position next year, and #2 in three years' time, when Andrei Markov retires as a Hab.

Here's my favourite card of his, showing him from his time dominating in the LHJMQ with the Saint John Sea Dogs (in their white home uniform), from In The Game's 2010-11 Heroes And Prospects set (card #46):
It's signed in black sharpie, from a trip I made to Hamilton, in 2012-13, I think. My little brother got it signed because it feel weird to ask for autographs from kids when you hit the ripe old age of 30.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Jamie Benn Jersey Card

Congratulations go out to Jamie Benn for scoring his first career NHL hat trick tonight:

He is already at 22 goals on the year, which equals his totals from the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, and he's on pace to come close to his career mark of 34, set last season, which also marks his highest season for points with 79 (he's on pace for 65 or so this year). He made the NHL's First All-Star Team last year as well.

As the Dallas Stars' captain, he's under a certain scrutiny when it comes to his actions, both on and off the ice; sometimes it helps, such as when he made Team Canada for the Sochi Olympics as a consistent-if-not-flashy contributor, but on a roster which initially didn't include two-time Art Ross winner Martin St. Louis, no one would have been surprised if a guy who had never hit the 30-goal mark before had been left out. Most Canadians were happy that he did, though, because one of his two goals in Canada's six games was the semi-finals game winner against Team USA. He also has a gold medal from the 2009 World Juniors.

Last week, he came under fire for participating in a morning radio show which involved some criticism and insults directed at the Vancouver Canucks' Henrik and Daniel Sedin; he was mature enough to apologize quickly, though he was only responsible for one sentence directed at them (''who knows what else they do together'').

It quickly became a non-story, and that's perfectly acceptable, seeing as The Twins took it in stride.

In terms of talent, I'd say he's a slower Rick Nash. Like Nash, he has terrific hands and deking moves, and might even be more accurate than the New York Rangers superstar, considering Benn won an NHL All-Star accuracy competition, hitting four targets in just over 10 seconds. We'll see ten years from now how many 30-, 40- and 50-goal seasons each will have had, but I suspect Benn could top out around 45 once, 40 another time, and surpass 30 another three or four times.

I was hesitating as to which card to feature, seeing as I have a few of his, including two with the Stars' current uniform, but I decided to show my love for Upper Deck's 2011-12 Artifacts design one more time and went with the Stars' football-inspired uniform from a few years back (which I'm glad they no longer use):
It's the two-swatch version of card #74, numbered 98/125, and though it shows him in the black (home) uniform, the pieces of game-used jersey are white. All the writing on the card is actually in silver foil, which looks much better in person than on the card.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Jeremy Colliton Autographed Card

Jeremy Colliton was a New York Islanders second-round pick in 2003 who eventually became an almost-point-per-game player in the AHL but couldn't produce nearly as much with the Isles, combining for 3 goals, 3 assist and 6 points in 57 games, with a high of 2-1-3 in 15 games in 2011-12.

In the AHL, he usually played on the penalty kill, and I really thought he would turn into a potable third-line pivot for the Islanders. He reminded me of Radek Bonk: decent speed and size, hard to get off the puck, with enough abilities that you think he'll produce more but good enough defensively that you feel bad complaining if he doesn't.

Eventually, the prized Hockey Canada alumnus who won gold (2005) and silver (2004) medals with Team Canada at the World Juniors and gold (2003) at the U-18s decided Europe held better career prospects for him and he went for a second stint in the Swedish League last year, only to suffer what became a career-ending concussion; however, he did return to his team, Mora IK, post-injury, in a coaching capacity, first as interim coach, then taking on the job full-time.

During the 2012-13 lock-out, he won the Allan Cup (Canadian Senior-League's Stanley Cup) with the Bentley Generals, an Albertan team near his hometown of Blackie (a Calgary suburb).

