Everblades’ O’Donnell Continues To Have Under The Radar Season

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It’s hard not to see the star-power of Brendan O’Donnell after this season. In his second pro season, the Florida Everblades forward seemed to figure out the transition in a short time and has made a HUGE impact not only on the team, but the league as well. Not only did O’Donnell rank in the top-ten in points for the ECHL, but his 41 goals was tied with Brampton’s David Pacan for the best in the league.

Hell, in these playoffs so far, O’Donnell has seven goals and four assists for 11 points in one round alone as he led the Everblades to a comeback series win over the Orlando Solar Bears.

This transition could be an interesting one, especially for observers of O’Donnell’s path to pro hockey from his time at the University of North Dakota. Having only 27 goals in his four-year career at UND, O’Donnell’s game was more in the energy role, after his time in midget hockey and Junior “A” where he was a team leader in scoring. There are some players who never have that ability to transition from one role of being a key scoring component to an energy/grinding player, then back again– but O’Donnell has seemingly that scoring stride again a big way.

Some of that could be contributed to Everblades’ coach Brad Ralph, who’s style of play has been much more offensive this season from what Greg Poss had at the end of the 2015-16 season in Florida. The Everblades as a whole had 49 more goals this season than last. Granted, the team also gave up 44 more goals than last season, offense will get the headlines when a team is winning in most cases.

On top of that, O’Donnell was poised to breakout, finishing the ’15-16 campaign strong with 14 goals and 10 assists in the last 16 games. While that finish may have been a foreshadowing of this year’s happenings, there’s times where players aren’t able to holster that hot streak, especially through the off-season.

Luckily for the Everblades, O’Donnell has never looked back from what he started at the end of last season and has been a big reason they’re in the second round of this year’s playoffs.

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Can Minor Leaguers Play Major Role in Olympics??

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How feasible is it that minor league players go to the 2018 Winter Olympics?? With the NHL declaring they won’t be going, this opens up plenty of opportunity for players to get into the Olympiad– but who knows which way the governing bodies would go with picking their roster. Many think they’ll go for the World Juniors approach, but I doubt they would want to face the best of the KHL, as well as the Finnish and Swedish leagues.

[Full disclosure– I couldn’t care less that the NHL isn’t going. I understand people get upset not seeing the top players in the Olympics, but for business– which is what sports are now– it doesn’t make sense with how the IOC and IIHF are not giving the NHL anything to make them want to go to the Olympics. To shut down a league for two weeks in the middle of the season and to have a risk of losing a top player (right John Tavares) on top of the having to truncate the schedule seems like a recipe for disaster. But more importantly…money. Not enough going the NHL’s way which– rightly or wrongly– is the bottom line. And let’s be honest, how many of these guys take a pass when they get a call to represent their nation in the World Championship??]

In any case, the minor leagues could be the next reasonable step for governing bodies to look at where they want to pluck the players. Sure, Hockey Canada could go the Spengler Cup route and get the best Canadians playing in Euro Leagues– but I doubt they want to do that. Nor do they want to put their World Junior teams out there and get eaten up by the best in the KHL, Finnish, and Swedish leagues. We’ve even seen minor leaguers in the last Olympics with Henrik Odegaard (Missouri) and Kristers Gudjevskis (Syracuse) appearing for Norway and Latvia respectively.

The US Olympic teams in 1992 and 1994 had plenty of minor league involvement with eight players in the AHL and IHL going to play in ’92, while that number doubled to 16 in the ’94 Games. The Canadian team, however, had an established national team of their own made up of overaged players out of Major Juniors, as well as players who were holding out on their NHL clubs. They played exhibition games and other random worl tournaments to tune up for the Olympics.

However, another hurdle that would need to be jumped would be the NHL teams releasing their players to the national teams, which could be worse if the players are guys who are shuttled back and forth to the NHL or AHL frequently.  That said, it could be a giant opportunity for some of these guys who may never have thought about representing their country based on their peer group. Not just those from the US and Canada, but Finnish and Swedish AHLers may get a sniff should there not be enough talent over in Europe…hey, they can dream, right??

