Thursday, August 31, 2017

Colin Greening Autograph Card

At one point just an add-on in the trade that sent Dion Phaneuf from the Ottawa Senators to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colin Greening had good possession numbers for the Leafs in 2015-16, but spent the entire 2016-17 season with the AHL Toronto Marlies.

On July 1st, he signed a one-year extension at $750,000 as a depth insurance policy. At first glance, a guy who has posted a 0.5 point-per-game average in the NHL (37 points in his rookie season with the Sens; 15 points in 30 games in that half-season in Toronto) producing just 10 goals and 24 points in 69 AHL games seems like a bit of a let-down, but we all need to keep in mind the team's leading scorer was Kerby Rychel, who had 19 goals, 33 assists and 53 points in 73 games. On a team that finished 42-29-5, good for second in its division, a single point out of first place.

Here he is on card #SS-CG from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 1 set and Signature Sensations sub-set, back when it was believed the 6'2", 212-pound left winger would become a middle-six regular:
It features a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph with his uniform number (14) tagged at the end.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Dan Cloutier Autograph Card

About a year ago, Dan Cloutier was named the Vancouver Canucks' full-time goaltending coach, replacing Roland Melanson, who moves to a development role. He had previously served as a consultant, working mainly with the team's prospects.

Cloutier's best seasons in the NHL came in Vancouver, after stints with the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning, and before following head coach Marc Crawford to the Los Angeles Kings.

Like many Québec-born goalies of the 1990s, he modeled his style on Patrick Roy's butterfly technique, albeit in a more compact manner that made him seem shorter when both, in fact, stand at 6'1". His father being a logger had him move to Sault-Ste-Marie at a young age, and it was with the Soo Greyhounds that he started out his OHL career, as can be attested by this signed insert card from Signature Rookies' 1994-95 Tet Rad series:
It's numbered 1995/7000 and signed on-card in blue sharpie.

He also played for the Guelph Storm, a team his older brother Sylvain had previously captained. Fun fact: Sylvain retired in 2014, four years after Dan.

Also of note, the Canucks hired Travis Green to coach the team this summer; he and Cloutier have a bit of a history:

Monday, August 28, 2017

Yvon Labre Autographed Card

Some of the worst NHL teams of all time were expansion teams, and none were worse than the 1974-75 Washington Capitals. They won just a single game on the road that year, en route to a 8-67-5 record.

On that team, some players even struggled to make the team those first few years, leaving the impression that they weren't much themselves. Among those was a slow defensive defenseman by the name of Yvon Labre, who scored a grand total of 14 career goals. That, of course, is forgetting he won a Best Defenseman award in Metro Junior B and not knowing his combativeness.

By 1976, he was the team's captain, a title he held for two seasons until star player and future NHL head coach Guy Charron took over. Playing in the same division as the Philadelphia Flyers and stacked teams such as the Montréal Canadiens, New York Rangers and New York Islanders (depending on the season), the Caps needed someone who wouldn't be afraid to take to the ice and view it as trenches in a war - especially at the Spectrum. Labre was there, always ready for a fight. He didn't win many of them, but he kept going at it.

To everyone's surprise - including Labre himself - the Capitals retired his #7 in 1981 after he retired due to a knee injury. That was a classy move. Weird, but classy. Perhaps the fact that he scored the team's first home goal (against Hall of Famer Rogatien Vachon) played into it as well.

Post-retirement, Labre remained in the organization, serving many roles ranging from assistant coach, colour commentator, scout to director of community relations for the Capitals, a role he was prepared for from his playing days, as he was very involved in the community.

Here he is sporting the Caps' classic white (home) uniform, on card #61 from O-Pee-Chee's 1975-76 O-Pee-Chee set:
He signed it in black ball-point pen - my autograph weapon of choice when I was a kid - at a game where he followed the Capitals at the Montréal Forum. I'm thinking it was the game that ended in a 0-0 tie where Pete Peeters and Patrick Roy both got the shutout although the Habs clearly scored but were denied the goal by the referee.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Graham Black Jersey Card

We're still technically still in the midst of free agency season, but the huge July 1st fun and anticipation has long died off, despite the fact that "name" players such as Jaromir Jagr, Jarome Iginla, Shane Doan and Thomas Vanek are still available.

