Saturday, April 30, 2016

Corey Perry Jersey Card

Inevitably, the Anaheim Ducks lost a Game 7 after winning their division; as was the case when he was with the Washington Capitals, head coach Bruce Boudreau was soon dismissed. Goal-less sniper Corey Perry (who I dropped in my keeper pool along with Ryan Getzlaf in favor of Henrik Lundqvist and Jakub Voracek) shouldered the blame, but it was still on the coach to devise a strategy to beat his adversaries and to have the know-how to prepare his team for the ultimate game.

Boudreau. Who is 1-7 in Game 7s. And whose teams - always the highest seed and, thus, playing at home - inevitably fall behind in the decisive game.

Perry can cry that his four assists in seven games are a disappointment, but Boudreau never provided him with an environment in which he could get better match-ups against the Nashville Predators' best defensemen, nor with a game plan that would use his strengths against the opponents' weaknesses.

Perry's won the Stanley Cup and three gold medals with Team Canada (at the 2005 World Juniors as well as the 2010 and 2014 Olympics); he can play under pressure, he can play a disciplined game (apart from not giving cheap shots, which come just after goal scoring as his main contributions to the game), he's experienced enough to let the opportunities come to him and not force a play that will lead to an awful mistake. He's a safe player to have on the ice. He shouldn't take the blame by himself.

Here is the 2010-11 Hart and Maurice Richard winner wearing the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim's purple (away) uniform from Fleer's 2005-06 Fleer Ultra collection and Scoring Kings sub-set, manufactured by Upper Deck:
It features a white swatch from a jersey that was worn in a rookie photo shoot.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Peter Forsberg Jersey Card

It feels weird to say, but with the Montréal Canadiens, Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers now out of contention, the Nashville Predators are now one of a few teams I wish good to (along with the Washington Capitals for Alex Ovechkin, Dallas Stars for Jason Spezza, New York Islanders if Jaroslav Halak comes back and Tampa Bay Lightning for Ben Bishop), and I was more than happy to see them eliminate the Anaheim Ducks, even though I didn't think they would.

I really like Pekka Rinne, Mike Fisher, and Mike Ribeiro, Shea Weber is a terrific defenseman, and Jack Laviolette is a perfect coach to follow up a defensive-minded coach who put a good system in place (as Barry Trotz had), in that he lets the players use their maturity and what they've learned but lets them be creative on offense; it's a complementary system that works well with veteran teams who have just a few young guys come in to give the older players a spark, like when he led the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006. He's also be perfect in following a Ken Hitchcock or a Mike Babcock.

And so I pay tribute to the Preds today by showcasing a card of a player most of us forget ever played in Nashville, with a card I hinted to earlier this week, #GJ-FO from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
That is, of course, Hall Of Famer Peter Forsberg wearing the team's former blue (away) uniform, with a silver game-worn jersey swatch that could very well have come from that jersey (or the Colorado Avalanche's).

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bill Muckalt Autograph Card

The New York Islanders took Game 1 of their series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, so I thought it'd be nice to show off this card of Bill Muckalt's from Upper Deck's 1999-2000 SP Authentic set (card #BM of the Sign Of The Times sub-set) to celebrate:
It shows him wearing the Isles' turn-of-the-millennium blue (away) uniform, shortly after the Captain Highliner debacle.

Muckalt played in 256 regular-season NHL games, scoring 40 goals with 57 assists for 97 points; he also accrued 204 penalty minutes in that span and suited up for five playoff games with the Minnesota Wild in 2002-03, going pointless.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Gabriel Bourque Autograph Card

Technically, at 25 years old, Gabriel Bourque should be entering his prime years as a point producer in the NHL. The diminutive winger - listed at 5'10" and 190 pounds, and while the weight seems right, he seems a couple of inches shorter than that in person - was drafted (132nd overall in 2009) by the Nashville Predators specifically because he was a point-per-game performer in Juniors, both in the regular season and the playoffs.

However, an undisclosed injury and added forward depth in the Preds' line-up have limited him to 22 games in Nashville (plus 4 with the Milwaukee Admirals on a conditioning stint); in fact, he only has 4 points to show for this year, partly because he's only averaging 12 minutes per game, down from nearly 16 just three seasons ago, when he had 11 goals and 16 points in 34 games.

He's quick and is as good setting up teammates as he is burying the puck in the net, but I do realize that having, say, both Bourque and Mike Ribeiro on the same line makes for a trio that is likely to get pushed around by rough teams such as the Anaheim Ducks.

Still, it must not have been easy for Bourque to be a healthy scratch since his call-up over a month ago, particularly considering his last NHL action was four minutes of play on November 27th.

He'll be a restricted free agent this summer and will have very little bargaining power.

Here he is in the Predators' awful yellow (home) uniform, on card #23 from Panini's 2012-13 Prime set (and Prime Signatures sub-set), which I traded for doubles of Peter Forsberg jersey cards last year:
He signed it on-card in blue sharpie, with his jersey number (57) tagged at the end. It's numbered 43/99.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Kyle Okposo Swatch Card

The New York Islanders eliminated the Florida Panthers this weekend, and much was said about the clutch performances of John Tavares and Thomas Greiss, and deservedly so. But second on the team in scoring was Kyle Okposo, with 6 points in 6 games against the Cats.

