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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Scouting the Grand Rapids Griffins

Chicago will be closing out a five game home stand for the Griffins. They play tonight against Omaha and on Friday against the Bulldogs. They are currently on a four game winning streak. A tough team this year, the Griffins are at the top of their division with 46 points and are considered by many to be a favorite to witn the North Division and the Western Conference this year. The Grifs have a team balanced between some veterans and some youngsters new to the AHL.

The Grifs also sport the best AHL home power play, scoring on 27.6 percent of power plays at home, 21.2 percent overall. They’ll also be playing with among the worst pks, with 18.8 percent of them falling, ranked 21st in the AHL. Of course, they play the Wolves, who have an away power play that is even worse, 12.6 percent succeeding, 13.1 overall, ranked 23rd in the league. And, the Griffins have no worries with their 8th ranked shootout percentage against the Wolves. If it should come to that, the Wolves remain on the bottom of the league for shootout wins

Greg Ireland is the new head coach of the Griffins. The former assistant coach is on a one year contract extension. The Griffins have seemed to win in spurts, including a 12 game win over the final five weeks of the 2004-5 season and the off and on streaks of this month. His defensive strategies have led to a franchise low 166 goals, 2.08 GAA, during his tenure last year. Aside from hockey, the coach has a love for lacrosse, coaching several Canadian junior and midget teams to national championships, as well as working with youths in Michigan.

Jim Paek backs Ireland as the assistant coach. The first Korean to play in the NHL and win a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Paek has also won two Turner Cups. Prior to working with the Griffins, Paek was head coach of the Orlando Seals.

The game Saturday will feature what is billed as the largest indoor fireworks display in Western Michigan and an intermission spectacle by the Red Panda Acrobats.

Jimmy Howard and Drew MacIntyre hold the pipes for the Griffins, with a 91.2 and a 90.8 save percentage, respectively. They have almost identical GAA’s of 2.52 and 2.53 making their saves and GAA very similar to Brian Finley’s. MacIntyre played for Sherbrooke in the 2002-03 season, ending with a 2.75 GAA and 31-24-5 record in the regular season. Last year with Grand Rapids he had a 2.69 GAA. Howard has seen some NHL bench time this season. If he gets called up it could be Joey MacDonald in the pipes. MacDonald is saving 87.7 percent of shots with a GAA of 3.87, somewhat worse than Jani Hurme.

Jiri Hudler is in competition to lead the league in scoring with 41 points so far, 17 of those are goals. Eric Manlow follows him with 34 points, 12 goals, and +8, then Valtteri Filppula with 30 points and 12 goals. Filppula played with Jockerit Helsinki for the past two seasons, scoring 30 points in the last season. This is his first season with the AHL. He is commuting between Detroit and GR this year.

D men Kyle Quincey, with 18 points and Bryan Helmer with 17 points are among the top 20 AHL defensemen. Quincey played with Mississauga last season where he scored 46 points in regular season play.

Meanwhile Darryl Bootland is third in league penalty minutes at 164. He follows Josh Gratton of the Phantoms, 165 and Dennis Bonvie of the Penguins with 176. Kent McDonell, lags way behind, with a 78 Pim so far. Bootland, who once spent a lot of time commuting between Grand Rapids and Toledo, scored 34 points with the Griffins last year. Nevertheless, it’s hard to see another NHL try for Darryl, who is probably going to play in the AHL for the remainder of his professional career.

Nate Dicasmiro leads the Grifs in +/- with 10, followed by Greg Amadio at +9 and Travis Richards and Manlow +8.

Ryan Oulahen was a captain of the Brampton team last season. He scored 58 points there. Directly from the Griffins web site:

"Voted “Most Underrated Player” and “Hardest Worker,” and shared “Best Penalty Killer” honors in the OHL Eastern Conference Coaches’ Poll…Finished second in “Best Defensive Forward” and third in “Best on Faceoffs”voting.”
He’ll be someone to watch grow.

Derek Meech played for Red Deer until this year, and has experienced several Memorial Cup runs with that team. Eric Himelfarb moved from Sarnia to Barrie finally spending the 2003-4 season in Kingston, where he scored 107 points. He only played seven games in the Griffins that season, earning another five points. Last season he scored 43 points and 19 goals with the Griffins.

Brad Bonello worked his way around the OHL before ending his time there with Ottawa where he had 66 points in his 2004-5 season. Clay Wilson played college hockey at Michigan Tech and two short seasons with the Muskegon Fury. With 10 points in 15 games he has more going now then anytime in the past. Something is finally clicking with the young guy.

Todd Jackson played in Maine in the 2003-4 season, with the Griffins for part of the next season and also Toledo. He clearly had some ice time in Toledo where he scored 25 points in 35 games last season. He is still spending time commuting between Toledo and Grand Rapids.

Nick Martens played with Michigan for the last several seasons. He hasn’t seen a lot of ice time with the Griffins and hasn’t really shown much in his amateur career to recommend it now.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Six points lost

It was a six point weekend for the Wolves. Six lost points. The only home game was against the Milwaukee Admirals. I thought Hurme played well through about 30 minutes of the Admirals game. Then, I thought he seemed tired. That's when we began seeing the Hurme we hate, again. Softies, long shots, looking the wrong way... the list go on.

The man is in rehab. Does he really need to play a full 60 minute game? Has anyone who has gone through a major illness, as this guy has, been kept in when they are obviously not as good at the end as at the beginning? It is not clear what is going on here. I'd like to know.

Milwaukee is my pick to top the West in regular season play. I was disappointed in the play of Finley on Saturday. He has been in the pipes against the Wolves for years and this is the first time I can say his play is off. There are a lot of new faces on the ice for the Ads. One writer took me to task on a message board for saying the Ads are rebuilding. I'm not backing away yet from saying they are the best team in the West, but this is a new team and in my eyes they are rebuilding.

The Billy Tibbets Show continues on the ice. Every two-bit goon in the league wants Tibbets to take a poke at them. It's like watching one of the Westerns as a kid. The reformed bad guy is constantly being taunted and goaded. Will he finally explode, and return to the way of the outlaw or will he hold on? Will there be a defining moment when Tibbets explodes for some sort of good, as in the old movies.

Fierceness. I wrote that word back to a fan on one of the boards who admonished me for hating the little Pens. If you’ve read this blog, you’ll recognize that it is a hate born of love. Keep writing.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Irrational hate

It was a gray morning, Thursday. The darkness of my soul matched by the winter weather outside. It was empty inside. What to do when you’ve decided that the team you hate isn’t worthy of your hate anymore? Although I am a Chicago Wolves fan, some time ago I decided that I hated the Wilkes-Barre Penguins. It wasn't an easy decision in the first place. The Wolves and the baby Pens hardly ever play each other for one thing. And the other thing is there is a lot to admire going on in Wilkes-Barre.

For one thing, I think they have the best fans in hockey. I really mean that. I’d met a few of these poor souls in Milwaukee several years ago when the Sadmirals made their Calder Cup run. They were so down-to-earth, regular folks. And they were not wealthy at all. I mean they were camping out, following their team to Milwaukee in May. It couldn’t have been easy for them.

They were just regular folks: coal miners, moms with their daughters and wage earners. They were committed fans and a real joy to talk to. Milwaukee fans were playing the usual meanness on these poor people.

They explained how the team had allowed them to fly with them to Milwaukee. The coach had insisted they not talk to the players. They spent their own hard-earned dollars to follow the team to Milwaukee, were camping out in the cold, wet Wisconsin spring and they weren’t allowed to talk to the players? Oh, puleze!

They were from Wilkes-Barre. There’s not a lot of money in that town. What type of creep would do that? That was the moment I decided to hate the baby Pens.

It ran against the grain of Chicago Wolves fans. We hate the Admirals. Well, to be frank we hate the Bucks, Brewers and Marquette too, so anything from Milwaukee… Well come to think about it some more, we hate the Badgers and the Packers, cheeseheads in general and anything from the dairy state… Hmmm… Okay, let’s see, we hate the Admirals. That much is clear. And, we hate the Griffins. Okay, I hate the Griffins. Although they have a nice arena and their fans are pretty nice… They are from Michigan… and the only good wolverine is a dead wolverine…

Look… I’m getting lost in the entire hate thing here. The fact is that it is easy, so very easy to hate your traditional rivals. I wanted something mythic, I wanted the unreachable. I wanted a rivalry which would only have a full and complete consummation when the Wolves met their rivals in the Calder Cup. And the Penguins fit the bill nicely.

Beside for the great fans, it is obvious that the baby Pens have these great players, and it is one of my dreams to see a game in the Wachovia Center some night. They sell out practically every game. The place must rock!

It is a big commitment to hate something. Sports fans know. If the Yankees left New York, would Boston hate them as much? Would Cubs fans hate Cards fans as much if they were in different divisions or even leagues? I grew up in a family of White Sox fans. I hardly knew there was a team playing baseball in St. Louis. The answer is no. NO! Stop insisting the BoSox fans will never give up their storied hate of the Yankees. NO!… Okay, yes.

It’s a commitment thing. You commit your soul to the hatred of another team in sports. You see evil ooze from the other team and watch their victories with envy and defeats with glee.

