Wednesday, July 29, 2009

G-Mac is Back!

Grant McNeill will be back with the Bears for 09-10. We all know what GMac brings to the table but the question is...when will he be healthy?

He injured his knee late in the season and is facing a few more months of rehab I would think. I would say the timeline would be Christmas at the earliest based on the original diagnosis. But nothing has been reported since then so who knows.

McNeill will be THE enforcer this season but needs to stay healthy. He has struggled to remain on the ice the past couple seasons which resulted in Kip Brennan being brought in for part of this past season.

You have to have some guys, like GMac and Ammo, that are willing to do whatever it takes and throwdown with all comers if you want to compete in the AHL. There are plenty of good fighters in the league and while no one will mistake GMac or Ammo for heavyweights they can surely handle their own.

Good to have you back Grant!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Helmer back for 09-10

Like the Darren Reid signing this doesn't surprise me one bit. With all the youth on the blue line and the loss of Dean Arsene I was expecting this signing.

Helmer was the Hershey captain last season and it would be expected will be the captain again this season. Looking at the 09-10 preview this gives the Bears 10 defensemen (including either Carlson or Alzner but not both). 10 is too many. And you could possibly see both Alzner and Carlson depending on what happens in Washington during camp and the season. Hershey will keep 8 defensemen on the roster (and just scratch 2) each game in my opinion.

But who does that leave out?

Probably Josh Godfrey and Victor Dovgan UNLESS those 2 have really developed and passed Collins or McNeill. Miscovic could also play in South Carolina.

The other question is where Finley lines up. If they put him at wing that makes it a little easier to fit all the defensemen in considering there WILL be injuries and call ups throughout the year.

Any way you look at the defense looks pretty good. If Alzner and/or Carlson play in Hershey things will be looking really good.

just a note....Walton said, on the Old Barn Hockey Show, that Grant McNeill is getting close to re-signing. AND (to my surprise) he said Alexander Giroux COULD be back and we MIGHT know by next week!!

Keep checking in.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Darren Reid back for 09-10

If you read my previous post (09-10 roster glimpse) you would know that I expected this move.

Darren Reid is back in Hershey for the 09-10 season. With Graham Mink and Dean Arsene not returning and Alexander Giroux unlikely to return Hershey was left with a few open veteran spots. So why not fill one with a guy that played well every chance he got but couldn't quite break the every night lineup.

He managed to get into 38 games during the regular season playing mostly on the 4th line and registered 2 goals and 3 assists. But in the playoffs he stepped up when called on and brought energy and production to the table. He appeared in 7 playoff games and scored 3 goals.

Overall I love this signing. It brings in a veteran presence and a little more muscle. Reid isn't going to be mistaken for a heavyweight fighter but he is going to hit and he won't take crap from anyone. He will fill his role and he will fill it well.

Welcome Back Darren!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

First Look at 09-10 Roster

With developmental camp complete the offseason has truly set in. Last year I followed along with the live chat on OFB during the developmental camp and had originally intended to try and make it down for this years game....unfortunately I couldn't do either this year. Sounds like it was a good end to a good week for the prospects.

Now that the camp is over the next real hockey event as far as the organization is concerned will come in September. There is still lots of time for teams to finalize rosters and add free agents but it is never too early to speculate on what the Bears roster might look like this season.

Let's have at it....

  • Michal Neuvirth
  • Braden Holtby

This is pretty much set in stone. Holtby will be the backup to Neuvirth in Hershey this season. The ONLY way this changes is if the Caps think Neuvy can back up Simeon Varlamov in the NHL....I highly doubt the Caps would put 2 young goaltenders in that position.

  • Tyler Sloan
  • Sean Collins
  • Patrick McNeill
  • Greg Amadio
  • Josh Godfrey
  • John Carlson
  • Zach Miscovic
  • Joe Finley
  • Viktor Dovgan
  • Bryan Helmer

The first group are all under contract. I included Carlson in this list because the Caps have 8 defensemen (assuming Jurcina returns) without Carlson and they aren't going to keep 9 (or maybe even 8) in the NHL. We could actually see Karl Alzner as well next season depending on the health of some players.

I really think Helmer will be resigned. With Graham Mink and Dean Arsene leaving town there are a couple open veteran spots that can be filled. Add to that the slew of young defensemen and the team will want a veteran presence back there. And Helmer wants to come back...I suspect we will see him.

This group is actually pretty good in my opinion. Sloan, Collins, and McNeill all had some growing pains this past season but the Caps thought enough of Sloan and Collins to keep them in the NHL for extended stays. Ammo is a great team player but can he stay on the ice with all the young talent coming up.