The seventh-overall pick of the 2006 draft and upcoming free agent has been a consistent force for the past three seasons, with 184 points in 210 games, 67 of them goals. He's not the biggest at 6'1" and 200 pounds but he's hard to knock off the puck and wins most of his battles along the boards.

He'll be relied upon even more evidently to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the next round.

Here is a nice close-up of him in the Isles' almost-retro/current blue (home) uniform, from Panini's 2013-14 Titanium set (and Game-Worn Gear) sub-set, card #GG-KO in the series), with the alternate captain's "A" and featuring a white game-worn jersey swatch:
He complained about the ice at Barclays Center last month; here's hoping an upcoming heat wave doesn't make it worse.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Logan Couture Autographed Card

Going exactly against my predictions, the San Jose Sharks eliminated the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 last night. On the bright side, that narrows down the list of teams I have a soft spot for in these playoffs...

It seems the Sharks are a little too celebratory, however, judging by post-game interviews. Logan Couture, in particular, seems a little whiny when he says:
Throughout the last couple of years, things have been said by players on that team that to me, personally, I take it as disrespectful. So it was nice to stick it back to them and beat them in this series. Even this series, someone was saying on their team that they had us right where they wanted us. I wonder if they've got us where they want us right now?
The Kings were arrogant and were playing mind games? Boohoo. They'd earned it by turning an 0-3 deficit into a 4-3 series win against a team that was so weak mentally they didn't even deserve to get paid to play. L.A. won the Stanley Cup that year, and the Sharks would have just folded in the Conference Finals like they always do - all fizzle, no snakes.

At 27 years old, Couture's now part of San Jose's leadership group, an alternate captain that needs to make the hockey world forget about all the collapses that happened on Patrick Marleau's and Joe Thornton's watch; he'll have to do so with Joe Pavelski, Marc-Édouard Vlasic and Martin Jones all stepping their games up. Best of luck to them.

Here's Couture with Team Canada, from the 2007 U-18s where he and his fellow countrymen finished fourth, losing the bronze medal game 8-3 to Sweden. Couture had two goals (both against Latvia in a 9-1 routing) and 4 points in 6 games on a team that only Steven Stamkos, Angelo Esposito and Drew Doughty tried to stop from choking in an embarrassing way:
It's card #12 from In The Game's 2007-08 O Canada set, which he signed in blue sharpie when the Sharks were in town a year ago.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Ed Jovanovski Autograph Card

Somewhere, I have a signed card of Ed Jovanovski's with the Vancouver Canucks, which to me is as representative of his time in the NHL as the Florida Panthers, whom he captained in his last NHL season (and is the team that drafted him first overall in 1994).

I also have this card that lists him with the Panthers but shows him wearing his Junior team Windsor Spitfires (OHL) uniform, strongly inspired by that of the late-1970s New York Rangers and 1980s Winnipeg Jets:
It's an autographed insert card from Classic's 1994-95 5 Sport set, which he signed on-card in blue sharpie.

While he was very good with the Spitfires, he was never actually ranked first of his draft class, an honor that #3 pick Radek Bonk actually got, but Panthers president Bill Torrey was adamant the team pick a defenseman, and Jovo and Oleg Tverdovsky were ranked top of their class. Little did Florida know the towering Jovanovski would get into legal troubles later that year, as he and two teammates were charged with sexually assaulting a 24-year-old woman, who withdrew her charges after the Panthers' lawyers threatened to sue her.

By all accounts, though, he seemed to get over that mess, and the 6'3", 220-pounder went on to have a successful NHL career, playing seven seasons apiece with the Canucks and Panthers, and five with the Phoenix Coyotes. He cracked the Norris top-10 twice and finished fifteenth two other times when things went his way (read: 40-some points and over 100 PIMs), but he was mostly known as a high-risk defenseman at both ends of the ice: he was eager to join the rush on offense and in his own zone was more focused on delivering huge highlight-reel checks than intercepting the puck of perfect positioning.

As age caught up to him and he got slower, the risks became that much higher, injuries took their toll, and his point production was no longer high enough to excuse his shortcomings. He was bought out of his final season by the Panthers, sitting out the 2014-15 season altogether before announcing his retirement in December 2015.

Still, although he never won a Stanley Cup, he did suit up for Team Canada on a number of occasions, winning the 2004 World Cup, gold at the 2002 Olympics and 1995 World Juniors, and silver at the 2005 and 2008 World Championships.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Kyle Turris: 2 Autographed Cards

Remember last week, when I spoke of two returns but only mentioned the TJ Brodie one? Well, it's time for the second one, featuring these two cards of Ottawa Senators top center Kyle Turris:
He identified them with a green sticker marked 7 (his jersey number) and 201 (likely the 201st return he's signed this year), which he had also marked my return envelope with; my guess is that helps him know who to return which cards to, so that most fans get what they handed in back to them. I decided to leave them on, so he could track them if he wanted to.

In my case, as usual, I sent in cards of him wearing different uniforms - both of them featuring the alternate captain's "A", proving he's become an integral part of the Sens.

Here's the white (away) uniform first, from Upper Deck's 2015-16 MVP set (card #31):
And here's the red (home) jersey, from UD's beautiful 2015-16 Tim Hortons Collector's Series (card #7):
The 26-year-old's season mirrored that of his Sens, meaning things didn't quite go according to plan; he only suited up in 57 games because of a high ankle sprain, and Ottawa narrowly missed the playoffs, costing the entire coaching staff their jobs. After 58- and 64-point seasons, he posted 30 this year, a roughly similar pace given that he'd have faced the Montréal Canadiens a couple of times in the games he missed, and he and the rest of the team usually have the Habs' number.

