Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Brandon Dubinsky Swatch Card

I love players who get under Sidney Crosby's skin. Granted, that's more than half the league's checking centers, but some do it better than others, often leading to his losing patience and dishing out some of the dirtiest hits or slashes in the modern-day game. And, with Maxim Lapierre gone, Brandon Dubinsky is the Van Gogh of that art form.

It helps that he's usually among the league leaders in face-offs won, gaining control of the puck so opponents - and mostly Crosby - have to chase it around the ice...

In recent years, however, Dubinsky has seemed content to just agitate Sid The Kid and forgot that he can also be pretty effective at producing points rather than just stopping opponents from racking them up - and against Crosby in particular, that hasn't stopped the Pittsburgh Penguins from totally owning the Columbus Blue Jackets in the past couple of years.

Dubinsky himself has gone from a 50-point threat to 41 last year and just 2 (two!!! - and both of them assists!) in 12 games this year. He hasn't scored 20 goals since doing it in back-to-back seasons with the New York Rangers (2009-10 and 2010-11), and head coach John Tortorella - who's known Dubs since his days in Manhattan and clashed with him once or twice at that time - made the difficult decision to remove the alternate captain's "A" from Dubinsky's jersey last week.

Torts' tough-love approach has worked with Dubinsky in the past, and with other stars as well (Vincent Lecavalier comes to mind, as does Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky). We'll see how this one pans out, but Dubinsky is 31 and has three more years to go on a deal that pays him $5.85M per, which means his production should be around 40, 40, 35 and 33 points for the last four years of his deal for it to be worth its value, with plus/minuses between +5 and +10 and a 52-55% face-off win percentage (he's at 48.8 this year and finished last season at 51.7).

Here he is wearing the blue jackets' beautiful third jersey from the past decade, on card #D-DU from Panini's 2013-14 Dominion set and Authentic Material sub-set:
It features a matching blue game-worn jersey swatch that could very well be from his days in New York. It's numbered 52-99.

Monday, October 30, 2017

André Racicot Autographed Card

The struggling Montréal Canadiens were facing the mighty Ottawa Senators tonight, in a game I thought would end 3-0 for Ottawa but instead turned into an 8-3 drubbing of the Sens. The Habs were so desperate to change the tide that they'd started backup Al Montoya in lieu of $84M-man Carey Price. Then again, with a 3-6-1 record so far this season, a .883 save percentage and a 3.64 goals-against average, the main man isn't getting it done for the bleu-blanc-rouge between the pipes.

The Silver Seven blog had a pretty hilarious recap of the game, including this gem:
We got Erik Karlsson not being fully healed from his injury and kind of sucking at defense, Craig Anderson leaving his net too many times, #TheSystem totally collapsing, Jean-Gabriel Pageau not scoring a hat trick to save the day and, of course, the Sens being embarrassed on home ice by a team so utterly devoid of hope and shame that it has resorted to starting Al Montoya in net. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m pretty glad I’m no longer living in an environment which requires that I interact with Habs fans on a daily basis.
A score worthy of the early 1990s, which brings me back to this card of André Racicot wearing the Canadiens' white (then-home) uniform and signed in blue sharpie:
That's card #11 from O-Pee-Chee's 1992-93 O-Pee-Chee Premier set, a collection that became less and less "premium" as he years passed due to increasing over-production and lesser-quality rookies as time went on.

Racicot gets a bad rap. I remember telling my street hockey friends one night I wanted to call him "Red Light", because compared to Patrick Roy, the goal-scoring light would tun red far more often with the 5'11", 165-pound guy from Rouyn-Noranda than with the future Hall of Famer; it was a (mean) joke. I was a bit shocked to learn, a decade later, that the nickname had stuck. Then again, The Gazette's Red Fisher (and many others) lived in my neighbourhood, so perhaps they heard us use it on Marcil Avenue or at NDG Park...

He wasn't great, but he wasn't close to being the worst of his era either. During the Habs’ (last) Cup year in 1992-93, Racicot's statistics were actually pretty even with Roy's during the regular season: Roy went 31-25-5 with an .894 save percentage and 3.20 GAA, while Racicot went 17-5-1 with an .881 save percentage and 3.39 GAA. And, remember, Roy finished sixth in Vezina voting that year.

As a matter of fact, according to Grantline:
(Among) every goalie who played 40-plus games during Racicot’s five-year career, Racicot ranks 43rd out of 68 guys in save percentage; that isn’t great, but it certainly isn’t close to “worst ever” territory. He’s right in that dependable backup range with guys like Reggie Lemelin and Rick Wamsley, and not even all that far off from guys like Sean Burke and Mike Vernon, who were considered stars.
So it's not like he would have been in Antti Niemi/Kari Lehtonen/Ondrej Pavelec territory in current-day talk...

