Monday, August 31, 2020

Raphaël Lavoie Autographed Card

As the Edmonton Oilers' 2019 second-round pick (38th overall), 20-year-old Raphaël Lavoie no longer has anything to prove in Juniors after a 38-goal,  44-assist and 82-point season in 55 games in 2019-20 split between the Halifax Mooseheads (18-26-44 in 30 games) and Chicoutimi Saguenéens (20-18-38 in 25 games).

He is old enough for the AHL, but we don't know when that league will begin its season (there are no plans to do so before the end of the calendar year as long as the Covid-19 numbers remain ridiculously high in the U.S. and the passing of a second wave in Canada, so his agent had a good idea to have him sign in Sweden. He may even start a trend of high-end prospects signing overseas until the end of the European season, then finishing what is left of the North American one, which is bound to be at least two or three months later.

I do have doubts about a player who isn't a top-three NHL draft pick making the jump from the LHJMQ/CHL directly to the third-best league in the world - I'd say the pro hockey world goes: NHL, KHL, SHL, AHL, Finland, Czech League, Switzerland - but perhaps they can start him in their affiliate system ( Hockey Allsvenskan) for a month or two and bring him up to the main team later in the year.

And if it doesn't work out, he's probably good enough to make it on a top-six in France or a middle-six in the Swiss League.

A power forward with his skill set - 6'4", 200 pounds, good hands, adult-level-impressive strength, puck protection ability and offensive flair and positioning - will eventually become a 30-goal scorer in the NHL, but he's not there yet; he has not yet learned the ropes, learned to use his body against men night in and night out and consistently put up points whether the games are easy or hard, so he would be able to rely on just his skill in roughly a third of the games in a lower-tiered league and play the rest by ear, but doing so in a competitive, veteran-heavy league whose country wins Olympic and World Championship gold medals, with or without NHL players, seems like a bit of a stretch.

Time will tell how he fares in Europe this year, but I can't wait until he makes the NHL in wo or three years and when he reaches his prime in five or six, while Connor McDavid and Leon Draisailt are still elite players; maybe he'll be able to sprinkle a couple of 40-goal seasons in there and earn one huge contract.

In the meantime, here he is wearing Team Canada's red (away) uniform on card #35 from Upper Deck's 2018-19 Team Canada Juniors/Women set, wearing #25 at the 2018 U18 Championships, where he scored 5 goals in 5 games:

He signed it in thick blue sharpie while still with the Mooseheads early last season.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Yann Sauvé Jersey Card

Tired of getting loaned left and right to all corners of the AHL and ECHL, Yann Sauvé set his sights towards Europe in 2016-17 and has almost never looked back.

The former Vancouver Canucks draft pick (41st overall in 2008) to be a middle-pairing defenseman, as he was already a hulking shut-down blue-liner in the LHJMQ at 6'3" and 209 pounds, but with players his age or slightly younger, he could also contribute offensively. In the professional ranks however, as is often the case with defensemen - particularly those built rugged - it was a slow process made even slower by a concussion suffered when he was hit by a car in training camp in 2010. It took him two months to recover and he was relegated to the AHL instantly and also playing a bit in the ECHL, which prepared him for the following five seasons, during which he suited up for 13 teams in three different leagues:
from HockeyDB
That's a lot of travel.

When the offer to play for the Croatian KHL team KHL Zagreb Medvescak came (the "KHL" in the team name does not refer to the league they played in but to the Croatian initials for "Ice Hockey Club"), he jumped on it, but when the team failed to make the playoffs in February, he felt it was too early to pack it in until the Fall, so he went back to the ECHL's Manchester Monarchs until German team Munich Red Bulls Ice Hockey Club (or as they're called in he DEL, EHC Red Bull München) requested his services for a playoff run. He had one final regular-season game to play before that, and he decided to make his mark by amassing no fewer than 25 penalty minutes and a game rejection as he got acquainted with his teammates. The team won the league championship.

He spent the 2017-18 season in the U.K., scoring 10 goals with 27 assists for 37 points (sixth in team scoring, first for defensemen) and 96 penalty minutes (second only to fellow Montréaler Mathieu Gagnon's 106) in 54 games with the Nottingham Panthers.

He gave Austria a chance for 2018-19, splitting the season between KHL Zagreb Medveščak (which had jumped leagues for financial reasons that were never resolved) and EC Panaceo VSV after the Zagreb team folded, with similar statistics; he had 6 goals and 8 assists for 14 points with 12 penalty minutes and a -11 rating in 24 games in Zagreb and 2 goals, 10 assists and 12 points with 16 penalty minutes and a -12 rating for for Villach.

