Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Collection Increases by One

While my pack buying habits are on standby, I've still been perusing the world's largest on-line flea market - eBay.

The result:

A 2003-04 Pacific Quest for the Cup Vincent Lecavalier.

Horizontal, young pre-trade rumors Vincent and a picture of the Holy Grail AND free shipping? That equals a win for me!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Quick Hits - Pending Weather Event Version

* I am not worried about Brian Roberts missing two days of camp because of a sore neck. Not worried at all. He’ll be fine, yeah it’s not a lingering problem. Just breathe easy and it will be fine.

* Good-bye Dan Ellis. We’ll always have your twitter high-jinx and that one night in Phoenix.

* Actually, I like the Dan Ellis trade. A lot of fans think it’s a precursor to a larger deal, but I think it’s Yzerman taking advantage of a team in need (Anaheim) and getting rid of an unwanted asset to clear $1.5 million off of the books for next year. Dan Ellis had no future in Tampa and would have been shopped in the off-season or bought out. Now if he can find a suitor for Mike Smith…….

* I haven’t written much about Liverpool this year, mainly because I no longer have FSC so I haven’t actually watched a game since December. I’m not quite sure how I feel about rooting for a team that’s linked directly with the Red Sox (for those that don’t know John Henry and New England Sports Ventures are the owners of Boston’s baseball team and they bought Liverpool this fall).

On one hand I’m glad that the team has stable ownership, but can’t stand the thought that Liverpool’s success might some how help the Red Sox. As for the departure of Fernando Torres, well El Nino, you gave us some fine memories, but that’s about it. I think you started to turn the fan base against you when you started complaining that the Premier League was too physical for you. Have fun at Chelsea.

* Oh and who else is a part of NESV? Jeff Vinnik - owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. So let's review. In about a year, one of the teams I dislike the most (the Red Sox) have woven themselves firmly into my primary rooting interests. Their owners own my favorite hockey team and Premier League team. To top it off they used their vast resources to lure my former favorite player, Carl Crawford, away from the Rays. As Cam Neeley once said...."Wanna kick my dog while you're at it?" John Henry you are my sports nemesis!

* Should I write another post insinuating that Lecavalier might not fulfill his full potential because of Matt Cooke? All Vinny has done since then is mold himself into the best player on the team (3 goals and 7 points since I wrote that one).

* Random thing that I used to get a kick out of - when you did a Google search of “Toe Nash”, my old blog used to be the first hit. Now it’s down to the third or fourth. Still one of my favorite pieces that I wrote.

* December snow is fun. February snow is annoying.

* Despite my general disregard for the NBA I am amazed at the ineptitude of the Los Angeles Clippers scouts. Take a look at their draft history I am 100% sure that given 30 minutes of research I could have had more success with drafting talent.

* Have you ever expected a card to be waiting for you in your mailbox and it has yet to show up? Man, even as a 30-something year old it’s a let down. Well maybe tomorrow.

* I ordered a bunch of padded envelopes off of eBay and they arrived today. When my better half saw the packaging she rolled her eyes and guessed that it was another bobble head (which I haven’t even bought in years!). I think she was more disappointed when she saw that they were envelopes. But it was a deal! $0.29 an envelope even with shipping!

* The first trades from the Allen & Ginter trade away have trickled in. I really like this year’s Topps and need to sell some stuff on the Bay so I can justify buying a box.

* Song I'm inexplicably listening to way too much on my iPod right now - Aloe Black's I need a Dollar

That’s all.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rampent Speculating! Unsubstantiated Rumors! Flat Out Made Up Stuff! It Must Be Close to the NHL Deadline!

I really enjoy the NHL trading deadline. How much do I enjoy it? Well, last year I managed to come up with somewhat reasonable trades for the entire Tampa Bay Lightning roster. This year, not only do I not have the free time to do that, there is no need to. The Bolts have battled their way to the 2nd spot of the Eastern Conference and are rolling on at a fairly consistent pace.

However, what would a trade deadline be without rampant speculation. Let's be clear about that. I have no sources, no inside knowledge at all. As a matter of fact, if you've read this blog (or the previous incarnation) you know that my prognosticating skills are comically lacking.

That doesn't stop me, as a matter of fact, if anything it encourages me to try, try again. So as the magic date of February 28th draws nigh lets see if I can look into my crystal 8-ball and see how General Manager Steve Yzerman is going to retool his roster.

