Saturday, October 25, 2008

Poll result: Last man sitting

The poll question was "Who will be the last man sitting? (Last to finally play a game this season)" Sterling is at the NHL level, with Lehman and Turple currently assigned to the AHL Chicago Wolves. A forward, a defenseman and a goalie.

The responses:
Brett Sterling 4%
Scott Lehman 4%
Dan Turple 91%

Sterling played last night for the Thrashers, scoring a very Brett Sterling-like goal, so it's just Lehman and Turple left now.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

And you thought your team's attendance was bad

The Thrashers are last in the NHL in attendance, averaging 13,943 tickets distributed (which importantly includes both paid and comp'ed). The Gladiators official attendance was just 3014 on Tuesday. Both of those are indeed bad.

But, the AHL Lowell Devils sold just 904 tickets yesterday for a game. 904. If they weren't owned by the New Jersey Devils, who can afford to operate them at a loss, they'd be tops on the death pool.

An illustration of how bad it looks out there -- Glads stands at puckdrop, and this was the full side.

And other angles at the same point in time.

Pavelec comments

From the Chicago Daily Herald. I don't really buy this explanation of what happened though. Sounds like Pavelec is covering for his agent flying off the handle.

When the Atlanta Thrashers started him only once in the preseason and demoted him to the Wolves late into training camp, Pavelec and his agent decided to send a message and delayed his return to Chicago.

It was an uncharacteristic move for the always-chipper 21-year-old from the Czech Republic, but one he found necessary.

"It wasn't about this season because I expected to play in Chicago," Pavelec said. "We did it because next year I don't want to come to training camp again and have no chance to make a team. That's why we did it. We're happy we did. Now it's behind us, it's behind me, and we're fine."


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Statistical update

This is just your basic statistical glimpse at how the prospects are doing. A few things to note are that John Albert has taken 14 shots in four games, so he's shooting more, as he intended to. He leads his team in points as a sophomore. Esposito has nine points, but six of them came in one game. I heard he's out with a broken hand, which he injured in a fight of all things.

I didn't include the AHL level because they're all with one team and if you want to look at their stats, just go here.

Player Pos Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIMs
Albert F OSU CCHA 4 2 4 6 +4 2
Saponari F BU HEast 4 1 1 2 +2 0
Martin F DU WCHA 3 0 2 2 0 2
Leveille F MSU CCHA 4 0 2 2
Kozek F UND WCHA 4 1 0 1 -3 2
O'Neill D Umaine HEast 1 0 0 0 0 0
Redmond D NMU CCHA 4 0 3 3

Enlund F Tappara Finland 16 4 7 11 -2 4
Lucenius F Tappara Finland 10 0 1 1 -3 0
Zubarev D Mytishchi KHL 13 0 1 1 +3 6
Lasu F Boras HC Swe-2 5 0 2 2
Tuomainen F Lukko Finland 15 0 2 2 +1 0

Postma D Calgary WHL 11 1 10 11 +6 2
Esposito F Montreal QMJHL 8 2 7 9 +3 7
Paquette F Lewiston QMJHL 10 4 3 7 -2 41

Forney F Green Bay USHL 4 3 4 7 +4 12

Team League GP W L T GAA SPCT
U Minn WCHA 2 2 0 0 1.50 .942
Miss OHL 5 3 1 0 1.85 .936

Stoesz reassigned to the Gladiators

Per the AHL transactions page.

Stoesz played no games for the Wolves. The Gladiators do not play again until next Tuesday, at home against Charlotte.

My guess is that Jeff Pyle asked Chicago to keep Stoesz until he decided who he wanted to get rid of. ECHL teams have no wiggle room on the roster.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

ECHL prospects prevew

I finished my ECHL prospects preview today. While there was a lot of research that went into it, it didn't take that long to write, partially because there's just 36 NHL-contracted guys sent down to start the year. Why so few? Because AHL teams are now able to dress 18 skaters (like the NHL). That's 29 more guys (mostly forwards) who are getting minutes in the AHL every game. Goaltenders remain the top prospects in the league.

A couple notes that relate to the South Division, where the Gladiators play. I really like the look of the South Carolina roster. They are my pick to win the division. They have a lot of talent, and return a lot of players from last year.

