Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bears Cuts will be Difficult

The Bears have managed to score 12 goals and allow only 1 in their first two preseason games.  Obviously we can get excited about this considering the teams struggles to score the past couple of seasons, but it is still only preseason and the rosters are made up of many guys who won't start in the AHL. 

But it is a good sign.

Looking at the roster this morning I can say one thing for sure...

I am glad I am not in Doug Yingst and Mike Haviland's shoes right now.

Have you looked at the roster?  Only one word I have for it. 


Goaltending is solid and we all know that.  Philip Grubauer and David Leggio will be numbers 1 and 2 so long as their (and the Caps goalies) health stays good.

That's the easy part.

Now let's consider the defense.  By my count there are 12 defenseman in camp this morning.  Sorry to say but 3 guys aren't going to be there much longer.  Ryan Kavanaugh, Mike Banwell, and Erik Burgdoerfer will be heading home at some point. Nothing against them, but just consider the remaining 9:
  • Julien Brouillette
  • Chay Genoway
  • David Kolomatis
  • Cameron Schilling
  • Nate Schmidt
  • Patrick Wellar
  • Tomas Kundratek
  • Patrick Wey
  • Brett Flemming
Like I said...those 3 don't have much chance.

Oh and Tyson Strachan was placed on waivers yesterday and could (will likely) be in Hershey after noon today.

So that's 10 guys.  But wait, there's more.

Connor Carrick, Dmitry Orlov, and Michal Cajkovsky all remain in Washington.  It is looking more and more likely that Carrick is going to make the Caps, which is a story all its own, but that still leaves Orlov and Cajkovsky to be sent to Hershey.

So let's assume Carrick does make the Caps.  Which of the remaining 12 would you cut and send to Reading? 

Brett Flemming is probably tops.  But which of the remaining 11?  Seriously.  We haven't seen Cajkovsky or Wey yet as they are rookies, but Michal is still in Caps camp so that says something.  Wey is a highly regarded prospect that has won championships on many levels. 

But the Bears aren't going to keep more than 8 guys in Hershey assuming health. 

Crazy deep. 
  • Kolomatis scored 28 points in 46 games last year in Manchester. 
  • Strachan played 38 games for the Florida Panthers in 2012-13.
  • Genoway had 6 points in 12 games for Hershey after being traded here last year.
  • Schmidt had 4 in 8 and then played all 5 playoff games after finishing his college career last year.
  • Orlov was, not that long ago, considered a top prospect in the organization.
Point is, they can all play and some of them are going to be heart broken in Reading while others will get frustrated with the view from press row a couple times a week. 

This is a deep bunch and a very talented one.  With a new coaching staff there is no way to know who will be safe and who won't.  Allegiances are gone.  Familiarity takes time.  Guys like Wellar and Brouillette are fighting for their roster lives after finding some stability in recent years.

Hard cuts will be coming and the Bears will still be good.

And that was just the defense. 

By my count there are 18 forwards in camp right now and 3 left in Washington.  They are:
  • Josh Brittain
  • Nicholas Deschamps
  • Stanislav Galiev
  • Dustin Gazley
  • Jamie Johnson
  • Peter LeBlanc
  • David Marshall
  • Garrett Mitchell
  • Domenic Monardo
  • Tyler Ruegsegger
  • Brandon Segal
  • Ryan Stoa
  • T.J. Syner
  • Jeff Taffe
  • Nathan Walker
  • Matt Watkins
  • Casey Wellman
  • Derek Whitmore
And the 3 in Washington:
  • Dane Byers
  • Michael Latta
  • Joel Rechlicz
The Caps still have 17 forwards in camp and are expected to cut 3 of them.  Guess which three...yup, these 3.  Rechlicz has probably a 0% chance to make the camp while both Latta and Byers have a slightly higher chance, but not much. 

Ok. So that is 21 names.  12 can dress any given night and Hershey will probably keep about 15 around most of the time. 

So let's drop 6.  Can you do it?

Josh Brittain got hurt on Friday so he is probably one.  Monardo is a rookie that is signed in Reading. 

After that...who do you think goes?  It's not that easy.

Dustin Gazley?  Maybe (probably), but he scored 25 goals and added 60 assists in his last full ECHL season in 2011-12.  That's impressive, even for a guy that stands only 5'9" and weights 154.  I don't see his name on the scoresheet from the past two nights though.

David Marshall is under contract in Reading for this year.  But he is making it really hard as he recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick last night after getting in a fight and scoring (twice) and getting an assist (2 of them).  That's a good night and that follows a year last year which saw him go for 18 goals and 32 assists in 55 games with Reading. 

Maybe Tyler Ruegsegger?  He is a possible option for Reading I guess, but he is really making an impression on Coach Haviland in camp and also showed something this weekend so far getting 2 goals and an assist in the 2 games.  Plus he was teammates with former Bear Quintin Laing in Abbostford and says that Quintin taught him all about everything.  If he listens to what Laing taught him...I think he would do just fine in Hershey.

I sure as heck can't figure it out. 

As I said at the beginning, I wouldn't want the job Yingst and Haviland have right now.  They have to figure out which of the 30 some guys left in camp make the best opening night roster. 

It's a deep roster.  Is it championship caliber?  I will look into that and discuss that later this week. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hockey Back in Hershey

Well if you are a regular reader of this blog then you were probably starting to wonder if I was ever coming back to write again.  My last post went up on the 15th of July.