Ok....let's ask the question.....will there be a major addition to the Lightning roster...things are a little they're clearing up a bit...something is coming into it a name...nope...."Highly Unlikely"

Well, that's rather anti-climatic. No big scoring forward? No Tomas Kaberle or Zach Bogosian? Not even Alex Kovalev? C'mon crystal 8-ball!

Unfortunately, for Lightning fans who like big splashes and blockbuster deals it's probably going to be a relatively quiet deadline. While the Bolts do have some needs, they aren't exactly glaring needs. Some help on the blueline, another forward for depth and that's about it.

Injuries have hampered the current line-up a bit, but unlike at the beginning of the year it hasn't affected their top two lines. Nor are the injuries (other than Ryan Malone's) considered long term.

Their big move happened in January when Yzerman pulled the trigger for the well-traveled netminder Dwayne Roloson. The 41 year-old has provided a little bit of stability to the biggest hole in the Lightning's armour. While I wouldn't say the hole is filled in and fixed, it at least has a piece of plywood nailed over it.

The call up of veteran defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron has helped generate some offense from the defense (he has 4 points in 4 games or one less than Mattias Ohlund has in 49 games) but he isn't exactly there to keep the puck out of his own net.

The problem Yzerman is going to run into is that every team in the playoff hunt is going to be looking for a defensive defenseman. And there is a good chance that they're willing to give up more than the former Red Wing superstar is.

So far the have-nots have been demanding quite a bit for their assets. Second line center Mike Fisher and second/third line forward Kris Versteeg have both netted their former teams first round picks in the next amateur draft. Will Yzerman, who is going to be having to keep an eye on the cap once he signs young Mr. Steven Stamkos to a new deal, willing to part with a pick that could be vital to building the future of the Tampa Bay squad?

Most likely he won't. Nor does he want to absorb any other team's bad contact. Sorry Rangers fans, let's not even mention the name Wade Reddon. He's also not going to give up a lot for a one year rental (sorry Brian Burke). Also, there is a relatively small amount of dance partners out there to play with. Their are only 3-4 teams that are totally out of the race, heck the Devils with their recent hot swing are talking themselves into playoff contention.

So if Kaberle, Bogosian and Chris Phillips aren't going to be rocking the blue, black and silver who might be. Well one intriguing name would be Jim Vandermeer. Edmonton is one of the teams who will be a seller over the next two weeks. Could they be talked into a draft pick and one of young goalies that are currently cluttered up in the minors?

Vandermeer is a physical defenseman who can grind away 15-18 minutes a night making life rough for opposing offenses. As an unrestricted free agent after this season he isn't going to demand a king's ransom in return or tie up needed cap space next season.

Radek Martinek from the Islanders would be a similar player to target. Perhaps Mike Smith could find a new home on the Island. I mean he has to be a better option than Al Montoya, right?

Don't look for any help from South Beach. The chances of a division rival helping the Lightning out at the deadline are remote at best. Besides they're going to have their hands full with everyone else in the league trying to pick over their roster like vultures along I-75.

On the offensive side it's even murkier. With the LA Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins dominating any and all conversations in regards to forwards it's going to be hard to put a package together that will work. Brad Richards is the biggest name on the block as the Dallas Stars continue to fall out of contention. Getting Richards would be the Lightning fan's equivalent of a high-schooler getting Brooklyn Decker to go with him to the prom. In other ain't happening.

So I guess I just spent a lot of time (I rewrote this thing two times) saying a lot of nothing. After all Vandermeer and Martinek aren't exactly the sexiest names out there. For the first time in three years the Lightning aren't going to be sellers at the deadline. Nor does it look like they are going to be major buyers. I guess that's a good thing. Boring, but good.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Spring Training is Here - Now Help Me Get Rid of Some Cards!!!!!

Photo Taken From JA Happ's blog

One of the best sentences in the English language is going to be uttered several times tomorrow - "Pitchers and Catchers have reported to Spring Training".

That's right, baseball is here. To celebrate that I've decided to give away almost all of the 2010 Allen & Ginter cards I bought last year. The set just didn't do it for me.

So it's time to clear them off the shelf and make room for something else.

I've compiled the cards that I have for trade here .

