Saturday, April 16, 2011
A report surfaced this weekend - citing an anonymous source - that the Regina Pats could be on the move to Chilliwack and replacing the Bruins who will end up in Victoria next year. The tale gets even wilder when it says the Manitoba Moose would take up shop in Regina when the NHL returns to Winnipeg.
We spoke to a credible source on this today and here's what Regina Pats President Brent Parker told us...
Saturday, April 2, 2011
This time of year, everybody is looking for a job.
Each spring NHL teams line up for the key free agent collegians available and also get busy on inking their drafted NCAA prospects too. This year has been no different and several important players have either left school early or have signed their entry level deals after completing their college eligibility.
Another popular feeding ground for NHL teams this time of year is in the waters of the overage, undrafted CHL player. Players drafted out of the CHL in the 2009 draft have to be signed to prevent teams from losing their rights, we've seen a number of those entry level contracts as of late as well.
A bunch of names have been scratched to contracts, some made news and some went unnoticed and there are still some high profile free agents available. Here is a team-by-team breakdown of what has happened so far and at the end, a list of other guys I think should be on the radar for teams.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Saturday on The Pipeline Show Dean and I spoke with an assortment of guests that cover a wide spectrum of the hockey world. We talked Major Junior, NCAA, AHL, NHL, the NHL Draft and more. In other words, more of what you've come to expect when you tune in to The Pipeline Show.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
This time of year The Pipeline Show spends a lot of time looking ahead to the World Junior Championship, one of our four "Majors" on our annual calendar. That said, we certainly didn't forget the massive spectacle that the NCAA put on last weekend and we also looked to the AHL for an update on some key prospects at that level.
Monday, July 5, 2010
A surprisingly busy start to the NHL off-season has provided plenty of fodder for fans around the league. There have also been other rumblings from the major junior, minor pro and NCAA ranks as well, some of which has gone largely unnoticed by the mainstream media. As always, when it affects the future of hockey, it attracts the attention of The Pipeline Show.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
For the purpose of this ranking we're looking at just the young guys in the AHL playoffs, those players still considered by the league to be rookies. As you can imagine, there are a bunch of players worth consideration for placement here but these are the five that have stood out the most to me.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Thursday's outdoor game at Veletins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany between the host nation and USA was memorable for two reasons. First, Germany won the game beating the Americans 2-1 in overtime and secondly, the 77,803 fans who packed the soccer stadium represented a record number of people to take in a hockey game.
The Germans like to party and they hooted and hollered, chanted and chortled throughout the entire contest, some may have even cared about the game. I am half kidding - I know there is a dedicated following for the sport in Germany but having been in the crowd at the Heritage Classic in 2003, I can tell you that being able to say you were there is probably as satisfying (if not more than) than actually living through that freezing experience. For now, congratulations to Germany for putting on a big show and setting the new record.
Enjoy it while you can because in 8 months your record is going to be just another footnote. Circle Dec 11th on your calendar and prepare for what is bound to be a hockey spectacle like no one has ever seen before.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
A couple of weeks ago the AHL held an outdoor game which featured the Syracuse Crunch and the Binghamton Senators. This past Tuesday evening on The Pipeline Show we had the opportunity to speak with AHL President Dave Andrews about that event as well as some other timely subjects. We touched on this year's version of the outdoor game and our conversation grew from there.
You'll recall that last year it was reported right here at Coming Down the Pipe that there was another proposal for an outdoor game which would have captured the imagination of hockey fans everywhere. Something so incredible that "it couldn't possibly be legitimate". An idea "too good to be true" "bordering somewhere between fantasy and ludicrous".
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
If you missed The Pipeline Show last night, well let me be your guide as I lead you through what you missed...
