Monday, July 20, 2020

Boyd Gordon Autograph Card

Boyd Gordon was a serviceable defensive forward who at one point in the 2014-15 season "owned the defensive zone" under Dallas Eakins' "everyone-has-just-one-job system with the Edmonton Oilers.

It was the year Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tied for the team lead in goals with 24 goals apiece and the Oilers failed to make the playoffs despite playing in the worst division in the league, finishing with the third-worst overall record and second-worst in the Pacific on the "strength" of a 24-44-7-7 record, with no fewer than three head coaches (Eakins, Craig MacTavish and Todd Nelson) failing to crack the .500 mark with Ben Scrivens spending 57 games in front of the blue team's net.

It was the worst of times.

It must have been particularly nightmarish for Gordon, who had come to Edmonton to share what he had learned under head coach Bruce Boudreau with the Washington Capitals, finishing with division titles year in and year out yet still being criticized for not winning the Stanley Cup every year. The veteran wanted to show he could teach other youngsters to win.

Even the best laid plans can backfire, so those put forth by the likes of Eakins and Nelson were doomed from the start. This was before Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl (and during Nail Yakupov).

These days, the Oilers are on the rise, heavy favourites to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in the play-in to enter the official playoff picture, while the Caps are still contenders, participating in the round robin to determine the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference. The smart money favours them earning one of the top two spots.

Here is Gordon wearing the Caps' red uniform (2007-present) on card #S-BG from Upper Deck's 2009-10 Be A Player set and Signatures sub-set:
It features a black-sharpied on-sticker autograph with his jersey number (15) tagged at the end.

All told, Gordon played for 13 season sin the NHL. He won championships at nearly every level, with a Memorial Cup (Red Deer Rebels, 2000-01), World Juniors silver medal (Team Canada, 2003), and Calder Cup (Hershey Bears, 2005-06).

Saturday, July 18, 2020

My Expos Numbers Project: An Introduction

Why limit a good and fun concept to just hockey when I have enough signed baseball cards to seriously consider adding a Montréal Expos Numbers Project to all my hockey ones (my Habs Numbers Project, my Oilers Numbers Project, my Sens Numbers Project, my Canucks Numbers Project, and my Nordiques Numbers Project).

It'll be harder to finalize because baseball has more players in uniform (factoring in spring training and the 40-man roster after the trade deadline), but I start with the advantage that the team no longer exists, and no new number will be worn.

The first Canadian (and first non-U.S.) team to join Major League Baseball (in 1969), the team had its two best seasons when strikes disrupted play: the 1981 division win, and the magical 1994 season where they were leading the majors with a month left of play when the playoffs were cancelled as players walked out, which rang the beginning of the end for the team, who started its first official fire sale.

There'd been prior instances of the team trading highly-paid veterans for youth when they were being priced out of the team's budget (Gary Carter), but post-1994, it actually became official team policy to always trade players when they hit their prime and were about to earn serious dough. From the first wave (Delino DeShields, Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker, John Wetteland) to the second (Pedro Martinez, Jose Vidro, Vladimir Guerrero) to seasons where it was a single player to when the Evil Twins came from New York with empty promises and ran the team to the ground so they could profit from its sale and trade up, to the Florida Marlins.
So, here I am attempting to collect autographed/memorabilia stuff from players representing every number worn by a member of the Expos. So far, I have featured 35; here they are:

Managers: Bill Virdon and Buck Rodgers.

