Thursday, August 18, 2016

Allen Americans Weekly Update - Roster, Ownership and Other Comments

 THE ROSTER

It has been a busy week or so for the Allen Americans with Vincent Arseneau signing with the Wichita Thunder and Casey Pierro Zabotel signing with the Colorado Eagles along with the announcement that Chris Crane and Tanner Eberle have signed to play in Allen for the 2016-17 season. Then to top things off the Americans had a live signing at their open house event last Saturday as they welcomed back alternate captain Aaron Gens.

- The Allen roster is now up to eleven players including eight forwards (Chad Costello, JP LaFontaine, Dyson Stevenson, Kale Kerbashian, Kyle Neuber, Gary Steffes, Chris Crane, Tanner Eberle), two defensemen (Joel Chouinard & Aaron Gens) and one goalie (Riley Gill).  

- Chris Crane scored 21 goals last season which placed him third on the team trailing only Chad Costello (24) and Gary Steffes (22). Crane played in only 41 games before having a season ending injury. His .51 goals per game average was the highest on the team.

- Tanner Eberle returns to Allen where he originally signed in the 2014-15 season. Tanner played just five games (2 goals 2 assists) before he was loaned to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL) and never returned. Last season he was scheduled to come back to Allen but signed a one way deal with the Iowa Wild (AHL). Let's hope the third time is a charm and Allen fans will be able see more of Eberle this season. Despite his lack of size (5'11" 185), Eberle’s speed and ability to hit have made him an effective two-way player. If Tanner can stay healthy (he played in just 45 games last season) he will be a great addition for Allen.

- Aaron Gens returns for his third season with the Americans and the two time Kelly Cup champion is happy to be back. There was never any doubt on his return. When Gens was not on the qualifying offer list that came out end of June it was obvious he had already been signed. It just took a while for it to be officially announced. I had a chance to ask Aaron about his return, his off season, the Kelly Cup victory last year and how the roster is shaping up for next season. Here is that interview:






- Coach Martinson reports he has come to terms with several defenseman and is in the process of getting contracts signed and approved by the league. He is very pleased with how the roster is coming together. Martinson will return to Allen from his summer home in Rockford at the end of next week. 




OWNERSHIP

This will be the last ownership update for the foreseeable future for the simple reason that all potential deals have fallen by the wayside and the team will have the current owners for the upcoming season. You can never say with 100% certainty the team won't be sold because at the right price every team is for sale but the realistic answer is the team isn't for sale. 

You may ask how will things be different for the upcoming season? I had a chance to meet Shawn Kuzmin this week. Shawn has been hired as the new CEO of Steven Brothers Sports Management and brings with him 20 years of sales, service and marketing experience working for some incredible brands including the Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Pistons and Florida Panthers. Shawn is responsible for leading the overall direction of all three Steven Brothers' owned ECHL teams (Allen, Tulsa, Wichita). From my brief conversation with Shawn it is clear he understands the challenges, issues and problems that must be dealt with in Allen in order to make the franchise as successful off the ice as it has been on the ice. I will have more details in a future blog post.

 


OTHER COMMENTS

- It is that time when the Allen players that live in the DFW area will start getting together to skate a few times per week in preparation for training camp. Per the ECHL. September 29th is the first day players can report to camp and the 30th is the first day for on ice sessions. 


- Each year there are always a lot of questions from fans why players don't return after winning a championship and it is important to remember the reasons are many and they don't always relate to what happens on the ice. While some players use the opportunity to make more money elsewhere (especially overseas) other players don't come back because they are not offered a contract. Factors such as veteran status, salary demands, housing and insurance costs, off ice behavior and even if a player is a right shot or left shot impact whether a player is offered a contract. The bottom line is there are many reasons players do not return and on ice performance is just one factor.



- The Americans are putting the final touches on the promotional schedule for the upcoming season for those that have an interest. It will be posted here when it is official.




DID YOU KNOW: In the last ten days there have been over 60 player announcements around the ECHL. Fort Wayne continues to lead the pack with 23 players already announced while Norfolk has yet to announce a single player.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Weekly Update - Rosters, Ownership And More

It is time for another weekly update concerning the Allen Americans even though there is not much new to report. Here goes:

ROSTER
 The Americans have announced eight player signings thus far (Chad Costello, Riley Gill, JP LaFontaine, Dyson Stevenson, Kale Kerbashian, Kyle Neuber, Gary Steffes and Joel Chouinard). There will be another player signing announced at the Allen Event Center on Saturday at around 1:00 pm. Fans are encouraged to attend and chat with the announced player. The biggest news regarding the roster is that Vincent Arseneau has signed with the Wichita Thunder so will not return to Allen. There hasn't been a formal announcement from the Thunder but Arseneau appeared on a French language radio station in Quebec and said he had signed with Wichita because his good friend, Alexis Loiseau, had signed with the Thunder. There is no question he would have been welcomed back in Allen and you can be assured the players and coach were encouraging him to return. It is hard to argue when a guy wants to play with his buddy. I am sure Arseneau will miss playing with the best passer in the ECHL, Chad Costello. Best of luck to Vincent who was a fan favorite in Allen.

