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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Final seconds, Iowa ties, then wins in OT

With just four seconds remaining in the third period, Iowa scored a tying goal, setting up a game-winning goal in overtime, to defeat the Chicago Wolves 5-4 Saturday. The goals were set-up by a penalty by defenseman Braydon Coburn who is on a conditioning assignment from the Atlanta Thrashers.

Sidelined earlier in the season by an injury, last night Coburn seemed too shy-away from physically challenging his man. In the first period Coburn took two penalties, a hooking and a tripping penalty, that may indicate he wasn’t physically up to the task of playing. However, with forty seconds remaining in the game, and the Iowa team already emptying their net to put another man in Michael Garnett’s face, Coburn was outmaneuvered and grappled his man, dragging him to the ice.

Coburn was given a two-minute penalty. With six men, Iowa seemed to buzz Garnett, finally shooting the puck in with just seconds left on a rebound bounce to Chris Conner. Sometimes one shot or check is enough to turn the game. With the oxygen disappearing fast in the Allstate Arena, Iowa scored the game-winning goal 1.06 into the overtime.

While credit wasn’t given to Michael Garnett, he stopped 26 shots and may have looked as good as at any point so far this season. Iowa broke a small losing streak, although the result does give one point to the Wolves.

The official attendance at the Wolves game was 6432. Blackhawks attendance, same night, 13580. Ex-Wolf, Karl Stewart played more than 15 minutes in a Blackhawk uniform against the Anaheim Ducks, earning a –1 for the night, but also a nice quote in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Atlanta had initially traded Stewart to the Anaheim organization, this summer. Seeing as how his most serious injury was at the hands of the AHL Cinncinnati Mighty Ducks during the lockout year, and included an uncalled strike by Duck goalie Ilya Gryzgalov on an unconscious Stewart, the chemistry was always suspect. Gryzgalov shutout the Hawks in one of the few televised homegames.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


The post on the Iowa Stars says the Wolves never won a game against Iowa. Iowa definitely had the Wolves number in the previous season, however, the AHL guide and record book says there were two contests that Iowa lost in overtime. But, there were eight other victories for the Stars. Sorry for the error.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Iowa Stars scouted

The Iowa Stars travel to Chicago Saturday to take on the Wolves Saturday. Coach Dave Allison returns again to coach the team. The experienced Allison has seen time in Grand Rapids and Milwaukee prior to coaching the Stars. Plus three of the big hitters from last season are returning again, Junior Lessard with 58 points, Loui Eriksson with 60 and Toby Petersen with 73. So, in general, we could say that an Iowa team that got into the playoffs last year is returning with much the same team this year, except it appears there may be even more muscle to deal with. That includes Marty Sertich, a rookie who scored 64 points last season at Colorado College and Marty Wilford, a veteran defense man from the Manchester Monarchs who posted 41 points last season.

New to the league are Joel Lundqvist from the Swedish Elite League; Dan Hacker, up from the ECHL Idaho Steelheads; Mark Fistric and John Lammers, both up from the WHL; and Tobias Stephan in goal, a 2nd round draft pick in 2002.

Mike Green is returning to the North American ice after two years in the German Elite League where he breathed new life into his career. However, he was most recently playing in the AHL for the Rampage in 2004 when he scored 23 points in 45 games.

Michael Smith’s presence in goal will be missed by this team, though Dan Ellis with a .911 save percentage and 2.78 goals against average, spent 34 games in the net for the Stars last year.

The Stars had the Wolves number last year. The Wolves won only two games, both in over time. (Originally, this sentence said the Wolves never won a game against the Stars.) The same group is back, with more experience. If the Wolves are going to show they’ve changed, they can start by winning against these guys for once. The Stars enter the contest fresh off an over-time loss to the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights on Thursday. The loss snapped a six game win streak for the Stars, who are 6-1-0-0 for the season and dropped to second place behind Omaha.

The Wolves enter the arena fresh from their first home game victory over the Philadelphia Phantoms on Thursday. They are 5-3 for the year.

The on ice contest on Saturday is masking another: the battle of attendance. This is the first of several dates this season when the Wolves and the Chicago Blackhawks go head to head for the hockey dollar in Chicago. Although the Wolves have not beaten the Blackhawks in season attendance, they often beat them in the head to head competition.