I met him after a game, either in the 2007-08 or 2008-09 season against the Albany River Rats on a trip to watch AHL games. I got him to sign this 2006-07 Heroes And Prospects card (#67 in the set, part of the Prospect sub-set) by In The Game - showing him in the Bridgeport Sound Tigers' white (home) uniform - in blue sharpie with his jersey number (23) tagged at the end:
The sharpie meshes well with the blue on his uniform.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Brad Boyes Jersey Card

It seemed like the right time to feature this card, seeing as the St. Louis Blues edged the Florida Panthers in the shootout tonight, with Brad Boyes having had a chance to score against his former team, and both goalies (Brian Elliott and Roberto Luongo) playing like their All-Star selves.

The 24th-overall pick of the 2000 draft - ahead of Justin Williams (28th), Antoine Vermette (55th),  Paul Martin (62nd), Lubomir Visnovsky (118th), Travis Moen (155th), Henrik Lundqvist (205th), Matthew Lombardi (215th), and Paul Gaustad (220th) - definitely has offensive upside, having passed the 30-goal and 40-goal marks once each, and garnering Calder consideration in his rookie year and Lady Byng votes throughout his career, but consistency has always been an issue for him, which has led him to audition for contracts on PTOs in training camp twice. Not counting the lock-out season, he also has four below-20-goal seasons. At least after proving his worth to the Panthers last year, he didn't have to go through with that again last summer, signing a two-season deal around the trade deadline.

Still, with three seasons with more than 10 powerplay goals, and 9- and 11-game-winning goal seasons behind his belt, teams should be taking a risk on him prior to go time. Points-wise, he has topped the 60 barrier three times, and his 35 points in 48 games in the 2012-13 season was on the right pace as well.

So here's a card showing him in the Blues' white (away) Reebok Edge uniform, from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Series 1 set (card #GJ-BB of the Game Jersey sub-set), featuring a black game-used jersey swatch:
In his career, the former Toronto Maple Leafs first-round draft pick has played with the San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins, Blues, Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and Panthers.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Christian Thomas Autograph Swatch Card

Earlier this week, in a game against the Edmonton Oilers, Christian Thomas scored his first NHL goal in his 15th NHL game (spread over three seasons), a top-corner wrister on Viktor Fasth.

The 40th-overall pick of the 2010 draft used to be viewed as a sure-shot NHL top-line scorer, with his size (5'9'', 175 pounds) being the only deterrent from his being chosen in the first round; I remember that year being the one when I returned to teaching young goalies locally and scouts coming by to watch the kids I was with being very high on him. For two consecutive seasons, OHL coaches voted him ''most dangerous in the goal area'' and a runner-up for best shot and hardest shot. His 94 goals over his final two seasons in Juniors were the most in the OHL, and he was part of a trade that sent John Tavares and Michael Del Zotto going the other way.

He and father (former Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks star) Steve Thomas are to this day the only father-and-son duo to each have had 50-goal seasons in the OHL.

So far, his scoring prowess hasn't exactly translated either in the AHL (20 goals and 37 points in 78 games) or in the NHL (his first goal was also his first point), but what I have seen from these past two seasons in the Montréal Canadiens organization is a tireless worker with very good speed, and the fourth line he's currently sharing duties on with Michael Bournival could eventually become a heck of a third line, seeing as both have speed and create a lot of chances; their play against Toronto tonight boxed the Leafs' first line in their own zone for a good chunk of the third period of a 1-1 tie; on the one hand, hey, it's the Leafs, but on the other, well, they're still just kids in their early 20s dominating against veteran adults, doing everything but scoring. It was really something.

Originally drafted by the New York Rangers, his only game playing for the Blueshirts was against the Habs, so every NHL game he's been involved in so far has included Montréal. He has represented Team Canada twice - at the U-17s (2009, gold medal) and U-18s (2010).

