Friday, January 31, 2020

Cale Fleury Autographed Card

There's a battle for power that's been going on for the past four years within the Montréal Canadiens, but I'm not sure GM Marc Bergevin actually realizes it; he probably just thinks it's best for head coach Claude Julien to get the type of veteran-laden lineup with grit than the young, skilled team he's assembled to rebuild on the fly, and the end result is a reflection of how out of touch Julien is with today's game: the Habs are about to miss the playoffs for the third straight season and fourth time in five years.

Heck, Julien even managed to make the Boston Bruins - the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions and 2013 and 2019 finalists - miss the postseason in 2014-15 and 2015-16, and was about to miss them again when he was let go 55 games into the 2016-17 season.

Bergevin's main problem is this: Montréal is a special market, one that requires its head coach and general manager to speak French, the language spoken by 0% of its province and market and comprising anywhere between 15-20% of NHL players, and with the Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins all bursting at the seams with francophone coaches and trainers and the Ottawa Senators taking a small bite out of that pie as well, the remaining piece of the pie's getting pretty small. And two of the candidates for the head coaching position - Patrick Roy and Jacques Martin - also have GM experience that trumps his own, especially in terms of success when speaking of Roy. And perhaps none would want to be stuck with the veterans currently signed to the team long-term and those who will require hefty raises that will choke the remaining space on the salary cap in a couple of years.

And so the Habs' Next Generation of stars - save for Nick Suzuki, who seems to have taken Max Domi's spot as the #2 centre on the team - looks destined to finish the season in the AHL. On one hand, it's best not to have the young guns get comfortable wit hthe constant losing and the Laval Rocket may very well make the playoffs and contend for the Calder Cup, which would continue creating chemistry among the likes of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Ryan Poehling, Cayden Primeau, Noah Juulsen, Otto Leskinen, and Michael Pezzetta.

You can now add Cale Fleury's name to that list, as the Habs have sent the young hard-hitting defenseman down to play in the suburbs after being a healthy scratch for four straight games; some think the team did so to showcase the likes of Marco Scandella and Brett Kulak for a possible trade deadline sale and subsequent tank job, but those are the guys Julien would prefer to keep anyhow; the same can be said for veteran grinders like Nate Thompson, Nick Cousins, Dale Weise, Paul Byron and defensemen Shea Weber and Jeff Petry. Those are "his" guys.

So, for the time being, this is what Fleury will look like:
That's the Rocket's white uniform, on card #59 from Upper Deck's 2018-19 AHL collection, which he signed in blue sharpie during a home stretch in November or December.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Ed Belfour Jersey Card

Ed Belfour was a mostly-good goalie who had very bad years sprinkled in throughout his career. He won the Calder as the NHL's top rookie in 1990-91 despite also appearing in 23 games in 1988-89 and 9 playoff games in 1989-90 for the Chicago Blackhawks and also captured the Vezina Trophy as the GM's choice for top goalie that same year and in 1992-93, as well as the Stanley Cup in a hugely-contested 1998-99 Final where, according to the rules of the era, Dallas Stars superstar Brett Hull's series-clinching goal should have been disallowed.

The call was bullshit, as were Eddie The Eagle's Vezinas, as was his selection as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, which wouldn't have happened if he hadn't two very good seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs near the end of his career.

That's my biggest beef with Belfour: he was very good overall.

He had one excellent season (1994-95) in parts of nine years with Chicago, was awful with the San Jose Sharks, was very good for three of five seasons with Dallas but hugely protected by Ken Hitchcock's super-defensive system (and the likes of Derian Hatcher, Richard Matvichuk, Jamie Pushor, and Brad Lukowich while Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor were tasked with handing the forwards the puck), was mostly very good in Toronto save for the last season and all the playoffs, and was a parody of himself with the Florida Panthers.

And through it all, one constant: drinking.

I was first a witness to it at the 1993 All-Star Game held in Montréal where he and teammate - and former star defender of the Montréal Canadiens - Chris Chelios took full advantage of the city's legendary night life and were drunk at the skills competition (Belfour letting five goals in) and hung over during the game itself, with their Conference losing 16-6, including Belfour letting the Wales Conference team leave the ice with a 6-0 lead after one period, his opponent, Habs legend Patrick Roy, getting the shutout at the other end of the ice. Maybe Chelios was a bad influence, though.

There were rumours throughout the years, but another documented case was his 2000 arrest in Dallas, where he scared a woman enough to have her call security on him in a hotel while she fled by cab, with Belfour retaliating by putting the bouncer in a headlock and assaulting him. Upon resisting his arrest, he offered the police officers "a billion dollars" if they let him go.

While in Florida in 2007, he got teammate Ville Peltonen in trouble for drunken disorderly conduct and resisting arrest again.

And earlier today, he was "arrested for criminal mischief and alcohol intoxication in a public place after an incident in a hotel early Tuesday morning":
The arrest report says Belfour was lying on the floor clutching a curtain rod that had been ripped out of the dry wall above a window when police approached him.
The report adds that Belfour was kicking a door to the locked spa in an attempt to get in. It says he had slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and could barely stand up.
The police say Belfour was not being compliant when officers tried to put handcuffs on him.
This was his smug mugshot:
This is not meant as an attack, slander or to make fun of him; the man needs help and he has pretended not to for the better part of the past 25 years, getting away with slaps on the wrist that have never taught him a true lesson.

After all, his liquor (whisky) company - Belfour Spirits - has a slogan that seems to tell us how he really feels:
None of this looks like someone who is trying to atone for their troubles with alcohol...

But back to his on-ice achievements.

Again, he was good. All-time great? In the era of Roy, Dominik Hasek and the great-in-numbers-only-but-has-to-be-included Martin Brodeur, not near that trifecta for sure. Considering some of the guys who came after him - Miikka Kiprosoff, Henrik Lundqvist, Roberto Luongo, Sergei Bobrovsky and Tim Thomas - not as consistent as those guys either, no, and no peak as high, either, having never once been dubbed the "best goalie on the planet" for even a year.

On the other hand, imagine if he'd been on top of his game for his entire career, would it have been more consistently close to his peaks, instead of riddled with valleys? Would it have lasted longer at a high level?

Who knows?

But considering the fact that not all retired Vezina winners other than Jim Carey are in the Hall, that some Conn Smythe winners aren't there either, and that one guy who has both will never get there - Ron Hextall, another uneven-but-mostly-very-good goaltender - they could have at least waited for a few years before letting him in.

Here he is in what many consider his "peak" years - a Cup victory, and two seasons with a GAA below 2.00 although Hasek and Ron Tugnutt also had a habit of turning in those types of performances at the time on lesser teams - wearing the Stars' best-looking uniform, the classic green star-shaped jersey from 1997-2006:
That's card #DM-EB from Upper Deck's 2017-18 Black Diamond collection and Diamond Mine Relics sub-set, numbered 63/299. I got it on Ebay in October for under $5. It features a black game-worn jersey swatch that is probably from that uniform.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Aleksander Barkov Autographed Card

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced earlier today that next season's All-Star Game will be hosted by the Florida Panthers and will have an "international taste", possibly with a link towards whether or not the league will allow its players to participate in the next Olympics in China.

The Panthers themselves are a very international team, currently with five players on pace to top the 60-point mark that hail from different regions of the globe: Jonathan Huberdeau (Montréal, Québec), young captain Aleksander Barkov (Finnish with a Russian father), Evgeny Dadonov (Russia), Mike Hoffman (from Kitchener, Ontario, a city that used to be called New Berlin), and Keith Yandle (from Boston, Massachusetts, USA). And although he's having a sub-par season, they also have the only active two-time Vezina Trophy winner between the pipes, Russian Sergei Bobrovsky, who could very well bounce back next year.

Coached by Joel Quenneville - one of the three best bench bosses in the game and the only active three-time Stanley Cup-winning head coach - the Panthers are currently in a playoff position with a 28-16-5 record in 49 games, good for 61 points, 4 ahead of the chasing Toronto Maple Leafs and just 1 behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, with a game in hand over their state rivals.