Dean and I started the night off by talking about the free agent crop that still waits to be signed at the American Hockey League level. As the Springfield Falcons hope to ice a stronger team, the free agent list is rapidly thinning out and Edmonton's farm club so far isn't any better than it was a year ago. Why? We talked a bit about that and through out some names of guys we think would fit the bill. (Dean and Guy HERE)
TPS made its on-air debut back on February 13th, 2006 and one of planned guests that night was Kyle Chipchura. For whatever reason, that planned interview fell apart but we finally got around to giving him another call and the Alberta product updated us on his summer. Montreal can be an intimidating market for Habs players and Chipchura described it from the perspective of a young guy trying to crack the roster. (Kyle Chipchura HERE)
Obviously with Oilers prospect camp underway in Sherwood Park we spent much of the evening with that in the spotlight. Earlier in the day we spoke with Johan Motin, William Quist, Olivier Roy and Toni Rajala. (Prospect Camp)
We also had extended interviews with a pair of new Oiler prospects in Kyle Bigos and Troy Hesketh - two defencemen that originally caught Edmonton fans off guard at the draft but are starting to change minds as people get to know more about them. (Kyle Bigos and Troy Hesketh interviews)
NEXT WEEK: Our annual show that examines and compares the NCAA and CHL paths to the NHL. Is one really better than the other? We'll speak with a Canadian who is currently playing for a premier NCAA program, a former WHL player who just wrapped up his CIS career and is ready to turn pro, a local media voice who is very staunch in his stance plus another guest who will offer up his/her thoughts on the subject. It should be another beauty show.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
We were all over the map last night on The Pipeline Show as we checked in on the playoffs in all 3 Major Junior leagues in Canada, the USHL and the AHL as well. We also chatted with an Oiler prospect who is getting ready for the biggest week of his hockey life.
Dean and I began the program by discussing the big news of the day, that being the firing of the entire Regina Pats coaching staff. Dale Derkatch was shown the door after a single year, albeit a very disappointing one, but it caught both of us by surprise. Who would be solid candidates to take over the role? (see Dean's Top 5 Tuesday post from yesterday).
We then shifted focus to the Kelowna/Calgary series and we both offered up our opinions of why the Rockets have been able to get out to a dominating 3-0 lead over the #1 ranked team in the country. The much vaunted Hitmen offence has managed just 3 goals in 3 games which is a testament to how well the Rockets have been playing. Can Kelowna goalie Mark Guggenberger be this year's Mike Murphy... the over-age goalie who finally gets drafted now that he's got a chance in the spotlight and is making the most of it.
The OHL final featuring Brampton and Windsor was next on the agenda and we talked about their epic meeting including what I consider to be the story so far - that goalies Thomas McCollum and Andrew Engelage rank 14th and 15th in save percentage in the OHL postseason... and they're in the finals!?
Dean and I then talked about the interesting case of John Moore, the USHL defenceman who was just drafted by the Kitchener Rangers last weekend despite having a NCAA commitment to Colorado College. Dean asked me what my gut feeling was in regards to where he'll end up and we touched on how we feel about that.
We continued the opening segment by explaining the Johan Motin news that he and the Oilers have verbally reached an agreement and that a contract is expected to be signed any minute now.
Dean also touched on the success that young players are having at the World Hockey Championships like Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty. We also pointed out that Jonas Gustavsson's stats in the tournament are... not so great so far.
In segment #2 we welcomed Rimouski Oceanic forward Philippe Cornet to the program for the first time. Edmonton's 5th round pick outlined what he and his team have been doing since being eliminated from the QMJHL playoffs knowing that they'll be back on the ice in ten days at the Memorial Cup. Cornet talked about several key players on the team, why he feels that Drummondville (the team that beat them) would be a better fit for them than Shawinigan and also his thoughts on Oiler camp and his chemistry with Jordan Eberle.
Segment #3 was dedicated to the USHL playoffs as we talked to Kerry Collins of the Fargo Forum. The Fargo Force are an interesting story this year - an expansion team that has reached the championship series and are two wins away from taking the Clark Cup. Its a team made up largely of league castoffs with a few notable draft eligible players springled in like goalie Mike Lee and forward Josh Birkholz. On the other side is the Indiana Ice led by future North Dakota Fighting Sioux forward Mike Cichy. We got the low-down on the series and a prediction from Kerry as well.
We stayed south of the border for Segment #4 by speaking with NHL.com writer Lindsay Kramer who covers the AHL. The upsets, the players of note, the goalies standing out and what is keeping the star career minor leaguers out of the NHL. Lindsay also gave his opinion on why the Springfield Falcons failed to live up to expectations.
Bad Ass Trivia this week centered on the WHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup and produced a few winners making me think I'm getting too soft with my questions.
Finally, closing out this week's edition of TPS was the GM of the Regina Pats Brent Parker. It was a tough day for Parker who let go his friend Dale Derkatch as well as the rest of the coaching staff in Regina. Parker talked about what went wrong this year, Dean's list of candidates, he touched on Colten Teubert's tough year, the plans for the WHL's Outdoor Game (news Dean broke on last week's show) at Taylor Field and the Bantam Draft last week as well.
