Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Manny Malhotra Autographed Card

Manny Malhotra hasn't yet announced his retirement from hockey, but after suiting up for 23 games with the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters between December and March on a professional try-out - save for a Team Canada Spengler Cup championship during the Holidays - and not being a part of the team's Calder Cup championship, his chances look slim on suiting up on the ice. Particularly considering he was blanked at the Spengler Cup and had just 4 goals, 2 assists and 6 points in those 23 games with the Monsters, finishing with a -7 rating.

However, the Monsters' head coach Jared Bednar now holds the same position with the Colorado Avalanche, so perhaps a move behind the bench - or at least as a face-off consultant - is in the cards for Malhotra. There are even rumblings of such developments being also possible with the Vancouver Canucks, in the city where Manny and his wife Joann Nash - sister of Canadian basketball legend Steve Nash - have established themselves.

A good friend of mine received a superb birthday present yesterday: a Montréal Canadiens jersey signed by many of the players from the 2014-15 edition, including Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Markov, Carey Price, Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher, P.K. Subban, David Desharnais, Alex Galchenyuk, Sergei Gonchar, Lars Eller, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, Dustin Tokarski, Jiri Sekac, Brandon Prust, Tom Gilbert, Nathan Beaulieu, Jacob De La Rose, and - you guessed it! - Malhotra; that gave me the idea to go looking for this card of him with the Columbus Blue Jackets, which he signed in blue sharpie while with the Habs:
It's card #25 from Upper Deck's 2007-08 Series 1 set, one with an extremely stripped down design. Then again, the Jackets' dark blue (away) uniforms very pretty plain themselves...

Christopher Higgins Autographed Card

It's been an off-kilter year for Christopher Higgins, what with posting just 4 points in 33 games with the Vancouver Canucks, being sent to the AHL to play for the Utica Comets, and getting bought out of the final year of his contract by the team.

But things are looking up, as the Calgary Flames - now coached by former Canucks assistant Glen Gulutzan - have invited him to training camp on a try-out offer.

Flames GM Brad Treliving had this to say about the former first-rounder (14th overall in 2002):
Chris had a tough year in Vancouver. But prior to that, he was a good player, he was a productive player. There’s some versatility in his game, in terms of being able to play either wing. He’s a very good penalty-killer. And he’s an experienced guy. I know we get to the 30 age-mark and everybody starts to quiver a bit, but there’s still some hockey left in him. He’s going to come in and compete for a spot, and it’s always good to have competition in camp.
You look at the year prior to last, he was an important player in Vancouver. I think when you really analyze last year, he suffered an injury early in the pre-season and never got his footing. There are some indicators - you look at his career shooting percentage, where it’s been (9.7%) as opposed to last year (5.9%). Obviously, there was a drop-off.
Now, can he get back to the form he was at a year or two ago? If he can, then good for him and potentially good for us. So we’ll see.
No promises, but at least there's the belief and hope that he can rebound, although no one in the hockey world expects him to hit the 20-goal mark that he reached three times with the Montréal Canadiens on Saku Koivu's left wing.

Speaking of which, here's his rookie card from Upper Deck's 2006-07 McDonald's set (and Rookie Review / Recrues En Revue sub-set), which he signed in fading blue sharpie prior to being a part of the infamous Scott Gomez trade:
It's card #RR14 in the set and shows him wearing the Habs' white (then-home) uniform. There's an error on the back of the card, where his statistics line shows that of Alexander Perezhogin (9 goals, 10 assists and 19 points in 67 games) instead of his own (23 goals and 15 assists for 38 points in 80 games).

He has suited up for Team USA three times - at the 2002 and 2003 World Juniors, and at the 2009 World Championships - losing in the bronze medal game each time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Andrei Kovalenko Autograph Card

I mentioned Andrei Kovalenko a lot on this blog but hadn't featured yet, so I thought I could correct that while at the same time using him as one the two representatives of #51 (with Philippe Cornet) in my Oilers Numbers Project with the signed insert version of card #202 from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set, showing him in the Edmonton Oilers' blue (away) turn-of-the-millennium uniform with the "Oil Driller" shoulder patches:
Kovalenko was an eighth round draft pick (148th overall) in 1990, one of three players selected by the Québec Nordiques (with Owen Nolan and Alexander Karpovtsev) who would end up as NHL regulars (Ryan Hughes and Brad Zavisha would also combine for a handful of games) in an exceptional draft crop.

The 68 points he posted as a rookie in 1992-93 were a career high, but he had posted nine goals in ten games with the Colorado Avalanche when they traded him to the Montréal Canadiens along with Martin Rucinsky and Jocelyn Thibault for the Habs' then-captain Mike Keane and the greatest clutch goaltender of all time, Patrick Roy.

Though he was traded to the Oilers just nine months later (for Scott Thornton), he did find a way into the Habs' record books by scoring the final goal at the famed Montréal Forum; he had his lone 30-goal season in the Albertan tundra (32, in 1996-97), before moving on to play with the Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins, then in the KHL for nine seasons, with the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv (4), Omsk Avangard (2), and Cherepovets Severstal (3).

He also made history with the Canes, scoring the very first goal at the RBC Center (now known as the PNC Arena) in Raleigh.

