Sunday, January 31, 2016

Larry Robinson Jersey Card

It's the All-Star Weekend, so I figured why not feature a card that brings back memories of the mid-season classic. I had two options, both of offensive defensemen, but I went with the more "complete" of the two, Larry Robinson:
It's card #GJ-LR from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Series 2 set (and UD Game Jersey sub-set), showing him in his final NHL season with the 1992 Western Conference All-Star Game uniform, which is actually a throwback to the those used between 1947 and 1959. This time around he was representing the Los Angeles Kings, but he'd been there as a member of the Montréal Canadiens nine times.

The red swatch, "worn in an official NHL game" as per the back of the card, could either be from that very game (it is "official"...), but also could have been a Habs jersey, because they were also red. Ah, bless those nice folks at Upper Deck for remaining ever so vague in their vocabulary so as to avoid any threat of a lawsuit yet seeming like they have everything to hide.

At this point, we all know who Robinson is, right? A Hall Of Famer, one of the best defensemen of all time (fans even voted him the best Canadiens defenseman, because most of them have never seen Doug Harvey play), a six-time Stanley Cup winner as a player, a Conn Smythe winner who also has two Norris Trophies and six other top-5 finishes playing alongside another Norris winner in Serge Savard in the Denis Potvin era, and also a coach who has three Cups on his resume, including one as the New Jersey Devils' head coach after he'd made it clear he didn't want those kind of responsibilities anymore...

He stepped down after last season as the San Jose Sharks' defensemen's coach, preferring to retire in Florida with his family after a cancer scare.

To me, he'll always be the gentle giant I'd meet once in a while in the family home, because my grandfather had had him as a boarding guest when he was a rookie, and he kept coming by, and even attended his funeral in the mid-1990s. At the time, there was no internet, so all I'd seen was the graceful player from the mid-1980s onward; there were few documentaries and no YouTube to show how he could reciprocate anything the Philadelphia Flyers could throw at him in the 1970s when they made their reputation as the Broad Street Bullies - when I finally realized how he could do it all (including breaking the boards with a hip check), he became as much a larger-than-life figure to me as he was to everyone else.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Andrei Markov Swatch Card

Andrei Markov had a tremendous start to his season, but he's taken a bit of heat from Montréal Canadiens fans for sub-par play more or less since the new year, with a few boos being heard in the Bell Centre and some internet chatter requesting GM Marc Bergevin trade him for draft picks in a tanking effort.

Regular readers know I won't be one of those. Markov's play this past decade warrants him retiring with the team, and he will not be overpaid next year with his $5.75M cap hit in his (hopefully) final season for the sole reason that he's played at around the same salary for the past five years and played better than anyone else making that much in the NHL, so one season below value balances out four that he played well over.

He was the best player on the team for the better part of his tenure, equaled here and there for short stints by the likes of Jaroslav Halak, Michael Cammalleri, and Saku Koivu which, you'll agree, is relatively sad for a legendary franchise.

So, should his minutes be cut down to plateau around 20 minutes per game? Probably. And, hey, 20 minutes per game is still top-two minutes, which he likely still is. Retiring at that level (assuming he retires when his contract ends in 2016-17) would put him close to the Nicklas Lidstrom category, therefore above that of a Zdeno Chara, which is also where I see his legacy falling into.

That is to say, I was probably the best person to fall on this two-colour swatch card of his from Panini's 2012-13 Titanium set (and Game-Worn Gear sub-set):
It's card #GG-AN in the series and is numbered 39/50, and shows him in the Habs' white (away) uniform, with the alternate captain's "A" that defined his career.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Don Beaupre Autographed Card

Going into the All-Star break, the Washington Capitals are leading the NHL with 73 points ahead of defending Stanley Cup champions Chicago Blackhawks, offensive powerhouse Dallas Stars, regular-season juggernaut St. Louis Blues, the perfectly-balanced Los Angeles Kings and the rising Florida Panthers, with games in hand on everybody, ranging from 2 (Kings) to 7 (Hawks!).

They are currently on pace for 130 points, which would not only shatter their team record of 121 (reached in 2009-10, though they were ousted in the first round that year by Jaroslav Halak and the Montréal Canadiens), but they're also on pace to break the Detroit Red Wings' 124 points from 2005-06, which marks the highest total since the season-long 2004-05 lockout.

Alex Ovechkin remains a scoring machine, Nicklas Backstrom remains an elite set-up man, Braden Holtby is the early favourite to win the Vezina Trophy (ahead, in my opinion, of Corey Crawford and Roberto Luongo), and head coach Barry Trotz looks like he's in full control of the situation.

