Saturday, June 28, 2003
Here's some additional info on the potential Ice Bats sale.
Let me add that while everyone from the Zamboni drivers to the sponsors seem to know about this thing, John McVaney cautions that "there is no deal until a deal is done."
One thing's for sure: minor league hockey remains a mighty fluid business. Since the original 16-club merger, two franchises have gone dormant and five teams have been sold (though each of those transactions was an upgrade).
Friday, June 27, 2003
Have you heard the Bats are being purchased by the Dallas Stars? I'm getting e-mails from some folks who have.
Well, it isn't true.
But someone's in talks with current owner John McVaney, representing a group that includes local businessmen, as well as out-of-town investors with past NHL connections.
Just a reminder -- all this speculation about who might get the Memphis job, whether it's coming from me or the Commercial Appeal, is just that: speculation.
Steve Martinson? So long as they don't knock down the San Diego arena I would think he's rather looking forward to adding a Kelly Cup to all those Taylor triumphs.
Paul Gillis? Maybe, but it's a matter of recent public record that he's under contract. (The real fun in that link is where Richmond owner Eric Margeneau promises to put 50 bucks on the table for anyone who drops the gloves.)
Anyway, I'm starting to hear some other names, experienced guys who may be very good, but don't live up to the "as impressive as Doug Shedden" test.
For example, Derek Clancey, who I know nothing about. And Gord Dineen, who certainly has NHL credentials, and is regarded much more highly than his career ECHL coaching record might suggest.
Around the Net
Don't miss Hans Hornstein's updated Death Pool Report, or Doug Frank checking in re: the Rayz affiliation, or this sublimely vicious rant against the return of Asheville hockey, which, as Steve Newlin already noted, is full of bitter-tasting truth.
And so what if the Lone Star Cavalry play hockey? Someone at the Star-Telegram web site figures you can't have a cavalry without a horse (look closely at the URL).
If I were Bobby Clarke -- and thank God I'm not, no matter how I felt in 1975 -- I'd take a chance on Cujo, even if Al Morganti disagrees.
Then again, the thought of Joseph going to New York and sitting out the playoffs is also kinda fun, especially since Darrin MacKay's pal at Notre Dame turned down a free copy of my book (I can't remember if his exact words were "I don't read" or "I don't read hockey books").
Hmmmh... while I don't see Dan Price leaving Austin, it's a little scary that he could go to Port Huron, play 10 minutes from his parents and not count as a vet. The UHL has set its limit at 280.
You'll also note that Margeneau is the Executive Committee Vice-Chairman -- maybe he can work that pay-per-fight thing into the salary cap by-laws.
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
The CHL is proud of its alum Doug Shedden... and so is the ECHL (seems to me they weren't quite so proud of him back then). What, no UHL press release?
And speaking of press releases... what do you know, one that's just a week old has completely disappeared from the RiverKings web site.
That's right, Doug Shedden never said he wasn't leaving Memphis... and Clinton did not have sex with "that woman," and we invaded Iraq because of WMDs.
Actually, Presidents may not always tell the truth, but Shedden did. As I've said before, the Doug/Kevin Ryan/RiverKings "statement" was well-crafted spin -- meticulously worded and easy to decode. But taking it down is like admitting that it never should have been released.
Now then....In the the latest bit of information, 'Kings owner Robin Costa said the candidates would all have prior head coaching experience and NHL experience.
But in the DeSoto Times, she also said they would have resumes "very similar to Doug's when he came here".
So what constitutes "very similar?" Two championships instead of three? A championship in one league, but not the CHL? A championship in Deutschland?
Or maybe someone who has won a title and is currently working in the UHL, as Sheds was up in Flint? There are two noticeable candidates in that case: Quad City Mallards bench boss Paul Gillis and current Elmira and former El Paso coach Todd Brost.
I don't know Gillis, but I believe Brost and Shedden are the same kind of personalities, guys who piss their players off in all the right ways and piss their opponents off almost always.
Presumably both coaches are under contract, but unless Memphis views this hiring as a way to cut down costs, there could be plenty of crisp green reasons for these guys to leave behind their jobs.
Same probably goes for Brent Hughes, though I'll admit I have a hard time wrapping my head around that one (only got room for Boston and Providence rumors in that department). Besides -- alas -- Hughesy hasn't won a title.
But if we lower our standards to what's in the press release... well, I bet you people thought I was joking about Jim Latos. Shoot, as Chris Perry pointed out to me, he's coached the RiverKings before.
However, Latos' single cup of coffee with the Rangers doesn't quite measure up to Shedden's NHL career. Same with Ron Handy's 14 evenings in the Show (plus I'm not sure posting on Glass Rattler is a useful part of the application process). That also rules out Brost, Trent Eigner and Bill Thurlow, to say nothing of Don Martin. Two-time President's Cup winner Jean LaForest, not an issue.
And Dave Nicholls is out of it as well, while Kevin Ryan seems more likely to be asking questions than answering them.
Ok, bored with all the Memphis talk? I'll leave you with a tidbit on Colorado player/assistant Phil Crowe, who one insider predicts will be a Tony Twist-like presence.
"He'll terrify people," my correspondent says. "This is the kind of guy that if you try take his puck away in shinny hockey he will two-hand you and look for more."
Here's the news via the Memphis RiverKings and the Maple Leafs themselves.
And here you'll find Baby Leafs fans arguing about it (hey, that "CHL writer" was me!).
Monday, June 23, 2003
This evening's Memphis riddle: who besides Ron Handy has prior head coaching experience and strong ties to Doug Shedden, including both seasons in Wichita and the one year in Louisiana?
What's that? Did someone just say Jim Latos? Oh my... with all the Wichita and Memphis fans on Glass Rattler, this thread is gonna get real fun!
And hey, if Don Parsons is ready to stop playing, that's his call.
Be kind of funny though: "Don, the good news is, you got the job. Bad news is, your team just lost its 50-goal man."
Let's not forget, as unbelievably great as the RiverKings performed during the only time that matters, they almost didn't make it to that time -- with Shedden, with Parsons, with Nasato and Stastny, and without Bruce Garber, Bill McDonald and Chris Stewart (Cup-winners all) competing in the North. I don't care how many Leafs draftees or proven snipers might be out there, you can't just replace Don Parsons -- any more than you can Shedden.