But there were times when scouts (Winnipeg Jets, Québec Nordiques) would come to my games and tell me that just from the fact that I wouldn't make these kinds of mistakes, I had a real shot at making the NHL one day:

Then I got to Juniors, and the Laval Titan wanted to turn me into a fighter...

But I digress.

What probably killed Racicot's chance at being a long-time NHL backup was his 1993-94 season, where he went 2-6-2 in 11 games with a 4.44 GAA and .850 save percentage with the Habs and 1-4-0 in 6 games with their AHL affiliate Fredericton Canadiens, with a 3.28 GAA and .863 save percentage.

This led to years toiling in the minors, appearing in the AHL, IHL, ECHL, WPHL, the BISL (British League), the Russian League, the WCHL and five seasons in the LHSPQ/QSCHL (now the LNAH) before he hung the pads up after the 2004-05 season.

He still plays in beer leagues, but as a skater. Mostly, though, he works for a mining company called Agnico-Eagle, operating out of the Laurentians.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Pierre-Marc Bouchard Dual Jersey Card

The Minnesota Wild are going through a rough patch, particularly in terms on injuries. Their 4-3-2 record (10 points in 9 games, which would mean a 91-point season over 82 games) isn't too bad, but it still puts them tied for last with the Winnipeg Jets in a strong Central Division.

However, that's 9 games in, and they've already lost 31 man-games between Marcus Foligno (1, facial fracture, returned on the 20th), Mikael Granlund (5, groin, returned last week), Zach Parise (9, no idea when he'll return), Charlie Coyle (6, operated for a right fibula fracture, out six-to-eight weeks), Nino Niederreiter (6, high left ankle sprain, expected back in mid-November), and Landon Ferraro (4, hip, day-to-day).

All of this is reminiscent of Pierre-Marc Bouchard's prime years where, as he had gone three straight seasons at or near the 60-point mark, the cheap boarding hits and elbows to the head just added to a litany of concussions, turning a once-promising career into more of a cruel joke. But unlike Parise's contract, this cruel joke made no one happy.

Bouchard did redeem his worth by the end of his career in the AHL and in Switzerland, but from age 28 onward, no one was willing to give him a true shot at the NHL level. Still, these are nice statistics to post before retiring at the age of 31:
From HockeyDB
Here he is sporting the Wild's white uniform on card #HS-PM from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Trilogy set and Honorary Swatches sub-set:
It features two matching game-worn swatches that are clearly from different parts of the jersey.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Rollie Melanson Autographed Card

Many thought Roland Melanson would take the 2016-17 season off completely when he announced he wanted to spend more time with his mother and fiancée, but he eventually reached an agreement with the Vancouver Canucks where Dan Cloutier would take over as goalie coach in the NHL and Melanson would be more of a consultant dealing with the prospects and AHLers, traveling from Utica to Montréal to Moncton by car when required.

Then he left the Canucks' organization altogether and joined the New Jersey Devils this summer, reuniting him with former Vancouver prospect Cory Schneider.

Today, I'd like to focus on the short time he spent with the Montréal Canadiens - as a player, that is. It started off with a lop-sided trade by GM Serge Savard, who receive "Rollie The Goalie" and the Devils' captain, Kirk Muller, in exchange for two-time 50-goal scorer Stéphane Richer and Tom Chorske. While both teams would win a Stanley Cup in the next five years, the Habs won it first (1993 vs 1995), and Richer never again reached even the 40-goal mark, while Muller was almost a point-per-game player in Montréal, culminating in a 94-point season in 1992-93.

For his part, Melanson stole the backup job away from prospects André Racicot, Frédéric Chabot, Jean-Claude Bergeron and Les Kuntar on the strength of an incredible training camp performance (two shutouts and two one-goal games in four appearances). He continued his strong play with two regular-season shutouts in 9 games in 1991-92 (against the Philadelphia Flyers and division rivals Buffalo Sabres), but did do poorly against the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals, letting in 4 goals against each team. Racicot would also suit in for 9 games, but at that point, the Habs were solely Patrick Roy's show, as #33 hit the ice in 67 contests.

And yet, here's Melanson, wearing the Habs' classic red (then-away) uniform, sporting the now-retired #1 (for Jacques Plante), on card #187 from Topps' 1992-93 Bowman set:
He signed it in black sharpie in 2002-03, when he was the Canadiens' goaltending coach.

