‘Dogs Bringing In New Pups During Crunch Time

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When it comes down the stretch, the minor leagues can be an interesting lot. You have many junior players coming through and signing ATO contracts or being assigned their by their NHL clubs on top of guys coming up and down from the ECHL and NHL; all of which could disrupt chemistry– even if the slightest form happens.

An interesting case is what’s happening in Hamilton right now. The Bulldogs are in their last season in the AHL and are in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference; but their mentality is going to stay with the main thought of their parent club in the Montreal Canadiens.

The Bulldogs have been sitting their regular players to make room of people that are coming into the fold from major junior and college, as their season is getting done. While this is something that could be risky, the Bulldogs don’t seem to share the same panic that the supporters of the team seem to do.

When talking to the Hamilton Spectator, head coach Sylvain Lefebvre seems to be very calm in saying, “It’s a great experience for them. We go with the players that we feel can give us a better chance to win.”

That hasn’t been the case, however, as the Bulldogs have won only one game in their last five heading into a weekend series against the Texas Stars. There’s a lot of stress to win, especially with this being the last season, with the fact they could actually make some revenue at the gate if they make the playoffs and maybe shock a top-seed in the process. Yet, even with that– it seems that the Bulldogs have already counted themselves out and will take the AHL’s developmental route literally and bringing in the young guys and trying to let them get a feel for the professional game.

The young kids actually know the stress of this and actually realize what it all means for them. In that same article in the Spectator, one of the newcomers Brett Lernout said, “It’s exciting, but at the same time; there’s a lot of pressure on you because the team is in a really tough spot.”

It’s a great thing that the young guys are being put into the line-up to get a feel for it all and for them to be conscious of the fact they’re in a tough spot is a start– but also could be a hindrance to them, as they wouldn’t be as reckless to get to the net as they may have if they didn’t have anything to play for.

For me, it’s a wonder if the actual players who are being sat feel this is a slight to them, especially as the losses are happening. It’s not a guarantee that if the established Bulldogs like Joe Finley and Mac Bennett would assure the Bulldogs getting wins or even collecting points– but at the same time, they put their time in from the early part and to be bumped for something new and shiny could cause a little bitterness towards the coaches and those above them.

Overall, with the face the Bulldogs would have to catapult a hot Toronto Marlies team and a slumping Milwaukee Admirals squad in order to get into the playoffs– to be three points out isn’t the end of the world and to have something to play for doesn’t usually denote the best time to try out new things with new pieces to the puzzle on the roster. It’s one thing to be put into a situation where injuries and call-ups could ravage a squad late into a season; but for this to come up is another thing entirely. In the end, the AHL is a development league and the teams have to walk the fine line of winning for themselves or developing for their NHL clubs. In this instance, the Bulldogs are choosing long-term success for their players rather than short-term success for their organization.

Farm Report Podcast: 03.15.15

This edition of the Farm Report has Scotty talking about some of the moves made at the ECHL trade deadline, the moves made by some AHL franchises, and what the move to California could really mean for the AHL and the NHL parent teams. Rod Aldoff is none too pleased with his two-time SPHL champion Ice Flyers, while the Quad City Mallards are flying together despite call-ups and injuries. All that, plus some news and notes, as well as We Hardly Knew Ye.

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IceCaps Shift To Winnipeg, Bulldogs Run To St. John’s

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As was reported last weekend, the AHL approved the move of the St. John’s IceCaps to Winnipeg and the Hamilton Bulldogs to St. John’s for the 2015-16 season. This will put two teams in Winnipeg in the AHL and NHL, it will allow St. John’s to keep a team, albeit a different affiliation, but it will leave Hamilton without a team….temporarily.

In the short term, it helps Winnipeg out a lot when it comes to travel costs for the team up and down the roads of the AHL, as well as when it comes to recalls and demotions. Luckily, the owners of the Jets– True North Sports and Entertainment– also own the IceCaps for all intents and purposes and can make this move. Yet, the big issues is to wonder if and when the Jets will be able to move their affiliation into Thunder Bay, Ontario– a project that was supposed to be done in time for the 2017-18 season. However, due to delays and other issues; the arena could be in threat of being delayed longer or maybe indefinitely. What will happen to the Winnipeg AHL team then?? Well, other markets outside of Thunder Bay had been bandied about; one being Fargo, North Dakota– though the USHL Fargo Force may have some say about that; the other being Kansas City– who has a huge arena going unused in the middle of downtown.

For Montreal, the move does take the distance a bit further, but the Canadiens are a team that could very well afford the travel and all of that and not worry about budget or finances too, too much. More over, the branding is something that helps the Canadiens in this case. This move will get them out of the Maple Leaf-centric area of Hamilton and the Greater Toronto Area and put them further east into a market that seems to be pretty mixed when it comes to who they root for. By expanding that brand, the Habs can have their fandom grow. While there are only two direct flights out of St. John’s to Montreal (via Air Canada’s website), it is in enough time for someone to be called up in the morning and get to the rink for that night’s game by 4:30 PM ET.

Also, for St. John’s, it bides them more time to find a more permanent partner for their arena. As I’ll explain later, Laval could probably be the end point for the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate once that arena is done, but for this— it will now ease the year-to-year grind that Newfoundland and Labrador Premier (as well as lease holder of the IceCaps) Danny Williams would have to deal with wondering whether or not the Jets will pull out of the city at a moments notice or not, leases be damned.

