Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Victor Hedman Dual Jersey Card

There is bound to be a dichotomy between the best at anything for a period and the best on a shorter term, or most deserving of a nod. Victor Hedman, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in an impressive Stanley Cup run with the Tampa Bay Lightning is currently the best defenseman in the NHL, but I'm totally fine with handing this year's Norris Trophy for best performance by a defenseman to the Washington Capitals' John Carlson who produced an insane 75 points in 69 games this year, well ahead of anyone else at his position while almost never playing with Alex Ovechkin. It was his second straight 70-point season, and it deserves some recognition.

Does Carlson have flaws? Of course: all over the defensive zone. Does Hedman? Not really. And that's why Hedman won the Norris in 2017-18 and has been a finalist for the past four years. He's so dominant you get used to it, but not quite as head and shoulders above his peers as Nicklas Lidstrom used to be - which justified his winning the award every year - which is why other worthy seasons were also rewarded with the award.

His performance in these playoffs was just as impressive as those of the last defenseman who won the award, Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks, and it's a safe bet both players will end up in the Hall Of Fame some day.

He technically fell two goals short of Paul Coffey's 12 in a single postseason, but I was glad no one broke any production records this year since the statistics were skewed by the play-in round counting as postseason games this year, which is an aberration. I understand the league didn't want to influence the regular-season points (Leon Draisaitl versus Connor McDavid) and goals (Ovechkin versus David Pastrnak) standings, but that's no reason to forgo playoff history, although Wayne Gretzky was correct in saying that the greats from the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s were at a disadvantage when the elimination round started al being best-of-sevens instead of best-of-fives.

Speaking of all-time greats, none other than Scotty Bowman - whom the Toronto Sun aptly described as having "coached Doug Harvey and Lidstrom, Coffey, Larry Robinson and Serge Savard, and happened to be on the bench in St. Louis when Bobby Orr flew through the air after his famous 1970 Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal" had this to say about Hedman:
He is in his own place right now. He’s a big guy that does just about everything right. He’s so mobile for his size. He plays, what, 26 minutes a game? And you get the impression he could play a lot more. He reminds me of Larry (Robinson) that way. For a big man, he can really skate.
That's how I'd compare him as well. He's not as mean as Chris Pronger, but he hits as hard as Robinson; he's not as smooth and perfect as Lidstrom, but he almost looks as smooth as Scott Niedermayer out there at times.

Here he is wearing the Bolts' former third jersey on card #FA-VH from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Artifacts set and Frozen Artifacts sub-set:
It features two white game-worn jersey swatches that likely come from the team's away uniform.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Bobby Ryan Autographed Card

Just three weeks after winning the Masterton Trophy over Philadelphia Flyers cancer survivor Oskar Lindblom and mentioning that very possibility with the press afterwards, Bobby Ryan was bought out by the Ottawa Senators earlier today.

I had featured him when he scored a hat trick in his first game back from rehab, and even then tried to find a balance in all the truths, talent and tragedy of his life story.

The fact that the team did this so soon after the Masterton win means it's something they had already set their minds to, that they'd weighed the Cinderella story against his age, cap hit, production and leadership capabilities and still went for it, despite the possibility that with his mind in the right place, he might become a 25- or 30-goal scorer again, that his experience could help steer the team's young players in the right direction, that the team could have used his cap hit to reach the cap floor.

There were more positives in letting him go than keeping him.

As a regular Sens observer for the past 15 years and a hockey fan for most of the past 42, I am not certain I would agree with that; unless there is information we were not provided, had I been GM, I may have gambled on giving him an extra year and bought him out of his final $7.5M season next off-season.

I'm also the kind of guy who'd want to bring former captain Jason Spezza back for his final season so he can retire in the "right" uniform, so maybe I'm just too much of a romantic.

There no denying he looked right wearing Ottawa's black "O" uniform, though, as seen on card #604 from the 2013-14 O-Pee-Chee set manufactured by Upper Deck:

He signed it in thick black sharpie during the 2018-19 season, if I remember correctly.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Joel Edmundson Autographed Card

Yesterday - four days after acquiring his rights from the Carolina Hurricanes for a fifth-round pick - the Montréal Canadiens signed defenseman Joel Edmundson to a four-year deal worth $14M, or $3.5M per season.