The Cats' top line of Huberdeau-Barkov-Dadonov doesn't get spoken about as often as the Boston Bruins' power trio (David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand) or the Colorado Avalanche's three superstars (Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog) or even the Edmonton Oilers' unparalleled domination when pairing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but they're just as effective and almost as dominant.

With the rest of the team factoring in with a group effort and following Quenneville's system closely, it almost doesn't even matter that Bobrovsky's GAA currently stands at 3.24 and save percentage is a shocking .898 - still better than backup Samuel Montembeault's 3.35 and .888, considering both have winning records, Bob's standing at 19-12-4 while Montembault's fine at 4-2-1.

But mostly, I really like the bond Huberdeau and Barkov have created, dating back to the end of the 2014-15 season when they were paired with Jaromir Jagr. He instilled both an acute sense of professionalism into their young spirits yet had them remember that the beauty of professional sports is that they get to make a living doing something they love and that people love to watch them do. It seemed to be what they needed to reach the next level, and their points totals have steadily increased ever since, culminating in both players topping the 90-point mark last season, with Barkov's 96 points slightly ahead of Huberdeau's 92, while this year, it's the Quebecer leading the race, 65 to 54.

Both are also good autograph signers, and Barkov was kind enough to autograph this card of his wearing the Panthers' beautiful red (home) 2011-16 uniform in thin blue sharpie, with his number (16) tagged at the end:
It's #83 in Upper Deck's 2014-15 Series 1 set, and although it shows him wearing the Panthers' 20th Anniversary patch from his rookie season, it does not count as a rookie card because UD included a Young Guns card of his in its Series 2 set the previous year.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Ann-Renée Desbiens: Two Autographed Cards

The NHL All-Star Weekend is underway, and as I mentioned last week, it featured a 3-on-3 two-period game pitting ten players each from the women's Team Canada and Team USA squads going head-to-head, with the Canadians coming out victorious 2-1 on the strong goaltending of La Malbaie's Ann-Renée Desbiens.

At 25 years old, Desbiens is just coming into her own at her position under the most pressure anyone's possibly ever felt before, as she's had to follow in the footsteps and fill the shoes of legendary trailblazers Kim St-Pierre (2002, 2006 and 2010 Olympic gold medalist) and Charline Labonté (also a three-time winner, in 2006, 2010 and 2014) while sharing duties with a 30-year-old Geneviève Lacasse (2014 gold medalist) who is playing like she's still in her prime, as well as 33-year-old (and 2010 and 2014 gold medalist) Shannon Szabados.

The standard for Canada is nothing short of gold, so Desbiens' trio of silver medals (2011 U-18s, 2015 World Championships and 2018 Olympics) may make it seem like she's underachieving, but all signs point to the contrary: she's actually been improving from year to year ever since starring in nets for the University of Wisconsin Badgers (save percentages of .941, .960 and .963 in her three seasons as starter, pitching 56 shutouts in the process - 13 more than the previous record - and going from Top Female Collegiate Player Of The Year finalist to winner) to earning more and more games with the national team to today's impressive showing on the sport's biggest stage of the women's season.

She is definitely starting to look worthy of her (and my) childhood idol Patrick Roy's #33 jersey at exactly the right age for it: old enough to know what to expect from the game, and young enough for the body to execute what the mind tells it to - all without playing actual pro hockey this season.

I can't wait for the women to have another professional league playing in Canada again so I can see her play in person in more than just scrimmages.

Here she is wearing Canada's 2014-15 pseudo-vintage white ("home") uniform with "CANADA" written diagonally, New York Rangers-style, on card #64 from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Team Canada Juniors/Women set:
 And here she is wearing the traditional (away) uniform with the "Hockey Canada" logo, on card #99 from UD's 2015-16 Team Canada Juniors/Women set:
She signed both in blue sharpie with her number (33) tagged at the end during the 2018 Olympic cycle, which is why she's my entry for that number in my Team Canada Numbers Project.

You can see in both pictures that she holds her catching glove fairly high and straight up, which is something I advise against for the pro men, but because she's only 5'9", it helps her cover the top and middle of the left side. It leaves her vulnerable under the elbow, and she has to make up for it by swatting down more often than she pulls her arm up to compensate, a move that is a split-second slower than the opposite. She handles it quite well, though, but it might hinder her if she were to sign in a men's league that has hard shots going over 90 mph - think the NHL, AHL, KHL or the Swedish League. She could probably try playing in a systems-based finesse league like they have in Switzerland or France... or someone could come up with a viable way for the women to play 40 to 55 games per season in their own league as their full-time job.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Ken Belanger Autograph Card

248 regular-season NHL games spent with four different teams over 12 hockey seasons, including two full years outside the NHL altogether suiting up for a single game in the UHL in that period, mostly due to concussion issues. 11 goals, 12 assists and 23 points, with a peak of 5 points in 45 games with the Boston Bruins in 1998-99. 695 penalty minutes.

12 career postseason games, all with the Bruins, all in '98-99. One goal. 16 PIMs.

Yes, Ken Belanger earned his card in In The Game's 2013-14 Enforcers II set and Autograph sub-set:
He signed the Band-Aid-like sticker in black sharpie tagging it with #33 - the number he wore with the New York Islanders, his longest-tenured organization in terms of years spent, probably unaware that ITG were going to show him as a member of the Los Angeles Kings, the team with which he spent his final three seasons in the NHL, 2001-02 (43 games), 2002-03 (4 games) and 2005-06 (5 games).

He had originally been a Hartford Whalers draft pick (153rd overall, 7th round, 1992) but was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs before his Juniors career was even over, so he never got to play for them.

Nowadays, he's a full-time entrepreneur, notably with KBX, a hockey school/training facility he runs with his wife as well as partnerships and stakes in Puckcooler (a drink holder that maintains temperatures made from used hockey pucks endorsed by Grant Fuhr), Northern Digital Media (a digital advertising brand based in Sault Ste-Marie) and Shot Blockers, the skate protectors for defensemen. He also dabbles in motivational speaking.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Jamie Tardif Autograph And Swatch Card

Despite being just 34 years old, Jamie Tardif is already nearly two years removed from his last professional hockey game, which isn't to say he didn't get opportunities or that he wasn't successful: the rugged right winger played himself into a point-per-game role in five seasons with the OHL's Peterborough Petes circa 2001-06, becoming a Calgary Flames draft pick - fourth round, 112th overall in 2003 - and signing with three NHL teams (Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres) while never getting traded in the following seven years.

Sure, he mostly played AHL for nost of that time, save for a couple of games with the Bruins, but he made his mark with six 30-point seasons (with a high of 54 in 77 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2010-11), all while usually attaining the 80-PIM mark.

He them moved to Germany, spending three seasons with the Mannheim Eagles from 2014-15 until 2016-17, then accepting a player/assistant-coach position with the ECHL's Quad City Mallards in 2017-18.

He's made the definitive move to coaching since, having been an assistant-coach with the OHL's Sault-Ste-Marie Greyhounds since the summer of 2018.

Here he is wearing the Bruins' white (away) uniform on the "all-dressed" insert version of card #201 from Panini's 2013-14 Select set:
It features a black "event-worn" jersey swatch and on-sticker blue-sharpied autograph. At the time of his call-up in the 2012-13 season, he was second in the AHL with 20 goals. He finished the season with a round 30, for 45 points, in 62 games.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Laura Fortino: Three Autographed Cards

The NHL announced it will hold a Women's 3-on-3 tournament during the All-Star Weekend, featuring an American and a Canadian team facing off, with 10 players suiting up for each. Of course, that means 13 players from World Championship and/or Olympic rosters didn't make the cut for reasons ranging from unavailability to marketability to the NHL not having French-speaking decision-makers and the PWHPA choosing to play its run of exhibition games in places like Hartford, Etobicoke, Hudson (New Hampshire), and Buffalo instead of, say, Montréal, where half the Canadian Olympic team played for the CWHL's Montréal Canadiennes, the team that has won most of the league's championships in ended up as finalists almost every other time.