So, on Thursday morning, the world changed. It was crooked. When the Pittsburgh Penguins took every person without skates on from Wilkes-Barre, every person including the Zamboni driver, the organist and the peanut vender, the world became askew. I didn’t realize it at first, but it was crooked. I didn’t hate the players. I can hardly name them. And I’ve already admitted I like the fans and would like to attend a game.

It was the management I didn’t care for. And they were in Pittsburgh. I immediately transferred my hate to the Pittsburgh Penguins. But I don’t follow the NHL. What do I care about the damn big Pens?

Life, as I knew it, had lost its meaning.

I need help. I could call Dr. Phil. Apparently he helps hockey players, coaches and managers, at least there is a blogger who says he does. But, really, I need help. Maybe… maybe my fellow fans understand and will help. I need to rethink this entire hate thing. Maybe the baby Pens are still worthy of my hate, as my wife, who hates the Crunch, says.

Why I should continue to hate the Pens or another team. The Moose or the Amerks (Opps, can’t hate the Amerks, the wife is from Rochester) might fit the bill. Who would you suggest I hate now?


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Chicago Wolves v Milwaukee Admirals 12.17

Milwaukee returns to the AA on Saturday night Simon Gamacheless, but with 36 points. Although this puts them in second place for the West Division, behind the Aeros, the Aeros have played four more games than the Ads. The Ads are sneeking their way into first place and the people back east are not noticing.

Scoring on 19.3 percent of the power plays, the Ads are only matching the Bingo Senators, but they are killing 86.3 percent of penalties. Michel Robinson, formerly of the Ice Hogs, should be fronting the team as Nashville recalled Pekka Rinne.

D-Man Kevin Klein has 17 points in 22 games, among the best in the AHL for defense. It’s an evolving team that is surprising me with its strength. Aside from Gamache and Rinne, familiar names you will not find on Saturday include Tootoo, Finley and Zanon, all up in Nashville.

Since the December 2nd victory over the Wolves, the Ads have won one in regulation, one in OT, one in a shootout and dropped two games.


Chicago Wolves v. Iowa Stars 12.16

The Iowa Stars enter the Friday night game against the Wolves leading the Chicagoans by two points in the standings, but just barely doing better than the home town favorites in percentage of games won. Overall, we should catch them as we play more games. Iowa has dropped 3 of its last four, only defeating the Wolves in a shootout in Des Moines last week.

Questions are being raised about whether the Iowa franchise will remain in Des Moines, but team officials assured the Des Moines Register recently that they plan to stay. Mike Ellis and Dan Smith man the pipes with Smith ranked 7th among AHL goalies with a 91.5 percent save ratio and a 2.5 GAA. Ellis is ranked 20th with a 90.9 percent save ratio and a 2.89 GAA. Smith has notched two shutouts this season so far.

The Stars have one of the worst power plays, scoring on just 11.8 percent of their chances at home, 12.9 percent overall. The PK also needs some work as it is working just 81.5 percent of the time, 82.2 percent at home.

However, that shootout win was no accident. They’ve had four chances and have taken home the brass ring three times. The Wolves, in comparison are particularly weak on shootouts, having taken only one of their four.

The usual goons are still among the top penalty earners in the league: Garrett Burnett has 104 Pims, but sadly his talents were deemed… well, he was sent down. Zack Stortini has 101 Penalty minutes however, and we can look forward to his goonery tomorrow night. The most likely match-ups if the gloves drop appear to be Stortini and B J Crombeen from the Stars. They might face who? Abid perhaps, and Lessard.


The Billy Tibbets Show

Okay, back to the Chicago Wolves, another team that has struggled after a terrific season last year. Coach Anderson wasn’t getting the message across, the players didn’t care, and the captain was on ice, having broken his ankle in the first minute of the first game. A roster of terrific AAA goalies was devoured by Atlanta as its goalies went down to injury. If it wasn’t for the San Antonio Rampage, the worst team in the AHL, the Wolves would be in last place in their division. Pschologically they were already there, DFL.

I think it came down to this, on December 3 the Wolves lost 4-6 against Omaha, having dropped four in a row. Not even a shoot-out loss, and three of the four games at home. Whatever was happening, had to stop. The Wolves made the amazing announcement on November 25th they had signed Bobbie Hull and that Atlanta had assigned Jani “the sieve” Hurme to Chicago. Okay, so Hull was coming aboard as a charity effort, so was Hurme. Hurme, it may be recalled, was a top goalie prospect for the Thrashers in the days before the CBA. If he came back then the Thrashers would be required to pay his contract, which would put them over the salary cap. Hurme, following a life threatening bout with a post operative infection, hadn’t played in two years.

At first, the Wolves fans on the boards were ecstatic. Then they saw him in the pipes. I have never left a game so disheartened as after watching Hurme in his first two starts. He couldn’t stop a pee-wee dribbler, let alone the Omaha Knights. And the Wolves were stuck with him for god only knows how long.

On December 8th the Rockford Ice Hogs announced they had loaned Billy Tibbets to the Wolves. Tibbets is to hockey, I suppose, as Dennis Rodman is to basketball. He is highly talented and very volatile. I cannot even begin to cover the problems, mainly criminal matters, that this guy has left behind on the teams he played with.

The low point came December 9th. For some reason, my wife was home that morning, and I was going into work late. She was on the telephone to the Wolves explaining how we are season ticket holders and who made the Tibbets decision? She said she worked with pregnant 12 year-olds and didn’t want to associate with a team that had a guy like Tibbets on it.

Being a bit of a smart ass, I asked her if Tibbets was joining the Wolves “Read to Succeed” program, where the players read to school age children in libraries. The “Look” was my reply, and if you’re married, you know the look.

The Wolves played Peoria that night at the Allstate. And the losing streak ended. How?

Peoria is undoubtedly hot, though I think that will be coming to an end soon. Tibbets was on the ice, scoring the first Wolves goal. Later, refusing to face Rivermen goon Rocky Thompson. In fact Tibbets has appeared in three games with the Wolves, and each time been challenged to fight, and each time has turned and skated away, leaving the goon with a penalty and the Wolves on the power play. He has scored, additionally, three points, including two goals in the three games he played in, being blanked by San Antonio last night.

In addition Hurme is finding his way to stop shots too. Enough for 25 saves and a win.

It could be a last chance for Tibbets in the sport. Is his presence turning the Wolves? He cares and is playing with heart, which is more than I could have said for many of the Wolves before he showed up. There appears to be a difference on the ice. There is hustle again. There is movement for a full 60 minutes.

For Tibbets, and the Wolves, it is time to show us what they’ve got. It is becoming exciting to be a fan again.


WBS after the earth moved

Whatever the Wolves are drinking, I want some. But before I talk about the turn-around performed since… wait for it… BILLY TIBBETS arrived, first, some hot news. The Pittsburgh Penguins announced this morning that they are promoting Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton’s Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo. WHO? The coach and the assistant coach of the sea chum are who. Oh, and just about the entire little sea chum staff.

That’s a bomb on WBS if there ever was one. There is not one standing person from this terrific team that has won 90 percent of its games this year, left in Wilkes-Barre. Scatch-a-ma-gowza! Relieved of their duties in Pittsburgh were head coach Eddie Olczyk, assistant coaches Joe Mullen and Randy Hillier, strength and conditioning coach John Welday and goaltending coach Shane Clifford.

To describe the big Pens start this year as poor would be conservative. Not only do they have Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux, they have Marc Andre-Fleury. Yet they are in last place in their division. The times they are a changing, the big Bruins trade Joe Thornton and both the Sharks and the Bruins seem to benefit, now, the whole Pittsburgh head office is cleaned out and who knows? One thing I’ll predict now, the little sea chum won’t hold on to first place in the league much longer. This thing is real bad news for sea chum fans everywhere.

The big Pens, of course, are in a battle with city hall to do something about their facilities. There have been persistent rumors they are moving to Kansas City, Houston or anywhere that will give them decent facilities. If the play on the ice was effected by the rumors, I wouldn’t know. However, there is a very nice blog that covers both the big Pens and the sea chum.Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic will be following the changes in Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre too. Check it out.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Scouting the Albany River Rats

With 18 points thus far, the Albany River Rats have a record rivaled only by the hapless San Antonio Rampage, 13, Chicago Wolves, 15, and the Binghamton Senators, 17. Officially tied in last place for the Atlantic Division with the Providence Bruins, the Rats have played four more games than the bean town minor and are definitely the team to play because, it’s another in a series of Christmas gifts for the league, Albany River Rats, last in the Atlantic Division.

Head coach Robbie Ftorek is spending his second season behind the Albany bench, a place he knows well, as he coached there in the Calder winning season of 1995. He’s also coached the NHL Kings, the Boston Bruins and NJ Devils. He is backed by former goalie Chris Terreri in his first coaching assignment.

Coach Ftorek is reported to be trying to fix a broken development system, according to SLAM’s Patrick Williams. "We have a lot of ability. I definitely think there's some room for improvement. We've got a lot of young guys, so hopefully (soon) it will change,” captain Alex Brooks told Williams in October. Two months later and you wonder.