So, just for fun, I decided to look over the 2000-2001 Kootenay Ice, a very good team that was even better one year later (winning the Memorial Cup). Had to go back at least two seasons to get a decent sampling of players who'd moved on.
The top two scorers are headed for the NHL. Mike Comrie and goaltender Dan Blackburn are already there
But go down the rest of the roster and you find six ECHLers (including the fourth, fifth and sixth leading scorers) and just two full-season AHLers (one of whom played his first year in the "E").
Then you've got two kids who went to the UHL and WCHL, respectively, for the most recent playoffs. There's one who's hit four "AA" leagues in two seasons, and a handful who haven't yet gone pro (including, I suspect, one or two who never will).
So would a half-dozen NHL/AHL prospects make up for the fact that the next dozen are just younger, rawer, ECHL-or-lower bodies? Some might be faster or more skilled, but just as many wouldn't play good defense.
I'm sticking with my (and Dheenshaw's) original opinion: the pros would have the edge.
However, it's possible the '01-'02 Kootenay Ice might have beaten the '01-'02 Indianapolis Ice (or any so-so CHL team).
Also, one clarification: when I said earlier that the junior players who come to the CHL find it faster, I meant in terms of decision-making, not who would win a race.
In other news, the UHL had its expansion draft, so it wouldn't be surprising if a few of those names turned up in the CHL.
And there's a letter from Marc LaForge in the latest Hockey News.
"Even though I fought as a player and hated it, I now realize it is the only reason the casual American fan will tune in," the former San Antonio and Indy grinder writes. "People in the U.S. have no clue about or interest in hockey, so it boggles the mind why Gary Bettman would cater to this segment of the population. By doing so, he's alienating his true fan base while trying to lure in fans who could care less."
Sunday, June 22, 2003
Another Farm Report-inspired blog.
Looks like the San Angelo Saints got themselves a good one in former Peoria Rivermen captain Derek Booth.
This confirms what I've been saying all along: limbo for the ECHL means uncertainty for us as well -- but also opportunity. Ray Edwards made the most of his.
Edwards' former teammate and current recruiting rival Tracey Egeland says much the same, though the juicy part of that interview is this:
... at this level of hockey there's a lot of Luch Nasatos out there. He's very good at what he does, and he'd be very good to have here, but his salary demands right now are way out of whack.
More fun reading: a Canadian columnist claims any ECHL team would wipe the floor with any WHL team.
That's a bit over the top -- figure the ECHL team would win by a couple of goals -- but people do tend to forget that even if you call this level "semi-pro" (as new Killer Bees defenseman Darcy Smith does), it's too good for lots of major junior players.
The ones who end up starring in the AHL or Europe aren't there yet, while every rookie that turns up here in October, whether from the "other" CHL or the NCAA, invariably mentions how everything seems bigger faster smarter.
Of course, that doesn't change the fact that the very best major junior players are both that much better and that much more exciting, whether they grow up to be Brett Seguin, Pavel Brendl or Rick Nash.
By the way, that Peoria article up top confirms that ECHL Arkansas is done; the full revised schedule will be made public Monday.
So if you haven't already, check out the Dem-Gazette's Little Rock hockey timeline, then ask yourself, can they make it in the CHL?
I hope so, but you can't pencil them into the Northeast Division just because they look good on the map. And that goes double for Baton Rouge.
What are the odds -- former Wichita star Ron Handy is mentioned in that timeline, 'cause he coached the Riverblades. He's also mentioned in this article on 57th draft picks (since that's where Toronto chose).
So what the heck -- let's throw his name out there as a potential Memphis coach, along with Shedden's previous successor Bill Thurlow and current assistant Dave "Midnight" Nicholls.
There's also "Governor" Kevin Ryan, but that title suggests someone who has left behind bus rides and early-morning practice.
I believe Doug Shedden should and will have input into the selection -- not because he's the old coach, but because he and his new bosses have a big interest in who will oversee the care and feeding of their prospects.
And don't expect Parsons in St. John's. To do what, learn how to be a third-line checker behind the Leafs' young forwards? Seriously, why would he go? I doubt AHL minimum is that much more than he already makes in Memphis, where his ever-expanding family resides. He's got nothing to prove up there at this point, unless it's just for shits and giggles.
Anyway, Parsons may well move behind the bench, but tomorrow? We aren't exactly talking Dale Henry or Joe Burton here. He's at the top of his game, still the best player in the league.
So if the RiverKings veterans can maintain championship intensity and "the Shedden Way," perhaps one of the names mentioned above would ensure that continuity. To be blunt, they'd wear the suit and keep the seat warm, while making sure the nucleus stays put.
However, if the goal is to get someone with the same track record and gravitas as Shedden... well, good luck.
In the CHL/WPHL universe, Bruce Garber is spoken for, Todd Brost is under contract in Elmira and I gather Mike Sauter's not an option.
So I'd think big, and several levels higher. How 'bout former New York Islanders head coach Bill Stewart? As a Calder Cup finalist, he had a couple of goaltenders named Jean Sebastien-Giguere and Mark Richards. His good year in juniors was marred by funny business, but that's why he'd be available.
I dunno... Butch Goring? NHL exile Ted Nolan?
Hey, good thing it isn't hockey season, or we'd have nothing to talk about...
As the Rayz pursue an affiliation with either Calgary or Minnesota, I'm reminded that two years ago, the Bats claimed their arrangement with Houston was ending in part because the Wild didn't want to send their players to the CHL (mostly for insurance reasons).
Now granted, Austin earned two finals appearances in two years with no formal affiliation, and a lot less than that in four years with one. But it would still be embarassing if a division rival hooked up with the Aeros -- unless the Bats have something else a-brewing.
Meanwhile, that Dallas Stars logo remains on Austin's web site.
And speaking of affiliations, we have been, on the Odessa board, where there is also a discussion of Mike Gorman.
Turns out hockey is not the only sport taking a beating on TV. NASCAR draws 127% more viewers than the NBA regular season. Stay tuned for those Arena Bowl numbers!