Most cards I had of his had him wearing the Rangers' uniform, so I traded for this one over the summer, showing him in the Canadiens' classic white (now-away) uniform, from Panini's 2013-14 Rookie Anthology collection (card #163, part of the Rookie Selection and Dual Rookie Class sub-sets, numbered 200/299):
Obviously, the wrinkle on top is from the penny sleeve. The card contains two red event-worn swatches but judging from the black puck-like stain on the one on top, my guess is the event was a pre-season game. It also contains a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Alex Galchenyuk Swatch Card

It was Alex Galchenyuk's birthday yesterday, and he celebrated by scoring the opening goal in the Montréal Canadiens' game against the Edmonton Oilers last night, which the Habs ended up losing 4-3 in overtime, despite the Oilers playing without Taylor Hall.

A little over two years after a defensemen-heavy draft, Galchenyuk and Nashville Predators rookie sensation Filip Forsberg are looking like the two most accomplished forwards of their class at the moment, but we'll see in five or ten years if that remains the case.

Still, it's very easy to love this kid, the third-overall pick in 2012. Not having the pressure to produce as a first-line center yet, he gets to learn sound positional play with Tomas Plekanec, he gets to have youthful fun with and appreciate the grit of Brendan Gallagher, and is used mostly on the wing so he gets to see how Max Pacioretty is handling being an offensive force in a place like Montréal.

And so he has improved steadily since his rookie season, increasing his playing time by two minutes per season (now averaging 16:32 per game), and already experiencing his highest goals (16), assists (20) and points (36) totals yet in just 54 games.

His #27 is one of four Habs jerseys I wear to games (with #14 Plekanec, #79 Andrei Markov and #40 Maxim Lapierre, a retro sweater - yes, I need a #76 P.K. Subban). He is fast, can create plays at top speed, and is as good a passer as he is a shooter. There is no doubt in my mind that within three years, he will be an NHL All-Star and legitimate first-line center.

I read in a few places that he has enough upside to join the elite - and while that's true, it's not like the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos and Ryan Getzlaf are just going to sit idly by and wait for him to take their mantle; I'd be fully satisfied if he became a 65-80-point man who can play on both the powerplay and penalty kill.

The European-raised Milwaukee native will undoubtedly also have a shot at international success with Team USA, with whom he already has gold (2013 World Juniors) and bronze (2013 World Championships) medals.

It will surely be an interesting ride.

Here he is wearing the Habs' white (now-away) uniform, from Panini's 2013-14 Titanium set (card #RG-AG of the Rookie Gear sub-set, part of the Dual Rookie Class), with a red event-worn swatch:
 You have no idea how happy I was to pull this card. It made the rest of my purchases last year worth it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Antoine Roussel Autograph Card

Well, the jury (and comments section lynch mob) was out on Antoine Roussel following his cross-check to the throat of Boston Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid, and it seems the NHL's Department of Player Safety (headed by former tough guys Stéphane Quintal and Chris Pronger) believed both sides of the argument to be true: that Roussel was indeed protecting himself from what he felt was an attack from McQuaid, but that he also shouldn't have hit him that way, going as far as to suggest he should have kept his arms and stick extended in a protective manner instead of delivering a blow with it. He got two games' worth of suspension time, which took into consideration both that he was a repeat offender, but that his first offense only merited a fine. I should point out that he was also ejected from the game in question, which more or less makes this a three-game suspension of sorts.

Roussel's slowly building a reputation for questionable and borderline dirty hits, which is really too bad because he's actually becoming a very good and useful overall player at the same time. Hopefully he'll be able to Jack Bauer his way into getting opponents to fear he'll be dirty without actually crossing that line, just enough to give him extra seconds to make a play.

He had 14 goals, 15 assists, 29 points and 209 penalty minutes in 81 games last season, and already had 11 goals, 11 assists, 22 points and ''only'' 112 PIMs in 54 games this year, on a deeper Dallas Stars roster that no loner relies exclusively on Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Valeri Nichushkin to produce offensively with the arrivals of Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky (albeit going through a disappointing season) and some help from the defensemen contributing offensively, although their play in their own zone has been a struggle.