- In the past when the Americans have lost a key player they sometimes turn around and announce the signing of a key player. It will be interesting to see if this happens once an official announcement of the Arseneau signing is made by Wichita.

- I am often asked what players I think will be returning from last season. I would put Aaron Gens and Greger Hanson in the cinch category as Gens was not given a qualifying offer which means he was signed prior to the due date for qualifying offers (June 30). Hanson was given a qualifying offer and would have had to sign that offer by August 1st and you would assume that is what he did. In the most likely to return category I would put Chris Crane, Spencer Asuchak, Eric Roy and Tristan King. 

- Whenever I have a chance to check in with coach Martinson he makes it clear he is spending most of his time trying to find defensemen to fill out the roster. They could come from guys on expiring AHL contracts, guys still trying to go to Europe but are not yet signed, players assigned by San Jose or they could be players that have played for Martinson in the past. Of particular need is right shot defensemen. Coach Martinson has lots of irons in the fire and will be firming up the defensive corp in the near future.


OWNERSHIP

It sounds like a broken record but nothing new to report on the sale of the team. The original group that was close to buying the team is no longer involved. There is another group that was pursuing the team but the more time that passes the more likely that doesn't happen. It is still a possibility a deal can get done but from my observation everyone seems to be moving forward as if there will not be an ownership change. This is definitely a wait and see situation but I would put the odds at less than 50-50 at this point.


OTHER COMMENTS

-  If you have an interest in how all of the ECHL teams are filling out their rosters a good reference is the "Transactions" section of The Sin Bin website (thesinbin.net) where they have all players signed by team. It is very interesting with Fort Wayne almost having their entire team signed, all the way down to Norfolk who has yet to announce a player signing. Keep in mind these are the players that have been signed and announced. Coaches have very different approaches on when they announce that players have been signed. You can be assured there are many more players signed than the ones that have been officially announced. Here are the numbers by team with former Allen Americans in parenthesis.

20 - Fort Wayne Komets (includes Jamie Schaafsma)
10 - Indy Fuel
10 - Orlando Solar Bears (includes Trevor Ludwig)
10 - Quad City Mallards
10 - Toledo Walleye
9 - Alaska Aces
9 - Elmira Jackals 
9 - Greenville Swamp Rabbits
9 - Reading Royals
8 - Allen Americans 
8 - Kalamazoo Wings (includes Ben Wilson)
8 - South Carolina Stingrays (includes Danny Federico)
8 - Wichita Thunder (does not include Vincent Arseneau who has not been officially announced)
7 - Adirondack Thunder
7 - Brampton Beast 
7 - Cincinnati Cyclones 
7 - Manchester Monarchs 
7 - Rapid City Rush
6 - Colorado Eagles (includes Darryl Bootland)
6 - Idaho Steelheads
5 - Florida Everblades
4 - Atlanta Gladiators
3 - Missouri Mavericks (includes Bryce Aneloski)
3 - Tulsa Oilers
3 - Wheeling Nailers
2 - Utah Grizzlies
0 - Norfolk Admirals 


- A couple of players that gave Allen fits over the years have recently signed to play overseas for the upcoming season. Sebastien Thinel who played for many years in Odessa and Missouri and played in France (Grenoble) last season has signed to play in Scotland (Fife Flyers). Winston Day Chief, who has played for Rapid City for the past five season, will be going overseas to play in Hungary (MAC Budapest). 


- The ECHL finally issued a press release on decisions made from their meeting in Las Vegas at the end of June. Here is the press release:

PRINCETON, N.J. - The ECHL announced on Thursday that the League's Board of Governors approved the following items at its recently completed Annual Meeting.

Transfer of Controlling Interest of Manchester Monarchs - The Board approved the Transfer of Controlling Interest of the Manchester Monarchs from Anschutz Manchester Hockey LLC to PPI Sports LLC, a group led by New England businessmen Marc Casper and Brian Cheek. Cheek will serve as the team's CEO.

Harris re-elected as Chairman of the Board - Ray Harris, Governor of the Cincinnati Cyclones, was unanimously re-elected for a second season as the Chairman of the Board of Governors.

No timeout following an icing violation - The Board of Governors approved a change to Rule #81 - Icing. In addition to not being permitted to make player substitutions, the offending team on an icing violation also may not use its team time-out.

New divisional and conference alignment - As announced last month, the Board of Governors approved a new divisional and conference alignment for the 2016-17 season.
 