Now they're like El Paso. Fingers crossed for the devoted hockey fans of Northern Ireland.
This news actually has a slight bearing on the CHL, as bruiser Paxton Schulte says if things don't work out with the Giants or Belfast's British National League team, he may play for Amarillo.
See, Schulte is a former teammate of someone named Joe Ferraccioli. Think the hecklers in San Angelo can learn how to pronounce that?
If you haven't already, have a thought for Roger Neilson, while reading tributes by Al Strachan, Bruce Garrioch, Allen Panzeri and Chris Stevenson (with sidebar).
Here's one more Shedden note. Presumably we'll hear from the St. John's and Memphis rags tomorrow.
And one last Shedden/Baby Leafs confirmation:
It's not formalized yet but he's our No. 1 choice -- Pat Quinn.
Saturday, June 21, 2003
Thursday, June 19, 2003
Now that the St. John's paper has further clarified the Baby Leafs/Doug Shedden saga, I have a new appreciation for that Memphis statement.
Basically, it says whatever the reader wants it to say. After yesterday's blog I got an e-mail from one fan saying "Poor Doug... guess he'll have to press on" and another saying, "guess he's leaving, huh?"
It was the same on the boards, where many took Shedden's "Riverkings reaffirmation" at face value. Some ridiculously so, like the genius who said "Doug is here for three more years, yippee!".
Then there was the post with the misleading header which had good information, but hadn't quite caught up to yesterday's developments.
Really, it all makes sense. The Leafs have other stuff on their plate, including the draft, and possibly a new GM.
Is Shedden frustrated? I'm sure he is a little, and I'm sure the Memphis front office is a lot. But I doubt the core RiverKings players are going anywhere, and the other CHL teams aren't wildly ahead with their (announced) recruiting.
Bottom line, if a wealthy, prestigious and historic NHL franchise needs to take more time with this decision, who are we to quibble?
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Ok, guess I missed the obvious -- in today's DeSoto Times, Shedden did indeed confirm that he remains in the running with St. John's and believes the process could take another week or two. So the press release was just the Kings' way of prettying that up. Nothing's changed.
And even if he doesn't get it, Wilkes Barre is still out there, and now Hershey is as well.
“It is nice to be recognized and have discussions with teams at higher levels,” Shedden said. “It’s great being interviewed, especially by the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, which has meant a great deal to me. I have not been offered anything and currently the only contract that I have is with the Memphis RiverKings for the next three years. I currently plan on fulfilling that contract and am now working to build our team for next season.”
Now, I don't think he would have made those comments if he had a press conference to attend in Newfoundland in the immediate future. But the situation still seems unresolved, no different from what was described three weeks ago.
With the NHL draft this weekend and Toronto's ownership change, it's possible the Leafs are dragging ass on this decision, in which case the Kings simply put the message out as a sop to season ticketholders and potential players.
So I e-mailed Memphis PR man Joe Dominey, wondering, "Is Doug's statement definitive, as in, 'I didn't get the St. John's job,' or is that just a reminder that he remains committed to Memphis unless Toronto makes an offer?
Dominey's response? "Exactly."
Monday, June 16, 2003
Looks like Colorado won't enjoy the services of top expansion pick James Sheehan.
Not sure why they took him, given their next choice wasn't 'til #4. Even if the idea was to deal with RGV, what were the Bees supposed to offer in exchange? The second pick plus futures?
Anyway, if the Eagles weren't interested in Nasato or McKellar it's a moot point. So I guess you could say the Cotton Kings came out on top of this one, assuming they re-sign Mike Dawson.
Thanks to John Snyder for that link, which also points out that Brad Wingfield is headed for Mission St. Jean of the QSPHL. Just a guess -- we'll see him in December. Mission also has Rob Frid, Paul Vincent and Roger Maxwell in the fold.
And good luck to former Ice Bats goalie Christian Soucy. I remember sitting with the former Blackhawks draft pick at Austin's Showplace Lanes sports bar during the '98 Olympics. A Houston Aeros prospect at the time, he said he'd probably retire if he didn't get back to the "I." Five seasons later...
In other Colorado news, longtime AHLer (and former NHLer) Brent Thompson is an instructor at the Eagles' camp. Hmmmh. The AHL has its own vet rule, and Thompson's coach the last four years has bolted for the OHL. Time to make a move?
It seems a bit early to wonder about Mike Gorman's contract status, but what the hell -- if Jacks fans are gonna do it, I will too.
Emotions have been stirred by an unconfirmed rumor that the league's best goalie over the past two seasons (combined) is exploring other options, or maybe wants a better deal.
Contemplating that as well as the possible return of Trevor Allman or any other big addition, Ditkadog says Odessa's management reminds him of notorious skinflint Bill Wirtz (among others), while Flyersfan simply says they're cheap.
And yet, we're talking about one of the most stable organizations in the CHL -- considering how many teams in this league have been sold (or gone out of business) in the past three years, they must be doing something right.
More to the point, there's no such thing as "cheap" when it comes to salaries: everyone gets paid the same, $8500 a week divided among 18 players. If you're not gonna break the cap where's the money gonna come from?
I mean, they could bring in a Joe Burton-type player assistant (aka the "franchise player" in the old CHL days), but let's be realistic. "Cheap" is the '00-'01 El Paso Buzzards, playing several guys short (back when the WPHL had a 20-man roster) and under the cap. Cheap is the '02-'03 El Paso Buzzards -- bills unpaid, skates not sharpened.
If you want to tell me the Jacks should spend more on marketing and promotions, I'm with ya. But I hardly think they're sweating out player compensation in pursuit of profits. It's all about the cap.
If a defenseman and a goalie are gonna be among Odessa's top-paid players (both very deservedly), there's gonna be less money for star-type forwards.
Or, if they open up the vaults to bring in more offense, Gorman isn't going to get as big a salary as he deserves, especially compared to the open market. But given the ECHL's labor situation, there is no open market -- therefore the Jacks don't have to hurry (unless he's considering the UHL, ACHL or WHA2).
It's backwards, but loyalty isn't always rewarded at this level. None of Odessa's best guys (and none of Austin's best guys, for that matter) get paid as much as they could if they didn't care what city they played in or what coach they played for or whether the team was any good.