Speaking of All-Stars and goalies, here's a card I uncovered recently when going through old stuff, actually looking for old textbooks full of songs as I was preparing for my first-ever all-French show on January 15th:
That's Don Beaupre, of course, the two-time All-Star, who was wearing Cooper equipment instead of the Vaughn gear he'd wear a few years later. It's card #307 from Pro Set's inaugural 1990-91 Series 1 collection, which he signed in thick blue sharpie, which pinpoints this to probably just before I stopped paying attention to hockey for a few years, so probably November 18th, 1995, as his Ottawa Senators lost to Patrick Roy and the Habs, two weeks before the infamous trade that burried the Canadiens for over a decade and was the final nail in the coffin of my rooting for them, following the trades of Guy Carbonneau, Chris Nilan, Éric Desjardins, John LeClair, and Donald Brashear, and the naming of Vincent Damphousse as captain (terrific player, not a guy you want to have as a leader).

But I digress. Beaupre was a fine goaltender, often found in the top-5 in many categories, notably goals-against average and shutouts, in which he led the league (with 5) in 1990-91, while with the Caps. He played parts of six seasons in Washington D.C., for 269 regular-season games and 36 more in the playoffs, but spent eight and a half seasons with the Minnesota North Stars (316 regular-season games and 34 in the postseason), so he was a big part of two different teams.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Grant Fuhr Jersey Card

Ben Scrivens isn't doing so well manning the net for the Montréal Canadiens... perhaps they should consider giving another former member of the Edmonton Oilers a call in the person of Grant Fuhr, a Vezina Trophy winner in 1988 after two nominations (and five top-10s in his first six seasons in the NHL). It was his only one, but he was by and large recognized as the best Canadian goalie of the first half of the 1980s (say, pre-Patrick Roy), while Americans John Vanbiesbrouck and Tom Barrasso and Swede Pelle Lindbergh gave him a bit of a run for his money.

He accordingly suited up for Team Canada on a number of occasions, notably the 1984 (as a backup) and 1987 Canada Cups (as the starter), as well as on the silver medal-winning team from the 1989 World Championships. That's in addition to his five Stanley Cups with the Oilers.

He entered the Hockey Hall Of Fame in 2003 and still holds the NHL record for most assists in a single season (14) as well as most games by a goalie (79, achieved with the St. Louis Blues in 1995-96, the year Wayne Gretzky joined him at the trade deadline, 76 of them consecutively, which is also a record), finishing sixth in Hart voting in the process. He also played 75 with the Oilers in 1987-88, finishing second in Hart voting behind Gretzky.

He finished his career with 403 wins, 226 of them in Edmonton. His record's even better in the playoffs, standing at 92-50 in 150 games, with 6 shutouts - a terrific number, considering he only had 9 in 868 regular-season games.

He was one of the first goalies to wear coloured (i.e. "not brown") equipment, as can be attested from card #GJ-GF from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 2 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It shows him wearing the team's classic blue (away) uniform, though it includes a white game-worn jersey swatch. That was a funky mask, as well.

He co-wrote his autobiography, which doesn't skip over his (past) cocaine use nor the racism he experienced in the U.S. when the Toronto Maple Leafs traded him to the Buffalo Sabres in 1992-93, as he was refused entry into a club because of the colour of his skin. He would share a Jennings Trophy win with Dominik Hasek in Buffalo the following year, ironically.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Roman Cervenka Autograph Card

He is 30 years old and has played for the Czech Team at the Olympics; he won gold (2010 World Championships) and bronze (2005 World Juniors and 2011 World Championships) medals, and though he went undrafted, he was signed by the Calgary Flames in 2012.

He did okay in his rookie season, with 9 goals, 8 assists and 17 points in 39 games in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, but failed to stick with the team and instead went back to the KHL, where he had already been an All-Star (including in 2010-11 when he got the most fan votes ahead of even Jaromir Jagr).

Last year, he was on a line with this year's best NHL rookie, Artemi Panarin, on the famed St. Petersburg SKA team, with whom he won two straight Gagarin Cups with the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrick Thoresen, Viktor Tikhonov, Dmitri Kalinin, and Anton Belov.

He thought he could stick on an NHL roster this season, but when that failed, he signed on with the Chomutov Pirari (Pirates) of the Czech league, leading his team in every single category save for games played (where his 36 are two behind the team leaders), with 17 goals (6 more than Michal Vondrka), 29 assists (16 more than Vondrka and Phoenix Coyotes draft pick Vladimir Ruzicka), 46 points (22 ahead of Vondrka), 76 penalty minutes (42 more than Marek Tomica) and a +16 rating, +4 better than defenseman Brett Skinner.