He is now the head of the KHLPA.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Travis Zajac Jersey Card

I was never sold on Travis Zajac as a first-liner, though I must admit the "ZZ Pops" line(s) he was on with Zach Parise and an interchangeable cast of veterans in the role of the "pops" - including Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Gionta, Ilya Kovalchuk and Dainius Zubrus - had a terrific moniker.

Still, we're talking about a two-time 20-goal scorer (with a high of 25 in in 2009-10) who only twice posted over 48 points in a full season (granted, both times he hit the 60 mark), despite playing with elite-level players on well-coached teams that had stellar defenses.

Over time, he developed into a reliable two-way center who kept improving in the face-off circle, particularly under the guidance of Adam Oates. He played for Team Canada at two World Championships, earning a silver medal while producing zero points in 2009, and not medaling whilst posting three points as an alternate captain in 2011, for a total production of 3 points in 12 games on the Men's National Team.

He is married to former College Hockey star and one-time captain of the New Hampshire Wildcats, Nicole Hekle, who also excelled at ringuette.

Here is Zajac wearing the New Jersey Devils' red (now-home) uniform, on card #GJ-TZ from Upper Deck's 2012-13 Series 1 collection and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a white game-worn jersey swatch that blends well into the design of the card.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Adrian Aucoin Autograph Card

Adrian Aucoin was more than a huge human specimen; he carried his 6'2'', 220-pound frame across the ice for hard hits and used his booming shot for seven NHL teams - the Vancouver Canucks, who drafted him 117th overall in 1992, and the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, Chicago Blackhawks, Calgary Flames, Phoenix Coyotes as well as the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He also suited up for Team Canada, winning gold at the 1993 World Juniors, silver at the 1994 Olympics but failing to medal at the 2000 World Championships while still posting 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points and 14 penalty minutes in 9 games, scoring Canada's lone goal in a 2-1 upset that gave Finland the bronze. José Theodore was by far the best goalie of the tournament, though Roman Cechmanek actually took home the award.

Aucoin surpassed the 30-point mark six times, with a high of 44 with the Isles in 2003-04; he also reached the 10-goal mark five times, with an incredible high of 23 in 1998-99 with the Canucks. In his three seasons on Long Island, he finished in the Norris voting top-10 twice - never having received a vote whilst playing for another team. East Coast/NYC bias, perhaps?

Here he is sporting the Canucks' white (home) uniform from my youth, on the signed (in black sharpie) insert version of card #79 from Pinnacle's 1996-97 Be A Player set by Pinnacle Brands, which is his rookie card in the collection:
The foil on the card is actually gold, not silver as it appears in the scan. This checks him off as #6 in my Canucks Numbers Project.

Brad Richards Jersey Card

Every summer, solid veterans who could be useful in a specific role opt to not move to another city on a low-paying one-year contract and decide to retire instead, and this year is no exception, with the most notable case being former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Brad Richards.

He recorded 932 points (298 goals and 634 assists) in 1126 NHL regular-season games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings. He won Stanley Cups with the Bolts and Hawks, as well as a World Cup with Team Canada, alongside his faithful Lightning teammates Martin St-Louis and Vincent Lecavalier.

He also reached the Cup Final with the Rangers, again with Marty St-Louis.

He earned less than 30 penalty minutes in 14 of his 15 NHL seasons, leaving the game as one of the most respected, gentlemanly players of his generation, as can be attested by his 2003-04 Lady Byng Trophy, for which he was also the runner-up in 2005-06 and 2009-10 (and got votes almost every year).

Here he is wearing the alternate captain's "A" on the Bolts' initial black (away) uniform, on card #J-RI from Upper Deck's 2007-08 Series 1 collection and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a matching game-used jersey swatch.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Fernando Seguignol Signed Card

Fernando Seguignol - a one-time New York Yankees and Montréal Expos prospect - opted to play most of his career in Japan, and holds the Nippon Professional Baseball record for most home runs by a switch hitter in a single season (44) and most games with homers from both sides of the plate for a career (8), including two games in a row in 2002, which led the Yankees to bring him back not just to North America but to the fold for 2003, as they had originally signed him to a free agent contract the day he turned 18.

He spent his first four major-league seasons with the Expos (1998-2001), appearing in a high of 76 games in 2000 with 10 home runs and a .278 average, but when he fell to .185 in 46 games in 2001, the Expos released him at season's end.

Still, he holds the #19 position in my Expos Numbers Project, with card #290 from Upper Deck's 1999 Series 2 set (and Star Rookie and NL Debut sub-sets), which he signed in blue sharpie, probably in 2001:
He is now a scout for a Japanese team, but his main residence remains in Florida.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Patrick Poulin Autograph Card

Once viewed as a blue-chip prospect - he was drafted ninth-overall by the Hartford Whalers in 1991 after a 32-goal and 70-point season in 56 games with the St. Hyacinthe Laser, ahead of the likes of Martin Lapointe (10th), Brian Rolston (11th), Philippe Boucher (13th), Pat Peake (14th), Alexei Kovalev (15th), Markus Naslund (16th), Glen Murray (18th), Martin Rucinsky (20th), Dean McAmmond (22nd), Ray Whitney (23rd), Zigmund Palffy (26th), Steve Staios (27th), Sandis Ozolinsh (30th), Jozef Stumpel (40th), Yanic Perreault (47th), Chris Osgood (54th), Igor Kravchuk (71st), Alexei Zhitnik (81st), Mariusz Czerkawski (106th), Dmitri Yushkevich (122nd), Brian Holzinger (124th), Oleg Petrov (127th), Dmitri Mironov (160th), Igor Ulanov (203rd), and even Brian Savage (171st) - Patrick Poulin became a reliable middle-six forward for a lot of the 1990s.