He signed both cards in black sharpie and added his #7 at the end. It was a 157-day return that made me extremely happy, as it gives me a 5/7 return rate this year (I took it easier than in years past).

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Teddy Purcell Swatch Card

The Florida Panthers tied their series with the New York Islanders up 2-2 tonight and Teddy Purcell was a huge part of his team's 2-1 win, scoring the first goal. There was some discussion about a coach's challenge being somewhat murky.

The Panthers had acquired Purcell at the trade deadline from the Edmonton Oilers for a third-round draft pick, which seems like a great deal now, what with Purcell posting 11 points in 15 games with the Cats to close off the season and two goals in four playoff games so far.

The 30-year-old will be a free agent this summer, and you'd think the 6'2", 200-pound clutch right winger (he's also posted 17 points in 18 postseason games with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010-11) will garner quite a bit of interest.

Though he was undrafted, he did suit up for Team Canada at the 2012 World Championships.

Like all the cards he signed for me last year, here he is wearing the Bolts' colours, specifically the white (away) uniform, on card #35 from Panini's 2010-11 Donruss collection and Boys Of Winter sub-set:
It features a black game-worn jersey swatch.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tanner Pearson Autograph Card

Tanner Pearson scored the overtime winner for the Los Angeles Kings last night against the San Jose Sharks. It created a bit of controversy, as some may have thought he was off-side (he wasn't) and Sharks fans thought Dustin Brown's hit that led to the puck being free may have been illegal (it wasn't, it was a textbook example of a great check).

It's hard to realize Pearson's barely 23 and in his third NHL season, because he and Tyler Toffoli had an immediate impact on the Kings, with the rookies playing on the team's most talked-about line (dubbed That 70s Line because both rookies and center Jeff Carter have uniform numbers in the 70s) as they won the Stanley Cup.

Pearson had 12 points in 24 games in the Cup run, and has shown to be able to produce at a half-point per game clip in the regular season since, yet he amped it up in this year's playoffs again, currently standing at 3 points in 3 games despite his team trailing 2-1 in the series.

Further proof that the Kings' scouting staff know exactly what to look for in a player, he was passed over completely the first two times he was eligible to be drafted, yet the Kings selected him in the first round (30h overall) after winning their first Cup in 2012; usually, players who get passed over at ages 17-19 fall to (at least) the third round as "projects", but the Kings knew what they needed to focus on with him and ten months later, he was suiting up in his first NHL playoff game, against the Sharks.

Here he is wearing L.A.'s black (home) uniform on the black variant autographed insert version of card #355 from Panini's 2013-14 Prizm set (part of the Dual Rookie Class sub-set, thus acting as his Rookie card):
It's a mostly-foil card that features a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Jamal Mayers Autograph Card

Am I finally giving the St. Louis Blues the love and respect they (probably feel they) deserve? No, not quite. Then again, neither does Jamal Mayers, a 15-year NHLer who spent 10 seasons (and 12 years total) in the Blues organization but now covers the Chicago Blackhawks, a team he spent 100 games with, including 19 in the regular season (and zero in the playoffs) on the 2012-13 Stanley Cup Championship team.

But with the Blues leading the series 2-1 against the defending champions, they must be feeling pretty good. They're probably aware that this season's Art Ross and likely Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane will want to redeem himself after the costly penalty that gave the Blues the game-winning goal, and he's one guy you don't want to face when he's even more motivated...

I'm not worried about the Hawks, though, because of this statistic: Since 2009, they are 6-15 in Game 3s, their worst record of any game by far. In Games 4-7, though: 43-14. Which is when the Blues will regret not having someone of Mayers' quality on their bottom-six, someone with 219 points and 1200 penalty minutes in 965 NHL games; instead, they're suiting up a still-injured Steve Ott, who many thought was done for the year.

Here's Mayers in St. Louis' post-lockout white (away) Rbk Edge uniform, on card #S-JM from Upper Deck's 2007-08 Be A Player set (and Be A Player Signatures sub-set):
It features a black-sharpied on-sticker autograph for which he clearly went over the edges, with his jersey number (21) tagged at the end.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Kari Lehtonen Jersey Card

I would be remiss if I didn't talk about Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen this weekend. He started the playoffs with a 4-0 shutout of the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and followed that with a 2-1 win tonight.

He's healthy and has been kept fresh by being in a rotation with Antti Niemi during the regular season, and while both had their ups and downs, both also played well enough to raise the question as to whom would start the playoffs between a goalie who has one postseason round on his resume (Lehtonen) and another (Niemi) who has a Stanley Cup championship on his, but was deemed replaceable by the Chicago Blackhawks that very summer - and who suffered through the Los Angeles Kings' historic comeback from an 0-3 deficit two years ago. Both goalies won 25 games this year.

Head coach Lindy Ruff ultimately went with former first round pick Lehtonen (second overall in 2002), and it's worked so far. It's not like he's never been in pressure situations before; as a member of Team Finland, he has an Olympic bronze medal (2014), World Championship silver (2007), World Cup silver (2004), World Juniors silver (2001) and bronze (2002 and 2003) and U-18 Worlds gold (2000) and silver (2001).