There are two tabs - the first page has the inserts and mini's. The second page has the base cards. First come, first serve.

That's great you ask, but what do you want in return?

Well I figured I would do something a little different. Since I don't think it's fiscally prudent for me to invest in a box of 2011 Topps right now, I figured I'd let you help me start the collection. So here is how it's going to work.

If you want 1-9 cards off of my list all I ask in return is two base cards from 2011 Topps Series I. I will keep track of what has been offered so that there is no duplication.

If you want 10+ cards off of the list I ask for one unopened pack of 2011 Topps Series I.

For the two "hits" I'm willing to take a lesser "hit" from 2011 Topps.

That's it.

But wait - I don't have any 2011 Topps and I don't like buying packs, can I still participate? Well sure. Send me an email and we can work something out.

So feel free to start emailing me at yerf at with what you need and we'll get this rolling!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Very Delayed Mail Call

As the tempature rises and the snow finally begins to melt around town I figured I'd knock out some mail that has piled upon my desk. Plus I can clean up the desk and now that the better half has moved in, it's important to keep things clean again.

First up - An eBay Purchase

A 2010 Topps Series 2 Eddie Murray Commemorative Patch of the 1979 World Series.

I'm normally not a fan of manu-patches, but I made an excepton in this case as it was fairly cheap and had a great photo of Murray with the full blown side buns and warm up jacket under the uniform.

2nd up - An old-fashioned card swap

A Nick Markakis 2009 Topps T206 Jersey Card.

It was the main card in a package from Greg over at "Plaschke, Thy Sweater is Argyle" . Greg is a Dodger fan who took a Blake Dewitt auto off of my hands and was generous enough to sent Nick back in exchange. Look for "The Stick" to get back into the 20-25HR range now that he has some power behind him in the lineup.

Thanks Greg!

3rd up - Another old-fashioned card swap

1984 Eddie Murray Topps Regular

Johnny over at "Cards From the Quarry" sent a nice packet of O's cards in exchange for a black border Rockies card that was filling up space in my "trade bait" section.

I highlighted this card since it's one of my all-time favorite Murrays (and one that I didn't have for some reason). He's in full relaxed mode, waiting to unleash hell on some poor lefty. So far as I've started collecting Murray, it's also one of the few cards to feature him from the right side of the plate.

Thanks, Johnny.

One last card to pimp.

A Charles Rogers 2003 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Classics.

The eBayer I bought the Murray patch from threw this in as filler for the supper wide top loader that the Murray was placed in. If there are any Lions fans out there that want it, let me know and it's yours.

Thank you everyone for the cards.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Did Matt Cooke Destroy Lecavalier's Career?

Pittsburgh winger Matt Cooke is cooling his heels for four games thanks to a vicious blindside hit to Fedor Tyutin on Tuesday night. Cooke, no stranger to questionable plays on the ice, delivered a textbook example of the type of hit that the NHL is trying to eradicate. He hit the Columbus Blue Jacket forward from the back, and drove him forcibly into the boards. It wasn’t a matter of if Cooke would be suspended, rather a question of how long. Especially given his tie up with the league’s alternate poster Alex Ovechkin that led to knee-to-knee contact and got the talking heads all a flutter on Sunday.

Around the Bay area, Tampa not Green, Cooke is a name that causes most fans to grind their teeth a bit. While with the Capitals he took a run at Vincent Lecavalier and the resulting collision/awkward landing finished the Lightning star’s 2007-08 season (hit comes 48 seconds into the video). Lecavalier would require off-season surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder.

It’s been two and a half season’s since that hit and Cooke has moved on to more controvery (Marc Savard) and Lecavalier has suffered through two of the least productive years of his career. Could the decline in his production be tied to the hit? If you were to ask the talented center from Quebec he would answer in the negative, saying that the shoulder is fine and doesn’t affect his game. A look at the numbers might speak to a different tune.

In the five seasons (including 2007-08) previous to the injury the 4 time All Star had scored 33, 32, 35, 52 and 40 goals. He was an emerging star in the NHL, fulfilling the “stud” portion of the great Art Williams declaration when he was drafted. Despite the injury he signed an 11 year extension worth $85 million (and has him currently the top paid player in the league) and became the face of a franchise for a couple of new owners who shall not be named. Of course, they also spent the rest of their ownership tenure trying to trade him, but that is a totally different story.

