Thursday, July 31, 2003
And now, a dip into the mailbag...
Dude, do you talk about anything else than Hughes, Memphis and the bats? I know that's your team and all but get over it already. You are better writing about other teams. Thanks.
Ya think? I figure "my team" means I have more info and more informed opinions. And only one of them's "my team."
But I'm sure you're right. I should be talking about Rio Grande's signing of Jason Tessier (week-old news!). Or Oklahoma City's rookie senior leaguer. Or the Chris Richards-to-Odessa rumor.
Yup, each of these offseason stories is more important and compelling than the President Cup-winner's monthlong search for a successor to the best coach in CHL history, or the Governor's Cup-winner's muddled change behind the bench. Ho-hum.
And nope, I don't talk about anything else.
Those stats are not complete, as the veteran bench boss once coached in the NHL, and also won the Turner Cup as an assistant with the K.C. Blades. Between K.C., San Jose, the Thoroughblades and Cleveland, he was with the Sharks organization for 11 years (and coincidentally, was replaced in San Jose by his new CHL colleague Al Sims).
Here's official word from Memphis.
Already, a fan has criticized Wiley's coaching stats, which aren't mathematically spectacular.
But there's no denying Robin Costa and Kevin Ryan lived up to their stated goal -- one I was always skeptical of -- for a coach whose resume was on a par with Shedden's. Wiley may not have as many rings, and let's face it, he may not have been the Kings' first choice. But his juniors, NHL, IHL and AHL experience is downright overwhelming.
"It's a great thing for our league," says CHL manager of hockey operations Leon Friedrich. "He's a quality individual whose background and relationships bring a tremendous amount of credibility. Hockey people know Jim Wiley."
I think that long stint with the Sharks is a major point in Wiley's favor. Technically, he's never been fired, and while he's basically gone from IHL to NHL to AHL to ECHL to CHL, the first three moves were voluntary, while the last two were out of his control (the Sharks/Barons got sold; the Men 'O War were put to pasture).
And oh yeah, he's a former Tulsa Oilers all-star.
It's possible he will not coach at all, which certainly won't change my feelings on the Bats' decision.
But that's no reflection on Jeff Greenlaw, a character guy who's earned this opportunity. He's still a brand new boss in charge of former teammates, but as rookie coaches go, I expect him to be more like Trent Eigner or Scott Muscutt than Dale Henry or Brent Scott.
In the end, my distaste was not for the decision, but the way that it was made. Call me a sentimental fool, but if this had to happen, I'd still like to believe it could have in a way that found the best coach in Ice Bats history and his longtime player/assistant embracing the transition jointly.
Barring that, Hughes could have been acknowledged in the press release.
But oh well... at least the Governor's Cup (and banner) will remind fans of his existence.
Anyway, moving on... if you think the Austin and San Antonio people are up in arms about the new Aeros logo, check out the bile from Houston.
And leave it to good old Billy D. to be the CHL's most reliable source of national headlines four months later. What's really tragic is that the county's failure to give him a concessions contract may have steered him off the straight and narrow. Oh, the humanity!
Friday, July 25, 2003
And, here we go... Brent Hughes is talking to the RiverKings.
Not that this is a surprise. Regardless of what the Ice Bats thought they knew or felt they had to do, Hughes was not locked into anything when Jeff Greenlaw became coach. He needs a job.
As I've already said, IMO, Memphis hasn't made its pick 'cause no one's bowled them over. Robin Costa has set a standard -- get a guy like Sheds -- that no one can live up to, Hughes included (as the Memphis fans are well aware, he hasn't won a Cup).
But he's clearly the best guy on the market. His NHL experience, career record and first-hand knowledge of the league should trump any outside candidate. In a conference where five coaches (Muscutt, Inglis, Stewart, Sauter and Garber) have won championships and Indy looks to be the best returning team, a chance to get the guy with the best record in the CHL over the past two years is almost too good to be true.
Still, I wonder if it's a good idea on either side of the equation. If Hughes still wants to get to juniors or the AHL, where's that leave the Kings a year from now?