So here he is pictured wearing the Stars' current (and beautiful) green (home) uniform, on card #GJ-KL from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It has a white game-used jersey swatch enclosed.

Friday, April 15, 2016

T.J. Brodie: 2 Autographed Cards

I got two tremendous returns in the mail today, and it was a toss-up as to which one I was going to feature first. And one of the two wearers of a #7 uniform who was sent two cards on November 10th, 2016 (for a 157-day return) won.

Remember when I featured T.J. Brodie back in February and counted him as #66 in my Flames Numbers Project? Well, he can now also represent #7:
Brodie finished 18th in the NHL for defensemen with 45 points (6 goals and 39 assists), but unlike his teammate and captain Mark Giordano who finished 6th with 56 points (21 goals and 35 assists) but was a -5, #7 was a +4 on a Calgary Flames team that not only failed to make the playoffs, but did so largely due to poor goaltending.

He'll likely get a few Norris votes for his efforts, probably falling somewhere between 10th and 15th in the league.

As I usually do, I sent him a pair of cards showing him wearing different Flames uniforms; here he is sporting their red (home) uniform, on card #71 from Panini's 2013-14 Score collection:
And here is is in their white (away) jersey, on card #53 from Upper Deck's 2015-16 MVP set:
He signed both of them in black sharpie, with his number (7) tagged at the end. I had Calgary making the playoffs this year, originally, but if they can add a goalie like Frederik Andersen or Andrei Vasilevskiy this summer, they'll surely be a part of the post-season picture next year.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Brian Elliott: 2 Autographed Cards

What better time than after a shutout of the Chicago Blackhawks to feature St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott, finally getting his chance as a playoff starter - he's been waiting for it for four years, after all.

In my Round One Predictions, I stated that I was pulling for the Hawks (in 7) but made it clear that I could also see the Blues winning in 6, or even in four straight if all the games go to overtime. Well, Game 1 went to overtime, with Elliott besting Corey Crawford by just one shot that went through.

It's so hard to root against Elliott, though, who's a real feel-good story onto himself, always the underdog despite a couple of All-Star Game participations, a Jennings Trophy, and being an all-around nice guy, as can be attested by the fact that I got these cards in the mail from him just a few weeks ago, signed in blue sharpie with the correct uniform number tagged at the end.

Let's start with the oldest one, from Panini's 2010-11 Score Rookies And Traded (#576 in the set), showing him wearing the Colorado Avalanche's white (away) uniform, playing the puck behind his net:
Ironically, his 12-game stint with the Avs is the only one in which he had a GAA over 3.00 (3.83 to be exact) and a save percentage below .900 (.891) with an NHL team. He's at 2.01 and .925 over five seasons with the Blues, four of which ended in Masterton Trophy nominations, including this year.

Speaking of St. Louis, here he is jumping on the puck with cat-like reflexes, from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Series 2 set:
He'd been featured with the Avs in Series 1, so this was a means to update his status; it's card #289 in the set and shows him in the Rbk Edge blue (home) uniform.

I'll always wish Elliott the best; as a matte of fact, when Carey Price was injured, I was hoping Montréal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin would go and acquire his services to save the season; Mike Condon didn't do badly, but Elliott's a safer bet, and a much better stop-gap solution than Ben Scrivens.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Enrico Ciccone Autograph Card

Thank you Ebay for netting me this card of Enrico Ciccone's showing him wearing the Minnesota North Stars' colours (though he's listed on the back as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning):
It's the autographed insert version of card #132 from Upper Deck's 1994-95 Be A Player set, which he signed on-card in gold sharpie.

It's fitting, because the North Stars moved south just a few seasons later to become the Dallas Stars, and a decade later were replaced by the Minnesota Wild, who are currently facing off in the first round of these 2016 playoffs. (I'm predicting the Stars will win it in 5 games).

Ciccone's one of Québec's best hockey analysts and an NHL-recognized player agent (one job obviously helps with the other). The former heavyweight defenseman (6'5", 200 pounds in the 1990s) racked up 1469 penalty minutes in just 374 regular-season games while suiting up for seven teams (Minnesota and Tampa Bay, obviously, as well as the Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina Hurricanes, Vancouver Canucks and Montréal Canadiens).

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Paul Coffey Swatch Card

I have another card of Paul Coffey's that I could have used, but I'll save it for another day, seeing as the Stanley Cup playoffs are on the verge of starting and, at least, the team he's shown with on this card is actually in the mix:
That's card #MY-PC from Panini's 2013-14 Crown Royale collection and Mythology Materials sub-set, showing him wearing the Pittsburgh Penguins' black (then-away) uniform, the alternate captain's "A" in full display as well as the shoulder patch commemorating the 1990 All-Star Game. It featured a white game-worn material patch.

Coffey won the Cup with the Pens in 1991, but most people remember the three he won with the high-flying Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s, which might be detrimental to how we remember him nowadays - i.e. as a strictly offensive defenseman who was weak defensively.

And though it's true that the 14-time All-Star Game participant and three-time Canada Cup winner did have seasons where he was -25 in a 103-point 1989-90 season, -18 in a 113-point 1988-89 season and -18 in a 93-point 1990-91 season, he was a +55 (121 points) in 1984-85, +61 (138 points) in 1985-86, and +18 (58 points) in 45 games in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season - the three years he won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman. He was also a +52 in both 1982-83 (96 points) and 1983-84 (126 points).

