Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Steve Martinson's Recruiting Process - Assembling the 2017-18 Allen Team & Dyson Stevenson Shares His Thoughts

Anyone who follows this blog knew Tuesday was the day all "future consideration" trades had to be completed but that doesn't make fans anymore prepared for what transpired. Dyson Stevenson was the player sent to Wichita in the transaction that ended up having Alex Krushelnyski assigned to Allen for the playoffs.  Dyson is the definition of a team player who will do whatever it takes for his team to be successful. Stick up for a teammate, block a shot, play forward, play defense, score a goal, finish check, the guy could and would do whatever he was asked to do.  And a great guy off the ice who was outstanding in representing the team with the fans and in the community. I had a chance to talk to Dyson this afternoon and ask if there is anything he would like to share and this is what he said,

"It was a phone call I wasn't expecting but it is pro hockey so anything can happen. I had an amazing time in Allen! I had the best teammates ever all three years and I would still do anything for everyone of them (until I play against them next year). The upstairs staff were all unbelievable to me! I owe Gus (Trainer) so much he was great to me especially with my concussions. Timmy (equipment manager) was unreal and the most professional equipment guy I have ever seen. I made a real close friend that I will miss everyday especially when I am on a bus and that is Monty Williams. He kept us safe on that shitty bus and still had time to be the most generous guy in the world. Finally, the fans in Allen were the best I have ever seen. Always positive toward the players and the team. And they wanted us to succeed more than any other fans in pro sports."

 - I had the pleasure of getting to know Dyson off the ice as we spent many days around a fishing pond talking about everything but hockey. He will be a success in Wichita because he is a leader and will be the ultimate teammate. With two Kelly Cup championships to his credit don't be surprised if Dyson joins a long list of players that move on from Allen and become captain of their new team. (Daniel Tetrault, Jamie Schaafsma, Trevor Ludwig, Jarret Lukin).

- The other future consideration trade has not been announced as I write this but there will be a double dose of sadness when the player that was sent to Indy in the transaction that had Tyler Barnes assigned to Allen for the playoffs is announced. I will provide an update when the player is announced which should be later today. 

- The full story behind these two transactions will probably never be known but the basis was to try and win an unprecedented third Kelly Cup. I know coach Martinson along with many other observers felt Allen had more depth going into the playoffs than in any other season. Things didn't work out as planned and now Allen has lost two players that will be tough to replace. Steve Martinson is hard at work recruiting the 2017-18 team and the old adage of cheer for the name on the front of the jersey and not the back could never be more true. However, it doesn't make it any easier to say good-bye to players like Dyson Stevenson.

- For coach Steve Martinson there is an off season but for General Manager Steve Martinson there is never time to relax. Recruitment is something he spends time doing everyday all year around but with Allen out of the playoffs early, Martinson has had extra time to recruit. He shared with me that a big difference this off season is he has been able to talk to many more agents/players about coming to Allen. The first signings for next season should take place over the next few days as June 16 is the first day to sign players. It doesn't mean the team will announce the signings as that is more of a PR decision. Typically the team likes to make a big splash with the first signing announcement. With Chad Costello heading to Europe it won't be him but maybe Riley Gill's re-signing would be a good way to kick off the first signing for next season. I have not talked to Riley but it would be such a great foundation for the team if he would re-sign.

Season ending rosters are due tomorrow and teams can list no more that 20 players. This list is not very meaningful as Allen only had 17 players on their protected list that was submitted on June 1.  The next critical date will be on June 30. Until June 30 all of the Allen American player's rights for the ECHL remain with Allen (unless the rights are traded) but on June 30th Martinson has to submit to the league a list of no more than eight players he wants to protect/qualify. These eight names do not include players that have already signed. Because only eight players can be protected there is incentive to get as many players signed by June 30th as possible. The eight players will be given qualifying offers which for the most part must be 5% above their salary from last season. The qualifying offer period is from June 30th to August 1st.

- The starting point in putting together the 2017-18 Allen Americans team is determining a budget. While the salary cap is a given cost ($12,800 per week), housing and insurance can cost the team more than the players salary. A big cost factor is how many married players are on the team. Married players get their own apartment while the single guys share an apartment. Health insurance is much cheaper for single players and married guys without children than it is for families.

With four championships and a second round playoff loss over the past five years you might think everything would be positive in putting the 2017-18 team together but that is not the case. Some of the players want to try playing in the AHL or Europe. So you have a situation where some players want time to find other opportunities before committing to Allen. Another issue facing Martinson is most players feel they deserve a raise in pay, however the amount available for salaries will increase by just $200 per week for the entire team. The salary cap is set by the Professional Hockey Players Association (PHPA) and ownership and is spelled out in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). This past season the salary cap was $12,600 per week to be shared by all players on the active roster. Next season the salary cap will increase to $12,800. That is an average increase of just $10 per week per player.

What is Steve Martinson's secret to recruiting? Have as many tools in your recruiting tool kit as possible. With the salary cap, competing based on salary is not the key to success as a player can always find a team willing to pay $50 or $100 more per week. The key to getting the best players is having other reasons to have them want to play for your team. Here are some of the many tools Steve Martinson uses when making a pitch to players.

-  Allen has never missed the playoffs and has been to the championship final five times in eight years and won four championships. You can count on many additional weeks of pay as Allen makes a deep playoff run along with a couple of extra months of lodging and playoff bonuses. This can total $10,000 - $15,000 more in compensation for a player over a team that does not make the playoffs. 

- You will play an upbeat, aggressive offensive system in Allen that is also dedicated to defensive hockey. Points you score in the ECHL won't keep you in the American Hockey League (AHL) but points will get you noticed. You have to be able to play without the puck and you have to understand the game and that is what we will help you with in Allen. With our system you will have plenty of opportunity to get points. We won't handcuff you in the third period with a lead. We will take less risks but we will keep our foot on the gas. If you want to play in a system where you can score a lot of points come to Allen.