And what's he have to gain, besides the weekly paycheck? Sure, the chance to coach Don Parsons and the St. John's prospects is as plummy as it gets. But it's a no-win situation -- even if he wins.
Miss the playoffs -- which could easily happen, and could have under Sheds as well -- and Hughes does not improve his stock. A good postseason run without the Cup, and he still gets blasted by the fans (I can hear the conspiracy theories already -- though I think the Rangers faithful already used them all on Bryan Trottier). Deliver on the threepeat, and most will say he just inherited what Shedden built, with "ringers" from the Leafs.
The day before the Ice Bats called its press conference, Hughes told me, I haven't talked to Memphis at all. My loyalties are with the Ice Bats and my family is situated in Austin. There's no way I'd pick up to go to Memphis.
He had his mind changed for him.
Thursday, July 24, 2003
Ok, I know I cracked wise about the situation, but more power to the Lubbock Cotton Kings for getting what they needed from the city. Is there any way to import some of those council members to Austin or El Paso?
In other C-Kings news, three of Kirk Tomlinson's favorite former players are no longer available.
And let's welcome Adam Zuvanich to West Texas. Dude, you're missing out on "As the Ice Bats Turn."
Speaking of, on the Austin home page you'll find lots of news: a baby for Gerald Tallaire, a wedding for Shawn Legault and great progress for Doug Johnson.
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Right on time... head over to the CHL web site for the schedule. There's a PDF file for the whole league as well as every team.
Or better yet, take advantage of the MS Word files provided by this very site: here's the composite, and here's the team-by-team.
Make that, no home three-in-threes for Austin.
Jason Tessier to Rio Grande Valley -- unless of course, that was never him posting this whole time.
Stay tuned for the schedule. We already know about Rayz at Bees on Halloween, as well as New Mexico at Corpus October 16.
Some tidbits on the Bats: no three-in-three weekends for the first time in team history, and still no trip to Wichita (which bums me out), nor to Colorado (ditto).
Saturday, July 19, 2003
As I was saying about Leon Stickle.
Seriously people. The officials in the CHL are no more flawed than the coaches and the players. This is a low level of pro hockey -- where are these imaginary superior refs supposed to come from?
As it is, such fan favorites as Dan Boyd and Gord Dwyer get called up to the AHL more than the players -- but I'm sure the people who run that league don't know what they're doing either.
The point is, refs are refs. People have the same gripes about biases, blown calls and inconsistencies whether it's high school hockey or the Stanley friggin' Cup.
Come to think of it, wasn't Don Parsons' hit on Pat Brownlee the CHL equivalent of the Scott Stevens/Paul Kariya bell-ring? Penalty? Depends who you ask. New Jersey had a 100% inarguably good goal go uncounted against Ottawa, that's way worse than any break Laredo didn't get against the Bats. Shoot, even Fred L'Ecuyer's controversial Austin-New Mexico game was no more or less consistent than the NHL's definition of goalie interference.
Ok, I'm gonna say Ducks over Avs in the Western Conference semi-finals, though I reserve the right to change my pick after Lacroix deals for a goalie.
A little note on Jamie Thompson, the former El Paso Buzzards star and San Angelo Saints bust (if only due to health problems). Good luck to him. Who knows, maybe he'll play for an Eigner-coached El Paso team next season.
Friday, July 18, 2003
If you're wondering where my thoughts are on the brand new Ice Bats coach, you'll have to wait a while longer. I wasn't at the press conference, and my head's still spinning from the overflow of information. Plus I have obligations to the Statesman.
So onto other things.
Can anybody get me some of what Garry Unger's taking?
My favorite parts of the interview:
I thought we had the best defense in the league. We had the best goaltending in the league. Y'know, except for Austin, Indy and, when it really mattered, Memphis.
And, regarding Corpus Christi:
Last year, about half way through the season, a group came in and bought the team out and Taylor was deciding whether he wanted to stay or go do his own thing. Oh, is that what happened?
The other great quote of the day comes from the brand new Colorado Eagle.
