Saturday, January 31, 2004
This just in: the New Mexico Scorpions have traded their booster club president to the Ice Bats for... well, me I guess, since I'm temporarily set up in ABQ.
Not there tonight however, which is surely just as well -- I wouldn't know who to root for between the Ice Holes and the Media Jackals.
Last one for the night (see, this is why I wait and post big blog entries with days of silence in between, instead of jumping on stuff) -- look for Conschafter to land in another league. The Bats didn't have to let him go, so it's a nice thing that they did.
Can't really blame him. He wasn't playing, and knew Brady might return. The Bats could have just suspended him, so I guess the feelings aren't too hard.
Friday, January 30, 2004
Meanwhile, Shawn Conschafter got gassed.
It's truly puzzling -- the guy was good in Memphis, then he comes to Austin, never finds a groove, and hadn't played for nine straight games. Zero wins, 153 minutes: the Ice Bats didn't get much more out of him than they did from Randy Hevey.
But hey, Kris Waltze doesn't play for Memphis either, so the whole thing is a wash.
More importantly, unless there's something completely unexpected going on, this move signals the return of Peter Brady. Which makes me wonder, will the rehabilitated goalie take a pay cut, to thank the team for keeping him in town and off of season-ending IR? If not, there could be further adjustments to the Austin roster (or at least somebody's paycheck), as Forest and Brady together means a higher cap number than any other goalie combination (Brady and Haun, Forest and Hevey, Forest and Conschafter) Austin had.
And then what? Do you need to see exactly what kind of shape Brady's knee is in, to say nothing of his head? We don't even know for sure if the guy who won three games in October would have played that way all year, so there's certainly no way to know if he could outplay Forest after four months off. That's what being Wally Pipped is all about.
If you think Brady can be the difference in a playoff race, you go for broke. Otherwise, you work him in slowly, playing Forest three out of every four. That breaks down to 16 starts for Forest and five for Brady, which, not coincidentally, would preserve the latter's so-called "rookie" status.
And yep, just like the Scorps pictured it: Ambro and Ollie keep it going without Richards, plus a goal and an assist for the two "aults."
Indy's got nothing to be proud of tonight either, but does anyone really think Memphis is a playoff team? Do the Memphis players? I know the fans are skeptical.
And I'll be damned: here come the Jackalopes.
Now... about those Laredo salary cap "investigation" rumors. How stupid can you people be? (and that includes the indignant Laredo fans who don't even know how to defend their own team).
Now, I grant you, as with Colorado, there might be something "interesting" about the Bucks' affiliation. Hell, for all I know Chris Grenville drives an Escalade that's registered in Kiki DeAyala's name.
But a common-sense look at Laredo's roster provides almost overwhelming evidence that the Bucks don't need to cheat.
Rookies: Gabriel Proulx, J.F. David, James Hiebert, Bobby Chad Mitchell, Steve Simoes, David Guerrera, Mike Amodeo
Two-way contracts: Patrik Nilson, Brent Cullaton, Max Birbraer, Mike Amodeo, Jason Spence
Player/assistants: Chris Grenville, Mark Matier
You don't think that leaves enough cap room for Bes, Vellinga, Dube, Emond, Weidlich and Hyman, as well as to pay certain rookies more than minimum?
What's more, when you look at most of these guys' stats, whether in major junior or minor pro, they don't cry out "huge salary." Some of them were good players, some of them were great players and some them were neither. Point is, this is not an entire team of Bes and Cullatons (or Pankewicz and Toblers, or Claytons and Dudas, or Parsons and Landmessers), and the seven rookies (seven!) were not surefire studs.
Hell, Bes only had 63 points in 62 games last year, and Cullaton just 62 in 72. Which means either the ECHL really is that much better than the CHL or this Ruskowski guy can coach a little bit.
The 2003 U.S. curling championships attracted a 1.4 rating on NBC last March. By comparison, the rating for ABC's first NHL telecast this season was 1.2.
I didn't even know there was a televised U.S. curling championship!
Bats fans, check out Chris Richards' shootout numbers.