- You will play in a great facility in the eight year old Allen Event Center which is surrounded by shopping and restaurants.  

- You will play for a team that has a history of moving players to the AHL. Allen has had over 30 players from their roster spend time in the AHL in their three ECHL seasons. Our goal is to see you progress in your hockey career.

- You will be able to develop your skating technique by working with Luke Chilcott who is the skating coach for the San Jose Barracuda (AHL) and the Allen Americans.

- While playing in the Dallas Metroplex you have access to whatever interests you may have including the Stars, Cowboys, Mavericks and Rangers. Playing where you have a major international airport makes it easier for you and your friends and family to travel in and out of DFW and for players to get to AHL cities quickly if called up.

- You will live in a place where you can play golf year around. Average high temperature during the hockey season is 79 in October, 66 in November, 57 in December, 55 in January, 61 in February, 69 in March, 77 in April and 84 in May. It is a great place to live whether your are single or married.

- If you like to fish there are plenty of opportunities within 30 minutes of your apartment. Fishing is great.

- One of the biggest detriments in recruiting in the past was that it was well known Allen traveled by bus more than other teams and players would bring that up as a problem. With new ownership Martinson can now tell players the team will be flying more and they have a newer, better bus when they drive to the closer cities. One of the bigger obstacles has been overcome. 

- You will be helped with whatever your post hockey career interests are through our intern program and you will be able to develop business contacts while you are still playing that will be useful after you retire. The DFW metroplex is a great place to build a post career network.

- There is a great fan base that supports the team and the players.

- With his record in Allen, Steve Martinson will have plenty of players and agents calling him this summer. When you have a successful program in a great location a lot of players will want to play in Allen.

- Because Steve Martinson has been around minor pro hockey for so long he has a real advantage when it comes to recruiting. But even with the contacts he has developed over the years he spends many hours going over data to determine who to recruit. He has a couple of techniques that he uses to find those diamonds in the rough, players who have underperformed but will thrive in his system and players that have not been used in the right way on their current teams. It is no coincidence that each year there are players that come in and have a career year in Allen. Whether it is young guys or experienced players, they thrive in the Martinson system.  

- Another issue the coach needs to be aware of is the veteran status of each player as the number of veterans on the team is limited to just four. A veteran is defined as a player with more than 260 regular season professional games (for games in Europe only the top six leagues count). The Americans finished this season with four veterans (Costello, Steffes, Chouinard and Brittain). Greger Hanson passed the 260 games played mark this past season and is now a veteran. With Costello and Brittain signed in Europe, Martinson will have some veteran spots available. It is always good to have at least one veteran slot available for new players that might want to come to Allen.

Here is my opinion of how Martinson will approach recruitment for next season.

- Coach Martinson will have a base of corp players returning. That doesn't mean everyone wishing to return will be signed but he will reach out to everyone to see what they want to do. Players like Asuchak, Hanson, Moore, Makowski and Hall are surely looking for AHL deals. Best case for Allen is San Jose will sign some of them. There will also be players already signed in San Jose that might start the season in Allen.

- Players that are ready to sign immediately will be the top priority. Those that wait run the risk of other players being signed and a slot not being available or money not being available when they are ready to sign.

- Coach Martinson will strive to get as many players signed as quickly as possible. A good goal would be to have two lines, four defensemen and a goalie signed by June 30. That may be a bit ambitious but it is a good goal.

- With the average salary being about $640 per week ($12,800 divided by 20 players) finding good rookie players that make less than the average is critical so you can pay the top end guys.

- Popularity of players with the fans is not a big factor when it comes time to signing. It is strictly based on performance. You can always find another popular player.

- If Martinson finds a good player at the right price they will get signed right away.

- With just four veteran slots available the decision on veterans will be a difficult one.

- The affiliation with San Jose will continue though it has not been formalized yet. Allen will have players assigned for development from the beginning of the season.

One thing is certain, Steve Martinson will have the same type of team as he has always had. They will compete hard, be physical and be difficult to play against. The team will be tough but also skillful. He recruits guys that understand you must work hard, be in great shape, follow the system, be a team guy and finish checks. He builds his teams to have depth rather than a few super stars. This approach has worked for 21 years and it will work again in year 22 as he puts together the 2017-2018 team.

DID YOU KNOW:  Dyson Stevenson played for Wichita coach, Malcolm Cameron, in junior hockey for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League. Stevenson's last year playing for Cameron before turning pro (2013-14) he had 76 points (38 goals 38 assists) in 66 games.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Fishing Trip, Kelly Cup, Protected Lists, Future Considerations, Tetrault Rush Coach, Playoff Special Teams, Europe Exodus

Today marks one month since the Allen Americans played their last game of the season so thought it would be a good time to cover a few topics for those of you suffering from hockey withdrawal earlier than normal.

- For anyone that has ever spent time at a fishing camp in Canada the solitude and beauty is as great as the fishing. I just spent a week on Cedar Lake in western Ontario. It was my 20th year of this annual pilgrimage to Canada. It was the one positive outcome of Allen losing in the second round of the playoffs. I had not planned on going on the fishing trip because of the playoffs but Colorado changed the plans. The fishing was slower than normal but four of us still managed to to land 275 walleyes, 50 northern pike, 25 smallmouth bass along with a few crappies and perch.

- Enough about the fishing, the scenery on these Canadian lakes is spectacular. Lots of islands covered in trees in various colors of green at this time of year. During the week we saw bears twice, many Bald Eagles including three different pairs fighting in the air in an amazing acrobatic display of flying, we saw a fox, several beavers and we fed an eagle with a perch as the eagle came close to our boat. There were thousands of geese still traveling north to the breeding grounds. An otter was playing and looking for food where we docked our boat at night. The sounds of Loons calling at sunset travels for miles. The bottom line is a week on a lake in Canada is so much more than fishing. The serenity, beauty and camaraderie is as much fun as landing a big walleye.