Aleksander Suglobov is leading the team in scoring with 18 points. Krisjanis Redlihs is the teams leading defense man with 11 points. Frank Doyle, who played most of last year in Idaho, is ranked 12th among AHL goalies with a 2.45 GAA and a .925 save percentage. His back is inadequately covered by a Finn, Ari Ahonen. His 4.16 GAA is ranked 39th of 40 AHL goalies. Ahonen, who was considered to be the number one goalie at the beginning of the year, has not stood up to the challenge. Earlier talk of his return to Finland is probably now wished for.

Cam Janssen with 84 Pims, David Clarkson 81, Aaron Voros 58, Alex Brooks 53, Ilkka Pikkarainen, 52 and David Hale also 52 penalty minutes, all have a shot at being considered official goons at year-end. Goons, of course being players with at least 200 penalty minutes.

Finally, the team has a 13.8 percent power play and an 85.9 percent penalty kill. The last not surprising as they have lots of opportunities to practice defending. The team, I use the phrase loosely here, has no shooters and only one goalie. Their goal seems to be reaching the top of the league for penalty minutes.

My prediction is another wash-out year for the Rats. That will be their sixth time with no post season. And that will be a new record for the AHL.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Chicago Wolves v. Peoria Rivermen 12.9

Nearly 4500 votes were cast this week in an AHL poll for the team most likely to win the West Division. All those eyes and fingers voted 25 percent for Milwaukee, 21 percent for Houston, and 17 percent for both Peoria and Chicago. So, with our next game, Friday, against the Rivermen, the West Division may be at stake.

Peoria has been a hot and unknown product for Western fans this season, the former Worcester Ice Cats have come into the West and become a new, hot rival. Sunday they had a 5-1 victory over the Admirals, extending a three game streak. Unwritten in that statement is a two game victory in Iowa on Saturday, completing a suspended game from November 13 following dangerous ice conditions.

They stand in second place with 31 points. There is an intervening game, against Omaha on Wednesday.

The St. Louis Blues parent club, however, is suffering a humiliating season, and it seems a matter of time before the Rivermen lose their skilled prospects. In fact, by early January, according to some Rivermen fans, players such as Peter Sejna and Mike Glumac, leading scorers for the Rivermen, will be skating for the Blues. So, the Rivermen individually will be pushing to get their shot at the NHL, and as a team too, as they will not have the power in the mid-winter push, to continue their assault on the West.

Jason Bacashihua is saving 90.1 percent of shots and has a GAA of 2.61. Defense men Trevor Byrne and Mike Mottau are tied with 15 points each. Rocky Thompson is holding his place among the top 10 AHL goons with 90 penalty minutes so far this season.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Post game analysis Omaha 12.3

Omaha 6, Wolves 4.

First, I have a theory on why this team is spinning its wheels. It's staring us in the face. Or at least it was when Malt was out there. There is no captain: no leader on the ice. That sums up its problem. It can't make a decision about captain, can't make a decision on the ice.

Second, Jani Hurme is a great big sieve. He has shown less talent than guys we got rid of earlier in the year. I'll say a prayer for the man, that he continues to recover the strength and talent that he once possessed. That, whether for us or against us, he fills the pipes again. Right now, he sucks. How long will we have to endure this assignment from Atlanta?

I just don't see offence on the ice. 15 shots on goal tonight, 20 shots in the last five periods. The PP is all about puck control with these guys, not putting the biscuit on the goal. It defies logic to control the puck to the point where there are no shots on goals, what's the point anymore? The defense has to step up. But wait, is there a defense at all? Three goals in the last period. Okay, sieve let one in through the 5 hole. Umm.... you gotta be able to stop those. He was down and in position, why the 5 hole? Germyn's second period goal, he was down on his knees and Germyn hadn't even shot yet. The shot went over his shoulder. Komarniski's 3rd period break away from the penalty box I felt we let our guard down, but I didn't notice sieve, I mean Hurme, warning the players that Komarniski was about to get out of the sin bin. Did he warn the Wolves that the penalty was about timed out?

Finally, I just want to throw some more meat out. Wolves fans keep hearing about slow starts. One of the reasons for the slow start is that we don't play many games, compared to other teams, in the first two months. To turn that around, Houston has already played six games more than the Wolves. So you would expect them to have more points, and they do. Milwaukee has played 20 games, and is six points behind the Aeros. The Rivermen, 21 games and are five points behind the Aeros. The Wolves have played the fewest number of games of any other AHL team, 19, tied with Providence. The average number of games played to date is 22.8. However, even factoring that in, we're not doing well. A better index to use, for leadership, at this point in the season, may be the percent of games won. And, we're losing games.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Post game analysis Admirals 12.2

The Wolves 1, Admirals 3.

I just don't see any improvement here. The Thrashers are not using the Wolves to develop younger players, so we don't have the talent pool that some of the other AHL teams have. Without the deeper pockets of the Thrashers we are not going to see the younger player that this new game demands. The Thrashers spent their money on free agents. With the CBA cap many teams are not using the AHL teams to park players for development, as they had in years past, look at Bingo for example. So, it's not just that the coaching staff can't develop talent, I don't know if I agree with that yet, it's that we don't have it to develop. So, we have a shallow pool of talent this year and we are battling other teams that have parents with a different philosophy. We're losing this battle. Anderson & Co. need a new game plan, quick


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Scouting the Binghamton Senators

With Christmas coming, why not look at the AHL teams that are little presents for the fans of other AHL teams, for example, Binghamton, New York. Bingo is the town that Syracuse looks down on. And, for the most part, so does the rest of the AHL. With a 6-12-2-1 record, the Senators have just 15 points, not as bad as the San Antonio Rampage, yet a welcome present on the schedule of any AHL team. The Wolves will not have the fortune of meeting this offering of victory this year, so as a Christmas present to those who need to know, what is it that makes the Senators suck so bad?

Scoring on an impressive 27.7 percent of powerplay opportunities, the second best in the AHL, you need to wonder. Could it be their almost equally disasterous lack of penalty kills? It is near the bottom of the league at 78.8 percent.

There is further problems in the pipes, or perhaps the poor penalty kill is a symptom of problems in the crease. The team has two goalies in the bottom of the standings, Billy Thompson is ranked 37 of the 40 AHL goalies listed with a GAA of 4.32, stopping 87.7 percent of shots, while his partner Kelly Guard, a particularly unfortunate name, is stopping 89.9 percent of shots, with a GAA of 3.15. Thompson’s production has fallen markedly this year. Last year he had a streak of 7 victories, an overall recored of 19-8-2 and a GAA of 2.44. Guard’s great moment was leading the Kelowna Rockets to the Memorial Cup in 2003-4 with a 1.56 GAA, then a record in the CHL. What has happened?

Steve Martins leads the team’s scorers with 7 goals and 13 assists, followed by Brandon Bochenski with 5 goals and 12 assists. Filip Novak, a d-man, is ranked 9th in the league with 4 goals and 11 assists. Rookie Patrick Eaves, has 5 goals and 7 assists. Rookie Gregg Johnson with 4 goals and three assists completes the list of AHL notables. Except for Filip Novak, none of these players cracks the top 20 of their category. Every other team I’ve written about has several players in the top 20 of rookie, d-man, goalie or scorer, except Binghamton.

Lance Ward, with 73 penalty minutes and Brennan Evans with 57 Pims at least give the team a presence in the sin bin, providing the team with more than a quarter of its penalties. That’s always nice work, if you can get it.

Dave Cameron took the team to a division title in 2004. The head coach coached the St. Michaels Majors to 87-30-10 during his time at the helm there, and coached the Canadian U-18 Gold medal World Cup team in 2003. He is backed by Mike Busniuk, a successful coach from the Muskegon Fury.

Juniors include Danny Bois, a captain on the London Knights. I won’t go into the detail as the Wolves are unlikely to meet the junior Senators this season. But, as is the case with the rest of the AHL, there is a bench of junior talent. Why do they suck? Lack of goals, goalies not able to stop the biscuit from finding the back of the net. For more information, a blog follows the Bingo team.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Post game- Omaha 11.26

Hurme was a sieve and our defense didn't help. Although Hurme made some nice saves late in the game, they came to few and too late. He needs to get it together or be sent down. The breakaway and short handed goal by Stewart was wonderful. Stewie has it together as a threat. He agitates and he scores. That must be causing real headaches for our opponents. Abid didn't do something stupid tonight. I'm not sure if that is anything to celebrate... but hey! He also scored a goal. We were unable to convert most of our power play chances, that was to be expected.

Omaha looked great on the PK. They were buzzing us like mad and we had problems penetrating their defensive zone on our PP. I'd thought this young and fast group would jell later in the year, and with their now fifth win in a row (my boo-boo on the earlier call of five in a row, the media kit difference caught my eye immediately.) they are becoming a real threat in the West.

It was my impression that this Knight goalie, Krahn, was outstanding down low. He had a great butterfly and no five hole. But, he lost sight of the puck up high. It bounced off his chest twice when we put it up high and I think with a different bounce, those could have been rebounded in. Whatever problems the Nebraska team had with goalies earlier in the year seems to have been resolved with Krahn and McElhinney.