Thursday, January 29, 2004
Apologies for my ridiculous prediction -- I forgot, the Rayz lost their last three games because they were playing good teams. Tonight, they had the privilege of hosting a club that's now 6-12-5 against its own division and 5-12-3 away.
Of course, the Rayz are even worse (4-16-1) when not at home, so let's hear it for the Killer Bees -- you're supposed to go .500 on the road to make the playoffs, and much like the Scorps last year, RGV is the only one of the weak-sister contenders that has a chance to do that.
I like the Ice Bats' chances in the Corpus home-and-home, however. As bad as the Bats' last three games were, the Rayz had it even worse (outscored 16-5), and Austin ought to get a post-trade bump.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Chad Woollard: first AHL goal.
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
A bit of catching up, while hoping all the traded players paid their bar tab:
Who says Cruickshank doesn't call anything?
Malcolm Cameron on Friday's loss to Rio Grande: "It was the worst effort I've seen in the last two years". So where did Saturday rank?
Props to Odessa -- any time the Bucks lose is man-bites-dog for sure.
Another "ZR" style road-trip story, this time from San Angelo.
By the way, who do you suppose is more overlooked around the CHL -- the Saints, or Guerrera and Emond?
News to Philippe Boucher, I'm quite certain.
Good quote from Craig McTavish in the Dallas Morning News regarding visors:
What would I know? I'm the authority on stupidity. What would I have done with a visor? Bolt it to my forehead?
And when I saw the score of the Rangers-Sens game, I knew Sunday would be a good day to read Larry Brooks
Manny Matsakis remind you of anybody?
Don't know why the San Antonio hockey fans call Claude Scott Crazy Claude. He's Claude the Happy Trumpeter, and he's been around a long time -- as long as Derek Booth. Actually, longer.
I know we Austin hockey fans are supposed to look down on Arena Football, but I just watched five solid minutes of Dallas Desperados coverage on Fox Sports Southwest (right after the Stars game). There's also a full-page ad in Sports Illustrated. Plus, Elway and Bon Jovi. We're talking a whole other level of bush-league sport here.
The arena plot thickens in New Mexico.
And finally, check out George Wyatt's All-Star Game pics.
Monday, January 26, 2004
My "ault" my -- the Ice Bats pull the trigger big time, sending Shawn Legault and Daniel Tetrault to New Mexico for Chris Richard, Arturs Kupaks and the rights to Josh Tymchak. Releases on the way.
Saturday, January 24, 2004
Friday, January 23, 2004
Was it the all-star break? The trade? Having something to prove after a DUI? Odessa starts the second season well, beating a Fort Worth team that's 10-5-3 since Sims took over.
No lead is safe against the Eagles... but it definitely seems like the style favored by Muscutt or maybe Ken McRae has the best chance of giving Colorado trouble in the playoffs. Uncharacteristic of Bach to give up three straight shootout tallies, but how 'bout that Jeff Blair? Incredible to think he did so little for the Jacks, or that Forest, Haun and Hevey were ever in the mix for Bossier.
I joked to someone last night that given Austin's Jekyll/Hyde tendencies, they'd play great against Laredo and then drop the more important game against the Bees. Which means tonight's loss is a good thing, right? How 'bout this statistic: the Bucks have more power-play goals than any two of the other Southeast teams combined.
Not a pretty 20 minutes for the Rayz, who blew a huge chance to gain ground on both the clubs they're chasing. Mathematically, Corpus could still move past the Bats by winning on the 29th and 30th, but they'd have to beat the Saints and Bucks to even think about it (and the Bats would have to come up zeroes for the weekend).
You can't say fans in New Mexico didn't get two full nights of entertainment.
And alas, by the time I interviewed the Bossier boys, fought with my modem for thirty minutes and filed a story, many players were long gone, even from the post-game shindig.
Thus, not much to report. Parsons was amazing as usual (his jersey went for $240, another total bargain). Jason Baird is the best player not enough people know about -- he blew my mind when I was in Indy a couple of weeks ago and did more of the same as MVP last night. Having received the break that Riley Nelson didn't, Patrik Nilson shined. Scott Reid's glove hand was on fire. Nathan Grobins poke-checked a breakaway when the score was 9-7 that probably destroyed the South's best chance to rise again.
