Saturday, December 16, 2017

Coach Martinson & General Manager Martinson Were Busy Yesterday, Allen vs Tulsa Game Preview, Leavens Traded for Guptill, Barracuda Swap Moore & Asuchak, All-Star Jerseys & More

One of the best things about covering the Allen Americans every day is the chance to see coach Steve Martinson and general manager Steve Martinson at work. His 10 championships as a coach speak for themselves but it is his work as a great general manager that is the biggest contributor in making him a great coach. With over 20 years of  experience he has seen and done it all. Martinson's depth of knowledge about coaches, players, teams, contracts, salaries, rules, recruiting, strategy and toughness makes for great conversation each and everyday. You often hear the saying about one guy is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers. That is the feeling you get when you talk to Steve Martinson on a daily basis about what he does as a coach and general manager.

- Yesterday was a great example of what can happen in a single day. Paperwork, logistics and research before practice. Then practice at 10:00 with a full roster of skaters (12 forwards 7 defensemen) preparing for the game in Tulsa tonight. A lot of special teams work and other system improvements. Right after practice general manager Martinson gets a call from San Jose which results in winger Bryan Moore returning to Allen and center Spencer Asuchak heading to San Jose. There is no panic and no concern other than to make sure everyone involved (players, equipment manager, front office, media relations) has been communicated with. Coach Martinson does take a couple of minutes to go to the board he keeps in his office where he can put lines and defensive pairings together and moves Asuchak's name to the side and replaces it with Moore and talks out loud about possible line combinations against Tulsa. What is the best combination of speed, toughness, east-west players, north-south players, playmakers,  finishers, and well as many other factors. The biggest question is who plays center to replace Asuchak. Everything takes place between a constant barrage of text messages, phone calls, players and staff stopping by his office.

- General Manager Martinson's day was just starting in terms of changes. Ever since I have known coach Martinson one of the things he does is keep track of players that have played for him in the past or he has recruited in the past. He spends time each and every day looking at game results and boxscores from all over North America and in Europe. Anyone that follows the Allen Americans is aware Martinson is always trying to improve the team. That is what happened yesterday afternoon when Martinson traded Daniel Leavens to Rapid City for Alex Guptill. I had a chance to talk to general manager Martinson about the trade late last night. He told me he had been tracking Guptill  and has been impressed with how hard he has been working on a team that is in last place. He is averaging a point per game with 17 points (7 goals 10 assists) in 17 games. Guptill has also shown some toughness with 50 penalty minutes. When Guptill became available for a trade Martinson felt he could improve the team by bringing in a point a game player with size (6' 3" 200 lbs.) and toughness who can skate and move his feet. Guptill can also play center which is a big plus given Asuchak is in San Jose. Guptill, who was drafted in the third round of the 2010 NHL draft by the Dallas Stars will be wearing jersey #19 for Allen.

Alex Guptill

- The Allen lineup tonight could have a different look from last week. Olivier Archambault, Bryan Moore, Zach Hall and Alex Guptill could all be in the lineup. That is adding a lot of skill and speed if they are all available. What is known for sure is three players (two forwards & one defenseman) will be healthy scratches.

- The team will leave Allen early this afternoon for the 230 mile drive to Tulsa for the game that starts at 7:05 pm CST. The Americans were the only ECHL team that did not play last night (Friday). Tulsa beat Colorado at home by a score of 5-3. It was the first regulation loss for Colorado in 14 games. Tulsa has now won three games in a row and is only three points behind Allen for the fourth and final playoff spot.