My buddy Mike with a 27" walleye

- Congrats to the Colorado Eagles for their Kelly Cup victory and especially to former Allen Americans Darryl Bootland, Casey Pierro-Zabotel and Matt Register on a well deserved accomplishment. Allen fans can't help but wonder how things would have turned out had Casey and Matt been in Allen this season. If you can't win the Kelly Cup the next best thing is to have a team from your division win it. And the streak of former Central Hockey League (CHL) teams winning the Kelly Cup remains intact. Seems like that rough and tough style from the CHL translates to the ECHL pretty well.

- Matt Register had arguably the best post season in the history of the ECHL. He is the first defenseman in the history of the league to be selected as the Kelly Cup MVP. He finished second in playoff scoring with 24 points (8 goals 16 assists). Of his eight goals he had the game winning goal five times including twice against Allen. He also scored the game tying goal twice in the playoffs with less than a minute remaining in the game. Matt tied a game against Idaho with nine seconds left and against South Carolina with 25 seconds left. And lest Allen fans forget, Colorado beat the Americans both times they met in the regular season and Register had the game winning goal in both games. That I would say is payback!

- I will do a special recruiting post in the next few days but thought is would be interesting to see what former Allen Americans showed up on protected lists around the ECHL. Protected lists don't tell you very much as players that have retired, signed overseas and several other specific provisions can be protected. Teams will have to submit "season ending rosters" by June 15 and those rosters are limited to 20 players. June 30 will be the big date as each team will be able to qualify only eight players who aren't already signed.

Adirondack - J.P.Anderson
Atlanta - Alex Guptill
Brampton -  Reggie Traccitto, Garrett Clarke, Justin Courtnall
Cincinnati - Joel Rumpel
Colorado - Matt Register, Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Darryl Bootland
Florida - Bryce Aneloski
Fort Wayne - Kyle Follmer, Jamie Schaafsma.
Greenville - Tristan King,
Idaho - Corbin Baldwin,
Indy - None
Kalamazoo - Ben Wilson
Kansas City - None
Manchester - Rick Pinkston, Daniel Doremus, Tony Turgeon
Norfolk - None
Orlando - Trevor Ludwig, Chris Crane
Quad City - None
Rapid City - Nicholas Miglio
Reading - None
South Carolina - Danny Federico
Toledo - J.P. LaFontaine
Tulsa - Reid Halabi
Utah - None
Wheeling - Kale Kerbashian
Wichita - Randy Cure

- A very important date for Allen fans is Tuesday (June 13) at 3:00 pm EDT. That is the date all future consideration trades need to be completed. The Americans have to send a player to Wichita to complete the transaction that had Alex Krushelnyski assigned to Allen and they will have to send a player to Indy to complete the transaction that had Tyler Barnes assigned to Allen. My prediction is there will be some sad faces in Allen when these trades get announced.

- Special teams were excellent for the Allen Americans in the playoffs. It was even strength that caused the problems. Allen had by far the best special teams stats of any of the eight teams in the Division finals. Here is how the final eight ranked.

Power Play
24.6% - Toledo
24.4% - Allen
23.1% - Colorado
22.6% - Fort Wayne
18.9% - Manchester
17.4% - Florida
17.2% - South Carolina
12.2% - Brampton

Penalty Kill
90.0% - Allen
89.1% - Florida
86.0% - Brampton
85.7% - Manchester
85.3% - South Carolina
82.1% - Toledo
79.5% - Colorado
79.5% - Fort Wayne

One way to look at overall special teams performance is combine power play and penalty kill percentages. Greater than 105% is considered excellent special teams play and anything under 100% is considered disappointing. Here are the percentages for the eight teams that made the division finals.

114.4% - Allen
106.7% - Toledo
106.5% - Florida
104.6% - Manchester
102.6% - Colorado
102.5% - South Carolina
102.1% - Fort Wayne
98.2% - Brampton

- Congrats to Daniel Tetrault who was named the head coach of the Rapid City Rush yesterday. Daniel won the only championship of his long and storied professional career in Allen in 2014. I first interviewed Tetrault when he signed with Allen in the summer of 2013. Two things struck me about that interview were his open, friendly demeanor and his passion for hockey. Daniel was a leader on every team he ever played on. He is a natural leader. Former Wichita head coach Kevin McClelland, where Tetrault was captain for two years, best described the type of player he is, "He gives his heart and soul to his team. Some guys are leaders in the dressing room, some guys are leaders on the ice. Daniel Tetrault is both. One question I asked Tetrault back in 2013 was, if you could be anything besides a professional hockey player what would you be and without hesitation he said "a hockey coach." Just four years later he has reached his dream.

Daniel Tetrault

- The exodus to Europe is going full tilt with many of the best players fielding offers they cannot refuse. The leading scorer for Allen (Chad Costello), Rapid City (Ryan Walters), Orlando (Eric Faille) and Brampton (David Vallorani) are just a few examples of great players heading overseas next season. In total over 40 players from the ECHL (including Josh Brittain) have signed overseas with many more to sign in the next two months.


 DID YOU KNOW: If you look at the team history of every team that has ever played in the ECHL, Allen has the highest overall winning percentage at .692 (138-55-23) and the highest road winning percentage at .708 (71-26-11).

Monday, May 22, 2017

Chad Costello Moves On - The German Press Release, My Conversation With Chad, His Many Records

The Costello family with Chad's MVP trophy after the 2016 Kelly Cup Championship

It was quite a shock to the system when I heard Chad Costello is heading to Germany next season. His on ice presence is unequaled in the history of the Allen Americans (see DID YOU KNOW below) but it is who he and his family are off the ice that makes it so hard to say goodbye. I had the chance to spend a few minutes with Chad last night talking about his decision to head overseas at this stage of his career. First, here is the translation of the press release issued by his new German team, the Iserlohn Roosters. Iserlohn is a city of around 95,000 in the west central part of Germany. The team plays in the top league in Germany (DEL) in an arena opened in 1971 that holds just under 5000 for hockey. This past season the team finished 13th in a 14 team league. The press release below was translated from German by Google Translate so some of the words don't translate well but you can certainly get the gist of what is being said.

