2012-2013 Marlies Prospects Update From The ECHL

So it has been a relatively long week but perhaps more so for those poor mediators that waltzed into the fire that is the labour negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA, poor bast*rds lol. That being said I was lightly curious as to how the Marlies rookies/prospects that had been assigned to the ECHL were doing and thought perhaps it might be time for a quick update.

Here are the basic stats pulled from the various ECHL team websites that the players have been assigned to:

ECHL Team                        Player                           GP     G      A    PTS    +/-     PIMS
San Francisco Bulls           Andrew Crescenzi        9      2      5          7       2         8
San Francisco Bulls           Jamie Devane               6      1      0          1      -1          8
Idaho Steelheads               Sam Carrick                 12      4      1          5       4         11

Andrew Crescenzi appears to be settling in comfortably with 7 points in 9 games, not to shabby at all. As much as I would like to base the other two on points you have to remember there is a difference in games played, roles, lines etc. coming into the league. I strongly believe that this is possibly the best introduction any of these players could have wished for in terms of experiencing the rigors of the pro game; it should be looked upon as a phenominal learning experience for their transition into professional hockey players.

For the players that are not signed by MLSE or the Marlies that have mentioned in some previous posts below, things also appear to be coming along nicely:

ECHL Team                          Player                        GP     G      A    PTS    +/-     PIMS

Las Vegas Wranglers          Adam Hughesman  15      6       7        13      1          7
Reading Royals                    Denny Urban           20     9     10        19      7          4
Greenville Road Warriors Brandon Wong        20     8      13       21      3         13

Adam Hughesman continues his shock and awe campaign in the ECHL proving that rookies that should not be underestimated and Denny Urban continues to dominate as the Reading Royals leading point getter…as a D man!

Here is Hughesman stripping the Eagles D man and wiring one shorthanded (see 1:30)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvPQYgxgk_U

If there is anyone I missed, please do not hesitate to bring it to my attention and as always, thanks for reading.

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What Can The 2012-13 Maple Leafs Learn From The Blue Jays

So you may have heard some significant rumbling coming from your baseball buddies or had a chance to dive into the massive trade that happened betweem the Blue Jays and the Marlins recently. Yes, it really was that big and yes it really was that significant. Any way to look at it, the team the Jays are going to field with the inclusion of the recently signed Melky Cabrera (definitely worth the risk) is going to be one of best we have seen here in Toronto in quite some time. I’m not guaranteeing any results (we are predominately Leaf fans remember!), nor am I helping plan any parade routes just yet but from a skill level standpoint this is one of the best teams to suit up for the Jays in awhile and you might just want to head out to some games this year, just saying.

So what does all this have to do with hockey you ask? Not much but it was fun writing about. Kidding. In all honesty it was how the trade came about that was most interesting, to me anyways. Jays GM and resident wonderkid Alex Anthopolous had been stockpiling picks and prospects for awhile and that is exactly what went to the Marlins in return. We are not just talking prospect here but good prospects, really good prospects in fact, just ask your baseball loving buddies. BUT what they got in return was a future sure fire hall of famer and two really good pitchers.

So where does that leave the Leafs? Well you may or may not have noticed that stockpiling picks and prospects is EXACTLY what Brian Burke has been doing during over the last five years and with all this extended time off you have to wonder if the scouts and braintrusts have started running through numerous trade senarios that may involve just suchs assets to better the parent club. You now have a significant number of real prospects in the Marlies and all your picks for the first time in recent memory. Hope you didn’t actually think that we were just going to keep them all and bring up the really good ones as they developed!?!. Possible but you have to admit, highly unlikely. I am willing to take a gamble that the Leafs will at some point, like the Jays, start packaging up these young talented players they have acquired, drafted etc. to bring in some immediate and inpactful help to the parent club.

Lets face it, the more you look at our defense core, especially in the Marlies, there is plenty of talent in that lineup that would be useful to other clubs with weaker squads (Kostka, Fraser, Holzer all look ready to take the next step or return to the NHL and would be considered really good depth trades for just such clubs).