That is an extremely reasonable deal for a Stanley Cup-winning top-four defenseman who had just signed consecutive team-friendly $3M one-year deals to give the Canes and St. Louis Blues cap flexibility with an understanding that his payday was forthcoming; had it not been for Covid-19, he likely would have fetched $4.5M per season on the open market, likely for six or seven years.

At age 27, he's just entered his prime, a fact attested by his career-high 7 goals and 20 points with the Canes last year, despite the shortened season that saw him appear in just 68 games. Last season, the Hurricanes' top four defensive zone pairings all included Edmundson on the left side, either with Brett Pesce, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Jaccob Slavin and Haydn Fleury; that means everyone except Dougie Hamilton was mandated to get some d-zone time, but they all needed Edmundson's supervision.

At 6'4" and 215 pounds, Habs fan who are not yet familiar with his work will get to know a slower-footed version of Ben Chiarot, last year's free agent signing who has integrated the team's system extremely well. Expect him to play alongside Jeff Petry, in the same role he filled playing with Alex Pietrangelo in St. Louis - the straight man who handles defensive duties and allows his partner to run free and take more risks.

Here he is wearing the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors' black (away) uniform on card #75 from In The Game's 2011-12 Heroes And Prospects set:
He signed it in black sharpie nearly two years ago after a Blues game in Montréal. He tagged his jersey number (3) at the end.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Jamie Benn Swatch Card

I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that while he isn't scoring as much as he used to and that Joe Pavelski has also assumed a large part of the Dallas Stars' leadership up-front, captain Jamie Benn is once again looking like a leader in these playoffs.

His last two regular seasons had been a disappointment to say the least - 27 goals, 26 assists and 53 points in 78 games in 2018-19 and 19 goals, 20 assists and 30 points in 69 games in 2019-20 - but he elevated his gaem in both postseasons, and this year in particular, with two three-game goal streaks this season, against noteworthy adversaries like the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights, in key games, no less.

I'm not sure GM Jim Nill sees it as "worth the $9.5M cap hit" per se, but he's probably extremely happy to have him around, that's for sure. Here is the power forward in simpler times, wearing the Stars' black/dark green football-style uniform with the wordmark chest piece and number on the front of the jersey, on the swatch insert version of card #14 from Panini's 2010-11 Certified set and Certified Potential sub-set:
It features a matching game-worn jersey swatch and is numbered #88/99.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Upper Deck 2019-20 SP Hockey: Six-Pack Break

In keeping with the birthday posts, I also received two combined re-packs of three packs of Upper Deck's 2019-20 SP cards; for a full evaluation and view of the base cards, please refer to last month's post.
The most beautiful insert I got so far was this Authentic Profiles card of Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights:
There were also these three Blue variants of Jonathan Marchessault, Bo Horvat and P.K. Subban:
But I would have accepted just one of Anthony Mantha:
I was happy to pull Rookie Authentics of Victor Olofsson, Jack Hughes, Kirby Dach, Karson Kuhlman and Ryan Poehling:
But, again, I had pulled Hughes and Kuhlman the month before, so I got them twice in the span of nine packs. The collation is pretty bad, unless UD is aiming to encourage trades between regions, by mail.

They're nice-looking pieces of cardboard, though, colourful and comfortable to the touch.

Monday, September 14, 2020

2020-21 Upper Deck Hockey MVP Blaster Box Break

It's my birthday, and I'm lucky enough that next season's first set of hockey cards are already out despite the fact that the current season is still underway, so Covid-19 may be ruining the economy, but there is no stopping Upper Deck from shoving their 2020-21 MVP collection down our throats - and suckers like me falling for it.

Right off the bat, there seems to be too many colours - and way too many cold colours, too much blue on the packaging, and I'm not only referring to Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs donning the box for some odd reason... didn't they technically miss the playoffs this year, and di he not fail to win hardware again

For the record, there were 105 cards in this box: 21 packs (20+1) of 5 cards each. The base cards look like this:

As usual for this set, the back shows the bare minimum: five years' worth of basic statistics (games played, goals, assists, points, +/-, penalty minutes and powerplay goals), plus career totals, birthday, birth place, height, weight and shot side. Oh, and how to pronounce their names, or a decent approximation to someone who isn't paying attention.

