Sunday, May 23, 2021

Josh Morrissey: Two Autographed Cards

(team links go to sponsored Amazon products, player links go to related pages on my blog, news links go to source pages)
I didn't post my usual NHL playoff predictions on my regular blog this year, so you'll just have to take me at my word that I'm not looking like Nostradamus right now...

The Winnipeg Jets taking their first game against the Edmonton Oilers didn't really make a dent in my prediction that the Oilers would win in 5, but their taking a 3-0 series lead looking for a sweep tomorrow - particularly when trailing 4-1 with 9 minutes left in the third in Game 3 - reinforces my belief that this team is built with great character (Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers), is a deep offensive juggernaut (Mark Scheifele, Paul Stastny, Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois) and has the best goalie in the game today (Connor Hellebuyck).

But the Oilers have the best player in the past 30 years (Connor McDavid) and Leon Draisaitl, who qiualifies as one of the five best forwards in the world right now as well - they supporting cast just hasn't been able to do what it takes to either steal or keep the lead in a game.

In their press conferences, Jets head coach Paul Maurice also looks not only more in control and better able to communicate his messages to his players (and the media), he also constantly adds value to his answers with tactical information or historical tidbits, whereas Edmonton's Dave Tippett looks like someone who once coached the Phoenix Coyotes.

The key play that got the Jets back in the game was Josh Archibald's dangerous and useless "tripping" (actually clipping the kees) penalty on rookie defenseman Logan Stanley, for which he'll get a hearing tomorrow, opening the possibility of a suspension which would facilitate Tippett's removal of his top checker from the next game.

Obviously, with a pair of goals including the goal that sparked the comeback and the overtime game-winner, Ehlers was celebrated as the game's hero, but Josh Morrissey, with an assist on Wheeler's 4-3 goal and the tying one just seconds later, both on similar plays where he took full control of the puck at the blue line to set up and maintain the attack, arguably had just as much impact on Winnipeg's comeback win. The defenseman had been blanked in the first two games of the series after a 21-point regular season (to go with 86 blocked shots, 78 hits and 25 penalty minutes). He had had back-to-back 31-point seasons before that, earning then cementing his place as the team's top defender.

It's odd to think he was a rookie not so long ago, as can be attested from card #282 from Upper Deck's 2016-17 MVP set, showing him wearing #36, meaning the picture was taken dring his lone NHL game in 2015-16:
He has since worn #44, as can be seen on card #NL-21 from Upper Deck's 2016-17 Overtime hockey collection and Next In Line sub-set:
It's a beautiful silver foil card, even though it appears as teal in the scan.

He signed them in thin blue sharpie in 2018.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Chris Drury Autographed Card

(team links go to sponsored Amazon products, player links go to related pages on my blog, news links go to source pages)

What a year for the New York Rangers!

They bought out future Hall Of Famer Henrik Lundqvist to make room for two rookies in net, told Tony DeAngelo to stay home, had Mika Zibanejad take two months to recover from COVID-19, which also forced head coach David Quinn miss six games, and superstar Artemi Panarin missed a fair chunk of the season as well, dealing with (possibly politically-motivated) problems in Russia, yet the team was in the playoff picture until today.

Today is a weird day, culminating with the nomination of Chris Drury as President and General Manager of the team, after serving as assistant-GM for a handful of seasons; John Davidson and Jeff Gorton, respectively, were relieved of their functions today, a day after distancing themselves from a tweet that I fully endorse and support, myself:
Honestly, Tom Wilson should have been suspended for at least 10 games for what he did to Panarin, who will not play again this season. If your owner has the balls to call the player and the NHL's Director Of Player Safety, George Parros, out, you should have the principle that standing up for your player against an unpunished criminal action is the only right thing to do.

(edit: distancing themselves from the team's statement seems to have hurried the announcement, but many sources now confirm divergence of opinions on the state of the team's rebuild and roster priorities would have seen both men lose their jobs before the next draft anyhow).

It's a safe bet Davidson will return to his previous job as President of the Columbus Blue Jackets, I just hope that doesn't mean their own GM Jarmo Kekalainen will not be in constant danger of losing his own job to Gorton.

As for Drury, after a decorated career as a hockey player that included a Calder Trophy (1998-99), a Stanley Cup (2000-01), and the captaincy of both the Rangers and Buffalo Sabres, his turn as an executive has also yielded impressive results so far, with a successful run as GM of the Rangers' AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack (2017-21) and for Team USA at the 2019, 2020 (cancelled) and 2021 World Championships, where he had rpeviously served as assistant-GM (2015-2017).

Here he is wearing the Sabres' black (away) uniform (1996-2006) on card #9 from Upper Deck's 2003-04 SP Authentic collection:
He signed it in blue sharpie near the end of his playing career with the Rangers.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Jake Virtanen Autographed Card

(team links go to sponsored Amazon products, player links go to related pages on my blog, news links go to source pages)

I wish I were writing a "Jake Virtanen scores a hat trick, cements his position on the Vancouver Canucks' second line for the next decade" type of post but, alas, the 24-year-old (who an important part of the Canucks' fanbase had already turned its back on) is in the news because of an alleged sexual assault that would have taken place in September 2017.

As of yet, there have not been any (formal) accusations although the victim has expressed themselves on Twitter and the police is seemingly aware of "a recently reported incident".

As is common in these cases, there is an important contingent that wants him cancelled, fired, hung by the balls and put on a million type of lists without any sort of trial, and a vocal group disputing the accusations as a cash grab - or worse: a disappointed fan looking to attack the slow-to-develop winger personally for his on-ice play. There are probably a few moderates of the "let's see how this plays out with more facts and perhaps a trial" school left, but I'm not holding my breath anymore.

I'm usually an "extreme moderate" myself in cases like these: I would protect the victim regardless and offer them all the help they need to get their life back on track, whether the accusation is true or not, and whether the attacker gets penalized or not. Yes, even if the accusation isn't true, I would offer the alleged victim state-provided psychological help, because they would need it, to help cure the situation that made them invent the story in the first place, and to deal with the backlash of now having this very public cloud to live with for the rest of their lives.

There is also the possibility that the person does in all truthfullness feel wronged but that a third party rules that they are incorrect in their assessment of the situation, which also deserves care and help; and this being North America, historically, the system being built on proving guilt being harder in situations where there are no witnesses, if the defendant did commit a crime but doesn't crack at the trial, he could get away with it - which also requires a host of services provided to the victim.

In Virtanen's case, however, it is too early to tell on any of this. But I would advise the victim to go through the proper channels of Justice for this one, as the system is thirsty for a public case to right past wrongs, and there has pretty much never been a better time - strategically - to bring someone to court on matters like these and hope for a win (see: Derek Chauvin, the rare police murderer who was found guilty).

For now, the young man has been put on leave by his hometown team. He was already thought by many to being on his way out of town, and this may very well seal the deal, but it also brings the team's expected return down by a lot; I'm not sure even a talented (alleged) racist like Tony DeAngelo is a fair return today.

Back in the day, Virtanen used to suit up for Team Canada often; here he is wearing the team's red (away) uniform on card #44 from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Team Canada Juniors/Women set:
It shows him wearing #19. He signed it in thin blue sharpie. I got the card by mail a couple of seasons ago.