By the same token, there are players who will take less to live somewhere like Colorado or Indianapolis, but not West Texas.
An affiliation can be a big help with this stuff, not just for the players an AHL team provides, but for the money that it helps free up for vets. Gorman deserves a shot at the next level, but just because an AHL team is willing to provide that doesn't mean they'll pick up half his paycheck.
Anyway, we have no idea what affiliated players Odessa might have in the mix, or where Gorman might fit into that, or if a previously affiliated player is going to return without a two-way contract, in which case he would count for more money (or have to take a pay cut) too.
Fact is, if the ECHL settles their thing and they don't lower their cap and Gorman has a chance to play there for more dough and a two-way, he should go (though he might want to ask Ken Carroll his advice). It's up to the Jacks to present him with an AHL situation, but they can only go so high with money.
And if the ECHL does lower their cap, there won't be many better offers out there. If I was Odessa's GM, playing hardball at the negotiating table, I'd take one of these two tacks:
Mike, you're the best goalie in the league, but you don't get a raise losing in the first round two years in a row.
Mike, you're the best goalie in the league, but if you want to be on a team that doesn't lose in the first round for the third year in a row, we have to free up some cash to upgrade other spots.
As fans (or journalists), we get to make the easy calls. Sign this guy! Pay that guy! Dump that guy! GMs and coaches have a tougher job.
Though in the end, if McKee really plans to play for goals and open up Odessa's style, he'll need #40 in the crease.
On the Hockey Carousel
Here's why the hiring of Rampage coach Steve Ludzik was not a big surprise. So maybe it's a good sign that the guy hiring in St. John's has known Doug Shedden since the Memphis coach was 16 years old.
Here's confirmation Lubbock is talking to UHL star Jim Duhart. Makes for an illuminating sidebar to the Gorman thing. The Flint Journal's Brendan Savage also reports that Generals coach Robbie Nichols has talked to 80 players. Hmmmh, anyone we know? (sorry, couldn't resist).
Saturday, June 14, 2003
Mark it down: our noble leader suspects the Eagles will be the class of the Northwest.
It's a bit early in the handicapping season, but can you imagine the playoffs with no defending champion and no Blazers? It's not out of the question, just as Austin can't take anything for granted. Ditto Amarillo, though I'm sure they prefer their new conference.
Here's some convoluted irony: NHL star Brett Hull, who played juniors under WPHL founder Rick Kozuback, ends up buying into an NAHL team in a failed CHL city.
But I'd say Canadian kids coming to play that level of junior hockey is more like a Texas schoolboy going to Penn State to play basketball.
And here we have an interesting story on the Rio Grande Valley economy (thereby preempting potential wisecracks about the unemployment rate).
I didn't realize quite how unlikely the ascension of Johan Holmqvist was. Now I really feel for Derek Gustafson.
Ok, so the Patrick Roy mug shot auction is off, but collectors can still hold out hope for Dominik Hasek.
Finally, say goodbye to Faceoff.com.
Friday, June 13, 2003
And so the Calder Cup belongs to Texas, which, come to think of it, is more than you can say for the President's Cup -- that thing hasn't been west of Louisiana since 1998.
Anyway, congratulations to the Houston Aeros, especially general manager Dave Barr, an assistant under Dave Tippett on the 1999 Turner Cup team who gave up the head coaching job in the wake of the AHL/Minnesota move. Nice pick-up, that Johan Holmqvist.
And hey, at least Ice Bats Shawn Legault, Peter Brady and Darryl McArthur can say they played one game for a team that won it all.
Former Waco/Central Texas/Fort Worth bench boss Todd Lalonde is is back in Sudbury, coaching Junior A (another fine bit of webspotting from The Farm Report) and going back to college.
I know there's ill will towards him in both Tarrant and Bell counties, but his first two years in Texas sure were something, and we (the media) always loved those quotes.
Of course, he was a stubborn SOB, and his see-saw Stampede exit cannot be defended. But perhaps his biggest flaw was wanting to win so badly that he didn't seem to realize this level of hockey is also about community and fun.
As for his controlling ways, I always figured if fans were privy to the same sort of daily details about Mike Keenan, Lou Lamoriello or Joe Paterno, the stories wouldn't be so pretty either. The theory is TL's headmaster style is a better fit for juniors, so we shall see.
And speaking of Lamoriello, I think Bruce Garber may have been cloned from his former Providence College mentor.
Hey, have the Oilers ever had a Hanson meets the Hansons night? Seems like a no-brainer to me.
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Here's why American TV is still in charge of hockey, no matter how much Canadians (and hardcore U.S. fans) don't like it.
Game 7 got a pretty good 4.6 rating for ABC, though twice as many people still watched the Everybody Loves Raymond rerun, and just as many combined tuned in to 7th Heaven and Girlfriends (a ratings point equals just over 1 million viewers, so the game was watched by somewhere between four and five million people, give or take a few hundred thousand, depending on the hour).
Meanwhile, for the entire playoffs, the CBC had what turned out to be its fourth highest average playoff audience in the past 10 years, an average of 1.593 million people, with 2.589 million glued to the screen for Game 7.
In other words, ABC's crappy Game 6 audience was about the same as Canada's most-watched NHL final broadcast in two years (since the last Game 7).
Money talks, and because of the huge disparity between the two countries (in terms of population as well as currency), America will always pay more, even if the next TV deal's lousy.
Visit The Farm Report for more details on recent player signings, including Laredo/Jonah Leroux and Lubbock/Jan Melicherchik. (And damn straight -- Newlin has been stumping for Garber since the day Columbus cut him loose.)
That Vladimer Hartinger trade just keeps getting better for the Thunder (though such is the nature of futures components). Good luck to Tobin Praznik.
Meanwhile, Garry Unger will coach the Birmingham (well, Pelham) WHA2 team. A nice shot of credibility for them, though I can't help but wonder, did he ask himself, "WWJD?" before hitching his wagon to that old devil Taylor?
Since posting yesterday, I was asked two questions:
1. If the Oilers only offered Unger an underwhelming contract, how'd they land a guy with Garber's resume?
2. Why shouldn't we hold Garber's ECHL stint against him?
Well, first of all, there's a difference between giving someone a new contract, and giving Unger, who had done so much for the team at (allegedly) less than market value, an extension.