I think he looked good in the Flames' red (home) uniform:
It's the signed insert version (numbered 245-699) of card #170 from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Trilogy collection (and Level 1 Premieres sub-set), which also acts as a rookie card. His blue-sharpied signature is apposed on a sticker that was added on the card. Though the scan makes the card look like it's made of blue foil, it's actually silver to the naked eye. #thedress

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Reggie Leach Autograph Card

Known as The Rifleton Rifle and/or The Chief (because he is from the Ojibwe Aboriginal nation), Reggie Leach is best remembered as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers' LCB line (along with Bobby Clarke and Bill Barber), which enabled the Broad Street Bullies to get their hands on the 1975 Stanley Cup. He'd also played with Clarke in Juniors, for the Flin Flon Bombers, but had to wait until 1974 to be reunited with him, as Leach was drafted by the Boston Bruins (third overall in 1970), who traded him to the California Golden Seals, initially.

He still holds the Flyers' single-season goals record (with 61), a feat he achieved as he posted 91 points in 1975-76, the year he also won the Conn Smythe Trophy in a losing cause against the Montréal Canadiens. He stands as the only non-goalie to win it while playing for the losing team, a feat also achieved by Flyers goalie Ron Hextall in 1987, as well as Roger Crozier (St. Louis Blues, 1965-66), Glenn Hall (Chicago Blackhawks, 1967-68), and Jean-Sébastien Giguère (Anaheim Mighty Ducks, 2003-03). Of note that Crozier and Hall also won it against the Habs.

His son, Jamie Leach, also won the Cup in 1991 and 1992 - with the Flyers' arch nemeses and state rivals Pittsburgh Penguins. Reggie was also a member of the 1976 edition of Team Canada at the Canada Cup, while Jamie donned the maple leaf at the 1989 World Juniors.

Reggie had other tremendous seasons, with a 50-goal season in 1979-80 as the Flyers played in 35 consecutive games without suffering a loss, followed by 36- and 24-goal seasons before a final curtain call season with the lowly Detroit Red Wings in 1982-83 in which he scored 15, to finish his career with 381 tallies and 666 points in 934 NHL regular-season games, and another 47 goals and 69 points in 94 playoff games.

Here he is wearing the team's classic uniform, in glorious black and white, on card #US-RL from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Ultimate Collection set (and Ultimate Signatures sub-set):
It's signed on-card in blue sharpie, with a nice bust picture of the bruising forward.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Michael Leighton Swatch Card

You might recall my deep respect for journeyman goaltender Michael Leighton from my post in 2012, but I was also moved last October when ESPN ran this story showcasing what a player of his ilk goes through with his family, particularly in cases where there are health concerns as there were with his son back then.

Drafted 165th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1999, he came back into the organization last year as the Rockford IceHogs' #1 goalie, and the 2008 Baz Bastien winner as the AHL's best goalie did have the statistics to contend for that honor once more, going 22-13-4 with a 2.26 GAA, .920 save percentage, 5 shutouts and 2 assists after an equally stunning season with the KHL's Donbass HC (20-15-6, 1.74 GAA and .933 save percentage with 6 shutouts in 42 games).

He's at it again this year, with an astonishing 20-4-4 record, 2.19 GAA, .928 save percentage, and 2 shutouts in 29 games. As I mentioned in 2012, he's too good for the AHL. We are, after all, talking about a guy who stopped 98 shots in a single, five-period game in 2008.

Here he is featured as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, from Panini's 2013-14 Titanium set (card #GG-LEI of the Game-Worn Gear sub-set), featuring a white game-worn jersey swatch:
The irony of it is that while he did spend a quarter of a season with the Jackets, he did not see a single minute of ice time, serving as Sergei Bobrovsky's backup, a task he had also accomplished in his time with the Philadelphia Fyers. Funnier still, this wasn't the first time he was on an NHL roster yet didn't play with the team holding his rights, as the Montréal Canadiens had once claimed him on waivers during an injury to Cristobal Huet, but Jaroslav Halak and David Aebischer were the ones who saw ice time instead.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Will Acton Autographed Card

A nice little return in the mail today from Will Acton, currently playing with the Schwenniger Wild Wings of the German League (with 12 goals, 42 points and 57 penalty minutes in just 32 games so far), which checks off #41 off my Oilers Numbers Project:
It's card #91 from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Overtime set, a rookie-heavy collection made exclusively for dealers who go through certain card distributors - GTS Distribution (U.S.A.) and Universal Distribution (Canada). He signed it in blue sharpie, and it shows him wearing the Edmonton Oilers' current/retro white (now-away) uniform.