His best offensive season was his rookie year, when he posted 20 goals, 31 assists and 51 points with the Whalers, who sold high on him and traded him to the Chicago Blackhawks after just 9 games in the 1993-94 season, when he had just amassed 3 points (2 goals and an assist); he was accompanied by Eric Weinrich while Steve Larmer and Bryan Marchment went to Hartford.

For his next two trades, he was accompanied by Ulanov, first from Chicago to the Tampa Bay Lightning (for Enrico Ciccone and an exchange of draft picks), then from Tampa to the Montréal Canadiens (with enforcer Mick Vukota, for sniper Stéphane Richer, prospect David Wilkie and pest Darcy Tucker).

The late-1990s Habs were a cemetery for hockey players, particularly local boys (Patrick Traverse, Vincent Damphousse, Marc Bureau, Jocelyn Thibault, Éric Houde, François Groleau, Jonathan Delisle, Sylvain Blouin, Jean-François Jomphe, Frédéric Chabot, Alain Nasreddine, Dave Morissette, Jesse Bélanger, Christian Laflamme, and possibly the team's worst free-agent signing ever, Randy McKay), and Poulin was no exception. After posting 31 goals and 75 points in 277 games over five seasons with the Canadiens, he retired after spending the end of the 2001-02 season with their farm team, the Québec Citadelles.

Here he is in better times, wearing the Whalers' final away (dark blue) uniform, from Topps' 1992-93 O-Pee-Chee Premier set:
It's card #85 in the collection, which he signed in blue sharpie in 2002, with his then-number (24) tagged at the end.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Sam Reinhart Jersey Card

Sam Reinhart had a fine rookie season, scoring 23 goals with 19 assists for 42 points in 79 games on the lowly Buffalo Sabres, particularly when taking into consideration his 9-game audition the previous year, where he barely registered an assist and looked extremely out of place with the pros.

He's neither flashy nor dominant, but he has good puck control and can both pass and score well enough to be a fine second-line center in the NHL - not unlike his current linemate Ryan O'Reilly - which is fine for Buffalo, who consider Jack Eichel a shoe-in for the top-line spot.

He apparently also has some leadership skills, having captained his Junior team (Kootenay Ice) as well as wearing an "A" for Team Canada on the gold-winning team at the 2015 World Juniors. He also played for his national team at the 2016 World Championships (gold), the 2012 (bronze) and 2013 (gold) U-18s, and the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament (gold, as captain).

Here he is wearing the Sabres' white (away) current/retro uniform, on card #FA-SR from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Artifacts set and Frozen Artifacts sub-set, which features a yellow game-worn jersey swatch:
I bought it on Ebay to get a feel for the set - which usually ranks among my favourites - and opted into not buying a box after all. It seems like UD phoned in the design on this, compared to years past.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Cody Ceci: Two Autographed Cards

The Ottawa Senators finished checking things off their "to do" list earlier today when they signed hometown defenseman Cody Ceci to a two-year deal that will pay him $2.25M the first year and $3.35M the next for a $2.8M cap hit that will leave him with two more years of RFA status with arbitration rights afterwards, meaning if the Sens don't offer him at least $3.35M per on his next deal, he will be allowed to become a free agent.

The 15th-overall pick of the 2012 draft, Ceci not only grew up in Ottawa suburb Orléans, but also played his Junior hockey with the OHL's Ottawa 67's; his being drafted took Jared Cowen - the ninth-overall pick in 2009 - down the Sens' depth chart, leading to his trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs last season (for Ceci's current defensive partner, Dion Phaneuf).

When the Sens fell out of playoff contention last season, he was named to Team Canada for the World Championships and brought home the gold medal, posting six points from the blue line in 10 games. He's really growing into his own and looks to become a top-pairing defender some day.

He signed these two 2012-13 Heroes And Prospects cards by In The Game in blue sharpie last season; here's a close-up of one:
It's card #72 in the series. He added his jersey number at the time (83) at the end of his signature; he wears the #5 jersey with the Sens.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sam Gagner Swatch Card

It's been a rough couple of years for Sam Gagner, after he set an Edmonton Oilers record for most points in a single game (8, tied with Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey). He's bounced around some, first belonging to the Tampa Bay Lightning without getting to play for them, then posting a relatively disappointing 41 points in 81 games as the Phoenix Coyotes' first-line center, before spending last season splitting his time with the Philadelphia Flyers (16 points in 53 games) and their AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms (6 points in 9 games).

That's right - the former sixth-overall pick who shares an Oilers record with The Great One spent parts of last season in the AHL.

And this summer, he signed a one-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets; at $650K, it's a no-risk proposition for the Jackets, but if he can't produce, it may spell the end of his NHL career, so it's high-risk for him, personally.

