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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Podcast. Yes, you heard me. PODCAST!

Since i pretty much hang out on Twitter almost exclusively, there have been very few blog posts. I should remedy that and I'm truly working on it. So what better way to fix my general laziness to blogging than to start another project.

Yes, kids. Your friendly DFG had entered the world of the Podcast. But don't fear.  I'm not entering it alone.  My partner in cardboard crime is along for the ride (more like he's driving the train). Sal from Puck Junk and I have started a, hopefully, weekly podcast devoted to our love of the hobby, hockey cards, and anything else we care to blather on about.

Our first episode has been posted for your listening pleasure. Feel free to leave comments, hopefully constructive. Save your flames for the bbq grill. Oh and I know my voice sounds like I took the Ice Bucket Challenge without removing the bucket. I'm working on that. First episode rust, we'll call it.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Overreacting? Nah. Just Cleaning The Blogroll

So after the deflating loss by the Seahawks in the Superbowl yesterday (See that!  See what I did there?), I thought I would begin my day by purging my blogroll

over there < <<<<<<<< <

 of any and all blogs that made mention of the Cheatriots winning the game, deserving to win, congratulating them, or praising their ability to fight hard and come away with the victory.  Then I realized there would be basically nothing left.

So instead, it's time for some cleaning.  I have decided to go through the roll and purge all of the forgotten blogs, the ones relegated to the milk cartons of the internet.  I have also begun my search for some new reading and will be adding blogs at a feverish pace. 

If you have a blog that would like to be here, let me know.  It can be card related, hockey related, sports related, or ... well that's pretty much it.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

State of the Blog Address

Despite being a lazy, worthless hobby blogger, I still manage to keep about 30 people amused each day.  Yes those are my unique hits every day.  Despite new content since the summer.  I'm still getting about 225-300 page views a week.  It's crazy.  I'm guessing it's because of my finely tuned blog roll over there on the left. 

I should really start blogging again.  It was therapeutic and helped relieve stress, which I have much of.  For those wondering where I have been, and for those that haven't, here's a recap...

====Been working as hard as I can with my new start-up job.  We are almost 2 years in and everything is going good but it can always be better.  The guys I work with are the best in this business and our philosophy is one I wholeheartedly believe in.  In this short time, we have built ourselves around almost 200 clients, representing over 700 properties.  More clients means more stability and that's my goal.

====Baseball.  Baseball.  And more baseball.  The kids were in spring season and also fall this year.  They both did really well in the spring.  That was the last year for both of them in their respective leagues.  My oldest moved up from Minors to the Majors in the fall.  My youngest moved up from Rookie to Instructional.  However, the weather didn't cooperate much for the fall, which is why the last games finally happened in the middle of October.  At one point we were having 3-4 games a week between the two boys to cover make-up games.  Plus there was still a tournament for both leagues.  But seeing my kids play is priceless and I would give up everything just to be a part of it.  Turns out I have two pretty consistently accurate pitchers on my hands and two guys that love to be part of the game.  

====I got married last week...October 24th to be exact.  Those "new" relationships take a lot of work sometimes but mine just happens naturally.  It helps that she has almost the same affinity for small pieces of cardboard.  I got to marry my best friend and quite possibly my soul mate.  I never thought I would ever get married again.  Life just happens this way sometimes. 

==== I couldn't wait for the NHL season to start.  But what happened to my enthusiasm?  Despite the great start by my Penguins and the hopeful season ahead, Comcast once again failed me by first, promising free Center Ice previews for the month of October and not all!  Not one stinking game, despite the constant advertising for it.  Second, they have rearranged scheduled programming from the beginning of the season, bumping games and opting instead to show rebroadcasts on some channels.  Good thing I have the Pens App on my phone.  And third, well, I just can't take anymore awful announcing on the games that do get televised.  The nationally broadcast games on NBC are just bad.  They really are.  I get lucky some nights with simulcast HNC games on the NHL Network but those are few and far between.  Maybe the second half will get better.

====Was uber excited for the NFL season.  Then it started.  What happened to defense?  I mean seriously?  Where is it?  45+ points per game is certainly exciting to some but I like smash mouth football.  The league has taken the defense out of the game and castrated them.  You get 15 yard penalties for even thinking of making a tackle this season.  I guy touches your arm as a common gesture during a conversation and it's a spot foul.  It's really pathetic.  This isn't my fathers football league, I understand that, but it isn't even mine either.  And the Steelers?  Ugh.  Other than a couple games, they have been atrocious compared to previous seasons.  At least watching RedZone on Sundays is still quite entertaining.

