The beloved Monsters 6-game winning streak came to an end Saturday night but it wasn't a crushing loss and might be a bit of psychological relief going into this week's games. LEM starts out with a pair vs the Admirals who are breathing down their necks in the WC standings.
- Dan Maggio apparently suffered a gruesome LBI in practice yesterday and had to be be carried off the ice. Get well, Mags.
- Just an aside here, the Plain Dealer had player interviews every couple of weeks last year but now that LEM are actually playing well there's nothing but generic recaps. The LEM site also used to do player interviews from practice and fun infographics but they've kinda blown that off this year too. Doesn't make a lot of sense, hopefully they get on it after new years'.
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Once again a bunch of articles have come out crying that the AHL's westward migration is once again imminent. Mayor's Manor originally broke the story last spring and had an update this weekend with few new details other than the issue had been discussed at the NHL meetings in Boca recently. All I have heard from AHL leadership is that they have had talks for a few years about doing this and that if/when the time is right we'll see some teams move west. Let's look at some facts and speculations:
- The Kings are the primary drivers behind this. They own their AHL team in Manchester NH and want to move them to Ontario CA where their ECHL team now plays.
- The Ducks are rumored to want to have their AHL team in San Diego, but they do not own an AHL franchise and there is not an AHL-ready facility in San Diego currently. They are also a budget team, so spending big bucks to do this isn't a slam dunk.
- Edmonton has been rumored as wanting to move the OKC Barons, which they own, to somewhere in California.
- Phoenix is rumored as being interested in having their AHL affiliate out west. They also do not own an AHL franchise and are a low-budget team with little money to spend on this.
- As far as we know the Avs are non-committal on the subject and have neither an AHL franchise or a place to put them. The affiliation agreement with Lake Erie was recently extended to either 2016 or 2017. Columbus has done the same with Springfield so the logical CBJ-LEM pairing couldn't happen for a while anyway.
- AHL franchises are like NHL franchises, you cannot create them out of thin air. There are currently 30 of them and it will stay that way until the NHL expands.
- AHL and ECHL franchises cannot be arbitrariliy promoted or demoted between leagues.
- The Denver Cutthroats are a defunct franchise in a league that no longer exists. For reasons outlined above, they cannot somehow become the Avalanche AHL affiliate.
- The AHL is a development league that tries to keep costs down for it's franchisees. Adding a West Division would increase travel costs and decrease development time for everyone having to play out west. What motivation is there for teams on the East Coast to agree on letting a few franchises move far away? I can think of only one. Money. If these teams want to move, they are going to have to pay big money to get the other clubs interested in the deal, and for what? Saving a few bucks on prospects' plane flights across the country? Saving a few hours on same? Does that make any sense?
As I've written before, this is a deal that makes a lot of sense for a couple of teams and has negative benefits for just about everyone else. I do think it will happen eventually. Down the road, all the AHL franchises will probably be owned by NHL teams and it will have much more oversight from the NHL in general and cease to be a truly separate entity. That's a long and complicated process and I just don't see it happening in the next couple of years.
Recap: Games 24 & 25 vs Chicago
Friday night Rockford scored 27 seconds into the 1st period on a slightly deflected shot that Sami admits he should have had and contrary to years past, the team didn’t fold or mope, they just went about their business. Max Noreau scored right as a PP was expiring on a wicked slapshot from the high slot to tie it up going to the 1st intermission. The IceHogs came out very focused for the 2nd, dominating possession and clogging the neutral zone but couldn’t get good shots on Sami. Troy Bourke scored on another wicked slapshot from the high slot and the frustration began to set in for RFD. Stefan Elliott scored on a nasty wrister with less than a minute remaining in the period and the Hogs went full goonsquad, taking cheapshots on Smitty and Stef, which earned LEM a long 5v3 to start the 3rd. Smitty converted there for a 4-1 lead and the Monsters dealt with goony bullshit and a few close calls to win another thriller.
Shoutouts to a couple guys for things that won’t show up in the scoresheet: Mike Sgarbossa was very good defensively and was one of the only guys that was able to move the puck through the neutral zone when the Hogs started clamping down. Duncan was again confident and effective all game. The Schumi/Big Sam/Vinny line was really good at both ends of the ice and their size and physical play kept things from boiling over a few times.
Saturday was a different story, the Monsters came down to earth and got outplayed by a better team that finally got their game going. There’s not a ton to take away from this one and luckily another game looming on Tuesday will give the guys a chance to quickly forget about it.
This isn’t an indictment of Coach Dean’s lineup changes, but there were a couple that didn’t work for various reasons. Dressing Mags after Rockford’s goony play on Friday made sense, unfortunately they didn’t play goony and Maggio didn’t have much of a positive impact. In hindsight, having Beaupre’s size or Corbett’s puck moving ability would have better served the team. Stefan Elliott had a gruesome game, probably his worst of the year, on ice for all goals against except the ENG at the end. He and Stollery didn’t mesh well at all, which is a shame because Stef and Duncan were really playing well together in the last few games. Bruno Gervais has been getting more and more offensive opportunities in the last few games and he did have a nice goal, but the pinching and jumping into the play is making life difficult on whoever he’s paired with. I’d like to see him go back to being the shutdown guy because he was doing that fairly well. Dean tried stuff, it didn’t work, time to move on.
Even with the streak over the Monsters are still hot and have the best record in the WC over the last 10 games. Milwaukee is just the opposite, ice cold and only 1 win in their last 10 games. Just to compare where these teams are coming from, a month ago MKE was 11-3-0 while LEM was 5-7-3 and now they are separated by a single point. Earlier this year, Milwaukee beat the Monsters on the road in a shootout, 2-1.
Lines from Sat night:
Due to callups and whatnot, the lines have moved around quite a bit over the past month but this latest iteration didn't work that well. The top-6 is incredibly light, with 6' Kenny Ryan being the largest player, and all the big guys are on the 3rd/4th. The Schumacher/Henley pairing has been fantastic in both zones so keep that together, but the top-6 needs some muscle to offset the lack of size of the skill guys. Carey should hopefully be back tonight which helps and Rendulic will likely be back from the Avs soon.
Colin Smith and Stefan Elliott continue to lead the Monsters in scoring with 17 points each. Smitty also leads in goals with 7 and 5 others (Hish, Ryan, Elliott, Noreau, Carey) have 6.
Monsters vs Admirals Tuesday night 7:00pm in the ET, radio on 850 WKNR
Monsters vs Admirals Thursday night 7:00pm in the ET, radio on 1420 WHK
Saturday night vs Grand Rapids, then Xmas Break until 12/26
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Stop by for all the action tonight and Thursday, I'll have updates here and on twitter. Enjoy!