Kari Lehtonen's play has been uneven in the new year, but consistency has been pretty much the only thing keeping him away from talks of being one of the top 10 goalies in the world throughout his career - well, that and injuries in his first few seasons. Had he been as steady as the offense, the Stars would definitely be in a playoff position as we speak.

But back to the 6-foot, 200-pound power forward who plays for Team France on the international stage, and who made the All-Star Team at last year's World Championships thanks to 11 points (6 of them goals) in just 8 games on an 8th-place team. He also has 17 points in 22 games overall while representing his home country, one which traditionally had trouble scoring in these types of tournaments. He just turned 25, and may have a 30-goal season or two in him if he can keep his antics in check (he was on pace for 15-20 this year, depending on when you did the math).

And so here is my first of probably many posts on the Bruising Frenchman (trademark pending), featuring him wearing the Dallas Stars' current, beautiful green (home) uniform, from Panini's 2013-14 Contenders set, signed on-card in blue sharpie:
One small gripe about the product: in a day and age when even autograph cards are super-thick, Panini opted to go super-thin on the ones from these Rookie Ticket (also part of the Dual Rookie Class sub-set) cards, which might be a reason why the top-right corner is a little damaged on the back and was that way when I opened the pack. The cards are beautiful and all, but for the $80 price tag one expects them to come in mint condition at the very least.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Two Derek Morris Autograph Cards

It's odd how things go, isn't it? This year might be the season in which there was most talk about trades involving right-shooting defensemen, and yet since free agency began on July 1st, Derek Morris has been available for any team to sign without giving away any assets. Sure, he's slowed down some and is past his prime at 36, but no one could use his booming shot on a second-unit powerplay?

Granted, he hadn't scored a powerplay goal in three years, but in his defense, he spent his final four and a half years in his second stint with the Phoenix Coyotes where the good minutes belong to Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but he played 19:27 per game last year - and that's the second-lowest ice time of his career. I'm sure a team deprived of leadership could have used him around 15 minutes per game for around a million dollars, particularly a rebuilding team full of first-round picks he could relate to (he was, after all, the 13th-overall choice of the 1996 draft).

The Calgary Flames never regretted their pick, as he was a 30-point man five times with them (with a peak of 38 in 1999-2000), although his career-best was with the Colorado Avalanche - 11 goals and 48 points in 2002-03, tops on the team at his position ahead of Rob Blake (45 points), Greg DeVries (32) Adam Foote (31), and Martin Skoula (25).

As a guy who followed both the Avs and the Flames, I've been very interested in Morris' career, even when he was playing in Arizona - though I did zone out during his 76-game stint with the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins.

But from his time with the Flames, I have these two identical cards from his rookie season showing him in the team's turn-of-the-millennium (1995-2000) red (away) uniform, from Pinnacle's 1997-98 Be A Player set (a signed insert version of card #245):
It's signed on-card in thin black sharpie, with his jersey numbr (53) tagged at the end. One of them is available for trade, if anyone's interested.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tony Amonte Jersey Card

My hometown Montréal Canadiens beat one of their most bitter rivals tonight, the Philadelphia Flyers, in a 2-1 overtime nail-biter. Sure, the Flyers aren't contending this year, but they always play extremely well against their most important rivals - the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers, and the Habs; this wasn't going to be easy, but Ray Emery was spectacular and Philly hung in there until the end.

Which seemed like the right excuse to feature this card of Tony Amonte, showing him as both a Flyer and a member of the Calgary Flames, from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Series 1 set (card #J-TA of the Game Jersey sub-set), featuring a decent-sized orange swatch and showing him in the Flyers' black uniform:
Honestly, my memories of Amonte are hazy, because right now, I'm not sure I remember him playing for the Flames. To me, he - and Jeremy Roenick for that matter - will always be the guy who played for Philly and the Chicago Blackhawks. I remember his rookie card from his days with the New York Rangers, but it was in white and black (with the third colour being either red or orange) that I mostly remember him.