====This is the first year I have bailed 100% completely on fantasy sports (unless you count Topps Bunt).  I just wasn't into it this year.  I thought that I could be a better fan and watch for the joy not because I had some vested interest in the Jacksonville Jaguars vs. the Miami Dolphins.  But alas, I miss it.  I miss stats.  I miss caring about players I hate.  I miss the trash talking.  And it's going to hurt at the end of the season when I don't get my $250-$400 that I have won for the last 10 years.

====Cards have honestly bored me to death lately.  Part of the reason is that I just can't find the time to get organized.  When I think about my collection, I feel like that guy right over there.  Beat up, bloodied, and hurt.  I have a card room.  Upstairs in my home.  It could be amazing.  But it isn't.  It's the bane of my existence.  Cards everywhere.  Unsorted boxes and piles of stuff lying around...It's sad really.  There is just too much and despite my efforts to scale down (If anyone was wondering, I sold the Card Garage...well about 85% of it at least).  I am more than happy to sell or trade most of what I don't want.  The problem lies in the fact that I don't really know what that stuff is. 

So I'm looking for a jumpstart.  Something to unearth the beast that slumbers inside me.  So far, the hockey releases have been less than what I expected.  MVP disappointed me (what a shock).  I wanted something more from Artifacts.  I still haven't bought any O-Pee-Chee and I'm hoping the Upper Deck flagship brings me out of my funk.  There is a show coming up in November in Chicago that I usually attend every year.  Maybe that will release the Kraken?  Maybe. 

====Along the same lines as the last comment, I haven't even touched much by the way of cards.  I have had no reason to.  But I actually just responded to 3 Zistle trades last night, which is a good start I guess.  The more interactive I am with all the blogs and card sites I have used, the more active I will get back into my collection.  As for selling stuff, I really wish my Collector's Revolution inventory would move better but I just can't figure out how to master the art of social media (which seems to be the catalyst for the larger volume sellers).  I still do pretty good on COMC though considering I have yet to invest a dime.
====Music takes up a lot of my free time.  My band, 6ix 5ive 9ine has been playing out a lot more frequently the last few months and the response from the crowds has been great.  It will be interesting to see what 2015 brings for us.  My wedding, that I mentioned earlier, even took place at one of our gigs.  It was epic.

On weekends I am not spending with my kids, there is usually something planned.  Whether it is a gig, practice time, or rehearsal, being in the band and making things work takes up a lot of time.  But is definitely worth it (of course not financially since I'm no where near quitting my day job).  We have toiled around for a long time and to finally get to play for people over the last few years is a blessing.  I love my band mates (which is good since I married one of them).

That's about it.  Boredom, laziness, being know, the usual distractions from card collecting have kept me from the blog.  But I'm still not going anywhere.  I'm not closed for business and the blog will still be here for all you faithful that, if nothing else, use this as a jump point to read the great stuff from all the non-lazy, non-bored, bloggers out there in the world.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Changing Of The Guard

What kind of fan would I be if I didn't address the events of yesterday's NHL Free Agent Frenzy?  Not a very good one I'm guessing, because the Penguins as I knew them when I woke up Tuesday morning are a far cry from the Penguins that exist on paper today.

There is a long...well, long is an understatement...let's go with tradition...There is a tradition in Pittsburgh sports that is deeply rooted in the blue-collar town that supports it's teams.  Hard work, gritty, physical, gutsy, call it what you like but the ideals of a primarily working class community have translated to how they expect their sports teams to be.  The Pirates, Steelers, and Penguins have all spent many years (during the era of free agency and salary caps) spending as little as they can for as much as they can.  It's never been about stacking a team with superstars or paying that one big phenomenon $1 billion a season.  It's been about competing at the highest level with rosters that can slug it out with the best of their respective leagues (of course the Pirates are an exception until the last few years but that's a different story).

The argument will be made that some of these Penguin teams have had superstars or currently do (ie. Crosby, Malkin, etc. now and the days of Lemieux, Jagr, Coffey, Francis, Trottier, etc. before) but most of these were obtained through drafting and player development after the fact due to poor finishes the season before.  In many cases, you had players willing to take pay cuts in order to compete on teams they felt would be contenders.  But I'm focusing more on what transpired yesterday in the crazy phenomenon known as the opening day of Free Agency.