 Iserlohn - The Iserlohn Roosters from the German Ice Hockey League (DEL) have committed another striker for the coming season. From the Allen Americans, the top scorer of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), Chad Costello, switches to the Seilersee. The 30-year-old American, who was also the captain of his team, signed a trial contract at the Seilersee. "Chad has an extraordinary scoring talent, which he has demonstrated in the last three years in impressive form. Nevertheless, we have to look at the training and the first test games to see if he can do it in the DEL. We are very impressed that a player of his quality will accept a trial contract. This is undoubtedly a new sporting chapter in his career, "says Roosters manager Karsten Mende.
Costello was born in Johnston, Iowa, in 1986, and began his career in a variety of US post-graduate students before completing his studies at Northeastern University. In 2008, he signed his first professional contract at the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the IHL. Costello already showed his goalkeeper here. In 2014, Costello moved to the Allen Americans, where he made his final breakthrough with other stations in the AHL, CHL and ECHL. In 272 league games he recorded 426 points, scored 117 goals, celebrated 2015 and 2016, also because of his own efficiency, the ECHL championship, won the so-called Kelly Cup. In 2015, he was also awarded the ECHL Sportmanship Award. In 2016 he was not only the best player in the main round but also the playoffs MVP.
"Chad has been an absolute exception player in his league. We hope that he will find us at the Seilersee quickly and take the step that we all hope for, "emphasized Isarlohn's chef Jari Pasanen. Costello is a family friend and a good friend of the new Iserlohner striker Jack Combs. Both, after their common time in Tulsa, will again go together on goal hunting.

The most important thing Chad wanted me to know when I asked about why he signed in Germany was it had nothing to do with how the season ended in Allen or playing in Allen. As a matter of fact, that is what made the decision to leave so difficult. Chad and Ashley don't see Allen as a place where Chad has a job, they don't see folks as co-workers and fans but they see everyone as friends and that makes it hard to leave. Chad also expressed his admiration and respect for Steve Martinson who he credits in large part for his record breaking success in Allen.

As you might imagine after every season Chad gets offers to play overseas and has never made the leap. Why is this season different?  Costello had another great season in Allen winning the scoring title and the league MVP but he is soon to be 31 years old and you never know how many opportunities will arise in the future. Getting a contract offer from a team in the top league in Germany (DEL) means two things for Chad. First, the financial rewards are much greater than what he could get in the ECHL even as a top player. Second, he will play with his best friend and former teammate Jack Combs.

You may have noticed in the press release the sentence that says, "We were very impressed that a player of his (Chad's) quality will accept a trial contract." I asked Chad about that and he was very straight forward in saying the trial contract caused him no concern whatsoever. He totally agreed with that approach. He wants to earn his place on the team just like he did when he first arrived in Allen. There are no guarantees and Chad is fine with that. It is also important to keep in mind when you have never lived or played in Europe and have a family of five there are a lot of other considerations when you check out where you will live, how are the schools and a myriad of other issues. You can talk and get advice from others but until you arrive and check everything out first hand and in person you just never know how things fit together. I am sure everything will work out great but Chad and Ashley are going into the endeavor with their eyes wide open.

I am sure all Allen fans join me is wishing Chad, Ashley and the entire Costello family the best of luck as they embark on this new adventure and if for some reason things don't work out they will be welcomed back in Allen with open arms.

Finally, on personal level I want to thank Chad for his cooperation and friendship over the last three years. He is always available, always willing to answer any question posed to him, even the tough ones. A true gentleman who is always deflecting credit from himself on to others. It has been such a pleasure being able to watch his vision and precision on the ice as well as his role as a husband and father off the ice. I often kid this blog should be called the "Chad Costello Blog" because he is included so often. I selfishly hope Allen fans have not seen Chad's last game as an Allen American but if they have, he has given Allen fans a lifetime worth of memories. 

DID YOU KNOW: It is hard to know where to start when describing Chad Costello's impressive accomplishments with the Allen Americans. He was in Allen for three seasons, led the league in scoring each year and was selected as the ECHL MVP all three years (by the PHPA in 2015). He won two Kelly Cups, was the Kelly Cup MVP in 2016 and was a captain of the team the last two seasons.

In the 29 year history of the ECHL the scoring champion has won the scoring title by more than 20 points only six times. Chad accomplished that feat three years in a row including in 2014-15 when he won the scoring title by an all time record of 45 points.

Chad is the only player in ECHL history to win the scoring title three years in a row. 

In his three years in Allen, Costello has the #3, #5 and #12 best single seasons for assists in ECHL history. No other player is in the top 12 more than once.

As for Allen Americans team records many of these will never be broken. Here is a list of where Chad stands in the all time and single season record book.

Points - Chad leads with 350 which is 115 more than second place
Assists - Chad leads with 252 which is 114 more than second place
Goals - Chad is tied with Greger Hanson at 98 goals

Points - Chad is #1 (125), #2 (122) and #3 (103) in team history
Assists - Chad is #1 (89), #2 (84) and #3 (79) in team history
Goals - Chad is # 2 with 41 goals in 2014-15

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Costello to Germany, Colorado Advances, Playoff Thoughts, Barracuda Update, Beware Futures, Vet Problems, Emotions with Photos

It has been just a week since my last daily blog post but had the urge to write so will cover a wide range of topics that may not be connected at all. Just a random list of things that have happened or thoughts I have had since the Americans were eliminated from the playoffs. Here goes:

- Chad Costello has signed to play in Germany next season. He has signed with the Iserlohn Roosters in the DEL. This is the same team that Jack Combs plays for so a reunion for them. Hope the best for Chad and the family. He will certainly be missed but you never know how these things work out in the long run.   