Miscovic and Dovgan are a bit unknown right now. If the roster looks like I have it above I would say one (or both) of these guys could be in South Carolina.

Finley played some left wing at developmental camp and rumors were flying before that of a potential position shift. With the depth of prospects at defense having a left wing of his size could pay dividends for the Caps down the road.

  • Francois Bouchard
  • Mathieu Perreault
  • Oskar Osala
  • Kyle Wilson
  • Andrew Gordon
  • Quintin Laing
  • Boyd Kane
  • Jay Beagle
  • Steve Pinizzotto
  • Michael Dubuc
  • Trevor Bruess
  • Jake Hauswirth
  • Chris Bourque
  • Keith Aucoin
  • Dmitri Kugryshev
  • Joe Finley*
  • Anton Gustafsson
  • Grant McNeill
  • Darren Reid
  • Mikhail Yunkov

The first group above are players that are signed and will be in Hershey or South Carolina next season. The curious players there are Hauswirth, Dubuc, and Bruess. Hauswirth is a big (like 6'5" or something) center that likes to play in front of the net much like Minker did. He could replace the big immovable presence in front of the net that the team is missing without Mink there.

Dubuc was again a star at the developmental camp as he scored 7 goals in the scrimmages. Word is he is great at the offensive end but struggles in his own end. If he has improved that aspect of his game we could see him in Hershey. If he didn't improve then the only way he sticks is if he can play on the first or second line.

Bruess is a tough nosed center in the Beagle/Joudrey mode of player. He isn't going to light up the scoreboard but he is going to do the little things well. I actually expect him to stick in Hershey and fill the void left by Joudrey's departure on the 4th line.

All the other players were in Hershey last season and should be back there this year. Oh except Kane but he will be in Hershey too after coming over from Philly.

The second group includes 2 players that are under contract with the organization but only time will tell where they play. Aucoin is on a one way deal so if he plays in the AHL it will be for a higher salary. Bourque is on a 2 way deal BUT he now has to clear waivers meaning another team could (and probably would) pick him up if the Caps send him down.

My personal opinion....we see Aucoin in Hershey but not Bourque. With the Brendan Morrison signing in Washington and Nylander still rotting away on the bench I doubt very much if the Caps will keep Aucoin in Washington meaning he would have to clear waivers. But being an older undersized center I doubt anyone would pick him up since they are required to keep him in the NHL if they do.

Bourque though will either make the Caps out of camp....unlikely in my opinion...or be traded or sent down. He, unlike Aucoin, will probably get picked up by someone if he is sent down. Sure he might slip through but I would be surprised if a team doesn't take a chance on him.

The other players in that group, Kugryshev, Gustafsson, and Finley are question marks. Finley could play either defense or wing but is likely to be in Hershey. Gustafsson (2008 1st rounder) has said he wants to play in North America this season and he isn't likely to make the Caps out of camp. But no one knows for sure if he is serious about the NA thing. Kugryshev is not signed yet but is eligible for the AHL. He also could head back to juniors for another season.

After that it is speculation but I think GMac and Reid will both be back in Hershey. Muscle is still needed to GMac is a solid choice although the knee injury raises and leaves questions. Reid might fill one of the veteran spots left by the Mink, Giroux, and Arsene departures. Reid played well when given the chance and having him on the roster would allow Pinner to play up on the 2nd or 3rd line and try to score more.

The last name on the list, Yunkov, is a 2004 Caps draft pick that has been playing in Russia since. He is unsigned which makes this entirely speculation but he has stated that he wants to play in North America this season. If the Caps are willing to give him a deal we could see him in Hershey.

Obviously this is mostly speculation on some of these players as they are unsigned but the roster looks loaded from a talent perspective but possibly a little light on experience. With Neuvirth and Holtby in net this team should be good no matter what but there are a lot of goals missing from last years team. Who might step up and add some scoring?

A look at potential forward lines:

Osala - Aucoin - Gordon
Dubuc - Wilson - Bouchard
Beagle - Perreault - Pinner
Laing - Bruess - Kane

Bench - Reid, GMac, Gustafsson, Hauswirth

Again...just a glimpse and complete speculation but I would be 100% excited if that was the lineup. Not quite as deep scoring wise but still a very very talented team.

Big Joe Finely Getting Into Trouble

It appears Big Joe is trying to create a name for himself and it isn't a good one.

Apparently Finley and a former college teammate were arrested for throwing objects into the street among other charges. These items were there own so no destruction of property charges were filed or anything like that.