The list of Penguins that became a casualty to free agent signings in other cities is astounding to me.  Either this has been the most movement I have seen in recent memory or maybe I have just not been paying attention.  I realize the Pens are cash strapped when it comes to acquiring new talent.  This has much to do with the contracts for the likes of Malkin at $9.5M, Crosby at $8.7M, Letang at $7.25M and Fleury at $5M affecting this years cap.  But with a total salary cap of $69M, some obvious holes in the scoring lines of the roster, and a brand new management team at the helm that's already off to a shaky reception, the Pens walked away from yesterday with about $8.3M left in their pockets and some serious questions left in the minds of their loyal fanbase.

Here are the players that will no longer be suiting up in Pittsburgh after yesterday:

James Neal - - Traded to Nashville
Tanner Glass - - Signed with the NY Rangers
Matt Niskanen - - Signed with the Washington Capitals
Brooks Orpik - - Signed with the Washington Capitals
Jussi Jokinen - - Signed with the Florida Panthers
Deryk Engelland - - Signed with the Calgary Flames
Joe Vitale - - Signed with the Arizona Coyotes
Chris Connor - - Signed with the Washington Capitals

With the exception of maybe Connor and Glass, this is not a list of scrub players or throw-aways by any means.  In fact, you not only have the departure of the number 2 and 3 defensemen but the entire supporting cast of the Malkin line has been dismantled.

Although I was a big James Neal supporter, even when his temper got the best of him, I was not as upset about it as many in Pittsburgh.  I think Neal was a product of his environment and even though he put up some amazing numbers after coming over from Dallas, his production has since declined and he didn't look to be playing on his previous level.  Jokinen bothered me a little but all along, I knew he was just a rental player.  He fits in well with the Florida team he chose to sign with.  The Niskanen deal was inevitable, although highly overrated in my opinion, and I wish him the best of luck.  I don't, however, think he will be putting up the same numbers he did last year in Washington.  Again, like Neal, he was another product of the talent around him and his canon shot from the point flourished because of it.  Of all those guys, I think overall Vitale's services will be missed the most.  You can usually supplant a loss in some of your scoring or get faster guys on the ice.  Vitale wasn't any of those but his face-off skills and penalty killing abilities were top-notch and are something not easily replaceable.

Coincidentally, or maybe not, both these guys found new
homes yesterday, Brooks in Washington and Ryan in
The one I'm most disappointed with is Brooks Orpik.  Orpik has never been anything else but a Penguin.  He was never the guy that was going to be nominated for a Norris Trophy but he was the guy that helped the other guys do it.  He was never the guy that put up tons of points or even assisted in goal scoring, but he was the guy on the back end that made it happen.  Sure he took some questionable penalties and calls over the years but what defenseman worth their contracts doesn't?  I saw Brooks staying with the Pens for his entire career and eventually retiring and joining the club in some type of behind the scenes roll because of the respect he received from his teammates.  Instead, the management changes that have occurred over the last few months soured his outlook on the franchise and the locker room and he began looking for a change.  The market for aging defenseman seemed to me to be slim but his leadership abilities and intelligence of the game was something the Capitals needed and couldn't pass up.  That's why they most likely overpaid for his services for the next 5 years, something the Pens couldn't afford to do.  I know it was nothing personal but somehow I still feel slighted.  

That's how it goes being a fan in free agency times.  When you lose a player to another team, especially a "rival" team with lots of history, it hurts.  You sometimes take it personally.  You feel like you've been betrayed by your friend that you have known all your life.  But then you see the schedule and make note of the first game you will be playing against their new team.  That first shift where they get matched up with their younger, quicker replacement.  They take a shot into the boards or get dekked on a beautiful move toward the goal by their former "best friend" or bunk mate.  It's at that moment, you finally forget they once wore the same color sweater.

More on the future of the team and the new additions later.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

And Here Are Your Finalists

The NHL Awards are June 24th this year at the Encore Theatre at the Wynn in Las Vegas.  Last I checked, they will be broadcast on the NBCSN and CBC in Canada.

Everyone has their opinions of who should win and why so I figured why not start a discussion.

First up, everyone's favorite award.  The 2013-14 NHL General Manager of the Year Award.  I don't have a horse in this race since the Pens GM is only a few weeks old and the previous one is unemployed.