Tampa Bay sent Kevin Quick to Augusta. He's the guy who got kicked out of Michigan for allegedly stealing a teammate's credit card and charging thousands on it. He has yet to face his day in court. When he disappears off the roster for a few days, that's probably where he is.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

NHL-ECHL affiliates for 2008-09

In preparation for tomorrow's release of opening day rosters, here's a list of NHL affiliates of ECHL teams. It includes today's announcement that Philadelphia will be affiliating with the Mississippi Sea Wolves. I was very glad to see that announcement since Mississippi figures prominently on the Gladiators schedule. Philadelphia had previously doubled up with Pittsburgh in Wheeling. Perhaps last year's NHL Eastern Conference Finals ruined the last shred of goodwill that enabled them to live together. Last year, Mississippi was affiliated with Tampa Bay, who moved to Augusta when the Anaheim Ducks left for Bakersfield.

ECHL - NHL team
Alaska - St. Louis
Augusta - Tampa Bay (after they folded, prospects went to Mississippi)
Bakersfield - Anaheim
Charlotte - NY Rangers
Cincinnati - Montreal and Nashville
Dayton - independent
Elmira - Ottawa
Florida - Carolina and Florida
Fresno - Chicago (after they folded, prospects went to Gwinnett)
Gwinnett - Atlanta, and later Chicago
Idaho - Dallas
Johnstown - Colorado and Columbus
Las Vegas - Calgary
Mississippi - Philadelphia, and unofficially Tampa Bay later on
Ontario - Los Angeles
Phoenix - San Jose
Reading - Toronto
South Carolina - Washington
Stockton - Edmonton
Trenton - New Jersey
Utah - NY Islanders
Victoria - Vancouver
Wheeling - Pittsburgh

NHL teams without ECHL affiliates: Minnesota, Boston and Detroit. Minnesota has sent one player to the Florida Everblades so far, and will likely also send to Mississippi.

The Dayton Bombers are currently the only independent team. There are three teams with shared affiliates.

Gladiator note: Jake Anderson was released from his tryout.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Alabaman Jared Ross reaches the NHL

Ross had both geography and size against him, and he still made the NHL. Good for him.

Being the son of a NCAA coach helped I'm sure. He got into Saturday's Flyers game due to Steve Downie's knee injury.

PRINCETON, N.J. – Former Gwinnett Gladiators center Jared Ross became the 358th player to play in the National Hockey League after playing in the ECHL when he made his NHL debut with the Philadelphia Flyers in a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday.

Ross was both a former Gladiator and former Wolf. He's currently the only former Gladiator in the NHL, unless you count Mike Dunham, which is cheating. 'But Ross only played one game for the Gladiators,' you say. Yes, but if he hadn't been signed by the Gladiators, he never would have been picked up by the Wolves. The rest is history.

Thrashers chat with 2009-eligible Evander Kane

Dan Marr has told me that the Thrashers like to talk to players early in the season before other NHL teams so they aren't rehersed. Well, we have evidence they're sticking with that game plan.

From The Province:

Let the watch of who's watching Evander Kane begin.

The Vancouver Giants sniper had his first extended talk with an NHL type after Friday night's 7-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets when Atlanta Thrashers head scout Marcel Comeau sat him down to chat.

Kane has been pegged as a possible top-10 pick in next year's NHL draft

The natural question when you hear the name Kane is if he's related to Pat. Look at his photo and make your own conclusion. Also note that western Canada is a long way from Buffalo.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Esposito's snub may have worked out best for Sea Dogs

From the Telegraph-Journal, a very enlightening read about Esposito not being picking first in the Q draft because he claimed he was going the college route. It sheds light on him, as well as the often very shady dealings in the CHL.

At the time, it was seen as a loss for the Dogs. More than three years later, it's not so clear cut.

LeBlanc still has vivid memories of that day. He also recalls the five months before the draft and the multiple meetings he and head scout Norm Gosselin had with the Esposito family and his agent, Phil Lecavalier.

"At no time did they say they were going to come (to the league). If he didn't want to play in Saint John, he could have just come out and said so," said LeBlanc, now a scout for the Halifax Mooseheads....

LeBlanc still believes [Patrick] Roy and Esposito had a deal in place before the draft.

"Two weeks later everything changes?" he said. "Give me a break."


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gladiators still in flux

At this point last season, the Gladiators roster was basically set for opening night. Not true this time. They are still missing significant pieces of the puzzle, with players still at AHL camps. Dirk Southern is in Manitoba camp, but due to a groin pull, isn't going anywhere right now. Brad Schell is still in San Antonio, as they decide whether or not to keep him. If they do, they'll probably do a 25-game tryout contract, which would be nullified if he was sent down. If he signed a regular two-way SPC, he wouldn't be able to be called up by any other AHL team. I think Schell is smart enough not to sign that type of deal by this point. He'll get a chance somewhere this year, even if it's not San Antonio.

Also note that Schell's immigration paperwork isn't finalized yet.