I've only seen Acton play once, a 4-3 Oilers win against my hometown Montréal Canadiens in October of 2013, but he was a non-factor, playing under 6 minutes; he is the son of former Hab and Oiler Keith Acton.

Undrafted, the younger Acton scored his first NHL goal against Braden Holtby, which likely isn't a sentence you'll read so much in the coming years. I wish him the best of luck in Europe, and perhaps a return to the NHL if/when expansion takes place.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Randy St. Claire Autographed Card

With the Montréal Canadiens in full turmoil and rumours swirling concerning Jonathan Drouin and other players, mixed with the fact that we're in the thick of winter, I decided to set my focus on baseball today, most notably my Expos Numbers Project, with this entry for #51, Randy St. Claire:
It's card #463 from Leaf's 1986 Donruss set, which he signed in blue sharpie around the end of the Montréal Expos' tenure in Canada's Sin City, when he was the team's pitching instructor. The son of major league catcher Ebba St. Claire, Randy was never drafted but signed as a free agent with the Expos in 1978, playing parts of five seasons with the club before moving on to the Cincinnati Reds, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays, for a season each, except for a two-year stint in Atlanta.

His win-loss record with the Expos was 10-6, and he finished 12-6 for his career; he was exclusively a relief pitcher, having never started an MLB game.

As a kid, I was a bit young to have purchased packs of this set, so I likely came across this card in 1990 or 1991, buying common singles at a card store at 5 cents apiece and looking for all Expos, "promising" prospects not named Todd Van Poppel, and players whose names I recognized from being regulars. As a player, I mostly remember him with the Braves.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Joe Thornton Swatch Card

The San Jose Sharks are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, so does that mean they're back on track? Or is this just another lull in a potentially awful season?

Who knows, really?

They're still the team run by GM Doug Wilson, who dresses three players who have been the team's captain (current one Joe Pavelski, as well as Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton) on a nightly basis, and whose #1 goalie is Martin Jones, the 26-year-old unproven commodity who came over from the Los Angeles Kings by way of the Boston Bruins last summer.

The one thing the Sharks seem to change more often than captains and goalies (at least since Evgeni Nabokov) is their uniforms. Their initial one was okay, but their best one was this one, save for the jersey numbers on the front, which make it too busy, though the amount of black, orange and white is perfect in contrast to the teal:
It's card #GG-JO from Panini's 2012-13 Titanium set (and Game-Worn Gear sub-set), which I got as a "hit" in a pack of various repackaged in 2014 or 2015. It features none other than the much-maligned Thornton, who was recently voted onto San Jose's 25th Anniversary Team (other notable centers in Sharks history include Mike Ricci, Vincent Damphousse and Jeff Friesen, so it was a no-brainer to vote former the Art Ross winner onto it).

Regular readers know I never trust the Sharks to win, or even make the right moves; they are the Western Conference's Toronto Maple Leafs without the continuous embarrassment of finishing in the bottom-5 but with the added weight of always choking in the playoffs when viewed as contenders. Oh, and no Stanley Cups. Ever.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Artem Anisimov: Two Autographed Cards

There was a chance that Artem Anisimov wasn't going to suit up for the Chicago Blackhawks against the Montréal Canadiens on Thursday, but not only did he dress, he played over 16 minutes in a 2-1 hard-fought Hawks win with a shot, a hit and a blocked shot.

Sure, the star of the game was Corey Crawford - he of the 39 saves on 40 Habs' shots - but it was nice to see the Hawks' middle-six center go for it; prior to last season, he'd always been healthy in his NHL career, and he's the type of guy who's good at both ends of the ice, so he's very important to his teams.

In his career so far, he's been part of trades involving Rick Nash and Brandon Saad - two first-liners. Though he now wears #15 with Chicago, he wore #42 with both of his previous NHL teams. Here he is carrying the puck up-ice with the New York Rangers' blue (home) uniform, from Panini's 2010-11 Score collection (card #327 in the series):
And here he is following the play while with the Columbus Blue Jackets, from Panini's 2013-14 Score collection (card #139):
I must admit it's a little weird seeing him play in red and black this year, it's like it's not even him out there with the Hawks. However, he's looking good, on pace for a career year with 15 goals and 29 points in 45 games, his highest output so far being 22 goals (with the Jackets in 2013-14) and 44 points (with the Blueshirts in 2010-11), the years both this cards were printed.