Some of the cards have the company information on the front of the card - that's because, as is customary with MVP, there are "pretend-inserts" of "puzzle back" cards, where a combination of 9 cards will make up a larger version of a regular-issue base cards, and these cards of Anze Kopitar, Max Pacioretty and Jacob Markstrom fall into that category:

As usual, there are the Silver Script inserts, represented here by Miro Heiskanen, Anthony Beauvillier and Mitch Marner:

I also pulled one Gold Script card, of Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno:

There were a couple of Gold Script "Anniversary" cards of Sidney Crosby and Brent Burns, though:

One insert set that seemed new to me was the "Teal" (or "Green") variant, like this one of Artemi Panarin:

Even better were the four "Teal"/"Green" rookies, though, Kiefer Bellows, Nikolai Knyzhov, Keegan Kolesar and Jonas Johansson:

There were also your typical sub-sets, like this Net Crashers foil card of Jonathan Toews:

And another Crosby card, Mirror Mirror:

As usual, I like that it's an early set, even though it's less and less affordable as the years pass - I don't know that a kid with pocket change or a paper route can afford the $45 for 105 cards ($35 plus taxes) it costs to get in on roughly a third of a set - but for a teen, for a curious adult or an autograph seeker like myself, they do the trick.

The collation was good this year, fewer doubles than I recall from years past although they're going to start running out of ways to insert Alex Ovechkin, Crosby, Toews and the rest of last decade's stars at some point.

I give this one a decent 7/10.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Ryan Pulock Autographed Card

Even though he is technically playing a minute less than he was in last year's playoffs - 22:17 versus 23:17 per game - Ryan Pulock is the New York Islanders' most-used skater, roughly 30 seconds more than defensive partner Adam Pelech. And while the Isles are generally seen as the lone remaining postseason team without a Norris-level defenseman - compared to the Vegas Golden Knights' Shea Theodore, the Dallas Stars' Miro Heiskanen and the Tampa Bay Lightning's Victor Hedman, not to mention Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev - Pulock's goal and 8 assists for 9 points in 18 games is definitely elite-level, but the fact that the Islanders are 7-1 when he gets on the score sheet is even more impressive.

In Barry Trotz' system, apparently, the "little things" that quiet and subtle players achieve on the ice get rewarded often enough that they show up as "actual tangible things", and when they do, they tend to matter.

I'm really enjoying this series between a team basically using a modernized version of "The Trap" and the other perhaps the most skilled team of the salary cap era, and while I like a lot of players wearing the NY logo - Pulock, Semyon Varlamov, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Anthony Beauvillier, Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, Derick Brassard, Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk, Thomas Hickey and Andrew Ladd - I'm also kind of glad to see the Bolts find ways to create offense and ensure we don't fall into another Dead Puck Era.

Here's a look at Pulock wearing the Isles' current/retro blue (now-home) uniform on card #182 from the 2018-19 O-Pee-Chee set from Upper Deck:
He signed it in blue sharpie last December.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Lane Lambert Autographed Card

Lane Lambert was the 25th player taken in the 1983 NHL draft (Detroit Red Wings, second round), the second by the Wings after a chap named Steve Yzerman, who might be in the market for a head coach soon in his current position as Detroit's GM, although you would think Jon Cooper (should he get fired after failing to win the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning) and Gerard Gallant might be ahead of Lambert on his list.

First, though, here are the facts: Lambert was a checking right winger in his three seasons in Motor City, sometimes also taking face-offs, but the team was loaded at centre with the likes of Yzerman, Ron Duguay, and Kelly Kisio in or about to enter their prime, Dwight Foster occasionally getting reps down the middle, as well as veterans Ivan Boldirev and Darryl Sittler who were in the twilight of their respective careers. There was only John Ogrodnick and Danny Gare ahead of him on the wing. He started off with seasons of 35 and 25 points (and well over 100 penalty minutes), but when his production dipped drastically 1985-86, he was sent to the AHL Adirondack Red Wings to find his game - which he did, with 16 goals, 25 assists and41 points in 45 games.