One player who shouldn't be in this position but seemingly failed to make an impression on his new team after a trade is 24-year-old Graham Black, who went from being a New Jersey Devils prospect after they drafted him 135th overall in 2015 to the Florida Panthers last summer (with Paul Thompson, for Marc Savard's contract and a 2018 second-rounder).

Black was a decent two-way center who posted near point-per-game statistics with the WHL's Swift Current Broncos until he exploded for 97 points as a 20-to-21-year-old in 2013-14, but he could never replicate that production in three injury-riddled seasons in the AHL, be it with the Albany Devils (14 goals, 9 assists and 23 points in 98 games) or the Springfield Thunderbirds (4-4-8 in 33 games).

Still, I'm told he's good in the face-off circle and shadows opponents' top lines very well. Here he is repesenting the WHL in the 2012 Subway Super Series, on card #SSM-29 from In The Game's 2012-13 Heroes And Prospects set and the "Black" Game-Used Jersey sub-set:
It features a huge red game-used swatch.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Chris Longo Autographed Card

Chris Longo won Rookie Of The Year honors in the OHL in 1989-90, leading to his selection in the NHL draft by the Washington Capitals (third round 51st overall in 1990).

He would never play in the NHL but spent 11 seasons in pro hockey, with stints in the AHL (Baltimore Skipjacks, Portland Pirates, Springfield Falcons, Cleveland Barons), ECHL (Jackson Bandits and Toledo Storm), IHL (Cleveland Lumberjacks) and in Italy (Asiago HC, a common destination for former NHLers, as players such as Stéphane Quintal, Ken Linseman, Blaine Stoughton, Mario Brunetta, Greg Hawgood, Doug Wickenheiser, John Tucker, Frank Pietrangelo, Mike Torchia, Christian Proulx, Michel Mongeau, Martin Gendron, Éric Houde, Matthieu Descoteaux, Mathieu Dandenault, Rico Fata, David Cooper, Fernando Pisani, Ralph Intranuovo, Adam Henrich, Drew Fata, Chris DiDomenico, Tyler Plante, and Alexander Galchenyuk - Alex's father - have also suited up for the team).

Nowadays, he is a Development Coach with the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs, a position he previously also held with his alma mater, the Peterborough Petes. He also works for a hockey school in the summer.

Here he is sporting the Pirates' white (home) 1990s uniform on card #89 from Classic's 1993-94 Pro Hockey Prospects set:
He signed it in blue sharpie for me a couple of summers ago, when I was still teaching goaltending in the Ottawa region and could trek down to other schools on Sundays.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

2017-18 Upper Deck MVP Hockey Box Break

As usual, the first set of the year is one of Upper Deck's most affordable: 2017-18 MVP. I bought a 24-pack blaster box at $30 plus taxes, which comes up to $34.50 Canadian in Montréal - not as good a deal as Panini's old Score sets, but pretty much the best UD can do.

Here's what each foil pack looks like:
I love the colours, I love Alex Ovechkin being on it in the age of Connor McDavid's deserved nods and Sidney Crosby's based-on-hype ones, and I like the overall first impression this gives me.

The 24 packs gave me a total of 120 cards, broken down as such:

87 regular-issue cards (3 doubles: Jack Eichel, Tanner Pearson, Sam Bennett), with the back only showing the last five years of play, regardless of the fact that some players have been around since the 1990s:
There were 2 "Puzzle Back" cards, Matthew Tkachuk and Torey Krug):
2 "Checklist" cards, Crosby and McDavid, in beautiful retro white uniforms:
4 Silver Script cards with fac-simile autographs, of Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Alexander Wennberg and Christian Dvorak:
One Gold Script, Loui Eriksson, numbered 23/100:
2 Rookie Cards of players from my local teams, Nikita Scherbak (Montréal Canadiens) and Colin White (Ottawa Senators):
3 Level 1 Access Player Credentials cards, of Eichel, Tuukka Rask and Jaden Schwartz:
... and 16 other players from Canadian teams, which are easier for me to get signed, including two Habs (Tomas Plekanec and captain Max Pacioretty) and four Sens (Mark Stone, Zack Smith, Mike Hoffman and Derick Brassard).

All told, this set keeps the bronze-coloured theme from seasons past in a new design with the three Adidas-like sideways lines and the silver-and-blue icy theme for rookie cards, and the inserts look much nicer than the regular-issue cards.