But it makes you wonder what the hell was going on....
A former UND hockey player and a current one were arrested about 3 a.m. Tuesday after a campus officer saw the men throwing cups, plates, a kitchen table and a lawnmower onto a Grand Forks street, UND Police Lt. Dan Lund said.

A kitchen table?? Lawnmower? Where was the kitchen sink at?

This isn't a major offense or anything physical or otherwise but it puts up a flag on Big Joe as far as the organization is concerned.

Not exactly a great way to make a good impression on your employers.

Read full article here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

3 Sign Qualifying Offers....Mayor Leaves Town

Honestly it is a sad day in Bears country. Dean Arsene, the Mayor, has moved on to (for his sake hopefully) greener pastures. He wanted and received a 2-way AHL/NHL deal....unfortunately that deal came from Edmonton not Washington.

You had to know that he wasn't going to get a 2-way deal from Washington as they have a plethora of defensemen in the stables and Deano wasn't going to get called up. So for him this is definitely an opportunistic move but it leaves the Bears without their heart and soul. Sure Bryan Helmer wore the 'C' on his chest last season but anyone who watched the team and watched the interaction knew that Deano was someone the guys rallied around.

This team will obviously be okay...all teams are....although I think Deano was a big reason that Hershey has played in 3 of the last 4 Calder Cup finals...he will be tough to replace.

And maybe even more importantly....who is going to choose the pregame music now? Deano was in charge of that for the past few who?

In more inspiring and exciting news 3 08-09 Bears will remain in the organization this season. Kyle Wilson, Chris Bourque, and Steve Pinizzotto all signed their offers (Pinner signed for 2) before the deadline yesterday.

The only to surprise me was Bourque but you have to figure he isn't going to be happy in Hershey another season. I wouldn't be surprised if he isn't used as trade bait at some point this summer although really the Caps have filled their 2 biggest needs (right wing, 2nd line center). What else is needed? Other then some depth I think this team is okay although getting rid of Nylander would be a nice treat.

So now the attention goes to who to add. I will have an updated (projected roster) after the weekend and then we can all speculate from there.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

French Time in Hershey

The practice of promoting from within continues as the Bears name 08-09 assistant coach Mark French as the new head coach of the team.

I think for the most part this was the most likely scenario. The team says they were looking across the nation and talked to dozens of candidates but I would be surprised if the actual list ever contained more than 1-3 names with French's at the top.

Last season French coached the defense, penalty kill, and did much of the video work. This season he will probably take over the offense and the power play as the new assistant coach, Troy Mann, will take over the other duties.

Mann played alongside Woods on the team that Boudreau coached in the ECHL, the Mississippi Sea Wolves. He has spent the past few years coaching in the ECHL and says that he uses Bruce's system with those teams. Meaning that he is familiar with everything the Capitals do and will do.

I have no problem with the move. I think it is hard to gauge a coaches personality and proficiencies when they are assistants so it is not known yet what French will be like. Some people have said they fear an even more laid back coach but I actually disagree. He seems like a laid back guy but I bet when he is in charge and in the moment he can get pretty animated.

Either way the continuity is a tremendous plus for the team. The guys don't have to learn a new coach and a new system so they can all come in knowing exactly what they need to do.

Other news:
  • Developmental camp is ongoing and you can get regular updates at many of the Capitals links in the side bar but Capitals Kremlin inparticular is doing a terrific job.
  • Anton Gustaffson says he wants to play in North America this season....could be a Bear? He won't go to juniors so its either Hershey or Washington and there are significant questions about his NHL readiness at this point.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Good Luck Graham...Welcome Back Boyd!

Well this is kind of surprising in my opinion. Not Graham Mink that I expected IF he could get a 2-way contract and a real shot at the NHL. Which he is going to get in Florida.

No I am surprised because as I understand it the Capitals were unwilling to give Minker a 2-way contract and yet they gave one to Boyd Kane?

Not saying Kane isn't deserving but I would think Minker was more of what the Caps needed. They need (at least before Knuble) a solid right wing would wasn't afraid of the front of the net. Kane is a left wing and he isn't a goal scorer. He has 45 in his past 3 seasons....Mink had 32 last year alone.

Either way it is a good move for the Bears and Caps (in a way). By signing Kane you are bringing in a proven leader who will play on the 3rd or 4th lines (and limited power play time) which will allow the younger players some top line time.

Some speculate that this move means the Caps are definitely looking to keep Quintin Laing in Washington. Because Kane and Lainger play the same position and a very similar game I think it makes sense if that is their intention. But if both players are staying in Hershey....the offense will suffer.