I personally relate to his season in Montréal because, like him, I earned a roster spot on my most competitive team yet that year, as coaches dubbed me "Rollie" or "Hellie", seeing as I too came in not expected to make the Pee-Wee "A" team as a guy who'd only been a "C"-level player before then; I was just supposed to be a body who would get cut, someone present to make others look good and boost their confidence. Instead, I became the starting goalie and led the team to three tournament finals and the City Championship, earning MVP honors at every turn.

Meeting him while he was coaching the likes of José Theodore and Jeff Hackett inspired me to offer my services to coach kids myself, which I eventually got to do.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Anthony Thomas Jersey Card

Yes, I am one of those: I'm boycotting the NFL this year.

Not because players are kneeling, mind you, but for the opposite reason: because NFL owners colluded to blacklist the player who started the movement, Colin Kaepernick, while signing much lesser quarterbacks to expensive long-term contracts, leaving him unemployed.

Case in point:

Brian Hoyer, San Francisco 49ers (2 years, $12M). Currently sitting on the bench.

Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles (2 years, $11M). Backup with injury issues.

Josh McCown, New York Jets (one-year, $6M). Too good for a bad team, and tends to make costly mistakes.

Landry Jones, Pittsburgh Steelers (2 years, $4.4M). One of the better backups in the league.

Matt Barkley, 49ers (2 years, $4M). Didn't even make the team after training camp.

Mark Sanchez, Chicago Bears (one year, $2M). Third-string QB.

Geno Smith, New York Giants (one year, $1.2M). I can't believe this guy can still find work, he still believes he can start games.

Josh Johnson, Giants (two years, $1.02M). Failed to make the team.

E.J. Manuel, Oakland Raiders (one year, $800K). Interim starter after Derek Carr's injury.

Kellen Moore, Dallas Cowboys (one year, $775K). Now on practice squad.

Aaron Murray, Los Angeles Rams (one year, $615K). Released in the summer.

Chase Daniels, New Orleans Saints (one year, $900K paid by Saints, $4.1M paid by Eagles). Backup.

Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings (one year, $2M, plus incentives). Getting the job done.

David Fales, Miami Dolphins. Apparently, a 27-year-old guy with two career complete passes is better than Kaepernick when your two starters (Ryan Tannehill and Jay Cutler) go down.

T.J. Yates, Buffalo Bills (one year). With too many QBs at the Bills' training camp, he became one of four when he was placed on injured reserve following a concussion. He reached a settlement with the team and has been released.

Matt McGloin, Eagles (one year). Failed to make the team.

Blaine Gabbert, Arizona Cardinals. Doing well.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (one year, $3M). Consistently inconsistent.

Austin Davis, Seattle Seahawks (one year, league minimum). A terrible quarterback.

And, of course, Mike Glendon, of Da Bears (3 years, $45M). Jesus.

That's not the worst decision the Bears ever took, though, but that's a story for another day. Today, I'll focus on a player who was fine with the team, terrible elsewhere, and could/should have been exceptional, Anthony Thomas.

Thomas was given the nickname "A-Train" when playing for the University of Michigan Wolverines, by sportscaster Brent Musburger, making his name as one of 1997's Big Ten Top Freshmen on an undefeated Wolverines team.

He followed that by leading the team in rushing for three consecutive years with 893 yards in 1998, 1297 yards in 1999, and 1733 yards in 2000, the latter of which remains the second-highest single-season total in Michigan history. That year, he had nine games in which he rushed for over 100 yards. His 4772 career rushing years set a school record (which has since been surpassed by Mike Hart).

He was therefore perhaps a steal when the Bears selected him in the second round (38th overall) in 2001, an impression he added to when he won the Offensive Rookie Of The Year award helping Chicago to an NFC Central championship.

He had two more decent seasons (721 rushing yards in 2002 and 1,024 rushing yards in 2003) before being surpassed by Thomas Jones, then made his way to the Cowboys, Saints and Bills, never truly finding a home or a role worthy of his past. Not everyone was a fan, though, even of his days in Chicago.

It's therefore fitting that I feature him wearing the Bears' classic black (home) uniform, with the jersey insert version of card #110 from Topps' 2001 Bowman's Best set:
It's a nice foil card that includes a matching jersey swatch from the NFL Rookie Premier event. It,s numbered 789/999.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Bob Kudelski Autographed Card

Things are going well for the Ottawa Senators this season, with a 4-1-4 record and 12 points in 9 games, two points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and second place in the Atlantic Division. I've been a fan of the Sens for a while now, and they've had good teams in the past - including the 2005-08 Cup Finalist team that included 100-point captain Daniel Alfredsson, the best set-up man in the league in Jason Spezza and 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley at the same time - but I kind of feel this team, built by the late former GM Bryan Murray and current GM Pierre Dorion, and coached by Guy Boucher, could beat any other Sens team of all time. Even the original Senators, also known at times as the Silver Seven (1883-1934).