My son asked me, 'Daddy, where are you playing hockey next year?' I told them, 'With Colorado.' And he said, 'But the Avs don't want you', former Hershey Bear Brent Thompson says.
Anyway, nice pick-up for the "Iggles" (as we say in Philly), and about darn time: he's been there for a month.
I'm sorry to say this, but I may have to stop the blog -- I'm not making any money off this thing, so I've decided to ask the CHL Underground for my fair share of concessions.
Nice to see Regan Harper suiting up again.
Congratulations to the NHL's new supervisor of officials, Leon Stickle. Geez, guess somebody forget to tell the NHL that every referee who works for him is poorly trained, improperly evaluated and generally useless.
No, really, I'm sure various CHL fans in various cities know more about what makes a good ref than Andy Von Hellemond does.
Sarcasm aside, I look forward to Ed Snider complaining about Leon in oh.... let's say the first week of May.
Nothing like having your own newspaper column to advertise employability. Amarillo still has a good shot at Paxton Schulte, although -- paging Jeff Greenlaw -- it sounds like he'd listen to any big time offer.
The Farm Report wonders if David Lohrei is a candidate in Memphis, but what I'm thinking is, Reading is a good job for Brent Hughes if nothing else pans out. Of course, so's Memphis. I'm also thinking Lohrei's predecessor should permit himself a little Schadenfreudey smile.
It's still a ways away, but here's the perfect thing for hockey fans to wear March 17th: the puck o' luck.
And finally, good news: Chris has just agreed to give me 100% of beer sales!
Oh yeah... expect the schedule next week -- maybe Wednesday, maybe Friday.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
It was a day for news -- and if you want some on the Austin Ice Bats, try here.
The Cotton Kings re-signed Brusseau and Dewar.
Steve Harrison re-surfaced in the ECHL, where the Texas Wildcatters made a splash by signing Kevin Hodson. And Gord Dineen didn't get the Dayton job.
Also, the Portland Winterhawks have acquired Robin Big Snake. Which has nothing to do with nothing, but I'm sooooooo buying a jersey.
Mike Gorman was no doubt watching closely as Edmonton's man in Hamilton, Geoff Ward, made his expected move to the Toronto Roadrunners. Doesn't that stint in Arkansas look funny on Ward's resume?
Chain of coincidence -- in Hamilton, Ward replaced Claude Julien, who replaced Michel Therrien in Montreal. Now Therrien has landed with the (Wilkes-Barre Scranton) Pens.
A colorful day for the new kid on the block : Bobby Hull sure talks a good game re: the WHA.
And finally, the older, more established ACHL goes for novelty and innovation: two-line passes, extra four-on-four, a bigger goal crease and three-on-three OT (some of which they had before).
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Never mind the RiverKings... if I were a betting man I'd say the Austin Ice Bats have themselves a brand new coach.
Monday, July 14, 2003
The defending champs have re-signed their second most important forward.
Confirmation re: Dan Price (with quotes from Kelly Perrault -- never has a player been less happy to be an Ice Bat than that guy was when the Aeros lent him out for three games in '97).
Actually, I'd say it is pretty darn inconceivable that Don Parsons, Blaz Emersic or Chris Richards will end up in an Odessa sweater. I think we're talking a simple misunderstanding of what a CHL "free agent" is, rather than inside info on a blockbuster trade.
Similarly, dunlop's speculation on Dave Macintyre feels more like wishful thinking.
He is rumored to be re-signing with the Kings. That doesn't mean he can't be traded, but the only scenario in which the Bats could get a guy like that without giving up too much is if he pretty much insists on leaving Lubbock (a la Cosmo DuPaul).
Certainly, MacIntyre is the kind of forward Austin needs, someone who can help replace both Price's goals and Greenlaw's grit. He was also the player Hughes wanted most when the Stampede first went under (darn dispersal draft!).
Lubbock should be interesting to watch in any case -- once Kirk Tomlinson figures out who he does and doesn't want, he'll presumably place a few phone calls to Egeland and McDonald.