It was a big, big show but next week is going to be even bigger. It's our 4th Annual Memorial Cup Coach's Show where we'll speak with the four bench bosses leading their team to the tournament to crown Canada's top CHL club. Rimouski head coach Clement Jodoin will be making his second appearance after his debut in 2007 while behind the bench in Lewiston.
Past CHL coaches who have been a part of our Memorial Cup Coach's Show include 2006's Ted Nolan (Moncton), Patrick Roy (Quebec), Don Hay (Vancouver)... 2007's Mike Vellucci (Plymouth), Willie Desjardins (Medicine Hat), Clem Jodoin (Lewiston) and Don Hay again... 2008's Peter DeBoer (Kitchener), Bill Peters (Spokane) and George Burnett (Belleville). Interesting to note that the two coaches who failed to appear on the show (Peterborough's Dick Todd in 2006 and Benoit Groulx of Gatineau in 2008) both finished dead last at the Memorial Cup.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
"What did the 5 fingers say to the face? SLAP!" - Dave Chappelle on Chappelle's Show
The line came during the infamous Rick James sketch and it's a beauty. It came to mind to me today when I heard the that the news was official - the Calgary Flames are moving their AHL affiliate from Quad City to Abbotsford B.C. for next season. Here's the release on the AHL site.
"What did the Calgary Flames say to the WHL? SLAP!"
Dropping a pro hockey franchise into the backyard of the Chilliwack Bruins isn't going to go over very well with the WHL. The Flames aren't making any friends with this move, unless it's quietly the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks who might welcome having their AHL teams located closer and just needed someone else to set the precedent.
The Flames own the Hitmen which makes this an even bigger mess. There will be WHL owners outside of just Vancouver and Chilliwack who oppose what the Calgary ownership is doing.
The news about Austin Texas getting into the AHL is interesting too, especially thr part about it be contingent on them owning a AHL franchise within a year.
Gee, I wonder if there are any AHL franchises available, say one that has been on the shelf for a few years just waiting for an interested partnership.
The Texas Stars will start out being affiliated with Dallas but it might be a good fit for the Oilers in 2010-11 too.
Lastly, the Philadelphia Phantoms are on the move to Glenn Falls, NY. I'm actually a bit surprised by that move considering the Flyers were the envy of every other NHL club in that their farm team was at the end of the hall. Obviously the sale was contingent on the team moving and although I don't know that neck of the U.S. geography off the top of my head, it's not like the Phantoms are moving to Iowa; They'll still be close.
I still think it would be great if Utah, Stockton, Las Vegas and maybe another one of the California based ECHL teams could somehow become AHL Affiliates. With Oklahoma City and Kanasas City still looking for pro hockey teams and the current western AHL clubs, you could have NHL clubs out west much closer to their farm teams which would be a positive. The downer would be that it would mean the relocation of a few Eastern based AHL teams and that is never a good thing... unless the fanbase doesn't care anymore.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
John Anderson took over the helm of the Atlanta Thrashers after running their AHL farm team. Unfortunately for Anderson, he hasn't had the instant success that Bruce Boudreau has enjoyed in Washington after he followed the same AHL career path. The Islanders also looked to the AHL for their head coach last summer and plucked Scott Gordon from the Providence Bruins.
Last fall two NHL teams went poaching in the CHL for their new coaches and had different results. The Ottawa Senators opted for a do-over a few months after giving the gig to Soo Greyhounds coach Craig Hartsburg. On the other end of the scale, the Florida Panthers are happier than could have been expect with the way Peter DeBoer has made the transition from the Kitchener Rangers to the NHL.
So with examples like that in mind, here are a few names to consider from the CHL and the AHL as being realistic targets for new coaching positions at the NHL level in 2009-10.
Once upon a time one person suggested that Red Deer Rebels owner, president, GM, coach and head usher Brent Sutter might make a good choice for a NHL job. The response might have been something along the lines of "He's got everything he wants in Red Deer, he doesn't need the NHL."
Fast forward two years later and Mr. Sutter is not only leading the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup playoffs but he still holds his positions in Red Deer except on the bench. It can work which is why some suggest that Dale Hunter's time in the NHL is overdue.
Dale Hunter - London Knights (OHL)
The London Knights have been a juggernaut in the OHL for the past decade and Hunter has had a winning record every year since his first in 2001-02. In fact, take a look at Dale Hunter's numbers as a coach and you'll wonder how someone hasn't talked him out of the OHL already.
