Thursday, July 24, 2008

2 Defensemen Signed

The Hershey Bears have signed defensemen Bryan Helmer and Greg Amadio for the 2008-2009 season. You can view the entire article here.

Bryan Helmer, 6'1" 210 lbs, won a Calder Cup with Albany back in 1995 and has played the past 2 seasons with the San Antonio Rampage.

Greg Amadio, 6'2" 225 lbs, had 120 penalty minutes in 50 games last season with the Binghamton Senators. He is quick to stand up and fight.

My opinion is that Helmer, 36, is at the end of his career. He is still a solid defenseman who has been pretty healthy throughout his career. Was he the best option available? I don't know what guys like Josef Boumedienne were looking for. The Caps aren't looking for any more call-up options and the Bears were looking for defensemen so the pool was probably limited. That being said, Helmer has always been a very productive offensive defensemen. You don't stay in this league unless you can play and he has been around for a while, including over a 100 games in the NHL.

Amadio, 27, seems to be a very similar player to Grant McNeill. He is a guy that is not afraid to drop the gloves and will help on the physical end. He is not the offensive force of a Lepisto or Helmer but he will be physical along the backline.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Updated look at the 08-09 Bears!

After a bunch of activity within the past few days the Bears are well positioned to make another run at a cup.

So lets look at what the team could look like after the recent signings and where there needs to be added improvement/depth yet this summer.


Daren Machesney, Simeon Varlamov, and Michal Neuvirth

Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth are both in Washington this week participating in the Capitals development camp with coach Bruce Boudreau. One or both of them will be in Hershey this season. The smart money is on Varlamov to start in Hershey and Neuvirth in South Carolina. But I would expect to see Neuvirth get his chances early and often.

There was a thought hovering out there that both could start in Hershey and the organization would loan out Daren Machesney. I really hope that doesn't happen. Neither of these guys is ready to be the number 1 in a pro league day in and day out. But there is that chance.


Patrick McNeill, Josh Godfrey, Sami Lepisto, Tyler Sloan, Grant McNeill, Dean Arsene, Sean Collins, Sasha Pokuluk, and Karl Alzner.

That is the list of current players expected to either play part time or full time in Hershey. It isn't a bad group but it could stand to have another player added to the mix. Dean Arsene is the only "by games" veteran on the defense, which could open the door for a return by Josef Boumedienne, but there has been no word or rumor of that yet.

Grant McNeill is a tough hockey player that will stand up for anyone. But do we want two of our most aggressive players on defense every game? If McNeill gets tossed then we are down a d-man for the remainder of the game, same goes for Arsene.

I expect Alzner to end up in Washington, if not right away than at some point down the road. Lepisto will also see time in Washington this season. So all of these guys will play in Hershey at some point.

Another couple of names to keep in mind would be Viktor Dovgan and Keith Seabrook. There has been no word from or about either of these two. Dovgan was signed by Washington and is currently in Russia while Seabrook was Alzner's teammate last year. Just a couple names to keep in mind.


Chris Bourque, Alexandre Giroux, Kyle Wilson, Jay Beagle, Andrew Gordon, Andrew Joudrey, Steve Pinnizzotto, Francois Bouchard, Mathieu Perrault, Maxime Lacroix, Graham Mink, Keith Aucoin, Oskar Osals, Travis Morin, Quintin Laing, and Eric Fehr.

If the Capitals resign Boyd Gordon, Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr, and Sergei Federov (all of which are likely) than they would have 16 forwards counting them and Laing. That is too many. The roster is limited to 23 players and only 18 skaters and 2 goalies can dress. That would probably mean they would only keep 14 forwards all the time, along with 2 goalies and 7 defensemen.

Which would open the door for a return to Hershey for Fehr and Laing which would give Hershey 15 forwards (not counting Travis Morin). With the AHL going to the same roster size as the NHL that would be plenty to carry all the time with Morin headed back to South Carolina to start the season. Pinnizzotto could also find himself down there, as could Lacroix. I expect Bouchard and Perrault to both easily make the roster.

Also having Laing back would make 4 "games" veterans at forward, Laing, Giroux, Mink, and Aucoin. This is not a problem right now because of only 1 d-man being a vet. Depending on if there are any other signings it could become a problem.

I think this team might be more talented at forward than the Calder Cup team in 05-06. If it isn't than it is very close. These young kids can really play. Gordon is becoming a star, Beagle is a solid two way player, and Morin is showing some potential in the ECHL. Word out of development camp is that Gordon is the fastest player down there. And Osala is not disappointing either with his big size. Hopefully he likes to play in front of the net.

Obviously there are injuries and what not during the season but right now it looks like even with injuries the Bears can have great production and depth at the forward position.

Overall I think the team is going to be really good. The goaltending situation worries me IF they don't keep Machesney in Hershey. On defense I think we need another veteran or two. We still have one veteran spot open for a regular player. And I think the team could add another one after that considering there will be enough depth to sit one or two some games. I would like to see either Boumedienne (I don't think he has signed anywhere yet) or Jonathan Paiment (signed anywhere?) back this season. I thought both we excellent players who helped (attempted) to stabilize the blue line last season.

All in all I see good things this season. A very talented group, it is looking like a fun season.

Next up we will take a look at what kind of line combinations may come this season, just think about it Bourque, Aucoin, and Giroux on the first line!! Incredible!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A free agent update

The Hershey Bears and Washington Capitals have added some players to the organization that are going to have an important impact on Hershey's 08-09 season.

Four signings in particular could have a serious impact in Hershey:

  1. Keith Aucoin signed a 2 year contract with Wash/Hershey. Aucoin is an AHL veteran and comes to the organization from Carolina/Albany. In 07-08 he played in 38 AHL and 38 NHL games. In 38 AHL games he totaled 45 points and added 13 points in his 38 NHL games this past season. In 06-07 he had 27 goals and 72 assists in 65 games for Albany.
  2. Graham Mink returns to Hershey after spending the past 2 years with the Worcester Sharks. Minker had 24 goals and 34 assists last season in 71 games for the Sharks. He was in Hershey for the Calder Cup title in 05-06. During the 06 playoffs he had 21 points in 21 games.
  3. Grant McNeill played in 12 games for the Bears last season, totaling 1 goal and 65 penalty minutes. In 57 games with South Carolina he totaled 11 points and 213 penalty minutes last season.
  4. Maxime Lacroix joined the Bears in the playoffs last season after his Junior's season ended. He played in 2 playoff games and scored 1 goal. In 67 games in the QMJHL he scored 30 goals and added 32 assists.
Aucoin and Minker are going to add much needed veteran leadership and either could wear the C or an A this season. Both players are solid offensively and defensively although their best years could be behind them. Hopefully Aucoin can rediscover his scoring touch but even if he doesn't he still can provide plenty of assists to the young players Hershey has.

McNeill is an important player with a mean streak. He plays on defense and has no problem getting in anyones face. He stood up for goalie Daren Machesney last season in the game against Philly at the end of the year. All championship teams need players like Grant.

Maxime is a rookie this season and should provide some scoring and play making. At 6'0" and 191lbs he is big enough to play at this level.

All of these moves show that the Bears/Capitals are serious about winning this season. Aucoin could end up in the NHL depending on what happens to some of the restricted free agents that haven't been signed yet.

Coming soon I will look at what the Bears roster could look like after these recent signings.