DID YOU KNOW: Thus far there have been about 200 players signed and announced by the 27 ECHL teams. That is less than one third of the opening day rosters when over 600 players will be under contract. Lots of activity to take place in the next 50 days or so when players report to training camp.



 



Saturday, July 30, 2016

Weekly Update - From Babies to Angels to Roster to Ownership


Gary Steffes returns, has 92 goals in the last two seasons - photo by Dianne Webster

It is time for another weekly update for all things Allen Americans. It seems like everything moves slowly in the off season but it is now just two months before players report to training camp. The Americans have announced seven player signings thus far (Chad Costello, Riley Gill, JP LaFontaine, Dyson Stevenson, Kale Kerbashian, Kyle Neuber, Gary Steffes). This is on the high end of player announcements around the ECHL. There are only four teams that have announced more player signings than Allen. Fort Wayne, who does not have an AHL affiliation for the upcoming season has already signed 17 players. Reading has announced nine, Quad City eight and Greenville eight.

- I had a chance to check in with coach Martinson this week and he is very pleased with how recruitment is going for next season. When all is said and done there will be a lot of familiar faces on the final roster but there will also be some new and exciting players. At this point it is safe to say coach Martinson is spending more time working on the defensive group. As one player said to me recently, "if everyone comes back that I think will return we will be a better team next season than we were last season. And this is before we find out who will be assigned to Allen by San Jose."

- There is nothing new on when there might be an announcement regarding new ownership of the Allen Americans. As I have mentioned in the last few weekly updates there was a purchase agreement in place to buy the team and the two sides were working on the financial details including pending lawsuits and outstanding debts. One thing to keep in mind is even if these financial details cannot be resolved and become a road block to the deal, there was another group interested in buying the team. However, the longer this lingers the more concern there is in my mind that a deal can be done. It goes without saying that any new owners will want to be protected from financial liabilities from the past whether they are known or not. Keep your fingers crossed that somehow a deal gets done and it gets done soon.


- Coach Martinson sees the opportunity to be part of something special in Allen this season as the Americans go for their fifth straight championship and third straight Kelly Cup. For this reason, he did not pursue other coaching opportunities during the off season.  However, there have been many obstacles put in his way over the last couple of years. Unless there are major changes, I would expect he will pursue other opportunities after the upcoming season.


- There were several former Allen players in the news recently. Trevor Ludwig has signed to play for the Orlando Solar Bears after playing in Missouri last season. David Makowski is headed to Europe (Hungary) for next season. There was some talk he might be considering an AHL deal that would keep him in North America but that is not going to happen. Allen has his rights for this season so if things don't work out for David in Hungary and he returns before the February 15 deadline, you could see him back in Allen. Daniel Doremus, who started last season with Allen and then spent the remainder of the season with the San Jose Barracuda has signed to play next season for the Manchester Monarchs (ECHL). Dallas Ehrhardt, who played in France last season has signed to play in Great Britain this season for the Manchester (England) Storm.


- Check this out for some Allen Americans connections. Longtime coach Tony Curtale, who was an assistant last season with the Americans, was recently selected as the head coach of the Wichita Falls Wildcats which play in a tier II junior league (North American Hockey League - NAHL). Tony replaced John LaFontaine.  John LaFontaine is JP LaFontaine's dad, who took the head coaching job for the Muskegon Lumberjacks that play in a tier I junior league (United States Hockey League - USHL). LaFontaine's assistant coach in Muskegon is none other than Todd Robinson, who scored the most famous goal in Allen history in the game seven overtime victory in the Americans first championship.  If you don't know the coaching background of Tony Curtale this story will fill you in. http://www.timesrecordnews.com/sports/curtale-named-as-wildcats-new-coach-381620ff-2d10-6d68-e053-0100007feca4-387690751.html


- Daniel Tetrault was named as the assistant coach for the Rapid City Rush this week. It is no surprise that he wanted to be a coach and he was selected as a coach. When I first met Daniel in 2013 and interviewed him for the blog one question asked was, if you weren't a pro hockey player what would you like to do and he said be a hockey coach. It also struck me in that interview that he has been a leader on every team he ever played on. Here are a few facts from that interview back in 2013.
- He was drafted by Montreal in the 4th round of the 1997 NHL draft.
     - In 1996 he was a member of the Team Canada under 18 team that won the world championship defeating the US in the finals.
     - He played junior hockey in the Western Hockey League (WHL) for the Brandon Wheat Kings from 1995-2000 and was captain of the team in 1998-1999. They won the WHL title in 1995.
     - In 2001-2002, playing for the Austin Ice Bats he was selected as the most outstanding defenseman in the CHL.
     - He is the all time points leader for defensemen for the Wichita Thunder.
     - He was the captain of the Thunder for two years including 2011-2012 when they were conference champions and finals runner up.
     - His coach in Wichita (Kevin McClelland) describes him as follows:  "He gives his heart and soul. Some guys are leaders in the dressing room, some guys are leaders on the ice. Tetrault's both."
     - Tetrault's favorite player growing up was Chris Chelios and the numbers he has chosen to wear recently are #7 which Chelios wore in Chicago and #24 which he wore in Detroit & Montreal.
     - His favorite NHL team growing up was the Winnipeg Jets.
     - What many people don't know is Daniel's first language is French.
 Congrats to Daniel on becoming the assistant coach in Rapid City. Look forward to seeing him on the bench when the Rush visit Allen on November 19. He will return to the Allen Event Center where he won his one and only professional championship. Here is a link to the story about Tetrault's selection: http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/tetrault-returns-to-rush-as-assistant-coach/article_d259d1c6-38b8-5423-a6d3-dec6c1e40c8d.html


