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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Great 8 Pulls Of 2013

It's time to wrap up the year that was 2013 and ring in 2014.  What better way than to do another in a long line of ad nauseum Top 10 lists.  Hooray for Top 10 lists!!  But what's better than a Top 10 list?  How about a Top 8 list!!  Plus, as a double whammy, it's going to showcase more stuff in my collection and many people out there will consider it to be bragging.  Hooray for bragging!!

I was looking over some of my card scans and things I had posted to Twitter over the last year and decided to put everything together in one nice little package.  In order to qualify for the list, all the cards had to be obtained by pulling them from packs.  No single purchases, no trades, no "freebies".  Everything came directly from a pack or was redeemed from a card pulled from a pack and obtained in 2013.

Drumroll please!   Here they are (again) for your viewing pleasure.


Back in March, I opened a box of 2011-12 Panini Rookie Anthology.  This little Rookie Treasures beauty was peering at me from inside.  It features two swatch pieces with one being dual-colored.  It has a sticker auto but isn't horribly affixed like some of these I've seen.  The card has cooled way off on the secondary market since I released it from it's cellophane tomb.  That's most likely because of RNH's play at the end of last year and his season ending shoulder injury.  He has come out pretty strong this year despite the misery of playing in Edmonton.  He has 29 points this season but his -10 +/- rating makes that a little rough.  Then again, not many guys on Edmonton can consistently play in the positives because of their horrific defense and goaltending.  Maybe his pairing with Taylor Hall and David Perron will help him get back into the spotlight.  I was offered a nice Benjamin Franklin for this card not long after I pulled it but decided to hang onto it.  


This baby was pulled but has yet to arrive.  I haven't seen anyone with an actual redeemed card yet either so I imagine this might be something that doesn't show until after the season (if at all).  I would have rated it higher but since I don't have any idea what it is going to look like, it remains at number #9 on my list.  I pulled this from a box of 2012-13 Upper Deck Trilogy that I opened earlier when the season started.  Yakupov was supposed to be another in a long line of offensive weapons for the Oilers but has so far been a bit of a disappointment for Edmonton.  So much so that trade talk has been rampant and Nail has gone on record as saying that although he wants to play for Edmonton, he would be glad to go if they aren't happy with him.  He has only 14 points this season and averages just over 14 minutes of ice time per game and much like RNH, he is atrocious in the +/- department.  In addition to this one, I also pulled a redemption for a Tarasenko Level 1 auto as well.  I have not received that card either.  


This card came from a box of 2013-14 Artifacts.  I usually open a few boxes of these each year but I don't recall pulling anything as short printed as this card (except a few one/one's a couple times).  It is numbered #/6 if you can see that in red foil there on the left next to Patrice Bergeron.  The other awesomeness involved here is the fact that all the guys are featured in their Team Canada uniforms.  They kept that consistent with the graphics and that makes for a much nicer design.  But by far my favorite is that they aren't just plain white swatch jersey pieces.  These are all fight strap pieces.  Excellent.  The player selection could be better but I'm not complaining one bit.


My Christmas presents were very, very good to me this year.  I opened a box of 2013-14 Panini Select Hobby that was sitting nicely wrapped under my tree.  Despite my last couple boxes of this product that I was less than thrilled with, the third time was definitely the charm.  Nathan MacKinnon has come out in Colorado and made a name for himself, helping to put the Avs back into the NHL post-season conversations.  He has 21 points thus far this season and is a contender for the Calder.  This guy has been floating around the $100 mark much like the RNH card at #10.  I think as more of these hit, the price will surely start to dip but barring any injuries, I think MacKinnon is the real deal and will be a force in the hobby for years to come. 


Sorry for the blurry scan but I think you get the idea here.  This was pulled out of a box of 2012-13 Fleer Retro Hockey.  It's a 1999 Retro Autographics auto card of Steven Stamkos.  Fleer Retro was an awesome set packed with value in the subsets, short prints, and autographs.  The boxes were a bit pricey when they first hit the streets but they eventually cooled off.  If you can get a box of them for under $100, do it!  You won't regret it.  This isn't the first Stamkos auto I have ever pulled.  It's the second.  But it's the best looking one.  This is the first full-sized card with his auto.  If it wasn't for the sticker, it would have been perfect.  But I won't complain too much about getting an auto of this perennial Hart Trophy and Richard Trophy candidate.