But c'mon -- the real truth is the Oilers didn't want the guy to coach again, but also didn't want to take a PR hit for firing him, or subject a good man to that humiliation. So they made him an offer he had to refuse. Unger practically said it was gonna happen minutes after the season ended. There was then talk of a front office position, but only talk.
So now we get to Garber. He's good, but let's not overestimate his value compared to what the market is. Given his past two seasons in Columbus, he wasn't about to land another ECHL job. The ACHL and WHA2 don't offer any more in the way of money or security, and there's no UHL team tossing around the big bucks either.
He needed to be back in the CHL, where his reputation matters. And given its location, tradition and '02-'03 record, Tulsa was the best thing available (which would be true even if the Saints and Cotton Kings jobs were still open).
Whether they dug deep into the vault or not, give the Oilers credit. They knew this was a critical decision. The die-hard Tulsa hockey fans need to see some playoff action, while the casual crowd needs to see the excitement such success creates. They needed people to go, "good hire!" instead of "who's he?"
As far as Garber's ECHL failure, just imagine: it's June, 2001. The Cottonmouths owner calls him up and says, "Hey Bruce, great job getting to the finals, that was one hell of a Blazers team we ran into, and oh yeah, now we're going to be in the ECHL. So you've just lost most if not all of your players, the quality of your roster will depend greatly on an affiliation and you'll be competing against 17 teams you've never seen before. Go recruit!"
Garber may be guilty of not making adjustments in his second year, but he didn't suddenly forget how to coach. Returning to the CHL should be like putting an old sweater on.
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Shawn Silver has re-upped with Indy... Dorian Anneck joins Brandon Carper (and Ben Maidment?) in leaving Amarillo...The Blazers get their best returning forward (that would be Blair Manning) under contract.
So now that tongues are wagging...
First of all, yes, we can rule out Phil Roberto. Blame Mr. Perry for the original confusion, which he tried to clear up weeks ago. (Though considering the Cottonmouths want out of the ECHL and plan to run a scaled back operation, maybe their GM is in play as well, who knows?)
Anyway. Six coaches have been to the CHL or WPHL finals in the last three years: Doug Shedden, Brent Hughes, Doug Sauter, Scott Muscutt, Bill McDonald and yes, Bruce Garber. Garber's actually been there at the end three times in five seasons, including the '97-'98 Miron Cup (or so revisionist history says) win.
Given Unger implied he was only offered an average-paying, one-year contract, the Oilers have wildly exceeded expectations (if, y'know, this is indeed their guy). Garber may be the best available coach out there, a proven bench boss who held the same job with the same team for six-plus seasons and already knows what the CHL is all about.
He's coached both 65-goal scorers and unrepentant goons, while his ECHL experience can only be a bonus. You certainly can't hold his record there against him (though it probably didn't hurt the Oilers at the negotiation table).
Anyway, what's not to like about a guy who promised to put on women's clothing if the Cottonmouths didn't draw more than 5000 fans one night? It didn't happen, but we can certainly hope the Oilers try a similar promotion.
Except maybe Dallas should wear the dress.
Eddie Johnstone lives. Congrats to him. I'm thinking Brent Scott won't be his assistant.
Monday, June 09, 2003
Errata courtesy of Dennis Egan: the Backstrom quote about reducing face-offs referred to tag-up offsides, not no-touch icing (he used the words "touch-up rule," and the context was perfectly clear. My bad).
So we can continue to wonder whether no-touch is going to mean more icing or less. Depends on what the linesmen wave off, and how the players adjust. Brian Slagel suggests that the ECHL instituted automatic icing in part because the NHL wants other leagues to try it out, which is a pretty good reason for the CHL to fall in line.
Amarillo's Henry Kuster has the dubious honor of being mentioned by the Hockey News as one of Boston's most disappointing draft picks of the last 10 years. A few other familiar names in the leaguewide breakdown: Eric Naud (taken by the Bruins eight places later the same year), Nick Stajduhar and Gregor Baumgartner (disappointing as Montreal's 37th pick; not mentioned one way another as a Dallas fifth-rounder).
It's a shame about Joe Nieuwendyk. You have to wonder if the Devils would have let the series go this long if they'd had the face-off ace and Conn Smythe winner on the ice.
Then again, the Ducks probably would have won in six if they'd had it together for the first two.
Sunday, June 08, 2003
Old-time hockey 'tude from Grant Marshall: I guess you have to hit (Kariya) harder and make sure he doesn't come back.
Of course, in the end, the only person who has any control over whether Joe Burton plays again is Joe Burton. He could sign with a UHL club close to home tomorrow, if he was so inclined.
Hersom also did a piece on the WHA's plan (or lack thereof) for Oklahoma City, which includes what I believe is the first suggestion (by Peter Young himself) that the aspiring circuit aspires to be in Europe.
Sure, it raises all kinds of financial and logistical concerns, but since the NHL has been considering the same thing (if only in theory), it's smart to throw it out there. I know some people in London who would love to see it.
Go Aeros. Huge one for them, though I'll admit the headline "6-4 Shootout Win" gave me pause for a second. It really sucks that Game 6 is on at virtually the same time as the NHL's Game 7. I blame the circus.
I don't suppose Colin Campbell would have issued a statement saying, the ref mess up on the Kariya hit, it was actually 1.27 seconds after he touched the puck. I thought it was a decent call. Guys who just got rid of the puck get whacked at the wall and in the corners all the time, should the standard (for interference, not intent-to-injure) be different in open ice?
Saturday, June 07, 2003
What a night for Paul Kariya -- just when the $10 million man's lack of offense had become an issue. And then to get up from that hit and light it, especially considering his history -- wow. When Bill Walton uses the word "tough" to describe someone like Kenyon Martin tomorrow, I'll be thinking of the little Duck.
Go figure, the Daily News beat Larry Brooks and the Post to a big-time rumor: Jagr for Lindros. Guess that means Jagr for LeClair is out of the question?
And shoot, those are just little rumors next to Scotty Bowman to the Rangers. Now there's a guy you pay $10 million for.
