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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.

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