3: Jose Vidro and Junior Noboa: check!
4: Mark Grudzielanek: check!
6: Ryan McGuire: check!
11: John Tamargo: check!
12: Wilfredo Cordero: check!
13: Jeff Fassero: check!
15: Curtis Pride (also wore #16) and Jeff Huson: check!
16: Tom Foley: check!
19: Fernando Seguignol: check!
20: Mike Fitzgerald and Brandon Watson: check!
21: Larry Jaster: check!
22: Rondell White: check!
23: Mitch Webster and Grant Jackson: check!
24: Darrin Fletcher: check!
25: David Segui: check!
27: Andy McGaffigan: check!
29: Tim Wallach (and again here): check!
30: my favourite ball player of all time, Tim Raines (and Cliff Floyd, twice): check!
32: Dennis Martinez: check!
33: Carlos Perez and Peter Bergeron: check!
34: Gil Heredia (also wore #52): check!
35: Otis Nixon: check!
37: Buck Rodgers: check!
41: Brian Barnes (also wore #47): check!
44: Tim Burke and Ken Hill: check!
45: Michael Barrett (also wore #5), Carl Pavano and the great Steve Rogers: check!
46: Kevin Gross: check!
47:  Brian Barnes (also wore #41): check!
50: Jay Tibbs: check!
51: Randy St. Claire, Mike Thurman, and Scott Stewart: check!
54: Tim Scott: check!
55: Bill Sampen: check!
57: John Wetteland: check!
62: Henry Mateo: check!
64: Keith Evans: check!
66: Andy Tracy: check!
73: Josh Labandeira: check!

Sunday, July 12, 2020

My Whalers Numbers Project

As you may know, I have Numbers Projects for so many teams now (my Habs Numbers Project, my Oilers Numbers Project my Sens Numbers Project, my Canucks Numbers Project, my Nordiques Numbers Project, my Flames Numbers Project , my Team Canada Project and my Expos Numbers Project, so I figured I could also pay tribute to one of the most still-beloved defunct teams, the Hartford Whalers.
Whilst in the NHL, they mostly played in Hartford, Connecticut, but as a franchise, they were brought from the WHA where they were known as the New England Whalers, and they played in Boston. For this project, I will indeed draw from both iterations, since they are the same team.

I may also eventually add players, coaches or managers of the AHL's Connecticut Whale, but since they're not exactly related, I'll refrain for the time being. It would be a nice cop-out, though.

So far, I have featured 16 players representing a total of 15 jersey numbers.

Here they are:

1: Sean Burke: check!
3: Joel Quenneville: check!
7: Randy Cunneyworth: check!
8: Jody Hull: check!
11: Kevin Dineen: check!
12: Dean Evason: check!
21: Andrew Cassels and Blaine Stoughton: check!
23: Nick Fotiu: check!
26: Mark Hunter: check!
28: Paul Ranheim: check!
29: Randy Ladouceur: check!
30: Peter Sidorkiewicz: check!
37: Patrick Poulin: check!
39: Kelly Chase: check!
40: Frank Pietrangelo: check!

Captains: Ladouceur

Friday, July 10, 2020

Travis Hamonic Autographed Card

Travis Hamonic is a very good defensive defenseman who has been among the best second-pair defenders in the NHL for the better part of the past decade while suiting up for the New York Islanders and Calgary Flames.

He will not be accompanying his team to Edmonton to take part in the play-in and playoffs, however, due to a family matter: his daughter suffered a severe respiratory illness earlier this winter and her life would again be at risk if he were to bring Covid-19 home. He is the first NHLer to publicly announce his decision not to go.

He was a huge part of helping the Flames to third-place in the Pacific Division with 79 points in 70 games; he himself had accumulated 3 goals, 9 assists, 12 points, 27 penalty minutes and a -3 rating in 50 games, battling injuries earlier on. He was a +21 (with 7 goals, 12 assists, 19 points and 33 penalty minutes) in 69 games in 2018-19.

Because he has a valid reason to skip the summer tournament, if I were the Flames' GM, I would find a way to keep him in contact with the team, be it via pre-game videoconferencing in the dressing room as motivation or another way, and I would petition to have his name included on the Stanley Cup if the team were to win it.

Here he is from his days in Juniors, wearing the Moose Jaw Warriors' terrible Buffaslug-inspired black jersey (and the assistant-captain's "A") on card #131 from In The Game's 2009-10 Heroes And Prospects set:
He signed it in blue sharpie back when he was playing on Long Island, between 2012 and 2015.

The 53rd-overall draft pick from the class of 2008 was named to the Memorial Cup All-Star Team in 2007 and has won silver with Team Canada at the 2010 World Juniors (the United States won gold thanks to a 6-5 overtime win).

