2 Months Deep: How NHL Teams are Using Their AHL Affiliates

Your newest Winnipeg Jet, Carl Klingberg - Courtesy of Global Winnipeg

As of December 1st, the NHL landscape looked like this in terms of the overall standings: (Oh by the way, if you predicted that a) Minnesota would lead the league after 2 months and/or b) Anaheim would barely have it’s head above water at this point, e-mail me, and I’ll let you make each of my personal decisions for the whole of 2012)

1. Minnesota Wild                        15-7-3                     33pts

2. Pittsburgh Penguins                14-7-4                     32pts

3. Detroit Red Wings                   15-7-1                     31pts

4. Boston Bruins                          15-7-1                     31pts

5. Chicago Blackhawks                14-8-3                    31pts

6. St. Louis Blues                          14-8-2                    30pts

7. Florida Panthers                      13-7-4                    30pts

8. Toronto Maple Leafs                14-9-2                   30pts

9. New York Rangers                  13-5-3                    29pts

10. Philadelphia Flyers                13-7-3                    29pts

11. Phoenix Coyotes                     13-7-3                    29pts

12. Vancouver Canucks               14-9-1                    29pts

13. Dallas Stars                             14-9-1                    29pts

14. Los Angeles Kings                   12-8-4                    28pts

15. San Jose Sharks                      13-7-1                    27pts

16. Buffalo Sabres                        13-10-1                   27pts

17. Edmonton Oilers                    12-10-3                  27pts

18. Nashville Predators                11-9-4                    26pts

19. Ottawa Senators                     12-10-2                  26pts

20. Washington Capitals              12-10-1                  25pts

21. New Jersey Devils                  12-10-1                  25pts

22. Montreal Canadiens               10-11-4                  25pts

23. Tampa Bay Lightning            11-11-2                   24pts

24. Colorado Avalanche               11-13-1                   23pts

25. Winnipeg Jets                          9-11-4                    22pts

26. Calgary Flames                       10-12-1                  21pts

27. Carolina Hurricanes               8-14-4                    20pts

28. New York Islanders                7-11-4                    18pts

29. Anaheim Ducks                       7-13-4                    18pts

30. Columbus Blue Jackets          6-15-3                    15pts

Yes, it’s very early, and no, 9 wins won’t separate 1st place from last place for long – but alas, these are the way things stand as we enter the month of December.

Teams such as the Wild, Panthers, and Maple Leafs are all doing much better than expected, while some usually dominant teams such as the Capitals, Ducks, and Lightning are all floundering. Again however, it’s early. Things can, and almost certainly will change as the season rolls along.

This is all very well and good, but what does it have to do with the AHL or the IceCaps?

I had an idea.

Every 2 months of the season, I will take a look at two things. First, I will look at the NHL standings, given that they depict the successes and failures that the parent clubs of each AHL franchise are having on the ice. Second, I will compare these standings to a second list, which indicates the degree to which each NHL team is utilizing talent from their respective AHL affiliates.  I am looking to examine the relationship between NHL team success and the use of AHL talent, without getting into any statistical analyses.

Below is an Excel Spreadsheet that lists the NHL teams in order, based on how many AHL players they have called up to their main roster in the first 2 months of this season. Take a look.

October and November NHL/AHL Call-ups

For those of you who may be unable to open the document, here are the Top 3, and the Bottom 3 teams in terms of AHL player usage.

1. Philadelphia Flyers (Adirondack Phantoms): 12 call-ups [Legein, Zolnierczyk (twice), Schenn (twice), Rinaldo, Gustafsson, Holmstrom, Wellwood, Bourdon, Marshall (twice)]

2. Buffalo Sabres (Rochester Americans): 12 call-ups [Tropp (twice), MacIntyre, Brennan (twice), Kassian (twice), Szechura (twice), McNabb (twice), Finley]

3. Anaheim Ducks (Syracuse Crunch): 11 call-ups [Newton, Maroon (twice), Jacques (4 times), Bonino, Holland, Guenin, Deslauriers]

…….