I wouldn't take a chance on him on my team, if I were GM, but at the same time, I wouldn't wish him any ill will either. I hope he gets his career back on track for his sake.

Here he is back when things were looking up, wearing the Oilers' classic/retro/current home uniform, on the jersey insert version of card #34 from Panini's 2012-13 Dominion set, featuring a huge matching game-worn jersey swatch:
Again, my only gripe with Dominion cards is how ridiculously thick they are, so much so that they're impossible to put in binders without ripping the plastic open. Cards don't have to be half an inch thick if the swatch they contain doesn't require that much space.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

DeAndre Jordan Autograph Card

DeAndre Jordan is currently playing for Team USA at the Rio Olympics.

In his professional life, he plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, a team I only knew of as a kid because my neighbour once gave me a card of Danny Manning's. A team I might have thought no longer existed were it not for disgraced owner Donald Sterling.

And that's pretty much the extent of my basketball knowledge for today, save for showcasing this card of Jordan's, #I-JO from Upper Deck's 2009-10 SP Signature Edition set and Ink Credible sub-set:
It features an on-sticker, blue-sharpied autograph and is numbered 241/499.

It's from pretty early in his career - prior to his second season - so it may be his first signed card. I got it in a multi-sport re-pack.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Réjean Houle Autographed Card

When Marc Bergevin traded P.K. Subban earlier this summer, there were many flashbacks of the doomed Patrick Roy trade that Réjean Houle had made in 1995 that set the Montréal Canadiens back for a decade.

Nowadays, Montrealers are wondering which of the two ranks as the franchise's worst of all time, with the Chris Chelios trade being thrown in the mix as well. Time will tell, but I think the Subban trade definitely will rank in the top-5 (worst), while the Roy one will prove to have been more costly, as the Habs were still a Stanley Cup contender at that point (and Roy won two more Cups and an NHL-record third Conn Smythe Trophy with the Colorado Avalanche), whereas the team isn't a true contender nowadays, with Carey Price consistently failing to perform once the playoffs start.

And though I love and respect Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Markov to no end and will defend them until the end of time for being the most consistent Canadiens players of the past decade, perfectly sliding to playing even smarter when their prime/speedier years were seemingly behind them, Max Pacioretty has not proven to be the leader nor the complete player winning teams must have on their top line, having spent most of the 2015-16 season at center ice waiting for a pass that would send him on a breakaway instead of helping his teammates out in the defensive zone; Alex Galchenyuk has not yet been given a full year to show he can withstand the pressure of being that top-line center he was drafted to become; Nathan Beaulieu might never become Markov's successor as two-way top-pairing defender and powerplay quarterback, and it would be unfair to expect 2016 first-round draft pick Mikhail Sergachev to do so right away as well.

There is a fine core to build around in Galchenyuk, Markov, Plekanec, true leader (and thus possibly next-in-line to get traded) Brendan Gallagher, Alexander Radulov for one year and Shea Weber for three, Andrew Shaw, 30-year-old hard hitter Alexei Emelin, Jeff Petry, Zachary Fucale, and Sven Andrighetto to name a few - but important pieces of the puzzle are still missing. Things a workhorse and showman like Subban could hide.

Already, Bergevin's tenure as GM is more fruitful than Houle's simply because of a Conference Final in 2014; it might be the extent of his success, however, and Houle's playing career was a lot more impressive.

Houle wasn't just an extra, he was an integral part of the Canadiens' teams of the 1970s that won him five Stanley Cups, a three-time 20-goal scorer, with a high of 30 in 1977-78. He also had a successful three-year stint in the WHA with the Québec Nordiques, leading the team to the Avco Cup Final (losing to the Houston Aeros) after posting 40 goals and 92 points in just 64 games; he had a 51-goal and 103-point season the following year, good for fifth and eighth in the league, respectively.

Still, he bleeds red, having spent all of his eleven NHL seasons with the Habs, then having been a Marketing VP for the team before being assigned to the General Manager position; even after his dismissal in 2000, he remained on board as a Team Ambassador, greeting fans at games and attending social events on behalf of the Canadiens' various foundations.

It was at one of these events that he signed this card for me in black sharpie, #34 from Parkhurst's 2003-04 Original 6 (Montréal Canadiens) set manufactured by In The Game:
"Peanut", as he has been referred to since his playing days, remains a terrific human being, as can be attested by this heart-wrenching story. And his easygoing and generous personality has served him well in life, everywhere except at the GM position, where his ruthless peers took advantage of him and never returned the favours he did for them.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mike Dunham Autograph Card

Mike Dunham was a winner for pretty much his entire life.

Sharing goaltending duties with Garth Snow for the University of Maine Black Bears, Dunham went 6-0-0 in his second season in 1991-92, and an incredible 21-1-1 the next as the team won the NCAA championship, justifying the New Jersey Devils selecting him 53rd overall at the 1990 draft, the same year they chose Martin Brodeur with the 20th pick; the pair would share the William Jennings Trophy as the tandem with the league's lowest goals-against average in 1996-97.

As the 1993-94 came to a close, he suited up for the Devils' AHL farm team, the Albany River Rats, following a Team USA eighth-place finish at the 1994 Winter Games in which he shared the net with Snow again.

