But honestly – just be solid. For the first time in many, many years, there might be some help.
But honestly – just be solid. For the first time in many, many years, there might be some help.
It has now been a little over a week since the Leafs sent Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa, rendering the Leafs captainless for a third time. Fan reaction was about what one would expect – equal parts acceptance, glee and despair.
What I found a little puzzling was a media reaction that I saw in multiple places: “Why is it that Leaf captains are never permitted to retire gracefully? Why do they always end up leaving, so often in poor circumstances?” (I’m paraphrasing, of course. It lets me clean up the grammar.)
In terms of who the last Leaf captain was to retire as captain on his own terms, this was invariably reported incorrectly. The common answer was George Armstrong, but the correct answer is Ted Kennedy. Armstrong did get to retire on his own in 1971, but had ceded the captaincy to Dave Keon in 1969. Teeder retired as captain twice – once in 1955, again in 1957.
In terms of why Leaf captains always get sent away, the answer is the same as it is for every other team in hockey:
With very few exceptions, the only time a captain gets to sail gracefully into the sunset is when they’ve been a winner, preferably more than once. For the rest of them, it’s not so much about whether they are somehow insufficient as players or leaders, they’re just victims of the rebuild cycle every failing team undertakes with regularity (and realistically, 90% of teams haven’t won in recent memory and are unlikely to do so in the immediate future).
Everyone has seen it. Team X isn’t getting where it needs to go. The coach may or may not already be replaced. The focus turns to the core of the team, the leadership and expensive veterans (one of whom is invariably the captain). They’re either moved for different expensive core bits or more likely picks and youth, so the whole cycle can begin again. This isn’t a Leaf habit. It’s an everybody habit. None of this is news.
For the record, this is what has happened to each captain since Teeder retired for the last time:
George Armstrong captained the Leafs to four Stanley Cups in the 1960s, so he earned his right to do what he wanted. As the ’60s started to head into the ’70s, Armstrong became more ambivalent about playing (he was well into his late 30s) and needed to be talked into his last couple of seasons. He ceded the captaincy to Dave Keon in 1969, but played on until 1971.
Dave Keon put up some of his best scoring totals as captain, but the Leafs stumbled primarily due to management. The Leafs sold off most of their farm system in the late 1960s and were shredded by the WHA when Ballard decided he didn’t feel like playing the salary game. By 1974-75, young kids like Sittler, McDonald et al were showing themselves ready and the Leafs decided to go with them. Keon, hardballed in contract talks, went to the WHA, starting a long, long period of estrangement.
Darryl Sittler‘s Leafs fared pretty well, but could never get to the level that would let them get past the dynasty Habs teams of the late 1970s. Ballard thus hired Punch Imlach as GM, hoping he still had some magic. Punch decided that the players of the 70s needed to become the indentured servants of the 1950s and ’60s, which went about as well as one would expect. The team was gutted and fell apart. Sittler, who had a no-trade clause and a long-term deal, outlasted Punch but had had enough by 1982. He was dealt to Philadelphia for picks and prospects, the best of whom was Peter Ihnacak.
Rick Vaive was named captain at just 22 years of age and led a team that relied heavily on players even younger than he was. Things generally went badly. In the middle of 1985-86, Vaive stayed out too late commiserating with former linemates and overslept, missing practice. He was stripped of the captaincy and traded to Buffalo a year and a half later.
Rob Ramage was named captain immediately after arriving in a trade from Calgary, ending a period of three seasons without a captain (sound familiar?) His first season went quite well and the Leafs had their best finish in a decade. His second season was the great collapse of 1990-91, in which an injury-ravaged Leaf team traded everything that wasn’t nailed down in order not to not finish last and hand Eric Lindros to New Jersey. Mission accomplished. Ramage was left unprotected in the expansion/restocking draft for San Jose and Minnesota.
Wendel Clark captained the Leafs to within a goal of the Stanley Cup Final in 1993 – still their best showing since 1967. After another semi-final trip in 1994, GM Cliff Fletcher and coach Pat Burns agreed that their team had maxed out its potential. Clark was traded at the draft for future captain Mats Sundin.
Doug Gilmour captained a team that lost its way after losing Clark and never really found it again, even with Clark reacquired in an ill-advised deal. The real problem is that there were far too many ill-advised deals. The whole thing fell on its face in 1996-97 and the team was taken apart. Gilmour eventually asked out and was traded to New Jersey for prospects.
Mats Sundin captained the Leafs through a period of resurgence under Pat Quinn and through two semi-final appearances in 1999 and 2002. Post-lockout, the Leafs were old, lacked goaltending and the decision was made to rebuild. Much like with Sittler, former GM Cliff Flectcher was brought back in to try to work magic and spent most of his time trying for force players to give up no-trade clauses and be moved. Most of Sundin’s last season was spent with Fletcher publicly trying to convince him to accept a deal. Sundin refused, saying he wanted to see things through with his teammates. He would sign a half-season deal with Vancouver and then retire.