I expected better from the packaging, but I'll give this set a commendable 7/10.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Philippe Cornet Autograph Card

After years toiling in the ECHL and AHL, Philippe Cornet opted to take his game to Norway in 2015-16 and Finland last year, where his game evolved from a pass-first mentality in the LHJMQ in Juniors to becoming a legitimate goal-scoring threat; indeed, his 12 goals with Hämeenlinnan Pallokerho (HPK) ranked second on the team, which placed fifth in the overall standings (out of 15).

At 27, the 6'0", 200-pound winger may get an invitation to participate in the upcoming Olympics with Team Canada, since the NHL will not be represented. Speaking of which, here he is from his Edmonton Oilers days, on card #I-PCO from Panini's 2013-14 Contenders collection and NHL Ink sub-set:
It shows him wearing Reebok's ugly post-lockout blue (home) uniform and features a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Kirsty Lingman Autograph Card

I would like to take a moment to wish one of my favourite models, New Zealand's own (and Los Angeles-based) Kirsty Lingman, a Happy Birthday with this Limited Edition (#18/25) purple autograph variant of card #62 from Benchwarmer's 2014 Hockey set:
Kirsty is a fan of hard rock and heavy metal who travels to see shows (though most do make their way to L.A./Las Vegas, so she'd be good anyway), and has been known to work as a photographer and bartender on the side as well. Here's what the back of the card looks like:
It shows her playing around with a Koho goalie stick, the type Patrick Roy popularized after his 1993 Stanley Cup and second of three Conn Smythe wins.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Andy Tracy: Two Autographed Rookie Cards

Andy Tracy was by no means a baseball superstar in the Majors, but when he attended Bowling Green University, he starred at both baseball and football; he went back to his alma mater after retiring - he's currently the baseball team's hitting coach.

Tracy holds the distinction of having been drafted twice - first by the Philadelphia Phillies, then the Montréal Expos; it was in Montréal that he would have his best season (2000) in most categories, including games played (83), at-bats (192), hits (50), home runs (11), on-base percentage (.339), walks (22), and so forth. The only time he bested his 2000 batting average (.260) was when he had 5 hits in 12 at-bats with the Phillies in 2009, good for a .417 average.

He was also in the Phillies' organization when they won the 2008 World Series, but only appeared in 4 games (2 plate appearances) in the regular season and none in the playoffs. He was one of the most popular players on their AAA affiliate Lehigh Valley IronPigs, however, and once held the distinction of being the oldest minor-leaguer in the U.S.

And to think 2000 was his rookie year, things were looking up, he was backing up Lee Stevens (first base) and Michael Barrett (third base, before his move to catcher)... it did not quite turn out that way:
from BaseballReference
He signed two copies of his Rookie Card - #T2 from Topps' 2000 Traded And Rookies set in blue sharpie for me back in the day:
These Spring Training pictures will enable me to slot him as #66 in my Expos Numbers Project; he wore #46 (2000) and #22 (2001) in the regular season.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Tim Cheveldae Autograph Card

Tim Cheveldae led the NHL for games played (72), wins (38), saves (1978) and minutes played (4236) with the Detroit Red Wings in 1991-92 on his way to a fourth-place Vezina finish. That year, however, he finished with a 3.20 GAA, outside the top-10 (Patrick Roy led the league at 2.36, Ed Belfour was a distant second at 2.70 and Chris Terreri was tenth at 3.18) and a .886 save percentage (Roy led here as well with .914, ahead of a three-way tie comprised of Bob Essensa, Curtis Joseph and John Vanbiesbrouck at .910; Tom Draper was tenth at .895).

But as goaltending improved greatly over the next half-decade, Chevealdae, who was a classic 5'10" dive-and-reflex goalie yet wasn't the most energetic or combative, failed to evolve with the times, which is likely what got goalies like Essensa a longer look while Cheveldae, for his part, was out of the NHL by the age of 28.

He took care of the interim between Essensa and Nikolai Khabibulin for the Winnipeg Jets, then played in the minors for the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins organizations, and his save percentage never reached the .900 at the NHL level.

His final season of pro hockey came in 1997-98, when he appeared in 38 games for the IHL's Las Vegas Thunder.

Here he is wearing the Wings' red uniform on card #A-TC from In The Game's 2012-13 Decades - The 1990s set and Autograph sub-set:
It's hard-signed in black sharpie, with his uniform number (32) tagged at the end.