Former Wolf Karl Stewart was picked up on waivers by the Blackhawks from the Pittsburgh Penguins this week. Stewart played with the Wolves for three seasons out of the minors and has played 16 games in the NHL. Although you can still find lots of Wolves fans in Stewart jerseys at the Allstate, one thing you won’t find is a mention of the Chicago Wolves in the Chicago Blackhawk press release about Stewart.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

First Home Victory

The Chicago Wolves put a home victory on the board last night, their first of the season. The 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phantoms brings the Wolves to a 5-3 record in the Western Division of the AHL. The Phantoms scored first, on a power play goal by David Printz at 17.03 in the first period. The Wolves responded 20 seconds later with a goal by Chicago native Stephen Baby, ending the first period tied 1-1.

In the second period Braydon Coburn a first round Atlanta Thrasher draft pick, notched a power play goal at 14.07. He was assisted by Darren Haydar and Brent Sterling. Haydar now has points in each of the eight matches played this season, the longest streak going in the AHL.

Derek MacKenzie scored the final Chicago goal in the third period at 5.59, followed by a Phantom power play goal by Mark Cullen at 10.17. Philadelphia put 14 shots on goal in the final period but was unable to get past Chicago goalie Michael Garnett.

Garnett, who I described going in as having a cold hand, was assisted by much better defense in the game. Plus, he just looked better too, putting aside a season high 34 of 36 shots. The penalty kill unit did not do very well, letting two go in on six attempts, while the power play was one for seven attempts.

It was a Philadelphia game and a good fight or two comes with the turf. Wolf Boris Valabik and Phantom Frederik Cabana spent five in the sin bin for a pretty good bout in the middle of the first period, followed less than a minute later by a handbag fight between Wolf Joey Crabb and Melrose Park native Gino Pissellini.

Although Valabik and Cabana were mouthing off to each other for their five minute sin bin sits, the last fight of the night was a third frame bout between Wolf Guillaume Desbiens and Phantom David Printz. Desbiens did a spectacular check on a Phantom, leading Printz to charge in to defend his teammate.

Chicago, now 1-3 at home, faces Iowa on Saturday night at the Allstate. The team then starts its annual November "circus" road trip. This year it will be six games in three weeks.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Scouting Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Phantoms come to the Allstate Arena with the top spot rotating. The story so far, Ken Hitchcock, the Philadelphia Flyers head coach was fired on Sunday. Elevated to his position was John Stevens, his assistant. Stevens had been the Philadelphia Phantoms head coach till this year. When he left the Phantoms, he elevated Craig Berube to be Phantoms head coach. But now, as head coach of the Flyers, he called on Berube, again, to be his assistant.

Kjell Samuelsson, the assistant coach of the Phantoms for six years, was promoted to the job of head coach when Craig Berube was elevated. Berube had occupied the post only since the start of the season.

In addition to turmoil at the top, the Phantoms ended last season with a losing record. Although the Phantoms had won the 2004 Calder Cup Championship against the Chicago Wolves, most of their key players, such as Antero Niittymaki and Jeff Carter, were now playing in the NHL.

Obviously, the Phantoms are close to the Flyers, which is underscored too by their use of the Wachovia Spectrum, the old Flyers home, which is across the street from the Flyers new home.

Meeting the Chicago Wolves for an early season inter-division game, the Phantoms are on a four game road trip. They dropped two games in Norfolk, Virginia against the Chicago Blackhawk affiliates, the Admirals over the weekend. From Chicago they finish the trip in Grand Rapids this weekend before a Sunday game in Philadelphia.

The bottom line is that the Wolves have a good chance to take one at home against a team that is changing the color of the corner office and was already struggling with the results of the last season.

Samuelsson coaches a team that is 3-2-1-0 for the year. Veteran Marty Murray with eight points and former Blackhawk Mark Cullen with six points are leading the team offensively. Second-year goalie Martin Houle holds the pipes with the assistance of rookie Rejean Beauchemin.

The Wolves enter the contest with an 0-3 record at home. Goalie Fred Braithwaite was off with a suspected hand injury and Rockford Ice Hogs goalie Frederic Cloutier is on a day-to-day call up. Michael Garnett, who played in Atlanta part of last season and had a nine game win streak in the late AHL season with the Wolves has had a cold hand in the net so far this year.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Third home loss powered by 4 goal Jaffray hat trick

Last season there were 90 hat tricks during the AHL season. Only ten were in excess of three goals. The Chicago Wolves had the dubious honor of hosting a Manitoba Moose player on his night. Jason Jaffray kept the Moose in the game with the Wolves last night, and scored four of the team’s seven goals on their way to creating the Wolves third straight home loss this season.