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Jean-Pierre Dumont Autographed Team Canada Card

Jean-Pierre Dumont was drafted third-overall by the New York Islanders in 1996 following a 105-point season (48 goals and 57 assists in 66 games) with the LHJMQ's Val d'Or Foreurs. He was part of a stable of high-end talent that was traded away by "Mad" Mike Milbury, then team's GM. Imagine this roster from 1996 to 2001 (assuming All-Star Zigmund Palffy would still get traded because of his contract demands):

Todd Bertuzzi - Jason Spezza (2nd-overall draft pick) - J.P. Dumont
Derek King - Olli Jokinen - Tim Connolly / Robert Reichel
Jan Hlavac - Mike Rupp - Bryan Smolinski
Taylor Pyatt - Claude Lapointe - Raffi Torres

Zdeno Chara - Bryan McCabe
Wade Redden - Darius Kasparaitis
Bryan Berard - Eric Brewer / Kenny Jonsson
Radek Martinek - Scott Lachance

Olympians Roberto Luongo and Tommy Salo in nets

With eventual turnover (2001-2006, when he was fired) from the likes of: Sean Bergenheim (grinder), Frans Nielsen (middle-six forward), Robert Nilsson (middle-six forward), Bruno Gervais (third-pair D), Petteri Nokelainen (middle-six forward), Blake Comeau (sandpaper second-liner), Chris Campoli (third-paid D), Kyle Okposo (first-line forward), Andrew MacDonald (third-pair D), Mariusz Czerkawski (top-sic forward), Rick DiPietro (goalie) and three dozen prospects who could have panned out in a better environment.

That has the makings of a consistent playoff team, and one can argue that different draft choices (Zach Parise, Brent Burns, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, Corey Perry, Patrice Bergeron, Corey Crawford, Shea Weber, and Joe Pavelski were still available when Nilsson was chosen 15th overall in 2003, for instance) would also have made a huge difference as well.

Instead, the Isles were perpetually in the bottom of the NHL standings while Dumont carved himself a nice NHL career, ending with over 500 points on the strength of 214 goals, 309 assists and 364 penalty minutes in 822 regular-season games and another 34 points (17 goals and 17 assists) in 51 playoff games, including a deep run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2005-06 with the Buffalo Sabres (14 points in 18 games).

He was bought out by the Nashville Predators following the 2010-11 season and played the 2011-12 season overseas with SC Bern in Switzerland, finishing his playing career with solid numbers: 8 goals, 23 assists and 31 points (with 26 penalty minutes and a +6 rating) in 31 regular-season games - good for fourth on the team despite playing 16 to 19 games fewer than those ahead of him, none of whom had more than 10 points more tahn he did - and another (team-leading) 5 goals, 8 assists and 13 points in 12 playoff games as the team made its way to the league final, losing to Bob Hartley's Zurich Lions.

In honour of Canada Day, I wanted to include Dumont as #18 in my Team Canada Numbers Project, with card #271 from Upper Deck's 1998-99 Collector's Choice set and World Junior Showcase sub-set, where he is shown battling for the puck with a Finnish player:
He actually went pointless in 7 games with Team Canada at the World Juniors in 1998, as the team finished eighth in the standings - Finland won gold, ahead of Russia and Switzerland - under disgraced head coach Réal Paiement (now a Toronto Maple Leafs scout). The team's leading scorers were Josh Holden (4 points), Alex Tanguay, Daniel Tkaczuk and Daniel Corso (3 apiece), and the top defensemen were Brewer, Sean Blanchard, Brad Ference and Corey Sarich. Other notable forwards were Vincent Lecavalier, Matt Cooke, Jason Ward, Manny Malhotra and Steve Bégin, while goaltending duties were handled by the Québec duo of Mathieu Garon (1.91 GAA in 5 games) and Luongo (2.89 in 3 games).

Dumont signed this card for me roughly five years ago, at a Foreurs event; the team had retired his #96 nearly a decade earlier.