All of this to say that the only three Quebecers who made Team Canada were Marie-Philip Poulin (the current best player in the world), Mélodie Daoust and goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens, leaving out Lauriane Rougeau, Annie Bélanger, Catherine Daoust, Tracy-Ann Lavigne, Geneviève Lacasse, Mélanie Desrochers, Sarah Lefort, Ann-Sophie Bettez, Sophie Brault, Kim Deschenes, Maude Gélinas, Karell Emard, Marie-Soleil Deschenes, Genevieve Bannon, other francophones such as Ontario's Carolyne Prevost and Marlene Boissonnault from New Brunswick and current Québec residents Emma Martin, Hilary Knight, Jill Saulnier and Erin Ambrose.

That being said, the 20 players who will be there are, indeed, among the 50 best players in the world - roughly the same percentage as the"real" All-Star Game, which will be played without the likes of Alex Ovechkin (declined invitation), Marc-André Fleury (declined), Darcy Kuemper (injury), Jake Guentzel (injury), Johnny Gaudreau (not invited), and Nikita Kucherov (not invited) and Sidney Crosby (missed nearly the entire first half of the season to injury).

Among those who made the cut is defender Laura Fortino, the CWHL's first-overall pick in 2014 who assisted on the gold-winning goal by Poulin at the 2014 Sochi Games in her first Olympic experience and helped Canada capture silver at the 2018 games in Peyongchang. She also has World Championship gold (2012), silver (2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017) and bronze (2019) medalsas well as two U-18 silvers (2008 and 2009).

Professionally, she wore the assistant-captain's "A" for the Brampton Thunder and Markham Thunder. She was mostly a point-per-game player when the team was in Brampton, finishing close to forward Jamie-Lee Rattray for the team's scoring crown. She rarely gets called for penalties, is a quick skater and controls the play very well.

Here she is wearing Canada's 2014-15 pseudo-vintage white ("home") uniform with "CANADA" written diagonally, New York Rangers-style, on card #55 from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Team Canada Juniors/Women set:
And here she is wearing the 2015-16 uniform with the "Hockey Canada" logo (first worn 2008-13), from UD's 2016-17 Team Canada Juniors/Women set:
On the left is the base card (#22 in the collection), while the card on the right is #POE-42 from the Program Of Excellence sub-set.

The Cornell University graduate, College All-Star and 2015-16 CWHL Defenceman (sic) of the Year signed all three in blue sharpie after a game against the Canadiennes in 2017or 2018. She fits perfectly as #8 in my Team Canada Numbers Project.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Gerard Gallant: Two Autographed Cards

Full disclosure: I wasn't entirely certain how I wanted to handle this one, and I edited it until the wee hours of January 24th, more than a week after beginning writing. Gerard Gallant is a very good coach, and I was shocked not only that he was fired earlier today, but even more so that he was replaced this quickly by someone I feel is a lesser coach - former Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils and San Jose Sharks -bench boss Peter DeBoer, whose primary trait is to get offered stacked lineups and never getting any of them to a championship title.

He's also a very good guy, was always accommodating any time I met him, once signed seven (!) cards for me by mail, and always took his time with Montréal journalists who wanted to interview him.

In terms of coaching credentials, he's definitely in the top-5 of "active" NHL coaches factoring in every head coach of the past three seasons. He started off winning a Junior "A" championship with his hometown Summerside Capitals in 1996-97, then became an assistant in the IHL (Fort Wayne Comets, 1998-99), AHL (Louisville Panthers, 1999-2000) and NHL (Columbus Blue Jackets, 2001-04) before getting handed the reigns of the team and from the middle of the 2003-04 season to a month and a half through the beginning of the 2005-06 season.

When former Detroit Red Wings teammate Steve Yzerman was named Team Canada's GM for the 2007 World Championships - essentially an audition for a future Olympic managerial role - Gallant was added to the coaching staff and helped bring home the gold medal.

After two seasons as an assistant-coach with the New York Islanders, Gallant took on the job as head coach of the LHJMQ's Saint John Sea Dogs, winning two league championships (2010 and 2011), the 2011 Memorial Cup and twice getting named the CHL's Coach Of The Year (2011 and 2012).

Like many coaches from the "Q" before him, he then "graduated" to the Montréal Canadiens organization, spending two seasons as an assistant-coach before obtaining the head coaching position with the Florida Panthers. His team missed the playoffs by 5 points in his first season despite going 38-29-15 but won the division the following season on the strength of a 47-26-9 record despite coaching a team analytics fans saw as massively flawed and way below average in shot differential. Unfortunately, in one of the weirdest moves of my lifetime, GM Dale Tallon was promoted to Team President, his analytics-based assistant Tom Rowe taking his place and getting rid of most of the team's grinders and pretty much its entire blue line. 22 games in, with a winning record of 11-10-1, Rowe dismissed Gallant, leaving him stranded on the side of the road. Rowe flubbed the season completely, the team missed the playoffs altogether and Tallon was brought back to fix things; the Panthers missed the playoffs by a few points last season and are among the better teams in the Atlantic this season.

 Meanwhile, Gallant was then hired by the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, a rag-tag team that built its first line with two Panthers outcasts - Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith - and took them to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year, then showed it wasn't a fluke by having the team make the playoffs again in Year Two last season, getting eliminated in Game 7 of the first round by perhaps the worst call in modern hockey history... by DeBoer's Sharks.

Gallant will definitely find work coaching in the NHL very soon. As the bets coach available, he can wait out the remainder of the season and see what happens with other teams in the off-season; if the Tampa Bay Lightning fail to go far in the playoffs, Jon Cooper's time there will probably come to an end and whoever inherits that roster will not only get the best line-up int he NHL - heck, with an Art Ross, a Rocket Richard, a Norris and a Vezina winner all playing on the same team, those guys would be good enough to contend for an Olympic gold medal - but will likely also have a say in tweaking it in his image for a better shot at a Cup in his first season.

He would likely also be among the top-two picks to coach Yzerman's Wings (with Cooper, whom Yzerman put behind Tampa's bench) if he wanted to go through a hard rebuild and might be the best man to take on a quick and somewhat talented roster like the Habs', if he could improve his French-speaking skills. There's also an expansion team in need of a coach (and a name...) in Seattle, but I wouldn't be interested in joining them if there were other options, myself, what with GM Ron Francis' handling of the Bill Peters/verbal and physical abuse situation when both were with the Carolina Hurricanes; Francis needs a three-year probation to show that he's learned from the situation and can make the correct adult calls in adult situations and not just sweep things under the rug like the Old Guard did for too long. (I repeat that they should have hired Sean Burke or Ron Hextall to run that team anyway).

Here's a card of his from his glory days in Detroit, wearing the Wings' beautiful white (then-home) jersey with the assistant-captain's "A", having just completed seasons of 72, 73, 93 and 80 points, on card #71 from Pro Set's inaugural 1990-91 Series 1 collection:
And here he is wearing the team's classic red (then-away) uniform, again with the "A", on card #402 from Score's 1993-94 Score set:
He signed them both in black sharpie, adding his jersey number (17) at the end. Edit: He was set to coach in the All-Star Game in late January but opted against it after being fired.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

2019-20 Upper Deck Series 1 "Mega" Canadian Blaster Box Break

I didn't receive any of Upper Deck's flagship 2019-20 Series 1 cards for Christmas this year and felt they were overpriced compared to other products (namely Parkhurst and O-Pee-Chee, and Topps's Stickers set), so I was ready to wait until a good deal presented itself, and I felt that it did in the form of this "Mega" Blaster Box because of the Canadian Exclusive extra, which we'll get to later:
Here is what the base cards look like:
The Justin Schultz card on the left shows the diversity of jerseys one can find in these, and the Brent Seabrook card on the right shows that the back displays the player's complete career statistics as well as a short blurb, regardless whether said player is a rookie or a veteran - none of that "past five years" crap. It's a very glossy set as well, so great for the eyes, a headache to get signed; collector advice: even erasing multiple layers of gloss may leave signatures a bit smudgy.