The Wolves led the game 4-2 heading into the third period, powered by two goals by Nathan Oystrick when Mike Brown found the back of the Wolves net bringing the score to 4-3. Less than 2 ½ minutes later Jaffray had his hat trick and the game was tied. Then the Moose scored twice on Penalty Kills, first with Mike Keane, then again with Jaffray. Lights out for the Wolves as an empty net goal put the final touch on a disastrous night.

While the Wolves Penalty Killing unit is ending 89.8 percent of opponents chances, they are only connecting on 14.3 percent of the Power Play and the defense, at least on home ice, is disappointing. Michael Garnett, who was in goal tonight, was forced to defend the net too many times as shown by the two short handed goals as well as the lead loss.

The Wolves face former Calder Cup rival the Philadelphia Phantoms on Thursday at the Allstate. The Wolves remain winless at home.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Scouting the Manitoba Moose

The 3-1 Chicago Wolves victory over the San Antonio Rampage on Friday sets the stage for the Wolves return to the Allstate Arena on Tuesday. The Manitoba Moose face the Wolves in the first inter-divisional game of the season. The Moose are old foes of the Wolves from the days of the International Hockey League and one of the I-six, one of the six surviving IHL teams to gain membership in the American Hockey League.

Manitoba has been mentioned by some people as a team that might someday be promoted to the NHL. Home to the old World Hockey Association Jets and tenants in the the MTS Centre, the front office of the Moose is considered one of the best, if not the best, in the AHL. If hockey is going to return to Canada’s smaller cities, Manitoba might be one of the first.

Matt McGrath, a Moose fan wrote me, "for the third consecutive season the Moose will have a new head coach, this time Scott Arniel. Arniel, the former Manitoba Moose and Winnipeg Jet spent the 05-06 season as an assistant coach to Lindy Ruff in Buffalo. The Moose are coming off their best campaign in their ten-year history, recording 100 points. Although a disappointing game seven loss to Grand Rapids in the Division Finals spoiled a great season." For Manitoba, the meltdown in game seven of last year’s North Division playoffs to Grand Rapids, was as great a disappointment to Moose fans as not making the playoffs were to the Chicago Wolves fans.

McGrath gloated about a stronger Moose team, "Manitoba looks to have a strong veteran presence upfront with the likes of Winnipeg native Lee Goren returning for a third season in the organization, Brad Moran was brought in from Switzerland, former Moose (01-04) speedster Brandon Reid and Tyler Bouck was resigned to a two-way deal. Add players like Jesse Schultz, who had a breakout season with 67 points last season while leading the Moose in scoring and Jason Jaffray. Moran is returning to North America in the hopes of working his way up again, after a rough season with Langnau in the Swiss league which saw him play just 18 games due to a shoulder injury. The British Columbia native is a proven sniper having recorded 72 points in 80 games with the Crunch during the 04-05 season. The 99-00 Western Hockey League player of the year had a very successful junior career with the Calgary Hitmen, improving his point totals each season. Reid, has spent the past two seasons in Europe. Last season he finished third in scoring with Rapperswil in the Swiss league with 34 points in 44 games. Former first round pick Nathan Smith will be back for a fifth season, the centre had a solid start to the 05-06 campaign recording 9 points in 20 games while showing a lot of poise for a breakout season we had all been waiting for before going down with a season ending injury. Rick Rypien, a fan favorite should also spend time in Manitoba, the scrappy Coleman, Alberta native made his NHL debut with the Canucks last season.

"Manitoba’s defense will have a new feel to it and should be improved from a year ago. Led by veteran Joe Rullier, a tough physical player who has spent the past six seasons patrolling bluelines in the AHL with Lowell, Manchester and Hartford. Maxime Fortunus, Prestin Ryan and Nathan McIver will all return for their second season with the Moose. While free agent signings Nick Kuiper and Reagon Rome look to be solid pick-ups. Rome, from Nesbitt, Manitoba, split last season between Manchester where he recorded 4 assists in 13 games and Reading (ECHL) where he recorded 30 points in 49 games while also the team captain. Kuiper, a solid-stay-at-home defenseman will enter his third season of pro hockey having spent the past two with the Norfolk Admirals. The UMass-Amherst graduate has played 143 games recording 5 goals and 17 points with Norfolk."