In other news the Caps signed free agent center Brendan Morrison the other day. This signing is expected to fill the whole currently at the #2 center position. Only time will tell if Morrison can provide enough scoring to fill that role but I think it is a substantial downgrade from Sergei Federov.

It does however suggest that Keith Aucoin, if he clears waivers, will probably be back in Hershey next season. And I doubt he will be very happy about it. Coiner could still make the Caps as the 3rd line center but with Steckel and Gordon both expected to play center that leaves an odd man out...Aucoin.

Only time will tell how these moves will impact both teams next season. Mink's departure could lead the way for some other (younger) talent a chance on the team (Kugryshev??).

This upcoming week should answer a few questions as to which prospects MIGHT be ready to make the jump. Check back here for updates this week and also check out some of the Capitals links in the sidebar. Most of those blogs will be attending the week long Developmental Camp and will surely be giving their analysis along the way.


And let me say this....


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Developmental Camp Roster Released

For Bears fans this camp is a preview of players that could make a splash in Hershey in the coming seasons. Last year Bouchard and Perrault looked pretty good and then translated that into a successful campaign in Hershey. Last year Jake Hauswirth earned praise for his play and eventually a contract based on the impression he made at the camp. Michael Dubuc, who played briefly for Hershey and South Carolina last season, also impressed at camp last year which was how he got his contract.

Mostly this is a who's who of the last 2-3 drafts. Many of these players are still 2-4 years from playing in Hershey. Included in this years roster are 6 players that were selected in last months draft (only 1st round pick Johansson is not attending) and 8 players from the 2008 draft including 1st round pick Anton Gustafsson.

Here is this years roster (including number, name, position, size, birhtdate, and when acquired):

  • 22 - Brett Flemming D ~ 6’0” 172 ~ 2/26/91 ~ Draft ’09
  • 36 - Francois Bouchard RW ~ 6’0” 180 ~ 4/26/88 ~ Draft ’06
  • 45 - Zach Miskovic D ~ 6’1” 195 ~ 5/8/85 ~ Free agent signee
  • 50 - Cody Eakin C ~ 5’11” 176 ~ 5/24/91 ~ Draft ’09
  • 54 - Greg Burke LW ~ 6’2” 190 ~ 5/1/90 ~ Draft ’08
  • 59 - Joe Finley D ~ 6’7” 240 ~ 6/29/87 ~ Draft ’05
  • 65 - Andrew Glass LW ~ 5’11” 180 ~ 7/14/89 ~ Draft ’07
  • 67 - Benjamin Casavant LW ~ 6’1” 213 ~ 1/21/91 ~ Draft ’09
  • 70 - Braden Holtby G ~ 6’1” 202 ~ 9/16/89 ~ Draft ’08
  • 73 - Josh Godfrey D ~ 6’1” 202 ~ 1/15/88 ~ Draft ’07
  • 74 - John Carlson D ~ 6’2” 218 ~ 1/10/90 ~ Draft ’08
  • 75 - Phil DeSimone C ~ 6’0” 195 ~ 3/19/87 ~ Draft ’07
  • 76 - Garrett Mitchell RW ~ 5’10” 180 ~ 9/2/91 ~ Draft ’09
  • 77 - Jake Hauswirth C ~ 6’5” 210 ~ 2/16/89 ~ Free agent signee
  • 78 - Patrick Wey D ~ 6’3” 203 ~ 3/21/91 ~ Draft ’09
  • 79 - Joel Broda C ~ 6’1” 200 ~ 11/24/89 ~ Draft ’08
  • 80 - Dan Dunn G ~ 6’5” 200 ~ 6/20/88 ~ Draft ’07
  • 81 - Dmitri Orlov D ~ 6’0” 197 ~ 7/23/91 ~ Draft ’09
  • 84 - Stefan Della Rovere LW ~ 5’11” 196 ~ 2/25/90 ~ Draft ’08
  • 85 - Mathieu Perreault C ~ 5’9” 165 ~ 1/5/88 ~ Draft ’06
  • 86 - Eric Mestery D ~ 6’5” 196 ~ 5/28/90 ~ Draft ’08
  • 88 - Trevor Bruess C ~ 6’0” 192 ~ 1/6/86 ~ Free agent signee
  • 93 - Dmitry Kugreyshev RW ~ 5’11”185 ~ 1/18/90 ~ Draft ’08
  • 94 - Anton Gustafsson C ~ 6’2” 194 ~ 2/25/90 ~ Draft ’08

Of this list 9 players WILL be in Hershey (or Washington or South Carolina):
  • Bouchard
  • Miskovic
  • Finley
  • Holtby
  • Carlson
  • Godfrey
  • Hauswirth
  • Perrault
  • Bruess
Of the remaining 15 players I think these players COULD be in Hershey this season but more likely not until the 10-11 season:
  • Broda
  • Kugreyshev
  • Mestery
  • DeSimone
  • Glass
  • Burke
The only other real possibility is Gustafsson but I would be surprised to see him the AHL ever honestly. He can play in the Swedish Elite League for more money until the Caps want him full time.

