Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weekly Update - The Roster, Gary Steffes Story, Combs & Lavoie Head Overseas

Have had a lot of questions about what is happening with specific players in regards to returning to Allen for next season, so thought it might be helpful to give the tried and true "WAG" (wild ass guess) for everyone that was on the season ending roster. For those of you who can't wait for the start of hockey season and stay engaged all through the summer this is an exercise you may have been going through yourself. Some are easy to figure out but some are not, so here goes.

- The season ending roster included 20 players. It did not include Jordan Rowley, Thomas Carr and Jake Hildebrand.  Why weren't Rowley, Carr and Hildebrand added to the season ending roster? Many times when players are signed late in the season after they finish their collegiate eligibility (like these three) their agents negotiate into their contracts that they not be protected. This gives them maximum flexibility on where they can sign for their first full year of professional hockey. That is what happened and they have all signed elsewhere. Hildebrand in Rockford (AHL), Rowley in Sweden and Carr in France.

- Eight from the season ending roster have already been announced as returning for next season so they are easy. Chad Costello, Gary Steffes, JP LaFontaine, Dyson Stevenson, Kyle Neuber, Chris Crane, Aaron Gens and Riley Gill.  To this you can add three other players (Kale Kerbashian, Tanner Eberle and Mike Gunn) who have played for Allen in the past but were not on the roster at the end of the season. Finally, the one new player to the team is Joel Chouinard which makes a total of 12 players announced thus far.

- If you recall, the Americans only gave qualifying offers to five players even though they could have by ECHL rule given eight qualifying offers. Eric Roy, David Makowski, Greger Hanson, Ian Schultz, and Matt Register were given qualifying offers by the Americans so unless they sign in Europe or get an AHL deal, their only option would be a return to Allen. Register is an exception to this rule as he is a veteran and can become a free agent if he doesn't sign with Allen. Makowski (Hungary) and Schultz (Scotland) have already signed to play in Europe. Eric Roy is the youngest of this group at 21 and has the greatest potential of making it to the next level for the upcoming season. He has most likely already signed an AHL deal and the hope for Allen fans is he has signed with San Jose. That way, if he doesn't make the AHL roster out of training camp he would be assigned to Allen. Greger Hanson is living in Allen so my guess is he signed his qualifying offer and will be back with the Americans next season. That leaves Register and it would appear he will be moving on but that is not a certainty. 

- The other group of players that were not on the season ending roster are those players that were in Allen for the playoffs but were under AHL contracts.  That is why Rumpel, Crane, Pinkston, Arseneau, Federico, Asuchak, and Jevpalovs aren't on the list. If these players don't have AHL deals for next season they can sign ECHL contracts with any team. Jevepalovs is under contract with San Jose for next season but the rest of the guys are free agents. Arseneau (Wichita), Federico (South Carolina) and Crane (Allen) have already been signed and announced. There are rumors that Rumpel has signed with an Eastern Conference team. That leaves Asuchak and Pinkston as the only two unsigned players. You have to believe it is highly likely they return to the Americans for next season. 

- Veterans on a team are always a special case because there can only be four veterans (more than 260 professional games) on the roster. The Americans have already signed three (Costello, Steffes, Chouinard). Casey Pierro-Zabotel was a veteran last season but he has signed with Colorado. Matt Register and Tristan King were not veterans last season but will be this season. My guess is Tristan King is the more likely player to get that last veteran spot based on performance last season. 

- That is everyone from the playoff roster with the exception of Justin Courtnall. Justin was traded to Brampton to complete a future considerations deal so he will not be returning this season. Thus far Courtnall has not signed with Brampton.

- Finally, you can't do a WAG post without mentioning Jack Combs who is also a free agent in the ECHL at this point. He has signed to play in Europe (Germany) and has already reported. While you want to put this in the highly unlikely to happen category there is always a possibility he could return to Allen. It will take a special set of circumstances but as long as his best friend, Chad Costello, is with Allen you never want to count out a Christmas surprise.  Here is an interview Jack did a couple of days ago with his German team:

- So there you have some food for thought on everyone from last season. If it all falls as predicted there will only be a few new faces on the team. Some of the new faces will be assigned by San Jose and some will be players Martinson has recruited but the bottom line is there will be a lot of familiar faces on the opening night roster.


- Check out this story about Gary Steffes and his journey through hockey. It is a great read:

- As the 2016-17 season approaches, coach Steve Martinson is on his way back to Allen from his summer home in Illinois. He will be putting the final touches on the roster before heading to San Jose next month to attend the Barracuda training camp. There will be somewhere between 4-6 players from San Jose assigned to Allen so attending the Barracuda training camp gives Martinson the opportunity to observe all of the players first hand. 

- One of the players San Jose will assign to Allen is a goalie and that will depend on NHL & AHL training camps. Goalie play is always a wild card so you never know who will be assigned. Jamie Murray, who played in four games with Allen last season with a GAA of 1.44 and save percentage of .963, could be the goalie assigned to the Americans. This is definitely a wait and see.

- It looks like at least half of the defensmen on the roster will be new this season but that was also the case last season. And coach Martinson is very pleased with the new defensemen he has coming in.

- A special thanks to Aaron Gens and Chad Costello for taking time last week to visit all of the Allen Americans fans at Heritage Ranch (where I live). They relived the run the the Kelly Cup, the celebrations that followed and also shared their thoughts on the 2016-17 roster. They were both informative and humorous.

Aaron Gens explains the Kelly Cup celebrations - photo by Dianne Webster

DID YOU KNOW: Alex Lavoie played in Allen his first professional season (2013-14) and set the Americans' all time rookie record with 76 points (25 goals 51 assists) in just 60 games. For his effort he was named 2013-14 Central Hockey League Rookie of the Year. After spending a season with Florida and Indy, Alex has signed to play in Sweden for the upcoming season. The more open ice in Europe should mesh well with Lavoie's style of play.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Allen Americans Weekly Update - Roster, Ownership and Other Comments


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. 


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.



- 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:

 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.


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.


-  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 ( 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.