Welcome to the first addition of Alex' Weekly Wrant. (AWW) This issue is pretty much going to cover everything in the off-season and a few things from last season.
There have been a number of coaching moves this off season. Some good, some bad. Starting close to home, the Portland Pirates just named Mark Kumpel to succeed Bryan Trottier. Trottier may have had a great playing career but the man could not coach his way out of a paper bag. Granted the Pirates struggled at times last season but he did nothing to help the situation. Hopefully Coach Kumpel will change that. He is supposedly out of the Barry Trotz school of coaching, good with his players, good at situations and isn't afraid to make roster changes when he needs to. Assitant Coach Jay Wells also took off, heading to help Mike Foligno in Hershey. See ya Jay, don't let the door hit you on the way out. I wonder if Foligno will wear that funky helmet in practice? It should be interesting to see how Foligno coaches, he probably will do quite well.
In other moves Peter Laviolette takes over for Tommy McVie at Providence. I think this should be a good move, afterall, he can't do much worse. Laviolette was a solid defenseman over his playing career and should bring some much needed discipline to the P-Bruins blueline. I don't know too much about the new coach in Kentucky, but apparently their showing Jim Wiley the door is something that is needed. Bill Stewart is out in Saint John, no replacement has been named as yet, Stewart left in a contract dispute and joined the New York Islanders. The Lock Monsters have a new coach in that they are a new team and they went out and got veteran leadership in Frank Anzalone. The only other move that comes to mind at the moment is Robbie Ftorek packing his sweater collection and heading to New Jersey. John Cunniff will take over in Albany.
The are new ownership groups in Portland and Albany. The ownership in Albany apparently ran into some problems and there is a new owner in place now. That should be good, Albany has been a flagship franchise for the last few years and it would be sad to see them leave town. I guess the fear of not releasing a 1998-99 schedule was pretty real. The River Rats have some pretty good rivalries with a number of teams and it would be a shame to lose those.
The new ownership group in Portland seems very dedicated to keeping the team in Portland for a long time. Portland fans were spoiled by Tom Ebright and his four years as owner. Joyce Ebright did a fine job along with David Fisher last year but it seems best if they move on. It would be nice to see the new group take over before the season starts.
There were no franchise moves in the off-season. Just the addition of the Lock Monsters. There also were no affiliation changes although Tampa Bay is planning on leaving Adirondack. Rumors persist that the Chicago Blackhawks are considering placing a number of prospects in Portland for this season. Ottawa is also looking to leave Worcester although they could return. It would be nice to see the addition of a few more franchises in Canada but financially that may be difficult. The LA Kings took their players out of Fredericton and signed a deal with Springfield to send 8-10 players to the Falcons. One would think you can't get much farther from LA or Phoenix than to go to Springfield but there must be some reason.
There are a number of players leaving for other teams. The moves are too many to count really. Jamie Ram goes from the San Jose organization to Anahiem, he will probably end up in Cinncinati where he will have to compete with a number of players although given that the Ducks are looking for another goaltender in Anahiem he could be given a shot. J.F. Labbe heads to Hartford from Hamilton and should be the number one man down there as Robb Stauber took his act to Manitoba. Stauber was one guy who just never worked out. He has been in a number of organizations and just hasn't had much success anywhere. Mike O'Neill is leaving Portland for Europe, he will be missed. Looks like Sebastien Charpentier will get the nod as the backup to Martin Brochu although Mike Rosati is coming over from Europe and could challenge. Frankie Larivee takes over at St. John's, this should be a good move, he looked very good the few times I say him last season. Marcel Cosineau signed a deal with the Islanders and could possibly end up as the front man in Lowell.
AHL fans in Philadelphia should be happy that their home rink is going to become the First Union Spectrum rather than the First Union Center where the Flyers will play. One would think someone would catch this and hopefully change the name but who knows.
A few things that I would like to see this season are more televised games. Especially in New England, home of the supposed "AHL Game of the Week" which only showed the Providence Bruins. There are 7 teams in New England now, pick someone else for a change. Speaking of which, the League office needs to get out a map, Lowell and Portland aren't exactly in Canada. While admitedly, a 7 team division would be bad it would be nice to see something done.
While I am not holding my breathe, I would like to see some new and hopefully better officiating this year. Conrad Hanche cost the Portland Pirates not only a hockey game but a position in the playoff standings with his horrible call last season in Springfield when he credited a goal that did not go in. The game ended in a tie and the Pirates finished the year one point out of 2nd place. While in overall scheme of things it may not have mattered, there indeed is a point they should have had.
Looks like that's all for this week. Come back next week for news and views.