There has never been this balanced a team playing this effective of a system in the Ottawa region, period.

However, there have been quality players who have performed well (Alexei Yashin comes to mind), promising players who failed to develop in the Canadian capital but became regular NHLers elsewhere (Alexandre Daigle, for example), or players who had a short-term very good showing with the Sens but failed to continue to do so in the rest of their career. Like Bob Kudelski.

Kudelski was a star player for the Yale University Bulldogs in the ECAC, prompting the Los Angeles Kings to select him in the 1986 supplemental draft, which was an extra amateur draft (from 1986 until 1994, inclusively) occurring in September for U.S. College players who were not admissible to be chosen at the regular draft at the time. After spending the 1987-88 and 1988-89 seasons hovering between the NHL and the AHL's New Haven Nighthawks, he finally made it to the big time in 1989-90.

He started out with two consecutive 36-point seasons, then took it up a notch to 43 for the 1991-92 season. He was traded to the first-year Ottawa team early in the 1992-93 season, and the Sens themselves sent him to the expansion Florida Panthers midway through the 1993-94 season, where his play dropped dramatically, until he retired following the 1995-96 season, after suiting up for 4 games with the Cats' AHL affiliate Carolina Monarchs.

His passage in Florida was eventful, however, as he tied an NHL record by suiting up in 86 total games the year the Sens sent him to the Panthers, and his wife Marie-France gave birth to daughter Jessica soon after the trade, making her the First Panther Baby.

But it was Kudelski's time in Ottawa that proved to be most memorable on the ice, as he scored 47 goals to go with 29 assists and 76 points in 90 games with the team, scoring the franchise's first hat trick along to way. In terms of points per game, with 0.84, he stands tied in fifth place of all time with the great Marian Hossa, behind Alfie (0.96), Yashin (0.97), Spezza (1.02) and Heatley (1.14), and is second (at 0.52) only to Heatley (0.57) in goals per game.

The year he split between the Sens and Panthers, he scored 40 goals, which followed four consecutive 20-goal seasons.

Here he is wearing the Sens' best black (away) uniform, on card #48 from Leaf's 1993-94 Leaf Series 1 set, with a clear view of his uniform number (26), which slots him perfectly in my Sens Numbers Project:
He signed it in black sharpie at a card show in Ottawa, circa 2007-2009.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Anze Kopitar Jersey Card

As I wrote in February 2016, "(as) Anze Kopitar goes, so do, pretty much, the Los Angeles Kings."

The Kings' captain now has 6 goals, 5 assists and 11 points in 9 games so far this season, tied for the team lead in points with his predecessor Dustin Brown. Uh huh, yep. Furthermore, with a 7-1-1 record, L.A. is one point ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights for the Pacific Division lead.

That's two things I hadn't predicted (although I was hoping for Vegas to have a good season).

I did, however, think Kopitar would bounce back from his awful season last year, one which was a perfect storm of wrongs for him, seeing as he'd just signed a huge 8-year, $80M extension, was named captain after management revoked the title from Brown, the team failed to make the playoffs leading to the ousting of both GM Dean Lombardi and head coach Darryl Sutter, all in a year where most of the best two-way forwards in the league struggled - Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews, and Tomas Plekanec being the closest comparables to Kopitar.

Hopefully L.A. doesn't suffer as many serious injuries this season as last year, although Jeff Carter has now been announced as "out indefinitely" after surgery to repair a cut to the leg...

That being said, here's Kopitar wearing the Kings' black uniform, on card #GJ2-AK from Upper Deck's 2009-10 Series 2 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a (small) matching game-worn jersey swatch.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rondell White: Two Autographed Cards

Last week, my favourite baseball player of all time, Tim Raines, was in town to celebrate his Hall Of Fame induction and appear on local TV shows, notably Tout le Monde En Parle. Raines was one of the few former Montréal Expos who were as good elsewhere as they'd been in Montréal, winning two World Series titles with the New York Yankees; Gary Carter (New York Mets), Andre Dawson (Chicago Cubs), Pedro Martinez (Boston Red Sox) and Vladimir Guerrero (Anaheim Angels, Texas Rangers) also come to mind.

Few are hated by more than one fan base, though. Such is the case for Rondell White, who had a disappointing turn after signing a free agent contract with the Yankees and, after redeeming himself with the San Diego Padres by going to the 2003 All-Star Game, failed to deliver with the Minnesota Twins - some even ranking him among the worst players in the team's history.