- Losing in the second round of the playoffs sure makes for a long off season for Allen fans. After playing until the second week of June the past two years it already seems like the season has been over a long time and it isn't the end of May yet.

- Congrats to the Colorado Eagles who eliminated the Toledo Walleye last night by winning the game 6-3 and the series 4-1. Colorado has certainly had their way in the playoffs beating Idaho 4-1 in the first round, Allen 4-2 in the second round and Toledo 4-1 in the third round. They should be a great representative of the Western Conference in the Kelly Cup finals. I know there are many that will disagree but having the Eagles do so well is good for Allen and the Mountain Division so I have been all in for Colorado since they eliminated the Americans.

- Congrats also to Toledo for a great season. When you make it to the final four in a 27 team league that is quite an accomplishment. The Walleye were also the best team during the regular season winning the Brabham Cup with 104 points.

- The Eastern Conference final is a good example of how you fare in the regular season doesn't predict playoff success. Manchester was the #4 seed in the North Division and South Carolina was the #3 seed in the South Division. Here is another way to look at this. Toledo led the ECHL during the regular season with 104 points. There are three teams left vying for the Kelly Cup and they finished as follows in the regular season among all 27 teams:

94 points - Colorado (3rd)
85 points - Manchester (11th)
84 points - South Carolina (12th)

This is why they say in hockey you just need to get to the playoffs and anything can happen.

- You may have noticed Josh Brittain has signed to play in Slovakia next season. I have always been told as players get older and realize they will not make it in the AHL heading to Europe is a great option. They get to see Europe while playing hockey and the pay is higher. For Allen fans another thing to keep in mind is you can only have four veterans (more than 260 pro games) on the roster and Josh most likely was not going to be re-signed by coach Martinson. Chad Costello, Gary Steffes and Joel Chouinard were the other three vets on the team but Greger Hanson will also be a vet next year. Coach Martinson likes to have a vet slot in case he can recruit a great new player that wants to come to Allen. Bottom line is the competition for the four veteran spots will be very competitive. With Costello and Brittain heading to Europe there will be vet spots open.

- June is a busy month as it relates to starting the recruiting process for next season but one of the critical dates you should be aware of is June 13. That is the date all future consideration trades must be completed. Why is that important to Allen fans? If you recall, when the Americans acquired Tyler Barnes and Alex Krushelnyski the transactions included future considerations to Indy (Barnes) and Wichita (Krushelnyski). My guess is that means one player from the playoff roster will be heading to Indy and one to Wichita. If you eliminate veterans because a team would not agree to a veteran in future considerations because a veteran is always a free agent and you eliminate AHL contracted players the pool of who might be headed to Indy and Wichita is not very big. This could end up causing more disappointment for Allen fans. Stay tuned.

- In case you haven't been tracking the AHL playoffs, the San Jose Barracuda have advanced to the final four and are taking on the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Western Conference finals. It is the Syracuse Crunch vs Providence Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals. San Jose lost game one of the series against Grand Rapids at home last night by a score of 3-1. Game two is in San Jose tonight at 7:00 pm CDT.

- Spencer Asuchak is still playing hockey. He was loaned to San Jose after Allen lost to Colorado and has played in the Barracuda's last three games. Spencer is playing ahead of several AHL contracted players so congrats to him.

- The ECHL playoffs aren't even over however a team in Austria's top league (EBEL) has already announced that Matt Register has signed to play next season. The team, Villacher SV, was founded in 1923 and it will have a familiar mascot for Matt as it is an Eagle. This would not prevent Register from re-signing with Colorado but seems unusual to issue the press release prior to the completion of the ECHL playoffs.

- You may have seen the 2017-18 Allen Americans schedule that was released last week. I will do a "deep dive" on the schedule later in the summer but thought it was interesting to look at the schedule in terms of who the Americans will play and how many times they play each team. Allen will play 13 different ECHL teams next season but only nine different teams at home.  Below is a complete list of the 72 games by team:

13 games - Tulsa (7 home 6 away)
12 games - Wichita (6 home 6 away)
10 games - Idaho (4 home 6 away) 
8 games - Kansas City (4 home 4 away)
8 games  - Rapid City (5 home 3 away)
6 games - Colorado (4 home 2 away)
6 games - Utah (4 home 2 away)
2 games - Orlando (2 home 0 away)
2 games - Florida (0 home 2 away)
2 games - Fort Wayne (0 home 2 away)
1 game - Jacksonville (0 home 1 away)
1 game - Indy (0 home 1 away)
1 game - Atlanta (0 home 1 away)

The biggest change in the schedule is with Missouri/Kansas City as Allen played them 13 times last season and will play them only eight times next season. Division realignment has to happen since two teams (Alaska & Elmira) are no longer operating and two new teams (Worcester & Jacksonville) will start. The decision on the division alignment will likely happen at the Board of Governors (BOG) meeting which takes place in Las Vegas next month. You wonder if the reduced number of games against Kansas City is a tell the Mavericks will be moving to the Central Division. If you look at a map, putting Tulsa and Wichita in the Mountain Division and Kansas City in the Central Division makes some sense. If it happens to end up that way Allen would play 55 of their 72 games against teams in the Mountain Division. In 2016-17 Allen only played 31 of 72 games against Mountain Division opponents and 13 of the 31 were against Missouri.