He holds many NHL records for defensemen:
  • NHL record for most goals in one season by a defenceman: 48 in 1985–86
  • NHL record for most shorthanded goals in one season by a defenceman: 9 in 1985–86
  • NHL record for most points in one game by a defenceman: 8 on March 14, 1986 (2G, 6A, shared with Tom Bladon)
  • Most assists by a defenceman, one game: 6 (tied with 4 others) March 14, 1986
  • Longest point-scoring streak by a defenceman: 28 games in 1985–86
  • Most goals by a defenceman, one playoff year: 12 in 1985
  • Most assists by a defenceman, one playoff year: 25 in 1985
  • Most points by a defenceman, one playoff year: 37 in 1985
  • Most shorthanded goals by a defenceman, one playoff year: 2 in 1983 and in 1996
  • Most different teams played on by a 1,000-point scorer: 9 (Edmonton, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins)
  • Most PIMs by a 1000-point defenceman: 1802
And yet, his name is usually uttered as a downright insult, as was the case when current Kings GM Dean Lombardi compared current point-per-game defenseman and Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson to Coffey in an effort to make his own star defender, Drew Doughty, look better in terms of Norris voting.

Coffey might be the Hall Of Famer who gets the least respect in all of hockey. You would think over 1500 regular-season points and 196 more in the playoffs to go with four First Team All-Star and another four Second Team All-Star nods would get people to say things like "whoa, could he ever fly from back there, like a faster Bobby Orr when he took the puck from his own end and managed to either bring it up-ice himself or carry it out all the way to Wayne Gretzky", but no; instead, he is remembered as the guy who would sometimes lose the puck by trying to deke out all five opponents at once, though it's not like he was the one who scored an own goal to eliminate his team.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Jim Sandlak Autograph Card

Here's another entry from In The Game's 2013-14 Enforcers II set (card #A-JS of the Autograph sub-set) that warrants further explanation, because we're not talking about a guy who even surpassed the 200-PIM mark despite playing in the rugged turn-of-the-90s era:
Indeed, although Jim Sandlak wasn't an All-Star either, the fourth-overall selection of the 1985 draft - ahead of Ulf Dahlen (7th), Dave Manson (11th), Derek King (13th), Sean Burke (24th), Joe Nieuwendyk (27th), Mike Richter (28th), Eric Weinrich (32nd), Benoît Hogue (35th), Bill Ranford (52nd), Keith Gretzky (57th), Brent Gilchrist (79th), Fredrik Olausson (81st), Bill Houlder (82nd), Shane Churla (110th), Randy McKay (113th), Gord Hynes (115th), Donald Dufresne (117th), Stu Grimson (143rd), Randy Burridge (157th), Tom Draper (165th), Jim Paek (170th), Kelly Buchberger (188th), Gord Murphy (189th), Dallas Eakins (208th), Bob Beers (210th), Igor Larinov (214th), Ken Baumgartner (245th) and Paul Maurice (252nd) - wasn't a "goon" per se; he had a 20-goal season in 1988-89 and two 40-point seasons as well (1988-89 and 1991-92), all part of a five-season span in which he was most penalized, with a minimum of 99 penalty minutes per.

But injuries took their toll, and after nine seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, he was sent to the Hartford Whalers as compensation in the Murray Craven trade, but he only suited up 40 times over two years in Connecticut.

He had a final go-round with the Canucks in 1995-96 but was limited to 4 goals, 2 assists and 6 points (and barely 6 penalty minutes) in 33 games.

On a line with Sergio Momesso (6'3" and 215 pounds) and Cliff Ronning (5'8", 170 pounds) dubbed The Twin Towers with a giant on each side, the 6'4", 200-pound right winger did put up 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in 13 playoff games in 1991-92.

He wore three different uniform numbers in Vancouver, 33 (1985-86), 19 (1986-90), and 25 (1990-96), and this picture is from when he was wearing #19.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mark Grudzielanek: 2 Autographed Cards

As far as shortstops go, Mark Grudzielanek made his mark in three and a half years with the Montréal Expos, but he wasn't the finest they've ever had at the position; Spike Owen was the best defensive infielder in the National League for a few years, and Wilfredo Cordero was an All-Star, so the competition's impressive.

Then again, Grudzielanek was an All-Star himself in 1996 (grounding out in his only at-bat), and a Gold Glove winner in 2006 with the Kansas City Royals, so he's no slouch either. He also led the NL in at-bats (649) and doubles (54) in 1997, his last full summer with the Expos, as he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers near the 1998 trade deadline and played parts of five seasons in L.A., where he set an unusual MLB record, with 35 straight home games with at least a hit in 1999, the year he finished sixth in the NL with a .326 batting average.

His career batting average was a decent .289, but towards the end, he was often injured.

Post-retirement, he has moved into a managerial career, first as the Arizona Diamondbacks' Class-A manager, then as part of their Player Development staff.

He probably signed the two cards I'm featuring today in the late 1990s - so, likely as a Dodger, which is ironic considering the other notable #4 for the Expos in my youth was Delino DeShields, who was also a middle-infielder who was sent to L.A. Both cards were signed in blue sharpie and show him wearing the Expos' grey (away) uniform.