The Moose are 2-4 this season. They are on a two game road trip, having lost 2-0 to the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday. The Wolves return from a two game Texas road trip sweep of the San Antonio Rampage. The Wolves have lost all their home games so far this year. They are 4-2 this season.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Wolves stampede Rampage

Tyson Nash, a San Antonio Rampage winger, blamed the 6-1 stampede Wednesday night, won by the Chicago Wolves, on defense. In an interview with the San Antonio Express yesterday, he said the game would have been 15-1 if not for goaltenders Philippe Sauve and David LeNeveu. The Rampage had the material, he said, but couldn’t put together 60 or even 20 minutes of hockey.

Sauve and LeNeveu split duties in the loss, the third road victory for the Wolves. The Wolves now have a perfect season, they’ve won every road game and lost every home game (3-2). It does seem that if the guns get rolling, the Wolves win. And they can’t seem to get things going, yet, at home.

Fred Brathwaite did a great job between the pipes for the Wolves, putting aside 25 of 26 Rampage shots on goal. In addition, the line of Darren Haydar and Steve Martins was on the ice for three of the Chicago goals, with another goal by Haydar on a line with Derek MacKenzie, Kevin Doell, Nathan Oystrick and Jimmy Sharrow.

Haydar and Jason Krog are currently number two and four in the AHL for top scorers with nine points each. The two Wolves previously played together on the University of New Hampshire Wildcats for one season, 1998-99.

The Wolves play the Rampage again tonight. They have six points in five games played, behind the Iowa Stars with eight points and four games, and the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights and Peoria Rivermen with seven points. They return home for a rare Tuesday night game against the Manitoba Moose.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Scouting San Antonio-- more of the same

Last year the key question I had about the San Antonio Rampage was what is the Gretzky touch. The Rampage, then, and their NHL affiliate, were broadcasting the connection to the great one. Yet what I saw on the ice was a lot of players from the Utah Grizzlies moved to Texas. The Grizzlies hadn’t done well in the lockout year and yet the San Antonio team was stocked with them.

It’s a year later and by all accounts a very large yacht payment has been invested into the Rampage. No one is expecting a repeat of the terrible season they had last year. Last place in the AHL and a record low 153 goals in the season.

Will money turn the league rug into something to respect? I have to wonder. Change is happening from the bottom in San Antonio. I’m not talking about the Zamboni guy, but the players. The top three people, Laurence Gilman, the GM and coaches Pat Conacher and Gord Dineen are unchanged from 2004. They still have to have one winning season.

The roster has changed a lot. Ten players remain from last year, which is about the same as many teams. However there has been some power added. Don MacLean, who played on the Grand Rapid Griffins last season and had 32 points.

Ryan Garlock had 20 goals in the Ontario Hockey League last season. Bill Thomas out of the University of Nebraska- Omaha had 27 goals in his last season. Kyle Wilson, out of Colgate University, had 23 goals last season. Oliver Latendresse, up from the Quebec juniors, had 41 goals last season. That’s just about the entire front line. I’m not real impressed.

The D has Matt Jones, a native of Downers Grove is returning. Travis Roche, a former Wolf, Bryan Helmer and Nick Martens, former Grand Rapid Griffins, and Logan Stephenson, up from the Western Hockey League juniors, are new to the defense. The addition of the experienced players from the Griffins and Chicago help.

Finally, in the nets, the team has returned David LeNeveu. The stats for anyone from San Antonio are startling. So let’s say we don’t know how he’ll do. I always considered Karl Goehring the best goalie on the team last year and he’s in Milwaukee now. Joining LeNeveu between the pipes is Philippe Sauve. I guess he’s a bit of a mystery too. Like LeNeveu, Sauve played last year—13 games in with the Calgary Flames and the Phoenix Coyotes during which he let in 39 goals.

The owners of the Rampage also own the National Basketball San Antonio Spurs. They hope to create a sports community, much like the Brewers owners hope to do with the Milwaukee Admirals. It doesn’t seem to be working in Milwaukee and to date it’s not happening in San Antonio either.

