Summer Blog Entry: June 26
06/26/2009 8:53 AM - Adrian Denny
It’s been kind of a quiet week in the Grizzlies hockey offices with Head Coach Kevin Colley and Assistant Coach Jeff Dwyer being out of the office for the first time all summer. Colley is in Montreal for this weekend’s NHL draft while Dwyer is back in his home state of Connecticut at a friends wedding. Next week, the team will issue eight qualifying offers for 2009-2010. Following that, player signings will begin to be announced, when the signed contracts return to Utah from the ECHL.
The playoff format for the ECHL in 2009-2010 was voted on and approved Thursday in Las Vegas by the ECHL’s Board of Governors and will probably be announced by Monday. The idea of having anywhere from four to all eight National Conference teams in the post-season was discussed. What number did they decide on and what will the format be? Stay Tuned! Send me your playoff proposals and formats at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will see how your votes stack up against the “suits” running the west coast ECHL teams.
For the second-straight week, the SPHL gets some press from our blog. Former Grizzlies forward Marc Rodgers (1995-1997), who was a member of the 1996 Turner Cup Championship team here in Utah, was named Head Coach of the Knoxville Ice Bears earlier this week.
Speaking of former Grizzlies: ex-Grizzlies Assistant Coach Dean Chynoweth (1998-2000) was named an Assistant Coach for the New York Islanders last week. Chynoweth went on to a very successful career coaching in the WHL with Seattle and Swift Current before earning his promotion to the NHL last week. In his playing career which spanned 241 NHL games, the six-foot-two defenseman also played five games in Salt Lake with the Golden Eagles during the 1993-94 season.
The Las Vegas Wranglers have tabbed former Stockton and Fresno Assistant Coach Ryan Mougenal as Head Coach. “Moug” replaces Glen Gulutzan who was named Head Coach of the AHL’s Texas Stars last week. This is a great hire by Las Vegas as they get the most primed assistant coach in the ECHL to step right in and take over. Working under Matt Thomas the last four years in central California, the two combined to lead their teams to the playoffs all four years and had a 159-92-36 record in the regular season. Last year, their Falcons team was 18-10-2 before folding and the two landed a week later in last place Stockton where they led the Thunder to a 22-16-3 record after a 10-17-4 start under Chris Cichocki. Three of the eight Head Coaches in the ECHL’s National Conference (Thomas, Mougenal, Kevin Colley) are now direct disciples of current Chicago Blackhawks Assistant Mike Haviland, who is regarded as one of the top coaches in ECHL history. The four were all members of the 2003 Kelly Cup Champion Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies where Haviland was the Head Coach, Thomas was his assistant, Colley was the MVP and Mougenal tallied one goal and eight post-season assists as a right wing.
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Summer Blog Entry: June 19
06/17/2009 1:25 PM - Adrian Denny
Big news out of the ECHL’s National Conference this week with longtime Las Vegas Wranglers Head Coach Glen Gulutzan being named to the same position with the AHL’s new Texas Stars. Congratulations to Gulutzan who is much deserving of the job and is a very quality coach.
Sources say Idaho’s Derek Laxdal was another current ECHL candidate for the job being that Idaho has been the Stars ECHL affiliate for several years. But I did hear, that Stars officials were keeping a close eye on yet another Wranglers conference finals run and also took a trip or two to Vegas during the playoffs to observe their now head-man. With either of these two coaches, I don’t think you can go wrong, every organization has their own style when hiring. I’ve always been a great admirer of the job Laxdal does recruiting, breaking down video and just being a nuts and bolts hockey coach. He is always animated on the bench and I like that fire in a coach. Gulutzan probably works just as hard and definitely has an emotional side but does most of his work behind the scenes. Once the game starts, he seems to let his guys take over based on their pre-game preparation. Though I can’t complain about a guy who went 254-124-55 for a .650 winning percentage; joining the Wranglers prior to their inaugural season in 2003-2004 season, immediately following his retirement from the Fresno Falcons.