Most of the remaining 9 players are ineligible to play in the AHL for this season and some for a few more.

If you are going down to the camp make sure you watch Hauswirth because he is likely to be a big player for the Bears this season based on what he has done at other levels and other events.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Schedule Notes....

Just saw this over at Walton's blog...head on over to read the whole piece.

The Bears will play the Baby Pens 12 times this season! And they will play 4 games against Manitoba (although if you notice below two of the Moose top players are moving on).

Also of note...Bridgeport has moved to the Atlantic Division and Syracuse has moved to the East division. Looking at last years standings and going based on that says that the move should work in Hershey's favor. Syracuse missed the playoffs (but had 88 points) while Bridgeport finished 2nd behind the Bears.

Not that it really means much because of the massive roster turnover but it at least gives an impression that the East might not be as competitive next season.

Lots of movement lately amongst AHL talent including Krog back to Chicago (or Atlanta) and Jason Jaffray headed to Abbotsford. Darren Haydar is headed to Lake Erie, as are former Bears Matt Hendricks and Brian Willsie. Pascal Pelletier could be headed to Syracuse in Hershey's division this season. I also saw Jeff Taffe is headed to the Rochester Americans (or Florida). Plenty more to come I am sure.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Few Pieces of News....

Sorry about my absence the past couple of weeks but I have a good wife and I welcomed a future Bears fan into the world last Sunday evening. Everyone is healthy and we are looking forward to winning the small fry of the game this season!!

Now on to some Bears news.....

So what has happened in the past 10 days....the NHL draft, qualifying offers sent, and free agency began.

For the most part the only thing Hershey fans are concerned with for the upcoming season is the qualifying offers. Sure the draft is a big part but we won't see any of those players in Hershey until at least next season and more likely 2-3 years down the road. And free agency hasn't really impacted Hershey yet either. Eventually the Bears/Caps will be involved to fill up the Hershey roster but right now guys are trying to land NHL contracts.

But the qualifying offers do effect (or at least could effect) the roster next season. 5 Bears were RFA's and 3 of them got offers. First to the two that didn't...Andrew Joudrey and Daren Machesney....good luck to both of you. Hopefully you both get 2-way deals with another team for this upcoming season.

Now to the 3 that did...Chris Bourque, Steve Pinizzotto, and Kyle Wilson. Bourque is still a wild card in my opinion because he has earned a chance in the NHL but Washington really doesn't have any room for him on the left wing (Ovi, Semin, and Flash play left). IF he accepts the offer then he might be trade bait for the Caps. They still need a solid 2nd line center and Bourque might be packaged with something to get one.

The other two I expect will be back in Hershey. I don't see either gambling and turning down their qualifying offers (Bourque might) as neither are viewed as top notch prospects. Personally I hope both end up in Hershey as they both bring something to the table. Last season (07-08) Wilson was an excellent first line center. This season his numbers dipped slightly which was to be expected playing on the second line.

Pinner is obviously the kind of player everyone wants on their team. A great team guy who will do whatever is necessary to win, block shots, fight, and take the body regularly. The thing most people don't know is that he is actually very talented at the offensive end as well. Playing on the fourth line only offers a few chances but in juniors he averaged almost 2 points per game, in college it was over a point a game, and in the ECHL he averaged almost a point per game. So he can produce if asked to. I would hope to see that side of his game (maybe a 2nd line winger) this season if he returns.

That is really all the news for now though. Hopefully in the coming weeks we will learn of more players signed by the Caps/Bears. I would suspect that by the first couple weeks of August the roster will be pretty much in place minus a player or two.

Next up on the slate though is the Capitals developmental camp in DC. The event is from the 13th-18th and will feature many of this years draft picks and last seasons along with players like Perrault and Bouchard. I will have as much on this as I can as it gets closer. As soon as the official camp roster is finalized I will have it for you here.

Oh and the camp is open to the public and features a game on the 18th that would be worth checking out if you can go.