He signed them in blue sharpie with his #42 tacked on at the end.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Robert Mayer Autograph Card

Possibly my favourite goalie not currently playing in the NHL, Robert Mayer could probably have done as good a job picking up the slack for injured Carey Price as Mike Condon, save perhaps the spectacular 27-save performance at the Winter Classic in his hometown of Boston.

Mayer's presently one of the best goalies in the Swiss league, having played 31 games so far for Genève-Servette Hockey Club, with a 2.50 GAA and .921 save percentage with fellow Montréal Canadiens alumnus Matt D'Agostini and Montrealer Matthew Lombardi.

The team's currently fourth in the league with a 22-11 record, and stands third for goals against (96), behind powerhouses Zurich Lions (89) and Zug EV (90).

My Mayer player collection is pretty huge, and here's another card I added via trade over a year ago, showing him with the Habs' classic bleu-blanc-rouge uniform:
It's card #176 from Panini's 2012-13 Certified collection, the signed insert version of the Freshman Signatures subset which was numbered 841/999 and was signed in blue sharpie on a sticker. I like the silver foil that gives a black-and-white feel to the background which, granted, is hard to see in the scan. It's a terrific card of a terrific guy, whom I wish the best to.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Jordan Leopold Jersey Card

Jordan Leopold is at home and currently unsigned by any NHL team following last year's heartwarming tale about his daughter writing the Minnesota Wild to acquire him so he could be close to home, which they did.

One team who could use his dependable if slower-than-they-used-to-be defensive-zone skills is the Calgary Flames, whom he played for in two separate stints already (2002-06 and the tail end of the 2008-09 campaign). He looks good in their uniform, too:
That's card #FI-JL of Upper Deck's 2005-06 Ice collection (and Fresh Ice sub-set), which features a game-worn red jersey swatch incorporated into a see-through thick plastic card.

The 44th pick of the 1999 draft and Team USA alumnus is a veteran of 695 regular-season NHL games (with 67 goals, 147 assists and 214 points to show for it), and 80 more in the playoffs (with 17 postseason assists), including the Flames' spectacular Stanley Cup Final run of 2003-04 where they led by a goal in the third period of Game 6, blew that lead, and eventually lost Game 7 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a thrilling series.

Perhaps if he doesn't sign anywhere and calls it a career, he could pull a page from the Robyn Regehr book of beautiful endings and retire as a Flame.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Steven Finn: Two Autographed Cards

There are still lots of rumblings pertaining to the next NHL expansion, what with the leaking that the league's governors will once again assemble to discuss the possibility of adding new teams and with Las Vegas and Québec City having gone through the application process already.

It's my opinion that the league will decide to put off adding Québec and may do so with Vegas as well, though they might want the expansion fees to round out their fiscal year. They could also stall in the hopes that a Seattle bid come through and offer Vegas a better deal than the half-billion currently estimated to buy in with Seattle paying the full fee - leaving Québec open for a relocation as a cheaper consolation prize, possibly in the form of the current Carolina Hurricanes. That should put Québec at around $400M ($300M to buy the team, plus another 100M as relocation fees), the 100M in savings a boon for those who are afraid the fall of the Canadian dollar might impact the city's ability to maintain a team.

(For the record, I think prospective buyer Vidéotron has enough money to "overpay" the difference in currencies, and their owner, Pierre-Karl Péladeau, is adamant enough in his want of a team to be willing to take it as it is).

I don't know if they'd keep their former uniform designs or not, but I loved the Québec Nordiques' garbs, particularly the blue (away) ones:
That's Steven Finn, right there. Born on Montréal's North Shore (in Laval, more specifically), Finn was raised in Montréal Canadiens territory, like former Nordiques enforcer Gord Donnelly (who hails from NDG, as do I).

Finn was selected 57th overall by the Nordiques in 1984, ahead of Michal Pivonka (59th), Ray Sheppard (60th), Jeff Norton (62nd), baseball Hall Of Famer Tom Glavine (69th), Paul Ysebaert (74th), Kris King (80th), current New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano (88th), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli, Brent Severyn (99th), All-Star Kirk McLean (107th), Hall of Famer Brett Hull (117th), All-Star Kjell Samuelsson (119th), Cliff Ronning (134th), Jiri Hrdina (159th), Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney (166th), deceased enforcer Todd Ewen (168th), Los Angeles Kings great and Hall Of Famer Luc Robitaille (171st), Team USA alumnus and one of the dirtiest players of the 1980s and 1990s Gary Suter (180th), All-Star defenseman Paul Cavallini (205th), David Volek (208th), and Sidney's dad Troy Crosby (240th).