Or maybe he'll make the Midland paper look good by trading Emersic to Odessa (though wouldn't he want his former Colorado/Flint player in return?).
Saturday, July 12, 2003
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.
That's something I wrote two weeks ago.
Right league, wrong city, too much made of Pricer's ties to Austin -- while there's no official confirmation, he is supposedly headed to Fort Wayne.
Price was the 2000 WPHL Rookie of the Year, the 2002 CHL scoring champion and perhaps the most gifted wing in Ice Bats history. Great player, great guy, and you certainly can't blame him for taking a great offer from the defending UHL champion.
But Bats fans shouldn't panic either. I personally believe the current group of Austin forwards has gone about as far as they can go, which, as we all know, was not quite far enough. A little change is good.
Price was not as dominant or physical this past campaign, and there are things about his game (cherry-picking, unplanned double-shifts) that are easily excused when accompanied by 47 goals, less so when it's 27.
More to the point, with seven vets available from last year's squad, two good ones have to leave no matter what.
I think we can still expect Kelly Smart and Mike Rees to be among the first ones back. And Price's departure could clear the way for Gerald Tallaire, not only in terms of the veteran roster spot, but an opportunity to be the go-to guy.
Of course, if one wanted to make a little more of this, you could point out that Brent Hughes was famously loyal to Price, and vice-versa. Does this suggest that Hughes may yet move on?
Instead, we learn from Darren Hunt of the El Paso Times that the Buzzards may yet move out of the defunct teams forum.
An ownership group led by Conrad Thomas is seeking local investors for a last-minute bid to play this year. Which, with all due respect to Brian Kennedy and the wonderful fans of El Paso, seems like a terrible idea.
First of all, at this point you'd be screwing with the scheduling and ticket sales of 17 other teams.
Second of all, gearing up to play this late with no coach and no returning players can't be good for the product on the ice.
Third of all, if this group doesn't already have enough money to buy the club and then some, they probably don't have enough to do what it takes to revive hockey in El Paso.
Face it, if it was such a good idea the investors -- including other parties which supposedly have interest, and one which did but changed their mind -- would already be on board.
This isn't about the 500 or a thousand fans who love their Buzzards hockey -- it's about everybody else. A year off and a fresh start can only help to win those people back.
Drop the puck this year, and you're looking at a season like the Saints had, on the ice and at the gate.
So expect the schedule within a week or two.
Good piece by John Erfort on Mike Gorman's departure from Odessa. Four AHL cities within driving distance of Flint -- fair enough. Given that he's only 23, the book is certainly not closed on Gorman's chances at that level.
He's no Hatcher, but with the signing of Don Sweeney, at least Chris Perry has a reason to pay attention to the Stars.
Meanwhile, the Bruins made another ex-defenseman, Norm MacIver, their assistant coach. That means Brent Hughes still has to compete with interim head man Scott Gordon for the Providence AHL job.
No wonder the Baton Rouge Kingfish are kaput: they had Brian Leetch, Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuck right in their backyard, and didn't take advantage!
Apparently Doug Johnson remained in intensive care as of yesterday, though he's doing as well as could be expected. You'll find another address (the hospital itself) and more news from the Johnson family at that link, which is to an old Ice Pirates board (thanks Tara).
Friday, July 11, 2003
First the Buzzards, now the Strelz.
As the Memphis coaching search continues, Todd Vinyard of the CA has ruled out Paul Gillis.
Hey, on the latest "Escape from CHL Island poll," does anyone know who this "name removed" person is?
Thursday, July 10, 2003
Tony Martino's status is still up in the air.
At this point, he is merely a candidate for the Orlando job, though given his (understandable) eagerness to leave the Ice Bears, I suspect he'll wind up coaching in the WHA2 whether it's the Seals or not.
Bet he sent a resume to Robin Costa too.
Strange as that may sound, it wouldn't be an awful fit. He's been around this league forever. He's taken two clubs to the finals (New Mexico 2000, Knoxville 2003). He's a proven recruiter whose teams play tough, up-tempo hockey(sometimes to a fault). And like Sheds, he's colorful, caustic and once got into cap trouble.