He won the 1995 Calder Cup with the River Rats and sharing the Playoff MVP award (the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy) with Corey Schwabb, forcing the parent team to give him a legitimate shot at making the NHL. He was left unprotected at the 1998 Expansion Draft, however, and the Nashville Predators made him one of the five (!!!) goalies they selected, along with Frédéric Chabot (Los Angeles Kings), Mike Richter (New York Rangers, although he was on the verge of becoming a free agent and chose to re-sign with NY), Tomas Vokoun (Montréal Canadiens) and Mikhail Shtalenkov (Mighty Ducks of Anaheim).

He would share the net with All-Star Vokoun for four solid seasons before an injury to Richter forced the Rangers to acquire his services in exchange for third-line forward Rem Murray.

Snow, who had just been named the New York Islanders' GM, signed Dunham to his final NHL contract, a one-year pact with the Isles for the 2006-07 season, to help guide (and in case of injuries to) Rick DiPietro.

Internationally, Dunham won silver with the American team at the 2002 Olympics and bronze at the 1992 World Juniors and the 2004 World Championships.

Here he is with the River Rats, on a card from Classic's 1993-94 4 Sport set, signed in thin blue sharpie, that is numbered #1449/2960:
Yes, he should have used Brian's gear instead of the brand's second-tier Heaton equipment, but he enjoyed a decent career regardless.

He has been the Isles' goaltending coach since 2008-09, adding the same duties to their AHL counterpart Bridgeport Sound Tigers for the past two seasons as well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Peter Bergeron Autographed Card

Last year, I made Peter Bergeron #33 in my Expos Numbers Project. This year, he goes in as #70, with card #U-2 from Fleer/Skybox's 1999 Tradition Update set, which is his rookie card, that he signed in black sharpie:
He's worn a lot of numbers for the Montréal Expos over the years, the result of being a fringe player. I've seen him wearing #70, 30, and 77 in training camp, and 33 and 11 during regular-season play. And that's off the top of my head, although those last few seasons of baseball in town are a bit of a blur.

Oh yeah: fuck Jeffrey Loria, David Samson and Bud Selig. That will be all.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Ville Leino Swatch Card

Ville Leino will be playing for the Swedish League's Växjö Lakers next season, whose captain is Tomi Kallio.

It's been a while since his two most successful seasons in North America, namely the 2008-09 season that was split between the Grand Rapids Griffins (15 goals, 31 assists and 46 points in 57 games, plus another 13 points in 10 playoff games) and the Detroit Red Wings (5-4-9 in 13 regular-season games and two assists in 7 playoff games) and the 19 goals, 34 assists and 53 points in 81 games he posted with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010-11, not to mention his 21 points in 19 postseason games the previous season as Philly lost in the Stanley Cup Final (an NHL rookie record he shares with Dino Ciccarelli).

His huge free agent contract with the Buffalo Sabres - which made him the league's most overpaid forward not named Scott Gomez - led to a buyout, and after failing to make the Boston Bruins out of training camp, made his way to the KHL's Zagreb Medveščak, the Swiss League's Kloten Flyers, and the KHL's Riga Dinamo before making his way to Sweden.

The well-traveled Finn failed to make Team Finland's upcoming World Cup roster, what with the likes of rookies Patrick Laine and Sebastian Aho making the cut (the fourth-overall pick of the last draft, Jesse Puljujarvi, also mysteriously failed to make the cut).

Here is Leino in what were undoubtedly better days, wearing the Flyers' current/retro orange (now-home) jersey, on card #VI from Panini's 2010-11 Zenith set and Winter Warriors sub-set:
It features a black-and-white stitch piece of Prime Jersey game-worn material (dual-coloured, triple-stitched).

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Alex Goligoski Jersey And Autograph Card

Right before the 2016 draft, the Dallas Stars traded impending unrestricted free agent Alex Goligoski to the Arizona Coyotes for a fifth rounder; that they traded his rights meant they didn't have the impression that he would re-sign with the offensive powerhouse team, but that they couldn't get a second-rounder back means they didn't think the Coyotes had much of a shot, either.

It turns out Coyotes GM John Chayka did a hell of a job selling his team and all of Arizona (considering no one knows where the team will play past next season), because Goligoski signed a five-year deal to help Oliver Ekman-Larsson anchor the team's blue line while helping develop their young talent.

A Stanley Cup winner in his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008-09,Goligoski has become a dependable offensive blue liner who isn't bad in his own end; he posted 37 points in 82 games last season and another 7 points in 13 playoff games as the Stars were one win away from the Western Conference Finals, although Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues was by no means close.

The 31-year-old plays a safe game and should not regress for the duration of his contract, which makes him Chayka's first consensus good signing.

Here's an "all dressed" card of his from his days with the Pens, on card #75 from Upper Deck's 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Premier set, featuring no less than four jersey swatches (two white, two black) and an on-card autograph signed in blue sharpie:
Don't get fooled by the claim on the front of the card (Authentic Game Used), however, as the back of the card specifies the jersey was worn in a rookie photo shoot:
Oh well, mistakes happen, I guess.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Blaine Gabbert Jersey Card

Who is Blaine Gabbert, really?

No longer just Colin Kaepernick's understudy, he will start in the San Francisco 49ers' preseason opener and try to play well enough to wrestle the starting position away from him to start the season, after doing so in November last year.