I think the addition of some money will help, but change has to occur at the top. I’ve read some assessments saying the Rampage will be at the top of the league at year end. I don’t see it.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Admirals home and home game 2

I feel like a puck bunny. Hippitty Hop to see Alexander Radulov tonight at the Allstate. Radulov is the Milwaukee Admirals new sensation, a Russian who played in the Quebec minors last year and is already shaking up the AHL after just two games.

People must have felt like this about Gretzky, Ovechkin and Hull.

Not only has this wonderkind been on the ice for every goal scored by Milwaukee this year, he scored two of them himself and assisted in all of the other goals. And here is another factoid. Of the 14 goals scored against Milwaukee so far, Radulov has only been on the ice for two goals against Milwaukee.

It is almost as if his very presence is stopping the goals, though it must be something he is doing on the ice. This is one dangerous player.

The Ads have him on a line with Rich Peverly and John Vigilante.

Memorize his baby face and number 22 Chicago. We’re going to be hearing his name a lot when we play the Ads.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Scouting Milwaukee Admirals

Claude Noel returns to steer the Milwaukee Admirals through another season after a Calder Cup run last year. Noel has earned the respect of Wolves fans for his ability to take young head-strong players and mold them into a winning team. Particularly in 2004 when he ran the team even though it had significant financial woes and a trustee management, Noel shows he can take rough material and win.

He is joined on the bench this year by assistant coach Lane Lambert, the former assistant coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Prior to Bridgeport, Lambert was the head coach of the Prince George Cougars, a team that posted a 26-41-3-2 record in 2004, and the Moosejaw Warriors, in 2003.

Noel takes the ice with a team decimated by departures. Of the top ten scorers from last year’s team, just three have returned, Rich Peverly, 46 points, Kevin Klein, 42 points and Sheldon Brookbank, 35 points. Joining them is Ramzi Abid, who scored 76 points last year with the Chicago Wolves at wing. Abid’s most memorable stat, however, is his 165 of penalty minutes, which I remember as occurring at the most inopportune times.

Alexander Radulov has been eagerly expected for months by Admirals fans. The Russian winger did not make the Calder Cup run last year and was just assigned to the Admirals by the Nashville Predators this week. Playing in the Quebec minor’s Remparts for the past two season, Radulov posted 75 points in the 2004 season and 152 points last season. That’s a doubling of production and pretty exciting.

Another newcomer is Kim Staal. No, he isn’t related to the famous hockey family, however he posted 21 points in 34 games in the Malmo team of the Swedish league.

The nets are in a bit of disarray. Unfortunately, Pekka Rinne was involved in a personal incident and suffered an injury over the summer. I believe he won’t return till late this calendar year. Rinne was simply excellent and his return will be eagerly awaited.

In the meantime Karl Goehring will be the Admirals final defender. Goehring played last season in San Antonio and so I’m reluctant to post his stats. He was a better goalie than the defense there.

Milwaukee enters the Bradley Center for their second game of the year at the Bradley Center after being spanked by the Omaha Knights 7-1 last weekend in their opener. Chicago is coming into the game after opening away 5-0 against Peoria.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Scouting Peoria Rivermen

The Saint Louis Blues may not have been the worst team in the NHL last year, they just did their best to be worst. It was a terrible thing to watch, as the former owners went on what could only have been a deliberate effort to beat the Chicago Blackhawks and every other team in the league to the bottom, showing good players the door and discouraging whatever effort was put forth.

Despite this, or perhaps because of it, many good players ended up on their AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen, who gave a respectable showing for the first year in the conference and division. In fact, I’d expected them to beat the eventual Calder Cup contender Milwaukee Admirals in the playoffs.

This year is different. New owners in St. Louis mean a more focused team there, and it also means new people in Peoria. Starting at the top with head coach Dave Baseggio. Baseggio is already known in Chicago as he was former head coach of the Calder Cup contenders Bridgeport Sound Tigers, they fought the Wolves for the Calder in 2002, and lost. Still, to get that far is nothing to fart at. Baseggio’s Sound Tigers have been to the big game and we can expect a more active Blues organization to push the Rivermen harder too.

Chris Beckford-Tseu has come up from the Kelly Cup victor Alaska Aces to man the pipes, along with a Czech, Marek Schwarz. The Alaska Aces play on big ice and their final victory last year was over our affiliate, the Gwinett Gladiators. Beckford-Tseu has been as high as the Worcester Ice Cats, the pre-AHL Rivermen and also the ECHL level Rivermen. He also spent 16 games in the AHL last season. At the Aces he had a 1.87 GAA and .929 saves. I see him as being the main man as Marek spent the entire 2005 season with Sparta Praha in the Czech Republic. He posted .920 saves and .92 GAA.. Marek spent the 2004 season with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL.