- The ECHL has still not issued a press release concerning decisions that were made at the Board of Governors (BOG) Meeting in Las Vegas in June. The meeting is still considered "open" so with the exception of the already announced divisional alignment, any other news from that meeting cannot be announced until the meeting is "closed." The ECHL Preseason Meeting takes place in September so you would hope they will close the June meeting prior to that meeting but there is no guarantee.  You would have to think one issue being discussed is the rule changes recently passed by the AHL and whether the ECHL will adopt them. If you haven't seen the rule changes adopted by the AHL for next season here is a summary:

Rule 46 (“Fighting”)/Rule 23 (“Game Misconducts”) 
  • Players who enter into a fight prior to, at, or immediately following the drop of the puck for a face-off will be assessed an automatic game misconduct in addition to other penalties assessed. 
  • During the regular season, any player who incurs his 10th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for one (1) game. For each subsequent fighting major up to 13, the player shall also be suspended automatically for one (1) game. 
  • During the regular season, any player who incurs his 14th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for two (2) games. For each subsequent fighting major, the player shall also be suspended automatically for two (2) games. 
  • In any instance where the opposing player was assessed an instigator penalty, the fighting major shall not count towards the player’s total for this rule. 
Rule 82 (“Icing”) 
  • In addition to not being permitted to make player substitutions, the offending team on an icing violation also may not use its team time-out. 

Rule 1.10 (“Ice Cleaning”) 
  • The ice cleaning procedures used during promotional timeouts will also be used prior to overtime during the regular season, replacing the “dry scrape.”


-  Stephanie Di Biase is busy planning for the 2016-17 Ice Angels season. Tryouts will take place this weekend. In addition to picking the new team another big decision is deciding where the team will go for their calendar photo shoot which takes place in October. Stephanie won't tell me where the team will be going for their calendar shoot as that is always a surprise but I got the feeling she might switch things up a bit this year.

- Two Ice Angels, Kelsey and Kelli, will have to be replaced as they were recently selected as Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. That is quite an honor and reinforces the talented young ladies Stephanie is able to attract to the Ice Angel team. Congrats to Kelsey and Kelly.








- Jamie and Nicole Schaafsma welcomed their third child into the world on Tuesday. The bouncing baby boy, Sullivan Jett Schaafsma, was born at 3:23 pm and weighed in at 8 lbs 12 oz. Sullivan joins older sister Sawyer and older brother Sutter in the Schaafsma clan. Didn't think hospitals had drive through windows but that may be what Nicole used. I exchanged messages with her and she told me, "We have a small hospital with small rooms so we prefer to sleep at home. I went to the hospital at 12:30 pm, had Sullivan at 3:30 pm and went home at 7:00 pm." I know hockey players are a tough lot but that is one tough lady. Congrats to Jamie and Nicole. Here are a few pictures.





In and out in six hours - WOW!

DID YOU KNOW: Did you make the connection with the Schaafsma's two boys names? Jamie is known as the hockey player that always makes the finals even though Allen spoiled the streak this past season. This is what Nicole shared about their names. "Sutter was from Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter when they won the Stanley Cup in 2012, when we were trying to come up with a name. Then ironically, we confirmed in our minds that the new baby boy would be named Sullivan when Pittsburgh head coach, Mike Sullivan's team won the Stanley cup this year. Jamie was on the fence with the name until the irony happened with the two coaches and winning the cup.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Weekly Update - Roster, New Owners, Division Realignment and Former Player Updates

It has been quite a week considering it is the offseason. Everything from roster changes to division changes took place. Here is a recap:


ROSTER

- Allen announced their third player signing as J.P. LaFontaine will return for the 2016-17 season. He joins Chad Costello and Riley Gill as players that have been signed and announced. Keep in mind there are many other players that have already been signed and have not been announced. You can assume non vets that didn't get qualifying offers are signed at this point. That group would include Aaron Gens, Dyson Stevenson and Kyle Neuber. Even though he wasn't given a qualifying offer and could become a free agent because he is a vet, you have to assume Gary Steffes is also in the signed but not announced category. 