Also lots of trade talk, with the home team already sending Alcombrack and Gorewich to Odessa for Pat Stachniak.
More intriguing: the names of a few Ice Bats who many would presume untouchable are in the air.
And while there was no doubt in my mind that if Laredo loses Cullaton for good, Roscoe could trade for another vet no problem, word is he already has a guy lined up outside the league.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
For posterity, here's the story on the two Lubbock trades.
See y'all in Albuquerque -- if I can't blog from the game I'll have something up in the morning (as well as something in the Shreveport Times).
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Wichita Assistant GM Joel Lomurno seems to be confirming the Thunder's trade with Lubbock, said to be Todd and Strome for Blaznek.
The rumor first popped up the day Brusseau got gassed -- the goaltender and Blaznek are old friends from Michigan. It was supposedly on-again, off-again, but I guess the whole point of the exercise was to keep Blaznek from being the CHL's version of Sandis Ozolinsh.
So who's paying the airline change fee from San Angelo (where the Kings play Friday) to Wichita?
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Geez, what's wrong with Laredo -- couldn't force Lubbock to take a single penalty.
Saturday, January 17, 2004
You can't expect a guy to score twice in the same shootout, right? Neverthless, a good road point for the Oilers.
Still some work to do in Corpus, though apparently they played well.
Here's a fun contrast:
Kip Brennan, 10-game suspension: $24,444.
Jeremy Roenick, one-game suspension: $91,000.
Also, it's kind of ironic that any time the league suspends someone the money goes into the player's emergency fund.
Friday, January 16, 2004
And Jonathan DuBois returns.
Brent Cullaton is the first Laredo player to score an AHL goal this season. I was gonna say "first CHL player," but then I remembered Gagnon.
And I think Colorado's call-ups are a good thing for the Eagles' mental toughness. You don't want to play short forever, but doing without key offensive players toughens up team D.
Case in point: it can't be a coincidence that Bach is coming on (though my friends in the U.K. tell me he was always better in the second half). If all-star picks were made today he'd have a shot at edging Grobins.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
Ok, I lied about catching up, but what can I say... been busy selling Grit. 5000 points, I get a mountain bike. 10,000 points, Dave MacIntyre.
Say hello to Malcolm Cameron, and get ready for some surprising Corpus roster moves.
Meanwhile, Butch Kaebel sheds the "interim".
Fascinatingly blunt article by Darryl Reaugh on what he thinks about the Stars. Go ahead and sub "Bats" or "Jacks" or "Blazers" to suit your own preferences.
Also interesting to see the Stars' latest adjustment to the soft market and pending labor troubles.
And finally, here's the line-up for the All-Star Game Skills Competition (subject to change, of course)
Chad Spurr/Brent Cullaton
Jason Bermingham/Bill Newson
Mike Oliveira/Scott Hillman
North: Tyler Fleck, Scott Williamson, Derek Landmesser
South: Mike Tilson, Mark DeSantis, Chris Grenville
South: Joe Blaznek, Chris Minard, Jeff Bes
North: Don Parsons, Chad Woollard, Chris Richards
Bernie John and Ryan Tobler vs. Scott Reid
Derek Hahn and Gerald Tallaire vs. Nathan Grobins
Greg Pankewicz and Jason Baird vs. Shawn DeGagne
Sergei Dube and Sebastien Thinel vs. Ken Carroll
Nathan Grobins vs. Daniel Tetrault, Scott Hillman, Gerald Tallaire, Derek Booth and Bill Newson
Scott Reid vs. Chad Spurr, Greg Pankewicz, Jason Bermingham, Ryan Tobler and Mike Oliveira
Ken Carroll vs. Derek Hahn, Sebastien Thinel, Chris Minard, Jeff Bes and Chris Grenville
Shawn DeGagne vs. Don Parsons, Hardy Sauter, Craig Minard, Chad Woollard and Chris Richards
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
I'm about to disappear until the All-Star Game, but I plan to get caught up on the past few days' events before that.
For the moment, I recommend going through New York Times registration to read this article on Hockey dentistry.