He spent the 2019-20 season playing for France's Grenoble Brûleurs de Loups (literally: Wolf Burners), scoring 6 goals with 15 assists for 21 points ion the highly-offensive Ligue Magnus He also had 57 penalty minutes and - more importantly - a +26 defensive rating.

Grenoble seems like a perfect fit for him, and I hope he finds some stability there. As a French Canadian, I believe he's relatively exempt from the "Imported Players" quota when in France, so that's a plus.

This is what he looked like in the Canucks' white (away) uniform, on card #165 from Upper Deck's 2011-12 SPX set and Rookie Jersey sub-set:
It features a karge blue "event.worn" jersey - a rookie photo shoot - and is numbered #318/799. While the foil looks silver in the scan, it's actually gold to the naked eye.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Upper Deck 2019-20 SP: Three-Pack Break

I was waiting in line at Walmart yesterday and a three-pack cello of Upper Deck's 2019-20 SP collection kept staring at me, so after five or ten minutes I decided to try my luck at some of the exciting rookies or possible inserts. SP used to be a "real premium" set, where the cardboard was at least double the thickness of the flagship Series 1 and Series 2 sets, but that is no longer the case. The cards are even semi-matte, but they still have that trademark cropped action picture on a white background, as can be seen here for Jack Eichel, wearing the Buffalo Sabres' 50th Anniversary white uniform:
The card backs feature a small blurb on the player as well as the basic classic stats of the past five seasons, as can be seen on this Sidney Crosby card:
Each retail pack contains five cards: four regular-issue base cards and one insert, sometimes another one, such as this beautiful "Blue" Parallel of Cam Atkinson:
The scan really doesn't do the blue foil justice, though - it's dark an rich, almost purple from certain angles.

There are also Rookie Authentics, numbered to 1199, like this one of Trevor Moore:
But the Blue Rookie Authentics Parallels are even better:
That's Elvis Merzlikins, Karson Kuhlman and Jack Hughes.

In terms of the base set, I landed Crosby, Eichel, Mikael Granlund, Teuvo Teravainen, Ben Bishop, Kyle Turris, Vladimir Tarasenko, Dougie Hamilton, Connor Hellebuyck and Leon Draisaitl.

It's a nice-looking set that is great for autograph hounds like myself if you're going to use the rookie cards as trade bait. I personally feel it's too expensive to collect the entire set.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Xavier Ouellet Autographed Card

Generally, when a former second-round pick in his mid-20s signs as a free agent in his hometown, he's given every chance to succeed, but Xavier Ouellet went through a totally different experience when he signed with the Montréal Canadiens, getting sent to the AHL's Laval Rocket with the consolidation prize of the team's captaincy, all but ensuring he was there to mentor the young prospects instead of being a regular call-up.

However, he did his job well enough for the better part of two seasons that not only did he earn the occasional cal-up (19 games in 2018-19, 12 regular-season games in 2019-20), even head coach Claude Julien thought he was good enough to play on the bottom pair with penalty-killing time in the post-season, suiting up for 10 games for the team that ousted the Pittsburgh Penguins in the play-in round and took the Philadelphia Flyers to six games when the actual playoffs got rolling.

Furthermore, his role increased under Kirk Muller when Julien was hospitalized, playing 15 minutes in the elimination game last night. Furthermore - and that's where the Habs brass will be most happy - he was an even +/- 0 in the regular season and a +2 when play resumed after Covid-19 hit; in Ouellet's case, it actually hit home: he tested positive for the virus.

Defensemen take longer to develop, but I now see a possible career trajectory like that of Ron Hainsey, Nathan Beaulieu or Eric Brewer, high draft picks who took their time to get comfortable in the NHL but ended up staying in the Big Show for a long time.

Before he captained the Rocket and started his career with the Detroit Red Wings, Ouellet displayed his leadership skills by wearing the "C" for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the LHJMQ, who were coached by Joël Bouchard, Laval's current bench boss, as seen on card #63 from In The Game's 2011-12 Heroes And Prospects set:
That 1990s Los Angeles Kings-inspired white (home) uniform is beautiful! He signed it in (fading) blue sharpie back when he was in the Wings organization (2013-18).

Friday, August 21, 2020

Harold Snepsts: Two Autographed Cards

For all intents and purposes, the Vancouver Canucks look like they'll be eliminating the reigning Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues tonight, meaning a new champion will be crowned among the eight remaining teams.