- No news on efforts to sign the players from last season who were on AHL deals but they typically take longer and their signing happens a little later. I know most of these players will return to Allen if they don't get AHL contracts. And there is a distinct possibilities some will get signed by San Jose.

- David Makowski has signed to play in Hungary next season. A couple of things as it relates to Makowski. He was given a qualifying offer by the Americans so they will retain his rights for the year. If he returns from Europe for any reason prior to February 15 his only option in the ECHL would be Allen. It is surprising to me David signed overseas as he is a young player that could make it to the next level and being in North America enhances that possibility. Makes you wonder if he would get an AHL offer in the near future would he change his mind about going overseas. 



DIVISION REALIGNMENT

The much rumored ECHL division realignment was finally announced this week along with a new playoff format. The conferences remain the same (Eastern & Western) but divisions were reduced from six to four. Here are the new divisions.
Eastern Conference


North Division:
 Adirondack Thunder, Brampton Beast, Elmira Jackals, Manchester Monarchs, Reading Royals, Wheeling Nailers

South Division: 

Atlanta Gladiators, Cincinnati Cyclones, Florida Everblades, Greenville Swamp Rabbits, Norfolk Admirals, Orlando Solar Bears, South Carolina Stingrays
Western Conference

Central Division
: Fort Wayne Komets, Indy Fuel, Kalamazoo Wings, Quad City Mallards, Toledo Walleye, Tulsa Oilers, Wichita Thunder
Mountain Division
: Alaska Aces, Allen Americans, Colorado Eagles, Idaho Steelheads, Missouri Mavericks, Rapid City Rush, Utah Grizzlies

- The stated motivation for making the change was reduced travel costs, especially during the playoffs. That is why the league made the changes this year without making any changes to the already announced schedule. The first two rounds of the playoffs will be within the division. 

- Anyway you analyze it this is not a good move for the Allen Americans. The travel burden placed on Allen will be cost prohibitive especially when the schedules are adjusted for next season. Here is the mileage to each team in the new division:
Alaska - 4000
Idaho - 1605
Utah - 1238
Rapid City - 1058
Colorado - 842
Missouri - 473
- Division rivalries with Tulsa and Wichita will be lost. Allen will still play these teams numerous times in the future but it will not be the same being in different divisions. 
- The concept of having just four divisions and the first two playoff rounds being within the division is the way the ECHL was setup in Allen's first Kelly Cup winning season and it also mirrors the playoff format in other leagues. It is a good concept. It just is difficult for Allen to be in the Mountain Division when there are so many teams much closer. By the way, the Missouri Mavericks are in the same boat as Allen and have even more reasons to not be happy with the new realignment. 
- Here is an interview with the ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna written by Jeffery Lutz from the Wichita Eagle. The commissioner talks about the  rationale for the change. It is also interesting that he says some of the teams that will save travel dollars in the playoffs will subsidize teams (presumably like Allen and Missouri) that will have much higher travel costs. Here is the link: http://www.kansas.com/sports/other-sports/wichita-thunder/article89002427.html

OWNERSHIP
I know I sound like a broken record whenever I provide an update regarding the sale of the Allen Americans by saying an announcement could happen any day. As I have reported in the past, I think there is a purchase agreement in place to sell the team and the delay in going public with an announcement has to do with all of the legal details that have to be settled before a sale is finalized. Two issues that need to be resolved are determining all of the outstanding debts and settling all outstanding lawsuits. The new owners do not want a bunch of surprises concerning bills that have not been paid and also want the current owners to settle any outstanding lawsuits that have been filed. I am sure all parties are anxious to get these issues resolved and the sale made public. Stay tuned. 

OTHER ITEMS
- Several former Allen Americans will be playing overseas for new teams next year. Trevor Hendrikx has been playing in the United Kingdom (EIHL) for several years but is switching teams this season. He played in Wales (Cardiff) the last two years but will play in Scotland (Breahead) next season. Rylan Schwartz who was with the Orlando Solar Bears last season has signed to play in Germany (DEL2) for Heilbronner Falken. Kyle Follmer will also be in the EIHL next season having recently signed with the Fife Flyers (Scotland). The list of former Allen players signed to play overseas in 2016-17 is very long. In addition to those mentioned above you can include Jack Combs (Germany), Colton Yellow Horn (Czech Republic), Patrik Valcak (England), Jonathan Lessard (France), Dave Bonk (Japan), Judd Blackwater (Slovakia), Garrett Clarke (Poland), Garrett Klotz (England), Josef Fojtik (Czech Republic), Austin Smith (Austria) and Brett Skinner (Czech Republic). 