Ahead of Finn were Hall Of Famers Mario Lemieux (1st) and Patrick Roy (51st), All-Stars Kirk Muller (2nd), Ed Olczyk (3rd), Al Iafrate (4th), Petr Svodoba (5th), Shayne Corson (8th), Gary Roberts (12th), Kevin Hatcher (17th), Craig Billington (23rd), Scott Mellanby (27th), and Stéphane Richer (29th), Stanley Cup winner Jean-Jacques Daigneault (10th), as well as NHL regulars Shawn Burr (7th), Sylvain Côté (11th), Todd Gill (25th), Brian Benning (26th), Doug Houda (28th), Tony Hrkac (38th), Jeff Brown (36th), Jeff Chychrun (37th), Paul Ranheim (38th), Trent Yawney (45th), Ken Hodge, Jr. (46th), and Robert Dirk (53rd).

Finn was a defensive defenseman who sacrificed himself for the team, be it through physical play (he surpassed the 200-PIM mark three times and was over 190 twice more) or by blocking shots. He was widely viewed as a leader, which led to his carrying the alternate captain's "A" for most of his career and sharing captain duties with up-and-comer (and future Hall Of Famer) Joe Sakic during the 1990-91 season.

He is now a hockey analyst at TVA Sports (owned by Vidéotron) and can also be hired as a speaker, in both French and English, as he has always been perfectly bilingual.

Let's have a look at the two cards he signed in black sharpie outside of TVA's headquarters, first with the then-home white uniform, with the NHL's 75th Anniversary patch:
It's card #7 from O-Pee-Chee's 1992-93 O-Pee-Chee set.

And finally, from Pro Set's 1992-93 Parkhurst set (card #379 in the collection), here he is wearing the beautiful blue (away) uniform, with the NHL's 1993 playoffs patch:
Jofa helmet and gloves, Titan stick, CCM Supra pants. Those were the days!

All told, Finn played 725 regular-season NHL games (and 23 more in the playoffs), playing with the Nordiques until 1994-95, then playing half a season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a year and a half with the Kings, and finishing off by suiting up with the IHL's Long Beach Ice Dogs for the 1997-98 season.

He also helps me check off #29 in my Nordiques Numbers Project.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sean Couturier Jersey Card

In my opinion, one of the reasons why Vincent Lecavalier was never a proper fit with the Philadelphia Flyers was the fact that not only did they not have the depth for their fourth line to have skaters who can shoot the puck to better complement him, but also that they were set on their other lines at center with Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, who started out filling a checking role but was always seen as their eventual second-line center, a fact that GM Ron Hextall acknowledged when he signed him long-term last summer.

With 6 points in his last 5 games, including a goal and an assist earlier this afternoon as the Flyers blanked the New York Islanders 4-0, and with 20 points in 34 games so far, Couturier's now taking his rightful place on the team's depth chart. His +8 differential on a playoff bubble team is also impressive, and it stands 70th in the league - and first on Philadelphia.

Others selected after the sixth pick of the 2011 draft are also just now making their mark or are on the verge of doing so, such as Dougie Hamilton (9th), Jonas Brodin (10th), Ryan Murphy (12th), Sven Baertschi (13th), Nathan Beaulieu (17th), Oscar Klefbom (19th), Matt Puempel (24th), Phillip Danault (26th), Vladislav Namestnikov (27th), Rickard Rakell (30th), Tomas Jurco (35th), Boone Jenner (37th), Xavier Ouellet (48th), Vincent Trochek (64th), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (96th), Andrew Shaw (139th), Frank Corrado (150th), Anton Forsberg (188th), and Ondrej Palat (208th).

Some are already stars, such as John Gibson (39th), Brandon Saad (43rd), and Johnny Gaudreau (104th).

That's what I like about today's NHL, the systems used are so technically brilliant that any kid who has a feeling for the game can get integrated into it and have at least a statistical chance of making an impact and being successful by following the game plan and then applying their talent when there are openings. Sure, it means last year's Art Ross Trophy winner, Jamie Benn, barely reached the point-per-game mark at 87 points, but it also means third-liners have a legitimate shot at posting 40 themselves. And statistical anomalies will arise even more, such as players with shooting percentages above the 25% mark (Anthony Duclair is at 27.3% right now, Paul Byron is at 25.9%, with 3 of his 7 goals coming on shorthanded breakaways), or 11-game winning streaks (hello, Roberto Luongo-led Florida Panthers).