Matt Frattin has returned and appears better than ever, scoring five goals in his first five games after coming back from a freak knee injury suffered in the conference finals last year. Both Kadri and Frattin look primed to make an NHL entrance if not this year then next, so they are close to becoming at minimum rookie third line contributors, that in itself would have value to older or rebuilding squads. (Having the two of them between newly signed Jay McClement might yield some interesting results as well.).

So there you have it. Chances are, just given the amount of depth present in the farm club and the amount of younger players who’s development has paused given the severe roster issues caused by the lockout (Brad Ross anyone?) a trade involving a number of prospects could be not only just what the parent club ordered but would create space enough for the Marlies to get to concentrating on developing talent (like, Crescenzi, Brenner etc.) instead of allowing players to stew especially like Fraser and Frattin. Just some food for thought, comments always welcome!

Hey NHL, Dont Rush Back Because We Are Discovering AHL/ECHL Gold! (Jerry)

So the NHL and NHLPA have finally locked themselves in a room, become adults and are attempting to hammer out something resembling an agreement; media are tearing up the twittersphere about it and for the first time in recent memory I could really care less. Both sides can eat a big fat one for all I care. A little harsh? perhaps but the league needs a wakeup call. In the days of social media we now know more about the discussions and the money than we most likely ever cared for and the tagline of billionaires fighting with millionaires is starting to ring true. Its us average joes/janes that got them where they are and it is my hope that en masse that we send them a message once the lockout ends. Without OUR money you are nothing, just remember that.

Ok rant over and back to the task at hand, talking about the Marlies/Leafs. One thing I will admit at looking forward to with the impending lockout is not the NHL games which I will personally ignore this year regardless of the lockout outcome but the roster shakeups that will occur in the AHL. There are a number of really talented players on the Marlies roster that really look poised to take the next step.

From Korbinian Holzer, Mike Kostka, Paul Ranger to Mark Fraser, there are a number of defensemen that are looking sharp and will make NHL training camp really interesting when it does occur. (I didnt mention Gardiner because thats just a given). I love Frasers grit…he is aggressive, has some sandpaper, hits, blocks shots and seems to give it his all every single night. A stay at home guy that is looking to make you pay the second you cross over HIS blueline and suits that shutdown role to a ‘T’. Paul Ranger appears to be putting it all back together from where he left off and although appears to need more games to get his timing back, when was the last time you saw a Marlie defenseman (other than Gardiner) join the rush and score a topshelfer?

http://www.youtube.com/embed/k3Q1EcMo2uk

Mike Kostka is proof that some just take longer to develop and the Leafs scouts should be applauded for keeping tabs on this guy; watching him is a treat and some of his passes have been sick, springing full blown breakaways. Korbinian Holzer has been a little invisible (except for that massive hit he threw the other night) which is exactly what you want to see…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp84so-R7jM

…a guy that comes in and does his job, chips in and isn’t flashy just consistent. 9 games 3 pts +/- 0 . Perfect.

Joe Colborne and Nazem Kadri appear to be getting back into serious game form and unfortuantely were not necessarily being rewarded for the opportunities they were generating earlier on in the season. Now the rewards are starting to trickle in and they both look prepared to make a significant contribution this year at either level they end up on.

There has also been some surprising play earlier on in the season as well from some perhaps less than likely sources. You cannot tell me that anyone could have accurately predicted that both Greg McKegg and Spencer Abbott would be not only on the roster and getting in a fair number of games but also providing a fairly steady number of points towards the campaign. Two completely different players in terms of their game (I see McKegg as more of a JVR type player and Abbott more like Kessel) but its nice to see some of the young guys shining early on. (Note: Kenny Ryan should be applauded for his efforts as well).

So with all that being said who is going to the December 26th game being held at the ACC between the Marlies and the Bulldogs? I can’t wait and hope the building sells out, these guys deserve it!

