Thursday, July 7, 2011

Former Lake Erie Monster and Colorado Avalanche Center finds a new home in Toronto

During the first few days of the free agency period many Maple Leafs fans complained about GM Brian Burke just sitting around until now. The past few days he has added to his team including former Colorado Avalanche/Lake Erie Monsters Center Philippe Dupuis.

Dupuis signed a one year two way contract worth $650,000 yesterday. He played last season up in the bigs for the Avalanche where he played in 74 games, scoring six goals and recording a minus four. Dupuis was a very physical guy for the Avs but this is no surprise looking back on his career so far.

I loved watching Dupuis in Lake Erie, he had tremendous speed up and down the ice while he led the second line, sometimes even the first line.

He has an attitude to him that will be with any great hockey player, hard nose, in your face, and is not afraid to crash the net or mix it up a few times. He has an eye for the puck as well as being at the right place at the right time.

He does not just show leadership through play, he is very vocal on the bench as well, always talking to his teammates suggesting where to play next and what to look out for in the play. He led the third line of the Avalanche for some of the time until injuries moved him up to the second line. He would be a great fit for the Leafs at the third line role, but some analysts are picking him to be on the fourth line of the Leafs to start out the season.

I think this is a great pick up for the Leafs who are looking to get better. The team was mere games away from a playoff run last season until getting mathematically eliminated by Buffalo with just five games left in the season. With many teams in their division stacking up on players, I think Burke is in the right direction with the addition of Dupuis.

For Colorado, look for them to seek out a centerman in free agency or from within the organization like young prospect Ryan Stoa who is currently a restricted free agent.

I will be taking a look at a few of the holes the Avalanche need to fill by the start of the season for them to make it to the playoffs in a very tough Western Conference, in a later post.

For more on Colorado Avalanche, Lake Erie Monsters, Tulsa Oilers and NHL keep reading more posts and find me on Twitter @WillWodka2133

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

AHL moves teams and divisions around

Over the last couple of months a lot has changed. In the NHL the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and free agents are jumping to other teams. The same can be said for the AHL, as the Manitoba Moose move to St. John's. This new look as well as bigger fan base has resulted in the AHL moving divisions around and adding a couple.

Last season there was a total of four divisions and two conferences. This upcoming 2011-12 season fans will see six divisions in the two conferences.

The changes include downsizing the divisions from six to eight teams depending on the division down to five teams. Here is a breakdown of what the next season will look like compared to what it did this past season.

2010-2011                                                                                 2011-2012

Eastern Conference                                                             Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division                                                                    Atlantic Division
Portland Pirates                                                                     Portland Pirates
Manchester Monarchs                                                      Manchester Monarchs
Connecticut Whale                                                                    St. John's
Providence Bruins                                                               Providence Bruins
Springfield Falcons                                                             Worchester Sharks
Bridgeport Sound Tigers
East Division                                                                            East Division
Binghamton Senators                                                       Binghamton Senators
Charlotte Checkers                                            Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins                                            Hershey Bears
Hershey Bears                                                                     Norfolk Admirals
Norfolk Admirals                                                                 Syracuse Crunch
Albany Devils
Syracuse Crunch
Adirondack Phantoms                                                      Northeast Division

Western Conference                                                       Adirondack Phantoms
                                                                                           Albany Devils
North Division                                                            Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Hamilton Bulldogs                                                            Connecticut Whale
Manitoba Moose                                                            Springfield Falcons   
Lake Erie Monsters
Abbotsford Heat
Toronto Marlies                                                                   Western Conference
Grand Rapids Griffins     
Rochester Americans                                                                North Division
                                                                                              Hamilton Bulldogs
West Division                                                                        Lake Erie Monsters
Milwaukee Admirals                                                                Toronto Marlies
Houston Aeros                                                                     Grand Rapids Griffins
Peoria Rivermen                                                                    Rochester Americans
Texas Stars
Oklahoma City Barons
Chicago Wolves                                                                        West Division
San Antonio Rampage                                                              Houston Aeros
Rockford Icehogs                                                                        Texas Stars
                                                                                            Oklahoma City Barons
                                                                                            San Antonio Rampage
                                                                                                Abbotsford Heat

                                                                                               Midwest Division
                                                                                              Charlotte Checkers
                                                                                                Chicago Wolves
                                                                                              Milwaukee Admirals
                                                                                                 Peoria Rivermen
                                                                                                Rockford Icehogs

The playoffs will also change a little. It will still remain eight teams in the playoffs but now it will be the three division winners in each conference will get the top spots and then the other five spots will rank teams determined on who had more points than the other. The first round quarterfinals will change from a seven game series to a five game series. The other rounds will be a best of seven series and the match-ups will change based on who has the better seeds in the later rounds. So if the number one seed gets knocked out but the two seed wins then the two seed will play the eighth seed.

