Tuesday, April 29, 2014

No noose is good noose

With 4:47 left to go in Game 6 of the series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets, I began to have serious flashbacks to another series from last year's playoffs (Leafs - Bruins). 

After the major faux pas that he committed in game 4 of the series, I wondered what kind of pressure Marc-Andre Fleury would have been facing had the Penguins gone on to lose game 6.

2007-08 Ultra #39
I read all sorts of interesting articles after the game 4 collapse, and many people believe that even if the Penguins do  have a solid playoff run, that Fleury's time in Pittsburgh should come to an end.

I don't see it like that, and here's why.  It doesn't seem like it, but Fleury's been in Pittsburgh for a decade.  I don't know how to put this any other way, but Fleury's results are a reflection of how the team has been built.  Remember Grant Fuhr in Edmonton?  Fleury in Pittsburgh is the same, only different. 

Has anyone out there thought of Pittsburgh as a team that could totally shut an opponent down during the Crosby era?   I didn't think so.  The numbers aren't great as far as save percentage and goals against average, but take a look at this little tidbit.

Every season that Fleury has played a minimum of 60 games, he's won at least 35 in each of those seasons. The man is a winner.  Patrick Roy?  5 35+ win seasons.  Ed Belfour?  He has 7.  The one guy that he probably will not catch is Martin Brodeur, who has 12 seasons of 35 or more wins. 

Fleury and Pittsburgh will forever be entwined.  Whether Penguins fans like it or not, I can't see the team giving up on him after his contract expires next year. 

Give it some time folks, you will probably see at least 1 more Cup, if not 2, by the time Fleury and Pittsburgh part ways.

At least the noose around his neck has loosened a bit.   We'll see if the Penguins can keep their intensity level high for the remainder of the playoffs.

thanks for reading, Robert

Thursday, April 24, 2014

An "abandoned" PC: Keith Tkachuk

Back about a decade ago, I actually had 3 hockey player PCs on the go, but as you all know the only one that I maintained over the years was the Joe Sakic.

One of the smaller PCs that I had was a guy that I really liked as a player, even though he never played for the Leafs (boy I wish he did though).  Keith Tkachuk was a no nonsense type of player, he could beat you on the scoreboard, or in the alley.  Twice in his career he had a season with 40+ goals and 200+ penalty minutes.   Great for your fantasy team!

I actually found the small collection of cards in one of the many boxes I was looking through over the past week.  There were only 44 unique cards, but they definitely represented the glitz that was the card craze in the 90's.  Needless to say there were lots of Pacific products in the mix...

Fair warning, do not adjust your computers, this next scan is quite loud!


Ahhh yes, the pride of the Pacific line.  That Revolution card in the upper right corner might be the loudest card that I own.  Kind of fits in with the jersey, doesn't it?

There are also a fair number of Tkachuk's that were horizontal...

The Pacific 2000 team leaders card in the lower right corner is one of my favorites.  The silver Coyotes logo looks really cool, and even though I've never been someone who believed that Phoenix should have a team, I've always enjoyed the Coyotes logos, past and present.  The Omega copper parallel of Tkachuk and Chelios is a pretty cool card as well, simply because by the time the summer of 2014 rolls around, this card could feature two Hall of Famers instead of just one.

Yes, I'm hoping that Tkachuk will get voted into the HHOF in 2014.   I think that 538 goals should merit him strong consideration, even though he never had the chance to raise Lord Stanley's mug during his 18 year career.   It is going to be tough, because there are numerous worthy candidates for induction. 

This PC is something that I've hemmed and hawed about restarting some day.  It's probably something that will have to wait quite a while, simply because of the large number of sets and collections that I want to complete.  Stay tuned, because with my fickle nature, you just never know.

thanks for reading, Robert

Monday, April 21, 2014

More early 70's goodness from Mark

I love these early 70's cards so much that anything I write probably couldn't do them any justice.

The Ellis is severely miscut, and the Ullman has a heavy crease that runs right through his mouth.  The interesting thing about the 3 different sets that Mark sent me?   Each set has only 1 action card.  All the other photos are posed.  I wonder if Topps did that on purpose?

The 73-74 set is another favorite of mine, although I've never been able to figure out if there is a rhyme or reason to the different color borders.  The Doug Favell airbrushing of his Leafs jersey is horrible, yet funny!  I love the Dave Keon card.  I'm sure that people out there who aren't Leaf fans may have a bit of a difficult time figuring out which player is Keon.  (#14 in blue just in case you were wondering...)

I grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Toronto, and went to an Italian barbershop when I was a kid.  One of the reasons I loved going there?  They had a Leafs calendar on the wall.  The team card you see here reminds me of that calendar.  Without a magnifying glass, I can only make out a handful of players in the photo.  Ellis and Keon in the front row.  Ullman 2nd row center (A on sweater).  Darryl Sittler in the upper left.  Denis Dupere right below him (you can't miss that mustache).  Gord McRae, 2nd row far right, is the only goalie I know off hand. 

I was only 6 years old when the 73-74 season played out, but those are the earliest (and some of the greatest) memories of the Leafs I have.  Seeing my first game in the Gardens up in the Greys (nose bleeds), and loving every minute of it. 

Thank you for the cards Mark!  Brought back a lot of memories for me, and I love every minute of it.

thanks for reading, Robert

Sunday, April 20, 2014

1990-91 OPC added to the want list

You're going to see a few posts like this over the next few weeks.  As I continue the great monster box clean out and clean up, I'm going to add some of these 90's sets to the want list on the off chance that someone out there may have some cards that are taking up space.   Space that is probably better suited for cards that fit in their collection.

Here's a scan to jostle your memory if the 90-91 OPC design doesn't ring a bell...

This was the first of two consecutive O-Pee-Chee sets that contained 528 cards, larger than any other release from the company.  No one series set even came close to this size until Upper Deck started releasing O-Pee-Chee sets in 2006-07.

I need quite a few cards to complete the set, 166 in fact, but it's a cool looking set and I would enjoy finishing it.

More of these types of posts to come, stay tuned.

Thanks for reading, Robert

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I did get a little cheese with my whine, thanks for asking!

Benefactor  noun:
1.  A person who gives money or other help to a person or cause.

If you've been reading at all lately in the blogosphere, I'm sure you're aware of the gentleman who has been providing joy to a lot of collectors, Mark Hoyle.  Mark has definitely been a benefactor to a lot of people lately, including myself. 

Mark noted on my latest post that he would be sending some Leafs vintage my way to ease the pain.  Boy was I shocked when I opened the envelope.  Probably the favorite group for me was the '74-75 Topps cards.

I always loved the league and team leaders cards.  The Doug Favell leaders card was interesting because on the back it had the asterisk with the line "minimum 30 games played"   Favell only played 38 for the Leafs in 73-74, but still got the nod as the best GAA in the eastern division.  I also got a kick out of the Leafs having Denis Dupere as one of the two scoring percentage leaders, even though Dupere only played 28 games and scored just 8 goals.  Henderson should have had that space to himself; at least he played the majority of the season and scored 24 times.

Down the middle the Leafs were deep, with three of the greatest names in Leaf history featured above.  Sittler was the team leader in scoring with 84 points and 38 goals. 

The Leafs were the first team to bring Swedish players to the NHL, one of the two being Inge Hammastrom, shown on the top right.   Inge didn't fare too badly in his time with the Leafs, scoring 20+ goals in 3 different seasons.  The Ron Ellis card is the only action card of the whole stack, and it's a pretty good shot of him circling the net while Gilles Villemure of the Rangers appears to be clearing the puck away.   Jim McKenny played right wing and defense during his Leafs career, and only 10 games in Minnesota kept Jim from being a career Leaf. 

Rick Kehoe actually is more noted for his time with Pittsburgh, scoring 312 goals with the Pens over 11 seasons.  "Cowboy" Bill Flett has a nicely air brushed card for your entertainment; the 74-75 season would be the only one he spent with the Leafs, scoring 15 goals. 

Red Kelly is still the only NHL player in history to win 4 Stanley Cups with two different teams, winning 4 Cups in 6 seasons with the Red Wings in the early to mid 50's.  Red then pulled the same trick with the Leafs, 4 Cups in 6 years during the mid 60's.  I spoke earlier of the Leafs bringing Swedish players to the league, and there were none better than Borje Salming.  Salming finished 3rd in the Calder trophy voting for best rookie, behind Tom Lysiak and HOFer Denis Potvin.  

I think the only card missing that would complete the Leafs team set for me is the Lanny McDonald RC.  That will be high on the list of cards to acquire, maybe at the show in May I'll get lucky.

There's still more in the envelope to show, some great cards from the 72-73 and 73-74 Topps sets will have to be displayed for your viewing pleasure.