I believe that the minor leaguers win in all of this, regardless of what happens. If there are NHL players who are allowed to go somehow, someway (looking at you, Washington Capitals); a slew of guys on the Hershey Bears will get called up to play in the NHL. If the NHLers do stay, then it’s a chance for some AHLer to go ahead and maybe get the call to play for their nation; they get a boost in any instance

While I’m not about the NHL-pro guys going to overshadow the other amateur athletes who’s only goal is to participate in the Games, the idea of young talent in the AHL or ECHL going over is something that intrigues me. If not only for the underdog story of these guys going over and facing off against the other best in the world– but it’s their hardwork being promoted on the big stage and have their stories shared to across the world. Thus, when it is all over, maybe even having people pay more attention to those players in the minors when they get back to playing there.

The ECHL All-Star Classic: King of All Gimmicks

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I enjoy a good gimmick– whether it be in the wrestling world or in the hockey lexicon where things are tinkered with to get some kind of appeal to the masses. Shootout, skills competitions, outdoor games– I enjoy it all. This is why when I look at the ECHL All-Star Classic, it’s a tailor-made for someone who likes all kinds of wacky BS in their hockey games.

First, it’s one vs. all in this, as the Adirondack Thunder take on the ECHL All-Stars. That’s right– one team vs. the best of the best from the rest of the league. Right off the bat, you have to think it’s a bit outmatched, but the All-Stars have precious little practice time ahead of the game, while the Thunder actually know what they’re going to be doing in all of this.

Second, the game itself is a hodge-podge of different things. The first half (yes, half) is 25 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey. Just like a normal period, but five minutes longer. The half-time show is going to be the skills competition that includes the hardest shot, fastest skater, and the skills relay. Following that, the second 25-minute half will consist of ten minutes of 5-on-5, then five minutes of 4-on-4, then topped off with ten minutes of 3-on-3 action. For a more visual aspect, here’s an infographic the ECHL put out.

The only thing this thing is missing is the outdoor game element and this would be the Gimmick Grand Slam.

You have to hand it to the ECHL, as they are making their every-other-year showcase stand out from what the NHL and AHL are doing, which is using divisional aspects to their all-star teams, while also having a tournament feel to the process. The ECHL All-Star Classic is more akin to the Canada/Russia Challenge that the Canadian Major Juniors play, pitting remnants of the Russia U-20 team against the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL.

Yet, the most important thing is that even with all the gimmicks; the ECHL All-Star Classic will be broadcasted on the NHL Network. This will give the NHL-only fan a chance to not only see young, undiscovered prospects in the hockey world, but to give them a taste of ECHL hockey if they don’t often pay attention to the lower minor leagues. That kind of exposure benefits the league and players, hopefully getting some fans another option for their hockey dollar should their local team be out of town for a stretch or just plain out stink for the season.

While the rules may be convoluted and very out of the ordinary– the fact remains that people who usually scoff at the idea of All-Star Games can maybe let this game into their hearts and see how it goes for them. Maybe the one-night gala that happens every two years will be something for them and could give ideas to some other leagues who may need the help garnering attention for the league and its stars.

First Month in the Sin Bin

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So, it’s been a month since I joined TheSinBin.net and it’s been pretty solid overall. Here’s what you may have been missing if you haven’t checked it out yet.

-The Stockton Heat not only are going through a change on the ice in their league play, but also off the ice in renovations to get the Stockton Arena up to AHL caliber.

-The AHL schedule was announced and boy howdy, it’s as bad as you think it was and it will cause a plenty of confusion with math and stuff to determine the playoffs.

-With the possibility of expansion in the NHL, it means the AHL and ECHL will need expansion as well to have a “One Team, One Affiliation” gimmick going. Hat Trick Consultants are looking at different markets to see what is actually viable.

-And, it’s two weeks– so the podcast is up and going.

It’s been a great time and the people there have been super supportive and we’ve been noticed– with is the main goal. Hope you keep coming along for the journey.