Brandon Prust played well tonight. Like a lot of the Knights, he's fresh out of juniors, but the London Knights were outstanding last year. He was worth watching. Looking back, I wouldn't have expected him to be the outstanding player of the match.


Omaha 11.26

The Knights enter the game coming out of a five game at-home winning streak. With a 9-8-0-3 record, the Knights have 21 points. They have the worst power play in the league, scoring on only 5.5 percent of their chances, but one of the best PK teams, successfully stopping scores on 89.9 percent of the penalty kills when away, 87 percent overall.

Rookie goalie Curtis McElhinney is stopping 92.6 percent of the shots on goal, fourth best in the AHL, with a 2.1 GAA. Brent Krahn is stopping 91.3 percent of the shots on goal and has a GAA of 2.73. Both rank among the top 20 goalies of the AHL in these two measures. In addition, both have enjoyed at least one shutout this year.

Mark Giordano is ranked the top defenseman by the AHL with 17 points, including 4 goals. He is backed by Richie Regehr with three goals and nine assists. Tomi Maki is ranked among the top rookies with six goals and eight assists. Carson Germyn has recorded 11 goals this season. Cam Severson is up to 75 Pims so far.


Milwaukee 12.2

The Admirals will be coming to the AA after a four game trip to Texas, proceeded by a home game against the Rampage. Needless to say, any trip to San Antonio hits pay dirt for a decent team and the Ads are no slouches. They picked up two against the Rampage away, one at home against the Rampage just prior to the road trip. As of this writing, Saturday night, they were shut down by the Aeros and play one more against the Aeros before heading to Peoria for a sea battle with the Rivermen.

Overall, the Ads lead the Wolves with a season of 10-5-0-1 and 21 points. This is the third meeting of the two teams, with a win for each so far. Pekka Rinne is looking better and better as the season progresses. He is now ranked second in the AHL with a GAA of 1.9, saving 92.5 percent of shots. He has seven wins this season and is backed by Brian Finley: This is as tough a pair of pipe men as we will face this year.

Our favorite ex-Wolf to hate, Simon Gamache, has been reassigned to the Ads on a “conditioning assignment.” Admiral Kevin Klein is one of the leading defense men of the league with 12 points.

They are converting 18.6 percent of their away power play opportunities, 22 percent overall. The PK is 88 percent overall, 82 percent away.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Not scouting the London Racers

I’m not going to be writing a typical column about the London Racers. Monday, the team decided to go dark. Management cites two incidents that sparked this decision. On November 5th Blaz Emersic of the Nottingham Blaze suffered a serious facial injury when he contacted a “protruding object” in the safety barrier. In addition, at a game on November 13th, the safety glass in one section “exploded”. Apparently no one was hurt by the glass breakage. However the team says this isn’t wasn’t the last time that section of glass shattered.

The Lee Valley Park has also been critisized by Racer fans for failing to maintain the ice facility. Fans on the Racers discussion boards say there are five-year-old patches on the safety board.

In sum, the team said it felt the safety of the players and the public was at risk at the Lee Valley Ice Centre. The team says it attempted to relocate, but says London doesn’t have another professional ice facility. As a result the British Elite League has lost one ice hockey team.

The story of the death of an ice hockey team in Britain may all be quaint. The fans will find the sun rises tomorrow, the skaters and staff will go on to other things. However, I noticed that Lee Valley plans on hosting at least two 2012 Olympic events.

What would be the effect of an Olympian or a group of international visitors testing the safety of a barrier at Lee Valley? If Lee Valley’s resources are already stretched, how much worse will the situation be as the IOC pushes it to upgrade and complete new facilities?

This situation points to a failure that impacts the international community. Emeric’s accident could cast a cloud over London’s Olympic moment. The Lee Valley Park Authority seems unable to deal with an AA level of professional sport. It should tell the public why it thinks it will be able to safely handle the highest level of sport and hundreds of thousands of foreign and domestic visitors.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

American Hockey League Western Conference, Western Division predictions

As I finish the final installment of the scouting series, on all the AHL teams in the Western Conference, Western Division., it is time, I think to take a look at the season so far. I found this posted in the Connecticut Post under the Sound Tigers Weekly Column (11/17/05)

1. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton — Who'll slow these guys down? 2. Grand Rapids — Hudler, Manlow off to torrid starts. 3. Houston — Aeros, on hot streak, play their 20th game tonight. 4. Portland — Yet another Dineen coaching career off to a nice start. 5. Manchester — Monarchs have picked up steam. 10. Bridgeport — Sound Tigers getting everything going. 27. Binghamton — Denis Hamel has a great week: Sens still just 2-2 in four games. 26. San Antonio — Can Yanick Lehoux lift them? 25. Philadelphia — Phantoms were reeling until Binghamton came to town. 24. Chicago — Unfamiliar spot for the Wolves. 23. Albany — Rats had dropped five in a row going to banged-up Lowell Wednesday.

Pretty interesting perspective. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has lovely fans, a great team and what I think of as the most hated management in the league. But, you can disagree. It would be a treat to see them come to the Midwest for a game this year, but it is not to be. Browse over to the AHL stats site and look at how dominating they are in virtually every category. To top the stats, the WBS team is set to receive Marc-Andre Fleury from Pittsburgh. Did you see his play on OLN on Wednesday? Damn fine win against a Philadelphia team that looked a lot like the Calder Cup champion last year. Damn sea garbage may just win the Cup this time.

The Aeros in number three? I think the most talented team we play is Omaha. But, I don’t expect Omaha to be much of a factor in the Western Conference, Western Division. The Knights team is full of amazing talent. I think they are failing this year due to a lack of experience on the AHL team: there are no experienced players to help the players bind together, to help the younger members grow.

Peoria has been fun to watch from afar. The coaching staff is fresh and the team has lots of young talent. The two enforcers, the natural rivalry with St. Louis that exists with Chicago… This team will test Milwaukee for which team we love to hate more… Okay, I still hate the Penguins more, but that’s me.

Milwaukee faces a rebuilding year. The players there are getting older in a very young league. Surprising to say that, huh? The Rampage… I’m continually surprised that we lose to these guys. My prediction, last place for the Rampage this year. Iowa won’t fare much better. The future of hockey in the corn state is still up for grabs, though the team is currently outdrawing the Rivermen and the Aeros.

In short, I don’t expect the Wolves to end up on the bottom at the end of the year. Iowa and San Antonio, alone, will cushion our fall in the West. And there are such wonderful hockey towns as Bingo, Syracuse and Cleveland too, who will fall before we do.

Peoria has been a great addition to the West and I’m looking forward to years of heated rivalry with the Rivermen. The Aeros, always tough, they seem to be looking at a great year. The Sads, well, like us, a year to rebuild and struggle.


Scouting the Peoria Rivermen

It is the first time Steve Pleau has managed a hockey team. The former assistant coach of the Worcester IceCats is backed by another rockie coach, Brent Thompson.

The Rivermen are playing in the Carver Arena, an older facility in downtown Peoria. It is a small arena that probably rocks to the tune of Ted Nugent and Kiss. It needs a major overhaul, as much of its concert series as its seating and glass. Nevertheless, an easy drive for Chicago fans, especially those in the Southwest suburbs.

The Rivermen enter the game 9-4 on the season, second in the Division to the Aeros. The teams pk is the second best in the league at 88.5 percent. That’s good, because the team is drawing a lot of penalties: 431 penalty minutes so far this season, which the AHL ranks as the 6th highest.

Their last “game”, at Iowa’s Wells Fargo Arena, hasn’t yet been decided. This was the game where the ice was declared to dangerous to use, Sunday Novermber 13. That game will be completed in December, however the Rivermen were in the lead when the game was called. Officially, Peoria is on a two game losing streak.

In the pipes are Jason Bacashihua. He played for the Chicago Freeze before moving on to Utah and Worcester. He was a Dallas Stars first round draft pick in 2001. Last season he had a 2.51 GAA, with an 18-13 record. So far this season he has a 2.54 GAA with a 5-2 record. He has two shut outs so far this year, third in the AHL behind former teammate Curtis Sanford. Currently ranked 13th among AHL pipemen for GAA and 20th for saves, he is backed by Reinhard Divis who played for the Austrian team Heraklith VSV Ec till last year.

A young and talented team starts with Peter Sejna who skated for Colorado College through the 2003 season. That last season there he scored 82 points. He came roaring out of the box this year but hasn’t been able to keep the pace of early October, when he scored a hat trick in the first game and two more goals in the second game. He received the CCM/ Vector Player of the Week award for his play that week. Sejna has been called up to St. Louis and sent back down since then. His play that week, remember he scored five goals, has kept him among the top skaters in the AHL, with ten goals overall (ranked 12th) and 17 points.