Of course, he'd have a hard time telling Racine not to fight. "Just trying to be like you, Coach," the kid could say.
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Ryan Anderson, say hello to your new coach, Tony Martino. Minor league hockey sure is a funny business.
Lots of news in Houston -- no sooner were the Aeros sold then Dave Barr moved on to the OHL. But Holmquist has re-signed.
And finally, everyone should have a good thought for Ice Bats defenseman Doug Johnson, who was injured yesterday in a fire/explosion at his family's ranch in Saskatchewan. While badly burned, he was to be moved out of intensive care today.
Cards and well-wishes can be sent to:
Friday, July 04, 2003
Thursday, July 03, 2003
And it's a sad day for the Stars-- their captain's going home
Heh... suddenly, Glen Sather sounds a lot like Bobby Clarke, and Larry Brooks sounds a lot like any Philly hockey writer.
Catching up on Shedden stuff: TMLfans.ca had the best (and only?) write-up of the formal press conference, while the St. John's Telegram just checked in with another feature. But where does the new coach stand on the Bay Bulls Road Tim Horton's issue?
Meanwhile, the Commercial Appeal caught up with coaching candidate Gord Dineen, while the RiverKings press release suggests they aren't exactly down to three or four finalists, and talk of a decision by the end of next week (i.e., today) is not an issue (not that it should be).
Hey, BB, was sending a Longhorns beat writer to the press conference good enough for ya?
Wednesday, July 02, 2003
No surprise here: the Ice Bats sale is newsworthy in Dallas... If you missed it, the Statesman teased the press conference this morning.
And yeah, it's fair to wonder if this could lead to something with the Panthers... or the Stars of course.
Nice signing for the 'Rillas, as Derrell Upton is the first ex-Buzzard to land with a new team.
And speaking of Amarillo, check out George Wyatt's archive of terrific CHL photos, which has tons of pics and a brand new search function.
Obviously, this is no surprise. Official confirmation from the Generals will surely follow.
I am not in Austin, so no word from the press conference, but you'll find lots of details about Norm Green and the new owners in Glen Norman's press release.
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
It didn't exactly get the same attention as Kariya, Fedorov or Hatcher, but the Carolina Hurricanes have let go Nikos Tselios.
Tselios, who retained the traditional Greek spelling of his well-known hockey surname, made $660,000 last year, but never really got above the AHL.
One assumes he'll remain at that level for a lot less money, but wouldn't it be cool if he could join his relative in Bossier?
Instead, he's joining brother-in-law Jeff Croop in Richmond.
Croop is also connected to former RiverKings defenseman Don Martin, going back to their Mohawk Valley/Utica days. If Martin ends up with the UHL expansion team in some capacity, expect him to pay close attention to whatever changes the new coach will make in Memphis.
Anyways, there's no reason for Indy fans to fret over St. Jacques, as CHL Coach of the Year Ken McRae promptly snagged another big-time player who once skated for the IHL edition.
Mario Doyon, a former Quebec Nordiques teammate of McRae's, ups the ante on an already-striking blue line corps.
Maybe so, though Flint coach Robbie Nichols just told me if the Jackalopes' star netminder was in fact a General, he sure would like to know!
Still, Nichols acknowledged he has been in touch with Gorman's agent, and that his club hopes to be involved with the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Toronto Roadrunners or maybe both.
If the rumor pans out, Odessa will get blasted by the fans. It seems downright unfair that a player who first went to Hamilton as a Jack could just be plucked away.
But if an NHL or AHL club is gonna give Gorman a shot (as well as a big chunk of his paycheck), they also get to tell him where to play.
And when you're talking about Edmonton or Montreal, two cash-strapped Canadian NHL organizations, proximity and travel costs are reason enough to put him in the "U."
Oh, and naturally, while I had Nichols on the phone I asked if he had ever spoke to Luch Nasato. "A few times," he said. "I like Luch... but that's about as far as our talks have gone. We'd like to have him back, but we're not rich here in Flint. He needs to do what's best for him."