The Boston Bruins last won it in 2010-11 but reached the Final last year; the Tampa Bay Lightning won it in 2003-04 and last reached the Final in 2014-15; the Colorado Avalanche last won it in 2000-01; the Dallas Stars last won it in 1998-99 and reached the Final the following season; the Philadelphia Flyers last won it in 1974-75 and last reached the Final in 2009-10; the New York Islanders last won it in 1982-83 and last reached the Final the following season; and the Canucks (est. 1970) and Vegas Golden Knights (est. 2017) have never won the chalice, but Vancouver has been to the Final three times (1981-82, 1993-94 and 2010-11).

The 1994 (versus the New York Rangers) and 2011 (Bruins) Finals each went the full 7 games while the 1982 one was a four-game sweep by the Isles, a series that could have dragged on longer if the usually-dependable Harold Snepsts hadn't made a crucial error in overtime, a turnover leading to Mike Bossy's game-winning goal.

Snepsts could by no means be mistaken for Denis Potvin or Ray Bourque, but defensively, he was very intimidating. He could fight, push, check (and cross-check!) with the best of them and his presence around the net meant the opposition thought twice about approaching goalie Richard Brodeur. That style of play would bring both Brodeur (1983) and Snepsts (1977 and 1982) to the All-Star Game.

He was an extremely popular figure among Canucks fans for his pleasure at just being in the NHL, his joy and his superb moustache; most were angered when GM Harry Neale sent him to the Minnesota North Stars, a mistake his successor, Pat Quinn, promptly corrected by bringing him back for leadership in 1988. By that point he was an injury-prone #6-7 D, but he helped guide young guns like Trevor Linden and Adrien Plavsic into becoming the core that would lead the team to its next Final.

He played his final 61 games with the Blues.

I mostly remember his days in Vancouver with the "Flying V" uniform, as seen on card #344 from O-Pee-Chee's 1981-82 O-Pee-Chee set:
Of course, all hockey fans my age will also remember him with St. Louis because of Pro Set's 1990-91 Series 2 card, because we all spent our entire allowances on those packs of "the coolest cards on ice":
Snepsts was part of the last six NHLers to not wear a helmet.

After retiring, he took on coaching jobs in the AHL (head), NHL (assistant), IHL (head) and WHL (head), but spent the most time as a scout, first with NHL Central Scouting and now with the Canucks.

He is a member of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

He signed both of these cards in blue sharpie at a convention of retired athletes.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Anthony Beauvillier: Two Autographed Cards

The New York Islanders did what they do tonight, shutting down the Washington Capitals to win their first-round series in 5 games, two fewer than I had thought it would take, on the strength of two goals from 22-year-old Anthony Beauvillier, who now leads his team with 6 goals and 9 points in 9 postseason games.

It'll be hard to keep that pace up on a team coached by defensive mastermind Barry Trotz, but "Bovril" was still sixth in team scoring in the regular season with 39 points and fourth in goals, as his 18 in 68 games matched his previous season's mark that was attained in 81 contests.

He hasn't yet reached teammate Mathew Barzal's level of productivity, but he will definitely be part of the Isles' core group going forward and will be a great pair with trade deadline acquisition and clutch performer Jean-Gabriel Pageau in the middle-six group.

Internationally, he has represented Team Québec in the 2014 U-17s (fourth-place finish) and Team Canada at the 2014 Hlinka-Gretzky U-18s Cup (gold), the 2015 U-18 World Juniors (silver), the 2016 World Juniors (sixth place) and the 2017 World Championships (fourth place), a team that was led by Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Colton Parkayko and Pierre-Luc Dubois and that also included current Islanders Pageau, Barzal, Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, and Ryan Pulock, as well as Ryan O'Reilly, Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, Darnell Nurse, Thomas Chabot and Ryan Murray.

This card shows him wearing Canada's white ("home") uniform during the 2015 U-18s, where he was teammates with Barzal, Chabot and Dubois as well as Nicolas Roy, Mitchell Stephens, Brett Howden, Ethan Bear, Matthew Spencer and Guillaume Dubois:
That's card #H-7 from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Team Canada Juniors set and Hydro sub-set that is a lot more silver to the naked eye than this dark scan, although the scan might look a tad cooler. It enables me to add him as #9 in my Team Canada Numbers Project, where he also occupied the #21 spot for now.