Monday, January 12, 2004
Big surprise: Cameron goes to Corpus, though if you read the article, the most interesting thing is that he's only in it for the season (at least for now), which leaves a window cracked for Hughes.
Though not, presumably, if Cameron and four players from this list get the Rayz back over .500 and into second place, which I'm afraid (speaking as a Bats person) is all too possible.
Check out Sonya Ewan's latest Inside Edge piece, an entertaining look at various issues, rituals and personalities related to the hockey fight.
And if you're looking for a copy of Soft Ice, the recently aired documentary about the Fort Worth Brahmas, e-mail director Brent Stanley for purchase information. Hopefully more PBS stations in CHL viewing areas will get to show it down the line -- wouldn't hurt to contact your local affiliate and tell 'em that you'd like to see it.
Sunday, January 11, 2004
Clarification: Doug Frank is still in Indy, where the Scorps face the Ice again today. Still, just a 175 mile drive. Hey Ice fans -- find out who Frank is sitting with today!
And yes, Tulsa has been courting Cameron longer. If the guy hadn't refused to pull a Todd Lalonde, he might have been there weeks ago. But my opinion hasn't changed.
I'm not even in Austin for the Bees game today, but man, Laredo-Bossier is the one I'd like to see.
Otherwise known as ..."A Tale of Two Broadcasts."
In Tulsa, Corey MacIntyre apparently said he's waiting to hear from a prospective coach who would be bringing four or five players with him.
Meanwhile, in Corpus Christi, Stormy reports that Rayz owner Doug Frank, originally due to be in Indy today for the Scorps-Ice contest, went to Ohio. That's recruiting!
Saturday, January 10, 2004
Here comes Rick Nichol: six games for J.F. Racine, a repeat offender who high-sticked Leiter in the head, then used his blocker to whack him there again.
Leiter got two games for retaliating, also to the head.
Moral of the story: don't hit people in the head.
In other transactions, Lubbock fans must be excited about Joey Grasso.
And it's not on the "Caller-Times" web site, but Greg Rajan has confirmed the Rayz' interest in Malcolm Cameron.
Sorry Tulsa fans, but I know which job I'd take. The Corpus gig comes with a personal recommendation from Bill McDonald, a sleeper bus, a new arena next year and a much better chance of making the playoffs out of the weaker South, especially. if Malcolm brings some players with him.
Plus it wouldn't suck for W.D. Sports -- and would be perfectly legal -- if Cameron told a few other former Stars, "oh yeah, New Mexico's a terrific place to play!"
Which means it's decision time for Hughes
Friday, January 09, 2004
I know a lot of guys on that team (Odessa), and a lot of them have quit already. The guys up front are whining about the guys in the back, and the guys in the back are whining about the guys up front. We've beat them with a lot of goals in the past, so we know they'll fold right away if they get down early.
The guy certainly has leverage -- not only does Cameron's new employer get a coach who had a first place team this season and made the ECHL finals last year, but many of his now-free agent players already followed him from Cincy to Columbus, and could follow him again.
For example, Egeland told me before training camp that he wanted a team with lots of 20 goal-scorers but no stars, whereas Greenlaw said he thought St. Louis and Lardner could score 30 along with Smart and Tally, and that Seguin was set to return to 90 point form.
The Bees have met mid-season expectations by being essentially tied with the defending conference champion. The Bats have not by being essentially tied with an offensively-challenged expansion team.
Oh, and you can be sure they are chuckling just a bit in Phoenix, as Stars owner Joe Milano previously owned the Waco Wizards and the Tucson Scorch.
Brad Mueller: best goalie in the league.
Thursday, January 08, 2004
And it's still not over!
"We had a real nice conversation," Doug Frank told the "Caller-Times." "Nothing's done one way or another."
With things apparently coming to a head, I spoke to Hughes today.
It's not a matter of me not wanting to go there, I'm just deciding what's best for my family right now, he said. [Frank] really wants me to come down and get started and feel the team out for next year. He's been more than good to me -- he's definitely someone I would like to work for.