As usual, the set features amazing photography:
I was able to land a couple of insert cards, including a couple of Young Guns, Danil Yurtaykin and Josh Brown:
I also fell upon a Canvas card of Josh Bailey:
There was also a Shooting Stars card of Brendan Gallagher:
I was under the impresion that these concerned mostly young guys, but veteran Gallagher is a bona fide star and likes to shoot the puck, so that works.

One insert I can definitely do without is UD Portraits, which are at best creepy and/or tacky, and for goalies wearing their masks, utterly useless, as can be attested from this Henrik Lundqvist card:
Which brings me to the bonus two-card pack of Team Triples, which for some reason shows only player (the Vancouver Canucks' Quinn Hughes):
I pulled two historically tough teams, the "Broad Street Bullies" Philadelphia Flyers (featuring Claude Giroux, Carter Hart and Nolan Patrick) and the "Big Bad" Boston Bruins (with Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask):
I'd have been more interested if they'd been signed or jersey cards, but as it stands, they're trade bait or Ebay-ready, hoping they find someone who'll show them more love than I can give them.

All told, I got 74 cards: 9 packs of 8 cards for the regular Series 1 set, and the two Team Triples, for $44 ($37 plus sales taxes) - two hours of work at a good-paying job and just under four hours of work at minimum wage (before income taxes, so roughly three hours at a good-paying job and five at minimum wage). Not as nuts as a concert or hockey game ticket, but a significant enough investment that it's likely not an impulse buy.

The cards look and feel great, and they're perfect if you're looking to build a set, and UD even made unannounced variants of two dozen cards where the players are depicted in another jersey and oftentimes in a differnet orientation (vertical vs horizontal), giving it more collectability.

However, between the retail packs, fat packs, retail boxes, hobby boxes, regular blaster boxes and special-edition blaster boxes, it really feels like the 2019-20 iteration is over-produced in the same way that Pro Set cards used to be; it sells at a higher price than it used to but isn't rarer. I don't feel that any of the cards I pulled are worth the 50 cents I paid for them, and wouldn't be surprised if once the mass-production numbers come out, this set's value falls off a cliff.

Despite all of this, I'm not exactly underwhelmed by it either; I'm just not super-excited.

It's slightly above "meh": I'm at 7/10.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Max Reinhart Autograph And Swatch Card

Former NHL Paul Reinhart's three sons played in the NHL: Sam was a Buffalo Sabres first-round pick and still plays centre for the team; Griffin was a New York Islanders first-round pick who now patrols the blue line with the KHL's Chinese team, the Kunlun Red Star, after passing through the Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights organizations; and Maxwell retired at age 25 after spending the 2017-18 season with the AHL's Belleville Senators, essentially used as their fourth-line centre.

I was under the impression that he would make a fine 'tweener, playing shut-down AHL minutes and the occasional fourth-line call-up in the NHL, but a coach told me he didn't feel like his defensive play was good enough to trust at that position.

From what I remember, though, Max had good two-way instincts and was above-average speed-wise - two of the most in-demand traits in the NHL these days; he also had a decent vision and passing skills in Juniors and at the AHL level, but maybe he lacked that split-second to keep at it in the NHL.

He holds the AHL's Abbotsford Heat record for points in a single season on the strength of 63 in 66 games.

Here he is wearing the Calgary Flames' red (now-home) uniform, on the "all-dressed" insert version of card #164 from Panini's 2013-14 Totally Certified set and Dual Rookie Class sub-set:
It features a white "event-worn" jersey swatch and blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Al MacAdam Autographed Card

Don't make your mind up about Al MacAdam solely on his career regular-season statistics of 240 goals, 351 assists and 591 points in 864 games, because those are skewed by playing four seasons with the lowly California Golden Seals/Cleveland Barons franchise and the mid-1980s Vancouver Canucks. He had a solid prime that compares with that of any non-Montréal Canadiens player from the late 70s and early 80s.

He started out playing for the Charlottetown Islanders of the MJAHL - a second-tier Junior League, right below the "Major Junior" leagues of the CHL - where he averaged two points per game and had them on runs to compete for the Centennial Cup, that level's equivalent of the CHL's Memorial Cup, losing in the semifinals in 1969-70 and reaching the Final in 1970-71.

The following season, he joined the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers, where he had 32 goals, 21 assists and 53 points in 36 games, but when the team failed to make it to the postseason, he re-joined the Islanders for yet another Centennial Cup run; despite his 15 goals, 21 assists and 36 points in just 11 games, the team lost in yet another semifinals.

However, in dominating in such fashion, he caught the attention of the Philadelphia Flyers, who drafted him 55th overall in 1972 and had him spend nearly two seasons with their AHL affiliate Richmond Robins; they called him up late in 1973-74 for five regular-season (no points) and one playoff game - the Stanley Cup clincher - before even playing his official rookie season. A proud hard worker who wanted to earn his credit, however, he refused to ever wear his championship ring, feeling he hadn't contributed enough to deserve it.

The Flyers sent him to the Seals during the off-season to acquire Reggie Leach, a move that helped earn them a second consecutive Cup, and one that ensured MacAdam would see regular playing time in the NHL, considering the California team's weak line-up. He made full use of his ice time, producing 18 goals, 25 assists and 43 points in his rookie season and a 32-goal, 31-assist, 63-point season the following year in what was the Seals' final season before being relocated to Cleveland, where he had another 63-point season in 1976-77.

Both 63-seasons had led him to the All-Star Game, and he was named the Barons' captain for the 1977-78 season, and although he finished fourth in team scoring that year, he did so on only 48 points as the struggling franchise was merged with the Minnesota North Stars as both teams were in danger of folding.

Despite appearing in only 69 games (amassing 58 points in the process) in the 1978-79 season, MacAdam forged a bond with linemates Bobby Smith - the eventual Calder Trophy winner - and Steve Payne, who scored a career-high 42 goals in just his second NHL season. The trio would be dominant for the following three seasons during which MacAdam would collect 93 (including a career-high 42 goals himself and a Bill Masterton Trophy), 60 and 61 points, with the first two seasons including deep playoff runs: a Conference Final in 1979-80 (16 points in 15 games) and a Cup Final in 1980-81 (19 points in 19 games).

The entire line also made its way to the 1979 World Championships on Team Canada, although Payne would be replaced by Marcel Dionne half the time. This was MacAdam's second World Championships, as he'd also suited up in the 1977 edition, the first time NHL professionals were allowed to participate in the tournament, following a six-year absence/boycott from the Canadian team.

MacAdam's time in the spotlight ended during the 1982-83 season when rookie Brian Bellows took his place on the North Stars' top line, relegating #25 - a strong two-way player and one of the smartest North American players of the 1970s with Bob Gainey and Jacques Lemaire - to a third-line checking role. The Selke Trophy votes became a yearly occurrence, but his points totals dipped to 33 in 73 games in '82-83 and 35 in 80 games the following season,leading to a trade to the Canucks in exchange for the legendary Harold Snepsts. It was Canucks GM Harry Neale's second attempt at having MacAdam play for him, as he'd invited him to join the OHA's Hamilton Red Wings in 1971-72 when the latter opted to go to university instead.

However, MacAdam never felt accepted by the Canuck fan base who didn't take well to Snepsts' departure, and he retired a year and a half later, 11 games into the Fredericton Express' (AHL) 1985-86 season, where he served a dual player-coach position.

He moved on to coaching full-time later that year, assuming a dual position as St. Thomas University's assistant athletic director and head hockey coach of the Tommies. In that capacity, he was named AUAA Coach of the Year in 1995-96. He accepted a position as head coach of the AHL's St. John's Maple Leafs from 1996-2000, then graduated to the NHL, becoming assistant-coach to Brian Sutter (with legends Denis Savard and Vladislav Tretiak) for the Chicago Blackhawks from 2000-04.