Mike Glumac, who played college hockey at Miami (Ohio) University, scored 52 points in his last full season with Worcester. Playing a partial season last year, he scored 29 points in 45 games. He has a +/- of 7 this season, ranking him 19th among AHL skaters. Trevor Byrne skated for Dartmouth through 2003, ending as the team captain. Since then he has skated for the ECHL Rivermen and Worcester. Trevor has +/- 9, the eighth best in the AHL. Byrne is current among the top AHL defense men with 11 points. Close behind with nine points is teammate Mike Mottau. Troy Riddle played for the University of Minnesota through the 2004 campaign, including playing on the 2003 NCAA championship team. He best season there was 51 points as a senior. He has spent his career since at Worcester and ECHL Peoria. He has a +/- of 7 this season, which ranks him 18th among AHL players.

Jon DiSalvatore scored 42 points at Providence College in the 2002 campaign and 48 points in the 2003 campaign. After moving to the AHL’s Baron’s, he scored 46 points in the 2004 campaign. At Worcester, last year, he scored 45 points.

Ryan Ramsay played for a number of OHL teams including the Petes, the Whalers and the Rangers. In the 2003 campaign with the Whalers he scored 88 points, the next season, also at the Whalers, 77. He spent most of last season with the Ice Cats, but played two games in the ECHL Rivermen. Trent Whitfield scored 54 points while on the ice with the Portland Pirates.

Mike Stuart, a Chicagoan, played at Colorado College in 2002. Moving to the ECHL Rivermen, he has bounced between the Blues, the Ice Cats and the Rivermen since. Brendan Brooks has recently played for the ECHL Rivermen and the Quad City Mallards. Blake Evans has played for the ECHL Rivermen. Brendan Buckley played with the Quad City Mallards.

Aaron MacKenzie played for the University of Denver. Colin Hemingway played for the University of New Hampshire and the ECHL Rivermen. D.J. Kingplayed with the Kelowna Rockets in 2003-4 and the Lethbridge Hurricanes before and after that. Doug Lynch played with the Red Deer Rebels and the Spokane Chiefs until 2003.

Jeff Woywitka played with the Red Deer Rebels till 2003. Charles Linglet played for the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in 2002-3. Colin Hemingway scored 66 points in the 2002 season with the University of New Hampshire. In 2003 his production dropped to a still respectable 47 points. He moved to the ECHL Rivermen in the 2004 campaign, where he had 44 points in 36 games with the Rivermen and two more with the Ice Cats. The 2005 campaign saw yet another drop in production with 25 points in 44 games. Don’t blink, he may disappear on us yet.

Reed Low, an enforcer for the Blues, had 234 Pims in the 2003 campaign. He is backed by another enforcer, the wonderfully picturesque and named Rocky Thompson. Thompson has not been sent up to the NHL yet, but has still managed to take out his frustrations while playing for the Toronto and Edmonton Roadrunners. He had 275 Pims with the 2003 Rampage, 196 with Toronto and 231 with Edmonton in 2005. He is ranked sixth among AHL enforcers.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Scouting the Rochester Americans

When the Wolves step on the ice of the War Memorial Stadium in downtown Rochester they face 50 years of history, six Calder banners hang from the rafters, and ten more banners show how close the team has come in other years. Rochester has averaged 7,314 attendance this year, just behind the Wolves, 8,027, Wilkes-Barre, Manchester and finally, Providence, number one with 8,241 average. With the possible retirement of the Moose as mascot this year, could the Amerks follow-up with inviting the Accordian Man to play the National Anthem?

It’s drums, it’s a mascot called The Moose, it’s a guy grifting for quarters playing “Take me out to the Hockey Game…” It’s Saturday night hockey in Ra-Cha-Cha.

The Amerks enter the fray with a record of 7-4, prior to a game with the Moose on Friday. A Friday night grudge match with the Manitoba Moose will influence the play on Saturday, as the Amerks will be going all out to revenge their disappointing end to the 2004-5 campaign at the hands of the Manitoba team.

The AHL reports they have a 28.9 percent home power play and an overall power play of 30.3 percent, the best in the league. They are also killing 90 percent of the power plays against opponents at home, 88.6 percent overall, the sixth best in the AHL. However, it should be noted that Derek Roy was a big guy on the ice for the Amerks and he is now playing in nearby Buffalo.

Coach Randy Cunneyworth has led the team to the post-season in each of his five seasons at the helm. Last year the team won 70 percent of its games and ended the season with the best record in the AHL, but was unable to transfer that to the post-season. Overall, Cunneyworth has a 198-129-54-16 career record, all with the Amerks. He is supported by assistant coach Doug Houda in his first year as a coach.

Michael Leighton, from the Norfolk Admirals and Blackhawk organizations is the main guy in pipes. The last season he played was with Norfolk where he posted a 1.83 GAA. So far this year he is averaging a save percent of 89.3 which earned him the 17th best record in AHL stats so far for GAA. (I know, mixing apples and oranges). Two of his wins have been shutouts, leading to seventh best record in shut-outs in the league.

He is backed by Jean-Marc Pelletier, reprising his role as second string goallie again. Despite this, his five wins put him near the top of the AHL stats for wins and is a hefty share of the overall wins at the Rochester team.

Top guys on the ice include veteran Chris Taylor who scored 79 points with the Amerks last year.

Clarke MacArthur joined the team for the playoffs last year from the Medicine Hat Tigers where he scored more than 74 points each year for the past three seasons. He is considered a leading rookie in the league, with nine points so far this season. And, Jason Pominville has scored 14 points this season, including ten goals. He is among the league’s leading scorers.

The Amerks have a bench of talent, much of it young. Michael Ryan joins from Northeastern University. He was a second round Stars pick in the 1999 draft. Kamil Kreps is out of the Brampton Battalion. He spent last year in the San Antonio Rampage and shows the new duo affiliation of the Amerks with the Sabres and the Panthers.

Chris Thorburn played with the North Bay Cenntennials, the Saginaw Spirit and most recently with the Plymouth Whalers. Last year with the Amerks he had 175 Pims and 29 points. Nathan Paetsch comes from the Moosejaw Warriors. Last year he had 23 points with 150 Pims.

Greg Jacina came up from the Mississaugua Ice Dogs and played with the Rampage last year. There he scored 31 points and 150 Pims. Mark Mancari is fresh from the Ottawa 67’s. He scored 68 points last year, 65 the year before.

Stefan Meyer is fresh from the Medicine Hat Tigers where he scored 77 points and 104 Pims last year and 75 points the prior year. He was a second round Panther pick in 2003. Daniel Paille was a first round Sabre draft pick in 2002. Last year he scored 29 points with the Amerks.

Rob Globke is a second round Panther pick out of Notre Dame. Last year, assigned to the Rampage, he scored just 12 goals. Matt Hendricks comes out of St. Cloud State. Jeremy Swanson is from the Barrie Colts.

Sean McMorrow is the enforcer for the Amerks. Last year he had 288 Pims, and that’s pretty consistant. He had 287 Pims in the 2003-4 campaign and 315 in the previous campaign for the Amerks. This year he has just five Pims, although he has only appeared in two games yet. As you can see, he is backed by a cloud of young guys willing to mix it up. Also on the roster in this vein is Doug Janik who has 32 Pims so far this year. Last year, with the Amerks, he had 196.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Scouting the Syracuse Crunch

The Crunch enter the contest in last place in their division and tied for last in the conference with a 4-7-0-0 record. They are in the bottom third of the league in power play goals and in penalty killing. They enter the contest on a five game losing streak, having lost to Cleveland, two games to Grand Rapids, Wilkes-Barre and Hamilton. They have lost six out of the last seven games. They last won against the Amerks on October 22.

Gary Agnew leads the Crunch. He has a .526 winning average which seems disappointing compared to some of the coaches we’ve seen, but which is the best the Crunch have ever had. Crunch are affiliated with Blue Jackets.

The Crunch list three people in pipes, Andrew Penner has a 2.7 GAA last season. 3.00 so far this year. Also in pipes is Pascal Leclaire. Even worse at 2.34 GAA, 4.01 this season. And a Professional Try Out with Mike Ayers who played at Dayton in the ECHL last season. He had a 2.90 GAA.

Two familiar faces at the Crunch: Mike Hartigan played for the Wolves in the 2002-3 season. Last season, with the Crunch, he had 59 points. Also, Ben Simon, from our team last year, scored 21 points for us in our last season.

Rookie Geoff Platt has been bouncing around the OHL, most recently in Erie where he scored 79 points last season. The rookie is ranked 14th scorer in the AHL so far this season with 10 goals and 14 points. This tops the current crop of rookies and includes five power play goals, two short hand goals also among the leaders of the AHL.

On defense, Aaron Johnson and Andy Delamore are ranked 9th and 10th d-men with nine points each. Delamore had six power play assists, which is among the best of the AHL.

The juniors of note include Joe Motzko who played for St. Cloud State in 2003. Last season, at the Crunch, he scored 66 points. Alexandre Picard played for the Lewiston team of the Quebec juniors. In 2003-4 he scored 85 points for Lewiston, 80 for them in 2003-4. Marc Methot was a member of the London Knight Memorial Cup team. Andrew Murray scored 38 points for Bemidji State last season.

Tyler Kolarik played for Harvard two seasons ago, where he scored 30 points. Andy Canzanello is out of Colorado College. Ole-Kristian Tollefsen played for the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Brandon Sugden is one of their enforcers with 252 Pims last season. He has 59 Pims so far this year, which is just five minutes behind the Caveman’s.