The Hunters have been criticized for being geared more towards simply winning a Memorial Cup than winning a Memorial Cup while developing future NHL players but the Knights have produced a bunch of notable players who have had success at the pro level. Corey Perry is the poster boy but David Bolland in Chicago, Dennis Wideman with the Bruins, and Sergei Kostitsyn were all members of Hunter-led Knights teams as well.
Lorne Molleken - Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
He's already got experience on the bench at the NHL and AHL levels including a stretch as the Oilers farm coach. Molleken has done a remarkable job in Saskatoon with a team many pre-season pundits considered to be a non-playoff squad. He hasn't always had a heck of a lot to work with in 'Toontown' but he coached Mike Green (WSH) in his final WHL year, has helped Braden Holtby become one of the best goalies in the WHL and looks to be doing wonders for Stefan Elliot as well. Not to mention that Molleken might be the WHL Coach of the Year, he'd be a worthy candidate on anyone's list.
Willie Desjardins - Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
He's won a pair of league titles, taken the Tigers to two Memorial Cups, was on the bench with Canada at the 2009 World Juniors and still might not get enough recognition for his development abilities. Cam Barker, Joffrey Lupul, Clarke McCarthur, Darren Helm, Matt Keetley, Kris Russell and now Tyler Ennis - it's an extensive list of players that Desjardins has helped earn pro contracts.
His winning percentage isn't much behind Hunter's and his club isn't thought of one that will back up the truck in order to land players via trade. He's had to make do with what the team has given him via the WHL draft, which has always been a strong point for the Tigers, but Desjardins is a proven coach who can get the most out of what he's got.
Kelly Kisio & Dave Lowry - Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
They're the #1 ranked team in the CHL for a reason. Kelly Kisio has built a seemingly unstoppable team that has swept through the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Lethbridge Hurricanes in 8 straight games. When Kisio moved from behind the bench to concentrate on the GM job many thought the Hitmen would enter a bit of a rebuild.
That obviously hasn't happened because Dave Lowry has stepped has taken the solid roster that was left him and formed it into a unit that is more than a Memorial Cup contender but an outright favorite. Lowry is only in his rookie year as a head coach but it's his fourth year on the Hitmen bench. Is it really far fetched to think either Kisio or Lowry would make someone's short list?
Other CHL candidates could include someone like Stan Butler of the Brampton Battalion. He's the only coach Brampton has had since they joined the OHL. Butler has helped groom Raffi Torres, Rusty Klesla, Wojtek Wolski and now young dynamos like Matt Duchene and Cody Hodgson. He's also got a background with Hockey Canada.
What about GM/coach people like Belleville's George Burnett and Sudbury's Mike Foligno who both wear two hats for their respective OHL teams? As far as that goes, how long will it take before Quebec Remparts owner Patrick Roy takes a page from Brent Sutter and returns to the NHL? Kelly McCrimmon's Brandon Wheat Kings are hosting the Memorial Cup next year so I'd be surprised if 2009-10 would be a year he'd leave... but Millard suggested him as a reasonable candidate so here he is.
Kevin Dineen - Portland Pirates (AHL)
The former Hartford Whalers star forward is one of a number of former players who have stepped behind the bench. It also seems to be part of the Dineen genetic code as Kevin's brothers Gord and Gary are also in the trade, all of them following in the footsteps of their father Bill Dineen.
Kevin Dineen's bio page at the Pirate's website is very informative and helped propel the former sniper from an honorable mention on my list to one of headliners. Not only was he a terrific player but he's enjoying a lot of success now as a coach, traits that should get him respect from all sides of the career coach/player coach debate.
This season the Portland Pirates are affiliated with the Buffalo Sabres (Nate Gerbe, Tim Kennedy) after years under the umbrella of the Anaheim Ducks (Bobby Ryan, Andrew Ebbett, Brendan Mikkelson). Even with a completely new line up sitting at his feet, Dineen still has Portland poised for the postseason - and that should be considered a huge success. It's also interesting that with the change over from Anaheim to Buffalo, the Sabres chose to keep Dineen on with the team; that's a sign right there that they recognized his abilities as a coach.
Scott Arniel - Manitoba Moose (AHL)
This is a name that has been brought up a few times this year including earlier today by Jonathan Willis at Oilers Nation. Arniel should be near the top of the shortlist for a lot of teams, including Edmonton, because of his track record behind the bench since ending his lengthy playing career. He's this year's AHL Coach of the Year as he's guided the Moose to the top of the AHL's North Division.