After a short stint with his alma mater University of Prince Edward Island Panthers, he coached the Halifax Mooseheads for a year and a half, leading the 2005-06 team to the second round of the LHJMQ playoffs before taking a break from the hockey life.

He briefly returned to getting paid to watch hockey games as a scout for the Buffalo Sabres from 2011-14, mostly watching Juniors games in the Maritimes and acting as the team's Director of Amateur Scouting for the 2012-13 season.

He sometimes leaves his comfortable life near the sea to participate in trade shows, which is where he signed this card of his for me between 2013 and 2015:
It's card #178 from In The Game's 2004-05 Franchises set (cards 151-300 are from the "U.S. West" sub-set/series), showing him wearing the Barons' red (away) uniform, with the captain's "C" visible. He signed it in thick black sharpie.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Dave Karpa Autographed Card

I've been trying to keep up with Dave Karpa since the end of the 2016-17 season, but it seems like he's out of the hockey loop of sorts, save for his twin sons Jakob and Zakary Karpa playing in the American minor-hokey elite leagues, with Zakary having pledged to play for Princeton in the NCAA next season.

Father Dave was a fourth-round draft pick (68th overall) of the Québec Nordiques, and he played with the organization for parts of four seasons before moving on to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (1995-98, where he wore the alternate captain's "A" for a while), Carolina Hurricanes (1998-2001), New York Rangers (2001-03), Khabarovsk Amur in Russia (half of 2003-04), and three AHL organizations to close his playing career off, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (2003-04), Syracuse Crunch (2004-05, with some time with their ECHL affiliate San Diego Gulls), and Bridgeport Sound Tigers (2005-06).

He was a tough defenseman who could reach the 100-PIM mark in fewer than 30 games, doing so six times in the NHL alone and twice more in the AHL, and even obtaining 270 (not a type), 210 and 217 in three consecutive seasons with Anaheim, from 1995-96 to 1997-98.

He then coached his kids in leagues around Chicago and Detroit before getting an assistant-coach position with the OHL's Flint Firebirds in 2015-16, where he was famously fired twice in the same season with head coach John Gruden by team owner Rolf Nilsen, whose own son didn't take his father's side after the first firing, joining a player's strike that had the coaches reinstated... for just a couple of months.

Karpa later got back on his feet, signing up as Junior Tier III team Peoria Mustangs' (NA3HL), GM and head coach for 2016-17, but getting fired from both positions after the season.

Still, he's a terrific entry for #59 in my Nordiques Numbers Project, with card #375 from Upper Deck's 1993-94 Series 2 collection:
It shows him wearing the Nordiques' white (home) uniform. He signed it in blue sharpie by mail via the Mustangs in 2017.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Justin Abdelkader Jersey Card

For the third time this season, the Detroit Red Wings - the worst team in the NHL - beat the Montréal Canadiens earlier tonight; newcomer Ilya Kovalchuk had two assists and now has three points in two games for the Habs, as he's seemingly taking a liking to the positive reception he's getting.

Montréal's current seven-game winless streak isn't its worst of the season: they had an eight-loss streak in November. Some fans have started chants encouraging the team to tank to increase its odds of landing local kid Alexis Lafrenière as the first-overall pick of the upcoming draft, the most inventive of them being "Finir en dernière pour Lafrenière" ("Finish last for a Lafrenière draft"), especially since this year's event is being held at the Bell Centre.

They'll have to compete with the San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings and Wings for that, however.

Detroit is saddled with seemingly untradeable contracts to aging veterans, such as 35-year-old Valtteri Filppula ($3M until the end of next year), Frans Nielsen (35, $5.25M until 2022), Darren Helm (32, $3.85M until the end of next year), Mike Green (34, $5.75M), Jonathan Ericsson (35, $4.25M), Trevor Daley (36, $3.167M), Jimmy Howard (35, $4M), Jonathan Bernier ($3M for a backup until the end of next year), and Justin Abdelkader (32, $4.25M until 2023).

Abdelkader, a Michigan native, is probably the one who gets the most flack because at his peak, he was a big-bodied (6'2", 215 pounds) winger who may have been able to post 40-point seasons on a second line, with a second-round draft pick pedigree.

He fell to 19 points last year and only has 3 so far in 27 games this season (and is injury-prone). But he's one of the last remaining Wings with Stanley Cup Finals experience, something the current crop of young prospects could use. He also scored important goals in his heyday, including the winner for Michigan State against Boston College in the Frozen Four Final, where he was named Most Outstanding Player. His first two NHL goals came in the Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009.

He's been clutch.

 He would probably be a perfect bottom-six guy were it not for his cap hit, and he'll probably be an excellent development coach some day. However, paying him $4.25M isn't a problem in itself: he's a local kid, a great leader, has a wealth of experience (the Cup Final, but also a member of the bronze-winning Team USA at the 2007 World Juniors, the 2012 and 2014 World Championships and 2016 World Cup), can help other players come to grips with line-bouncing and is further proof that the Wings treat their veterans with respect and loyalty - a key point in enticing free agents to sign with the team.

Building a team isn't only about grabbing the best players available on the free market (New York Rangers), tanking (Buffalo Sabres) or playing a near-perfect defensive system (Barry Trotz' Nashville Predators, Jacques Lemaire's Minnesota Wild). After all, only X first-overall picks from the past 30 years have won Stanley Cups: Vincent Lecavalier, Marc-André Fleury, Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Patrick Kane - and two of them, Fleury and Crosby, won as part of the same team, with a second-overall pick (Evgeni Malkin) with them.

No, successful teams are usually built through a cohesive unit that includes veterans and young guys, stars and bruisers, leaders who inspire others to play above their heads for a limited amount of time, a good goalie, and guys who are willing to sacrifice themselves so their teammates can reap the benefits.

Adbelkader can be one of those ingredients, for sure. Here he is sporting the Wings' white (now-away) uniform on card #GJ-JA from Upper Deck's 2017-18 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a red game-worn jersey swatch that could be from either their home or away uniform - they're exact opposites and are only made of red and white.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Braydon Coburn Jersey Card

I started this blog over a decade ago, and my 32nd post was about Braydon Coburn of the Atlanta Thrashers, so I thought it'd be nice to revisit his career.

The eighth-overall pick of the 2003 draft ranks 17th in games played for his draft class, is ninth in points by a defenseman (with 230) behind Brent Burns (20th overall, 682 points), Ryan Suter (7th overall, 575 points), Shea Weber (49th overall, 567 points), Dustin Byfuglien (245th overall, 525 points), Dion Phaneuf (9th overall, 494 points), Brent Seabrook (14th, 464), fellow Thrashers pick Tobias Enstrom (239th, 308 points) and future two-team teammate Matt Carle (47th, 283 points), and is fifth in penalty minutes at his position with 696, behind Phaneuf (1345), Byfuglien (1094), Shane O'Brien (250th overall, 916 PIMs) and Mark Stuart (21st overall, 722 penalty minutes). He's definitely had an impact, but if the draft had to be re-done, Phaneuf, Burns, Suter, Weber and Byfuglien would probably have been picked ahead of him, as would have forwards Ryan Getzlaf (19th), Patrice Bergeron (45th), Joe Pavelski (205th), Zach Parise (17th), Jeff Carter (11th) and possibly Corey Perry (28th) as well. The rest is pretty subjective.

Because whether or not one feels he was overpaid as a middle- or bottom-pairing defender with the Tampa Bay Lightning from the end of the 2014-15 season until signing a deal last summer that brings his cap hit down to a manageable $1.7M for this year and the next, he did get the job done against the middle and bottom of the line-ups of opposing teams (save for perhaps a more difficult 2016-17 season where he looked slower and over-matched), and he was without question one of the best defensemen on the Philadelphia Flyers - second only to Kimmo Timonen or Chris Pronger, depending on the season - from 2007 until 2014, save for an injury-riddled, lockout-shortened 2012-13.

