Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ripple effects from Augusta in the South Division

The now defunct ECHL Augusta Lynx's top players have found homes -- Mike Brodeur to the AHL Rochester Americans (where he was headed regardless), Patrick Bordeleau to the AHL Albany River Rats, and Matt Auffrey to the ECHL Florida Everblades.

But the Tampa Bay Lightning have yet to place their ECHL prospects with another team. The two that remained with Augusta when it folded (Chris Lawrence and Kevin Quick) were recalled to their AHL affiliate Norfolk, where they are practicing until reassignment. Tampa is trying to find a home for them close to Norfolk, and have contacted the Charlotte Checkers, Gwinnett Gladiators, and even Trenton Devils about placing them. The sticking point is that they want to keep their guys together, four of them (Lawrence and Quick plus goaltender Riku Helenius and presumably Justin Keller). Gwinnett coach Jeff Pyle was very skeptical that they'd find a team willing to take all four. Charlotte coach Derek Wilkinson said "probably not" to that possibility, and said in his own case, "We like our team. We didn't want to blow it up."

And you can probably scratch South Carolina off that list as well, with as many guys as Washington and Hershey already send down.

There are still some other Augusta players who may find homes in the division. Pyle said of his own potential roster moves, "There's a D out of Augusta, but I don't really want to bring him in. Find out if Josh Engel's coming back and go from there." Pyle thinks that Augusta's players aren't upgrades from what most ECHL teams already have. The Augusta Chronicle had reported last week that Gwinnett had interest in Bordeleau, but as mentioned above he got picked up by Albany.

On somewhat of a side note, Wilkinson is still very bullish on Brodeur's NHL potential. He had recommended him to the NY Rangers as a depth pickup this summer, and Brodeur was invited to Hartford's camp, but he didn't pass the physical due to a concussion. I've always liked Brodeur myself, having interviewed him when he was with Greenville (and the Blackhawks).

Onto the broader question of could another Augusta happen -- could another team fold? Wilkinson for one is worried. "I am," he said. "I think we need to be. The whole division needs to be real concerned. Mississippi is on an island. Poor Mississippi, their second year back after disaster, how do you survive if you're them? 80, 90 nights on the road. I'm really concerned. I hope there's a plan. I haven't heard of one yet. Because I don't see how it works. Columbia's not coming back yet, they're a year away if they get their building built. I don't know how you run a division so far apart. Yeah, I am worried. I go on record to say that -- I'm very worried."

1 comment:

Werewolverine said...

\\I don't know how you run a division so far apart.//

That the ECHL is a "national" (transcontinental, more accurately) lower level bus league has always been a concern to me.

Even baseball, a sport which does everything it can to shoot itself in the foot, understands the importance of regional minor leagues. Its AAA-level teams play in two separate leagues (Pacific Coast and International) which do not intersect until their version of the World Series at season's end.

The AHL is a regional league...New England and the Great Lakes...why would the ECHL offices think that playing a tier lower in quality over a greater territory is a better idea?