First, here's card #76 from Donruss' 1996 Leaf Signature Series set:
And here's card #267 from Topps' 1997 Bowman collection:
You get a good feel of his batting stance with those cards. As you might expect, he fits very well in my Expos Numbers Project.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Michaël Bournival Autographed Card

Michaël Bournival has not played a hockey since January 29th, when he last suited up for the St. John's IceCaps. He's dealing with concussion issues that could very well hinder him in his hopes of becoming a NHL regular, according to Montréal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin in this French-language article.

Bournival had also suffered a concussion last season with the Habs, but he hid it from the team in the hopes that it wouldn't cost him his job as a fourth-liner; the exact opposite took place, as he just wasn't himself on the ice, seeing double (and at times even quadruple), and he was sent down to their then-AHL affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs, where the concussion was properly diagnosed.

Both the Habs' GM and coach Michel Therrien praise Bournival's work ethic, and the kid who captained his hometown Shawinigan Cataractes to a Memorial Cup in 2012 is exactly the type of player who can develop into a solid, two-way third-liner with leadership skills à la Dustin Brown, Mike Keane or Kris Draper.

He's been in town trying to recover and dealing with the team's NHL-level medical staff for the past couple of weeks, during which he took the time to get this card my way, which he signed in blue sharpie with his then-number (78) tagged at the end:
It's card #44 from In The Game's 2010-11 Heroes And Prospects set, showing him in the Cataractes' white (home) uniform, which is hugely inspired by the Buffalo Sabres' Buffaslug jersey design.

He's still an RFA after this season, so if the Canadiens want to do right by him, they could always re-sign him to an identical one-year, two-way contract next year.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Adam Deadmarsh Autographed Card

Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos is pretty adamant that his team will NOT move to Québec City in the next few months, going as far as to "guarantee it", although there are never any guarantees in Life, least of which what one's succession chooses to do upon an owner's death, who it sells assets to, and what those people choose to do with said assets. Keep in mind, the main group trying to get a team to Québec, Vidéotron/Quebecor, is actually a media empire from Montréal, meaning they could run the team in Carolina for a few years without it affecting their bottom line all that much.

Still, what better time to check off #36 from my Nordiques Numbers Project with this card of Adam Deadmarsh's, wearing the team's superb blue 1990s uniform:
It's card #251 from Upper Deck's 1994-95 Series 1 set and Star Rookie sub-set; it is his main rookie card. He signed it in blue sharpie.

Deadmarsh was a Juniors sensation, posting 30 goals and 60 points in 68 games as a 16-year-old rookie with the Portland Winter Hawks in 1991-92. He followed that up with 33-goal (69 points) and 43-goal seasons (99 points) before graduating to the Québec Nordiques post-lockout in 1994-95, who had drafted him 14th overall in 1993, posting 9 goals and 17 points in the 48-game shortened season.

He had a lot of team success, winning gold for Team Canada at the U-18 Pacific Cup in 1992, the Stanley Cup in 1996 when the Nordiques moved to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche, the 1996 World Cup with Team USA (he has dual citizenship) and silver with the Americans at the 2002 Olympics.

He posted 17 points in 22 playoff games when Colorado won the Cup. He also led the Avs with 33 goals in 1996-97 as they won the Presidents' Trophy as the best team in the league, which ended up being is career high.

Prior to winning their second Cup in 2001, the Avs traded Deadmarsh to the Los Angeles Kings for defenseman Rob Blake, with both teams facing off in the Conference Finals and the Avs winning in seven games.

Although concussions would take their toll during his time in L.A., limiting him to 20 games in 2002-03, he still posted 17 points that year on the strength of 13 goals, no less. The previous season, he had a career-high 62 points (29 of those being goals) in 78 games as he finished second in team scoring to Jason Allison's 74. This was in the heart of the Dead Puck Era, as the Kings' goalies, who were middle-of-the-pack, showed impressive goals-against averages, with Félix Potvin showing a 2.31 GAA (in 71 games) and Jamie Storr's 1.90 (in 19 games) being equally striking.

Deadmarsh retired in January of 2005, having not played a game in three years.

His post-concussion troubles came back in 2011-12 when he was in his third season on the Avs' staff, his first as an assistant coach, forcing him to retire from hockey for good.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Dave Dziurzynski Autographed Card

Dave Dziurzynski is sometimes thought of as an enforcer because of his 6'3" frame carrying 220 pounds, but he's more of an energy player who plays like a third-liner. As a matter of fact, he has 8 goals and 20 points in 42 AHL games this season, with 73 penalty minutes, marking his fifth 20-point season in six years with the Binghamton Senators, the one missing the mark being his 14 points in just 39 games in 2014-15.

In 14 games with the Ottawa Senators this year, he has a goal and 4 points.

And yet, he's mostly remembered for getting knocked out by the Toronto Maple Leafs' Fraser McLaren, a 6'5", 250-pound behemoth whose sole purpose on the ice is to inflict damage on other people's faces - on the day that his little brother, Darian Dziurzynski, signed his entry-level contract with the Phoenix Coyotes, no less.

It's with card #593 from Panini's 2013-14 Score set and Hot Rookies and Dual Rookie Class sub-sets, which he signed in blue sharpie, that I can mark him down as #59 in my Sens Numbers Project:
I seem to recall having pulled an insert of his in the past as well; look for it this summer, as I continue to try to get through my backlog of memorabilia cards.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Jari Kurri Jersey Card

You've seen me talking about Jari Kurri a lot these past couple of years, be it when Jarome Iginla joined him in the 600-goal club or when referencing other Finnish greats such as Saku Koivu and Kimmo Timonen, and it's time to feature the man himself, with card #CC-JK from the Canvas Clippings of Upper Deck's 2008-09 Masterpieces collection:
Kurri was inducted in the Hockey Hall Of Fame in 2001, a fitting gesture for a player who had as much individual as team success: he finished his career with 601 goals, 797 assists and 1398 points in 1251 regular-season games and 106 goals, 127 assists and 233 points in 202 playoff games.