- Mentioned the other day that Matt Willows, who was the leading scorer for the Florida Everblades last season with 66 points (23 goals 43 assists) in 71 games, has signed an AHL deal with San Jose and could see time in Allen if he doesn't make the Barracuda team. Matt was the ECHL Rookie of the Year last season. 

- I am sure all Allen fans were excited to see Aaron Dell recently signed a two year deal with the San Jose Sharks. If you have followed Aaron's story over the years he has a history of overcoming the odds to succeed. When he was in youth hockey, in college (North Dakota), in Allen, in Worcester and in San Jose (Barracuda) he never started out as the top guy. But through hard work and perseverance he outperformed and became the main guy. Now it looks like he will have a good chance to be the back up goalie for the Sharks this season. Watch out because if he gets the chance in the NHL he may just outperform again. How lucrative is all of the hard work you ask? According to the site that tracks these things (General Fanager) if Aaron makes the Sharks team his salary will be $575,000 this upcoming season and $675,000 the following season. If he plays for the Barracuda (AHL) his salary will be $175,000 both seasons. That is a long way from when Aaron was a rookie playing in Allen (2012-13) for less than $500 per week. Here is an article written by Patrick Leiva of Blades of Teal that talks about Dell and the backup goalie competition for the Sharks: http://bladesofteal.com/2016/07/02/san-jose-sharks-resign-micheal-haley-and-aaron-dell/


DID YOU KNOW: Allen has announced three player signings thus far which pales in comparison to Fort Wayne. According to the Team Sin Bin (thesinbin.net) the Komets have already announced eight player signings. However, there are five teams (Colorado, Elmira, Norfolk, Tulsa, Wheeling) that have yet to announce a player signing. 



Monday, July 11, 2016

Food For Thought - The Team, The Owners, The League

It is the off season and new information about the upcoming season is hard to come by so thought today would be a good day to share my thoughts on what might happen in the near future. Here goes:

THE TEAM
- There have been just two player signings formally announced (Chad Costello and Riley Gill) but you can take it to the bank there are many more players that have agreed to terms and will be announced over the next few weeks. When all is said and done, the Americans will have more players returning to start the season than anytime in team history. 

- Bringing back key players that were on AHL deals last year will be key going forward. Eric Roy, Spencer Asuchak, Chris Crane and Rick Pinkston have to be key targets for coach Martinson. San Jose Barracuda coach Roy Sommer spent several days in Allen during the playoffs and you would have to think they may sign some Allen players. In addition to the guys on AHL deals last season, players like Greger Hanson and David Makowski may get some consideration. 

- One thing is certain, San Jose will work closely with coach Martinson to make sure the players assigned to Allen will help the Americans and also be developed for playing at the AHL level. Best guess is still 4-6 players from San Jose being assigned to Allen. 


THE OWNERS
I continue to believe a change in ownership for the Allen Americans is in the works and could be announced any day. Everyone who may have knowledge of what is happening says no comment but there is enough activity going on behind the scenes that gives me confidence that a deal has been struck but not announced. I have heard in the past that more than one group was interested in buying the team so it is a matter of when rather than if the team will be sold. To me a more interesting question is whether the new ownership is a local group or not. Again, my hunch is not based on any information provided by anyone in the Allen Americans organization so you can take it with a grain of salt. 


THE LEAGUE (ECHL)
- It seems to be taking a long time to issue a press release on the decisions made at the recent ECHL Board of Governors (BOG) meeting. It has been three weeks since the BOG met in Las Vegas.  I followed up with the  league office and was told, "The BOG Meeting remains open as there are still several issues being discussed. We cannot issue any announcements until the Meeting is closed." It does make you wonder what issues are being considered. Based on the past BOG Meetings it could include issues related to ownership, policies and rule changes. Did the BOG deal with change of ownership in Allen, the Evansville/Owensboro franchise, or moving a team to Portland? The AHL just announced several rule changes including big changes to the fighting rules. Will the ECHL adopt the new AHL rules? Will there be changes in the division alignment as has been rumored? If there is a change will it effect Allen negatively as has been rumored? UPDATE: The ECHL will announce the 2016-17 divisional alignment at 1 pm ET today (Monday). Will there be changes to the number of reserve player that are allowed or signing a third goalie as suggested by some ECHL teams? The bottom line is when the press release is issued about decisions made by the BOG they could be significant but it is a wait and see at this point. 

- If you haven't seen the rule changes adopted by the AHL for next season here is a summary:

Rule 46 (“Fighting”)/Rule 23 (“Game Misconducts”) 
  • Players who enter into a fight prior to, at, or immediately following the drop of the puck for a face-off will be assessed an automatic game misconduct in addition to other penalties assessed. 
  • During the regular season, any player who incurs his 10th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for one (1) game. For each subsequent fighting major up to 13, the player shall also be suspended automatically for one (1) game. 
  • During the regular season, any player who incurs his 14th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for two (2) games. For each subsequent fighting major, the player shall also be suspended automatically for two (2) games. 
  • In any instance where the opposing player was assessed an instigator penalty, the fighting major shall not count towards the player’s total for this rule. 
Rule 82 (“Icing”) 
  • In addition to not being permitted to make player substitutions, the offending team on an icing violation also may not use its team time-out. 