Now, I'd always thought Hughes might come down to Corpus for just the next two months -- maybe even live in the Omni and leave the kids in school up north -- then see what the future held as far as AHL or major juniors before committing to another year. But now it sounds like maybe if he does this, it will be for keeps, which makes the long deliberation understandable.
Of course, it's also plausible he needn't come at all --- Dunn could stay behind the bench, and the job could still belong to Hughes come May.
I'm kind of laying my options out. I've been home here with my family and I'm looking to get into something for sure, but I don't know if now's the time or not. Am I gonna come down for 10 weeks, see what happens and leave my options open, or wait until the end of the year and leave every option open? I'm 50—50 right now. I could be on a plane Saturday or Sunday, you never know.
Back to that "Jeopardy" theme!
Still, it's a road win, and finally gets the Bats over .500 against another Southeast club.
The CHL's only comment: "he became involved in an incident off of the ice surface" in the game against Amarillo January 3.
I know there were some details about the fracas in Sunday's Globe-News, but the story is not online, and today's Coloradoan doesn't mention Arnold's absence.
North: Bernie John, with "A"'s to Don Parsons and Hardy Sauter
South: Brent Cullaton, with "A"'s to Mark DeSantis and Scott Hillman.
Ya know what, Colorado (and Laredo) are so loaded they could put together a squad to take on the all-stars from the 15 other teams. But that's not the way it works. Nelson is a big omission, but he's hardly the only one.
And how many times are we gonna hear the coaches bitching about not highlighting a youngster? If it's so important, give Nelson Pankewicz's spot.
Actually, what I really wish is we could extend the season one more week and have a proper all-star weekend, one that out-of-towners could actually travel to, with the skills competition and a rookie game on Friday, then the real thing on Saturday. But for the other 16 owners, that would be pissing away an extra ten to twenty grand or more, so don't hold your breath.
Anyway, if Nelson, Tobler and Pankewicz hadn't put up all of two goals and one assist combined from December 12 to December 17th, they'd all be eating chile verde -- because their coach would have had the power to put them on the team. No doubt he would have taken Thompson too (instead of Craig Minard).
Other Colorado news: towards the end of the Av-Journal's article about MacIntyre and Blaznek, Stewart mentions that Tobler might get a look from Lowell of the AHL.
Hi George. Welcome back.
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
There are still several ways to see the World Junior (not, as former Ice Bat Jeff Kungle brought to my attention, JuniorS) gold medal game.
Good reading on the recent Spurr suspension.
So yeah, I said otherwise based on buzz in Indy while the Rayz were there, but the book is not yet closed on Hughes. Hey, if he takes the job there's an 8:25am flight from Vancouver that would get him to Austin 71 minutes before Friday's game!
Oh yeah, and I second Greg's thumbs up to the Steak and Shake -- a must on any Memphis or Indy road trip. Just another thing Austin doesn't have, along with Waffle House.
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
The all-star game should show some of the top-end talent, but there should also be some rookies, says Derek Laxdal.
I agree, the lack of youngsters in New Mexico is a bit of a surprise, but then again, who is the game for, a half a dozen scouts, or 8000 fans who want to see the best and best-known players?
Plus, if you're gonna make that argument, shouldn't 21 year-old Sean Connors be there instead of thirtysomething Nathan Grobins?
Those are three-time all-star Daniel Tetrault's numbers if you take away six games in October.
Hey, I was a bit surprised myelf, but bottom line, he's the fifth highest-scoring defenseman in the conference, tied with Booth (who's going), and Butler (who is not). The only other options (speaking with the benefit of hindsight, natch) were a second Bucks defenseman or RGV's Mike Rees.
Rees has been incredibly important to his team, but the Bees captain has just one point in the last 14 games (five of them sat out with injury) after putting up 12 in the first 18.
And you can't tell me Dave McIntyre hasn't been the Cotton Kings best player, but he's dropped out of league's top 25 goal-scorers. Blaznek simply has more points (and more finesse, presumably).
And good for Scott Reid!
There must be three deserving Northern players for every one down South. Glad to see Jason Baird on the roster, as he dazzled me in Indy Friday. Cool to see someone like Fleck get there as well.