New League, Same Result for Americans

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It’s one thing to come into a new league at the last minute and be successful to the next change. It’s a completely different thing to come into a league, be successful, appear to be solidly dominant during the playoffs, and then win a championship in the process. However, the Allen Americans did just that and took home their third championship in as many years with a 6-1 win in Game 7 over the South Carolina Stingrays to claim the Kelly Cup.

Granted, towards the end– you could see either fatigue or competition start to get to the Americans. The Ontario Reign seemed to give them some trouble in the Conference Finals and the Stingrays gave them all they could; but even through it all– the Americans were able to bear down and push through their adversity to win the title.

When you look at how the Americans did it, the scoring and heroics came from different sources. Gregor Hanson won the MVP of the playoffs for his stellar offensive output (12g, 17a), which continued from his consistent performance during the season. Chad Costello was dominant during the regular season, but did slow up his torrid pace in the playoffs with only 28 points in 25 games (9g, 19a), while Gary Steffes was very silent in the playoffs after having a solid regular season. Coach Steve Martinson had a goalie carousel for a decent amount of the playoffs with Riley Gill finally winning out as his go-to guy; despite Joel Rumpel playing solid in his time on the ice and was helpful to the Americans performance.

The one thing that did seem interesting is the fact that after getting out of the Central Division, the Americans were able to see the true talent of the ECHL– though it was deep in the playoffs and fatigue was able to set in. That said, Coach Martinson was right when he said to me this was a team geared up and ready to take over the ECHL— which what they did. It also helped that guys like Spencer Asuchak came back to the line-up and Chris Crane was able to step-up and contribute as he was able to do.

For the next act, the Americans are going to have a nice task to get through the entire ECHL. No one will sleep in them (if they even did before) and they’ll be hard-pressed to retain players in the ECHL since you can assume that Costello and Asuchak will be highly looked at for AHL gig. Lucky for the Americans is that they’ll be a prime destination for players coming into the ECHL or for free agents looking for a solid place to play. So, if the San Jose Sharks do call a lot of guys to play on the Barracuda– the cupboard should be restocked pretty quickly by Martinson.

To have a team that has won three championships in three years– the fan base has been treated to some great things from this team and they turned out in a big way in Game 7 in order to make sure the Americans had the home-ice advantage. They have been treated to some great hockey and really haven’t known much of losing– which could be a good thing for them or a bad thing if it should happen in the next season or two. It doesn’t look like it would happen or that the organization would let it happen– but it’s always a case of injury or bad luck that could derail this dynasty of a team that Allen has right now.

When all is said and done with this era of hockey in Texas, the Allen Americans are going to be on the top of the list for what they have given to the minor league hockey community and help contribute to hockey gaining popularity in a region that’s primed for the picking when it comes to harvesting new talent for USA Hockey in the future.

Farm Report Podcast 06.10.15

Better late than never for this Farm Report edition, as Scotty goes over the playoff fantasticness. The Utica area has been brought alive by the play of the Comets and the city is regaining some pride because of it. Looking forward to 2016, the Oklahoma City area is primed to be picked for minor league hockey; which is something that will happen sooner rather than later. It’s been a while for Scott Ford when it comes to getting to a championship series again, but he’s making sure he enjoyed every moment of the South Carolina Stingrays’ run. The FHL is a mess…and Scotty is trying to make sense of the league as a whole. All that, News and Notes, plus We Hardly Knew Ye.

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Farm Report Podcast: 05.31.15

We’re getting closer to the end, with the playoffs wrapping up– Scotty talks about the Kelly Cup finalists and one-half of the Calder Cup finalists. Anthony Mantha is facing heat for his lackluster first professional season, while Dave Andrews talks about the AHL realignments and how the New York teams were necessarily going to be grouped in the same division, plus confirming the California teams will get less games. Speaking of California, Bakersfield and the Condors are gearing up for the AHL frontier, while Syracuse is gearing up for the AHL All-Star Game. All that, plus News and Notes, as well as We Hardly Knew Ye.

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