I didn't really realize it until I dug up the Cherry thing (mostly because I'm on the road a lot, without high speed), but you really can't beat going to the CBC and TSN web sites for clips. Right now you'll find talk of both the Lindros-Jagr and Bowman/Rangers rumors here, while the final HNIC "Satellite Hot Stove," no doubt featuring the same topics, is here (that one is a direct link to open Real Player).
The expansion draft is what it is, nobody in it is a first-team all-star. But Tracy Egeland saw every game the Cotton Kings fans did and still wanted him. Colorado knew that and was willing to spend its first pick to make absolutely sure they got him. And both teams felt that way without being 100% positive they could keep him in the CHL.
He was not the best player in the draft, just the one most worth having -- who wouldn't want a non-vet defenseman, presumably well-paid but not overpaid, who's been to the (UHL) finals and was +20 (putting him in the top 10 in the league among blueliners)?
I don't care how many bad penalties the fans remember -- that's what you call anecdotal evidence. 78 PiMs is nothing for a halfway engaged defenseman. Yeah, he melted down (against Macker, hmmmmh) with eight minutes on January 5 (including a classic "objects on ice" infraction). But he had just 14 PiMs in 19 games in February and March -- numbers that could win you the Lady Byng, or at least make you very unpopular if you play for Wichita. So I suspect he learned his lesson.
And let's not forget, the draft list wasn't made up by a hockey coach. Maybe Kirk Tomlinson would have tried to keep him.
Unless, of course, Sheehan was exposed to do Egeland a favor -- in which case all the talk of retirement and returning to the "U" was just a smokescreen, and Chris Stewart saw right through it. This scenario is unlikely, as Lubbock and RGV no longer officially share ownership. But they still share quite a lot (congratulations, Chris).
Yet it already exists in the ECHL and major juniors, and no less an old-schooler than Don Cherry is a fan.
If you have Real Player, check out the Coach's Corner where Grapes makes his case against, as he puts it, the worst thing in the world, this touch icing, using car-crash clips of Al MacInnis, Mark Tinordi and Pat Peake to make his point. It's about six minutes in (though if you watch the whole thing, you'll catch Don's cameo in the Tragically Hip video, and his prediction that everything will work out OK for Shayne Corson and the Leafs).
Meanwhile, Colorado's Ralph Backstrom, who knows a thing or two about hockey, says it will speed things up by eliminating five to 10 faceoffs a game.
When the Hockey News did its player's poll on the subject, the NHLers surveyed went 17-13 in favor of keeping things the way they are, which is inconclusive (though it probably means more players want to switch to no-touch icing than are willing to wear visors).
And let's face it, speeding up the game and protecting the player's well-being for purely humanitarian reasons are not the only issues. If the change does away with just one injury, whether a broken arm or a career-threatening concussion or god forbid, something worse, it will have been successful from ownership's perspective, as far as workman's comp and health insurance.
Friday, June 06, 2003
I didn't even realize: you can follow the Calder Cup on Pointstreak. Congrats to them, and to the CHL for being the minor pro groundbreakers. Game 4 in about an hour.
Something tells me Mike Heika was specifically thinking of Larry Brooks and Terry Jones when he did this item on the 2-2-1-1-1 format.
Thursday, June 05, 2003
The official word: Tag-up offsides and no-touch icing, yes. And the same alignment that I posted below.
But no change in the instigator rule. And as far as El Paso, what's left unsaid speaks volumes. The market is indeed taking a year off, and all remaining players will be free agents.
"Could we have played in El Paso this year? Yeah," CHL Vice President of Communications Steve Cherwonak told me. "But it would have been difficult to go in and give them a shot at being viable and successful. Our much more preferred route is to continue to work with the county and potential owners and get something set up for next season."
Chewy also noted that New Mexico was fully behind the move to the Northwest, which, considering all Doug Frank has done for the league this year, is no surprise. The goal there was to get Amarillo and San Angelo back in the same division with their biggest rivals (Lubbock and Odessa, respectively).
The schedule will remain unbalanced based on geography as well as history -- for example, you can be sure Amarillo will continue to play the Oklahoma teams as if they'd never left the North, while San Angelo will play Austin more than the rest of the Southwest.
In any case, as most of you already know by now the Coloradoan also has the Eagles in the Northwest with New Mexico and Amarillo swapping, plus the scenario with the Bees in the Southeast and the Saints in the Southwest.
But calling Jorin Welsh Mr. Irrelevant is just plain wrong. A 10-player expansion draft is not the same thing as a 200-player amateur draft. Arguably, the most talented player of the 64 was taken 9th.
It's amusing to me that some C-Kings fans were down on James Sheehan when the hockey people clearly saw him as the best guy in the draft.
Also, regarding other parts of that thread, it's somewhat paradoxical to bitch about last year's squad and look forward to changes that might get you in the playoffs while simultaneously hoping 10 players come back. Between the required rookies, the need to upgrade and the likelihood that Tomlinson will bring in a few faves, I'd keep that wish list at eight.
Oh and one more thing: Kirk needs a new nickname. We can have countless "Soupys" and a ref and a coach who are both "Hughesy" but everybody knows there's only one Gunner (who, believe it or not, has a real first name).
What we do know for sure is the Lubbock fans won't have Barry McKinlay to kick around anymore, and they aren't crying about it. Only question is, did he sign before the expansion draft, or right after he wasn't taken? There was some talk Macker might get him to New Mexico, but there's certainly no reason to do that if Kupaks is returning.
Pretty funny to see NHL writers bitching about the 2-2-1-1-1 format. Tell it to Brent Hughes. Or the Devils for that matter -- think they would have wanted to play Game 5 in Anaheim last night?
More from Lee Scheide and the Express-News on Steve Ludzik.
Reading about the Texas Tornado's marketing muscle gives you a strong sense of "what might have been" for the Bats and Cedar Park. Meanwhile, the NAHL has arrived in Texarkana (thanks to Smilin' Shark for that one).
And finally, congratulations to Glen "Sharky" Norman on being named the CHL's Broadcaster of the Year. Franchise of the Year -- anyone surprised? -- went to Laredo, while you'll notice that release says The CHL will announce conference and divisional alignments within the coming days.... Cue suspenseful music, or at least the "Jeopardy" theme.