In Montréal, White had a respectable 742-game career:
420 Runs Scored
808 Hits
165 Doubles
101 Home Runs
384 RBI
88 Stolen Bases
.293/.348/.480 Slash Line
19.2 bWAR
Had it not been for poor injury luck, he probably would have been an All-Star in the Canadian Sin City as well. He surpassed the 100-game mark only three times with the Expos, in 1995 (130), 1997 (151) and 1999 (138). That 1997 team was probably the best he'd played on, possibly a pitcher or two away from a playoff berth, what with White, Martinez, and Guerrero leading the way and David Segui (1B), Mike Lansing (2B), Mark Grudzielanek (SS), Henry Rodriguez (LF), and Darrin Fletcher (C) providing additional bats and Carlos Perez, Dustin Hermanson, Marc Valdes, Ugueth Urbina, and Anthony Telford helping out on the mound (apologies to a twilight-of-his-career Lee Smith).

White makes for the perfect addition as #22 in my Expos Numbers Project, with these two cards, first #50 from Pinnacle Brands' 1996 Score set, wearing the grey (away) 1990s uniform:
And here he is wearing the blue alternate/Spring training t-shirt, on card #240 from Upper Deck's 1999 Victory set:
He signed both in blue sharpie, probably in 2003.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Ales Hemsky Dual Jersey Card

The Montréal Canadiens' big free agent acquisition this summer, Ales Hemsky, was the recipient of two big hits in the last game against the Anaheim Ducks, a booming one by Josh Manson and a dirty check from behind by Corey Perry, the latter of which left him with concussion-like symptoms.

Hemsky's already had multiple shoulder injuries throughout his NHL career, and missed most of last season after a hip operation. Now, at 34 years old, we'll have to add "head injury" to his long list of ailments.

His injury history is the biggest reason why I disproved of Habs GM Marc Bergevin offering Hemsky this deal, but there was also the fact that I was afraid people would expect him to replace first-line winger Alex Radulov, who had signed with the Dallas Stars the day before.

There was a time when Hemsky's production was close to elite-level, in his early days with the Edmonton Oilers;
from Hockey-Reference
Even then, however, as you can see in regards to games played, he was already having trouble suiting up in every game. The 2012-13 season was limited to 48 games due to a lock-out, and he still managed to miss 10 of them...

Scoring in general has gone down, league-wide, since 2010, in part due to refereeing becoming increasingly lackadaisical, and in part due to the sophistication of defensive systems, but Hemsky's decline is even more steep than the league average; point-per-game players have regressed to the 60-point mark on average, but in two seasons in Dallas, he's been producing around 40 points per 82 games.

With the disappointing Habs, he flat-lined like the rest of the team, with no goals, no assists, no points and 10 penalty minutes in 7 games so far. Surprisingly, at -1, defensively, he's the best on the team, tied with Jordie Benn. His Corsi For stands at an even 50%.

Here he is wearing the Oilers' classic white (now-away) uniform, on card #TS-AH from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Artifacts set and Treasured Swatches sub-set:
It features two game-worn orange jersey swatches made from different materials, therefore from different parts of the jersey. Here's wishing him a full recovery.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

David Booth Autographed Card

After spending two seasons in the KHL, David Booth is back in North America, having secured a fourth-line spot on his hometown Detroit Red Wings, playing short of five minutes per night after making the roster from a camp invitation.

In his prime, Booth was a 20-goal, 40-point winger who peaked at 31 goals, 29 assists and 60 points in 2008-09, his third season. Unfortunately, he suffered two concussions the following season, the first of which was from a dirty Mike Richards hit. He came back to lead the Florida Panthers in goals (with 23) in 2010-11, then was traded to the Vancouver Canucks early the following season. His play declined in three seasons in Vancouver, leading to some time with the AHL's Utica Comets.

It didn't get much better in 2014-15, as he mostly played for the Toronto Maple Leafs but also played two contests (scoring a goal) with their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.

After a decent turn with the KHL's Vladivostok Admiral in 2015-16, he scored a tryout at the Anaheim Ducks training camp prior to the 2016-17 season, but failed to make the team, leading to his signing with the powerhouse Omsk Avangard, alongside the likes of Vladimir Sobotka, Alexander Perezhogin, Evgeny Medvedev, Nikolai Lemtyugov, Ilya Zubov, Derek Roy, and Nikita Nikitin.