A few photos of today's practice:

Pyle expects just one player to be sent down from Chicago, Myles Stoesz.

Some may have suspected rookie Matt Siddall to be sent down. The topic of him is a can of worms so big that no one in the know even wants to talk about it. But from what I've gathered over the past year, he's the Milan Bartovic of 2008, though that won't make sense to many people. Anyway, Siddall may need to invest in more ties for as much as he'll be wearing a suit in Chicago.

Nastiuk and Kowalski, who were of course partners in net for the Florida Everblades. I interviewed Nastiuk in 2006 when he was under contract with Carolina. He didn't strike me one way or another. He's got an AHL deal with Providence now.

The Gladiators have three goaltenders in camp, the two above plus Charlie Effinger out of Miami of Ohio. Pyle said that someone will need a goalie soon, and that's when they'll be in good position to trade. He is afraid if he keeps both Nastiuk and Kowalski, they'll both be called up and he'll be left with no goalie. It's a legitmate concern. It looks like K-Wal may be the odd man out.

Pyle has room on the roster to keep three for now, but won't all year. On a side note, recall Sean Fields being held hostage by the Utah Grizzlies last year -- not playing and not being traded. It was Jason Christie, now the Wolves asst. coach, who oversaw that. Small world.

Jake Anderson in yellow, John Anderson's son, who is in camp on a tryout. He was the fourth yellow jersey, and practiced with a mish-mash line. He seems unlikely to make the team.

Goaltending coach and rink manager Al Blevins was out helping push pucks around. He'll be helping out with practice as much as he can this year, and intends to work with the goalies at least twice a week. He said the goalies are really gung-ho about it. He won't go behind the bench at all though.

After practice in the lobby, when I was talking to Al, he was wearing a Michigan hockey t-shirt (he was recruited by them but decided to go the junior route, which he regrets). Effinger walked past and gave him crap about the shirt. Michigan is a CCHA rival of Miami of course. Al said that Dave Caruso used to go ballistic when he'd wear that shirt too. He said Dave finally got so fed up that he walked into his office one day and plunked down a Ohio State t-shirt for him to wear. So he wears that now too. Al said that if Effinger keeps giving him crap, he'll tell him "There's only one way to solve this -- get the old man a t-shirt."

On a more serious note, Al said that Effinger reminds him of Caruso in that he's so aggressive in net. He's twitchy as all get out for sure. He never stops moving.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Which rookies made the NHL?

Tonight I pulled together the yearly "making the cut" list for Hockey's Future -- the list of rookies who made each NHL team. Not difficult, but a good exercise for getting it stapled into my head. There was just one player I hadn't heard of before -- a guy named John Scott, a 26-year-old free-agent signee by the Wild. But he's on IR so probably won't last.

I did notice that the western conference teams had more rookies than the eastern conference teams. Not sure why that would be. Anyone have a theory?

Next up, an "ECHL prospects to watch" article. There's only about a day and a half window in which to write it, since the best prospects get sent to the league right before games start. That makes it difficult to do with all the hurry up and wait, but this year I'm going to be more ready. It's always a very popular piece, which is somewhat surprising, but I guess it's because it touches so many teams and players.

Albert's improvement already noticable at OSU

From The Lantern (Ohio State student newspaper):

"He's in the best shape of his life," said Ohio State Men's Hockey coach John Markell. "He's just flying out there. He's even better than the Johnny Albert of last year."

Last year's John Albert led the team in assists, with 17, as a freshman. If Markell's words prove prophetic, Albert's two-assist performance against York may serve as the prelude to a few gaudy stat lines for this year's version.

The new Hockeytime USA

Hockeytime USA, the only hockey shop in Atlanta outside a rink, moved to a new location about six months ago. I didn't have a need for anything in that span, so today was the first day I visited the new location, at the corner of Mansell and Holcomb Bridge (though it's not called Holcomb Bridge right there). This spot is much closer to the Cooler, which is a smart move.

It's a little bit smaller store, which is fine because they probably had extra space before. The guy who helped me looked way too much like Dave Caruso, and was very nice and helpful. He got me fitted into new Itech 455 shinpads. I've been blocking a lot of nasty shots lately, and came to the conclusion that my previous shinpads just weren't doing the trick. The new ones -- which I'm more excited about than probably is warranted -- will get their first go around this weekend. I could have bought online, but I have some fit issues with shinpads, and besides, I wanted to support grassroots hockey in the city. You don't want to be in a situation where the only option is the rink pro shop.