And so, here is the rising Sean Couturier, wearing the Broad Street Bullies' classic 1970s orange uniform, complete with full-on viking-like beard and long hair, on card #GJ-CO from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Series 1 collection and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
Currently already in his fifth NHL season, the Phoenix, AZ-born Quebecer-American has already finished 30th and 9th in Selke Trophy voting. Here's predicting he wins the first one after Pavel Datsyuk retires.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Mark Barberio Autograph Card

Slowly but surely, Mark Barberio is making a name for himself patrolling his hometown Montréal Canadiens' blue line, on the third pair with Alexei Emelin. His strong, safe play (not unlike Greg Pateryn's) has relegated both Pateryn and Jarred Tinordi to watching games from the press box, a fate that might also also be reserved to Tom Gilbert when he comes back from his injury.

It's weird to think that in Juniors, he was mostly an offensive-minded defenseman and how well-rounded his game has become. Kind of like his favourite player growing up, when you think of it... yes, like myself, Barberio was a huge Andrei Markov fan.

He's sure looking like yet another Marc Bergevin steal, what with coming over as a free agent over the summer after being let go by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

I'll be writing more about him in the coming months, for sure, so I'll leave it at that for now and just showcase him wearing the Bolts' blue (home) uniform, with a nice view of their the 20th Anniversary chest patch:
It's card #345 from Panini's 2013-14 Select collection (numbered 187/299), a beautiful if very thick card that's all-foil on the front - half silver, half gold - with an on-sticker blue-sharpied autograph and two mentions of this being his rookie card - the yellow/light gold Rookie word mark underneath the sticker, and the Dual Rookie Class shield top-left.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tim Raines: Two Autographed Cards

Today, I thought I'd feature two cards of Tim "Rock" Raines with the Chicago White Sox' black uniform, because it's a bad, dark day for the Baseball Hall Of Fame, seeing as they have snubbed him once again, leaving him with just one more shot of making it, next year.

As I wrote a little over a year ago, his numbers should have made a case for themselves:
808 stolen bases, and a stealing percentage of 84.5% - second-best of all-time for players with at least 500 attempts - bests even Henderson. 2605 hits, 430 doubles, 170 home runs, 980 RBIs, 1330 walks for 966 strikeouts...

From the very beginning, in the strike-reduced 1981 season, Raines proved he was for real: sure, he was second for the Rookie Of The Year award, but he also garnered some MVP votes on the strength of 71 steals in just 88 games - the National League record was 75, by Benny Kauff, in a full season. His 27 steals in his first 27 attempts remains a record, though. In the American League, he set a record with 37 straight stolen bases in 1995.

The seven-time All-Star Game participant will be remembered for one of them in particular - in 1987 in Oakland - as he went 3-for-3, and produced both of his team's runs in a 2-0 victory with a two-out, 13th-inning triple against Jay Howell.
He stole 70 or more bases in each of his first seven seasons, and ranks fourth of all-time in the category, but he's also overlooked in other categories where speed was a factor: his doubles total (430) is better than Kirby Puckett's (414) and Willie Stargell's (423), and his triples totals (113) bests Puckett (57) and Stargell (55), for sure, but also the likes of Rickey Henderson (66), Dave Winfield (88), Tony Gwynn (85) and Reggie Jackson (49).

What wins a baseball game? Runs. Raines had 1571, better than Puckett (1071), Stargell (1195), Gwynn (1393) and Jackson (1551).

Freebies are fun, and walks are a sign that pitchers fear you enough to not throw you good pitches. Raines was walked 1330 times, ahead of Brock (761), Puckett (450), Stargell (937), Winfield (1216), Gwynn (790).

Chicago Cubs second basement Ryne Sandberg is in, though Raines beats him in every possible category:
Add two World Series titles with the New York Yankees and you've got yourself a memorable career.
Fix this, Cooperstown.

In the meantime, here's a closer look at the cards, first from Fleer's 1995 Fleer Ultra set (card #33), showing him attempting one of his signature surprise bunts, which he signed in black sharpie:
And here he is with his trademark smile, from Pinnacle Brands' 1996 Score set (card #449), which he signed in blue sharpie:
And here's a ballad singing his praise and talking up some of his achievements:

He remains my favourite baseball player of all time, and was the main reason why I loved the Montréal Expos so much. He likely signed those cards for me in his second stint with the team.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Jarome Iginla Jersey Card

Earlier tonight, Colorado Avalanche right winger Jarome Iginla scored his 600th career NHL goal, becoming the 19th player in history to reach that mark; he is now one goal away from former Edmonton Oilers great Jari Kurri.