And he was such a dominating player - six straight 30-goal seasons, three of them above 40 - that I have trouble fathoming he retired with ''only'' 900 points and didn't hit the millennial mark.

But mostly I remember the inaugural 1996 World Cup, and his scoring the Finals winner with less than three minutes remaining, on my birthday, at the then-Molson Centre as Team USA beat Team Canada, who had opted not to put Patrick Roy on its roster because who needs the guy who won a Stanley Cup three months ago and already has two Conn Smythes anyway (and would eventally win a third, sitting as the only NHLer ever to do so, one more than the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux, and Bernard Parent, and two more than the likes of Jean Béliveau, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Ken Dryden, Mike Bossy, Mark Messier, Joe Sakic, Serge Savard and Steve Yzerman)?

But I digress. As it stands, Amonte is the 11th American-born NHL points leader, and 81st overall in career goals with 416. He's in the top-100 for career shorthanded goals, career game-winners, and straight-flush 100th for points. Granted, players in the early days like Newsy Lalonde and Jack Laviolette didn't play anywhere close to 80 games a year, but Amonte definitely left his mark in hockey history. I'd put him on the level of Eric Lindros and where I would have put Mats Sundin: just outside the Hall Of Fame, but definitely on a plaque of dominant/star players of the 1990s.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Rollie Melanson Autograph Card

Roland ''Rollie'' Melanson's life reads like hockey's version of a Mark Twain book, a plain-spoken Acadian man from small-town New Brunswick, who lives through great highs, some lows, but tries to keep an even keel all the time, despite not always being completely understood anywhere he went.

You want highs? CHL rookie of the year (Ken McKenzie Trophy, with the Indianapolis Checkers in 1980-81), for starters, then a Jennings Trophy, a Second-Team All-Star nod and a second-place finish among Vezina voting in the NHL (1982-83, with the New York Islanders), followed by a 10th-place finish in the Vezina race the following season. Oh, and three Stanley Cups as part of their dynasty.

You want lows? He spent parts of 5 seasons with 4 different AHL teams in the decade following that, finishing his career with a 1992-93 stint in the then-Colonial Hockey League (ColHL), which folded in 2006-07 after a decade of being called the United Hockey League (UHL), and 7 games in the AHL with the Saint John Flames in 1993-94. Granted, he was named the ColHL's playoff MVP as his Brantford Smokes won the championship, but still.

Which is an odd turn of events in and of itself, considering he stole the show at the 1991-92 Montréal Canadiens' training camp, posting two shutouts and two one-goal games in four starts, essentially blocking the Habs' try at a youth movement and stalling four kids in the AHL (André Racicot, Frédéric Chabot, Jean-Claude Bergeron and Les Kuntar). The regular season, however, only allowed him to go 5-3-0 in 9 games, with a good 2.68 GAA and a .887 save percentage.

After retiring, he became a goaltending coach with the Habs, turning Jeff Hackett into a top-10 goalie, helping José Theodore become a Hart and Vezina winner, making Cristobal Huet a Crozier Award contender, and starting Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price on their merry ways.

He then moved onto the Vancouver Canucks, where former Vezina finalist Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider had some good seasons, and Ryan Miller is shining anew this year.

Again, highs (great individual seasons) and lows (getting fired from one spot, two huge goaltending controversies - arguably the two biggest of the last two decades - and some fall-from-grace seasons as well). And weirdness, such as when he gave an interview to a small paper in his hometown and claimed Price had lost his game when he left, rightfully so to some extent, if you forget that the slide had actually started under Melanson's reign. What was weirdest wasn't the candor with which he talked about a former student of his, but the fact that he's under contract from one organization talking about a player under contract with another.