Originally a Jacksonville Jaguars prospect (they had drafted him 10th overall in 2011), injury troubles had him give sub-par performances where he showed promise at the same time as he kept getting sacked and intercepted. Plant foot and toe injuries, lacerated throwing hand, labrum tears, forearm injuries - you name it, he's probably had it.

And yet here he is, ready to steal the most important job in football away from a guy who led his team to the Super Bowl just over three years ago and ran a 90-yard touchdown seemingly the last time he was healthy (although that was in 2014, upon verification).

Then again, he had faced Kaepernick in 2009 when both were in College, and Gabbert totally stole the show, completing 25 of 40 attempts and throwing for 414 yards and three touchdowns (no interceptions) for a QB rating of 174.2 in a 31-21 win as Missouri beat Nevada.

Here he is wearing the Jags' teal (home) uniform with a matching "player-Worn" jersey swatch from the 2011 Rookie Premiere on card #ALR-BG from Topps' 2011 Gridiron Legends set and Aspiring Legacies sub-set, numbered 32/150:
This is exactly what multi-sport repacks are good for: inserts of players who might become great or will become great trivia matter.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Patrick O'Sullivan Autograph Card

What's cool about platforms like Twitter is that you can interact with other people on any subject - even professionals, as was the case today when Patrick O'Sullivan and I disagreed on not just Patrick Roy leaving his dual position as Colorado Avalanche head coach and VP of Hockey Operations, but goalies as coaches in general.

I think Roy saw that GM Joe Sakic wasn't going to provide him with another top-4 defenseman - although some are still available on the free agent market, namely Kris Russell, whereas the Avs also have decent trade chips up front with the likes of Matt Duchene to acquire one from another team, be it one of those who have already moved (Adam Larsson, Erik Gudbranson, Dmitri Kulikov, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber) or someone who is currently under the radar (Torrey Krug, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Alexander Edler or Nathan Beaulieu).

And while a lot of people discredit Roy's Jack Adams Trophy because the team's possession stats have always been skewed, that's more the product of a D that cannot find a way to get the puck to their forwards than of a coach who doesn't understand what system to play or what buttons to push; other former goalies have done (Gerry Cheevers) and are doing wonders behind the bench, such as Jeff Blashill and Peter Skudra, not to mention Jacques Martin's work on the Pittsburgh Penguins' sub-par defense group, enabling them to play to their strengths and hide their weaknesses on their way to this year's Stanley Cup.

And that's saying nothing of the work the likes of Félix Potvin and Jocelyn Thibault are doing in Juniors and the fact that a good portion of NHL in-game analysts have played the position, the best of whom are Marc Denis, Kelly Hrudey, Darren Pang, and Glenn Healy, and José Theodore being one of the worst. That shows a pretty deep understanding of the game...

I, of course, might be tooting my own horn:
That being said, here is O'Sullivan wearing the Los Angeles Kings' former white (home) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2007-08 Trilogy set (and Script 1 and Young Stars sub-sets):
That's card #S1-PO in the series and features a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Roman Wick Autograph Card

Roman Wick was the 156th overall selection of the 2004 draft and played a grand total of 7 games for the Ottawa Senators, but he's been nearly a point-per-game player for the last four seasons with Zurich's ZSC (Zürcher Schlittschuh Club) Lions, even winning the Swiss League's MVP award in 2014.

At 30 years of age, he may yet get another chance to represent Switzerland at the Olympics, as he did in 2010 (5 points in 5 games) and 2014 (blanked in 4 games), but he is less likely to attempt a return to the NHL at some point.

Still, he is #43 in my Sens Numbers Project, because of card #96-RW from Upper Deck's 2012-13 Fleer Retro set (part of the 1996-97 Skybox Autographics throwback design sub-set):
It features a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph that is a tad unclear - his last name could be Ward or Wid and his first initial could be a P or a D...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Bernie Federko: Two Autographed Cards

Regarding the upcoming Winter Classic, and wanting to say that his adopted city of St. Louis had been unjustly spurned by recent events, Hall of Famer Bernie Federko said:
This is a major league city and unfortunately the NFL has not deemed us worthy, which I think is ridiculous. It’s a soothing moment for sports fans because for our sport, this is the big hurrah.
The St. Louis Blues' former star centerfrom Foam Lake, Saskatchewan loved his adopted city so much he remained there even after his NHL career ended with a final season with the Detroit Red Wings; he once held a management job with the St. Louis Vipers in the roller hockey league and now serves as the Blues' color commentator on Fox Sports Midwest.

I only say him play at the tail end of his Hall of Fame career, when he was a perennial Lady Byng contender but no longer a threat to post 100 points, surpassed by Adam Oates as the best passer in the game not named Wayne Gretzky. His 101 points (including 66 assists, a Blues team record) in 91 career playoff games are also impressive.

Still, as the first player to post ten straight over-50-assist seasons, with 1130 points in 1000 games, he was the team's first true star player; Brett Hull, Chris Pronger, and Al MacInnis have since joined him in that regard, building the team's legend past the fact that their original coach was Scotty Bowman - well, technically Lynn Patrick, but that didn't last long- leading them to the Stanley Cup Final, a destination they have failed to reach since.