It is said that he is now a firefighter on a military base in Saskatchewan.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Ed Olczyk Autographed Card

Ed Olczyk was drafted third overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1984, then went on to play in the NHL for 16 seasons. His career highlights include playing his first three and final two seasons with the Hawks, winning the Stanley Cup in 1993-94 with the New York Rangers, posting four point-per-game seasons, surpassing the 30-goal mark four times (with a career-high of 42 with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1987-88) and hitting the 90- and 88-point marks in 1988-89 and 1989-90 respectively, again with the Leafs.

He also suited up for the Winnipeg Jets (64 games over two seasons), Los Angeles Kings (67 games), and Pittsburgh Penguins (68 games over parts of two seasons), and infamously coached the Pens in 2003-04 and 2005-06, with an abysmal .354 showing (a 31-64-14-4 record).

He has since moved on to the broadcast booth, working as an NBC hockey analyst mainly for Hawks' games, as well as being a hair transplant advocate (and satisfied customer, apparently).

Today, however, I wanted to acknowledge his fight against colon cancer. Indeed, he had surgery last week and will undergo further treatment in the coming months. "Edzo" is expected back in the analysts' booth upon recovery. We wish him the best.

Here he is on card #222 from Upper Deck's inaugural 1990-91 Series 1 collection:
It shows him wearing the Leafs' 1980s blue (away) uniform; he signed it in blue sharpie a couple of years ago while working a game at the Bell Centre.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Justin Williams Jersey Card

It's unclear what Justin Williams had in mind this summer when he signed a two-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes, who will likely not be making the playoffs during that time.

Perhaps he was chasing the money, as he'll be making an average of $4.5M on a 35-year-old (i.e. "un-buyout-able") contract when he made $3.25 in his previous deal with the Washington Capitals. Maybe the pressure of being nicknamed "Mr. Game 7" got to him, as the Caps once again fell in the second round last season; not to worry, Williams will now be appearing at World Championships under the Team Canada banner during the NHL postseason from now on.

He'll find these Canes are a far cry from the team he won the 2006 Stanley Cup with, despite Cam Ward still plying his trade in nets and the likes of Ron Francis (GM), Rod Brind'Amour (assistant-coach), Glen Wesley (defensemen development coach), Sergei Samsonov (player development coach), Jeff Daniels (scout manager), and Ray Whitney (pro scout) still around the team after retiring.

Then again, at least he's found work. I'm currently unemployed, as are the likes of NHL free agents Dennis Wideman, Milan Michalek, Thomas Vanek, David Pastrnak, Brooks Laich, Drew Stafford, Nick Schultz, Mike Ribeiro, Jakub Kindl, Nikita Zadorov, Jiri Hudler, Teddy Purcell, P.A. Parenteau, Chris Neil, Boyd Gordon, Scottie Upshall, and former captains Jaromir Jagr, Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, and Brian Gionta.

Williams should, in my opinion, be designated as the team's captain for the couple of years that the team still plays its games in Raleigh and when it's unclear which of the next generation of players will be able to take on that responsibility and lead the team back to respectability.

Which is why I chose to feature him today wearing the Canes' former red (home) uniform, hints of which will be found on their new Adidas uniforms:
That's card #UA-JW from Fleer's 2008-09 Fleer Ultra collection and Ultra Uniformity sub-set, manufactured by Upper Deck, featuring a white game-worn jersey swatch. The team's 10th Anniversary patch is on full display in the picture.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mike Krushelnyski Autograph Card

Despite a 6'2", 200-215-pound frame that could have made him his era's best power forward, Mike Krushelnyski wasn't one to force physical play. Instead, "Krusher" played the periphery, using his decent hands to accumulate 20-goal seasons, although he was able to actually withstand hits on the boards and maintain puck control.

He posted career-highs in 1984-85 for goals with 43 (17 more than his second-best season, 26 in 1988-89), and his tops for points was 88 (23 more than the 65 he had in 1982-83), but because he was unable to keep up with Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri on the left wing of the Edmonton Oilers' top line, co-head coach John Muckler turned him into a third-line checking center, saying:
"He has a lot of skill, in addition to his size and strength. But there are psychological problems involved in working with Gretzky. You have to do things on blind faith, assuming he'll get the puck to you - and that's hard to do. A lot of times, Krusher was so astounded by what was happening that he'd fail to react. He couldn't believe the pass he'd just received, so there'd be no shot at all."
 And that makes sense.