I wanted to put this card much higher on my list because...well, just look at it.  I used to have a Dan Marino autographed 8x10 black & white photo from when I was a kid.  It featured him dropping back to pass, much like this pose, and was taking while he still played for Pitt.  In fact, that's when I received the auto because a family friend knew his parents real well and somehow I was the beneficiary of that.  Fast forward 10 years or so and that auto went missing, never to be heard from again.  It took me almost 30 years to replace it but I think this one will suffice.  I pulled this from a box of 2012 Fleer Retro.  It was a redemption card that came in a couple months ago.


Not one.  Not two.  But three hockey HOFers on this card.  Back at the same show I pulled the RNH card, I picked up a box of 2012-13 Panini Classics Signatures for a heck of a steal at the time.  These boxes yield you an autograph in each pack, or six per box.  The best part, they are all veteran guys that have since retired, many of which taking their place in the HOF.  This came out of the box as a redemption card and I hesitated for almost four months before finally scratching away that silver foil.  Seeing this card now, I'm so glad I did.  This card looks amazing in person.  The autos are all fairly legible because guys of yesteryear actually take their time and pride in their signatures.  This is another card that generally floats around the $100 mark but I'm not sure this one will ever be pried from my hands.   


And last but not least, the number one card.  I have opened my share of 2011-12 Upper Deck Parkhurst Champions.  In fact, I'm thinking it is somewhere around 5-6 boxes.  Well, the Black Friday sale at D&A Cardworld was too good to resist and I added this one to my cart just to help pad for shipping.  Boy was I shocked when this came sliding out of one of the last packs in the box.  Not only is this an on-card auto of Ray Bourque but it's one of the low production tiered autos from the set.  Almost all of the subject matter for the set has an auto but many are available much easier than others.  The Bourque is part of Group A which falls about 1:696 packs.  In my perusing online, I have yet to find one of these on the secondary market.  In fact, with the exception of a couple mini-group A's, I have seen nothing but group B-F autos available out there.  So considering this is pretty rare, I will most likely hang on to it for awhile.

I hope you have enjoyed this little trip down memory lane.  I certainly have since I can look back on these as not only the best pulls of 2013, but some of my best pulls ever.

Thanks for reading and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Defying Logic...

The Penguins got their fifth win in a row and their 25th win of the season in a dramatic shoot-out victory over the New York Rangers last night at Madison Square Garden.  In a game that was chippy from the start, the Pens squandered a 3-1 lead in the third period due to some Blueshirt heroics and their ability to get behind the Penguins' defensemen.  But, DFG???  I thought the mighty Penguins had one of the best defensive lines in the NHL??  Yes.  That is true.  WHEN THEY ALL SUIT UP!!

Last night's game featured a depleted group of D-men led by veteran Matt Niskanen.  But Matty isn't the top blue-liner for the Pens??  Again, you are correct.  The Penguins top four defensemen are on the shelf with injuries and other issues.  Of the four main Pens line pairings, only Crosby's top line is intact.  Niskanen has been playing alongside 19 year old sensation Olli Maatta, while the other d-men are on the mend.

So how many regulars were out of the lineup, you ask?  Try 12!!  12 players are out of the lineup.  Ten players have injuries and the other two are serving suspensions.  But these are 12 guys that see some significant amounts of ice-time each night.  This includes the Penguins top 4 defensemen Kris Letang with an upper body injury, Brooks Orpik with the concussion at the hands of the evil Shawn Thornton, Paul Martin and his broken leg, and Rob Scuderi with a broken ankle.  From an offensive point of view, the Pens are without NHL assist leader Evgeni Malkin, Jayson Megna, Andrew Ebbett, Tanner Glass, Beau Bennett, and their two suspended players Deryk Engelland and James Neal.  Plus, back-up (starter, what's the difference) goaltender Tomas Vokoun has been out all season with a blood clot issue.

That is a ton of talent on the shelf but somehow, the Pens keep winning.  I don't want to jinx it but I can't help but watch in amazement as a bunch of AHL call-ups rise to the occasion of a chance on NHL ice.  They all are not playing up to a caliber that would get them a permanent roster sport or propel the Pens deep into the playoffs but their ability to solidly put up ice-time out there and hang with the opposing teams has been nothing short of spectacular in my opinion so far.