28. Tampa Bay Lightning (Norfolk Admirals): 2 call-ups [Ritola, Tyrell]

29. Boston Bruins (Providence Bruins): 2 call-ups [Caron, Hamill]

30. Los Angeles Kings (Manchester Monarchs): 2 call-ups [Voynov (twice)]

From the list, you can see for example, that the Boston Bruins have only made 2 AHL call-ups this season.

As you can imagine, there are a number of reasons why an NHL team would call up an AHLer at any given time. In the example of Boston, they went 12-0-1 in the month of November. When a team is rolling like that, why would you rock the boat by bringing in somebody new and potentially mess things up? Obviously, one factor involved in determining the number of call-ups a team will make is the success the initial NHL lineup has (typically). The inverse can be seen in the case of the Anaheim Ducks, who are currently 29th in the NHL. When things aren’t going so well for an NHL club, the desire to call-up an AHL player quite clearly increases. Anaheim for example, sits in 3rd with 11 call-ups so far this season while struggling from the get go, including calling up Jean-Francois Jacques FOUR times (tied with Detroit’s Brendan Smith and Fabian Brunnstrom for the most of any AHL player so far this season).

Another factor that determines AHL involvement is injuries.The Pittsburgh Penguins, who have done remarkably well given that they have been obliterated by injuries, have made 8 call-ups in the first 2 months of the season (9th overall) to address the gaps in the lineup that had to be filled at short notice. The same is true for teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs. When the Leafs suffered injuries to their #1 goalie, 2 of their Top 6 D-men, and 5 of their starting forwards, the AHL Marlies were used rather often to plug the holes.

In the case of your St. John’s IceCaps, the Jets have called up 7 different players at different times to address injury issues and shake up the struggling lineup (12th overall). Those players are Peter Mannino, Mark Flood, Brett Festerling, Paul Postma, Jason Jaffray, Arturs Kulda, and most recently, Carl Klingberg. Interestingly, if the list I drew up ranked teams in terms of the number of unique call-ups in the first 2 months, they would be tied for 3rd in the league, with 7 different players making the trip to the big club. Only the Leafs, Blue Jackets, Panthers, Wild, and Flyers have used as many or more of their respective affiliate’s players.

As the season rolls along, it will be interesting to track the progress of the NHL teams while looking at the degree to which they are relying on AHL talent in times of need. As it is only early in the season, the connection should only become more apparent with time. Stay tuned as we follow this going forward.

Follow @Normaniac747 and @SJ_IceCaps on Twitter.

Rival fans should make IceCaps’ season interesting

7,000 people will be filing into the Mile One Centre on a regular basis in the next few months. On most nights, things should look pretty uniform, or at least sound that way. We’ll hear a few “Go Caps go!” chants, and see tons of those gorgeous jerseys floating around. But every few weeks, things will be different.

For example, when the Hamilton Bulldogs, Toronto Marlies, and even to an extent, the WBS Penguins come to town, things won’t be so one-sided.

Photo: Hamilton Spec

Some believe that Canadiens fans (Bulldogs’ parent) may very well drown out IceCaps supporters in the first game of the season. While I believe this is far-fetched and not the case at all, there will definitely be a good opportunity for some Habs fans to show off their red, white, and blue. Is this really a bad thing? I don’t think so.

I wouldn’t put much stock in the idea that a few fans of other AHL clubs will take away from the IceCaps’ home advantage. That’s just foolish.

From CBC.ca’s Tim Wharnsby:

Newfoundland hockey fans do not alter their NHL  allegiances easily. Most of them are long-time supporters of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs or Boston Bruins, or they cheer for the team of their favourite Newfoundlander, like Daniel Cleary of the Detroit Red Wings or Ted Purcell of the Tampa Bay Lightning. So even though the Winnipeg Jets have brought back pro hockey to the Rock by placing their AHL affiliate in St. John’s, the Jets have some work to do in this province to turn the locals into fanatics of the Jets.