Monday, October 31, 2005

A hockey fan ranting

Regardless of what you think of Simon Gamache, the guy knew how to play and score on his terms in a league that was a lot less merci'ful to people standing in front of the pipes. Why is the "new" and "better" hockey not allowing people with skills to play? Waivers? That's b*llsh*t. In the AHL there are people who are not playing this year because of the National Hockey League's Collective Bargaining Agreement. I know, I know... broken record... The hardcore fan is getting sick of this. It's the rules, it's the CBA, it's new hockey and it s*cks.

They've taken some good steps in getting rid of the trap and replaced it with stuff that is apparently more appealing to someone, though the hard-core fan hasn't a clue who this mythical spectator is. Why not share the demographic target with us? Are those of us who watch too blue-collar to understand the musings of the gods of hockey?

In the minors, the situation is even more desperate. This (Gamache not being allowed to play in Milwaukee is an example of "this") minor league game has become what the AHL's East Coast fans have been calling for: a development league. Every team I've profiled so far is full of juniors and people two or three years out of the juniors.

Take this development league philosophy and shove it. It isn't leading to team loyalty, that comes from exciting games and player and fan chemistry. These new rules are excluding that. I don't follow the NHL. I follow the AHL. I follow the Chicago Wolves, the Belfast Giants and that is it. I only follow the NHL with regard to the people I've seen who have played HERE. (HEY BHAWKS, LISTEN UP)

If you want to talk about AHL excitement and development league philosophy, you must be from Wilkes-Barre, because there is more and better entertainment choices in Chicago, and a slew of sports entertainment choices too, that places like Wilkes-Barre envy.

Scouting the Milwaukee Admirals

The Ads enter the game on a two game streak. The Ads have had a two streaks this year, first a four game losing streak, now a two game winning streak. Claude Noel continues as the Ads head coach. Since starting as the head coach two years ago, Noel has a 93-48-12-7 record and has taken the Ads to the post-season each year. With a skilled goalie backed by a veteran goalie, the Ads have no problems in the pipes. So why are they so slow to start this year?

The Ads currently have the number one penalty killing team at home. Doug Pettit may end up replacing Kyle Schultz in the broadcast booth. That role is currently filled with an apparent rotation of local talent.

Simon Gamache has not produced in the NHL and will not clear waivers and is therefore not expected back in Milwaukee. Here is a quote apparently from a Nashville source: “Short-shifted: Forward Simon Gamache barely saw the ice in Wednesday's loss to the Blue Jackets, getting just four shifts and 2:02 ice time.

"He had a couple shifts early and I didn't feel very confident in his game, so I made that decision early," Trotz said. "The way the game was going, with all the special teams, I just thought I'd need other personnel more.

"We do have a large amount of small, skilled guys, so he's looking at the time guys like (Martin Erat, Paul Kariya and Steve Sullivan) would get. That limits Simon's abilities."

Pekka Rinne (Does anyone know how to pronounce Pekka?) is a fresh-faced Finn who has been the Ads mainstay in the pipes. He has scored a very respectable 1.76 GAA so far this year. That is the fourth-best in the AHL this season. Matched by his save percentage of .937. Milwaukee fans are already comparing him to Kari Lehtonen.

He is backed by Brian Finley. Finley hasn’t spent much time playing this season yet. He was a first round, number six overall pick for the Predators. Last season he had 2.29 GAA.

Scottie Upshall played for the Kamloops Blazers and the Silver-medal winning Canadian juniors in 2002. He is turning into a Milwaukee fan favorite. Shea Weber was a leading defenseman on the 2004 and 2003 cup winning Kelowna Rockets. He had 32 points in the Kelowna 2003-4 campaign and 41 points while on the 2004-5 campaign. He was also on the 2005 Canadian gold medal junior team. Jordin Tootoo, whose seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings noted 214 Pims, 172, 272 and 216 Pims, remains a 182 pounder unable to make it in the NHL. He went up to Nashville earlier this season, but has been sent down. He had 266 Pims last season in the Ads and started in two games this year with 27 Pims. For some reason, perhaps his Inuit background, he remains a fan favorite.

Juniors of interest include Timofei Shishkanov a Russian who played with the Quebec Remparts during juniors, earned 35 points last year with the Ads and 43 points the year before. Paul Brown played two years ago for the Kamloops Blazers. He had 229 and 222 Pims there in his last two years, with 56 and 31 points respectively. Marco Rosa played last season with the Long Beach Ice Dogs after time at Merrimack College. The ECHL was good to Marco as he more than doubled his point production to 65 from 25. Greg Zanon played on the University of Nebraska-Omaha team before skating with the Ads two years ago. He is wearing the C.

Brandon Segal played with the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL. Kevin Klein played on the Guelph Storm and the Toronto St. Michael's Majors. Robert Snowball played with the Victoriaville Tigres until two seasons ago. He has played most of the season with the Toledo Storm and has not yet played a game with the Ads. Libor Pivko is two years out of the Czech leagues has been generally unremarkable, except for a hat trick scored against Chicago last year. Ryan Glenn has not been an entity since graduating from St. Lawrence University.

Returning to the Ads are Darren Haydar. He scored 59 points in the Ads Calder winning season and 50 points last year. And also, Vernon Fiddler scored 42 points last season while with the Ads. He was recalled to Nashville on October 28 due to an injury to Greg Johnson. He is expected to return soon.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Scouting the Houston Aeros

The Aeros come into the 2005-6 campaign with new experience at the helm: Rob Daum,a new coach to the AHL, has lots of great experience and it will be exciting to watch. Rob was formerly an assistant with Team Canada, and has a great record coaching the University of Alberta Golden Bears. His record there since 2001 is 120-9-11. WOW! The Golden Bears under Daum won 3 back-to-back national titles and six Canada West titles in ten seasons.

He’s backed by Matt Shaw. Shaw coached for the Wolves, though most locals will remember his time with the Quad City Mallards, where he led the team to a 53-15-5 season in 1999-00.

It should be apparent that Daum has an ability to motivate young players and the AHL has lots of them this year. The Aeros most exciting young prospect is the unlikely fellow in the adjoining photo. He’s a Belarus named Roman Voloshenko. Voloshenko played in Russia’s Krylja Sovetov last season. He played on the silver medal Russian U-18 team. He scored 9 points in 8 games so far this year.

Josh Harding is in goal. Two seasons out of the juniors, where he played most recently for the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Regina Pats, he had a 2.01 GAA in the previous season.

The back-up goalie is Czech Miroslav Kopriva.

Kurtis Foster, a one time Wolf, is back playing D. He was traded for Niclas Havelid. Foster 42 points in the 2002-3 Wolves campaign, 30 points in the 2003-4 Wolves campaign and 42 points in the Cincy Ducks final season.

Here’s a rundown of the rest of the youngsters. Adam Courchaine is fresh from the Vancouver Giants where he scored at least 78 points in each of the last three seasons. Patrick O’Sullivan from the Mississauga Ice Dogs
Last four seasons where he scored 92, 81 82 and 90 points in each of the last four seasons. Clayton Stoner is fresh from the Tri-City Americans. He scored 31 and 46 points in the last two seasons there. Petr Taticek is two years out of the Sault-Ste.-Marie Greyhounds where he scored 63 points and 53 points in the last two seasons. Last year in San Antonio he scored 22 points.

Joel Ward is fresh from the University of Prince Edward Island. Bill Kinkel has played for the Kingston Frontenacs in the 2003-4 campaign. More recently he has taken on the role of goon, racking up 180 Pims in 30 ECHL games in 2004-5, 41 Pims in the 2004-5 Aeros season of 12 games and 28 Pims so far this year. Peter Olvecky last year in Slovakia Dukla Trencin. Ryan Stokes played with the Mississauga Ice Dogs in the 2003-4 campaign.

Finally there is Curtis Murphy who won two Eddie Shore (old time hockey) D man awards in the AHL. He earned 53 points with the Admirals in their championship season, last year he played in Russia for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv. And, Chris Heid is two years out of the Spokane Chiefs. He had 45 points in the 2002-3 campaign.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Looking the Elephant in the eye

The elephant. Or maybe the Elephant.

My family has called it the elephant for years. I don’t know why. It is a metaphor. A big stinky animal that occupies your house. You ignore it. You share your house with it and step over it on the way through a room.

I remember James Michener in Colorado said Western pioneers stopped on their way west when they saw the elephant. Maybe they settled in Wyoming or Missouri. Maybe they turned back. Different animal. Same idea: fear.

And, I know that some people who I talk to refer to the same thing as the monkey or the giraffe. I guess the monkey clings to you. It won’t let go of you. The giraffe is probably easier to describe than an elephant, just as hard to acknowledge.

I think elephants are things someone else brings into the house: alcoholism, a classic. Maybe I have a monkey. A monkey, it’s brought into the house by you. Whatever it is, it is something I don’t want to discuss. I’m trying to look the monkey in the eye. I’m trying to blog the monkey.