You do have to wonder if playoff results the last two years had any effect on the decision and it’s ironic. Before last year, Gulutzan had never advanced out of the second round and Laxdal, who led Idaho to the 2007 Kelly Cup had never been eliminated before the second round. However, the tides changed in 2008 with Gulutzan leading Las Vegas to back-to-back conference finals appearances, including the 2008 Kelly Cup Finals, while Laxdal and Idaho were swept from the first round each of the last two years.
The Grizzlies acquired the rights to Slavomir Tomko Tuesday from Elmira to complete the Brandon Scero trade from November. Grizzlies Head Coach Kevin Colley heard some very positive feedback from at least two other coaches in the ECHL’s North Division prior to completing the deal and spent all of last weekend doing homework on the players he had an option to take from the Jackals. Of course, Colley also enlisted the help of Grizzlies d-man Evan Stoflet who along with Mark Lutz were both teammates with Tomko at the University of Vermont. That being said, there could potentially be three defenseman, from the University of Vermont on the Grizzlies roster next year. Usually when a future considerations trade involves a player, the team who owes the “futures” can protect 8 or so players on their current roster and the team owed the futures can pick anyone else to take. Reports on Tomko is that he is a talented 1-3 d-man who is skilled but hasn’t yet turned that into scoring. Again let me reiterate, he is not yet under contract with Utah. Though, I’ll just let you read an email I received from a North Division ECHL broadcaster regarding the trade Wednesday.
That’s a good pick up for you guys! Tomko is a pain in the a-- to play against and I am glad he is out west with you! I liked the fact that he played with some skill and a bunch of heart. You win with guys like him. I knew our coach liked him and am glad that he was able to voice that information OUTSIDE of the North Division! See you in a few days!
Ok, I'm back. One mans junk or leftovers is another mans treasure so to speak as three of the top markets of the ECHL in the late 90s in Pensacola, Lafayette, Louisiana and Biloxi, Mississippi have all joined the SPHL or Southern Professional Hockey League. Though I do have to wonder about a league who isn’t going to discuss their playoff format until their winter meetings after their season has already started.
Summer Blog Entry: June 12
06/11/2009 3:52 PM - Adrian Denny
With the schedule now out, the next thing as far as news that Grizzlies fans can expect is the eight qualifying offers that Kevin Colley will issue on July 1, which will then be announced sometime soon after. Utah player signings should then start to be announced in the following weeks to come.
Speaking of the schedule, you may have noticed that the Grizzlies play Las Vegas and Idaho a lot early. 14 of the first 15 games, to be specific, are against the Wranglers or Steelheads. You can blame the ECHL schedule maker named Arthur for that. The fact that the Grizzlies and Wranglers play seven-straight games can be blamed on myself and Las Vegas Vice President Michael Delay. The original draft had only five-straight in that stretch. However, it also had the Grizzlies home opener against the Wranglers on Wednesday, October 21, which I asked to move to Saturday, November 14. Any team will always trade a weekday for a weekend whenever possible for ticket sales reasons and some how “Arthur” did not realize that the Grizzlies and Wranglers both had November 14 off with a vacant E-Center as well on the same night. We also agreed to move a Tuesday in Vegas in October to the Grizzlies trip in November to try and give the Wranglers a bit of an attendance boost. The teams get the schedule from the schedule maker but can then work together to tweak things. Thanks to our friend Eric Trapp, President of the Steelheads, for agreeing to move a single midweek game in December to March when we are going to be there anyway. That way, the Grizzlies can save a trip to Idaho and all of the expenses that go with getting there and back. At this level, as far, as any good businessman is concerned, the only thing that matters on the schedule is having the maximum possible number of weekend home games while keeping travel costs as low as possible. It’s very simple, make money on your hockey team and be happy or run it like a fantasy football team and fold. Controlling expenses in minor league sports is almost as important as steady ticket sales and sponsorship efforts.