Later in the summer the league will announce its teams' schedules.

For more information on the AHL, Lake Erie Monsters, Tulsa Oilers and Colorado Avalanche stay tuned to this blog and follow me on Twitter @WillWodka2133.

Lake Erie Monsters lose a great player to Free Agency

July 1st came and went without some surprise signings, including Ville Leino signing with Buffalo Sabres and J.S. Giguere signing with Colorado. With all the free agents around it may be hard to remember some of them were minor league players. A few free agents that were checking out the market included guys like Greg Mauldin, David Van der Gulik and Jason Bacashihua from Lake Erie Monsters . Well one of those players has signed with another team.

Late last night word spread on Twitter from Mile High Hockey that the Phoenix Coyotes signed free agent goaltender Jason Bacashihua. Bacashihua played in Lake Erie on two seperate occasions and last season helped the Monsters get to their first playoff appearance in franchise history.

Returning to the team after leaving in 2009 to play for the AHL Hershey Bears, Bacashihua played in 42 games for the Monsters recording a 23-16 record with a 2.29 goals against average. He is versatile, he has great hands as he flash the leather and moves well east to west. He is also a great goaltender, knowing when to come out of the net to cut off the angles or to play the puck.

Bacashihua is familiar with moving around, getting drafted way back in the 2000's by the Dallas Stars he has moved around to a bunch of cities. One move included a brief two season stint in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues. Now he will get a chance to play again in the "bigs" when he works he way through the system after he signs a two way contract with the Coyotes.

For more information on the Lake Erie Monsters, Tulsa Oilers and Colorado Avalanche keep checking this blog and follow me on Twitter @WillWodka2133

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Getting to know some of the teams within the Colorado Organization: Tulsa Oilers

Being one of three teams in the league that started in 1992 when the Central Hockey League reformed, the Tusla Oilers have made a mark on the league. Playing in Tulsa, Oklahoma the team was ranked sixth overall this past season in attendance.

Having won the championship in the inaugural season of the league the Oliers made the playoffs nine out of the next 13 seasons. Though making the playoffs is not enough, the team was never able to make it over the first round hump, until last year.

Now with the team coached by Bruce Ramsay who is known for winning championships the team is on the rebound. This past season the Oilers moved on to the second round, ultimately losing to the Bossier-Shreveport Mubdugs, making this the first time since the 1994 season the team has won a playoff round.

On September 2, 2010 the team announced they would join the Colorado Organization and be the official affiliate to the Lake Erie Monsters and Colorado Avalanche.

This team has been the workforce for draft picks from Colorado. Having seen guys play, this team really helps them develop their skills. Rising goaltender Trevor Cann saw play in both Colorado and Lake Erie early on in his career, but recently moved down to Tulsa to work on his skills. Last season Cann recorded a 13-9 record.

For some hockey fans in the area Tulsa's participation in the Avalanche Organization is a welcome home. Two players taken in different draft classes have made their way to Tulsa from Parma, OH. Left winger Tom Fritsche whose brother plays for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL, and goalie Ian Keserich were drafted by the Avalanche and are now seeing considerable playing time in Tulsa. Last season Keserich saw most of the playing time recording a 22-10 record. While Fritsche had a so so season only scoring two goals and 13 assists. Maybe someday we may get the chance to watch these two young players play at the Quicken Loans arena in Cleveland, OH for the AHL Lake Erie Monsters.

The Oilers are looking to build upon this past season and look to make another run to the Presidents' cup.

In later posts I will be taking a look at the Tulsa Oilers and post news about the team.

For more news and information on Colorado Avalanche, Lake Erie Monsters and Tulsa Oilers, keep checking this blog. Also find me on Twitter @WillWodka2133

Friday, July 1, 2011

Not sure the Colorado Avalanche are making sense in net

In my last post I mentioned the Colorado Avalanche traded for goalie Varlamov. Well the Avs picked up another goalie, this time through free agency, but is it the right choice or will the Avs be kicking themselves later?