I’m glad to see Rocky Thompson is one of the people returning to the Carver Arena. Thompson put up 247 Penalty minutes last season for the Rivermen, one goal and five points. Still there is a place in hockey for muscle.

Ryan McMurchy is up from the University of Wisconsin where he put up eight goals and 25 points in 40 games last season. He is joined by Konstanin Zakarov, who is up from the Alaska Aces and Mike Glumac, who spent a good part of the 2005 season in St. Louis. Also another rookie winger, Michal Birner of the Czech Republic, who is just up from Saginaw in the OHL. He produced 31 goals and 85 points in 60 games last season. And the final rookie winger is Magnus Kahnberg, a Swede who played on Vastra Frolunda HC Indians in 2005, producing 33 points in 45 games. Out of this group, the only one I’ve seen before is Zakarov, who played a fine tournament in Traverse City about a month ago. He was among the standouts of the Blues squad.

I’ve always liked Charles Linglet, but apparently he has not been loved back. Most of the 2005 season he spent in Peoria, but he was also in Las Vegas for a while. Linglet’s contribution to the team last year was 21 points in 38 games. Another Rivermen player I liked was winger Peter Sejna. Sejna produced more than a point a game for the Rivermen in 2005, went up to the NHL for six games and is back on the ice for the Rivermen again this year. Even discounting his NHL contribution, 2005 was his best year. Once again, Sejna will be a key man to beat on the ice.

Moving on to the centers, Trent Whitfield is coming down from the Blues. He spent part of the 2005 season in Peoria, but starts here. While producing 53 points in 41 AHL games, he only produced 7 in 30 NHL games last year. His NHL career has probably peaked, but he is still very dangerous at this level. He is joined by Denis Pederson, who most recently played in Germany, but has more than 200 NHL games stretching back to 1996. Pederson was producing about .8 points per game in Germany, which has recently seen many of its NHL alumnae return to the US. Two other centers, Ryan Ramsay and Cam Keith, spent time last year on the Aces squad and return to the Rivermen.

D man Patrick Wellar spent most of the year in Alaska in 2005. Mike Stuart, who I believe is related to the Collin Stuart of the Wolves, is back on D. However, what I mainly see in the defense men is sophomore blue men, returning. If you thought the Rivermen had a solid defense last year, you’ll see more this year. The team finished the year with the fourth best PP, lets remember, technically tied for second place with the Admirals and the Aeros. And fifth among all teams for PK, technically tied with the Lowell Lock Monsters for fourth.

Keys to winning, discipline. The Wolves still face a team that can defend and has some good scorers. We need to stay out of the penalty box. Putting early pressure on the goalie can’t hurt either as neither has played with this defense line.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Scouting the Chicago Wolves

John Anderson is leading the Wolves into another season as head coach, disappointed by not making the post-season, Anderson and General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff have managed a large shake-up of the team. Marty Howe retired from the assistant position over the summer and was replaced by Muskegon Fury Head Coach Todd Nelson. Nelson led the Fury to Colonial Cup championships in 2004 and 2005 and late into the post-season of the 2006 season. Anderson too came up from the United Hockey League Quad City Mallards to the Wolves. It’s a tough league with a lot of undisciplined talent.

Out too are many fan favorites, including Ramzi Abid, Karl Stewart, Billy Tibbets, Kip Miller, Scott Barney, Bobbie Nardella… In fact of last year’s top-ten ranked scorers, only two, Kevin Doell and Mark Popovic, are returning. In are some faces Wolves fans should already be familiar with, including Darren Haydar who scored 92 points with the Milwaukee Admirals last season. Steve Martins of the Binghamton Senators, who scored 76 points last season. Martins played with the Wolves during their International Hockey League days. Jason Krog who played in Sweden and Switzerland last season, but has 175 NHL games and 52 NHL points. Brett Sterling who was a finalist for the last two years for the Hobey Baker award. Cory Larose, who put up 63 points for the 2004-5 Wolves. The Atlanta Thrashers also assigned Alex Bourett, the 16th overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft, and defenseman Boris Valabik, formerly of the Kitchener Rangers and the 10th pick in the 2004 NHL draft to the Wolves.