Thank you Mark, the cards are very much appreciated!!

thanks for reading, Robert

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Now that the collapse is complete, what's next?

I've done a lot of thinking about the Leafs lately, probably more than I really should be doing.  Despite what a lot of people say, I don't think that they are as far off from being a contender than people think.

Of course, I don't get paid the big bucks like Brendan Shanahan or Damien Cox, so my opinion is likely to be way off.  

First up, it's likely that this guy is going to be fired some time this week.

1990-91 OPC #51

I don't think that he's going to be a scapegoat for the team's failure to win down the stretch, because it really is his fault.   The team just cannot play defence.  Part of the blame for that can be placed on the talent that he was provided by the GM (more on that later this week), but the fact of the matter is this.  The coach has to teach.  There never appeared to be any kind of system in place to take care of the defensive zone. When the team loses 12 out of its last 14 games to sink like a stone in the standings, someone has to take the hit. 

This next guy has been the subject of a lot of talk as well.   Bad contract, under performing, etc etc.

2013-14 OPC Retro # 609

There's a couple of reasons why David Clarkson didn't perform well this year.  First, the 10 game suspension at the beginning of the season killed any momentum he may have had coming out of training camp.  Second, get this guy a pair of regular line mates, and let him go.  I think that if he had been on a line with Kadri and Lupul on a regular basis, that they could have performed quite well together.  Clarkson is a guy who likes to go to the front of the net on the power play.   Why didn't he see any power play time this season?  Yes, he had a lot of pressure on him with the big contract, but when you don't have a specific role for the entire season, it makes things tough. 

It'll will be interesting to see who the new coach is, and what he does to better utilize the talent of his players.  The rumor of Peter DeBoer taking over the club seems to be that, just a rumor. 

There also has to be a big shake up on the blue line as well.   The Leafs only have a couple of players that can actually play defence at a decent level, and this must be addressed in order to move forward.

It should be a fun summer in Leafland...

thanks for reading, Robert

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Brendan Shanahan hired as president of the Maple Leafs

It's the week of former players being hired on as team presidents.  First, it was Trevor Linden in Vancouver, which for me made total sense.

As far as this guy heading up the Maple Leafs, I'm not so sure.

92-93 Upper Deck #122
What has me worried is that Shanahan has no ties to the Leaf franchise at all.  None.  The closest you could say that he's come to the Maple Leafs is having played in the old Norris division against the buds in the early 90's. 

We'll see what he has to say about the current state of the roster when he takes over the reins this weekend (as has been reported).  It will be interesting to see if he thinks the Leafs are just a couple of pieces away from starting to contend, or if another major shake up is needed.

I have a feeling it's going to be the latter.   Should be an interesting summer in Leafland.

Thanks for reading, Robert

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Box break: 2012-13 In the Game Between the Pipes

If you take away two things about me from my time spent writing on the blogs, you should know that:

1.  My preference is licensed over un-licensed products
2.  I have a hard time turning down a good deal.

When it comes to hockey cards, these two things can sometimes lead to internal conflict.   That's how it was when I spotted a great deal on a hobby box of 2012-13 In the Game Between the Pipes on the Dave & Adam's website.  For less than half the normal cost, I decided to give this product a try.

I was pleasantly surprised.

For me, the junior goalie cards are OK.  I don't know most of the players, but sometimes that's what is good about cards, you get a bit of an education.

One of the more famous junior teams in Ontario is the London Knights, and I found a history of the team here.  I haven't followed junior hockey in Canada on a regular basis since I was a teenager.   Maybe it's time to get back into it a little more.  Some of the logos and jerseys are fabulous.

Being a part time goaltender myself when I was younger, some of the cards that feature vintage masks are great.

History lessons are always good, so these cards that feature goaltenders from the original six days are a treat for me as well.

Even today's stars are part of the mix:

There's also no shortage of goodies in the box.   One of the more popular inserts over the years has been the Masked Men cards, and I was fortunate enough to pull 3 of them out of the box.

Naturally, the Felix Potvin becomes an instant favorite for me.  These cards scanned tremendously; they are really beautiful in hand.

As far as hits, I received 6 total.  The 3 autographs consisted of one junior player, and two goalies who had careers that lasted just under a decade apiece.

The names on the jersey cards I pulled were a lot more notable.

