Wednesday, November 6, 2013

This Brampton Trip Is Different & My View of Snowden Waiver

The Allen Americans left town today on a three game road trip which will be unique on so many levels. They will travel 1400 miles to play for the first time on Canadian soil in Brampton, Ontario. Allen players don't hear bring your passport and here is your boarding pass (yes they are flying instead of busing) very often. They did fly a couple of times the first year before they bought their own bus.

Here are just a few of the other things that will be unique about this trip to Brampton:
- The Americans have 14 players from Canada and 6 from Ontario while Brampton has a roster made up of all Canadians of which 12 are from Ontario. Professional hockey is a small community so relationships between these teams is long and deep.

- The closest relationship between these two teams is the Pitton brothers who are from Brampton. Bryan Pitton will doing something he has done thousands of times growing up. Trying to stop shots from his big brother, Jason Pitton (20 months older), who is a forward for the Beast.

- Jamie Schaafsma and Brampton rookie forward Brett Vandehogen are friends who grew up on the same street literally a few houses apart in Blenheim, Ontario which has a population of just over 4000. Jamie played hockey with Brett's older brother. Brett & Jamie are on the same softball team in the summer.

I did a quick look at the playing relationships between these two teams and found there is a lot of familiarity between Allen and Brampton:
- Darryl Bootland played with Rob Collins (Grand Rapids Griffins) and Andrew Fournier (Kalamazoo Wings)
- Jarret Lukin played with Fournier (Dayton Bombers) and Steve Ward (Florida Everblades)
- Bryan Pitton played with his brother (Jason) last year in Great Britain (Fife)
- Phil Fox and Ross Rouleau played with Kristofer Westbloom, Erik Spady, and Calin Wild (Brahmas). Fox went to college with Spady (Northern Michigan).
- David Brown played with Micheal Couch & Matt Caruana (Gwinnett Gladiators)
- Garrett Klotz played with Tyler Butler & Brett Smith (Ft. Wyane Komets)
- Trevor Hendrikx played with Jeff Martens & Micheal Couch (Johnstown Chiefs)
- Mike Berube played with Steve Ward (Charlotte Checkers)
- Jonathan Lessard played with  Grant Rollheiser (Utah Grizzlies)
- Jeff Martens played for the Allen Americans (2011-2012)

- Playing in Brampton gives the friends and family of many Allen players the opportunity to see them play closer to home. While friends and family in the Toronto area will have an easy commute to the games there are some traveling greater distances. Alex Lavoie's mom will be at the games, traveling from Anjou, Quebec. I have talked to several players who will have as many as 20 friends and family at the games. Scrambling for complimentary tickets will be taken to the extreme. Have a feeling there will be many tickets purchased for friends and family for these three games.

- The scheduling of the games is even unique as Thursday, Friday, Sunday is unusual for game day selections as Saturday is usually a preferred day of the week. It does allow the players a weekend day to spend time with friends and family or to tour the Toronto area. It has also attracted several Allen fans who are making the trip to Brampton for a mini vacation along with three hockey games. Given the time of year the weather looks pretty good with lows around freezing and highs in the low 40's with no snow in the forecast.

- Brampton should not be taken lightly as they have a better home record (2-1) than the Americans (2-1-1), won their last two games on the road, and will want to perform well in these three home games. After the three games with Allen this week Brampton will be back on the road for over a month as they won't have another home game until December 12th.

- In Allen's favor is the fact that they are a very good road team (5-0 this year), Phil Fox will be back in the lineup, and many of the players will be performing before friends and family which always adds motivation.

- Special teams play always seem to be the deciding factor and Allen has an advantage thus far this season. On the power play Allen is ranked 2nd in the league at 21.43% while Brampton is ranked 7th at 8.89%. On the penalty kill Allen is ranked 3rd in the league at 91.07% while Brampton is ranked 4th at 90.20%.

- It will be interesting to see what the attendance is for these games in Brampton. Lots of local players from both teams along with the CHL champions coming to town, a well as a great marketing staff in Brampton should be the formula for improved attendance. Combine this with the fact that these three games will be the only home games for Brampton from October 21st to December 12th. Brampton attendance has only averaged 2521 (three home games) so the hope would be that attendance will increase for the three games with Allen.