That's not to say he'll join Pronger in the Hall of Fame some day, but he's far from the disaster many online commentators have made him out to be in the past five years. If the Bolts win the Cup in the next couple of seasons, he will have deserved to have his name engraved on it for all time with his colossal efforts in Philadelphia and Tampa.

Here he is wearing the Thrashers' blue (home) uniform on card #RT-BC from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Series 2 set and Rookie Threads sub-set:
It features a dark blue jersey swatch that was worn in a photo shoot. I kind of miss those jerseys now.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Derrick Pouliot Signature Pucks Card

At 26 years old, Derrick Pouliot is actually entering his prime as a defenseman, and he's lucky he can do it in the St. Louis Blues organization, which is fresh off a Stanley Cup win and know they'll need depth on the back end if they're to make another run this season.

Originally a first-round selection of the Pittsburgh Penguins (8th overall in 2012), he was seen as an eventual left-side partner to Kris Letang, who had the same qualities - smooth-skating, booming shot, good hockey vision and great passes, standing at around the 6'0''and 200-pound mark - and things he needed to improve upon - reliability in the defensive zone - at the turn of the last decade.

Having been selected first, the Pens already had Letang improving in his own zone, to the point where he is often considered one of the most complete d-men in the game and would likely have a Norris Trophy to his name if he didn't miss so many games to injury; Pouliot had to get through the same growing pains in the minors, with inferior coaches, so it was bound to take more time.

Although the Pens won consecutive Cups with a mobile defense that was better at moving the puck forward than playing a zone defense - and Pouliot's name is on the 2015-16 championship ring because he suited up in two games in that postseason - Pittsburgh preferred sending his rights over to the Vancouver Canucks ahead of the 2017-18 season.

He did ok in his first year in BC, putting 22 points on the board to tie Michael Del Zotto for second on the defensive squad (while suiting up in 11 fewer games than Del Zotto), behind Alexander Edler's 34. The team was pretty bad overall, however, with Brock Boeser and Daniel Sedin tied at 55 points for the lead. Like Daniel's brother Henrik Sedin, Pouliot was a -22 (Daniel was -21).

Even though he improved to -1 the following season, the fact that he only accrued 12 points in 62 games (fifth among Canucks blue-liners) and had fallen out of favour with head coach Travis Green forced GM Jim Benning to not tender him a qualifying offer after the season, making him an unrestricted free agent at a relatively young age, which allowed the Blues to make their own pitch and sign him to a one-year deal.

So far, he's played a couple of games with St. Louis and did fine, but he's been lights-out with the AHL's San Antonio Rampage, where his 32 points in 42 games are actually good for the team lead, even though he plays defense.

I believe he can reinvent his career and come in as a late bloomer, manning someone's second-unit powerplay and playing 18 minutes a game or so - folks just need to allow him to not sit out after a mistake.

Here he is from earlier in his career, wearing the Pens' white (away) uniform on card #SP-DP from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Trilogy collection and Signature Pucks sub-set:
It's really one of my favourite sub-sets, truly original - the same concept as UD's Sweet Spot football cards, but transposed to hockey. They're great cards. This one was signed in gold sharpie, which seems even cooler.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Robert Kron: Three Autographed Cards

There was a piece of news that flew a little under the radar last summer, a few days after the Carolina Hurricanes matched the Montréal Canadiens' offer sheet to Sebastian Aho, and it involved the man who was most responsible for drafting Aho, Robert Kron, an amateur scout when the young star was drafted in the second round (35th overall) in 2015, and for the past two years "Head European Scout": he is now Director of European Scouting.

I know a lot about hockey, but the only difference I can see between "Head" and "Director" is that there is also a "Head" of North American Scouting (Mike Dawson) on the Canes' staff, but no "Director", so Kron's probably got the last word in case of a difference of opinion.

Although I mostly think of him as a member of the Vancouver Canucks, he only played 144 games in British Columbia versus 272 with the Hartford Whalers and 237 with the Hurricanes for a total of 509 with the organization; he finished his NHL career by suiting up for 118 games over two injury-filled seasons with the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets, so it's no surprise that when he looked at option after his playing career, he would revert back to Carolina.

Here he is rocking my favourite Canucks uniform, the 1985-97 black (away) one that replaced the "Flying V" of the early 1980s:
These are both considered "Rookie" cards; on the left is #52 from O-Pee-Chee's 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee Premier collection; while the card on the right is from Upper Deck's 1990-91 Series 2 set and Young Guns sub-set.

And here he is sporting the white (home) version of that uniform on card #239 from Pro Set's 1991-92 Series 2 collection:
It's my second-favourite pale Canucks uniform, after the Markus Naslund-era ones from 1997-2007.

He signed all three cards in blue sharpie at the Bell Centre around the 2009 amateur draft, where John Tavares was selected first-overall. It was his first draft as a scout, and only two of the Canes' six picks taht summer played in the NHL: Brian Dumoulin (51st overall, second round, 81 points in 342 games) and Rasmus Rissanen (sixth round, 178th overall, 6 games). First-rounder Philippe Paradis, a bruising 6'2", 205-pound forward, mostly played in the AHL and is currently in Québec's LNAH - perhaps the most physical league in the world these days - where he has 8 goals, 5 assist, 13 points in 19 penalty minutes in 12 games with the Jonquiere Marquis so far this season.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Ilya Kovalchuk Jersey Card

For anyone who doesn't want to read a long analysis/tirade, the gist of it is this: after having his contract terminated by the Los Angeles Kings on December 15th, Ilya Kovalchuk signed a league-minimum two-way deal with the Montréal Canadiens for the remainder of this season.

Here's the thing: The Habs are desperate for offense. They are currently without point-per-game winger Jonathan Drouin, 30-goal scorer Brendan Gallagher, career-year right winger Joel Armia, 20-goal scorer Paul Byron and young mid-lineup guy Matthew Peca - all out with injuries. Max Domi's game isn't what it what in his career year last season. And the team is coached by Claude Julien, who historically coaches with the objective that a lucky bounce will net his team a 1-0 win because he does not understand creating offense.

Spoiler alert: Kovalchuk isn't the 50-goal player he was in his prime, nor the KHL points leader from a couple of seasons ago. He's slowed down a bit, but he still has that Alex Ovechkin-esque shot. He's a powerplay and shootout specialist.

Which brings me to this observation: Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has a gambling problem. He's a functioning gambler in the same way that functioning alcoholics can still do what's asked of them and keep their jobs, because he's more afraid to spend than he is to take bets, but most of his moves have been long shots that are destined to fail, and he can't stop himself from making a ton of them:

His first two trades were one-for-one prospect swaps, a gamble in and of itself, but nothing major. His third deal was his first involving NHLers, and he sent appreciated veteran and current 30-goal scorer Erik Cole to the Dallas Stars for an over-the-hill former Canadien in Michael Ryder, a guy who in his prime could score 30 but was a negative in every other aspect of the game. Ryder played 27 games in his second stint in Montréal, had a surprising 21 points and was a -2. He retired after playing with the New Jersey Devils for two seasons. This counts as a salary dump as well as a "net loss".

He then acquired Davis Drewiskie from the Kings for a fifth-rounder. He hoped Drewiskie would be a third-pairing defender. The draft pick (Patrik Bartosak) never played for the Kings, Drewiskie played his final 9 NHL games for the Habs (producing a decent 1 goal, 2 assists and 3 points) before finishing his career in the AHL. That kind of works as a win, but it's a missed home run. If you're doing the math, that's one win, one loss and three failed gambles.

July 2013 brought actual hockey deals, starting with a swap of seventh-round picks (tie) and a trade of draft pick busts (Christian Thomas for Danny Kristo) - another failed gamble. He then managed to grab pugilist George Parros from the Florida Panthers for their own seventh-rounder from days earlier and a prospect who didn't pan out (Philippe Lefebvre).