Monday, January 05, 2004
NHL Center Ice subscribers: catch the USA-Canada World Juniors Gold Medal Game at 11am Central time. Someone tape it for me, eh?
Sunday, January 04, 2004
Nice slam at the Stars from John Buccigross:
This team has the enthusiasm of a Wilson Phillips concert. First Hull, then Hitchcock, and then Hatcher. This organization is underrated in how many inept decisions they have made. They are becoming the New York Rangers West.
Saturday, January 03, 2004
Corpus-Indy: That bus ride back to Corpus can't be over soon enough.
Odessa-Lubbock: Kings break a seven-game losing streak, beat Jacks for the first time in six tries.
Tulsa-Memphis: Coach Richards is doing better than Coach Kaebel, though the RiverKings still have as many or more regulation losses as eight teams with lower winning percentages.
Colorado-Amarillo: You haven't officially joined the CHL until you've gone a few weeks with 14 players.
Austin-Rio Grande Valley: Can't the Bats play all their games at home?
Fort Worth-Bossier-Shreveport: The Brahmas are as hot as any team, though they coughed up a point to the hottest one tonight.
San Angelo-Laredo Still trying to decide if the Saints are that much better than the five Southern teams whose city names don't end with "o." Seems to be shaping up that way.
Oklahoma City-New Mexico: The Scorps, creeping up on the fourth playoff spot, have played 16 games against the Southern conference, but just one each against the four Northeast clubs.
And a happy night for all the grumpy Thunder fans!
To wit -- it's no secret the Bats have an extra d-man, and it's not hard to figure out which two guys are candidates to move. Greenlaw is offering up one or the other of them to opposing coaches, something that would likely work out to a fifth or sixth defenseman for third-line forward swap.
Which is all well and good and necessary, but is there any chance of thinking bigger? A year ago, McArthur was an all-star. Two years ago, Daniel Tetrault was. Neither are near that level at the moment. They're still good players who could yet be important to Austin's playoff run, but there's no guarantee.
So what if one of them gets you Odessa's John Bossio, a former 40-goal man who is said to be available and had lots of jump against the Bats on Tuesday? Or consider this: Wichita and Tulsa both have fewer standings points than the Bats, yet both the Thunder and the Oilers have four forwards with double-figure goals. The Bats have one. A top defenseman for a top four forward? Value for value, and need for need.
I know it's really, really hard to match up salaries and vet status and immigration to make big trades in this league. But Greenlaw has already moved three of the six new players he brought in, and a fourth is on the bubble. More games like last night and he'll have to look at the established guys.
A little Ice Bats all-star note by me:
No Ice Bats were named as Southern Conference starters for the CHL All-Star Game on Jan. 22 in New Mexico, but Austin's Gerald Tallaire may well make the trip. Tallaire leads the Bats in scoring with eight goals and 22 assists, and he could be named an All-Star reserve when Laredo Coach Terry Ruskowski fills out his team Tuesday.
"He's the one guy that's standing out," Greenlaw said. "You need a representative from every team, and right now I really don't think anybody deserves to go except Tallaire or (goalie Jonathan) Forest."
Forest's case is hindered by the fact that he didn't join the Bats until Nov. 14, 11 games into the season. Nevertheless, he has a better goals-against average than San Angelo's Scott Reid and a better save percentage than Rio Grande Valley's Jeff Levy, two players Ruskowski will likely consider along with his own netminders.
To Tallaire's name you can apparently add Mike Tilson.
And speaking of the Rayz, it appears the Brent Hughes watch is coming to a close, without the former Ice Bats coach returning to the CHL. Awaiting official word on that.
CHL coaches: have you hugged your beat writer today?
Thursday, January 01, 2004
But worry not, Colorado fans -- it's not a given he'll be gone for long. Not because he hasn't earned it or his two-way contract isn't legit, but because these things are generally short-term.
The task for Nelson is to show the Rampage more than Augusta's Scott Kelman (or Laredo's Patrik Nilson) did. And if I'm a New Mexico or Oklahoma City fan, I root for injured Panthers (which I guess the Southeast fans should do as well).