Tonight, it's Minnesota and the return of Matt Cooke to Consol.  It will be interesting to see what happens there but I expect more of what we saw last night.  These fresh faces like returning Chris Connor, Carolina's Staal trade victim Brian Dumoulin, Brian Gibbons, Ulf's son Philip Samuelsson (yes, he wears 55 and dad got to watch from the bench...the Rangers bench), and Zach Sill who has logged a little over 1 1/2 games of ice time this season, will have to play their very best until we start to see some signs of life on the IR.

Let's Go Pens.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Week 15 NFL Observations (& Gripes)

Well I think I only made it to week 9, maybe 10 of my Sunday Steeler 6-pack this year.  I have tried this in some form or another since 2009 but to no avail.  Eventually it becomes like work so I give up.

As the years go by, the Steelers get older, can't compete solidly, and drift off into obscurity for the season.  What begins as a solid looking powerhouse of a team in pre-season, ends up being out worked, out played, and out shined (see Week 1 - Week 14) They are featured less and less on TV going forward too.  If the Bears and Colts are not playing, there might be a rare chance that CBS will carry the game as their National broadcast but that's it.  Sometimes they get a MNF, TNF, or SNF game but...they don't seem to perform in prime-time anymore and this Sunday's match-up against Cincinnati is fixin' to be a bloodbath.

So I instead resort to one of the greatest inventions in sports entertainment...The NFL Red Zone Channel.  This is the fourth year I have watched Red Zone and I love it even more now than the first day I turned it on. For those of you that don't have it or many not know what it is, let me quickly break it down.  It's every game from the time the ball crosses the offensive "red zone" until points are put on the board.  Not game action or mere seconds after.  Imagine if you had Sunday Ticket but didn't want to flip channels on your remote.  The channel flips for you.  As Scott Hanson announces each and every week as they go live, "It's Seven Hours Of Commercial Free Football".

Thursday night, Sunday night, and Monday night games in their entirety along with basically every other game on Sunday makes for a lot of football watching.  And this year especially, I have noticed many more things that have begun to annoy me to no end.

I present to you my basically the end of the 2013 NFL season GRIPE LIST.

1.  Up until last week (because of the weather), kick returns for touchdowns or what I like to call, The Most Electrifying, Death Defying, Game Changing Play In the Game, have virtually went away.  I am a defensive guy but for some reason, these plays get my heart racing.  While there are a few guys capable of taking the risk running the ball out of the back of the endzone, most players simply take their proverbial knee or simply let the ball go out the back of the endzone.  Please, NFL Rule Czars, I beg you.  Move the kickoffs back where they were.  I know you are trying to prevent injuries but come on!  You have single handedly rendered about 150 special teams guys around the NFL useless.  Congratulations.

2. I am sick and tired of player begging the referees for penalty flags.  SICK!!  I hate it.  As Ditka says, "Stop it!"  Just stop it.  Drew Brees!  You are going to get hit.  You are a quarterback.  It's not always roughing the passer.  And Wide Receivers!  Just because you drop a pass or it was thrown 30 feet over your head doesn't mean you were interfered with.  I think begging for flags should be FLAGGED!  It's unsportsmanlike conduct.

3.  Speaking of unsportsmanlike conduct, I'm all for being happy about a big play, a big sack at a crucial time, a fourth and goal-line stand, or a huge touchdown catch.  But celebrating a routine tackle?  It's first down and you dropped a running back after a four yard gain?  Great!  SO WHAT!  It's your job to make these tackles.  You get paid for it.  Stop pretending like you won the game.  Doubly for the four yard route runners that spin the ball on the ground after they just set up a fourth and three.  Triply for you too, guys that score touchdowns late in the game while still trailing by 20 points, slam dunking the goal post and doing the Harlem Shake in the end zone (people still do that, right?).  You are losing.  Act like it.

4.  Pass interference is not the same as incidental contact.  Pass Interference is not the same as bumping into a player running along the same trajectory as you are.  Pass Interference is not the same as a receiver quitting on a route because he is beat by a faster, more agile defensive player.  Pass interference is not running the wrong route on a pass play.  Pass Interference IS the most overly and incorrectly called penalty in the league and it needs to stop.  I get the grabbing and turning guys or not even trying for the ball thing.  But I have seen way too many ticky-tac calls this year and is just plain ridiculous.