Two guys came in for skate sharpening while I was there, so there was decent foot traffic.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Caruso beats out Frazee for spot in Lowell

As predicted in July, Dave Caruso, a native Atlantan, beat out NJ Devils prospect Jeff Frazee for a spot on the AHL Lowell Devils opening roster. It will be Caruso and veteran Scott Clemmenson in net for Lowell. Frazee was assigned to ECHL Trenton today. Frazee was also beat out of a job by Thrashers prospect Alex Kangas last fall at the University of Minnesota.

You can watch Lowell's game tonight via AHL Live. See yesterday's post on that for more info.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

AHL Live by Neulion video service

You can watch any AHL game in the league, right on your computer. Pay for a whole season ($140) or by the game ($6). And it will be on-demand, so you don't have to stay home Saturday night to watch the Iowa Chops take on the Rockford IceHogs. Not that you would...

Here's the link. The AHL season starts tomorrow. I think I'll watch Lowell vs. Providence, just because I can.

On a side note, a lot of people have asked if there's a roster limit in the AHL. No. There is no salary cap nor roster limit. There is only a rule about how many veterans you can play in a game. That is the only limitation that effects the roster.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Painchaud to ECHL and reading material

If you didn't previously understand that what was returned in the Mathieu Schneider deal were contract dumps, maybe this will clarify. Chad Painchaud was assigned to the ECHL Bakersfield Condors today.

A couple other interesting things to read while we wait for final rosters on Wednesday:

A sports radio guy in Dallas got to be an assistant coach for the Stars for a night in preseason and writes about it.

Gare Joyce of wrote a long piece on how the economic troubles will impact sports. I haven't gotten all the way through it yet, but I will. I'm very glad that neither of my jobs have anything to do with the markets, housing, or retail, and both are doing well financially. Whew.

I ran into ECHL linesman Rob Montepare at the Thrashers game Saturday and talked to him almost the entire second intermission. I spent all summer, and into the fall, looking for joy of hockey. That guy has it. Note to self: get his number.

Oh, funny thing Rob said -- Jeff Pyle showed up to talk to the ECHL refs convention wearing a garbage bag and a ref's helmet.

Oystrick is waiver-eligible

Per Section 13.4 of the 2005 CBA, any player 25 years and up is subject to waivers. The waiver period is 48 hours, during which time any of the 29 other teams can claim the player. If the player clears waivers, he can then be assigned to the minors.

Oystrick is 25 years old, therefore he falls into this category.

(Edit to fix age to 25, not 26)

NHL opening rosters are due to the league on Wednesday, Oct. 8.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Esposito with six-point game

Keep in mind the QMJHL is a high-scoring league, but Angelo Esposito had six points in his second game with his new team, the Montreal Juniors. Here's the box score for the 8-4 win. Teammate Luke Adam, a Sabres draft pick, had a hat trick and five points.

Schell and Nesbitt doing well in Rampage camp

From the San Antonio News-Express beat blog:

The Rampage efforts in their 4-1 win Saturday night did more to cloud the roster picture than clear it up. Some players, like camp standout Brad Schell, who is trying to make the squad as a free agent walk on, are really making Greg Ireland and Ray Edwards stand up and take notice.

Schell scored a goal and an assist Saturday night after scoring a goal in Friday's shootout loss in Houston. Schell has limited AHL experience with the Chicago Wolves, but once scored 110 points in a season with Gwinnett (ECHL).

Another strong performance came from Derek Nesbitt, who we saw last season play with Rockford. Nesbitt seemed to have a terminal case of "Spina" disease, constantly flying up and down the wing, causing a Houston defender to garner a hooking penalty.

It doesn't say if they were on the same line, but it would only help them if they were, since they played together with the Gladiators. I have a feeling this may finally be Schell's year to stick in the AHL.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bogosian vs. Pietrangelo

I was interested to compare and contrast the No. 3 and No. 4 picks from this summer's draft: Zach Bogosian and Alex Pietrangelo as the Thrashers met the Blues tonight.

Pietrangelo is bigger and some argue he has more offensive upside, but he looks pretty raw right now. He looked like he wasn't sure what he wanted to do, and when he did decide on something, wasn't very effective. Not quite ready for prime time. (I was much more impressed by Patrik Berglund, taken in the first round in 2006.)

Bogosian, on the other hand, looked very decisive and was almost always in the right position. He has a hard shot, which he unloaded several times, but often wide. He often hits, though certainly not the hardest on the team. He looked better tonight than Wednesday.

Overall, I'd take Bogosian over Pietrangelo. He seems like much more of a sure thing.