The monkey is in my right kidney. The urologist said he doesn’t know what the monkey is. Technically it is a cyst. It is a liquid-filled body that may be inside my kidney, or may be on top of it. It may have a blood supply. That would be bad, but it doesn’t appear to have a supply. It may be cancerous. That would be very bad. The urologist doesn’t know. He doesn’t want to biopsy it.

My hand actually stuttered there. I actually typed “bbe cancerous…”

If there is nervousness, I guess it just manifested itself.

I haven’t fully recovered, as I write this, from an appendectomy. It, the appendectomy, has occupied my thoughts for most of the last few weeks. It became infected. The infection delayed my full recovery. And, on top of that, I had just started a job at the Chicago Tribune eight days before I was admitted to the hospital. I’ve been worried about a new job. I was worried about whether I even had a job as the days-off blew through all my personal days and sick days and vacation days.

I have no days left till January. I am back at work. I can’t get sick again this year.

I was awake last night, late. There is nothing unusual about that, I’ve worked a third shift for about 17 years. I often wake-up at 2 A.M. But, last night I stayed up, looking at bills. Can I pay all my bills? Well, no. Some bills will have to wait.

So, already, the medical problems are starting. As the case with many Americans, they are manifesting themselves as financial problems. I have disability insurance. It kicks in at 30 days. But I know now that the problems start before that.

Blogging the monkey won’t make it go away. The urologist, said he may take the right kidney away. The kidney seems to be functioning. Why does it have to be removed if it is working and there is no sign of cancer? I don’t know. How did it start?

Larger question, that one. About three years ago I had my second serious kidney stone attack. There were several procedures. One of the procedures may have knicked my kidney. Perhaps something was left behind in the procedure and the cyst developed, like a pearl that surrounds a grain of dirt.

I don’t think of this cyst as pearl-like.

Perhaps it is just a cyst. I’m told that about half of adults over 50 have cysts.

In February the urologist will have another look at the cyst. In the meantime, he said to forget about it. He forgot to prescribe the medicine that will allow that to happen.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Scouting the Iowa Stars

I’m torn, but I compare the Iowa Stars to the Childrens Crusade. In total, there were 23 members on their roster, one is wanted in several states and provinces, 18 are less than three years out of the juniors, and only four played in professional hockey, ECHL, AHL or NHL more than three years ago. Where is the store of wisdom? Whom do they go to learn from? The coaching staff?

Director of hockey operations Scott White has no NHL experience and has spent the last four years at the Columbia Inferno where he went to the finals twice (finished second once), and prior to that a year at the Greensboro Generals and five years at Michigan Tech.

Dave Allison, Iowa’s head coach, is an old friend of the Wolves from IHL days with Milwaukee. He also coached the Griffins and before that the Ottawa Senators for a year, where they made the playoffs. So there! He may know his way around the rink.

But what a group. It’s almost all kids. Or like kids. Because, there, among the children, the innocent ones, is the one called the Cave-man, Garrett Burnett. In only two games he has already accumulated 43 Pims. This is on pace to be a record year, I guess those magic pills for anger management aren’t working. The 43 minutes in two games this year are way above the pace set at the UHL Danbury Trashers of 48 Pims in seven games last year, or the 184 Pims in 39 games with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, the 346 Pims in the previous year with the Hartford Wolf Pack or the astounding 506 Pims in 58 games set back in 1999-2000 with the Kentucky Thoroughblades.

What does he have to be angry about? Without interviewing the 230, 6’2” lefty, I’d have to say… I don’t know. And I don’t want to get within swinging distance of this southie. Here’s the widely acclaimed Hockeyfights.com description of a 2003 bout with Kip Brennan: “They drop the gloves after a faceoff and have a decent squareoff. Burnett throws a decent jab that connects just before they grab onto each other. Brennan is definitely the busier fighter as Burnett is caught in his jersey. Both go to their knees and the refs actually let them get back up on their skates. Burnett now has his jersey totally over his head and both go down.” There is another fight there with Brennan in which Brennan draws blood and Burnett gets up and goes after the Kipper again. Enjoy.

The other “kids”, BJ Crombeen, fresh from being the captain Of the Barrie Colts, has more than 46 points in each of the last 3 seasons. Francis Walthier a junior from the Gatineau Olympiques was on the President’s Cup team. He has earned at least 25 points a season in the last three years, 35 points last year.

I think everyone remembers Junior Lessard. The curly red-head from PQ played for the Aeros last season where he earned 22 points. A recent grad of the University of Minnesota- Duluth, he earned 67 points in his senior year there, almost equaling the 30 and 37, respectively in the two previous years.

Kyle Brodziak played for the Roadrunners last year where he notched 32 points. His junior record with the Moosejaw Warriors, though, should have us worried. He increased his seasonal points from 0 to 10 to 20 to 62 and finally to 93 two years ago. Clearly, something is clicking with this guy. So far this year he has 1 point.

Loui Eriksson was a 2003 1st round (33rd overall) draft pick by the Stars. One of five Swedes on the Iowa team, he is two years out of the minors. He last played in the Bofors IK, but most of his time in the Swedish clubs has been with the Vastra Frolunda HC. He has 3 points so far this year. Dan Baum has played for the Roadrunners in their various towns, and the Prince George Cougars in juniors. Janos Vas, a Hungarian, this is his first year playing professional hockey in the US. He was drafted #32 in 2002 by Houston. He spent most of the last few years, including his juniors, playing hockey in Sweden, particularly for the Halmstad Hammers. D man Matt Greene is fresh from the University of North Dakota. Named to the USHL all-star team, he played for the U-18 national team. Vojtech Polak played for Karlovy Vary and Dukla Jihlava in the Czech leagues last year. He played in a junior team, Karlovy Vary Jr before that. He was drafted 2nd choice, second round, and 36th overall in NHL Entry Draft. Yan Stastny, played for Notre Dame University before moving to the German Elite League’s Nurnberg Ice Tigers where he scored 54 points last year. Yared Hagos played in the Swedish league team Timra IK He was a 2001 2nd choice by the Stars, third round, 70th overall in NHL Entry Draft. Jason Platt has played for the Roadrunners since getting out of Providence College.

It’s hard to see what they see or saw in this guy: Zach Stortini played for the Sudbury Wolves last season. I’m not sure what’s going on here, his production fell in his final year at the Wolves, despite having more games played… Oh! Wait! He’s goon number 2. And, what’s better is goon two has fought numero primo goon in a preseason game this year.

Nicklas Grossman was named captain of the Swedish junior team, Sodertalje SK Jr. He plays defense. Shawn Belle D man. Won a gold medal with Team Canada at 2005 World Junior Championships. Won a silver medal with Team Canada at 2004 World Juniors. Won Bobby Orr Fastest Skater Award at 2003 CHL Top Prospects Skills Competition. He played for the Tri-City Americans in last years junior league, where he scored 45 points. St. Louis' 1st choice, first round, 30th overall in NHL Entry Draft in 2003. Brian Fahey of Glenview, has played for the Worcester Ice Cats and the Hershey Bears, but has not been able to make the points to get noticed by the big guys. He plays D.

Dan Jancevski, a D-man, already has 4 points and 10 Pims in 4 games. He’s a refugee from Utah and more recently was playing in Hamilton.

Mario Scalzo is just out of Rimouski Oceanic last year. He also played for the Victoriaville Tigers last year. He scored 74 points in the Quebec juniors last year; 73 the year before. He already has 3 points this year. He plays D.

Goalie Mike Smith played for the Aeros and the Grizzlies since coming out of the Sudbury Wolves. He let 11 pucks slip by in two games this season. If there wasn’t a shortage of goalies…. Dan Ellis, Goalie, from the University of Nebraska has played for the Bulldogs and Grizzlies. He won a game in Dallas in 2003-4 season. So far this year, 1-1.

Patrick Traverse has the most extensive NHL experience so far on the team. A D man, Canadiens had him in 2002-3 and the Aeros since then. However, his production is going south, 26 points two years ago, 15 last year, admittedly on a smaller base. He looks to be on the way out. Although he scored 5 points so far this season.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

Post game Moose 10.15

Moose 3. Chicago 1.

Neumenko was respectable in the pipes. He didn't get bombed and that is to the good. Real bad news about D Mac, our captain broke his ankle and is out for several months. And, we need to get the PP together. Goals are getting scored on the PP and without it, there is no offence.

Goaltending-- well, we are just in big trouble there. But everyone knows that.

The Moose-- McVicker was a great acquisition by the parent club. It will be exciting watching him develop. The rest of the Manitoba team is up to the tough standard set by preceeding years. I'm sort of glad they're not in our division.

Officiating needs to be standardized. Stuff gets called, doesn't get called, minor stuff called, stuff that should be called missed--- on and on it goes. I stand by my statement, they need another on-ice official. The new off-ice official is not enough.

Last point on this game, the Omaha goon who "rubbed out" Mojzis earlier this week, Lynn Loyns, has been suspended for five games. That means he'll be back... let's see (3... 4 is Grand Rapids...) just in time to play us.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Scouting the Chicago Wolves

The constant loss of goalies in the NHL affiliate Thrashers is causing serious problems for the Wolves. Now, people who follow the ECHL affiliate of the Thrashers/Wolves, the Gwinett Gladiators, say the well has run dry: the next guy up isn’t up to the job.