Here are two cards he signed in thin blue sharpie when the Blues were in town, first showing him in their classic white (home) uniform, on card #58 from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Parkhurst set:
And in blue, in his last year with the team (as can be attested by the captain's "C"), on card #58 from UD's 2011-12 Champions set:
I miss those blue Blues uniforms, though even as a child I didn't understand why the team's logo couldn't stand on its own without the wordmark on top. But the colours and pattern worked very well together.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Ben Street Autograph Card

Today I check #38 off my Flames Numbers Project with Ben Street, a five-year member of the Wisconsin Badgers program, with whom he experienced tremendous highs (two years of a shared captaincy, the 2006 NCAA championship) and lows (a suspension for drug and alcohol abuse).

Undrafted, he signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, winning the ECHL Rookie Of The Year award in 2010-11 and being promoted to the AHL the following season.

With a logjam at the center position, however, he decided to sign with the Calgary Flames in 2012-13, suiting up for 19 games over two seasons with the Albertan club. He then moved on to the Colorado Avalanche organization, captaining the San Antonio Rampage for the 2015-16 season as their first-line center. He played in 10 games over two seasons with the actual Avs.

This summer, he was signed as a free agent by the Detroit Red Wings.

Here he is wearing the Flames' white (away) uniform, on the signed insert version of card #749 from Panini's 2013-14 Score set (and Hot Rookies and Dual Rookie Class sub-sets):
It features a blue-sharpied, on-sticker autograph.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Keith Primeau Autograph Card

Here's how I envision a conversation about the Carolina Hurricanes going, about pretty much any season in their history, including the one time I would have been wrong about them, in their surprising and unlikely Stanley Cup-winning season in 2006:

1: It's too bad about the Hurricanes, eh?
2: What?
1: That they're still the Hurricanes, and won't amount to much this season. Or ever.

Don't get me wrong, I have tremendous faith that their current crop of young defensemen will be very good, either as the Québec Nordiques or on different teams because you can't put two-thirds of your salary cap on just six players whose job isn't to get the puck on the opposite net as much as keep it off their own. Especially on a team that doesn't spend to the cap.

But for too long, the Canes have relied on too few offensive players - and usually the wrong ones. Jeff Skinner has been a magnet for disappointment since concussion issues took their toll; Eric Staal aged at a 2:1 ratio; Jordan Staal is a very good second-line center at best; and the rest of their forwards are usually scraps signed at a huge discount because they have just disappointed one or (too) many teams (Lee Stempniak, Alexander Semin).

Their goalies are usually overrated (Cam Ward, Trevor Kidd, Eddie Lack), and their defense has been made up of has-beens for a while now (Ron Hainsey, hi; hello, James Wisniewski) before they started drafting right (Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin). Which has some people optimistic about next season.

It's like they started building themselves an identity around two-way tough players like Rod Brind'Amour and Keith Primeau, then changed their minds, then just sucked for no reason other than mismanagement and not being able to afford either talent or talent-seekers.

Just like the Hartford Whalers never amounted to much, so did the Canes when the team left Connecticut for Greensboro, then Raleigh. Urgh.

Speaking of Primeau, here he is looking uncomfortable in the Canes' white (then-home) uniform, on the signed insert version of card #23 from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set:
It was signed on-card with a fading thin black sharpie, kind of like the Hurricanes themselves now that owner Peter Karmanos - a great man who has been responsible for many great things in American hockey, just not winning NHL franchises - is being sued by his children for money relating to the franchise, which could spell relocation within the next couple of years.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Vladimir Guerrero & Alfonso Soriano Jersey Card

With Alex Rodriguez set to play his final game next Friday (the day I launch my brand-new poetry book!), I will soon know a grand total of zero baseball players by name. Ok, that may not be true because I know hometown boy Russell Martin plays for the Toronto Blue Jays, but because they do not exist to me, neither does he at the moment, so there's that.

Still, Alfonso Soriano rang a bell to me, and Vladimir Guerrero was the last great member of the Montréal Expos, though I am pretty much unaware of anything he achieved elsewhere apart from his MVP title in his first year with the Anaheim Angels.

Both players are multiple Silver Slugger Award winners and All-Stars, and both were outfielders.

And both graced card #191 of Upper Deck's 2009 Ballpark collection (and Dual Swatch Memorabilia and Stat Kings sub-sets), which I obtained in a multi-sport repack, numbered 211/400:
Both swatches are game-used, and Soriano's is of the two-coloured variety, with a blue stripe complementing the predominant white. I don't really do two-player cards, so this one's up for trade.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Bob Essensa Autograph Card

Former Winnipeg Jets goalie Bob Essensa will be playing for their alumni team during this year's Heritage Classic against the classic Edmonton Oilers line-up.

However, the biggest news wasn't who was playing, but the unveiling of the uiniforms, where the Oilers will pretty much be using their current alternate uniform, the orange one, whereas the Jets' will also harken back to their WHA days with a uniform they no longer wear, with the old logo we have all grown up with and loved:

Essensa, who did end up playing for the Oilers as well, really had his best years - or best year, 1991-92 - with the Jets, finishing third in Vezina Trophy (and 13th for the Hart!) voting by going 21-17-6 with a 2.88 goals-against average and .910 save percentage with 5 shutouts in 47 games, which was, ironically, his lowest games total in a four-year span before he was sent to the Detroit Red Wings, starting a series of short pits stops that would lead him to the Oilers (1996-99), the Phoenix Coyotes (1999-2000), the Vancouver Canucks (2000-01) and the Buffalo Sabres (9 games in 2001-02).