Arniel played many years in the NHL, mostly witht he Buffalo Sabres and the Winnipeg Jets. He's now got 8 years of coaching experience, the last three as a head coach, and appears proven in terms of getting the most out of his team. The Vancouver Canucks have brought in a few players who Arniel can take a lot of credit for getting NHL ready including Jannik Hansen, Jason Jaffrey, Mason Raymond and Rick Rypien.
A couple other AHL coaches who might be considered 'on the rise' include Lane Lambert of the Milwaukee Admirals and the Hartford Wolf Pack's Ken Gernander. Both are former players who have been head coaches for only a few years but both have thier clubs sitting on top of their respective AHL Divisions. Hamilton Bulldogs coach Don Lever should be in line for a promotion after spending the last four years in the minors with a Calder Cup to show for it.
Geoff Ward - Boston Bruins (NHL)
Here's a coach I think might be of interest to other NHL teams because he's got head coach experience and he's currently part of a Stanley Cup contending staff in Boston.
Claude Julien had him on his AHL staff in Hamilton and requested Geoff Ward from the Oilers once he moved to Boston so you know he's respected. Ward didn't have much success with the Toronto and Edmonton Road Runners but in the team's last year of split affiliation with Montreal in Hamilton, he coached the club to the Calder Cup finals. Jarret Stoll, Tomas Plekanec, Michael Ryder, Kyle Brodziak and Brad Winchester were early pro pupils under Ward's care.
As part of Boston's coaching staff, Ward has helped Claude Julien turn the Bruins around from also-rans to a team that leads the NHL Eastern Conference standings.
Claude Noel - Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL)
Claude Noel was a longtime minor league coach before Scott Howson and Ken Hitchchock stole him from the Milwaukee Admirals a couple seasons ago. As head coach in Milwaukee, Noel had been to the finals in two of his four seasons winning one AHL title in the process and never having a winning percentage below .600. Like the three pro coaches listed above, Noel has also won a Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as AHL Coach of the Year.
In Columbus, Noel is working alongside one of the best coaches in the game and it would be hard to believe that being around Ken Hitchcock on a daily basis could do anything but help an already high quality coach become even better.
The Ottawa Senators saw enough from little known Cory Clouston to have recently removed the 'interim' tag from his job title proving that not all teams look to recycle unemployed NHL coaches.
Who will the Montreal Canadiens take on next year to replace Guy Carbonneau? Is that where Don Lever ends up or is Kirk Muller being groomed for that role already?
Is Dave Tippet's job secure in Dallas? What about Barry Trotz in Nashville, or Randy Carlyle in Anaheim? It seems like a fore gone conclusion for Craig MacTavish and the Edmonton Oilers but what about the Colorado Avalanche? Is Rick Tocchet safe in Tampa Bay?
Several coaching jobs could be available this summer and if so, there also looks like there is no shortage of quality coaches who could step up to claim one of them.
(Photos Courtesy: TSN, The Hockey News, The Manitoba Moose, The Medicine Hat Tigers, The American Hockey League, The Edmonton Road Runners, The New Jersey Devils)
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Here now are my top 5 AHL stories of interest that I'm going to follow as I'm not sure how they will end.
5. Jesse Joensuu – The big Finn was highly touted early on in his draft year but by June of 2006 his stock had fallen so far that the NYI eventually selected him at the end of the 2nd round (60th overall). A lot of Euros in his situation may have been content staying back home but give credit where its due; Joensuu is now in Bridgeport - can the 6’4, 210 lb forward reach the potential many had initially expected? So far he’s got 7 points in 13 games.
4. Russians in Syracuse – Maxim Mayorov and Nikita Filatov are bucking the stereotype of Russians who aren’t willing to come over and play in the AHL. Thus far the pair have 17 points together and are a +4. Can the yougn Russians keep their hot start going or will they fizzle out like many Europeans do in their first North American season, around Christmas time when they've got 35-40 games under their belt? Keep in mind that in Europe, they play much lighter schedules.
3. Johnny Boychuck was once a top prospect for the Colorado Avalanche who drafted him in the 2nd round of 2002. After a strong WHL career in Calgary and Moose Jaw he was a bust with the Aves organization. He was dealt to Boston and is now ripping it up for their farm team the Providence Bruins. Boychuck, now a more mature 24-year-old, has 15 points so far which is tied for tops amongst AHL blueliners. Is this a case of a late bloomer, lighting in a bottle or just a guy who needed a change of scenery and is making the most of it?