The Thrashers are in trouble enough, they at least have our good goalies. Who have the Wolves got left? I guess that remains to be seen. In net for the Wolves as of today is Gregg Naumenko. Naumenko, a Chicago native, played two games for the Disney-owned Mighty Ducks in 2000-1, but has spent most of his time in ECHL clubs in the last few years. His best GA was 3.09 in this period.

I don’t want to slight Naumenko, but we are accustomed to better stuff here.

Lord help the Wolves. Here’s a rundown of the rest of the team. Obviously, we’ll need some decent defense (and the new rules are crippling the defense). All the Black Aces of the championship-run team from last year are gone. That includes Greg Hawgood. Hawgood wasn’t loved by the fans and I remember even screaming from my seat to stop dumping the puck when no one was chasing it in. But, he is missed now.

Chris Tamer an NHL vet with 85 points in 644 is anchoring the d. He also had 1183 Pims. He sat last season out. Travis Roche put 50 points on the board last year. He has some NHL experience and I think is a bit underappreciated. They are backed by two guys from the juniors, Pat Dwyer of the University of Michigan and professional AHL player Nick Naumenko, a Chicago native and brother of Greg, our goalie.

This thin line of defense is protecting us, but backing a strong offense, you’d think. Well, Steve Maltais is simply missing. The organization is not discussing plans for Maltais, who was the captain for several years. Rumors fly that Maltais is retiring or headed for Europe. I think the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement is to blame, though I could be wrong, it could be the cap of four AHL “veterans” on each team. Maltais is one of the few active players in the world who meet the definition of veteran as defined by the AHL. So he may be hung up on either losing tens of thousands of dollars to play with the Wolves, or a bureaucratic definition that seems to have been almost aimed at him. Jezz Steve, it’s only money, get over it.

Ramzi Abid played for the Penguins since being traded by the Coyotes. 23 pts in 49 games. Welcome to town Ramzi. Can you please stay out of the sin bin? Since starting with the Wolves, Abid has sat out 11 minutes in two games. Fans are crying, why take STUPID penalties? Looking over the Internet Hockey Database of his career, you have to go back to the days he was a junior to find him racking up Pims like this. He comes from some tough teams that like to get physical. Abid needs to stay focused on the game.

Scott Barney, was with the Monarchs and Kings in 2003-4. He has already scored 5 pts in 2 games. In his last year he scored 45 points, some at the NHL level, in 63 games. He has been all over the offense and will be very exciting to see for the first time on Saturday. Captain Derek MacKenzie is a fan favorite. Several veterans from last years team return to help him bring the biscuit to the five hole. Karl Stewart is back. There are lots of continuing concern about his concussion last year in the playoff when he was slashed, while unconsious. Remember the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks responsible for this? It was a team effort by ????? and ?????
Stewart is just out of the Plymouth Whalers, it must be remembered. Last year he had 226 Pims and 26 pts in the regular season and 32 Pims and 6 pts in his abbreviated post season. He is an agitator, and a fan favorite. Colin Stuart, a native of Oak Park, is out of Colorado College. last year he scored 9 pts in 44 games in Gwinett and at the Wolves. Brian Maloney has played two seasons with the Wolves without being called and Brad Larsen, an NHL veteran whose time to move up is about expired, join former Cincy Duck Mark Popovic and another NHL vet who played 2004-5 in the Czech leagues, Tomas Kloucek. Together they will back D Mac on the offense.

The remaining juniors on the team include Guillaume Desbiens, is a 20-year old junior out of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Guillaume has fans very excited. Jim Slater is fresh from Michigan State where he scored more than 44 points in each of the last 3 seasons. This guy looks great. He is a 1st round Thrashers pick and #30 pick overall.

Jimmy Sharrow was with the Halifax Mooseheads last year. Data is difficult to get on Sharrow, but it appears he was a good scorer. And finally, Adam Smyth was with the Gladiators last year. He had 217 Pims and 16 pts in 49 games.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Scouting the Manitoba Moose

It wouldn’t be the Manitoba Moose without Jimmy Roy. A professional AHLer, Jimmy is back, still hoping, perhaps, for that crack at the big game. Known as an agitator and as “Mr. May,” Roy joins a Moose team that is full of younger players and a few old friends.

The Moose have said they plan on being fast and pursuing the puck this year. As a result of that, and the changes caused by the end of the lock-out, lots of young players and a few older pros are playing. It looks like they mean to season their young team with the experienced players, especially between the pipes. Here’s the down and dirty. They look strong in the pipes, but inexperienced on defense. They may be relying to much on older players for their offence.

The Moose are rebuilding their their defense line this year. Two go-to guys on d are gone and six younger men, some from last year, are two years or less from juniors or college. They are D man Kevin Bieksa, two years out of Bowling Green, and expected NHL Canucks pick was injured in pre-season play when a intra-squad game tangle-up sprained his ankle.

D man Tomas Mojzis two years out of the Seattle Thunderbirds WHL has been a disappointment for the club. There is a report on the Moose board that he was injured in play on Wednesday against the Knights. D man Brett Skinner, fresh out of the University of Denver. D man Prestin Ryan, two years with the Crunch and prior to that with the University of Maine. He had 161 Pims with the Crunch last season.

Defense man Nathan McIver from the Toronto St. Michael's Majors joins this year. And, James DeMone from the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns joins defense this year.

Mike Keane, hasn’t played in the minor leagues since 1988. He apparently didn’t play at all last year, but two years ago played 64 games in Vancouver, scoring 8 goals and 17 assists. A reporter, at his first drill in 17 months, said Keane was ready to go. Keane will be challenged, by the new rules, but said he is ready to go. Keane is a Manitoba guy and a fan favorite.

Three veterans of the ice are wearing a rack, Josh Green returns, the NHL vet had good numbers with several NHL teams in the past few years, but at 38 may be considered to old for the big game. He will be a continuing threat with good numbers (more than 21 goals last year with the Moose, plus 19 assists.)

Jason Jaffray is on a Professional try out with the Moose. Last year he earned 14 goals in 44 AHL games, plus 6 goals in 23 ECHL games. Or 20 goals plus 16 assists in 67 games.

Craig Darby, 33, has played up and down the IHL, the AHL and for the Canadiens and New Jersey.

Jozef Balej’s trade for Fedor Fedorov has been praised by Moose fans, who think the Czech will allow greater club house cohesion this year. Coming out of the Portland Winter Hawks WHL in 2002, he joined the Hamilton Bulldogs. He played 17 games in the big circus, had 42 points with Hartford last season.

Another face from the past, “Flats” Wade Flaherty is returning in goal. Flats is now 37, and will be important in any Moose run for the Calder Cup as he has loads of experience. Last year he had a 2.33 GA, which is an improvement on his AHL career. In Milwaukee, during their Calder Cup victory, he had a 2.18 GA. He’s never been fun to face and will make it a tough team to beat again.

He is backed by a goalie from the Brandon Wheat Kings, Robert McVicar. McVicar ended his time with the juniors with a 2.7 GA in 2003.

My favorite for Ritalin poster child, is Rick Rypien. Rypien. An agitator and fiesty addition to last year’s line-up is back. It’s hard to believe, after the effect he had in the previous season that he spent most of last year in the WHL at Regina Pats. Here’s a great pix of him in a fight with Ole-Kristian Tollefsen Despite all the press and hoopla, he scored no points in post season, but did collect 40 Pims. I hope he’s adoptable, because his style of play is being forced out by enforcement of the rules.

There are lots of people out of the juniors and college on offence. Some making the second trip with the Moose this winter. They include Mike Brown, a local from Northbrook, IL, he played with the University of Michigan last year. Jesse Shultz, of the Kelowna Rockets, returns. Shultz scored 24 points last regular season, plus 5 in post-season play. Marc-Andre Bernier comes up from the Halifax Mooseheads this year. He scored 50 points in 67 games there last year. Brandon Nolan, of the Oshawa Generals, returns to his 2nd season with the Moose. Maxime Fortunus returns to the Moose for a 2nd season, he had played minors with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar (the Vikings).

Brett Lysak played the 2004-5 season in the DEL (German Elite League) Frankfort Iserlohn (Lions), where he collected 18 points. At Lowell, in 2004 he collected 35 points. Alexandre Burrows, named the 2004-5 team’s hardest working player, returns again. He collected 26 points last season in the AHL, plus six in the ECHL, he also had 3 post season points.

A recent addition to the D line is Jason Doig, 28. The Moose signed Doig to a professional try out contract early this month. He brings some needed experience from the NHL, although he took last year off. His previous NHL experience was with the Capitals in 2003-4. Sven Butenschon fills out the D men ranks. He comes with big game resume, 132 NHL games. Last season he played for the DEL Mannheim Adler (Eagles). He is 29.

The Moose will be ending a five game opening road trip. They’ll have been in Milwaukee on Friday. As I write this, they’ve lost two to the Rivermen, by one goal each. But defeated Omaha by one goal.