Tonight, however, he goes down as the Capital Eliminator in the Islanders' white (away) uniform, as seen on card #231 from UD's 2018-19 O-Pee-Chee set:
I got these returns in the mail around this time last year, signed in blue sharpie, the Team Canada card tagged with his jersey number (9) at the end.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Ilya Bryzgalov Swatch Card

As the Montréal Canadiens kept answering every Philadelphia Flyers' comeback attempt earlier tonight, goaltender Carter Hart showed that one can have a world of talent, it also takes experience or at least a fierce competitive edge to have the poise to take over and shut the door in an elimination game. And he just needed to look at the other end of the ice to see that it doesn't always come, either.

It's even harder to do in Philadelphia, where the netminding heroes of the past who are remembered fondly - Bernard Parent and Pelle Lindbergh - each had their careers cut short, Parent by an eye injury, and Lindbergh of course died in a car crash. We tend to forget that Parent had two sub-par seasons in the three years following his two Stanley Cup-winning years.

And history also now sheds a more favourable light on Ron Hextall, who came into the league by winning the Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies but followed that with two sub-par playoff performances, and he was essentially run out of town, which was only delayed by a few serious injuries. He was exiled for two seasons (playing for the Québec Nordiques and New York Islanders) and came back to Philly and only had one Vezina-caliber season in his final five seasons in the City of Brotherly Love - the second, his age 31 season, the rest of the time most hockey pundits saying the Flyers still needed an upgrade at the position.

And they've been saying it ever since. As a matter of fact, since the Flyers last reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, 16 goalies have stood up in their crease - including an NHL-record eight in 2018-19 alone - and every single one of them was slammed by local press: Brian Boucher (two stints), Michael Leighton (two stints), Sergei Bobrovsky, Ilya Bryzgalov, Steve Mason, Ray Emery, Cal Heeter, Rob Zepp, Michal Neuvirth, Anthony Stolarz, Brian Elliott, Petr Mrazek, Cam Talbot, Mike McKenna, Calvin Pickard, and Hart; counting back to Hextall's Final, that's 42.

The only Vezina winner - Bob, of course, the only active two-time recipient of the award for best goaltending - was even run out of town before reaching his peak, replaced by Spaceman Bryz, a ne-tim finalist for the award who never again played like a #1 goalie after signing in Philly.

Tonight, as Hart twice let in goals minutes after his team would tie the game, I was reminded of the picture on this card, showing Bryzgalov looking behind himself at a puck that either went in the net or missed it:
That's card #29 from Panini's 2011-12 Crown Royale set and All The King's Men sub-set, a beautiful piece of cardboard that shows the goalie wearing the Flyers' retro/current home orange uniform, with a white game-worn "material" swatch in the crest.

Hopefully Hart's career in Philadelphia resembles more that of Parent than Bryz.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Dale Hawerchuk Autographed Card

The biggest story in sports today isn't what happened on any field but instead the loss of one of the all-time greats, with the passing of Dale Hawerchuk.

He had been diagnosed with stomach cancer in October 2019, and it was believed he had won the fight in April, but it came back in July. He had had a gastrectomy in January.

By all accounts, he was a very good person, a terrific father and a caring Juniors coach, but most hockey fans will remember him as a very good hockey player who broke records everywhere he went, from the Guy Lafleur-besting 8 goals in a single game at the Québec International peewee tournament to the Memorial Cup record of 8 goals and 13 points to being the youngest player to ever reach the 100-pont mark in the NHL (a mark since beaten by Sidney Crosby), he was destined to make history.

And perhaps he'd have made an even larger mark on the game had he not played in the very same division as Wayne Gretzky's dynasty Edmonton Oilers, whom he would face in the playoff nearly every season in the 1980s and thus went home to an earlier Spring than if he'd played in one of 15 other NHL cities.

Heck, even his most memorable international moment with Team Canada is overshadowed by #99, as few people remember Hawerchuk was actually the player who won the defensive zone face-off and made the pass to Gretzky against Team USSR in a 5-5 winner-takes-all game, sending The Great One and a certain Mario Lemieux off on a two-on-one that would seal the game. That goal doesn't happen without Hawerchuk. He was named the MVP of that game, too.