2. Remember Danny Syvret? The Edmonton Oilers drafted him as a 20-year-old after a fantastic season with the London Knights but he soon disappeared into obscurity in the minors. He was so bad that Edmonton willingly lent him to play in the Spengler Cup just to try and kick start his flatlining career. Last summer he was traded to Philly for Ryan Potulny, well this year he’s leading the AHL in blueline scoring (tied with Boychuck) with 15 points. The Phantoms seem to have rejuvenated his career as he leads the team in scoring as well. 2 months ago, Oiler fans didn't even care that Syvret had been dealt. It will be interesting to see who goes on to have a better career now - Syvret or Potulny.
1. Pint sized power in Portland – Tim Kennedy and Nate Gerbe may have butted heads at the 2007 NCAA National title game between Michigan State and Boston College but are teammates now with the Buffalo Sabres AHL affiliate. Together the pair is ripping it up on the farm and have combined for 32 points. Both forwards are of the 'highly offensive but tiny' variety. Gerbe barely tips the scales at 5'6 and 160 lbs while Kennedy checks in at 5'10 and 170 lbs. With the way they are playing one has to wonder what will come first – a reality check or a promotion to the NHL?
Definitely worth keeping tabs on!
Monday, April 21, 2008
One debate I've seen being hotly debated on various message boards recently has to do with the role of a farm team. Depending on who is arguing, some people believe the primary reason the farm team exists is for long term player development while others feel the goal is the same at any other level, to win.
Personally I think the answer is pretty obvious but for the sake of being thorough and trying to see things from all angles, here's a list of all the possible reasons for having a farm team that I can think of and the argument that goes with it.
1) Player Development - The AHL, and to a lesser extent the ECHL, is the league directly beneath the NHL and the destination for players not good enough or ready yet for the top league in the world. It provides NHL teams with a place for them to assign players to prepare and improve their game so that when they do get called up to the NHL, they are ready to contribute. It also provides an avenue for European players to make an adjustment to North American rinks and style of play, although it's an option that few Euros deem beneficial compared to playing professionally at home. Development takes precident over winning.
2) To Win the League Title - The Calder Cup is the prize at the end of the AHL playoffs, the Kelly Cup for the ECHL. The object of sport is to win and win at all costs. The team owes it to the fans that buys the tickets to ice the team that has the best chance to win games, regardless of who those players are.
3) Furthering Hockey - The minor leagues provide the NHL with an opportunity to spread the gospel of hockey to non-hockey markets.
That's about all I've been able to come up with and I think you can eliminate #3 as potentially being the primary reason farm teams exist. So it comes down to one of the first two and in my mind it's painfully obvious that #1 far outweighs #2.
Fans in Manchester or Springfield or Stockton might disagree with me but lets be honest. Winning is great but it better not be coming at the expense of the development of an organization's top NHL prospects.
"Development is the number one thing, Guy" said a NHL executive when I asked the question, "Especially in today's game when you look at the young players who are stepping in and contributing, you need to have a good feeder system for those guys."
That doesn't mean that winning isn't important but it is definitely secondary. The best case scenario is that a championship team is made up of top prospects so that there is a ton of development going on while the fans and minor league affiliate can celebrate the victory. The Hamilton Bulldogs (see photo) are a perfect example; defending AHL champs that had several players who are now with the Montreal Canadiens this year including playoff MVP Carey Price.
"That's why [farm] teams have the veteran players that they do down there," said the NHL exec., "Those vets understand what their role is, not to put the screws to the young players but to be leaders and role models and stuff like that."
To take the argument a step further... from the NHL organization's perspective would winning with career minor leaguers be worse than losing with the players you draft and want to see develop into future NHL players?
"You want your players to get the playing time," came the answer, "You hope you do a good enough job putting the puzzle pieces together because you want to win, every coach and player wants to win, but at the same time you want to make sure your players get better. They don't get better by sitting in the pressbox or playing on the fourth line [in the NHL.]"
So if winning with your youth is the absolute best thing that can happen, losing while your prospects don't play would have to be considered the worst case scenario because then nobody benefits.
I'll leave you with this thought: Ryan O'Marra dressed for just 2 games combined in March and April during Springfield's playoff stretch drive. A former 1st round pick, although not one Edmonton made, who is deemed to have a NHL future did not receive valuable development time during pressure situations in the last month and a half of the AHL schedule.
Was Ryan O'Marra handled properly in 2007-08?
That will be adressed in a blog entry in the near future and the answer is a lot more complicated than you might think.