Rule 1.10 (“Ice Cleaning”) 
  • The ice cleaning procedures used during promotional timeouts will also be used prior to overtime during the regular season, replacing the “dry scrape.” 

DID YOU KNOW: Former Allen Americans forward, Jack Combs, has signed to play with the Fischtown  Pinguins in the top German league. For the vagabond Combs it will be the 19th different team he has played for since turning professional in 2009-10. Incidentally, another former Allen Americans player, Jamie Schaafsma, played for the Fischtown Pinguins in the 2008-09. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Allen Americans Player Announcement on Thursday Plus Other Musings


Just a quick post to let everyone know a player signing announcement will take place tomorrow (Thursday). Another cornerstone of the foundation of the 2016-17 Allen Americans team. This will make just the second player announcement following the signing of Chad Costello last week. Seems like they never happen fast enough during the off season. 

There has been plenty of activity around the ECHL and if you keep up with social media most of the following is old information. Here are a few things that have caught my eye. 

- The Wichita Thunder will have an affiliation next year and it will be with the Ottawa Senators. Should be a big help for Wichita who had by far the worst record in the ECHL last season with just 49 points.

- The South Carolina Stingrays selected a new coach and named their assistant coach, Ryan Warsofsky, to replace Spencer Carbery. Selecting an assistant coach to move up to the head coaching position has been a trend recently with some great franchises (Toledo, Missouri, South Carolina) opting to pass over experienced head coaches to give the job to one of their assistants. Here is the story on Warsofsky's selection. http://www.postandcourier.com/20160706/160709647/warsofsky-named-new-south-carolina-stingrays-coach

- Missouri had the best goaltending tandem in the ECHL last season in Josh Robinson and Parker Milner. They have now lost both players as Robinson signed to play in Norway and Milner has signed with Hershey (AHL). They will be tough to replace. 

- Still haven't heard anything official about ECHL division/conference realignment which has been rumored. This could have an impact on the upcoming season if it is true. 

- An interesting story by Justin Cohn about ECHL teams for sale. http://www.journalgazette.net/blog/ice-chips/ECHL-team-for-sale-not-Komets-13969912

- The San Jose Sharks development camp starts on Friday and if you look at the roster you might see the names of players that will spend time in Allen in the future. Not a lot of familiar names but goalie Jamie Murray who played four games in Allen and forward Alex Schoeborn who played two games with Allen are at the development camp. If you click on the word "announced" in this story the complete roster will come up. It is small print so hopefully you can view it on a bigger screen. https://bladesofteal.com/2016/07/05/san-jose-sharks-release-development-camp-roster/

- If you are a fan of Team Sin Bin and ever go to their site (thesinbin.net) take a few minutes to complete their survey and give your opinions. The team would really appreciate your feedback. Here is the link: http://thesinbin.net/the-2016-sin-bin-reader-survey/


DID YOU KNOW: Chad Costello played a year of junior hockey (2005-06) with the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Roughriders of the USHL. Cedar Rapids is just 100 miles from Chad's home in Johnston. There are five members of that team that have played for the Allen Americans. In addition to Chad, Gary Steffes, David Strathman, Steve Kaunisto, and Phil Fox were on that team and played for Allen. Their goalie was Alex Stalock who played many years in the San Jose organization before recently signing with the Toronto Marlies (AHL).

Monday, July 4, 2016

Chad Costello Returns, Who is Next and The Knight Furniture Giveaway Story

The Allen Americans finally broke the ice on player signings with the announcement on Saturday that co-captain, ECHL regular season and playoff MVP and scoring champion, Chad Costello will be returning to Allen for his third season. What a great foundation from which to build the 2016-17 roster. It is always unpredictable when signing announcements are made public but you have to believe there are many more player signed at this point. The way the qualifying rules work, in order to retain the rights to players they had to be given qualifying offers last week (June 30). You can assume non vets that didn't get qualifying offers are signed at this point. That group would include Aaron Gens, Dyson Stevenson, JP LaFontaine and Kyle Neuber. Veterans have special rules when it comes to qualifying offers so it is more difficult to figure out what is happening with them. Riley Gill recently purchased a house in the area so you have to assume he has been re-signed. There is little question a stockpile of players that have agreed to terms with the Americans for next season. When the contracts get all of the appropriate signatures, get sent to the ECHL for approval and get publicly announced is a whole different story.