He led the league in goals in 1985-86 with 68 - which isn't his career high, as he'd scored 71 the previous year - but he also did so four times in the postseason, including a still-standing record 19 in 1984-85. He's also part of the "50 goals in 50 games" club.

He has nine All-Star Game appearances, made the end-of-season All-Star Teams a total of five times (the First Team in 1985 and 1987, and the Second Team in 1984, 1986 and 1989), and won the Lady Byng in 1984-85.

He's also not limited to his five Stanley Cups with the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers: he also has silver medal from the 1994 World Championships and bronze at the 1998 Olympics.

He's currently the general manager of renowned Finnish team Helsinki Jokerit as well as Team Finland in many international competitions. He was also part of the moving Rexall Place closing ceremonies yesterday.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Paul Postma Autograph Card

Paul Postma hasn't had an easy season. He suited up for his 18th consecutive game on Sunday, but it was only his 23rd contest of the season; he had been a healthy scratch for the first 14 games of the year before playing in a lone game and being held on the press box for more.

And in 23 games, he barely averages more than 11 minutes per.

We're a far cry from 2012-13, when he played in 34 of 48 games and averaging 15 minutes per; he averaged 16 the following year, but blood clot issues limited him to 20 games.

I haven't watched the Winnipeg Jets as much as I would have liked this year, but I find it hard to believe that he's playing so little. I mean, sure, he's lanky and can drop the puck once in a while, and he'll never be as physical as some would have thought his 6'3" frame would have allowed, but if Patrice Brisebois carved out a 19-year career for himself, I thought Postma could as well.

Perhaps he just needs a new opportunity elsewhere - or better yet, an expansion.

Still, here he is wearing the #38 jersey he had in his first couple of seasons (first with the Atlanta Thrashers, then the Jets), on card #RE-PP from Upper Deck's 2011-12 SP Game-Used Edition collection and Rookie Exclusives sub-set:
It's numbered 28/100 and features an on-sticker blue-sharpied autograph, and shows him in the Jets' white (away) uniform.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Nick Foligno Autographed Card

Earlier this season, outspoken head coach John Tortorella said that he was disappointed in his Columbus Blue Jackets' lack of leadership. Nick Foligno is the Jackets' captain. With the team now out of playoff contention, Torts was asked if he had given thought to revoking Foligno's captaincy, perhaps in favor of Brandon Dubinsky, who used to play for him with the New York Rangers and does have a fairly big presence in the dressing room... but the coach said no.

I guess the question was asked because, back in his Tampa Bay Lightning days, he'd stripped Vincent Lecavalier of the "C", and old habits die hard, particularly on a hard-ass. But the one thing about Tortorella is he knows what buttons to push and who to push which buttons on. And he seems to be communicating with his current captain, which means he's taken a liking to him and wants to see him grow into the role. Probably.

Still, like for the Montréal Canadiens' Max Pacioretty, it hasn't been an easy season for the first-year captain, with his team standing at 31-40-8 for 8th in the Metropolitan Division (after starting off with an 0-7 start under Todd Richards), and with his personal stats line showing nearly a 50% drop from last year:
2014-15: 31 goals, 42 assists and 73 points in 79 games
2015-16: 9 goals, 25 assist and 34 points in 68 games thus far
Sure, he's no longer playing with Ryan Johansen, but he's got Seth Jones feeding the offense from the back end, though.

I have quite a few Foligno signed cards to feature, but I'll start with this stand-alone one I got in the mail over a year ago showing him with the OHL's Sudbury Wolves' beautiful white uniform:
It's card #280 from In The Game's 2005-06 Heroes And Prospects set, which he signed in blue sharpie with his jersey number (16) tagged at the end. He was chosen 28th overall by the Ottawa Senators later that year at the NHL draft.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Jimmy Howard Dual Jersey Card

Just when everyone was counting him out, when it seemed assured that Petr Mrazek had taken the #1 spot from him two years ahead of schedule, here are the Detroit Red Wings parking #34 and starting #35 to keep their playoff hopes alive.

I got to see it first-hand last Tuesday, when Mrazek got the start against my hometown Montréal Canadiens but was pulled midway through the first period, with Jimmy Howard coming close to pulling an upset after starting with a 2-0 deficit.

Is Howard a top-100 goalie in the world? Absolutely? Top-30? For sure. Top-10? Probably not.

My top-tier consists of Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick, and Pekka Rinne rounds up the top-three most years; Braden Holtby seems like he wants to be part of that group and is well deserving of Rinne's spot this year.

The rest of the "truly elite" has Roberto Luongo, Carey Price (for now), Ben Bishop and Marc-André Fleury. Perhaps also Corey Crawford.

The rest of my top-10 features guys who can, once in a while, contend for recognition (close to a Vezina, close to a Conn Smythe, All-Stars), are mostly consistent but have one caveat (injury-prone, plays on very-defensive teams, etc.): Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott, Craig Anderson, Cory Schneider. John Gibson with one more season under his belt will be in this conversation.