- All season long I used Dianne Webster's images to so show so many great moments in an amazing season. Almost all of the images showed happiness, celebrations, effort, hard work, toughness and all of the things that made the team great. After the game six loss to Colorado on May 9th Dianne sent three photos to me that I am sure many of you have seen. As a professional photographer Dianne has often shared with me her goal is to capture the emotion in her photos, not just the action. These three photos do an outstanding job of capturing the emotion of the moment. To set the stage for these photos Matt Register had put the Eagles ahead with 69 seconds remaining in the game. This timeout was taken with 23.6 seconds left in the game.

Dyson Stevenson was a player that gave everything for this team. Dianne captured the raw emotion of defeat from Dyson

Coach Martinson's eyes say it all

This is Chad Costello after that final timeout. The pain is heartbreaking. A picture it truly worth a 1000 words.

DID YOU KNOW:  Toledo followed a long list of teams that have won the regular season championship and failed to win the Kelly/Riley Cup. In the 29 year history of the ECHL only three teams have accomplished that feat. Alaska has done it three times (2014, 2011, 2006), Cincinnati did it in 2008 and South Carolina in 1997. Some call it the curse of the Brabham Cup and it bit Toledo this season. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

 For the first time since I started writing the Allen Americans Blog five years ago the season has ended with a loss. Almost hard to comprehend it has been five years and the first season ending loss was on Tuesday. No time for sorrow or disappointment. It is time for me to say my thanks to all involved in making Allen Americans hockey the best fan experience anywhere. While I will still be posting blogs during the summer when there is news to report, it will no longer be each day.

It is quite an undertaking to write about the team seven days a week during the season and it does indeed take a village to make it all possible. So please indulge me for this once a year post about the blog and all of the people that help me.

It wouldn't be right to have a blog post without some stats so here are a couple that amaze me. I write somewhere around 250,000 words during the hockey season. Readership varies but has steadily increased to around 1200 unique page views per day. Last month it totaled over 40,000. The blog reached quite a milestone last Saturday that is almost unimaginable as the 1,000,000th unique page view took place. Who would have imagined a blog started for the Heritage Ranch Allen Americans fan club now reaches people all over the US and Canada as well as the hockey hotbeds in Europe on a daily basis.  It proves fans of the Allen Americans are all over the world.

I want to start out by thanking all of the fans that frequent this blog. It has been my pleasure to meet many of you and your words of encouragement in person, comments at the end of each blog, posts on Twitter, Facebook, message boards, and email have been very satisfying and inspiring. A special thanks to Mary Betz and Ted Hosterman who kindly fill in when I am gone.

Thanks to the many fans, bloggers, and media from all over the league that have promoted the blog as fair and balanced and also have shared information with me about their teams. One of the unexpected benefits of writing the blog has been getting to know all of the broadcasters, writers, bloggers and passionate fans from other teams.

Thank you to the players who have never said no to a single request I have made of them for a chat, an interview or a question.  I have gotten to know most of these young men both professionally and personally and they have represented the Americans in an outstanding manner. You see the players at their best when they are visiting schools and hospitals or are interacting with the young fans in any environment. 

One of my goals when I started the blog was to share the personal stories of the players. It is something I have gotten away from and hope to do more next season. The wives/girlfriends, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and friends I have met have been great about sharing family stories which I have then been able to share in the blog. Thanks to all of you.

Thanks to Steve Martinson and his staff  (Jason Deitsch, Thomas Speer, Luke Chilcott, Jaime Garcia, Tim Abbott) for always being willing to talk to me and help educate me. A special thanks to coach Martinson, for allowing me to stop by his office after every game and every practice to ask questions and talk about the team. It is his openness and trust that has allowed the blog to have information you can't find anywhere else.

Thanks to Tommy Daniels, Director of Communications & Broadcasting for the Allen Americans, who has been a tremendous help to me. He is the one who encouraged me to start the blog, made me feel like part of the media team, answered many questions, publicized the blog to attract new readership, and invited me to be part of the between periods conversation on his radio broadcast to talk hockey and promote the blog. Tommy is the best broadcaster in the business and is always willing to share his knowledge with others. It was a special treat to be part on an hour long pregame show during the home playoff games this year. It is always fun to talk Allen Americans hockey with Tommy and Maurice.

Thanks to Tommy's radio sidekick, Maurice Fitzgerald, for all the between periods chats on the radio broadcast. Maurice has forgotten more about hockey than I will ever know but we are a good combo with all of my day to day information about the team and their stats. I always describe myself as the between periods fill-in guest when nobody else is available. There are plenty of people around during the playoffs but for those midweek games in October and November I am in high demand.

Thanks to team photographer Dianne Webster who works tirelessly to provide pictures for the blog and many others. Dianne has immersed herself in this team and spends an inordinate about of time, effort and money to deliver a high quality product for everyone to see.

 Joe Babik, Director of Communication for the ECHL has once again spent more time with me this season than I deserved to help educate me about the policies, rules, procedures and records of the ECHL. Joe has gone above and beyond the call of duty and seems to respond to questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Thanks also to Joe Ernst, Vice President of Hockey Operations, for his willingness to answer all of my questions whenever asked.

Thanks to the entire Team Sin Bin group which has welcomed me into their group for the third year and made it very easy for me to get my stories on their site ( A special thanks to Matt Harding (SinBinThunder) and Joe Rozycki (SinBinMavs).

Unlike most writers, bloggers, and other media types that cover the Americans I have a dual role as in addition to being a blogger I also coordinate the activities of the fan club (over 200 members) at Heritage Ranch where I live. In this capacity I spend a lot of time in the front office of the Americans arranging for season tickets, suites, individual game tickets, seats for soldiers tickets, and other promotions. I want to thank the entire sales and marketing staff and especially Mike Martin and Robert Fatta who have gone out of their way to help me and the residents of Heritage Ranch. Thanks also to Tom Manning and Robert Ciccotelli of the Allen front office staff for all of their help in providing content for the blog.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't thank my lovely wife of almost 40 years, Nancy, who is kind enough to proofread the blog each morning. It is a tireless task. Despite our best efforts we miss plenty of errors in both substance and form. Luckily a few readers are kind enough to let me know of these errors so corrections can be made. Their help is greatly appreciated. Thanks John, Paul, Mary, Ted, Matt and Madison. I am sure they will find a mistake somewhere in this blog post.