- Here is the match up between Allen and Tulsa:

                                     ALLEN                                TULSA

Team Record               13-7-2-1 (29 points)               10-8-3-3 (26 points)
Division Ranking         4th - Mountain                         5th -Mountain
Conference Ranking   7th - Western                          9th - Western
League Ranking          13th                                        17th
Last Game                  4-1 Loss (Kansas City)            5-3 Win (Colorado)
Goals For                    78                                            71
Goals Against             69                                            74
Power Play                 18.8% (19/101)                        12.1% (13/107)
Penalty Kill                  80.4% (21/107)                        80.8% (19/99)
Leading Scorer           Pierro-Zabotel  (5-19-24)         Bleackley (10-8-18)
Most PIM's                  Makowski (60)                         Bleackley (44)

-  Here is how Allen and Tulsa rank in the ECHL in some statistical categories:

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 1st (23.22) - Tulsa 14th (15.46)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 8th (3.39) - Tulsa 21st (2.96)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 9th (3.00) - Tulsa 13th (3.08)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 12th (32.61) - Tulsa 2nd (37.08)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 23rd (35.87) - Tulsa 22nd (35.00) 
Power Play Percentage: Allen 9th (18.8%) - Tulsa 25th (12.1%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 22nd (80.4%) - Tulsa 21st (80.8%)

-If you look at the five head to head games these teams have played this season the team that scored first has won all five games. All five games have been close with two decided in overtime and one in a shootout. Allen's record in their five games against Tulsa this season is 2-2-1-0. Since joining the ECHL Allen's overall record against Tulsa is 30-16-2-3 and the record when playing in Tulsa is 13-9-1-3.

- Head to head in the first five games Tulsa has the edge is goals (14-12), shots (202-185) and penalty minutes 98-78. The biggest concern is shots on goal as the Oilers are averaging just over 40 shots on goal per game against the Americans. In their current three game win streak Tulsa has averaged 4.33 goals per game. If Allen gives up 40 shots tonight they will lose given how well Tulsa has been playing recently.  

- If you look at the stats above Allen has the edge on the power play and the penalty kill. However, head to head they have the identical power play percentage. Allen is 3-21 (14.3%) against Tulsa on the power play while Tulsa's power play against Allen is 2-14 (14.3%). What the stats above don't show is Allen's 27th ranked road penalty kill percentage which is 70.0%. That stat is offset by Tulsa's home power play which is ranked #27 at 6.1%. So tonight you end up with the worst road penalty kill unit against the worst home power play unit. Something will have to give and the team that wins on special teams will most likely win the game.

- As for the starting goalie tonight it will most likely be Jeremy Brodeur. Stephon Williams was injured in warmups in Kansas City earlier in the week and is listed as day to day. Would assume he will be given a few more days rest and be the backup in Tulsa.

- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Andrew Wilk (#24) and linesmen Chuck Schamel (#97) and Michael Houle (#49).


- In the battle for second place in the Mountain Division, Idaho beat Wichita at home last night by a score of 3-1 to take over sole possession of second place. After leading the division until recently Wichita lost their fourth straight game and is now alone in third place, five points ahead of Allen. Idaho and Wichita play again tonight.

-  Things keep going from bad to worse for the Rapid City Rush and first year coach Daniel Tetrault. The last place Rush lost to Utah, the team just ahead of them in the standings, last night by a score of 8-3. Rapid City has lost their last seven games and now has the worst winning percentage in the ECHL (.292). Tetrault has tried to get things turned around. Daniel Leavens will be the 34th different player to play for the Rush, more than any other team in the division. Would expect that number to continue to rise as Rapid City continues to struggle.

- The ECHL released the jerseys for the all-star game yesterday. Each of the four divisions will have a team for the game which takes place on January 15. What is hard to figure out is how the league can schedule regular season games the same night as the all-star game. There are three games scheduled that night including the Allen Americans hosting the Tulsa Oilers. I will try and find out why there isn't an all-star break built into the schedule this season. Here is the press release issued by the the ECHL with all of the details about the All-Star Classic.

All-Star Jerseys, at least the Mountain Division got RED

DID YOU KNOW: Here is a list of the best and worst teams in the ECHL over the last 10 games by number of wins. There are always a few surprises when you look at this stat.

8 wins - Colorado
8 wins - Idaho
8 wins - Manchester
8 wins - Fort Wayne

2 wins - Quad City
2 wins - Utah
2 wins - Rapid City

A good team playing poorly right now is Toledo. They are sixth in the ECHL in winning percentage (.660) but 4-5-0-1 in the last 10 games. A poor team playing well is Norfolk. They have only eight wins in 25 games this season but are 5-5-0-0 in their last 10 games. 

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