But that's Rollie The Goalie for you: a whole mess of Frenglish, highs and lows, and a gift for hyperbole. He didn't revolutionize the art of goaltending as François Allaire has, but he can be credited with perfecting one move most NHL goalies started doing after Hackett/Theodore did, and that's putting the opposite pad down along the ice when the puck's in the corner, protecting the bottom of the net from oddball deflections, also known as Dead-Arm + One Knee Down, which from the angle below also covers the five-hole area and barely leaves the CPSG (top-corner on the blocker side) open:
And so it is a pleasure to share this beautiful 2011-12 Between The Pipes (10th Anniversary) card (#A-RM of the Authentic GoalieGraphs and Decades - The 1980s subsets) from In The Game, showing him in the Islanders' classic blue (away) uniform:
It's signed on-sticker in black sharpie, and you can decipher almost every letter except the last three. As a kid, I started out wearing one of those Cooper helmets with the cage.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Robert Esche Jersey Card

With news that Steve Mason left another game with a lower-body injury, the Philadelphia Flyers - they of the 5-1-1 streak in their last 7 games - might want to get original with who they tap next to back up Ray Emery, seeing as frequent call-up Rob Zepp was injured in an AHL game recently.

Maybe they could give Robert Esche a call. In four seasons with the Flyers, Esche - known to the media as ''Silent Bob'' for not giving interviews during the playoffs - had a 60-40-16 record to go with a 2.65 GAA and .901 save percentage, but those numbers were brought way down by an awful 2007-08 season (4.33 GA and .872 save % in 18 games); the guy did share a Jennings Trophy in 2002-03 after all, but 2007-08 spelled his last taste at NHL action, forcing him to go to Europe (three years in the KHL, one year in Switzerland). He was one of the better goalies in the Russian league, posting 1.87 and 2.07 GAA seasons with the St. Petersburg SKA (where he was a teammate of Alexei Yashin's). He played in a KHL All-Star Game.

Internationally, Esche has suited up for Team USA seven times (one World Juniors, a World Cup, the 2004 Olympics, and four World Championships). He was named the Worlds' top goalie in 2008, which marked the second time he left the event with a .931 save percentage. He did even better at the 2000 event with a 0.50 GAA and a .984 %, albeit with a smaller sample size (2 games).

He also had a decent playoff run in 2003-04 as the Flyers reached the Conference Finals, falling in a seven-game series against the eventual champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Despite all of this, however, he might be remembered more for what he did once his career was over, as his Aqua Vino Restaurant and Esche Family Farms are staples of Utica, NY's economy, and he has helped bring an AHL team to his town, the Utica Comets, affiliates of the Vancouver Canucks, of which he is officially listed as Team President, but is also the acting GM in terms of dealing with the coaching staff and with the ECHL affiliate, though the Canucks are officially in charge of hockey operations and management.

Here he is in the Flyers' black uniform, following the puck through traffic in an old-school lateral movement (skating rather than pushing sideways), on card #AF-RE of Upper Deck's 2005-06 SP Game-Used Edition collection (part of the Authentic Fabrics sub-set), featuring an orange piece of game-worn jersey:
This card was an add-on to a trade I made early last year; I had stored it when moving and fell onto it recently.

Dustin Tokarski: 5 Autographed Cards (Part 2)

           (continued from the previous post)

I also sent Dustin Tokarski two regular-issue cards from earlier in his career, first in the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals, from In The Game's 2010-11 Between The Pipes set (card #57, part of the Future Stars sub-set):
And his Rookie card, from Panini's 2010-11 Score set (#514, part of the Hot Rookies sub-set), showing him wearing jersey #40 from Tampa Bay Lightning's former white (away) uniform:
I like his style and demeanor, and I think once he starts seeing more consistent minutes, it'll get even better. I'm of the school of thought that thinks starters shouldn't play over 60 games anyway, and that a healthy and good enough backup should be able to play at least 25 if not 30 games, both for reasons of rest-versus-reflexes and to keep a healthy competition and relationship going. Come playoff time, the starter will be less worn out, and should an injury or a bad streak occur, the backup will be ready, not rusty - and the team will be able to adjust more easily should a switch be required.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Dustin Tokarski: 5 Autographed Cards (Part 1)

