Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2014-15 Hershey Bears Schedule Released

FINALLY, the AHL schedule was released.  Felt extra late this year, but it never comes out too long before Labor Day so who knows.

Obviously there is plenty of time to examine and pick it apart so I won't do too much today, but just some initial thoughts.

1. No Western Conference Teams

That's right.  The Bears play 76 games and ALL are against Eastern Conference foes.  In the past we occasionally saw Charlotte or Rochester or Adirondack (now with the Flames), but not in 2014-15.

2.  Lots of Phantoms and Penguins

We knew this would happen as well.  In recent years the Bears played 12 against the Penguins and usually no more than 8 against anyone else.

Not this year.  24 of Hershey's 76 games (that's 32%) will be against either the Penguins or the Phantoms.  12 against each.

Yippee!  (sarcasm intended)

3.  Lots of the East Division

We already established that 24 games are against the Pens and Phantoms.  But that's not all.

The Bears will play Norfolk and Binghamton 8 times each as well.  That's a total of 40 games against 4 teams.  Over half the season.

4.  On the Road to Finish

Just like last season, the AHL schedule makers (which includes massive input from teams) has managed to keep the Bears on the road for much of the final months.

Yes, there are wrestling playoffs and basketball playoffs and Disney On Ice that all need their time at Giant Center, but come on now.

Of the Bears final 20 games...only 6 will be on home ice.  That includes a 6 game road trip and then a 5 game road trip.

5.  On the Road to Start

Wanted to see your Bears on home ice early in the season?  Better head to the preseason games.

Hershey opens with 5 road games before coming home for 2 in late October...and then back on the road for 4 more.

6.  Home Cooking for the Holidays

So Hershey starts with 9 road games in 11 and finishes with 14 in their last 20.  That's 23 of their 38 road games in the first month and final two months.

That means you can expect a lot of home games in the middle 4 months of November, December, January, and February.

The Bears have a 6 game homestand surrounding Thanksgiving and another 4 game stand around Christmas.

7.  Just a Few 3 in 3 Weekends

And by just a few I mean 13.  Can't say if that is more than past years (I am not going back and looking) but it seems like a bunch.

But that is the life in the AHL.

Like I said...just a few thoughts.  If you want to take a look at the schedule for yourself you can find it here.

Here is the breakdown per team:

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton - 12 games
Lehigh Valley - 12 games
Norfolk - 8 games
Binghamton - 8 games
Hartford - 4 games
Manchester - 4 games
Worcester - 4 games
Syracuse - 4 games
St. John's - 4 games
Bridgeport - 4 games
Albany - 4 games
Portland - 4 games
Springfield - 2 games
Providence - 2 games

I am ready for some hockey...but there is almost 2 full months till the first home game.  Oh well.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Future Top Prospect

When it was announced in early July that Troy Mann was to be the new head coach, I started writing a post reiterating what a great move this was for the team and speculating on what type of system we might see this year.

However, I found it to be a bit redundant to anything being said on PennLive so I decided to scrap it. Besides, what's to be said? It IS a great move. Not only from a strictly hockey point of view but a PR angle as well. The fans know Troy Mann and what he brings to the table.

As for a system and expected style of play, the most important thing is how well Barry Trotz and Troy Mann will work together and what kind of system will be put in place in Hershey. And Tim Leone had a great article a few weeks ago from development camp that sheds some light on what can be expected.

But as I was mulling all this over the past few weeks, I started to think about the types of influences Troy Mann has acquired so far. And it's quite a list: Bruce Boudreau, Bob Woods, Mark French. From these guys, Troy Mann has experienced first hand teams that are offensive juggernauts and knows what winning looks like. More importantly, he knows what it takes to win. And how to handle talented star players can't be discounted either.

And now working with Barry Trotz gives Mann knowledge and experience of the other side of the coin: defense. That's going to be quite a well rounded hockey education. And from coaches that had great success at the AHL level.

Now it just comes down to whether Troy Mann can translate all that into winning with the Bears. The team is stacked with many solid, defensive-minded defensemen and a glut of goalies all vying for a spot. This should help smooth over the fact that the Bears are still a bit light on offense as they have been the past couple of seasons. But at least it provides Mann with options as he finds a winning formula.

All that being said, if Troy Mann can find success with the Bears over the next 3 seasons or so, he could become one of the top coaching prospects in hockey. Not too many of the young coaches out there have his kind of coaching education and knowledge. Now all he needs is time and experience to see if winning is the result.

With the recent signings of Willie Desjardins in Vancouver and Mike Johnston in Pittsburgh, there is no reason to believe that if Troy Mann finds success in Hershey he won't be one of the top coaching prospects in the future.