More often than not, he's had to share the crease with two or three other goalies at a time.

He won the Stanley Cup as the Boston Bruins' goaltending coach, a position he has held since 2003.

Here he is with the Jets, on card #A-BE from In The Game's 2012-13 Decades - The 1990s set, his on-card black sharpied-autograph over the Jets' former home, the Winnipeg Arena:
That's a nice view of a pretty cool mask. I miss the old Jets.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Vincent Damphousse Jersey Card

Eric Lindros entering the Hockey Hall of Fame definitely put the final coffin on how dominant a player must be and cemented its reputation as the Hall of Very Good Players. The institution, already a bit of a joke for not being located within the walls of the old Montréal Forum, now has to include everyone who's played in All-Star Games, won just one piece of hardware, and/or had two or three terrific seasons - especially those who "might have been even better" had they not gotten injured.

That means Jose Theodore - he of a Vezina and a Hart - is a shoe-in when it should've been a five-year debate; that means Chris Osgood gets a realistic shot, what with his three Stanley Cup wins; that means 1000-point players (of which Lindros was not) now must be included, notably Pierre Turgeon and Vincent Damphousse.

I mean, hey: Damphousse got to 1205 regular-season points (46th all-time), 432 of them goals (68th) and 773 assists (37th), despite never reaching the 100-point single-season mark, though he surpassed 90 four times. He's won a Stanley Cup and captained the most decorated team in hockey - the Montréal Canadiens.

He has 41 playoff goals and 104 playoff points.

Not only was he selected to play in four All-Star Games, he was its MVP in 1991 on the strength of an NHL-record 4 goals.

I wasn't a big fan; I particularly didn't like how he would hit opponents' wrists with his stick when defending against and trailing them, despite the fact that it earned him a fourth-place finish in Selke voting while playing for my hometown Habs. The fact that he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and San Jose Sharks was also too dark a mark to be evened out by playing for the Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers.

Speaking of the Sharks, here is, wearing their teal (then-away) end-of-the-90s uniform, on card #91 from Private Stock's 2000-01 Titanium Draft Day set (the Authentic Game-Worn Jerseys sub-set), manufactured by Pacific:
It features a red game-worn jersey swatch from his days in Montréal; the back of the card specifies that it's from a home jersey (which was white at the time), which would make this either part of the shoulders, wrists or waist parts of the jersey.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Bill Sampen Autographed Card

In the early 1990s, Bill Sampen was a promising middle-reliever in the Montréal Expos organization. He went 21-12 in his first two seasons with the team, appearing in 102 games and registering 121 strikeouts.

However, he took a dip in efficiency in 1992, going 1-4 before the team sent him and Chris Haney to the Kansas City Royals for Sean Berry and Archie Corbin. He went 2-4 in 26 games over a season and a half with the Royals before signing with the California Angels, where his 1-1 record and 6.46 ERA in 10 games effectively put an end to his MLB career.

Upon retiring, the Lincoln, Illinois native moved back to his home state, opening a baseball, strength and agility training facility in nearby Brownsburg called Samps Hack Shack.

Here he is sporting the Expos' classic powder blue (away) uniform, on card #318 from Leaf's 1991 Series 2 set:
He signed it in black sharpie, adding a Bible quote from Ephesians 2: 8-9, which reads as follows:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.
This card pencils him in as #55 in my Expos Numbers Project.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Tyson Barrie: Two Autographed Cards

Good news for Colorado Avalanche and Tyson Barrie fans: the two sides have agreed to a four-year contract that will average $5.5M, after which the then-29-year-old will be a highly sought-after (and highly-paid) free agent.

The two sides had gone to arbitration and signed their deal while awaiting the arbiter's decision between the Avs' two-year $4M per offer and Barrie's $6M one-year rebuttal. The agreement is pretty much a down-the-middle compromise in terms of salary that goes a tad on the player's side, who in turn gives away a year of UFA status.

He will therefore make slightly less than teammate Erik Johnson for the next few seasons, but will likely make a lot more four years from now, possibly in the $8-9M range, barring a career-altering injury.

Barrie won gold with Team Canada at the 2015 World Championships with then-Avs teammates Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene; O'Reilly now plays for the Buffalo Sabres, and Duchene might eventually get traded so that the Avalanche can improve their blue line, which is widely considered to be the team's Achilles heel - and the main reason why the team has failed to make the playoffs for the past two seasons after winning their division in 2013-14.

In the WHL, he had captained the Kelowna Rockets, after leading them to a Memorial Cup appearance; he set the team record for most career points, with 228 (in 256 games). Here he is wearing the Rockets' black (away) uniform, on card #128 from In The Game's 2009-10 Heroes And Prospects set:
And here is he manning the point with the Avalanche, on card #126 from Panini's 2013-14 Score set:
He signed both cards in black sharpie, adding the jersey number corresponding with each - 4 with the Rockets, 41 with the Avs, though he has switched to 4 with Colorado as well now.