But regardless of readiness issues, Pietrangelo may make the Blues roster this year, due to the injury to Erik Johnson. Interestingly, the defenseman taken next in the draft, Luke Schenn, may make the Toronto Maple Leafs as well. That would make four 18-year-old defensemen making their teams once you add in Drew Doughty. That's very unusual.

Here we have John Anderson blowing bubbles and Randy Cunneyworth talking into his tie. We'll assume he's talking to Steve Weeks upstairs.

Thrashers third jerseys to be unveiled Wednesday?

Rumor has it that the Thrashers new third jerseys, in dark red, will be unveiled at the Faceoff on Wednesday the 8th. Faceoff is a meet the team event at Philips Arena held every year. The players will model the jerseys.

The jerseys will not go on sale until November, however.

Pavelec's agent draws line in sand

There were problems signing Ondrej Pavelec in 2007 because his agent wanted him someplace he'd have an easier road to the NHL, but the deal got done. Now a little more than a year later, we have this (Sporting News):

Allan Walsh, Pavelec's agent, said the Thrashers organization didn't keep promises given to the young goalie when he signed with the team, so he wants out.

"When Ondrej signed two years ago, [Thrashers GM Don Waddell] gave Ondrej his word. He sat there at the table and gave Ondrej his personal word that Ondrej would never be held back," Walsh told SN. "Last year he led Chicago to an American League championship. This year he played in the first exhibition game and then the third period on October 3 -- they threw him into the game cold in the third period. That is criminal mismanagement of a young goalie."

I have to say I'm pretty surprised that Pavelec is agreeing to this move. Ondrej seemed pretty happy in the organization. This stinks like an unreasonable agent to me. One who went running to the press immediately instead of negotiating. In 2003, Walsh had three players holding out at one time: Martin Havlat, Marian Gaborik, and Pascal Dupuis. It's a common tactic for him.

How would I resolve it? Keep Pavelec on the NHL roster. He may be a better goaltender than Kari Lehtonen so let them fight it out. Losing Johan Hedberg would not be a big loss. A popular guy, his numbers just aren't that good.

The lack of depth in goal the Thrashers had going into camp is going to bite them, no matter how this gets resolved.

Shoving time

When push comes to shove, that's when the dominoes finally start moving. It's a real interesting time of year when hockey teams from top to bottom have to make some hard choices. Brian Burke has to decide who to keep to get under the cap, and it all trickles down.

Former Thrasher prospect Karl Stewart was out of a job until this week. He's signed an AHL deal with Rochester. Mike Hamilton has signed with ECHL's Las Vegas. Ryan Daniels, who attended Thrashers prospect camp and Traverse City this year, is on a tryout with the ECHL Phoenix RoadRunners.

A lot of people have been asking about Mike Vigilante. Christine Troyke put out her story on this today. The Gladiators are citing his concussions as for why they aren't bringing back their captain. The potential insurance liability isn't mentioned, but I would think that would tie in too.

I had my own hockey game to play in tonight, and I happened to get my bell rung a bit. I was hit in open ice by this guy Ted who weighs only about a buck fifty but he's fast so if you know your physics, that's more kinetic energy acting on me (velocity matters more than mass). It's a no-check league and he's a former teammate so he was all "Sorry, Holly" right away -- I think he just didn't see me. Ted is a good parking lot guy, but as a former roller hockey player, not so good with the stopping.

I still have a headache hours later. So, it makes the issue very immediate to me and my feeling on Vig is that independent of whatever Jeff Pyle thinks, I would hope Vig would err on the side of not playing given his concussion history. He's got the whole rest of his life to live and he needs a clear head for that.

Next item: A.J. Thelen. The ECHL Florida Everblades are patting themselves on the back for signing the former Minnesota first rounder. In the press release, Malcolm Cameron says, "He originally was going to play this season in Austria, but decided to come back to North America to try and achieve his goal of playing in the NHL." -- That sounds really noble of him, but it's not quite accurate. Word on the street is that he looked awful in Austria and didn't make it past the tryout.

Hopefully AHL teams will start making some substantial cuts quickly. The Gladiators have what has to be the sorriest beginning training camp roster ever in their history.

Edit to add: here's some audio of Brad Schell at San Antonio camp. He sounds pretty relaxed.

Lastly, the Central Hockey League players are on strike. It's probably obvious that the current economy isn't the best time to be striking.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Kulda in Thrashers blue

For the strong Latvian contingent.

Haydar as a Red Wing

Here's a familiar face, Darren Haydar. He's a Red Wing now, and who wouldn't want to be.

He was matched up against Kulda often in last night's preseason game. On the first shift, Kulda grabbed him in front of the net to defend him, and then when the whistle blew, gave him a love tap.