- I don't normally like to wade into the conversations I see on social media or on message boards concerning players as everyone is entitled to their opinion. In the case of John Snowden several readers of the blog have asked me what happened so thought it might be helpful to share my opinion. I need to stipulate up front that I got to know John this summer as with the help of his wife Janelle he sat down with me for an interview in the midst of moving from Ft. Worth to McKinney, a sick kid and a pregnant wife. He was most accommodating and he was very impressive from his love for hockey to his love for his family. After spending over an hour with him it was obvious he is a true professional and a great family man.

So what went wrong and why was he waived and how was he waived? The simple answer many have stated is his stats (9 games, 1 goal, 1 assist, -2) but there is much more than just statistics.
-  When you look at the complete roster of a hockey team there are two dollar figures that are important, salary cap and budget. Salary cap and budget are two different figures as players on IR don't count against the salary cap. However, if you carry 20 players as Allen was doing it is easy to exceed budget.
- Veteran players make more money than young players so they are a bigger hit against both salary cap and budget. This makes veterans like John more vulnerable if they aren't producing and the team is looking to make changes.
- John has played the point on the power play in the past which adds to the value he brings to a team. Being a right handed shot on a team with excellent right handed shooting defenseman to play the point (Tyler Ludwig, Tetrault, Rouleau & Hendrickx) he was not going to get the chance on the point.
- Having chemistry is very important in being successful and the line John was playing on didn't seem to have that chemistry. One answer would be to change up the lines, however, the coaches are pleased with the top line and the checking line so that wasn't an option. When they did try different line combinations early in the year that didn't seem to work either. This isn't John's fault it is just what happens sometimes with teammates and it doesn't fix itself.
- I have heard coach Martinson felt that John should be playing at a lower weight than what he was playing at. Not sure if this is a fact or if John weighs more than in the past but have heard it from more than one source.
So my opinion for the "why" John was waived is a combination of lack of production, high salary as a veteran, chemistry with teammates wasn't the best, reduced value because he is not being used on the point on the power play, and could be more effective at a lower weight. Again, this is my opinion and much of the reason he was waived are factors out of his control. It just wasn't a good fit given the current set of circumstances. If you look at John's past he has been a streaky scorer so I felt the time would come when he would get on one of those streaks where he could carry the team. If given more time that probably would have happened.

So how about the "how" John was waived. I don't have the facts so again this is opinion only but having interviewed Steve Martinson I know how seriously he takes waiving players as we talked about this very issue. Martinson shared with me how difficult it is to impact the lives of young men, especially those with families. However, it was clear his primary focus is winning hockey games and he will do whatever he feels will improve the team.

- I have read that Martinson did not talk to Snowden in person and when I heard that it made sense to me as the team did not practice on Monday so the players were not at the AEC. A phone call would have been fine with me but others might not agree. Would assume if Martinson summoned John to the AEC on an off day he would have known the reason he was being summoned.

- As to what was said on the telephone call with John that is also speculation but I do know it is pretty standard to first try and trade a player and then waive them. If John is picked up on waivers he maintains his current salary which is a good thing for the player. I also know for a fact Martinson discussed with John the possibility of him returning to Allen under different circumstances. Not sure if this means returning at a lower salary or a lower playing weight or both but the door was left open for him to return to the team at some point. It is hard for me to believe all of this wasn't discussed with John at the same time as they are all interrelated and tied together.

So that is my take on the local "Snowden affair" and I know John will land on his feet no matter how this all turns out. He is too good of a hockey player and teammate not to have that happen. As one of his biggest fans I'm sure I speak for all Allen fans and his many fans around the CHL in wishing him, Janelle, Aiden, and baby boy on the way all of the best. And let's hope we see him back in an Americans jersey in the near future.

DID YOU KNOW: Visiting teams only get 12 complimentary tickets for each game on the road. Wonder how these are distributed for the Brampton games?

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