That was enough for the New York Rangers to add him to the trade that brought them Kisio, Jim Leavins and a fifth round pick for goalie Glen Hanlon and two third-rounders. However, after only suiting up for 18 NHL games (2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points and 33 penalty minutes) and 11 more with the AHL's New Haven Nighthawks (3 goals, 3 assist, 6 points and 19 penalty minutes), he was sent packing to the Québec Nordiques, where he would have an immediate impact.

He closed out the 1986-87 season with 10 points (5 goals and 5 assists) in 15 games after the trade deadline and added another 6 points (2 goals and 4 assists) in 13 playoff games, helping the Nordiques dispose of the Hartford Whalers in 6 games in the opening round and falling to the reigning Cup Champion Montréal Canadiens in 7 games in Round 2, with Brian Hayward tending net for the bulk of the Habs' games in the series after Patrick Roy had taken care of the Boston Bruins in the opening round (both would split the Conference Finals against the Philadelphia Flyers, each outplayed by Ron Hextall).

Lamberts's first full season in Québec would also be a success, posting a career-high 40 points (13 goals, 27 assists), but the team was in disarray, missing the playoffs despite a coaching change from André Savard (with a 10-13-1 record) to Ron Lapointe (22-30-4) and having two 100-point players in Peter Stastny (46-65-111) and Michel Goulet (48-58-106).

It was the beginning of the last downfall for the Little Team That Could (And Did, Only In Denver). In 1988-89, the team finished last overall, tied in points with the New York Islanders, who had one more win, enabling Québec to draft Mats Sundin first overall; Owen Nolan and Eric Lindros would get the same treatment in the following two seasons.

For his part, Lambert only dressed for 13 NHL games that year (2 goals 2 assists, 4 points, 23 penalty minutes), but played a starring role with the AHL's Halifax Citadelles, where his 60 points (25 goals, 35 assists in 59 games) tied veteran defenseman Claude Julien 79-game total for third-best on the team, behind Ken Quinney (90 points in 72 games) and Max Middendorf (80 in 72).

In need of a new oportunity, he joined the Canadian National Team and opted to play in European leagues, playing for Germany's Düsseldorfer EG in 1989-90 and three teams in five seasons in the Swiss League (HC Ajoie, HC La Chaux-de-Fonds and SC Langnau), averaging more than two points per game.

He finally came back to North America to play for the IHL's Cleveland Lumberjacks and Houston Aeros for three years apiece, retiring after the 2000-01 season.

He started coaching in 2002-03, first as an assistant in the WHL for two seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors, then two as head coach for the Prince George Cougars, one season as assistant with the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 2005-06, followed by a steady climb through the Nashville Predators' organization, with one year as assistant coach followed by four as head coach with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals, to being promoted as Barry Trotz' assistant in the NHL for three years, until the Preds didn't renew Trotz' contract.

He then followed Trotz to the Washington Capitals, culminating with the 2018 Cup victory, after which the duo along with goaltending guru Mitch Korn (who'd also been with Trotz since their Nashville days) went to the New York Islanders.

Which brings us to tonight's Round 2, game 7 win over the Flyers and the team's first Conference Final since 1993. Eventually, Lambert will get his shot at being the bench boss in the NHL, possibly even making a return to the Caps now that former fellow assistant Todd Reirden has now been fired after two early exits since Trotz' departure. I must say I would also probably put him ahead of current Predators head coach John Hynes in my list of best bets, but he just got the job, so chances are he'll get another season to cost his GM David Poile his job like he did his former boss in New Jersey.

Yes, Trotz is the best coach in the game, but some of the credit also goes to his assistants, and as Associate Coach, Lambert is first in that line. Well, second, after miracle worker Korn, who is to this generation of goalie experts what François Allaire was to those from 1986 to 2005 - head and shoulders above the rest.

Here is Lambert as I remember him most fondly, wearing the Nordiques' clasic blue (away) uniform, on card #224 from O-Pee-Chee's 1988-89 O-Pee-Chee set:
He signed it in blue sharpie earlier this season. This allows him to join Robbie Ftorek as #7 in my Nordiques Numbers Project.

My Nordiques Numbers Project: An Introduction

You're probably used to it by now, what with my Habs Numbers Project, my Oilers Numbers Project, my Sens Numbers Project, and my Canucks Numbers Project, but I decided long ago that I would also have one for my favourite team growing up, the Québec Nordiques.

