It feels like I haven't been here for a while. Last week I said I would have a brief recap of the discussions from the Patriot News Hockey Forum from a couple Fridays ago and now you can actually read it.
Representatives from Wilkes Barre, Toronto, Binghamton, Syracuse, Bridgeport, Hershey, and the AHL were on hand to answer questions and discuss the Bears and (mostly) the AHL.
Honestly I expected John Walton and Tim Leone to be answering a lot of questions about the Bears and the upcoming 2011-12 season. Instead we got a lot of questions about the schedule, statistical discussion, officiating, rule changes, instant replay, and outdoor games, among other topics.
The only real "Bears" questions were about Greentree's veteran status and Danny Richmond's plus/minus rating.
Still a good time, well organized, and, in my opinion, very informative. So, enough jibber jabber, let's get on to the topics:
Officiating - will we see the AHL go to the 2 referee system for every game?
The quick answer...maybe but not this year. The longer answer...there aren't enough referees that are good enough, or ready, to work AHL games. So basically it comes down to this...yes, the AHL's end goal is to have 2 referee's calling every game, just like the NHL, but no it won't happen this season or maybe next. They need time to train the up and coming referee's and get them ready to go.
Scheduling - why doesn't Hershey and other Eastern Conference teams get games against many Western Conference teams?
This one was relatively easy to answer...because the league doesn't actually make the schedule. The AHL's process is to allow the Board of Governors, which is one representative/owner from each team, to decide what teams they will play.
So basically the BoG goes into a room for a while and they discuss who each team wants to play. And that is how the schedule is done.
So a team that struggles to fill a building when playing non-rivals is going to want to schedule more against their rivals...even if they aren't in the same division or conference.
In addition the BoG has to consider the travel costs of all those games. Some teams can't afford to travel all over the country and while Hershey probably could...why should they? Season ticket sales are off the charts, they averaged about 9,500 fans last year...damn near capacity, and why should they travel all over the country spending money and tiring out the players if no one is going to make them.
Basically what it all boils down to is money. Teams want to make as much of it as they can and the added travel and unfamiliar opponents just don't make a good business decision.
If you want games against the other teams...tell the Bears...not the AHL.
Plus/Minus discussion - does the stat really mean anything?
Most of the members of the panel basically said the stat is useless UNLESS a guy routinely plays against the top line of an opponent.
Personally, I think the stat is useless unless it is completely out of line with the rest of the team. If 22 of the 23 players have a rating of +5 or better and that last player is -5 then I think you can see a true result.
But generally this is a stat that, when created, the intentions were good and the idea was good. Unfortunately, when actually applied to the games there is no real relevance to actual hockey.
Rule Changes - will we see any for 2011-12?
No. The only real change will be the same as in the NHL, the interpretation of the 'headshot' rule.
Otherwise, it seems that the AHL would prefer to keep their rules in line with the NHL. There was some discussion about getting rid of the Delay of Game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass. Everyone on the panel seemed to favor getting rid of it, but in the end the AHL is meant as a developmental league for the NHL and training guys at this level should be aligned closely with the operation in the NHL. Translation...you don't want players getting used to one thing at the AHL level only to have it work differently in the NHL.
Instant Replay - will the AHL ever adopt it?
This, as luck would have it, again comes down to the Board of Governors an one thing...money. The technology is there, obviously, but it costs money to do this.
Again, everyone on the panel was definitely in favor of instant replay, but I don't think any of them are expecting to see it anytime soon.
It was said that this topic comes up at every BoG meeting but they never more it forward.
Kyle Greentree - is he a veteran or what?
Yes, Kyle is a veteran. He has played in 260+ games BUT he has not played in 320. So he falls into the "veteran-exempt" category.
The AHL rules state that teams may dress 5 players that have played 320+ games AND one player that has played in 260-320 games.
So Kyle will be in the lineup every night barring injury or recall.
Outdoor Games - will the AHL ever do an AHL Classic like event?
Simple answer...no. And they never have. Any outdoor game held to date was organized and paid for by the team that hosted...NOT THE LEAGUE.
So any hope of seeing an outdoor game at HersheyPark Stadium...not likely.
Or is it?
The AHL rep said this,
"if you are interested in an outdoor game in Hershey, you might want to consider keeping January open."
Wouldn't that be pretty damn cool!