At the 2013-14 trade deadline, he made a flurry of moves trying to get his team to the playoffs:
- He got veteran grinder Dale Weise for quick-skating young Swiss defenseman Yannick Weber. Win.
- He swapped unsigned rookies (Robert Czarnik for Steve Quailer) with the Kings. Failed gamble.
- He traded a fifth-round pick for veteran depth forward Mike Weaver in his fourth trade with the Panthers. Does he only have two GMs' phone numbers handy?
- He landed disgruntled free agent-to-be Thomas Vanek (and a fifth-rounder) for a prized prospect (Sebastian Collberg) and a second-rounder - his first true gamble win. Vanek had a good run to help the team make the playoffs then disappeared in the postseason and became a reason why the team didn't advance further.
- He acquired a spiralling Devan Dubnyk from the Nashville Predators as insurance as a third-stringer. Dubnyk would revive his career with the Arizona Coyotes the following season - they won their gamble, Bergevin lost his.
At the 2014 draft, he traded his third-rounder and a fourth for the Coyotes' third-rounder. None of them had a lasting impact in the NHL. Failed gamble.

In preparing for the free agent season, he then sent disgruntled forward Daniel Brière to the Colorado Avalanche for Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau and a fifth-rounder, a pure "hockey trade" that ended up even. After failing to sign anyone on the market, he sent veteran defenseman Josh Gorges to the Buffalo Sabres for a second-rounder who has yet to play in the NHL and is now in the Chicago Blackhawks organization, Chad Krys. Gorges played in Buffalo for four seasons. This one's a loss.

At the beginning of the 2014-15 season, to not lose goalie Peter Budaj in the waiver wire, he was sent to the Winnipeg Jets with fading prospect Patrick Holland for former prospect and AHLer Eric Tangradi. Pure loss, and failed gamble.

In early November, oft-injured hard worker Travis Moen was sent to the Stars for a fading Sergei Gonchar, who played his final 45 NHL games with the Habs. That's a win. Two weeks later, overpaid bottom-six forward Rene Bourque was sent to the Anaheim Ducks for overpaid third-pairing defenseman Bryan Allen, a tie even though Allen played only 5 games with the Canadiens and Bourque played for three more NHL seasons plus one year in Sweden. Addition by subtraction.

The trade deadline brought forth another avalanche of moves:
- Then-prized prospect Jiri Sekac was sent to Anaheim for Devante Smith-Pelly. Gamble loss: GSP brought too many problems along with his uneven game.
- He acquired the final couple of months of Jeff Petry's contract from the Edmonton Oilers for a second- and a fourth-rounder. Not only did Petry re-sign, but he's been a cornerstone of the Habs' defense ever since. Clear win.
- He also got fourth-liner Brian Flynn from the Sabres for another fifth-rounder. Win.
- Minutes later, same team, same kind of deal: he acquired Montrealer and fourth-liner Torrey Mitchell from Buffalo for a minor-leaguer and a seventh-rounder. Win.
Come July 1st, he sent beloved grinder Brandon Prust to the Canucks for Zack Kassian's alcoholism. Kassian a former Sabres first-round pick, never played a single game in Montréal, getting into a drunken car crash prior to training camp instead. Huge gamble, huge loss.

Remember Christian Thomas? He was sent back to Arizona during the Holiday period, for 12 games of a young Lucas Lessio, who now plies his trade in Germany after a few years in the KHL. Gamble and loss. Around that same time, Kassian was also sent packing - to the Oilers, for minor-league goalie Ben Scrivens. Don't get me wrong, he had to go, but he's now playing on Edmonton's top line with Connor McDavid. Another loss.

Two weeks after that, goalie Dustin Tokarski - the prospect acquired in Bergevin's second-ever trade - was sent to the Ducks for 23-year-old Max Friberg, who never played in Montréal and has been in Sweden for three years. This could either be a "gamble-and-loss" or "we're giving Tokarski away so he can play". Let's go with #2 and call it even.

A week later, Bergevin pulls a thee-team trade that lands him enforcer John Scott (from the Coyotes, for prospects Stefan Fournier and Jarred Tinordi) and Victor Bartley from the Preds (for the Coyotes' Stefan Elliott). He then refuses to let Scott play, creating a whole mess because Scott's named (sarcastically, via fan vote) to the All-Star Game, eventually being named MVP of the event. For some reason, Bartley suited up in 9 games with the Habs. Elliott is currently the only player in the list who has a shot of ever playing in the NHL again, having appeared in three games with the Ottawa Senators just last season, at 27 years of age. This is a loss, for sure, I'm not sure it's a gamble, though.

In late February, in a trade deadline move, Bergevin made his best very trade, acquiring centre Phillip Danault AND A SECOND-ROUNDER (Russian super prospect Alexander Romanov) for depth forwards Weise and Tomas Fleischmann (a free agent gamble of his own) as the Chicago Blackhawks made a push for a fourth Stanley Cup with their current core. Falling under the radar was the trade that sent Smith-Pelly to the Devils for Stefan Matteau.

The June 2016 draft was a busy time for GMMB, as he sent Lars Eller to the Washington Capitals for two second-round picks who have yet to develop and grabbed Andrew Shaw from the Hawks for two second-rounders including Alex DeBrincat. Ironically, I would have considered an Eller-for-Shaw trade equal, perhaps even slightly advantageous to the Habs; however, with the players selected in the draft, this becomes two losses for Montréal. The team also swapped second-rounders again, this time with the Jets.

Then the seismic trade happened. This could be Shea Weber's final season where his positives outweigh the negatives. He traded a thriving Norris Trophy winner and three-time nominee in P.K. Subban to get him. Of course, Subban hasn't really been the same since the trade, but that's because he's always only wanted to play in Montréal. He's lost. Meanwhile, Weber's under contract until he turns 42.

At the beginning of the 2016-17 season, Bergevin traded prospect Tim Bozon to the Panthers for Jonathan Racine, whom he sent - along with a sixth-round pick - to the Tampa Bay Lightning three months later for Nikita Nesterov, who would play all of 13 games with the Habs before leaving for the KHL... but not before essentially calling head coach Julien a racist and biased against Russians. Considering five of them didn't make it back to the team the following season (first-line forward Alexander Radulov, top-pairing defenseman Andrei Markov, top prospect Mikhail Sergachev, hard-hitting defenseman Alexei Emelin and Nesterov) and that another one didn't make it to the Holidays the following year (Nikita Scherbak), he probably had a point. That's one lost gamble and one loss, and it was the first instance of Julien rebelling against his boss' player selection.

Bergevin, trying to please his new bench boss, made another torrent of moves at the trade deadline, trying to build Julien a heavy team to work with instead of one built on speed and skill:
- First came a prospect gamble, acquiring Keegan Lowe from the Carolina Hurricanes for Philip Samuelsson.
- Then came a net win, acquiring #6-7 D-man Jordie Benn for stagnating prospect Greg Pateryn.
- There was a gamble-and-loss in giving David Desharnais away to the Oilers for Brandon Davidson, who never became the bottom-pairing defenseman it was hoped he would turn into.
- Former pest Steve Ott was acquired from the Detroit Red Wings for a sixth-rounder. Loss.
- Fourth-line grinder Dwight King was acquired from the Kings for a fourth-rounder. Loss.
- Grinder Andreas Martinsens was acquired from the Avs for young prospect Sven Andrighetto, who was a solid second-liner on that team for over two seasons. Loss.
After failing to make the playoffs once more, Bergevin pulled the trigger on the trade that brought Drouin (and a sixth-rounder) to Montréal for Sergachev (and a second-rounder). He got rid of a Russian for Julien - one who could win a Norris Trophy some day - for a Quebecer, whom Julien isn't much more fond of. It's too early to tell who will actually win that one, but for the second straight season, my opinion is that the GM went for exactly the right player but overpaid to get him - and should have held onto the piece he gave away.