As a reminder, the goal is to have an autographed card of a player representing each jersey number worn/used by the franchise. If I can't find an autographed card, autographed pictures, postcards or jersey cards can count.
Originally founded as a WHA team in in 1972, they joined the NHL with the New England/Hartford Whalers, the Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets when the WHA folded with the agreement that four teams would merge with the NHL, pending a transfer fee and the loss of their superstars whose rights belonged to existing NHL teams.

Because the franchised relocated to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche in 1995, it's a tad harder to complete this set than my previous ones, because it gives me a limited number of years to access and fewer players having the chance to wear certain jersey numbers.

I'm starting this project with the mindset of limiting myself to the 1972-1995 time period, ignoring the Avs part of the team's history - and also skipping over former teams based in the same city, such as the Stanley Cup-winning Québec Bulldogs.

Here's the list of those I have featured here thus far:

1. Ron Tugnutt and Richard Sévigny: check!
2. Sylvain Lefebvre: check!
4. Paul Baxter: check!
5. Réjean Houle and Brent Severyn: check!
6: Craig Wolanin: check!
7: Robbie Ftorek and Lane Lambert: check!
9: Réal Cloutier: check!
10. Guy Lafleur: check!
12. Chris Simon: check!
16. Michel Goulet once: (and twice) check!
18: Marian Stastny and Mike Hough: check!
19. Michel Dion (also wore 30): check!
21: Randy Moller: check!
22. Ron Sutter: check!
28: Tony Hrkac (also wore #40): check!
30. Michel Dion (also wore 19): check!
31. Stéphane Fiset: check!
32. Dale Hunter: check!
33. Mario Gosselin: check!
36: Adam Deadmarsh: check!
40: Tony Hrkac (also wore #28): check!
41: Doug Smail: check!
44: Mario Marois: check!
48. Scott Young: check!
49: Kip Miller: check!
51: Andrei Kovalenko: check!
55: René Corbet: check!
59: Dave Karpa: check!

That's 27 numbers. Some will be harder than others to acquire (Peter Stastny's 26 and Joe Sakic's/Owen Nolan's 88), but I'm actually fairly confident with this one. This and the Habs one, fittingly, should near completion before I get bored with having these projects!

Friday, September 4, 2020

Brayden McNabb Autographed Card

Despite the shot discrepancy, the two most obvious stars of Game 7 between the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks tonight were goalies Robin Lehner (second) and Thatcher Demko (first), who appears like the "real deal", the true next elite goaltender. But if I had to pick a third star, it wouldn't necessarily be Shea Theodore despite the game-winning goal and his title of "only man who can beat Demko"; no, I would probably go with Brayden McNabb instead, for his defensive play and display of courage by stopping two shots with his face and another one with his leg. He's a reason why the Canucks' shot count was so low.

When the Buffalo Sabres selected him in the 2009 draft (third round, 66th overall), he had just completed an impressive season with the Kootenay Ice that saw him provide upwards of half a point per game from the blue line but also accumulate 140 penalty minutes as a bruising presence in his own zone. He was expected to be an eventual solid second-pair defenseman who can replace on the top-two once in a while, and that's what they sold the Los Angeles Kings on in a 2014 deadline trade.

After all, he had been named the Ice's captain for his final year in the WHL and twice made the AHL All-Star Team while with the Sabres' farm team Rochester Americans. At the time of the trade, McNabb had 7 goals, 22 assists, 29 points and 45 penalty minutes with a +9 rating in just 38 AHL games, but he had suffered his first concussion while with Buffalo.

He spent three full seasons with the Kings, but health was a bit of an issue in 2016-17, as he only suited up in 49 games, although it was enough of a look for the Golden Knights, who selected him in that summer's expansion draft. He's been a steady presence ever since, perhaps a little less offensively-inclined than the Sabres had first hoped he would become, but an essential player nonetheless.

And he's still just 29 years old right now, so he does have the room to grow into two or three 25-to-30-point seasons, particularly if the team wants to continue playing a strong offensive game with three scoring lines.

Here he is wearing Kootenay's black (away) uniform, on card #122 from In The Game's 2009-10 Heroes And Prospects set:
He signed it in black sharpie during his time in the AHL (2011-2014). My hope is to get him to sign his Vegas Inaugural Set card for me in the future.