The Avalanche late Friday afternoon picked up goalie J.S. Giguere off of the free agency wire. Giguere who spent the last couple of seasons playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, won a cup way back in 2007 when the Anaheim Ducks beat Ottawa Senators. But he has never real been the same goalie.

In his years with Toronto Giguere played 48 games in two seasons. Last year he fought for the starting position and lost to Gustavson and later Reimer.

The Avalanche were in the mix of teams trying to contact Tomas Vokoun who went on the market today. He would have been a great fit for an Avs team trying to get back to their winning ways. But then Avalanche fans saw their team trade two picks for Varlamov.

I was a little disappointed they went for him but do see the reasoning behind it. Varlamov is a young player and young goalies have been known to succeed early in their career, just look at Ryan Miller.

Matt Duchene was quoted from his twitter account saying "Excited about having a young, talented goalie in Denver in Varlamov. Will fit in great"

But seeing Colorado pick up Giguere makes no sense at all. Why would the Avs pay for two fairly big names in net who currently have the skills to become great backups and not starters? Also I would have thought that the money you could have saved not picking both of these guys up, you could have spent on Vokoun. Having Vokoun in net then resigning Jason Bacashihua would help as a backup. Bacashihua posted a 23-16 record with four shutouts and led Monsters to their first playoff series in franchise history. Or if they wanted to get someone with more NHL experience they could have looked at signing Free Agent Ty Conklin. Conklin is known for being a decent back up and would have been great behind Vokoun.

The Avalanche are not slowing down and are looking to add another player tonight. More information on breaking developments here on this blog. Find me on twitter at @WillWodka2133

The Avalanche did what?

In a move that was not foreseen by anyone in the hockey world, Colorado Avalanche pick up a goalie. But so far it did not come from free agency but through a trade.

In a press release from the Colorado Avalanche, the Avs have sent the 2012 first round draft pick to the Washington Capitals for backup goaltender Semyon Varlamov.

Many hockey analysts throughout the country who are following the free agency market as well as myself, saw the Avs having a good shot at getting the prized goaltender of the market Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun was perfect for them, though a little on the pricey side, he would have surely helped with his leadership as well as skill in between the pipes.

Varlamov on the other hand has been shaky at times and was the backup in Washington. He even saw a few games in the AHL for the Hershey Bears last season. He records a decent save percentage and his goals against average his just under 3. But his weakness is down low. He lets in a lot of soft goals and can be beaten five hole.

Lets hope the Avs goalie coach can work on his skill a little more, right now I do not see him as a starting goalie but Avs thought differently. Tough to see what will become of him right now but lets hope he can help the Avs out, between the pipes.

For more coverage on big name free agency signings keep checking into this blog, and follow me on twitter @WillWodka2133

A banner Goes in the Rafters

The past couple of weeks have been a busy one for the Avalanche. They have had to deal with the draft, trying to sign key players and as of noon today the free agency market opens up. But this did not stop them from announcing a major event.

Just before the puck drops in the Pepsi Center to start the new season, the Colorado Avalanche will be raising a banner in honor of Peter Forsberg.

Announced yesterday the team will retire "Peter the Great"s number in a ceremony before the home opener. Forsberg has been a god in Colorado, playing almost his entire NHL career in the Colorado organization including playing the last few years when the team was in Quebec.

Playing in over 700 games and scoring 885 career points Forsberg helped lead the team to two Stanley Cup victories as well as winning the hearts of so many fans.

Fans watched as his career diminished, with having multiple surgeries on his ankle and never able to bounce back from those injuries. He had a few stints with other clubs in the NHL but then returned home to Sweden. He tried to play in the Swedish Modo league and thoughts of him returning to NHL seemed within reach.

He gave it one last try to join the NHL and play again this past season. He signed a contract with the Avs. and things looked promising for him in his first game for him and the club. But the pain came back and having to play almost everyday was not going to happen for Forsberg. After a week, he announced he was hanging up the skates for good.

He is known throughout Colorado as Peter the Great and even with an injury plagued career everyone will remember the high flying days of Forsberg.

He currently is coaching in the Swedish league. On October 8th he will watch the banner will go up into the rafters like he did when he helped Colorado to two cup victories.

Great player and someday will be a great coach in the NHL.

For more on the Avalanche, Monsters, Oilers and the NHL keep checking this blog. Also find me on Twitter @WillWodka2133