The Wolves blue line has had a tendency to wander off or not assist the PP. I’m looking forward to a better year as we’ll see Valabik there, as well as Jimmy Sharrow and Scott Lehman, standouts in the Traverse City tournament a month ago. I was disappointed with the showing of Nathan Oystrick at that tournament. However, it was pointed out to me that Oystick was recovering from mononucleosis at the time. Nevertheless, he pulled a lot of penalties due to lack of discipline. Troy Milam is coming up from Gwinett. I saw him in Toledo last spring on the Gladiator’s way to the Kelly Cup finals. He should be a real asset.

All-in-all, a better defence. Backing up this d-line are Michael Garnett and Dieter Kochan. Garnett had a pretty rough year last season. A bad start in Atlanta was finished well, but he was suddenly sent down to Chicago. He apparently had a chip on his shoulder and though initially welcomed by the fans, played poorly for several weeks. Suddenly, in mid-March, he changed his attitude and went on a winning streak that only petered out in the final few games of the season. From hero to dog to hero to dog to hero. If Garnett can hold it together, the Wolves will have a great season: Garnett has shown he can be a champion. However, if Garnett loses his composure, the season may turn into a wreck.
Kochan played with the Portland Pirates for 15 games last season, as well as a Russian team. In the long-run Atlanta is apparently going to send Fred Brathwaite when there is less chance of his being picked up on waivers.

This team has the potential to have one of the highest scoring lines in the league. Garnett should be able to defend the goal well while the new defense line looks more disciplined than the line from the previous season. If the Wolves can get out in front on goals, they should be able to defend their lead. PP and PK were not good last year. Most of the team’s hot heads: Stewart, Tibbets and Abid in particular, are gone, so team discipline should be better. Though the team had one of the best short handed stats in the league, that power (in Stewart and Tibbets) is now gone. Martins may have the speed and certainly has the skill of either of those players however. So the thrill of the sudden reversal is still there.

Overall, the division and the conference look tougher. The NHL salary cap has changed one thing, just about any team seems to have the potential to win the Stanley Cup at this point. The minor teams are also showing greater depth. Still, I see the Wolves entering the playoffs and making it to at least the second round.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Minor League Favorites














My edited posts

Michael's Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic (Penguins organization)
PPPS- a weekly AHL Podcast

Michael- My Mundane Mid-Life (Chicago Wolves)
Blog on Chicago hockey
Wirtzsucks-- A Chicago Blackhawks fan site
Jeremey Piniak's five hockey talking points
Two Minutes for Cross-Checking- Iowa Stars & Philly Phantoms
Milwaukeehockey.com ’Unofficial’ Milwaukee Admirals fan site
Admirals Zone Norfolk Admirals blog and fan site
BinghamtonHockey.com blog
Dave Wolf’s Grand Rapids Griffins fan site
Michigan minor league hockey blog
Shortymac discusses QC Mallards
S Palmerston's take on the Hamilton Bulldogs
Some futzy woman writes on Milwaukee sports
Four guys discuss Chicago Sports
Heather Creegan's So Very Obsessed- Providence Bruins
Crossbar Minor League blog
Rochester Americans and Florida Panthers blog

Chris Roy's Skate the Plank
Jason watches the Baby Pens from the Igloo
Major Blogs by Dan Hickling
The 300 Level watches Blackhawk hockey
Kansas City Blog
Brian Rosenberg watches the MetroCentre debate
Windy City Sports Blog
Aeros equipment Manager Blog
Chicago Wolves playoff blog
A minor league hockey blog by C J Nordenson
Michigan minor league hockey by Matt MacKinder


Chicago Wolves discussion board
Smirkin Chicken
Atlanta Thrashers Prospects
Gwinnett Gladiators fan forum
Admirals Crew Milwaukee Admirals discussion board
TalkHawks discussion board
Quad Cities Mallards Mayhem
Rochester Americans discussion board
Wilkes Barre Penguins fan site
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Aaron Sim's Aaron's Angle (broadcaster of the Milwaukee Admirals)
Lisa Colonno in Des Moines Register
Michael Sharpe in Binghamton Press-Sun Bulletin
Jonathan Bonbulie in WBS Times-Tribune
Lindsay Cramer in Syracuse Post-Standard
Dave Eminian in Peoria Journal Star

Justin Cohn in Fort Wayne Gazzette
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