Man, this is by far the best return so far this year - and perhaps even for my 2013-14 mailings:

That's right, 319 days in the making, seeing as I sent Dustin Tokarski these 5 card (two regular-issue and 3 customs) on March 24th, 2014 (care of the Hamilton Bulldogs, his team at the time) along with a fan letter, and got them all back, signed in blue sharpie with his uniform number tagged at the end, on February 6th, 2015.

If there was ever a doubt that Tokarski was going to succeed at the NHL level, the knock would always be his size, which at 5'11'' and 185 pounds seems more fitted for the 1990s than the current-day monsters that man the cages, but really, how many goalies are named top goalie at the World Juniors (winning gold with Team Canada), and top goalie and MVP at the Memorial Cup?

And how many couple that with a league-leading 1.97 GAA in 54 games the WHL? How about following that with a Calder Cup win that sees the goalie not just go 12-2 in 14 games (which could be a reflection of the team's play more than anything) but also a 1.46 GAA and .944 save percentage?

Those are looking a lot like ''elite'' numbers, right there. And he did nothing to dismiss his case last season, either, whenever the Montréal Canadiens required his services, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.84 GAA and .946 save percentage in three regular season games, with a spectacular four-start stint in the playoffs in a heartbreaking loss to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Finals where he was everything he could have been: his first game was a home-ice loss in which he was getting warmed up and improved every minute, then in Game 3 he stopped 35 of 37 shots for a tight win, then won a 7-4 affair showing he can battle all types of adversity and luck and still come out a winner, finishing with the final game, where he stopped 31 of 32 Rangers shots but still came up short of mounting a historic comeback for the ages. Which will just have to wait until next time.

Even this year, his win-lose record may only stand at 4-2-1, but his .924 save percentage speaks pretty loudly, and in just about every game, he was the better goalie, including an impressive 2-1 shootout win against the Florida Panthers.

He's 25, and in my opinion, perhaps a couple of seasons away from being the type of guy opponents' fans will be talking about on a regular basis, but he's taking it one step at a time, learning, improving, working hard. He will be a starter in the NHL, and a good one at that. The one thing that may stop him from doing so in Montréal is current incumbent Carey Price's status and the fact that hometown youngster Zachary Fucale is in the pipeline, perhaps three years away from backup status and five from being a full-time starter himself. The thing about the future is it's hard to predict, though, so we'll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, I tried sending him cards that represented the various steps of his career, first from his WHL days with the Spokane Chiefs, from my own custom Hell's Kitchen 2013-14 Series 2 set (this is variant C of card #4 in the series):

Doesn't he look awesome in the bleu-blanc-rouge? He might be small by today's standards, but he suits the suit and wears it well.

While we're talking about the Habs, here are variants A and B from the same set, showing him with the AHL's Bulldogs:

I really like his stance here, the glove isn't as high as a lot of his contemporaries, though on the card on the left, I'd like to see it extended outwards (sideways, not front-wise) a bit more; the reason why, as a former goalie, I prefer it held sticking out to the side and just slightly going up rather than full-vertical like most goalies do nowadays is because it's a quicker and more natural movement to go up than down - as goalies, we've been making those spectacular (''hot dog'') saves our entire lives, and our muscle memory points that way anyway, and in modern life, unless our hands are pushing on something (a table, a keyboard, armrests), we rarely bring and keep our arms down without setting them on something solid, with some weight. The shots at most levels are also more likely to be lower than high (though at elite levels like the NHL or World Championships, 25% of the players can put the puck anywhere they want more than half the time, which is where speed and muscle memory come into play).