Joe Colborne - Photo: Marlies.ca

As a Leafs fan, and writer for Maple Leafs Hot Stove, I’ve followed the team closely for basically my entire life (probably even more so in the last two years due to my newly found writing hobby.)

From discussing lineups, prospects, coaching decisions, trades, roster moves, and literally EVERYTHING in between with fellow Leafs fans and analysts, I’m probably much more familiar with the Marlies right now than I am with the IceCaps. Actually, there’s no “probably” about it. I am.

So when the Marlies finally do come to St. John’s in November, I’ll be looking out for the likes of Joe Colborne, Ben Scrivens, Mike Zigomanis, and others who I believe to have real futures with my beloved Maple Leafs. Do I dislike the Jets? Of course not. And I’ll be behind the IceCaps for the rest of their schedule no doubt, especially when they play those Bulldogs.

I’m sure by the time this season winds down, I should be just as familiar with the Jets/IceCaps lineups as I am with the Leafs/Marlies. But my allegiances will never shift, as is the case with most hockey fans in Newfoundland and abroad.

Eric Tangradi - WBS Penguins

I think the atmosphere created by these sorts of scenarios will make for some really interesting games down at the Mile One Centre. After all, a bit of friendly banter between hockey fans should add to the experience of taking in a pro hockey game. Just don’t throw any beer at me when I show up in my Luke Schenn Leafs jersey, and everything will be fine.

Email ryanfancey@gmail.com (twitter/maplestirup) and follow the blog on twitter here.

Jets-Senators Hockeyville ticket lottery information

The Town of Conception Bay South has released details pertaining to the Hockeyville game to be played at Mile One Centre on Sept. 26, an exhibition match-up between the Ottawa Senators and IceCaps parent Winnipeg Jets. Tickets are free of charge, and there will be a lottery to help distribute 1600 seats to the public.

From the official release:

Starting on Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 9:00AM ballots for the public lottery will be available online by visiting www.cbshockeyville.ca. The entry period closes at 4:00PM on Monday September 12, 2011. Sixteen-hundred (1,600) Game tickets will be available through the public lottery: Twelve-hundred (1,200) of the tickets are reserved for Conception Bay South residents only and the remaining four hundred (400) tickets for all communities across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Glove tap to the @IllegalCurve for the heads up. Email ryanfancey@gmail.com and follow @SJ_IceCaps

IceCaps heading to the Bell Centre

It isn’t exactly news, but the IceCaps will be one of two teams facing the Hamilton Bulldogs at the Bell Centre in Montreal this season.

From the AHL official site:

The second (game) will be played on Fri., Feb. 24, as the Bulldogs welcome the St. John’s IceCaps to Bell Centre for a 7:30 p.m. game.

Last season the Bulldogs hosted the Binghamton Senators at the Bell Centre to a crowd of over 13, 000. This will surely be a game the IceCaps players have circled on their calendars.

IceCaps season schedule released, team will host Hamilton first

The 2011-12 AHL schedule has been released, and the St. John’s IceCaps will play the Providence Bruins to open their season on October 7th on the road. From there, they’ll travel to Manchester to play the Monarchs the following night (Saturday.)

Fast forward to the following weekend, and the first regular season AHL game in St. John’s since the Baby Leafs left town will be the IceCaps and Hamilton Bulldogs on October 14th. The team will play the Canadiens affiliate again the following night, and remains at home for another pair of games against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NY Islanders affiliate) the following weekend. For the official schedule, follow this link to the AHL.com release.

Other notable games include the first home game against the Toronto Marlies, which will be to open a back-to-back on the weekend of November 25th. The WBS Penguins will be in town for the first time on January 14th for another weekend pair of games. Every home game for the IceCaps will be a part of a two game set.