This will be the last daily blog post for the season.  I will still blog on an as needed basis as new information becomes available. If you are on Facebook or Twitter you can see whenever there is a new post on the blog by liking my page on Facebook at "Allen Americans Blog" or following me on Twitter at @allenamericans1. Maybe the easiest way to stay in touch is by making one of the favorites on whatever search engine you use and checking in once and a while. Remember, it is only 163 days to opening night at the Allen Event Center!

Finally, on a personal note you may know I have been taking a two week fishing trip to Ontario and Minnesota for over 20 years with some buddies from Minnesota. The trip is always the last week of May in Canada and first week of June in Minnesota. This worked fine when Allen was in the Central Hockey League as the playoffs were always over by the time the fishing trip started but that is not the case since joining the ECHL. In 2015 I missed the finals series and last season I flew home early to catch the championship finals. This season I made the tough choice to forego the fishing trip as it made no sense to cover the team every single day and then miss the playoffs. My fishing buddies told me I was making a big mistake by not going on the fishing trip as the team won four straight championships and if I didn't go on the fishing trip the team would lose. Then my superstitious Allen fans (you know who you are) said it would be all my fault if the Americans lost because I decided to not go on the fishing trip. So I guess it is my fault the team lost because I opted to not sign up for the fishing trip this year. Turns out there is a silver lining to the dark cloud with Allen losing in the second round of the playoffs. Talked to my fishing buddies yesterday and they are making room for me on the trip. Since I am the camp cook and a couple of these guys couldn't even find the kitchen in their own homes, I think they were elated Allen lost.  

DID YOU KNOW: If you are a student of Allen Americans history this week is the most memorable of any single week of the year. In five of Allen's eight year history the season ended this week. Do you remember these games?

May 4, 2010 - A 4-3 loss to Rapid City in the CHL Presidents' Cup finals
May 8, 2011 - A 5-3 loss to Bossier-Shreveport in the CHL Berry Conference finals
May 11, 2013 - A 4-3 OT win over Wichita in the CHL Presidents' Cup finals
May 10, 2014 - A 5-2 win over Denver in the CHL Presidents' Cup finals
May 9, 2017 - A 4-3 loss to Colorado in the ECHL Mountain Division finals

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Streak is Over, Colorado Moves on to Conference Finals, Everything in Perspective, Martinson's Record

The streak is over for the Allen Americans but an amazing streak it was. Four straight championships, 15 straight playoff series wins and 12 straight elimination game victories all came to an end last night as the Colorado Eagles beat the Americans 4-3 to win the Mountain Division series 4-2 and advance to the Western Conference finals against the Toledo Walleye.

I have been writing this blog for five years and have never witnessed a loss to end the season before last night so I don't have a lot of experience but it is the way the team lost the game and the series that is so disappointing. Here are some of my random thoughts about the game and the series:

-  To lose at home after two great road wins in Colorado to get back in the series was the most disappointing. Allen's home record the last two months of the regular season was 12-1-1-0. They finished the playoffs with a four game home losing streak including three in a row against Colorado.

- It is well documented Colorado and Allen are the two toughest teams to beat in the ECHL when they score first. It took just 94 seconds for Colorado to get on the score board last night and it was the fifth time in six games they scored first. Allen won the only game in this series when they scored first (game five) and managed to win game four even though the Eagles score first. Credit to Allen for scoring  just 37 seconds after the first Colorado goal last night. This is the last time I will mention this stat (this year) but it says all you need to know about the importance of scoring first, especially as it relates to Allen and Colorado. In the playoffs this year they are a combined 10-1 when scoring first and if you add in the regular season their record is 85-5-2-2.

- As frustrating as it was to watch the first goal scored by Colorado at the 1:34 mark of the first period it pales in comparison to watching Matt Register score the game winner with 69 seconds left in the game. Hockey is a game of mistakes as coach Martinson likes to say and there were several on the game winning and series winning goal. Matt Register was part of Allen's Kelly Cup championship team last season and he has owned the Americans this season. Colorado beat Allen six times this season going 2-0 in the regular season and 4-2 in the playoffs. Matt Register had the game winning goal in four of the six Eagles wins. That is what you call payback.

- Prior to last night Allen had scored three goals and allowed 11 in the second period in 10 playoff games. When the Americans outscored Colorado 2-1 in the second period last night and took a 3-2 lead into the second intermission a victory seemed likely. Allen has owned the third period all season. In the 10 playoffs games prior to last night the Americans had scored 21 third period goals and allowed only four. Last night they were outscored 2-0 in the third period. It was the first time Allen had blown a second period lead in the playoffs and one of the few all season. Between the regular season and playoffs the Americans record when leading after two periods was 36-2-0-1.

- It was disappointing the referees decided to swallow their whistles last night. Officiating isn't the reason Allen lost but the lack of penalties certainly hurt the Americans the way they dominated special teams the last three games of this series. It is hard to believe a team that plays the style that Colorado plays was perfect and didn't have a single rules infraction for the entire game.


- Expectations have always been very high in Allen. After all, the Americans went to the championship finals in their first year of existence, have never missed the playoffs and under Steve Martinson known nothing but championships. Allen is probably the only team in the league that considers anything less than a Kelly Cup a disappointing season. 

- The team has had a heck of a season and most fans in other markets would be thrilled to have the success Allen has had this season. The most remarkable thing about the team's success is they were 8-11 at the end of November and in last place in the Mountain Division. From that point the Americans finished the season with a  record 41-6-4-2. The Americans went 15-0-1-0 over their last 16 regular season games to overtake Colorado for the top spot in the Mountain Division. Allen finished with 104 points which was #2 in the league trailing Toledo by just two points.