Luckily for the Hamilton area, it seems that hockey will be back in the FirstOntario Centre in no time as the Bulldogs’ owner– Michael Andlauer— appears to have bought the Belleville Bulls in the OHL and will move them to Hamilton for the 2015-16 season.

For the Laval area, they thought that the new arena would be perfect for the Bulldogs to move to in order to be really close to the Canadiens and expand the brand in Quebec. Granted, that still could happen, as St. John’s looks to be just be a short-term landing point for the Habs’ AHL team until the arena is built. But then again, who knows what’s going to happen with that arena and if the Canadiens will enjoy their time with St. John’s more and more considering that they would be the only game in town and would have a lot of support from the government to keep them afloat in possible lean times.

In the short term, this helps out the Jets emencly and allows them to bide time as the whole situation in Thunder Bay gets figured out. Other than that– it’s business as usual in the minor league hockey silly season.

Farm Report Podcast– 03.08.15

A crazy end to the week has Scotty talking about the possible AHL moves between Hamilton, St. John’s, and Winnipeg (not to mention Bridgeport) that will shake up the already shook AHL alignment. Happier news from Hamilton, as Shane Bakker is a great feel-good story for the Bulldogs and psych students everywhere. Jason Shaya is a name that you may only know from the broadcast booth, but he has quite the on-ice resume as well. Monthly awards happened, plus weekly awards, new leases, new owners, and of course We Hardly Knew Ye

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Farm Report Podcast 02.08.15

On this edition of the Farm Report, Scotty talks about the purchase of the Missouri Mavericks by powerful local businessman who is determined to expand the brand of the team. Justin Cseter returned to the scene of his horrific injury and talks about how, to him, it’s not that big a deal anymore. The Canadian AHL teams are feeling a big pinch due to the declining dollar, while the ECHL reformatted their divisions for the 2015-16 season. Monthly awards, weekly awards, Arizona minor league craziness, and We Hardly Knew Ye.

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The Weekend That Was: January 23rd-25th

AHL

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-Despite the William Nylander Show coming to town, the Hamilton Bulldogs were able to take both games in a home-and-home against their rivals the Toronto Marlies. Captain Gabriel Dumont was the offensive force with three goals and an assist between the two games, while Mike Condon stopped 52 of 55 shots heading into the All-Star break. The Bulldogs are winners of four straight and have clawed their way back to the middle of the pack of the North Division. As an aside, Nylander had no points and was a minus-1 on his first two games in the AHL.

-With Michael Chaput and Kerby Rychel combining for all four goals on the weekend (two a piece), the Springfield Falcons have slipped down a bit, losing their last four games and only winning four in their last 10 games. The cause of this has resulted in the Falcons slipping out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Even with the injury issues their parent affiliation in Columbus has had– the Falcons scorers remain in tact, with defenseman Austin Madaisky leading the way. Though they are getting solid goaltending from Anton Forsberg; the lack of output from the offense is a bit alarming and could keep them regressing to the middle in the second half of the season.

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ECHL

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-Break up the Indy Fuel!! With three more wins on the weekend, including a 4-1 win over the Western Conference leading Allen Americans, the expansion Fuel have finally found their footing. Mac Carruth and Shane Owen only let up three goals in all three games, Carruth getting two of the three wins on the weekend. Kyle Stroh led the way with four goals (including a hat trick Saturday and game winner Sunday) and an assist, while Garett Bembridge had three goals and an assist on a big weekend for the Fuel. Scott Hillman has been known to work magic with with points in their last eight games; it seems the Fuel have finally bought into what Hillman is selling.

-Not to be outdone in the North Division, the Kalamazoo Wings are making a mid-season push for the playoffs, with points in their last nine games and getting five of six points on the weekend. The Wings also defeated the Americans, but also took it to the Cincinnati Cyclones on Saturday. Scott Munroe stopped 38 of 39 shots in Friday’s shootout lose against Toledo, while the rest of the weekend belonged to Matt Caria‘s three goals on the weekend, as Dane Fox, Gergo Nagy, and Sascha Guimond adding three assists a piece. The weekend was capped off by Zach McCullough scoring the overtime winner against the Americans– which was his first professional goal in his career.

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SPHL

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-While he bounced around the ECHL the past couple years, Jake Hauswirth seems to have found his footing with the Louisiana Ice Gators, especially this weekend with two goals and two assists in two wins for the Ice Gators. Hauswirth has had points in 11 of the 14 games he’s played in and has seven points in his last four games. The Ice Gators have won their last three games and have moved up to the third spot in a tight, tight SPHL playoff race.

-The race is so tight that the Pensacola Ice Flyers, thanks to four straight losses, have moved from first place to fifth over the weekend thanks to that skid. With only seven goals in those four games, the Flyers seemed to have lost their touch and actually have to put forth an effort these days rather than taking the rest of the league for granted. Corey Banfield (1g, 4a) and Nick McParland (2g, 1a) have been doing their part, but the scoring by committee could just be dealing with a power outage. With the Ice Flyers eyes set on a third-straight title, they need to figure out this sooner rather than later.

Farm Report Podcast 01.04.15

The first Farm Report of the new year will provide the story of how Sebastian Collberg used his time in the ECHL to hone his game and to shake off the rust for injury. Also, what Reverend Michael Bowyer is provide to the Hamilton Bulldogs, how Matt Dumba is dealing with getting passed over for NHL call-ups, how Prescott Valley can get hockey back, and the shuffle in net for the FireAntz. Also, monthly awards, weekly awards, coaching changes, Max Strang’s adventurous week, Dany Heatley’s full-time AHL debut, and how could we forget We Hardly Knew Ye??

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