Despite also suiting up for the Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers - there will be plenty of time to revisit that later - he remains, in my mind, forever the best centre in Winnipeg Jets history. As a matter of fact, here is my all-time Jets lineup, regardless of league, but just the Jets in Winnipeg:
Bobby Hull - Hawerchuk - Teemu Selanne
Thomas Steen - Ulf Nilsson - Anders Hedberg
Keith Tkachuk - Mark Schiefele - Blake Wheeler
Paul MacLean - Alexei Zhamnov - Shane Doan
Ed Olczyk, Bryan Little

Phil Housley - Dustin Byfuglien
Randy Carlyle - Teppo Numminen
Dave Babych - Fredrik Olausson

Connor Hellebuyck
Bob Essensa
I think it's safe to say he's the #1 Jets player of all time, ahead of Hull, who had his best years with the Chicago Blackhawks. Selanne's rookie season was off the charts, but it's hard to argue with six 100-point seasons, two more over 90 and one at 81 in nine years in Winnipeg. That's elite among the elite.

That's why I traded for card #133 from Upper Deck's 2000-01 Legends set, that he signed with a fading blue sharpie, adding his jersey number (10) at the end:
It shows him wearing the team's classic blue 1980s uniform with the long white sleeves that I miss dearly.


Sunday, August 16, 2020

Joe Pavelski Jersey Card

There is one hint that this Relics card of Joe Pavelski's from his days with the San Jose Sharks in Upper Deck's 2015-16 Champ's set is indeed a "Jersey' card and not just another random piece of cloth:
It's not that the back states  that's it's "memorabilia that has been certified as having been used in an official NHL game", but the fact that it's #J-JP in the set.

I'm not the world's biggest Sharks fan, so even though the teal game-worn jersey swatch looks pretty good, it wasn't the hit I was hoping for... but it was better than getting anything from the Toronto Maple Leafs, that's for sure!

It was also a chance to feature "Little Joe", a player who almost every season garners a little bit of Selke Trophy talk, once in a while gets Hart consideration as journalists' fifth pick to finish in the top-20 and always seems to want to carry his team that extra mile.

Unfortunately, whether it's playing in San Jose or for Team USA, it seems his Herculean efforts always end up in losses, the most painful being the 2015-16 Stanley Cup Final loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins and the 2010 Olympics, where he had three assists in the final game and ending up with a silver medal because Sidney Crosby scored a lucky goal from the corner behind the goal line.

I'm not the world's biggest Crosby fan, but I'll take the Pens over the Sharks and Team Canada over the Americans almost every time. Still, it can't be easy realizing late in your career your biggest nemesis in team success is the most media-focused player of his generation.

I'm not the biggest Dallas Stars fan, but I do like them, and I was surprised they made such an aggressive push to add the 35-year-old as a free agent last summer. Not that they would be interested, not that they would give him $7M that first season, but that he would get a three-year deal. In the cap era where teams seem to shun veteran talent, it came as a bit of a shock, but when you realize he was actually a couple of weeks ahead of his 35th birthday and thus wouldn't fall under the "must keep cap hit even if bought out" category, it started to make a bit more sense.

Long a problem in Dallas, offense was in a complete drought in 2019-20, with no skater producing above the 50-point mark, everyone but Tyler Seguin falling below the 40-point mark and only 22-year-old rookie Denis Gurianov hitting the 20-goal mark. Captain Jamie Benn is looking more and more like his best days are behind him - and possibly a compliance buyout candidate in the event of a second large Covid wave or another pandemic in a couple of years - and Alexander Radulov seems to have two good years for every one he takes off, so they're going to need to milk Pavelski for every ounce of juice he's got left.

Lucky for them, he does see to have gas left in the tank, as his hat trick propelled the Stars to a 5-4 overtime win over the Calgary Flames to even the series at two games apiece. His third goal - the game-tying goal - was scored with just 11.9 seconds left in the third period.

His next playoff goal (54th) will move him ahead of Jeremy Roenick (53) as third all-time American-born postseason sniper, behind Mike Modano (58) and Joe Mullen (60). Both Modano and Mullen have Stanley Cups, Roenick and Pavelski do not.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Tuukka Rask Jersey Card

The biggest news today is probably Boston Bruins star goalie Tuukka Rask leaving the NHL bubble to attend to a family emergency that is no longer a crisis but nevertheless is a situation that he feels is better handled if he is present. He could return to the bubble if his circumstances change, but it's widely expected GM Don Sweeney's words still true, whereas he's expected to come back next season and the team will welcome him at that moment, and in the meantime they'll ride co-Jenning winner Jaroslav Halak's coattails - despite the never-ending rumours about Rask's possible early retirement.

The change from this year's Vezina nominee to a proven playoff performer does not affect Boston's outlook on their Round 1 chances, as both their goalies are better than the Carolina Hurricanes'; it could become an issue later on, if the Bruins were to face the Tampa Bay Lightning or Vegas Golden Knights.