Here's the full list of CHL Awards, courtesy the Memphis RiverKings web site.
CHL Coach of the Year Award - Ken McRae, Indianapolis
Rick Kozuback Award - James T. Cook, San Angelo
CHL Soul of Service Award - Harold Fuller, Odessa
Merchandise Executive of the Year - Pam Jordan, Laredo
Corporate Partnership Sales Executive of the Year - Jay Lakin, Oklahoma City
Game Operations Franchise of the Year - Memphis
Marketing Franchise of the Year - Indianapolis
Broadcaster of the Year Award - Glen Norman, Austin
Public Relations Executive of the Year Award - Josh Evans, Oklahoma City
Group Ticket Sales Franchise of the Year - Indianapolis
Ticket Sales Franchise of the Year - Oklahoma City
Ticketing Director of the Year - Rodrick Evans, Lubbock
Most Improved Franchise of the Year - Amarillo Gorillas
Executive of the Year - Corey MacIntyre, Tulsa
Franchise of the Year - Laredo Bucks
I have no hard info one way or the other but am willing to agree there's nothing to the Indy thing, at least as far as the upcoming season. All fantasies, rumors and speculation regarding a transfer to the UHL, a CHL/UHL merger, interleague play, moving the Ice to Topeka or Missouri and Dominik Hasek returning to the franchise can now begin anew.
As for junior hockey in that city I have no idea, and the USHL wasn't answering its phone last time I tried to call.
El Paso: see ya in 2004. A necessary bummer.
Don't know about the playoff format, but here's a likely version of the new divisions
Rio Grande Valley
Interesting stuff from the McAllen Monitor: talk of no-touch icing, which is what it is, why not try it, and abolishing the instigator rule, which would be very cutting edge, and most welcome by a lot of fans and players.
Meanwhile, the Bees wish they could have gotten Sheehan, which is no surprise, while Tracy Egeland and Luch Nasato are playing phone tag.
Wednesday, June 04, 2003
It's Luch Nasato's Rashomon.
Doug Shedden: He made it clear that he did not enjoy the long bus trips anymore and he made it clear that he already was talking with Flint so we felt it was in the best interests of the organization to move on.
Momma Nasato: Luch is not going to Flint...he never intended to go there.
2003 CHL Expansion Draft Results
1 Colorado - James Sheehan (Defenseman - Lubbock)
2 Rio Grande Valley – Luch Nasato (Defenseman - Memphis)
3 Rio Grande Valley – Peter MacKellar (Forward - Tulsa)
4 Colorado – Denis Desmarais (Defenseman - Odessa)
5 Rio Grande Valley – Andrew Taylor (Forward - Indianapolis)
6 Colorado – Josh Tymchak (Forward - El Paso)
7 Rio Grande Valley – Jason Abel (Forward - San Angelo)
8 Colorado – Michal Stastny (Forward - Memphis)
9 Rio Grande Valley – Derek Stone (Defenseman - Oklahoma City)
10 Colorado – Jorin Welsh (Defenseman - Tulsa)
The first pick is certainly interesting, considering the McAllen paper said Sheehan was retiring. Otherwise, it seems like both coaches would rather deal with vet rule ramifications or the possiblity that a guy won't play than draft a lesser sort who may not make the team.
Guess Memphis was pretty darn sure Stastny is done, or just sure they didn't want him -- they could have pulled him back.
In a bit of news that approximately 87 people in San Antonio could give a shit about at this particular moment, the Rampage have a new coach in Steve Ludzik, and yeah, I'll give myself a little pat on the back for this one, not that it was hard to figure out.
"Doug, I recommend the 1-2-2 forecheck and the Mach 3 Turbo".
For the record, Brent Hughes continues to be the Austin Ice Bats coach and that is how the team's proceeding with all plans. But if Peter Laviolette scores the Bruins job and Providence boss Mike Sullivan goes back up as an assistant, at least there's still an AHL post to speculate about.
Lord knows it's a tough market: you've got to coach an NHL team just to get a gig in major juniors.
My travels also mean I won't catch up on draft stuff 'til tonight. It's impossible to handicap the thing not knowing what each player has in mind, but off the top of my head, here's ten I might take a shot at:
Any of the four Laredo players (Myson, Stanfield, Petruic, Keski-Kungas)
Steve DeBus or Luciano Caravaggio
And yeah, certainly: Joe Burton
Certain players make more sense on certain teams -- obviously Killer Bees coach Tracy Egeland has a comfort zone with Dawson and Robbins (and he could always trade "Addy" back to Macker), while I could see, say, Jeff Petruic in Colorado. Of course, Chris Stewart has had a full year to recruit so there's no telling what the Eagles' needs are.
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Minor league hockey media indifference, part 7: If I was a Houston Aeros player and they sent me "to Baton Rouge to play for the Louisiana Ice Gators" I'd be very suspicious about the organization's plans for me indeed (though it might still be preferable to playing for the Kingfish).
Monday, June 02, 2003
Sometimes the Internet takes all the fun out of a good rumor. No sooner had I learned that Mario could be a Flyer than he denies it.
Whereas, if I'd seen the original report that Craig Ludwig was gonna play again, I would have laughed out loud.
Congratulations to Bob Gainey. He's finally home. Let the Carbo speculation begin.
Sunday, June 01, 2003
Another Steve Newlin find: the Amarillo Gorillas have already lost two of their best players in Ben Maidment and Brandon Carper, both headed back to Deutschland.
Perhaps the league plans to move quickly on El Paso after all: it's almost certain the Buzzards players would become CHL free agents if the team doesn't move forward (expect Rio Grande Valley to go after a few guys, with Jeff Levy as recruiting point man). But I also hear the four expansion-available players won't be included in the draft if there's no team to expose them. I'm sure the next 72 hours will be interesting.
And wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall when the coach's committee -- Doug Sauter, Doug Shedden, Don McKee and Brent Hughes -- convenes?
And oh yeah -- does Tulsa have a coach?