Later that summer, he sent Nathan Beaulieu to Buffalo for a third-rounder (loss) in a move to shield himself from losing him to the expansion draft, sent the Kings a fifth-rounder for David Schlemko (even) to compensate, and once again swapped seventh-rounders, this time with the Philadelphia Flyers (this one looks like a home run, because it netted him goalie Cayden Primeau).

At the beginning of the 2017-18 season, Bergevin pulled the trigger on a bunch of other small moves, sending Zach Redmond to Buffalo for local kid Nicolas Deslauriers (win), sending Martinsons to Chicago for failed prospect Kyle Baun (gamble loss), Mitchell to the Kings (because youcan't have too many local guys on your team) for a fourth-rounder (even) and grabbing veteran depth guy Adam Cracknell from the New York Rangers for Holland (even).

After New Year's, backup goalie Al Montoya was sent to the Oilers for a fourth-rounder (even), and at the trade deadline, defenseman Jakub Jeřábek went to Washington for a fifth-rounder (loss), veteran Tomas Plekanec and Baun made their way to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a playoff run in exchange for Kerby Rychel, Rinat Valiev and a second-rounder (gamble fail), Joe Morrow was sent to the Jets for a fourth-rounder (even), and what should have been a steal sent the Minnesota Wild a fifth-rounder for potential powerplay quarterback Mike Reilly (gamble fail).

The summer of 2018 was once again shock-full of roster moves:
- Bergevin's very first first-round pick, Alex Galchenyuk, was sent to the Coyotes for their own struggling former first-rounder, Max Domi. Habs win this on following production, age and salary on the following two seasons.
- The Oilers grabbed Hayden Hawkey - a quality NCAA goalie - for a fifth-rounder. This one's even for now.
- At the draft, the Habs and Calgary Flames swap... fourth-rounders. They also exchange fifth-rounder with the Hawks, seventh-rounders with the Flyers, and add picks with trades with Edmonton (receiving a third and a fifth for a second, a net loss in quality) and San Jose (receiving fourth- and fifth-rounders for a fourth, essentially a slight step back for more volume, a win).
- A week later, on the eve of July 1st, Bergevin makes his third-best move as Habs GM, sending prospect Simon Bourque to the Jets for Armia, a 2019 seventh-rounder, a 2020 fourth-rounder and Steve Mason's cap hit, which he buys out immediately.
Bergevin's pre-season is also overloaded with moves:
- Rychel is sent to Calgary for another first-round disappointment, Hunter Shinkaruk (gamble loss).
- In Bergevin,s second-best trade (he just may be improving!), he sends disgruntled captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights for prized prospect Nick Suzuki, dependable two-way forward Tomas Tatar and a second-rounder. In pure hockey terms, any two of these would have been a win for the Canadiens - landing all three was spectacular, especially since Pacioretty actually wanted out.
- In what could very well be Bergevin's fourth-best trade, he sent Valiev and depth veteran Matt Taormina to the Flames for Brett Kulak, who has turned out to be better than the use Julien makes of him.
- Will Bitten was also sent to the Wild for Gustav Olofsson (gamble, even).
 The 2018-19 trade deadline was once again fertile ground for minor moves involving the Habs:
- The team sent defensemen Schlemko and Byron Froese to the Flyers for Weise and rugged defender Christian Folin (even).
- Taking advantage of a Kings fire sale, the Habs grabbed Nate Thompson and a fifth-rounder for a fourth-rounder, then re-signed the third-liner.
- In order to shed another local kid from the roster, the Canadiens send young grinder Michael Chaput to the Coyotes for veteran grinder Jordan Weal. The Habs lose on age, gain experience. Slight net loss here.
Then the 2019 draft came along, and with it its numerous pick swaps so that Bergevin can justify his yearly $6M salary: a swap of fourth-rounder with the Sharks, the yearly swap of seventh-rounders with the Flyers (no joke), a swap of fifth-rounders with the Panthers, and a trade-down move that gave the Kings the Canadiens' second-rounder in exchange for their third- and fifth-rounders.

The end of June 2019 was also a busy time for the GM, as he sent Shaw back to the Hawks with a seventh-rounder for a second, a third and a seventh-rounder (he really loves to move those around!), meaning that, essentially, he got three years of Shaw - a solid, proven playoff performer - two of which were not playoff seasons, by trading down a second for a third pick and losing out on DeBrincat, a 40-goal scorer.

Oh, and he got rid of Deslauriers, a local kid, for a fourth-rounder (even).

Which brings us to this week, where he sent Reilly to the Sens for ECHLer Andrew Sturtz and a fifth-rounder (loss) and got local kid Marco Scandella for a fourth (win).

That brings us to his free agent signings: Prust (UFA move), Francis Bouillon (return to original team, 35+ deal), Colby Armstrong ("no-risk" $1M deal, didn't pan out), Douglas Murray (one-year "no risk" deal, didn't pan out), Tom Gilbert (didn't pan out as second-pair defender but played ok), Manny Malhotra (didn't work as fourth-line centre), Sekac (traded out after 50 games), Drayson Bowman (minor-league move), George Holloway (minor-league move), Mike Condon (prospect/backup goalie gamble), Joey MacDonald (backup goalie gamble, didn't pan out), Joel Hanley (prospect gamble, didn't pan out), Alexander Semin ("no-risk" one-year, $1M deal, didn't pan out), Fleischmann (didn't pan out, traded out mid-season), Radulov ("mid-risk" for his salary, coming off a KHL scoring title on a "show-me" one-year deal, left as a UFA for greener pastures), Chris Terry (former prospect gamble, didn't pan out), Bobby Farnham (minor-league move), Montoya (depth goalie signing), Karl Alzner ($5M per, five-year bust, currently buried in the AHL), Mark Streit ("no risk", $1M, one-year deal for returning veteran after Cup win, didn't last a month before getting terminated), Ales Hemsky ("no-risk" one-year, $1M deal, didn't pan out), Morrow ("no-risk" one-year, $650K deal, didn't pan out), Antti Niemi ($1M backup goalie deal, didn't pan out), Keith Kincaid ($1.75M backup goalie deal, didn't pan out).

Some of his most important players have been waiver wire grabs, like Byron.

To recap, on the trade market, Bergevin has 19 wins, 24 losses, and 12 even "hockey" trades, and has gambled 36 times, winning/hitting home runs on exactly 3 of them. He rarely gives up a roster player and has yet to trade a future first-rounder, so it's normal that the returns have been underwhelming - you can't receive while never giving. In terms of free agent signings, only one gamble (Radulov) has paid off out of 14, and most non-gambles haven't worked out well either - Prust, his first signing, may be his most valuable. And one of his most consistent goal scorers, Byron, comes from waivers.

All of this to say that when Bergevin comes out saying disrespectful things about Kovalchuk like "he has to buy into the system" and "he knows it's his last chance", he does come from a place he is familiar with: he has given a boatload of players a chance that has ended up being their last, perhaps if only because if someone can't stand out on a team that keeps missing the playoffs, then other teams feel their value has dropped and their time is up.

Kovalchuk had other options - apparently with better teams like the Caps and Boston Bruins; Bergevin should be a little more thankful that #17 (after a nice gesture toward Kulak) chose Montréal and its apparently open spot on the powerplay to attempt to salvage his North American career.

Here he is during better times, sporting the Atlanta Thrashers' white (then-home) uniform on card #TS-IK from Upper Deck's 2007-08 Artifacts collection and Treasured Swatches sub-set:
It features a blue game-worn jersey swatch.

Internationally, the Russian star captained the Russian Athletes' Delegation for their gold medal run at the 2018 Olympics, where he was named the tournament MVP. He also has a bronze Olympic medal (2002), gold (2001) and silver (2000) from the World U-18s, and World Championship gold (2008, 2009), silver (2010, 2015) and bronze (2005, 2007 and 2019) medals with Team Russia.