While it isn’t a surprise to anyone when someone from the ECHL gets called-up or leaves the team for a better opportunity, the question really becomes about how good is the next man up in the roster, how will it effect the team positively or negatively, will it make a bad team worse, a good team better, or the opposite of it all. Right now, the two top teams in the Pacific Division in the ECHL are dealing with that in a big way.
Starting with the 1st place Idaho Steelheads, they got plucked in a big way before their game on Wednesday, as their top goal-scorer Jason Bast, forward Taylor Peters, and goalie Henri Kiviaho were all lost– Bast loaned to Bridgeport, Peters and Kiviaho called up to Texas– and the Steelheads were able to pick up the win over the Bakersfield Condors on Wednesday with a bit of a depleted squad.
Speaking of the Condors, they’re similarly going through something currently, with Josh Winquist being called-up by the Oklahoma City Barons on Thursday and Francis Verreault-Paul went over to Switzerland on Wednesday, thus having him being suspended by the team. The only crazy part about Winquist is that he’s the team’s leading scorer, along with two other rookies on the squad– the Jones twins, Connor and Kellen– who could very well get called up with Winquist to OKC if the Edmonton Oilers debacle keeps going on and on and AHL guys get called-up to the AHL.
When dealing with counteracting these losses, Steelheads coach Jim Ralph and forward Jim Livingston told the Idaho Statesman the reality of all the situations when guys get called up
“We prepare for this,” Ralph said. “When you get off to the start we did, it’s inevitable – call-ups are going to happen. Unfortunately, there have been a lot of them in a short span that kind of shook us. But this is when you rely on your depth, and guys have to step up when given the opportunity. As much as we hate to see them leave, we keep tabs on them, and we’re excited when they do well. It’s the business. We’re here to develop players, and we want the best for them whether that’s here or at a higher level.”
“It feels great to win this one,” Livingston said. “Guys getting called up is the nature of the business here. Nobody’s surprised when a guy gets called up, because they deserve it. It’s up to the rest of us to step up and fill those roles for the next game.”
The interesting thing is how it’s going to effect the Western Conference teams in the ECHL. There’s no direct single-A team within the area, sans for Peoria who are still far away from Boise and Bakersfield in distance. There’s almost a need for a practice roster for these teams that are far away from any kind of filtering system up and down the pike. That’s another story for another time, I’m sure.
That said, the transaction sheet for the ECHL has been wild in the past week, as 90 transactions were made since November 27th, which may not seem like a lot in a league with 28 teams, but for me– it’s interesting to see and makes me wonder how much chemistry can be maintained overall by teams who keep having to shake up their rosters as frequently as we’ve seen.
One of the main questions and points of contention is whether or not the teams are able to adjust themselves when these call-ups effect them. The Steelheads seem to have the depth to keep scoring, it’s a matter of Olivier Roy going ahead and actually getting his early season mojo back to become the world beater that he once was. The Condors could be a more interesting subject matter– especially with the Jones twins under contract to OKC and depending on the changes could very well leave the Condors in the lurch offensively, something they need more of rather than less of (says the obvious blogger). Should the Condors get really plucked, it could be a long season for the team; regardless of the gimmicks they may have up their sleeves for the rest of the season.