5.  Jerry Jones.  Just...please go away.  Your team is failing because of one person and he doesn't play on the field.  You may have a god complex but even I am not stupid enough to think that one person can be owner, president, and GM and still be able to have a successful team.  I hate the Cowboys with a passion but even I am starting to feel sorry for them.

6.  RGIII is not a quarterback.  There.  I said it.

7.  Stop with the "feel good story of the year" before each and every game broadcast.  Save all that stuff for the weekly talking head shows and the sports reporter babble that goes on when normal people are at work.  If the goal is trying to get more female fans, I don't think it's working because even my football noob girlfriend (who still can't figure out the difference between offsides and encroachment...Shhhh!) thinks this stuff, while sometimes heart-warming and genuine, is a bunch of crappola designed to sucker people into watching boring games.  Touche.  But really, I know there are good guys like Russell Wilson who want to show off duct tape wallets made by sick kids, but there are also too many attention whores in the NFL too that get equal time devoted to their dumb asses.  Stick to talking about football and the game itself.  Leave the locker room hazing stories, the personal troubles with the law, the domestic disputes with wives, and the off-field antics out of the pre-game shows.  

8.  Just because you played the game of football doesn't make you an authority to speak on all aspects of the game.  You were a player and played a certain position for a reason.  If you are a defensive back, don't pretend to know what it's like as a quarterback.  If you were a quarterback, don't think for one minute that I believe you know how a tight end prepares for a game.

9.  To piggy-back on 8...just because you were a player, doesn't make you a good announcer, analyst, talking head, broadcaster, sports reporter, [insert job description here].  Honestly??  Most of you are pathetic and we only keep you around because you say dumb things that entertain me.

10.  I still hate Tom Brady.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Idea For A Hockey Set: Hockey Firsts?

Sometimes when I'm left to my own thoughts, it can be a scary thing.  I have little usable creative talent and even less computer graphic skills so I will concede this one to the likes of others out there that make custom card designs all the time.  Has there ever been a "retro-themed" set of Hockey Firsts?  I don't know of one, or a subset, or an insert set.

But if there has, someone tell me.

Here's the idea...

It's a 100-card set that features significant moments that occured in hockey that don't get recognized, or first feats.  Probably about 60-70 players and another 30-40 subset cards with either the same guys or different guys that fit the themes.

For example...

  • Everyone knows that the first goalie to wear a mask regularly was Jacques Plante.  Give him a card for being an innovator (or just plain scared). But the second guy...Jerry Toppazzini.  Give that guy a card in this set for being a lemming.
  • The first Soviet player allowed in the NHL was Victor Nechaev.  Give that guy a card for being a pioneer.
  • Sam Lopresti, then goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks, was the first goalie ever pulled for an extra attacker.  Give Sam a card (and get his dog one too).
  • The 1983 Islanders were the first team ever invited to the White House after winning the Stanley Cup.  Give them a team card with all their forced smiles, sucking up to President and Mrs. Reagan (if there is a picture of that somewhere).
  • The first guy to sign a contract, and actually collect on it [Derek Sanderson signed one but never collected it], worth $1 million in pro-hockey was Bobby Hull.  Give him a card for getting PAID! (I wonder what that would be worth in 1972 dollars today).
  • You could even do a whole host of cards of "ethnic" or "racial" the first black player - - Willie O'Ree; or the first black goalie - - Grant Fuhr; or first black head coach (and team captain) - - Dirk Graham; or the first Native American in the NHL (no it was Rene Boileau or Rainy Drinkwater as they called him) - - Fred Sasakamoose.
  • Here's an easy one.  The first 50-goal scorer - - Maurice Richard.  They name the stinkin' trophy after him now.  Give him a card.

These are just a few examples of cards that could be in there.  I have a ton of other player ideas also.  You could get some big name guys mixed with a bunch of lesser names, or players you wish had cards but never did.  There could be insert cards, autos, and whatever other pieces of whatever you wanted in them too.  But for now, I'm thinking just the base cards and maybe a subset or two.

Or maybe I'm just thinking out loud.

Either way, I think it's the start of a good idea.  Any takers?