That's more than ten right there, and that's not counting Olympian and past Vezina winner Tuukka Rask and nominee Devan Dubnyk.

But take Howard now and drop him in 1999-2000 and he's among the best of the best. I really liked watching him last week, going toe-to-toe and glove save to glove save with the Habs' Mike Condon, not letting the rookie get the upper hand easily. He had some fight in him, and I appreciate that in a goalie, much more than if he had so calm a demeanor that he'd seem detached and uncaring (like, say, Price).

So here's a tip of the hat to Jimmy Howard, with card #DET-JH from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Black Diamond set and Double Diamond Jersey sub-set:
He's pictured wearing the club's classic red (now-home) uniform, with white and red game-worn jersey swatches inserted into the card and the team's winged wheel in the back; it was a design concept that four jersey cards of the same team would form the team's complete logo if placed correctly.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Tim Raines Autographed Card

The annual cash-grab co-hosted by Major League Baseball and the Toronto Blue Jays took place this weekend, with pre-season games taking place at Montréal's Olympic Stadium, this year pitting the Jays against the Boston Red Sox. The BoSox won both games, which is probably the best outcome for me, as a former ball fan.

Friday's game was special, because prior to the game, former Montréal Expos greats Tim Raines, Pedro Martinez, Vladimir Guerrero, and Ellis Valentine, as well as former stars Jose Vidro and Marquis Grissom were honoured - and they received an ovation that was louder than any other noise heard during the actual game. Martinez had kind words for the city, too.

I had four spots reserved for me by the organization trying to put Raines into the Hall Of Fame, something I am greatly in support of; you might recall how disappointed I was when he didn't make the cut last January...

In hockey terms, excluding Raines from the Hall is akin to excluding Joe Sakic: sure, he wasn't the best of all time, nor the best player of his era, but he was the second-best of all-time in some respects, and the best of his Conference/League at his position for most of his career. With two league championships on stacked teams (the Colorado Avalanche for Sakic, the New York Yankees for Raines) to boot.

(Yes, Raines and Sakic were my favourite position players in their respective sports).

Because I was with a delegation of folks who only have one more shot at getting Raines in the Hall, I got to re-live my childhood and have this card signed in blue sharpie, though he was in a hurry:
It's card #56 from Leaf's 1987 Donruss set, showing him wearing the Expos' original (1969-1991) white (home) uniform in a pre-game photo shoot.

Raines was the best lead-off hitter and base stealer in the National League in his era - and second-best of all-time in both categories; he was also the best switch-hitter of his generation, counting both the 1980s and 1990s. (I was a switch hitter because I wanted to be like him).

He overcame a pretty intense drug addiction and proved to be a team player for the longest time, while other stars such as Gary Carter and Andre Dawson left for a bigger payday as soon as they could.

His return to the Expos in 2001 was similar to that of Patrick Roy coming back to the Bell Centre to have his jersey retired in 2008 - the prodigal son had returned, except Raines had never asked to leave.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Jarret Stoll Jersey Card

It hasn't been an easy season for Jarret Stoll...

After the Los Angeles Kings made it clear they wouldn't re-sign him, he was caught bringing cocaine and ecstasy to an end-of-the-season pool party in Las Vegas (charges were later reduced to misdemeanors); he was then signed as a free agent by the New York Rangers over the summer to be their fourth-line center, but he was released after 29 games with just a single goal and 3 total points to show for it.

He was then claimed off waivers by the Minnesota Wild, who are now in the thick of a Wild Card race with the Colorado Avalanche and may miss the postseason altogether, which would be the second straight year Stoll would miss the playoffs while playing on a team that should theoretically contend for the Stanley Cup.

He did win the prized championship trophy with the Kings in 2012 and 2014.

He had a busy career in Juniors, captaining the Kootenay Ice to a Memorial Cup championship and playing on two World Juniors medal-earning editions of Team Canada (bronze in 2001, silver in 2002 while serving as captain) and going through the draft process twice - initially picked 40th overall by the Calgary Flames in 2000, then 36th overall by the Edmonton Oilers after the Toronto Maple Leafs (who had acquired his rights from the Flames) had failed to prove they had signed him on time - apparently, the team just sent its fax in to the NHL too late which, let's be honest, is a typical Leaf and Flame thing to do.

He had his best NHL season with the Oilers in 2005-06, posting 68 points (on 22 goals and 46 assists) in 82 games and another 10 points in 24 playoff games as the team lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in 7 games in the Cup Final. He hit the 20-goal mark only once more (in 2010-11, his third in L.A.) and went over 30 assists (31) and 45 points (47) again only in 2009-10.

He currently has 3 goals, 3 assists and 6 points in 49 games with the Wild. He did get a moving video tribute in his first game back against the Kings, though.

Like Wayne Gretzky, I'll remember him mostly as an Oiler (50%) and a King (40%), and very little for what he will have achieved with other teams. Unlike Gretzky, he likely won't have a 10-minute salute in his final game in Canada to remind us he played with the Blueshirts...

So here he is in the Oilers' turn-of-the-millennium uniform (where the orange is more copper and with shoulder patches instead of a regular "hockey design") with card #J-JS from Upper Deck's 2007-08 Series 1 set (and UD Game Jersey sub-set):
It's a nice card that features a blue game-worn jersey swatch. I got as the "guaranteed hit" card in a re-pack that I bought from Giant Tiger five or six years ago.