- For the players that were on NHL/AHL contracts last season and never signed contracts with Allen the wait will probably take a little longer to see if they will return to Allen. This group includes Arseneau, Asuchak, Crane, Federico, Jevepalovs, Pinkston and Rumpel. With the exception of Jevpalovs the rest of these players are free agents and looking for AHL deals for next season. If they don't sign AHL deals or go overseas they would be candidates to return to Allen. However, because they are free agents they can sign with any ECHL team. Jevpalovs is signed with San Jose for next season so the only way he ends up in Allen is if he gets assigned by San Jose.

- The other group of players to track are the five players that were given qualifying offers. Greger Hanson, David Makowski, Matt Register, Eric Roy, and Ian Schultz make up this group. These five players can pursue deals in the AHL or overseas but if they play in the ECHL they can only play with Allen unless Allen trades their rights. Eric Roy is the most likely to sign with an AHL team and the best scenario for Allen fans is if he would be signed by San Jose. A key date for these players is August 1 as that is the date the qualifying offer, which includes a 5% raise over last season, will expire. After that time salary is negotiable. Except for Register who is a veteran, Allen will retain the rights for these players for all of next season. 

- With all of the talk about players returning from last season it is easy to forget coach Martinson is also in the process of recruiting some new players as well. He will have to find a couple of young guys and will also be looking for experienced players that will thrive in his system. It is like a big puzzle where the pieces have to all fit together. The salary cap and housing costs are a big factor in how Martinson fits the puzzle pieces together.


KNIGHT FURNITURE

Thanks to Derek Allred (among others) who have asked about the "free furniture" promotion sponsored by the Allen Americans and Knight Furniture this season. Here is the story. The upcoming season will be the fifth year that Knight Furniture has been a corporate sponsor of the Allen Americans. The company is a family owned business that was started by J.B. Knight in Sherman in 1912 when he was just 19 years old. The business is currently operated by the fourth generation of the family, Joey Gunn (Vice President) and his dad, David Gunn (President). 

Thanks to Joey Gunn who provided the information below. J.B. Knight is Joey's great uncle. 

Here is how Joey described working in the family business in a trade publication a couple of years ago: I’m generation number four. There are a lot of statistics on going from generation one to two and two to three, but there’s not a whole lot of three to four yet. I feel very fortunate to be a part of a 104-year-old company. This is more than a job to me. It’s actually more than a career to me. This is pride, this is my family’s name, so making this thing successful means a lot to me. More than I can put into words. You want to be able to prove, as the president’s son or as the next generation, that you’re not just doing this because you’re the unemployed loser of the family that couldn’t get a job somewhere else. This is not a family charity. This is passion.

Joey grew up in Allen and is a member of the 2001 Allen Eagle graduating class. He started working with his dad and grandfather at the store when he was 14. He started working in the warehouse and learned the business from the ground up. After getting his college degree he joined the business in the front office and became the credit manager. He later became the store manager in Gainesville and is currently Vice President of the company. Joey and his wife, Leslie, have twin boys who are three and love going to the hockey games. His dad is also a season ticket holder. 

The Kelly Cup visits the Joey Gunn family at Knight Furniture


Joey came up with the idea of giving away "free furniture" to Allen Americans fans if the team repeated as ECHL Kelly Cup champions. Anyone who bought furniture during the regular season and mentioned the Allen Americans prior to their purchase would be entered in the contest and receive a full refund for their purchase if the Americans repeated as Kelly Cup champs. The promotion was advertised by the Allen Americans and was good for purchases at Knight Furnture stores in Sherman and Gainesville. Were the Gunn's hoping the Americans would lose in the playoffs to avoid paying out this money? Quite the contrary as the Gunn's are big fans of the team in addition to being sponsors. They had purchased insurance to cover the cost of the promotion so their hope was a repeat championship and a bunch of happy customers. 

Joey shared with me there were close to 20 Allen fans that were reimbursed for their furniture purchase with one family getting a refund of $10,000. Joey is already looking at doing the promotion again this upcoming season as the Americans attempt the "drive for five" in 2016-17. Joey mentioned when he inquired about doing the promotion again and asked the insurance agent what would be the cost for $50,000 of protection, the agent jokingly said, with the way the Allen Ameticans keep winning the cost would be $50,000. A final decision has yet to be made but Joey is definitely interested in having the promotion again next season. If you need some new furniture looking at Knight Furniture may be worthwhile. 


Joey (left) David Gunn accept the HFA 2016 Retailer of the Year Award in Nashville


DID YOU KNOW: 2016 has been a great year for Knight Furniture. They were a big part of the Allen Americans championship and also won another championship. They were selected by the Home Furnishing Association (HFA) as the 2016 Retailer of the Year. The HFA is a national organization with over 1800 members in all 50 states and Canada with over 7000 storefronts. Congrats to David and Joey Gunn and the entire Knight Furniture team.