It’s also interesting to note that the team will basically be on the road for the entire month of February, leaving after the 12th and not returning until March 9th when they host the Hershey Bears.

Simply click “Continue reading” below for the entire IceCaps regular season schedule.

Continue reading

Report: Rick Rypien found dead

http://www.vancouversun.com/3724133.bin?size=620x400

From James Mirtle, The Globe and Mail, via Twitter:

“Police confirm former Vancouver Canucks tough guy Rick Rypien has been found dead in his Alberta home. More to come.”

As you may know, Rypien was an off-season acquisition by the Jets this summer and has spent time with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. With the recent death of New York Rangers forward Derek Boogaard still fresh in our minds, this is another tragic loss for the hockey world, and yet another noted “tough guy” to die far before his time.

We will certainly have more on this as the story unfolds. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Rypien family during this difficult time.

Note: News1130 in Vancouver now reports that Rypien’s death was a suicide. It’s been known that he had dealt with some mental health issues in the past.

True North has recently released the following statement:

We are deeply saddened to confirm Rick’s passing. As many people are aware, he had strong ties to True North Sports & Entertainment, the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club, the former Manitoba Moose Hockey Club and the Vancouver Canucks. We would like to express our sincere sympathies to the Rypien family as well as Rick’s friends….

Follow @Normaniac747 and @SJ_IceCaps on Twitter.

Will the IceCaps look at Sweetland as an option?

Sticking with a theme of adding local players to the IceCaps, I can’t help but wonder if the organization will consider Bonavista native Andrew Sweetland – formerly of the Rochester Amerks, and most recently the Binghamton Senators.

This past season Sweetland split some time between the Senators and the ECHL’s Elmira Jackals. In March, while playing with the Senators, he suffered a concussion and has been out indefinitely. This will obviously throw up some red flags for teams looking into acquiring his services, IceCaps included.

On the bright side, Sweetland has started to really find his scoring touch at the pro level it seems. With 21 goals in 38 games with the Jackets, and 7 points in only 14 games with the Baby Sens, you can see that his numbers have improved over the past year or so. Here’s a more detailed look at his point splits, from HockeyDB.

Given the small sample size, it’s tough to say whether Sweetland is a legit 0.5 point per game player at the AHL level. But there’s no doubt this guy has a knack for putting the puck in the net – it’s been the scouting report on him for quite some time.

Set to turn only 25 years old in October, the IceCaps could get a quality player here if Sweetland is indeed healthy. His contract status is up the air, but if he’s available you can count on the IceCaps at least inquiring about his status.

Signing Sweetland could be a bit of a risk, given the type of injury. But for a guy who can pot goals, the team that gives him a shot could reap quite the reward.

Email ryanfancey@gmail.com and follow @SJ_ICECAPS on Twitter

Jets and IceCaps likely to be affiliated with Colorado Eagles

Upon completing a deal to sign defenceman Jake Marto out of the University of North Dakota last week, the Jets organization may have released a little tidbit of information about where their ECHL affiliate will reside.

Of course this has probably been quite obvious for some time now, as it would make sense for the newest NHL, AHL and ECHL clubs to all be in affiliation.

When Marto’s signing was reported by the Grand Forks Herald, they had this to say:

The former Grand Forks Central and UND defenseman has signed a one-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets’ organization. The contract calls for Marto to play for either the St. John’s IceCaps in the American Hockey League or the Colorado Eagles in the East Coast Hockey League.

Marto says he wishes to stay in the “A” but there’s obviously a real chance he could be sent to Colorado.

The Eagles had been playing in the Central Hockey League up until and including this past season. In months following the season, it was speculated that they would join the ECHL until finally confirmed on May 31st by Eagles coach and president Chris Stewart.

We’ll keep an eye on this over the coming weeks since no formal announcement has been made, to my knowledge (or Google’s knowledge, I guess.)

Visit the Eagles’ site here.

Email ryanfancey@gmail.com and follow SJ_IceCaps on Twitter