The dual jersey was of Ed Belfour and Brandon Whitney.  Whitney is a BlackHawks prospect, drafted in the 7th round in 2012.

The other two cards feature a goalie that earned his 300th victory this season, Henrik Lundqvist.

A great way to finish up the box. 

At $47, this box was a great rip.  The original price was over $100, which for me would be a bit too steep for an unlicensed product.  If ITG BTP was priced in the $70-80 range, I might be more tempted to pick up a box when it first comes out. 

I now know what everyone has been raving about over the years.  ITG does a great job for a company without a NHL license.  With Upper Deck owning an exclusive license by the NHL, it appears that ITG will be limited in what it can do for the foreseeable future.

thanks for reading, Robert

Monday, April 7, 2014

The bargain hunter in me won out

While running my contest on the main blog last week, I decided when shopping for the gift certificate from Dave & Adam's card world that I would treat myself as well.

Damn electronic shopping, makes life way too easy.   Especially when there are good deals to be had.

One of my hockey card weaknesses has always been the Black Diamond set.  For years, however, I've managed to stay away from this temptation.  Well, while shopping D&A's had a deal I couldn't resist.

2010-11 Black Diamond blister packs (3 packs of 5 cards each) for $3.99 apiece. 

Ouch.  When I see deals like this (1 pack normally is $3.99), I usually pounce.  So I bought 5 of them.   The deal with these packs is that they were returns from retail outlets.  When I see something like that, I don't get my hopes up.

In the end, I really didn't fare all that badly.  You know me though, I have to bitch a little.  Marty Turco was all over these packs!

That actually made me laugh.  I also pulled a couple of Jonas Hiller as well.  But this time, there was some good luck to go with the bad luck.

Double and triple diamonds, I pulled 3 each. 

Casey Wellman has played 12, 15, 14 and 13 games in each of his 4 NHL seasons.  That's just plain crazy.  Alex Plante has a grand total of 10 NHL games, and the hockey reference website has a transaction listed for him on July 18th of last year, but what it was, they don't know.   It's blank.  A little research and I found out that he signed in the Austrian hockey league. 

The other triple diamond and the doubles were all solid pulls, recognizable names always help when you pull rarer cards.

The quad diamonds?  I pulled two of those...not too shabby for me.

Jeff Skinner RC!!  Mike Richards is also a great pull.  Definitely no complaints there. 

Now, I never expect to get any jersey/auto cards from these types of packs, but I definitely was surprised with this card.

For me, that is one helluva pull.  Ryan Miller quad jersey!!  Even better was that all the swatches weren't just one color.  One of the best pulls in a while for me. 

Speaking of goalies, I also bought a box of a product that has nothing but goalies in it.  I'll show that off next time.

thanks for reading, Robert

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Joe Sakic PC is up to date

I actually found a group of Sakic cards that I bought a while ago that I hadn't entered into the PC. 

They are now entered; 20 more cards are officially part of the longest running collection that I own.

Lots of color, and chrome, and silver parallels becoming part of the collection.  The total is now at 341 cards, because a quick perusal of the list turned up a couple of dupes. 

Just 84 more to go to reach the 2014 goal.  I'm pretty confident that I'll get there, but reaching the goal probably will not happen until later this year.  I'm trying to finish up some of the vintage set goals first before I start tackling the PCs.

But knowing my fickle nature, that thought process may change in an instant.  We'll see.

Thanks for reading, Robert

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

One down, 5 to go

What looked like a cakewalk almost 3 weeks ago has turned into a heart attack for this guy.

An eight game losing streak at this time of year will do that for you.  Being a fan of the team that is at the center of the hockey universe just magnifies the pain ten fold. 

All the talking heads in the hockey world have said that for the Leafs to make the playoffs, they would have to win their final 6 games, and hope for a little help along the way.

Last night, the first win was accomplished, 3-2 over Calgary.  Probably the toughest of the remaining 5 games is on Thursday against the Bruins. 

Who do I think is going to be the key to the Leafs winning on Thursday?

This guy.

For Phil to reach the 40 goal mark for the first time in his career, he needs 4 goals in the team's final 5 games.  Phil has gone without a goal in the past 4 games, and I believe that if he pots 1 or 2 against the Bruins, the Leafs will prevail.

Yes, I know that sounds kind of hopeful, but when your team endures an 8 game losing streak at the worst time of the year possible, hope is what you're reduced to.

Ahhh...the life of a diehard Leafs fan.

Thanks for reading, Robert