Sorry about that.

I would like to take this chance to makes sure that anyone reading the blog should also like the blog page on Facebook so you can continue to get updates.  The blog might only see sporadic updates, but there are things posted or shared on the Facebook page on an almost daily basis.

But now that we are (almost) back to hockey in Hershey I figured I would make my triumphant return to the blogging world.

Camp Has Begun

Monday was technically the first day of preseason camp in Hershey.  Many of the guys had started in Washington's camp so they have been skating with each other for a bit, but some guys were waiting for the Bears to start.

Yesterday was the first on ice practice of the season and it seems like things are starting off fast.
“It was a good skate, a really fast pace out there,” winger Brandon Segal said. “It's nice coming in and getting a skate in like that. Obviously, it just bodes well for the weeks ahead.”
This is coach Mike Haviland's first Bears camp so many of the players will be adjusting to how he does things in the coming weeks.  In addition to getting used to the system, which will be similar to the one run in Washington, the players have to 'show off' for their new coaches.
“I'm a new coach,” Haviland said. “I haven't had many of these guys. I'm watching them every time they step on that ice and off the ice, how they conduct themselves. They're being evaluated."
Haviland also said that he is always very honest with players so they will know where they stand.  That will hopefully help what is going to be a very crowded Bears lineup over the next week.

The Capitals still have 33 players in camp and need to get down to 23 next Monday.  With another preseason game tonight I would expect another couple of cuts tomorrow.

The roster in Hershey is going to be deep and talented...on paper.

But we all know that 'on paper' means less than nothing.  Entering the season each of the past 3 years I think many people thought the Bears looked good 'on paper' only to see their season end early each year.

Will this year be different?  I sure as heck hope so.  And, as always, I fully expect it to.

But I do think that the season will start off slowly.  It isn't that Hershey's schedule is daunting, only 4 games in the first 3 weekends of the season, but when you have a new coach it can take some time.

The slow start will help get the system in place, but it won't let Haviland really experiment with the roster that much either.  Which means the roster tweaking may continue into November before a core set of guys and lines are formed.

Either way it promises to be an exciting season.

Tomas Kundratek

The Capitals have placed Kundratek on waivers with the intention of him reporting to Hershey when he clears.  Tomas played much of last season in Washington and was expected to get a shot there again to start the season, but the strong play of Connor Carrick (more below on him) has made him somewhat expendable.

An advantage to putting a guy through waivers now instead of on the 30th is that teams aren't looking to add guys at this point.  They have their own roster decisions to make and don't want to add another one.

Connor Carrick and Tom Wilson

I got a question on the Facebook page about why Tom Wilson is not eligible to play in Hershey this season.  This is because he was drafted out of the CHL (Canadian Juniors) and there is an agreement in place between the leagues that any player drafted out of there that isn't 20 by December 31 of that season or that hasn't played in at 4 seasons in the CHL is not eligible to play in the AHL.

This was put into place to keep the competitiveness up in the CHL.  If they allowed younger players to play in the AHL then surely NHL clubs would send all of their prospects straight to the minors so they could have more 'control' of their development.Wilson doesn't turn 20 until March and has only played in 3 CHL seasons, making him ineligible for Hershey.

However, it would appear as though he is nearing a spot on the Capitals in which case we may never see him in Hershey.  The Caps needed to clear cap space in order to keep him in Washington and the demotion of Kundratek signals that move being made.  The Caps would now be able to keep Wilson and stay under the salary cap for 2013-14.

Connor Carrick is included in this discussion because he is also 19 and actually 2 weeks younger than Wilson.  Except Connor was NOT drafted out of the CHL and is therefore eligible to play in Hershey this season.  He has been impressing everyone in Caps camp and is right now considered to be possibly in their plans to start the season.  Should he not make the Caps it seems likely he would spend the season in the AHL.

Nathan Walker

Here is Tim Leone's piece on the skating Aussie.  Nathan Walker is trying to become the first Australian to ever play in the NHL.  He was signed to a Hershey contract and is expected to play here this season.

Walker is in a unique spot though as he is still draft eligible.  That means that despite him playing in Hershey this upcoming season, he will be entered into the NHL draft next summer and could be drafted by any of the 30 teams.   It will be interesting to see how he fits into the plans in Hershey and/or Reading for this season and what that does to his draft stock.  This doesn't seem like a common situation.

Camp Roster (from PennLive)

GOALTENDERS (4): Brandon Anderson, Riley Gill, David Leggio, Matt Tendler.

DEFENSEMEN (12): Mike Banwell, Julien Brouillette, Erik Burgdoerfer, Brett Flemming, Chay Genoway, Ryan Kavanagh, David Kolomatis, Bryant Molle, Cameron Schilling, Nate Schmidt, Patrick Wellar, Patrick Wey.

FORWARDS (19): Josh Brittain, Nicolas Deschamps, Stanislav Galiev, Dustin Gazley, Jamie Johnson, Peter LeBlanc, David Marshall, Garrett Mitchell, Domenic Monardo, Louke Oakley, Tyler Ruegsegger, Brandon Segal, Ryan Stoa, T.J. Syner, Jeff Taffe, Nathan Walker, Matt Watkins, Casey Wellman, Derek Whitmore.

That is it for my first post in 2 months.  The Bears play 3 preseason games this weekend before opening the season at home on October 5.