Here's a good look at who the Bs will be missing, in the team's white (away) uniform:
That's card #GJ-TR from Upper Deck's 2016-17 Series 1 and UD Game Jersey sub-set, featuring a black game-worn jersey swatch.

Since he has appeared in the postseason, there is no question his name will be on the Stanley Cup should the Bruins, win despite his voluntary leave.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Semyon Varlamov Jersey Card

Semyon Varlamov is having a tremendous postseason at the expense of the Washington Capitals in Round 1 after puzzling the Florida Panthers' young stars in the play-in. Signing with the New York Islanders as a free agent in the off-season sure looks like a great move on his part, with Barry Trotz' system doing its part to help the 32-year-old reach the level that's expected from a $5M goalie, but it's a two-way street, and Varlamov is surely doing his part, with opportune saves like this one:

The former Vezina Trophy runner-up (2013-14) has slowly but surely evolved into an elite goaltending, and his international career with Team Russia shows that very well, as he had made his way to the squad at the 2005 World Juniors as an underage third-stringer, then won the silver medal the following season as the official backup to Anton Khudobin and again in 2007 as the starter (ahead of Sergei Bobovsky), and he would repeat the progression with the Men's Teams, first as the third-stringer behind Evgeni Nabokov and Ilya Bryzgalov at the 2010 Olympics, then earning silver as the main guy at the 2010 World Championships and gold as the starter once again at the 2012 Worlds.

It's like he takes his first opportunity to assess the situation quietly, then climbs the ranks and gets successful. The same holds true of his beginnings with the Isles this season, losing his first two games - including getting pulled after surrendering four goals on 19 shots in under 29 minutes against the Edmonton Oilers; he won seven of his next eight starts - the loss coming in overtime.

When all was said and done, with the team plan originally being to platoon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss, #40 played 45 regular-season games while the 33-year-old German appeared in 31; Greiss has yet to appear in the postseason, in part because of Varlamov's staggering statistics:  6-1 record, with a 1.71 GAA and a .932 save percentage despite having not record a shutout yet.

Here he is back in his days with the Colorado Avalanche, sporting their white (away) uniform on card #GJ-SV from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Series 1 collection and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a burgundy game-worn jersey swatch.

As you can perhaps tell from the picture, he has a low stance and centre of gravity in net, as he's 6'2" tall yet his "pounce" stance has his head below the crossbar, which stands at four feet high.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Kirk Muller: Two Autographed Cards

Montréal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien was admitted to the hospital for chest pains last night and will miss the remainder of the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers; associate coach Kirk Muller will officially take over in the interim, but in reality he and assistant-coaches Domninic Ducharme and Luke Richardson will each take on some of Julien's duties.

Muller has won the Stanley Cup as a player with the Canadiens, in 1993. In those playoffs, head coach Jacques Demers also missed time after going to the hospital with chest pains (he actually suffered a heart attack); Demers' replacement was Jacques Lemaire, also a former Cup winner with Montréal.

The player who scored the 1993 Cup-winning goal on the Los Angeles Kings' Kelly Hrudey was... Muller.

Having served as the New Jersey Devils' captain before getting traded to Montréal, Captain Kirk also served in that capacity with the Habs during the 1994-95 season, despite that role usually falling to a French-speaker; he'll now assume a role - interim head coach - that also usually goes to members of the clan who invented poutine. If the team wins the Cup this season, he'll forever be in contention for the sought-after position that gets more media coverage than both the Canadian and Québec Premiers, despite his linguistic limitations.

Here he is wearing the team,s white (then-home) uniform, on card #614 from Score's 1991-92 Bilingual Canadian Edition High Numbers (Series 2) set, featuring rookies and players who were traded between when the first series was printed and late January, right before the trade deadline:
And here he is wearing the Habs' retro uniform with the team's logo on the right arm where modern jersey numbers can be found, for the NHL's 75 anniversary (the commemorative patch is visible on his chest):
That's card #3 from Score's 1991-92 Pinnacle set, a crudely designed collection with the advantage of featuring many pictures: two on the front (a headshot and an action pic), but also a different one on the back, in the team's current red (then-away) uniform, with Muller's #11 clearly visible on the arm:
That's a perk a card nerd like myself can get behind that makes it worth the extra costs of a "premium" set like Pinnacle was... when "premium" meant $4 a pack instead of 79 cents, way off from the $100 for 3-6 cards we have nowadays.

I had tried to write Muller a couple of times without replies when I bumped into him after a Habs game and he signed these for me in blue sharpie, with his #11 tagged at the end.