Also mentioned in the in title of this posting was the ECHL and for the first time ever I find myself not only watching some games but paying alot more attention to the players in that league. Here are some guys that were mostly never drafted (love the underdog’s) and are working their way up the hard way that I hope will find their way into the AHL in the near future:

Brandon Wong signed his first pro contract with Hartford (now the Connecticut Whale) and was loaned to the ECHL Greenville Road Warriors where I fully suspect that once the NHL season resumes Wong will be brought back up to the AHL; for all intents and purposes he is earning it, going almost a point per game in the ‘E’. He was a points monster back in his junior days in the BCHL posting 116 points in 60 games one year and was better than a point per game during his ECAC career.

http://echl.com/stats/player.php?id=3439

Doug Jones is in his first full ECHL campaign playing for the Gwinnett Gladiators after finishing a noteworthy four seasons with Darmouth College. The 25 year old 6’0, 205 pound Marietta, GA native is already on a point per game pace and sits at a +10. The Reebok Hockey ECHL Rookie of the Month for October recorded 5 goals, added 5 assists and was a +4 in eight games during the month. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here.

http://echl.com/stats/player.php?id=4136

Denny Urban. What can I say, I mention him alot and still strongly believe he should at minimum be developing in the AHL. On the smaller side for a defenseman at 5’10, 185lbs but has proven in multiple years that he belongs in a higher league and already has 4 goals, 10 points and is a +3 in 10 games which is third best in point production on the Reading Royals squad.

http://echl.com/stats/player.php?id=3578

Chris Versteeg has a younger brother and he plays D, bet you didn’t know that! Mitch Versteeg seems to be putting it all together in the ECHL nicely with 5 points in 11 games and sits even. The 6’2, 205 pound rear guard does appear to be a bit of a PIM machine but someone who takes care of business in their own end is never a bad thing.

http://echl.com/stats/player.php?id=2677

Food for thought and thanks for reading.

Why Does The NHL Not Consider A Tiered System Much Like English Soccer?

Many, many years ago I wrote Don Cherry to ask him why the NHL or North American hockey in general had never seriously thrown around the idea of adopting a tiered hockey league that would essentially merge all existing leagues (NHL, AHL, ECHL, IHL, CHL, LNAH, SPHL etc.) into one super league with multiple tiers much like how the English Premier League is structured…luckily I never received a response because I am sure it would have been difficult to understand lol.

However, that never stopped me about thinking of the possbilities. To give you an idea of where I am coming from, my favorite football team growing up was West Bromwich Albion, the consumite underdog in English football…ok ok, they were gawd awful but I still loved them and they slowly scratched and clawed their way up the standings until in 2002 they were promoted to the Premiership for the first time.

If we were to consider current NHL teams to be the football version of Premiership teams than the AHL would be its Tier 1. Really good teams from Tier 1 have a chance of being promoted to the Premiership and an unlucky or challenged team from the Premiership would be relagated down to Tier 1. So let us consider this for a moment, the Norfolk Admirals were a pretty good AHL team last year, going the distance and winning the Calder Cup and the Columbus Blue Jackets have been a pretty terrible team for the last couple of years. What if those teams were given the opportunity to swap places?

What I love about this particular model is it should be left up to each individual team to raise the necessary funds to sign players and operate their business. Their growth and spending on players would be strictly based upon their ability to raise money at the gates etc. and would not be subsidized by other teams in the league like it is now. This would also stop the gross over payment on players in areas like Florida and Columbus where they essentially don’t have the revenue to sign these players in the first place. Why should other teams fiscally support the bad signings e.g. Columbus has made essentially in an effort to get better?

There should be absolutely no shame in a team being considered for Tier 1 either, your team has the ability to sign any available player, get better on their own and make a run for the Premiership, not just be a development team for another league or a team in the Premiership that never gets anywhere.

Lets face it, everyone wants to watch their team win more games than they lose and I can’t imagine fans over the long term would care what tier their team was in, as long as they were kicking a$$, signing good players, avoiding craptacular player contracts etc. This would not only increase the size and complexity of the draft but would allow for older and bubble players the opportunity to play for tier 1 teams and still have an opportunity to contribute and help a team make that next step. Players would be alot less likely to have to head to Europe as their would be more opportunity for them to play in North America and teams wouldn’t have to develop 25 young players in the hope of landing 1 good one, they could trade, buy or otherwise develop them as their needs arise!

More teams, more players playing at higher levels, for some reason it just seems to make a whole bunch of sense. Of course at least sense without taking into consideration the fiscal problems that would arise in terms of transportation mainly but hey, a guy cane dream. Food for thought!