Prior to arriving at the Ducks' camp, however, Booth had a hell of a scare, piloting his own plane from British Columbia to California and having his engine stop working three-quarters of the way there. He was told he could attempt to glide all the way to a Nevada airstrip, which he attempted; during that time, other pilots were calling in, wishing him luck. As he got closer to the ground and the ice around the engine melted, it started working again, and he was sable to make it to Anaheim.

As a devout Christian, he's certain that scare and the couple of years playing in Russia were all just part of God's Plan.

Here he is wearing the Panthers' white (away) uniform on card #180 from Upper Deck's 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee set:
He signed it in black sharpie in early 2015, while a member of the Leafs.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Liam Liston Jersey Card

When he first started playing for the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings, goalie Liam Liston was viewed as a top prospect - he even suited up in the 2011 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. After all, he spent most of his minor-league hockey with GAAs under 2.25 with decent save percentages. Sportsnet even asked him to pen a few blog posts ahead of the 2011 Draft, about player expectations and one piece mentioning his concussion issues.

We'll never know for sure what weighed heavier in Liston's never getting drafted, not just in 2011, but 2012 as well, but it's fair to say that the concussion that ended his 2010-11 postseason may have had an impact. His abysmal statistics the following year as well:
From HockeyDB
Here's what it looked like in comparison to his teammates, first with the Wheat Kings, a team that included future NHLers Mark Stone, Micheal Ferland, and Ryan Pulock:
Now let's have a look at how he fared with the Lethbridge Hurricanes (he did get the team's only shutout):
He's worst or second-worst by any metric, be it save percentage, wins percentage or goals-against average.

And his 20-year-old season with the Vancouver Giants was even worse:
I can relate, in a way, because I too was a star goalie in Bantam and Midget, and I too was brought into Juniors with some level of expectation, but Liston had the courage to play his chance out, whereas I was seen by the Laval Titan as not being a "team player" (they had two sayings: "every Titan has to always be ready to fight, especially the backup goalie", and "we all shave our heads into a Mohawk come playoff time", which would have been a shame, what with my rock star coif), leading to their sending me to the Halifax Mooseheads, who had a certain Jean-Sébastien Giguère in nets already and no available school where I could continue my post-secondary/not-university education, at which time I opted to retire.

Liston had the balls to take it as far as he could, and studied law later to boot. He has a stable life. I'm an independent musician and freelance writer/translator who lives paycheck-to-paycheck. He clearly has the better life and made the best choices, although we do have in common that we both teach youth hockey in our spare time.

Here he is wearing the Giants' white (home) uniform on card #M-42 from In The Game's 2012-13 Between The Pipes set and Game-Used Jersey sub-set:
It features a game-worn swatch from the 2011 CHL/NHL Prospects Game, according to ITG:
It's the Silver Version, too.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Scott Lachance Autographed Card

Scott Lachance came into the NHL as a highly-touted offensive defenseman from Boston College, ranked second behind Eric Lindros by NHL Scouting in 1991; he eventually fell to fourth-overall (New York Islanders), with Pat Falloon and Scott Niedermayer chosen ahead of him.

He would flourish in today's NHL, with a perfect first pass and good foot speed, and not too much of a liability in his own zone - a bit like a cross between Nathan Beaulieu, Justin Schultz and Dmitry Kulikov - but his relative lack of production (only one 20-point season, 24, coming in his rookie year in 1992-93) often relegated him to a second- or third-pairing role, and to the second wave of any powerplay.

At the time, I thought his 6 points in 57 games with the Montréal Canadiens in 1999-2000 were bad (then again, the entire team was terrible), but his five points and -43 record in 138 games spread over two seasons (2002-04) with the Columbus Blue Jackets probably takes the cake. It was during that time that he signed card #369 from Fleer's 1993-94 Fleer Ultra Series 2 card for me in blue sharpie:
It shows him wearing the Isles' classic blue (then-away) uniform.

Following his two disappointing seasons in Columbus and the NHL lockout, he didn't play at all during the 2004-05 season, then spent one season in Swtzerland with the Kloten Flyers and a final turn in North America with the AHL's Lowell Devils. He then remained with the New Jersey Devils' organization and is currently a scout for the team.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Duncan Siemens Jersey Card

Duncan Siemens is a 24-year-old stay-at-home, 6'3", 210-pound defenseman who is probably on the verge of breaking out and earning a regular spot on the Colorado Avalanche, or at least it would seem so since the team extended him a qualifying offer last summer. He was their second first-round pick (11th overall) in 2011, after they chose Gabriel Landeskog with the second-overall selection.