Dion Phaneuf, like Ramage, was brought in from Calgary after a couple of captainless seasons and awarded the ‘C’. Very little has worked since. Was it Dion’s fault? No, not really. But now he’s a Senator.
It looks bad to see it laid out like this, but it’s certainly not uncommon. Most teams have similar stories. Montreal hasn’t had a captain retire since Gainey. Boston is the same. Detroit has had it, but of course, they’ve been winning. Shane Doan looks like a possible exception to the rule, but really, he’s about it.
If Stamkos arrives and hoists a Cup while he’s here, well, then we’re talking.
Here’s the back of the Teeder card, since this is what I do:
The blog went dormant for a long time. There are myriad reasons for this, most notably that I’ve been absurdly busy, but just as important is that for most of this year, I’ve been poking away at the 1971 high series and it just didn’t seem interesting to me to post a 1971, then another, then maybe two – particuarly since this blog is doing it so much better. I hardly did any hockey this year.
The Toronto Fall Expo, though, was going to change that. My plan was to do precisely what I had done in the spring, which was to aim for a handful of 1952-53 Parkies, see whether I could find any 1973-74 OPC dark backs to get me closer to my master set, then try for some 1960-61 Topps or maybe a couple of 1969 OPC baseball cards. There hasn’t been a worthwhile find of 1971s there in years.
So that’s precisely what I did. Instead of wandering around exploring like I normally do, I went straight to the Parkies guy. He had four I needed:
I was a little disappointed in that I wanted to nail down the last Hab for the first page of the set, but this was an OK start all the same. I paid for these, then remembered that in the spring, he’d had some of the 1973-74 OPC off to the side of his booth. That box wasn’t there. Instead there was a binder I’d never seen him bring before. It read:
1971 OPC Baseball
Well, that was different. What are the odds that there are high numbers in this thing?
He wasn’t breaking up a complete set, but what was in there landed directly on my list. What you see here is a stack of 1971 OPC high numbers, all in outstanding condition.
The price was what made it even better. Everything was a fraction of what it normally sees on eBay. In fairness, this means they were probably priced at around book, but “book” is kind of a fairy tale when it comes to high-numbered 1971 OPC. In the top row, buried next to Dick Williams, is a Mike Marshall. The high-series Expos tend to run the better part of $100 (US) online. That card? Less than a seventh.
Complete pages abound!
So the set that I once felt would never be finished, and that this year I felt might get done, just not any time soon, now needs just sixteen cards. A couple are ugly (most notably the Baylor/Baker/Paciorek RC, one of which just finished on eBay at about $65 US for a beat-up copy), but most aren’t too bad. This could be a 2016 accomplishment. Never thought I’d be able to say that.
More than happy with what I’d found, I abandoned the notion of more ’50s-60s hockey. I did grab this, though, which gets me down to 10 remaning on the ’73-74 OPC Master set.
I don’t expect that he’ll have my remaining 16 in the spring, but there were a bunch of other binders labeled 1967, 1968 and 1970….
1974 Topps baseball opens with a six-card Hank Aaron tribute set that displays all of his previous Topps cards and lists personal records and season highlights on the back. Other than card #1, they’re all done exactly the same way – four images to a card.
1974 OPC, on the other hand, takes those six cards and breaks them into nine. Cards 1,2 and 6 (which is now #9) all carry over the Topps design. Cards 3, 4 and 5 are each broken in half. The vertical layout is swapped for a horizontal layout, two images per card. The yellow border is replcaed with a bunch of blue stars and the text “Collector’s Souvenir Card” is added along the base. It looks kind of hastily thrown together and also resulted in three Topps cards being dropped from the set of 660. Why was this done?
The answer is fairly obvious when one flips the cards over.
OPC generally got away with reusing the basic Topps layout because the backs weren’t all that wordy. OPC could thus simply print the text in both French and English using a much smaller font. This is also why (in my opinion) OPC always went for a lighter card stock – it made a smaller font easier to read.
In this case, Topps had loaded the backs with so much information that there was no way to put it all in two languages and keep everything legible. (Card #2, for example, is kind of ridiculous.) To get all of Hank’s myriad accomplishments in the set, they had to add three extra cards to the subset.
I have no idea why they didn’t work with the existing Topps border. It would have looked a lot better.
Note – as per Oh My OPC, cards 7-9 in the Topps set (Jim Hunter, George Theodore, and Mickey Lolich) were moved into the slots formerly occupied by the Brewers Leaders, Royals Leaders and Jim Fregosi, all of which were dumped out of the OPC set.