It came off a missed pass that went through Los Angeles Kings backup Jhonas Enroth, so it wasn't a typical power forward goal where he plows through the defense to will the puck past the goalie, nor from a signature Iginla accurate wrist shot or deke move - but it was effective, and it helped the Avs win 4-1 against one of the best teams in the league.

Semyon Varlamov (31 saves on 32 shots faced) and Tyson Barrie (2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points) also factored in the win. Considering the Avs have only been in Denver since 1995, it's impressive that two other Hall Of Famers scored their 600th while with the team: Kurri, and legendary captain and current GM Joe Sakic.

For the occasion, here's a card I got off Ebay over a month ago, showing Iggy wearing the Avs' white (away) uniform, with a matching game-worn jersey swatch:
It's card #FA-JI from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Artifacts set and Frozen Artifacts sub-set.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Matt Murray Autographed Card

The Pittsburgh Penguins just sent Matt Murray back down to the AHL now that Marc-André Fleury is back from his concussion, but the 21-year-old made quite an impression, going 2-1-0 with a 1.72 GAA and .938 save percentage in 4 games with the Pens.

As a matter of fact, since turning pro at the tail end of the 2013-14 season, he has never posted a GAA over 2.00 nor a save percentage lower than .920. Last season alone, his numbers were 1.58 and .941 with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, with a 25-10-1 record in 40 games, which included the longest shutout streak in AHL history, ahead of Barry Brust and Hall Of Famer Johnny Bower, on route to being named the best goalie in the league.

The Pens' plan for the season was to let him accumulate reps in the minors instead of riding the pine in the NHL - that job going to Jeff Zatkoff. Fleury's injury changed that. His stellar play might have the Penguins facing difficult decisions a couple of years before they had planned to as to how their goaltending duties will be handled in the near future.

Here is a card he signed in back sharpie for my brother last season after a game in which he shut out the St. John's IceCaps:
It's card #83 from In The Game's 2012-13 Heroes And Prospects set, showing him wearing the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds' black (alternate) uniform.

He added his jersey number to his signature (30), which he has worn at every level.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Ryan Getzlaf Jersey Card

Of course, when I decided to buy some Upper Deck 2014-15 Series 2 cards, the first "hit" I got was a Ryan Getzlaf UD Game Jersey card:
I like that it shows him wearing the Anaheim Ducks' new white (away) uniform, which is the reverse of their home one, which used to me their alternate garbs. They're really nice; they could very well be my favourite Ducks uniform of all time. The swatch used is back, though, so it's clearly from another uniform, especially considering the fact that this uniform wasn't used until last season, when the set was technically produced.

Getzlaf and the Ducks have a sub-par season in the under-producing Pacific division; they were supposed to be Stanley Cup contenders (though, in my opinion, they're an elite defenseman away from doing that) this season and are instead fighting with the Edmonton Oilers not to finish last.

I believe they can make the playoffs and perhaps face the Los Angeles Kings in the Division Finals. They are a much better team than the San Jose Sharks, whom I see failing, and the Vancouver Canucks (who lack depth) and Calgary Flames (who are experiencing a sophomore jinx as a group after surprising last year); the Oilers round up the rest of the expected-to-win-some-games group, while the Arizona Coyotes should crumble to the bottom of the NHL standings soon enough and the Kings are at the opposite end of the spectrum, as the cream of the crop.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Two Alex Galchenyuk Autographed Cards

I just came back from watching the Winter Classic - pitting the Boston Bruins against the Montréal Canadiens - at a bar, for which I had purchased an Alex Galchenyuk jersey as a Christmas present for myself:
I must admit that I don't like the Reebok cut that gets ridiculously tight at the pectoral/underarm junction, making it uncomfortable for built men and generously plump ladies
I was doubtful at first, particularly of the logo, which looks like it was drawn by a child; over time, however, I really came to like it; I may wear it almost as much as my throwback Andrei Markov jersey:
Now, Galchenyuk, while he played well alongside Lars Eller and Daniel Carr, did not factor in to the Habs' 5-1 win statistically (a -1 with one shot and one hit in 16 minutes of ice time); instead, it was the newly-reunited first line of Brendan Gallagher (coming back from a six-week absence due to a pair of broken fingers), Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty, who each had two points, as did Paul Byron.

Still, what a great time on this New Year's Day to feature two signed cards of his with the Sarnia Sting from In The Game's 2010-11 Heroes And Prospects set (which stands as his Rookie Card):
They were both signed in blue sharpie.

Ironically, I never pulled that card from packs of H&P; I never pulled a Galchenyuk in an ITG product at all, actually - I bought them individually on Ebay and got them signed in person.