Marc Bergevin of the Montreal Canadiens

Dean Lombardi of the Los Angeles Kings

Bob Murray of the Anaheim Ducks

My vote goes for Bergevin because I think he had less to work with and took a team that some people had written off and made them an Eastern Conference finalist by adding names like Briere, Vanek, Parros, and Murray (plus he played for the Penguins once upon a time).  But...since the Kings won the Cup, Lombardi will most likely win this one.

Next up is the Jack Adams Award for Coach of the Year.  Again, I have no horse since my team is currently without a coach because the old one, Dan Bylsma, was relieved of his duties.  He is currently interviewing for one of those expansion teams down south.

Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings

Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning

Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche

The obvious choice here would be Mike Babcock considering how he was able to guide that team to it's 23rd consecutive playoff berth despite over 400 man games lost to injury.  With Datsuyk and Zetterberg out for 37 games, he was still able to get that team to perform.  But, my vote is going to go to Jon Cooper because he did more with less I think.  Coming into the NHL as a head coach is rough and many guys can't cut it but after winning the Calder last season in the AHL and focusing this team around a "youth-movement", he was able to guide them to a second place finish and playoff berth, all the while having Stamkos on the shelf for half the season and losing Martin St. Louis at the trade deadline.

The next award is what I would consider the most important.  The Ted Lindsay Award is given to the most outstanding player and is the only award voted on by the players themselves.  To be honored and respected by sportswriters is one thing, but to get that from your peer, teammates, and colleagues is something entirely different.

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins

Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks

Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers

I'm not even discussing this one.  Crosby is my vote.  When you have the #1, 2, and 3 scorers in the league, the obvious pick is #1.

The NHL Foundation Player Award goes to the player that applies the core values of hockey - commitment, perseverance and teamwork - to enrich the lives of people in their community.  The player that wins this gets $25,000 donated to their chosen charity on behalf of the Foundation.

Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins

Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks

Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks

If this award was for on-ice performance of some sort, I'd be going for Duncan Keith.  But it's not.  My pick goes to Brent Burns.  He has donated over $1 million to the Defending the Blue Line program which provides children of military families the chance to play the expensive game of hockey.  Anyone that uses their fame and fortune to help support the military is a winner in my book.  Plus he shaved off his signature horrendous beard, raising $24,000 in the process for DTBL.

The big award every year is the Hart Trophy.  This is presented to the player that is voted the most valuable to his team.  It's a little lopsided sometimes in the voting because this comes from the Hockey Writers Assn. but all the players this year a very deserving.

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins

Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks

Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers

Same guys as the Lindsey Award and again, my vote is for Crosby.  He already won the Art Ross for the leagues best scorer.  The man is not only the MVP of his team but of the league as well.  Without him, the Pens play different.  With him at 100%, they are virtually unstoppable.  He makes everyone on the ice better.  Everyone, offensively and defensively.  I'm not knocking Getzlaf either though because he had the best season of his career.  But I also would never vote for a Flyer for anything other than who goes first in front of the firing squad so, sorry Claude.

The next award is the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy which goes to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game of hockey.  The winner gets their name on a $2,500 donation to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund.

Jaromir Jagr of the New Jersey Devils

Manny Malhotra of the Carolina Hurricanes

Dominic Moore of the New York Rangers

Of the three guys here, Dominic Moore has the best story (and will probably win).  He gave up hockey to take care of his wife who had liver cancer and eventually passed away last year.  Malhotra's story is a good one too, being able to fight back from an eye injury that most guys would have called a career.  But, give it to Jags.  You kind of have to, don't you?  At least I would.  Plus, how many trophies is he going to be getting from here on out?  This guy is ageless and each year since his return, has shown he can still play, can still compete, and still be a force on the ice.  His training regimen is awe-inspiring for a 42 year old.  Hell, it's impressive for an 18 year old.  His dedication to the game of hockey and staying play-ready is second to none.

The next award is the only one chosen by one person, and that's Mark Messier.  The Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award is given to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice, during the regular season.  Each year, Mark reviews a list of suggested recipients submitted by clubs and fans.

Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings

Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks

Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks

Brown has been captain of the Kings for the last six seasons and does a ton of work for local children's hospitals in LA.  Getzlaf has his big golf event every year that raised $300,000 last year for his charity.  But my vote, since it's "on and off" the ice goes to Jonathan Toews.  Few guys in the league can even come close to the impact he has in his leadership role on the ice in Chicago.  He's been the team captain since he was 20 years old and his work with the Make A Wish foundation in Chicago is legendary.

My second favorite award is the James Norris Memorial Trophy given out to the leagues best defenseman.

Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins

Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks

Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators

I'm going with Weber.  Chara always gets nominated for this award because he basically never leaves the ice.  Keith is a great D-man and is well deserving of the award.  But both these guys have help.  The best offensive and defensive D-man is Weber in my book.  He led all defenseman in points, led his team in scoring, and finished the last half of the season as a +11.  That means when he is out there, Nashville is a better team.

The Vezina Trophy goes to the leagues best goalie.  It isn't given to the most handsome guy, the most liked guy, the most charitable guy, etc.  It goes to the best goaltender...period.

Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning

Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins

Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche

Varlamov was a force in Colorado.  He broke his coaches (Patrick Roy) franchise records and put up some highlight reel worthy saves this season.  His run in with the law earlier in the year hurts his popularity contest here but there is no denying his talent on the ice.  Bishop was also a beast for Tampa Bay and the biggest reason they finished second and made it to the playoffs despite having much of their star power depleted.  But the best goalie this year was Rask.  Without Rask, Boston doesn't float to the top of the East or make the playoffs.  He put up the second best save percentage, tops in shut outs, fourth in GAA and fifth in wins, the only goalie to rank top 5 in the statistically tracked goaltending categories.  He was in beast mode when they needed him to be and Boston won the President's Trophy as a result.

The Frank Selke Memorial Trophy is given out to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.  In other words, the defensive minded centerman and wingers.

Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins

Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings

Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks 

If this was 2013, I would say either Bergeron or Toews were easy picks but this year, my vote goes to Kopitar.  The only guy on the list to appear in all 82 games, he logged the most ice time of anyone (except Crosby).  He's a big reason why the Kings were the league leaders in lowest GPG.  He also finished a +34 and won over 5-% of his 1,451 face offs.  Now that the Kings have the Cup, he's a lock for sure.

I know most people don't care about the NHL Awards but if you are interested in leaving your thoughts, please do.

Monday, June 16, 2014

This Was A Sad Weekend In Sports And Entertainment

First, the greatest coach in Steelers history and arguably the history of the NFL, Chuck Noll passed away.  The Hall of Famer that is the only coach to win four Super Bowl titles died Friday night in Pittsburgh of natural causes.  He was 82 years old.  Without Noll at the helm, the Steelers never become the juggernaut in the 70s, nor carry that legacy and tradition on to the future generations of the team.  "Steeler Football" wouldn't exist if he hadn't agreed to take over the hapless Steelers in 1969.  The rest is history.  When he retired in 1991, Chuck had a 209-156-1 record over 23 seasons.  Like Dan Rooney said, "He was one of the great coaches of the game.  He ranks up there with Halas, Landry and Lambeau."

Then, I learned that my favorite, and almost everyone in America's favorite, radio DJ, Casey Kasem passed away on Father's Day.  I can't tell you how many installments of American Top 40 I listened to as a kid just to hear the songs and quips about the artists read by my favorite Scooby Doo character, Robin from Batman, and the original Cliffjumper.  He had been hospitalized after getting an infection and passed away after suffering for years with dementia.

Now to make matters worse, one of my favorite all time players in MLB history and HOFer, Tony Gwynn passed away after a bought with Cancer.  He was a big man.  Stocky, like me.  I identified with players like him.  Most sports collectors know well of Tony's feats.  He won 8 NL batting titles, had over 3,000 hits in his career and was looked at as an example to aspiring hitters everywhere; all this while playing for the mostly bad San Diego Padres teams of the 80s and 90s.  This is obviously another lesson in a long line of cautionary tales in the use of tobacco.  After having two surgeries to remove the cancer in his cheek, he eventually was taken back to the diamond in the sky.  He will be missed.

They all will

This is why I always say, my heroes are ghosts.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Is It A Sign

I'm not a huge autograph collector.  Casual is more like it. But I do have a pretty large collection of hockey autos that I've accumulated over the years.  With all the TTM blogs and a wealth of samples on the internet, I can usually find a good reference when I need it. 

But, this time, I'm stumped.  I found this auto in a box of stuff from one of the many collections I purchased over the last decade. The problem is, this signature looked too clean.  So of course my reaction is "too good to be true." 

As I began perusing the web for examples I noticed one glaring issue. While there were some autos that looked similar,  there were way too many variations on how the player signed. Even on actual certified autos, his signature was all over the board depending on what year, what product, or what he was signing it on.

I am throwing this one to the blog readers out there...What do you think?  Is it Live or Memorex?