Back in Juniors, starring with the WHL's Saskatoon Blades, Siemerns was viewed as a smooth skater with a good first pass and a punishing mean streak - which remains true. That being said, he didn't make Patrick Roy's Avs squad because his stick-handling was problematic (and the team had enough trouble coming out of its own zone, Roy didn't want to risk it further by having one guy be susceptible to turnovers if opponents put enough pressure on him), and while he looks good skating for a big guy, making big strides, he's not the fastest skater.

I do feel that he can still develop into a sort of Marc Methot-type, which is very good in and of itself, although it lacks justification for having been selected ahead of the likes of Sven Baertschi (13th), Oscar Klefbom (19th), John Gibson (39th), Brandon Saad (43rd), Markus Granlund (45th), Xavier Ouellet (48th), Nikita Kucherov (58th), Vincent Trocheck (64th), and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (96th).

Here he is wearing the WHL's All-Star uniform on card #SSM-38 from In The Game's 2012-13 Heroes And Prospects set and Game-Used Jersey sub-set:
It features a huge red game-worn jersey swatch from his uniform in the 2012 Subway Super Series. It's the "Black" version of the card.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Box Break: 2017-18 Artifacts Blaster Box

I went to Walmart today to buy a blaster box of 2017-18 Artifacts hockey cards by Upper Deck, which I had seen the last time I was there but opted not to buy, unsure whether it was worth it to pay $30 plus tax ($35) for 40 cards.

After mulling it over for more than a week, I went for it.

It seems like UD's running out of ideas with their designs, as these white-background cards are similar to SP sets from a decade ago, simple and uncluttered, sure, but not as impressive as the Artifacts sets of that time:
The backs (right) still show up to five seasons of NHL stats and the picture on the front (left) fades to white at the bottom - perfect for autograph seekers such as myself. Of note that the back has a cropped version of the same picture that can be found up front.

Out of 40 cards, the only "insert" I pulled was this ruby version of Colin White's rookie card:
It's numbered 20/399 and features a nice close-up of the young prospect.

On the plus side, the cards remain as thick as they've always been, and despite their apparent lack of originality, are still pleasing to the eye. The box I bought contained 8 packs of 5 cards apiece (again, for some $30) but this link gets you a retail box of 24 five-card packs for $65, with jersey cards coming in at a 1:24 clip, so likely better odds and pulls than I got here.

I still like the thick, premium feel of these cards, and they still look better than most sets. I guess I was hoping for better (or more) "hits", but I was glad to fall onto 11 cards of players from Canadian teams, which I usually find easier to get signed. And the cards are still extremely sign-able with the design that gives the pictures room to breathe.

I wish you better pulls. I still rate this one a 8/10.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Kevin Dallman Jersey Card

Kevin Dallman is a star in the KHL; he was already the Barys Astana's four-year captain - i.e. for the duration of his stint, which included four All-Star berths and a Best Defenseman trophy - when his family was kicked out of Kazakhstan after his wife posted about country-wide corruption on her blog, a must-read in the Kazakh capital.

He'd been made a Kazakhstani citizen in 2010 so he could join the national team, but the regime doesn't take criticism too well.

And so he remained in the Russian-based league, playing with St. Petersburg SKA for two years before returning to Barys. Now in the fourth season of his second stint in the Kazakh capital, he has an astonishing 16 points (2 goals, 14 assists) in 24 games in the low-scoring league.

The club is 15-8-1-2, firmly entrenched in second place within its division, on the strength of productive seasons from Dallman and the likes of Linden Vey (32 points in 26 games), Nigel Dawes (24 goals and 30 total points in just 22 games), Matt Frattin (23 points in 24 games), Darren Dietz (16 points from the blue line in 15 games), and Martin St-Pierre (16 points in 23 games). Henrik Karlsson is the starting goalie, with a 13-7-2 record, 2.26 GAA and .923 save percentage with 2 shutouts in 24 games.

Although he was undrafted, the Boston Bruins are the team that signed Dallman to his first professional contract, although they traded him to the St. Louis Blues midway through his rookie season. After faring well in St. Louis, he signed a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings before being out of chances in North America and opting to move overseas.

Here he is wearing the Bs' black (home) uniform, on card #RU-KD from Fleer's 2005-06 Fleer Ultra set and Rookie Uniformity sub-set, manufactured by Upper Deck:
It features a yellow jersey swatch that was worn in a rookie photo shoot that peers through an R-shaped hole, for "Rookie".

