Monday, January 2, 2017

Practice Update, New Equipment Manager, Allen #1 in Plus/Minus, PIM's Tell the Story, Dell Update

It is a unique week for the Allen Americans as they have seven days between games to heal the bumps and bruises, work on some system issues and maybe even have a little fun at practice. When you are 7-0-0-1 in your last eight games and have the longest streak in the league it makes it a little easier to practice.

- I have learned from coach Martinson over the years having a few days to practice, especially if there have been roster changes, is invaluable. But he also says he gets tired of yelling at the players and they get tired of him after about three days. So this is what I imagine the week will be like. The team had the day off on Sunday and they probably needed it as they partied as a group after the game on Saturday. I heard Big Red (aka bus) took the team out on the town to celebrate the New Year. It is a good sign of a cohesive locker room when everyone goes out together.

- The rest of the practice week should include a fun day where there will be teams chosen with the losers buying lunch, there will be a hard practice day and there will most likely be a midweek day off. Later in the week preparation for the two games against the Indy Fuel on Saturday and Sunday will be the focus.

- The Americans will see a few extra days off this month. Allen has played the most games (35) in the league and Wichita has played the fewest games (27). If you look at the Mountain Division, Allen has played three more games than Colorado, Idaho, Missouri and Utah, four more games than Rapid City and five more games than Alaska. Allen has six days without a game this week, five next week and three the following week and all seven games in the next three weeks are at home. The seven games are against opponents who have winning percentages below .500. If the team plays to its potential, Allen could have a another great month in January.

- I heard a couple of quotes over the past week that says a lot about the recent success of the Allen Americans. Steve Martinson said, "It's time for the general manager to let the coach be the coach." His point was you can make roster changes to improve the team but at some point you also need to slow down the changes and work with what you have. This doesn't mean general manager Martinson won't make changes as injuries and potential AHL call-ups dictate additional roster moves. The other quote came from Chad Costello during his post game interview when he said, "You don't need the best team, you need the right team." My interpretation of what Chad was saying is it seems like the current roster is closer to the "right team" because it is a combination of speed, skill and toughness with guys that can carry the puck, work in the corners, make plays and shoot the puck. With all of the offensive firepower the team has still been committed to the defensive end of the rink. Finally, the locker room seems as tight as it has been all year.

- You may have noticed there was a new equipment manager on the bench on Saturday. I haven't had a chance to meet him yet but his name is Tim Abbott and he comes to Allen with some impressive credentials for the job. Tim spent 13 years as the associate equipment manager with the Detroit Red Wings during which he was part of three Stanley Cup championships. He was the head equipment manager in Adirondack (AHL) for five years where he was part of two Calder Cup championships. The players have already commented to me about the professionalism Tim brings to the job and this was after just one day. Welcome aboard Tim.

New equipment manager Tim Abbott

- If you have ever wondered if there is a different style of play between the ECHL's Eastern and Western Conference all you have to do is look at the penalty minutes. The Eastern Conference leader in penalty minutes is Atlanta with 455. There are four teams between 400-455 minutes and nine teams between 300-400 minutes. In the Western Conference Atlanta's 455 penalty minutes would place them in ninth place. The West has one team over 700 minutes (Allen), two over 600 (Colorado & Fort Wayne) and four over 500 minutes. The average number of penalty minutes for teams in the Eastern Conference is 382, in the Western Conference the average is 500 minutes.

- One of the stats I didn't talk about yesterday when recapping the amazing month of December for the Americans was plus/minus. Plus/minus illustrates how well Allen played in December as much as any other statistic. At the beginning of December Allen had a team plus/minus of -27 which was one of the poorer numbers in the league. During December Allen had just two minus games (-1 & -3)  and 12 plus games including a +29 and +24. For the entire month (14 games) the Americans plus/minus total was an astounding +161. For the season Allen is now at +134 which is #1 in the ECHL. Toledo is in second place at +118.

- You may have noticed Aaron Dell had a 21 save shutout Friday night as the San Jose Sharks beat Philadelphia 2-0. It was a special win for Dell because the Flyers head coach, Dave Hakstol, was Aaron's coach in college and recruited him to the University of North Dakota. Aaron has been outstanding in his role as the back up goalie for the Sharks this season. It is extremely difficult to stay sharp when you only get to play once every couple of weeks. Aaron has started just five of the Shark's 37 games but has been up to the task every time. His record is 4-1 and his only loss was 1-0 to Carolina. For the season Dell's GAA is 1.78 and his save percentage is .936. It is a small sample with so few games played but Aaron's stats this season are the best of his professional career. 

DID YOU KNOW: According to the website the top ten ECHL teams in fights this season are all from the Western Conference. The top ten teams have had a total of 329 fights. The bottom ten teams in fights are all from the Eastern Conference (with the exception of Missouri) and have a total of 139 fights. Here are the top ten and bottom ten in the number of fights thus far this season:

Most Fights

44 - Allen
41 - Fort Wayne
37 - Utah
35 - Colorado
30 - Idaho
30 - Quad City
29 - Tulsa
28 - Indy
28 - Wichita
27 - Alaska

Fewest Fights

10 - Wheeling
11 - Brampton
12 - Greenville
12 - Orlando
13 - Elmira
13 - Reading
16 - South Carolina
17 - Missouri
17 - Manchester
18 - Florida

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