After 24 great years, O-Pee-Chee's final set proved that they could no longer cut it. The set gets off to a bad start with a blurry Kevin Todd and hardly improves from there. I know that it's tough to make a set with 396 mind-blowing cards, but it seems to me that you should at least try to bury the blurry ones somewhere in the back, instead of presenting them as the first card. And besides, it's Kevin Todd! I always wonder why companies like to put some random second or third liner in such a prominent spot.
Blurry cards aren't the only problem, cluttered shots are also frequent in the set. And let's not forget about the back of the card: O-Pee-Chee has always thrived on simple two or three colour backs, so why after 24 years of success did they decide to change the winning formula? Did those little holograms on the back of the Upper Deck cards scare them into thinking that what people wanted was a colour gradient?
Luckily, the set isn't a totally write-off. As it was O-Pee-Chee's 25th anniversary, they commemorated their rich history with 25 rookie reprints. With one card for each of their regular sets from 68-69 to 91-92, plus Bure's card from 91-92 O-Pee-Chee Premier, you get a pretty good look at what O-Pee-Chee once was. Each card has an alternate photo not used on the original card. In some cases the new photo is an obvious improvement over the original, in others, not so much. Calling it a rookie reprint sub-set is a little misleading. In two cases (72-73 and 77-78) they don't use rookies from the original set. I guess that because the options for those two years were so weak (would you prefer Doug Palazzari or Jerry Korab's rookie?) they decided people would rather see the established stars. Seeing Cheevers in his badass stitch mask while playing for the WHA's Cleveland Crusaders makes me think that I agree.
Five of my favourites:
#16 - Jon Casey - The only action in this set is on the goalie cards.
#247 - Mike Vernon - Like this one.
#120 - Trevor Linden - You can tell the Canucks are losing by the way Linden is half-assedly celebrating the goal while he looks at the clock. He's doing the math to see if they still have a chance.
#385 - Thomas Steen - I think O-Pee-Chee got a deal on bulk photos of the Jets practicing. There are six practice photos in this set-- five are Jets, the other is this good-looking guy.
#194 - Tony Esposito - Goalies looked way tougher in the 70's.