Saturday, October 7, 2017

5-Pack Break: 2017-18 Upper Deck Tim Hortons

Another Autumn, another food-based hockey set, namely Upper Deck's 2017-18 Tim Hortons series:
At $2 a pop for 3 cards (or one pack at $1 per beverage purchase), it's still a tad on the expensive side, but they look great, so much so that the Tim Horton one looks like it's extremely low-resolution in comparison to the Connor McDavid:
Each pack contains two base cards and one insert; my base card list reads as follows thus far:

1. Tim Horton
2. Duncan Keith
11. Anze Kopitar 
25. William Nylander
38. Nikolaj Ehlers
49. Bo Horvat
64. Mikael Granlund 
84. Steven Stamkos
97. Connor McDavid
98. David Pastrnak

Among the inserts that are back from previous years is the Game Day Action sub-set, of which I pulled a Max Pacioretty commemorating his first career four-goal game:
The young players have an altered sub-set now titled Clear Cut Phenoms, of which I pulled Patrik Laine, which I have already seen sell online at around $20 a pop:
Among new sub-sets is Stat Makers, which has golden foil, as seen on this Sean Monahan card (the silver in the scan actually looks gold in real life):
And, in celebration of the NHL's Centennial, the checklist cards this year feature players who were chosen among the league's Top 100; Patrick Kane and Sidney Crosby fit the bill:
All told, they still look pretty cool.

Completing the set will probably almost prove impossible again, and many of the players featured are stars too "big" to sign autographs for adults like myself, but the cards do look really cool.

I'll rate this one a solid 8.5/10.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Hedo Turkoglu Swatch Card

Hedo Turkoglu played in the NBA for 15 years, 8 of them with the Orlando Magic, so it's fitting that when I opened a multi-sport repack box with "guaranteed hits", that would be the team I would pull a card of his with:
That's card #72 from Panini's 2011-12 Past & Present set and Gamers sub-set, featuring a two-colour swatch. I find it ironic that basketball jerseys are small and sleeveless while hockey jerseys are big enough to conceal equipment and keep warm, yet basketball jersey swatches sometimes take nearly the entire card and hockey jerseys are a square inch in size.

Turkoglu was born in Istanbul in 1979 and retired from basketball in 2015, earning the NBA's Most Improved Player title in 2007-08 and helping the Magic reach the Finals in 2009 along the way.

He also played for the Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers. Apparently, his time in Toronto was pretty hectic. Heh.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Mike Modano Jersey Card

The Dallas Stars overhauled everything they could this off-season: they let backup goalie Antti Niemi go and replaced him with two-time Vezina Trophy nominee Ben Bishop; they let oft-injured right winger Ales Hemsky test free agency (and, ultimately, sign with the Montréal Canadiens) and signed the Habs' best player, Alexander Radulov instead; they went and took Marc Methot - one of the best defensive defensemen in the game - off the Vegas Golden Knights' hands; they did not renew head coach Lindy Ruff's contract, instead picking up Ken Hitchcock, who was behind the bench for the franchise's lone Stanley Cup in 1999, with Ruff on the losing side of that, too; the only "not-win" they have on their summer report card is signing slow-footed Martin Hanzal essentially to replace Cody Eakin. Hanzal almost single-handedly cost the Minnesota Wild first place after a trade deadline deal last year, and didn't do much when they were eliminated in the playoffs either.

All those moves lead me to believe they might take a while to assimilate Hitchcock's system and gel, but that by entering the playoffs as a Wild Card team, they could do like the Nashville Predators last year and make their way to the Stanley Cup Final, perhaps even beating the Tampa Bay Lightning while they're there.

I like this team a lot more than I did the Cup-winning 1999 edition, who had players I didn't like too much at the time (Ed Belfour, Joe Nieuwendyk, Brett Hull, captain and bruising defenseman Derian Hatcher, Pat Verbeek, Mike Keane), but a few guys I did respect a lot (Mike Modano, Brian Skrudland, Jere Lehtinen, Darryl Sydor, Dave Reid, Craig Ludwig, Benoît Hogue), and one guy I loved (Guy Carbonneau). I did prefer the Stars winning over Dominik Hasek and the Buffalo Sabres, though.

This time around, there are so many players I like. Sure, the new guys Methot, Radulov and Bishop are awesome, but so is Cup-deserving veteran Jason Spezza, captain Jamie Benn, star center Tyler Seguin, bruiser Antoine Roussel, and defensemen John Klingberg, Dan Hamhuis, and Julius Honka.

If they want to, they can ask Modano for guidance at any time, because he works for the team as its alternate governor as well as in advisory role.

Despite playing out his final season with his hometown Detroit Red Wings, he'll always be the Original Dallas Star to me, which is why I'm such a big fan of card #M-26 from In The Game's 2012-13 Decades - The 1990s set and Game-Used Jersey sub-set:
It depicts him wearing the team's original (in every sens of the word) star-shaped jersey and features a fairly big white game-worn jersey swatch.