        (continued in the following post)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Eric Weinrich Jersey Card

Sometimes I like to mess with people's minds. Acquaintances of mine over at La Vie Est Une Puck undertook the task of listing every captain from every NHL franchise, and when they got to the Montréal Canadiens, I blew their minds with this card of Eric Weinrich:
The card, from Pacific's 2001-02 Pacific set (#2 of the Authentic Game-Worn Jersey insert sub-set, numbered 69/510), shows him wearing the captain's ''C'' in the Habs' classic red uniform, with the Boston Bruins' logo at the bottom, which is fitting because he ended the previous season with the Bruins, but also kind of not because he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers the summer before the set was even printed.

But out of respect for the accuracy of the swatch, Pacific opted to show him as a member of the Canadiens, because that's where the white jersey swatch was from (and the back picture shows him as a Bruin, making for the ultimate Frankencard):
For those of you who are wondering, Weinrich was one of many interim captains during the Saku Koivu captaincy (1999-2009), as Captain Courage was often injured; Weinrich served for a few weeks, early in the 2000-01 season. Much has been said about Koivu's 10-year/9-season tenure as captain, and I will never diminish anything he accomplished and everything he inspired and brought out of people, but unlike the person whom he shares the Habs' longevity record for the position (Jean Béliveau, 10 full seasons), the season lost to the lock-out and his numerous injuries that brought forth countless part-time replacements might warrant putting an asterisk next to his name in the team's record books.

But back to Weinrich, the 32nd-overall pick of the 1985 NHL draft who was a solid prospect in the New Jersey Devils organization for six years before becoming a full-time NHLer, even going as far as posting a point-per-game average with the AHL Utica Devils in 1989-90 and winning the Eddie Shore Award as the league's best defenseman, prompting every card company to feature him in their rookie sets for the following season.

He had two solid seasons in the 30-plus point range with the Devils before being packaged with Sean Burke in a deal that led them to the Hartford Whalers, where he again had another solid season (7 goals and 36 points in 1992-93), before getting traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, where he took an alright offensive game and added near-perfect positioning and shot-blocking to his arsenal, which would come in handy when age caught on and he slowed down a little.

Not that he wasn't a decent player, he had some speed despite not being spectacularly fast, he made hard wrist-shot-type passes that were pretty accurate, and he kept his game simple enough to earn some powerplay time (decent passing, and a low shot through traffic in front of the net) and eventually the penalty-kill as well, where blocking shots and passes became his specialty.

All of those skills were put to use when the Hawks sent him to Montréal with Jeff Hackett for Jocelyn Thibault and Dave Manson. God those Habs teams were terrible. 1998-2001 were awful years to be a Habs fan, and for the first time in 60 years, not every game was sold out at the then-Molson Centre. Season-ticket holders were giving away their tickets. It was the Dead Puck Era, the last Expansion Era, and the local team (owned by an American) sucked - had those factors lasted just a little bit longer, we may have seen a decline in the team's religious-like following, popularity, who would have perhaps even contemplated a move to Cleveland again (the article herein reads even better when doing it with the voice and accent of a 1930s newscaster in your head).

After the Habs came the Bruins, in a trade between the league's two most storied rivals - and Weinrich's favourite team growing up. Unfortunately for him, his stay in Boston barely lasted 22 games, followed by two and a half years with the Flyers, roughly a year with the St. Louis Blues, and the same amount of time with the Vancouver Canucks.

After his time in Vancouver, he signed on as an assistant coach with the AHL's Portland Pirates, only to suit up for them for two seasons, then resume his coaching duties for three years after that. The guy kept his passion alive until the very end.

He's currently very busy as a pro scout with the Buffalo Sabres, who are likely in the process of trading their veterans for youngsters, so their scouts are probably the hardest-working bunch in the league at the moment.