- When Allen lost last night 22 of the 27 teams in the ECHL were already on vacation. Not making it to the ECHL final four/conference finals is certainly painful but the team had an extraordinary season by any measure other than their own.

- Congrats to the Colorado Eagles who have an excellent team and were the better team in this series. To beat Allen three times on the road is quite an accomplishment. The Eagles are a perfect 6-0 in road games in the playoffs and since Toledo will have home ice advantage in the conference finals that excellent road record will come in handy for Colorado.

- Everyone has different reasons for who they support once their favorite teams is eliminated from the playoffs. My reasoning has always been straight forward. If your team beats my team I hope you go all the way. If Colorado goes on to win the Kelly Cup it reflects well on Allen and the entire Mountain Division. It is also nice to see former Allen champions do well once they move on and three of Colorado's key players are former Americans.

DID YOU KNOW: Steve Martinson just completed his 21st year as a head coach. Here are his playoff results for his 21 years of coaching.

10 - won championship
1 - lost in finals
7 lost in second round
2 lost in first round
1 - out of playoffs 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Allen vs Colorado Preview, Scoring First & Special Teams Key, Updated ECHL Bracket & More

It is game day at the Allen Event Center (AEC) and all eyes will be focused on the Allen vs Colorado game as it is the only division championship yet to be decided. Toledo (Central Division), Manchester (North Division) and South Carolina (South Division) have already advanced to the conference finals.

- The game tonight will be the third straight elimination game for Allen in this series but when you have won four straight championships and 15 straight series, elimination games are something you are used to dealing with. Under coach Martinson the Americans have faced elimination games on the way to all four championships. Allen's record under Martinson in elimination games now stands at 12-0.

- Getting the series back to Allen after being down 3-0 and winning the last two games in Colorado is a job well done by the Americans but if anyone thinks the home team is now in the driver's seat only needs to look at the record. As I mentioned yesterday Allen's record at home in the playoffs this year is 1-3 and Colorado's road record in the playoffs this year is 5-0. The game tonight will be a battle of will as much as skill.

- The outcome of the game tonight will be determined by keys such as who scores the first goal, who wins the special teams battle, goalie play and commitment to the defensive end of the ice. However, the real question to ask is what team shows up for Allen and Colorado. This series has not had close games as one team or the other has dominated. In the first three games, all Colorado wins, the Eagles outscored Allen 13-5. In the last two games, Allen wins, the Americans outscored Colorado 8-1. Maybe the game tonight will be different and go down to the wire or into overtime but based on the first five games the margin of victory is more likely to be two or three goals.

- There will be lineup changes for both teams tonight. Bryan Moore will return after serving a two game suspension. That means one of the forwards that played on Sunday will be a healthy scratch tonight. 

- Colorado will get defenseman Mason Geertsen back after he served a one game suspension. The eagles will not have the services of the top scoring player in the playoffs, Alex Belzile who will be serving the second of his two game suspension.

- When you get to game six of a series goalie play is so important and you would have to give the edge to Allen with the experience of Riley Gill. In the last two games, which were both elimination games for Allen, Gill has stopped a total of 52 of 53 shots for a save percentage of .981. Colorado rookie goalie, Lukas Hafner, has been outstanding in the playoffs winning his first seven starts. However, in the last two games, both losses, Hafner has allowed seven goals and saved 42 of 49 shots for a save percentage of .857.

- You cannot overemphasize the importance of the first goal tonight. Allen was able to win game four after Colorado scored first but they probably don't want to tempt that fate again. In the playoffs Allen and Colorado have a combined record of 9-1 when scoring first. If you add in the regular season their combined record is 84-5-2-2. The quick math would tell you the team that scores first tonight has 90% chance of winning the game.

- Special teams as always will be a factor tonight and Allen has had the edge in both the power play and the penalty kill in this series. In the last three games of this series Allen is 4-15 (26.7%) on the power play while holding Colorado to 1-12 (8.3%). The penalty kill unit also has a couple of shorthanded goals. If the Americans can win on special teams they should win tonight.   

- One thing different for Allen in the playoffs this season from the two prior years has been very balanced scoring. Last year Greger Hanson had 15 playoff goals and Gary Steffes had 13. In the 2015 playoffs Steffes had 13 goals and Hanson had 12. This season after 10 playoff games nobody has more than three goals. An indication of just how balanced the scoring is so far in the playoffs is there are six players tied for the team in goals scored with three (Costello, Hanson, MacLeod, Brittain, Barnes, Chouinard). In addition, there are five players with two goals.

- The referees scheduled tonight are Alex Garon (#9) and Stephen Thomson (#27) and the linesmen will be Lucas Bisbee (#72) and Charlie O'Connor (#43).


- Here is the updated ECHL playoff bracket courtesy of Robert Ciccotelli:

- If you look at the percentages in seven game series across all major league sports the Colorado still have a big advantage based on historical data. History would say Colorado has a 55% chance of winning game six and a 75% chance of winning the series. With Allen's record in elimination games (12-0) they will be looking to defy the odds tonight.

- I will once again be joining Tommy Daniels and Maurice Fitzgerald for a pregame show tonight. Tune into your app if you are listening at home or 107.3 FM if you are at the Allen Event Center. Pregame show starts at 6:00 pm.

DID YOU KNOW: I had a question about a comment Steve Martinson made in his pregame interview with Tommy Daniels in Colorado. It has to do with Colorado captain Sean Zimmerman tripping an opposing player and then deliberately falling on top of the player he just tripped. I was asked if I could show a video of what Martinson was referring to. The video below from a Colorado vs Wichita game is a good example. Zimmerman did the same thing to Tristan King last season which resulted in a concussion and he did it to Gary Steffes the other night. The league is aware of Zimmerman doing this. Hope this answers the question.