Steve Newlin found that great piece by Andrew Miller on the ECHL's negotiations with the PHPA. Everybody knew that this was coming, so you gotta figure one reason for the WCHL merger is that it took away the only place with higher salaries and greater veteran flexibility, and thus, much of the players' leverage.
What's ironic is, if the ECHL really does succeed in drastically lowering its salary cap and veteran's rule, the CHL is the circuit that should think "entertainment-first" and take advantage of that. But don't hold your breath for anything that drives up costs. Believe it or not, there are some out there who want to lower the rosters from 18 to 17, though that's not gonna happen either.
On a lighter note, Rick Schroder's participation in the Las Vegas Wranglers coach announcement made for an amusing story.
Anyway, three points from Mark Everson's Game Three write-up:
1. Once he accepted the reality of his agonizing blunder, Brodeur was definitely chuckling behind his mask. He knew his teammates would get it back, and they did.
2. Pascal Rheaume didn't make the play, but at least he had the right idea: "I'm not allowed to lose a faceoff like that, especially in overtime. I didn't try to win it. I tried to tie it.".
3. I'd been wondering if the Devils needed special dispensation for their playoff beards, my friend the Devils fan didn't know for sure. Lamoriello may have always had the rule, but it's also a Steinbrenner thing.
And well, well, well... here I thought the old Mario to the New York Rangers rumor was the reason I would link to Larry Brooks, but read on and you'll see there could be news to come in the world of John Torchetti, the Florida Panthers and the San Antonio Rampage. Same rumor (Keenan leaving) that's been there for months, it just hadn't been put out there in a while.
At long last, a little entertainment. The Ducks earned it, but they could have easily lost by several goals without the momentum-saving (and go-ahead) flukey. You know Marty will come back hard on Monday. Now it's a series? Not 'til it's 2-2. Naturally, I hope that happens, not because I picked Anaheim, but 'cause I want to see more hockey.
Regardless, the Houston-Hamilton Calder Cup battle is almost certain to go longer than the NHL. Get your tickets here.
Now it can be told: Luch isn't going back to Memphis 'cause the Kings are gonna sign Stu Grimson. Seriously, though, they should find a way to involve "the Grim Reaper" with the franchise. He can be team chaplain.
Ok, nothing like a kick in the ass from The Farm Report to get caught up, starting with:
CHL signing news
Corri Moffat returns to San Angelo (not that he ever left). So how come talking about the fact that he was injured sounds less like an excuse coming out of the new coach's mouth? I say Saints fans should give the guy a mulligan. He's not that old, he's been a good defenseman in this league and his physical ailment was surely compounded by the mental morass that was the '02-'03 season. Plus he comes with the "married a local girl" discount. As the Ice Bats can tell ya, Texas women are a powerful salary cap-management tool.
Meanwhile, in Bossier City, Trevor Buchanan puts his gnarled fingers to paper one more time -- or maybe Forbes McPherson helped him move the pen. Just kidding Buck. This will be Buchanan's seventh season with the Mudbugs, making him the the most senior player to wear one sweater for a former WPHL team. Previously, he and teammate Jim Sprott (who may yet join him) were tied with Ryan Anderson, who put in six seasons with the Bats. Obviously, the overall title belongs to Smokin Joe, with teammate Hardy Sauter assuming that mantle if he returns for what would be his eighth year with the Blazers. (I'm not counting Jason Duda, hope I didn't overlook anyone else.)
Continuing on the subject of veteran Mudbugs, just think: a few more game misconducts for Dan Wildfong and they'd have room for one more. As with Corpus and Mike Tilson, the Bugs simply couldn't afford to have Wildfong miss a game.
Jason Baird is back for Indy, while in Laredo, Terry Ruskowski has perhaps replaced expansion-available Rob Stanfield with Mark Matier, who leaves the British Superleague to join pal Chris Grenville (also re-signed) as the Bucks player/assistants.
And finally, it seems Rob Frid has not retired, he's going to the QSPHL. I have got to see a game up there some day.
I think Kirk Tomlinson is a great hire, and I'm sure he did talk to other teams, but if he had firm offers they were probably more the caliber of UHL expansion teams Richmond or Columbus than the ECHL. He's still a guy who left two jobs in the last three seasons, coming to a club who just had two coaches in one season. In other words, he needed the Cotton Kings, the Cotton Kings needed him, everybody wins.
In some ways a coach who comes in from outside the CHL has a recruiting edge, 'cause players from other leagues can sign with him at will. So perhaps Cotton Kings fans will see someone like Martin Woods, who played for Tomlinson at both his other stops, or even better, the prolific Jim Duhart. Who knows, maybe there's a good deal to be made with Don McKee for Rutter.
But the guy I'd really like to get a look at, assuming that he even plays in "AA," is Lee Jelenic: a genuine Texas-bred hockey player. Ok, so it was only ages five to nine, but that's still better than Leetch.
And speaking of Flint, if Luch doesn't get picked by Colorado or the Bees, I figure he's already agreed to go back to the Generals, where Robbie Nichols is the coach again. After getting booted out of the Memphis front office, Nichols was desperate enough to go to El Paso -- albeit smart enough to leave quickly -- so he was lucky to land back at his old job. Or maybe he planned it that way.
NHL superfan Roger Farina has some good suggestions in his chat, though I don't know why he'd want a NY Rangers dispersal draft: it's more fun to watch them suffer.
And speaking of suffering, I can't say anything about the Flyers' goaltending situation better than The Philadelphia Inquirer's Bob Ford, who summed it up with wicked beauty: For those who missed the previous episodes of this little drama, here is what happened: Bernie Parent retired and a bunch of guys haven't done as well since. (Poor Hexy: his Conn Smythe has been totally erased by the memories of '95 and '97.)
Seems to me hockey in El Paso this season grows less likely every day. Curious to see how this plays out, and also whether it drags on past league meetings. At least the Bring Back Trent Eigner movement is under way.
Stormy speculates that Kurt Wickenheiser will coach in Birmingham for Taylor Hall and Kevin Simpson, which would at least suggest he didn't leave the ACHL Jacksonville franchise on bad terms with WHA2 bigwigs Peter Young and David Waronker.
Finally, let me throw in a plug for the BLOGWISE directory, which of course I found out about over at Tim Harvey's Rink Blog.