Last week South Carolina won game seven of the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Finals versus Alaska 4-2. 2007-2008 Grizzlies forward Keith Johnson, who had an unusually quiet finals series, earned a ring for the Stingrays. KJ once again looked very rugged as he sported his playoff beard. It’s been a good spring for the Capital’s organization, who’s AHL affiliate in Hershey is also competing in the Calder Cup Finals and can capture a championship with a win Friday or Sunday in Manitoba; already leading the series 3-2. Ironically, the young Capitals in DC have struggled advancing in the playoffs the last two years though their farmhands have continued to excel.
Kalamazoo was unanimously welcomed to the league on Tuesday and will begin play in October in the ECHL though not against the Grizzlies or anyone from the National Conference. The ECHL was happy to welcome a team like the Wings who already has a steady fan base, nice arena and was just looking for some better hockey than they were getting in the new IHL.
The Grizzlies AHL affiliate in Bridgeport signed forward Jason Dale to a two-way AHL contract this week, meaning that he could also be assigned to the Grizzlies. Dale, 5’10”, played last year in the Ontario Hockey League for the Brampton Battalion; tallying 18 goals and 25 assists for 43 points in 68 games while also competing in 21 playoff games adding four goals and seven assists. The Battalion advanced to the OHL Finals before being eliminated by Windsor who went on to win the Memorial Cup.
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Until, next Friday, GO GRIZZLIES!!!
Summer Blog Entry: June 5
06/05/2009 8:23 AM - Adrian Denny
The ECHL schedule for the National Conference is slated to be released Tuesday. It is pretty much finalized and could have been released today or Thursday but all of the teams out west were in 100-percent agreement to honor the Alaska Aces feeling to wait until the Kelly Cup Finals are complete, which was a good decision. Last year, I was pretty irritated to be having to deal with the release of the 08-09 schedule as Utah prepared for games three, four and five in the West Division semi-finals against Victoria.
A fan favorite and one of the top two defensemen in Grizzlies ECHL history (January 20 Blog) Andy Sertich looks to be headed overseas though be prepared to have no idea what this link says. That being said, we wish Andy and his lovely wife Katie all the best. It was a pleasure having them here the last three years, it’s just unfortunate that after playing 28 games in Bridgeport in 07-08, before suffering a season-ending injury following a cheap shot that he wasn’t able to get more of an opportunity this year.
Interesting news out of the IHL earlier this week when the Kalamazoo Wings voluntarily withdrew from that league to explore other hockey opportunities. We’ll see what happens on that front. Sources tell me fans in that longtime hockey city, which used to battle the Salt Lake Golden Eagles and the Grizzlies in the IHL, were becoming increasingly disenchanted with the quality of hockey in the new “I” and demanded an upgrade. Alright, alright my source is Grizzlies trainer Mike Plandowski who spent several years in the “Zoo” including their latest championship season in 2006.
As I write this on Friday, the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Finals are preparing for only the third game seven in league history to decide a champion. Thursday, Alaska battled back from a 2-0 first period deficit to win their second-straight 3-2 game over the South Carolina Stingrays. Ironically enough, the two previous game sevens were in 1989, 1999 and now 2009 as pointed out by Aces broadcaster Jack Michaels on his simulcast last Friday in game four when the Aces were down 5-1 late in the game and fell down 3-1 in the series.
The ECHL released the protected list for every team on Tuesday. Don’t read into it. It means absolutely nothing as to indicating which players will return to any team. That’s why it was not covered on www.utahgrizzlies.com. All it does is confuse people and I don’t understand why the legal technicality needs to be public information.
With the Stanley Cup playoffs now level at two, you can catch the rest of the game action on NBC with Doc, Eddie O and Pierre! Here’s hoping for seven games and at least a quadruple overtime in game seven to keep the hockey season going as long as possible.
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Until next Friday, GO GRIZZLIES!