Still, he won Stanley Cups with the Oilers in 1985, 1987 and 1988, and reached the Conference Finals with the Toronto Maple Leafs twice; I find it really funny that a guy who was known as a checking center had his only four seasons in the minuses be the four years he played on a decent Leafs team, 1990-94.

He also suited up for the Boston Bruins (who selected him in the sixth round, 120th overall, in 1979), Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings. He was part of two major trades involving the Oilers, who acquired him from Boston in a one-on-one deal for Ken Linseman, then sent him to the Kings along with Wayne Gretzky and Marty McSorley for Jimmy Carson, the picks that became Jason Miller, Martin Rucinsky and Nick Stajduhar, and $10M.

Here he joins Brad Winchester as #26 in my Oilers Numbers Project, with card #FI-MK from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers Collection and Franchise Ink sub-set:
It shows him wearing the Oilers' classic white (home) uniform and features a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Jean-Jacques Daigneault: Two Signed Cards

J.J. Daigneault was a serviceable NHL defenseman who started out as a fast-skating, puck-moving type who was prone to puck-handling mistakes and may have been considered a defensive-zone liability, yet evolved into a dependable, serviceable defender later in his career.

As such, in his current position as the Montréal Canadiens' defense coach since 2012, he is teaching players to learn from his past mistakes, and not to make them themselves.

A childhood friend and teammate of Pittsburgh Penguins legend and owner Mario Lemieux and current Habs GM Marc Bergevin, chances are he'll never be out of work for long in hockey, but I am under the impression that this may be his last season in this current stint in Montréal; Claude Julien is back and will want to work with folks he knows, guys that complement his areas of expertise, and I feel Doug Jarvis might be on his way back, although he's just one year into a similar position with the Vancouver Canucks. The 'Nucks let head coach Willie Desjardins go last April, taking Perry Pearn and Doug Lidster along with him to the unemployment office, and I believe that when the transition is assured between the players and new bench boss Travis Green is assured, he'll be allowed to look for new opportunities as well.

Too bad this will come months after Phil Housley left the Nashville Predators for the Buffalo Sabres, as Daigneault, a former Preds defenseman who coached three of the team's defensemen in Montréal (P.K. Subban, Alexei Emelin and Yannick Weber) would have been a perfect fit there.

Here he is back in that era when the Preds had a fine "dark" (blue, with grey and yellowish-gold as highlight colours) uniform, sporting the alternate captain's "A", on the signed insert version of card #76 from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set:
It's the "silver" version, which he signed in black sharpie. Obviously, one of these is available for trade (or may be included as a bonus in another trade).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Mike Komisarek Autographed card

Mike Komisarek.

A defensive defeseman whose stay-at-home physical style complemented Andrei Markov the longest with the Montréal Canadiens, an All-Star Game participant both from Habs fans stuffing the ballots for the Centennial home-ice game and because Markov made him look much better than he actually was, whose career high was 4 goals (a total he reached in both 2006-07 and 2007-08) yet had the Toronto Maple Leafs knocking at his door with an unbelievable five-year, $22.5M deal (with a $4.3M cap hit), which of course the Leafs spent a compliance buyout on after four seasons. He did convince the Carolina Hurricanes to take a chance on him, but could only suit up for 32 games (4 assists, 14 PIMs) in 2013-14 before retiring and going back to University of Michigan to finish his degree.

Chances are he's finished with that, because the Buffalo Sabres announced earlier today he'd been named as a Player Development Coach, presumably with the organization's young defensemen.

Here he is from his days in Toronto, across the lake from Buffalo, wearing their classic blue (home) uniform, on card #345 from Upper Deck's 2011-12 O-Pee-Chee set:
He signed it in blue sharpie later that year.

Habs and Leafs fans like to rag on Komisarek - the former because he went to their team's long-time rivals as a free agent, and the second because of how disappointed they were that their prized free agent couldn't possibly live up to his contract's expectations - but both should keep in mind that he was, indeed, a hard-to-play-against defender, among the best in the league at shutting down the opposition and a fine defensive-zone checker... until he took on Milan Lucic in a fight and lost any hockey sense he ever had. And things only got worse when he tried to get his revenge, and again while playing for Toronto.

There are no two ways about it: Lucic ended this guy's career.