A week ago today, the Toronto Spring Expo started. I only get to two card shows per year – this one and the Fall one. They’re excellent shows but I attend them specifically for two reasons: they are accessible (not too far away) and they open on Friday rather than Saturday, so I can get there for an hour or so after lunch.
I’ve taken to going there with general purposes in mind rather than aiming for specific cards. This year, my goals were to
Note that I set no baseball goals anymore. For the largest of the Canadian shows, one would think that OPC baseball would be a reasonable find. It’s not. I think most of the baseball dealers are from the States and the one guy who has older OPC rarely has them in a state I want to pay for.
So my serendipty find was a bit of a shocker:
1969 OPC baseball. The guy I dismissed had a bunch that were just fine and dandy, thanks. I was particularly happy to find the leaders card, as it had eluded me and gives me a complete first page:
Hooray! 1969 OPC set status: 192/218. Getting there.
So with those safely in my pocket, I set off to tackle item 1. The 1973-74 master set is two complete sets, one each in the light and dark backs. Everything I still need is a second-series dark back, which seem difficult. Nailed a few:
The Mahovlich was a dupe because I couldn’t read my own list. Still, only $3 misspent. Set status: 507/528. Also getting there.
Got my 1960-61s from the same dealer. This got me enough of a discount to account for the second card bought in error:
The second one is #10, Bill Cook. I needed #10 in 1959-60, not 1960-61. Got too excited. Not sure what I will do with this. I may use it as trade bait in the fall. Set status: 33/66. Exactly half.
I was looking for one particular vendor for my ’52 Parkies as he always has a few, his prices are decent and he always knocks off a bit. Couldn’t find him. I ended up making three circuits before finding him at precisely the same table he always has.
Another person was wading through the ’52s already, so I had to wait. I spent my time repairing stacks I kept absently knocking over.
Finally, it was my turn. Remember, I wanted one good one – two if I got lucky:
I was particularly happy with the Butch Bouchard (bottom right) because a card in that shape will always run at least $40 online. This, with my discount, was less than half that amount and in the local currency, to boot.
Set status: 84/105 – precisely 80% of the set. This one may yet get done.
A good day, all in all, and $10 under budget.
“Interesting times” means things like blogs fall by the wayside for a spell. I’ve got scans of all the great things Fuji sent me, but can’t write any of them up yet because I need to research them to sound like I have a vague sense of what I’m talking about.
However, this happened, and it speaks for itself, mostly:
Yes, complete pages from 1971 baseball are not uncommon. What’s the deal?
Well, it’s this:
This is the first page of the OPC high numbers I’ve managed to complete, almost six years after starting to build the set. If one wants to get really pedantic, it’s the second, since I also have the last page done, but this is the first 9-card sheet of highs I have. Jack DiLauro was the straggler.
As is obvious, by the last couple of series, OPC had given up on the redesign of the back and abandoned the French text. I’m not sure whether they got in trouble for this, but I note that in 1972. they didn’t bother with the high series at all and stopped the set at 525 cards. Most likely (IMO) they were knee-deep in hockey and didn’t want to spend the effort on the baseball anymore.
77 cards to go.
Fixing the 1970-71 Topps/OPC hockey set is becoming a minor obsession. All the way back here (images on the link are dead, so it’s of limited use until I fix them) I noted that the set was basically an inverted 1971 baseball and in this post I got it into a nice looking card (in my opinion, anyway), but my inability to fix the text of the team name really irritated me.
The problem with the text is that either the ink isn’t 100% evenly applied or the process of compression the image into a jpg muddies the borders. Either way, those letters can’t be selected in a photo-editing tool in such a way that the lines actually wind up straight. When I tried it in the past, what I wound up with was this:
It took quite a lot of effort to get the letters even to be that good and it became clear when I went after it again that no amount would ever get it looking quite right. I was stuck with trying to find an appropriate font and making the best of it.
After some trying, I hit on this. The font is “Lucida Bright” in a demibold, 30-point.
It’s cleaner and not inappropriate. I was almost happy with it, in fact. It just lacked a little, I don’t know, call it pizzazz. I monkeyed around a little bit before hitting on something called “Informal Roman.” It’s kind of arty and wispy and I like it.
Is ti to everyone’s taste? Dunno, but I like it. To test the design, I took another ’70-71 of some prominence:
Again, I have a better one and should have scanned it, but no matter. All it was doing was donating some text. Gordie, reworked, gives me this:
This is why I like the Informal Roman. For whatever reason, I think “DET. RED WINGS” looks awful in the Lucida Bright. It works OK for Boston, but not Detroit. This, I like.
And one more for the moment. I didn’t have this scanned at all, so I scooped one of the internet. This works well, too:
I think I might end up trying to make a bunch more of this set. It’s kind of cool, really. These cards desperately needed action shots.