Since the surgery how has Lecavalier performed? The sample size is small, but not reassuring. His goal scoring has regressed to 29, 24 and 11. Granted he still has 40 games to improve on that 11, but the chances he hits 30 are pretty slim.

More than just the numbers is that his style of play seems to have changed. When Lecavalier is at his best he is a physical force on the ice. Not quite to the level Ovechkin deplays, but still breathtaking. He uses his size to shield the puck from the defense or to muscle into the front of the net for deflections and rebounds. As a precursor to Steven Stamkos’ ballyhooed shot from the left circle, Lecavalier was just as deadly from the right circle. Often he would rifle pucks past goaltenders with blistering one timers from that position on the power play.

He wasn’t afraid to try different shots either. On breakaways or one-vs.-one against a defender he tried anything to get the puck past his opponent. Most of the time they didn’t work, but for Lightning fans it was always fun to watch him try. His ability to mix power and finesse made him the first Tampa superstar.

After the injury he seemed a ghost of the player he was on offense. He would drift on the periphery, his shoots coming almost reluctantly, after he figured there was no one else to pass to. Two-on-ones became depressingly repetitive, without a doubt he would wait for the last moment to pass the puck. He no longer looked to initiate the hits, the edge he used to play with dissipated.

Of course, it’s impossible to look at Lecavalier during those years and not take other factors into consideration. The organization got rid of two of the players he was closest to, first in Brad Richards and then in Vinny Prospal. Constantly trade rumors swirled about him. His contract became the albatross around his neck, blamed for the woes of the team. Stoically, he would play through nagging injuries that seemed to plague him on a regular basis.

He became a focal point for fan outrage, his normal aloof nature taken as a lack of care for his play and the team. Quiet spoken he didn’t fit the image of a captain, someone who knocked over water coolers or called out teammates in the press. As a matter of fact, often there wouldn’t be any quotes in the press. Scanning recaps of the game his name was largely absent from the list of players quoted.

Did the shoulder injury fundamentally change who he was as a player? Based on his performance this year the answer should be no. Since his return from a shoulder injury the Vincent Lecavalier of old seems to have returned. He is playing aggressive hockey, hockey that his coach has acknowledged. A notoriously streaky player, the goals haven’t been appearing until recently. A fact somewhat masked by the torrid pace young Mr. Stamkos has adopted in regards to goal scoring.

Perhaps the stability of an owner dedicated to the team and not Ed Hardy shirts has relaxed him. Stamkos’ emergence as a top player in the league has shifted the attention off of him. Even bringing in fellow French speaking native Simon Gagne can be seen as a positive influence. Whatever it was, it seems to be working. Hopefully, it continues over the length of the contract and helps fuel the Lightning’s resurgence.

Maybe it’s better to say that the hit put his career on hold for a bit. Rebuilding the strength in the shoulder along with the confidence that it won’t fail again takes time. Lecavalier is only 30, in today’s NHL he should have another 8-10 years in him. A return to the 30 goal plateau is not out of the question.

Matt Cooke may be responsible for the end of Marc Savard’s career, but he’s not taking Vinny down with him as well.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chicago Sn-oto Number 10

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Yes, it's a week later, but here is a photo from SNOWMG/SNOWMAGEDDON/SNOWPOCOLYPSE 2011. Twenty inches of snow in a little less than 48 hours. It was a blast, mainly because I don't have a car and didn't have to worry about digging anything out of 4 foot snow drifts.

However, since I didn't have a car and the CTA was running I did have to go into the office Wednesday morning (in between the two heaviest periods of snow)). It was odd being in downtown Chicago during morning rush hour and seeing just a few disheartened souls.

Since only four of us showed up at the office the director let us leave at noon and I took the afternoon to head to the lake to see what it looked liked at the end of the blizzard.

This tree was brought down by the high winds. A surprising number of people were wandering around the park, some on cross country skis, some with snow shoes and others like me tramping around in boots.

I didn't think to walk down Lake Side Drive to see the abandoned cars (apparently I was the only person with a camera who didn't), by the time I thought about the chill was starting to seep through my 4 layers of clothes.

All in all it was fun,especially having spent the last 13 years in Florida, but one a year is enough for me.


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Irish whiskey and a traveling gnome enjoy the snow outside my front window.