Like the NHL, the American League has its own frenzy of summer signings.
Some of those deals yield results, but a busy summer is no guarantee of playoff success the following spring. Some veterans never pan out and some stick with the NHL parent club. How those signings – along with the incoming draft class and NCAA free agents – mesh goes a long way toward building organizational depth at the AHL level over the long season.
Here is a look at how some additions are faring so far:
Corey Locke signing with Ottawa along with a collection of other proven names appeared to be a sign that the NHL club was serious about repairing a tarnished AHL picture. Locke has delivered, leading the AHL in scoring so far with 34 points in 26 games. But in a brutally competitive division, Binghamton is still going to be in tough to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2005. Another newcomer, rookie Bobby Butler, has produced as advertised and has already seen duty in Ottawa.
Big-time additions Nigel Dawes, Darren Haydar, Jason Krog and Jared Ross have largely delivered as expected. However, a horrendous defensive picture has cost the Wolves dearly so far.
Veteran signings Jamie Johnson and Chris Minard have been a collective bust this season, with a combined seven goals. But European veteran Ilari Filppula has acclimated nicely to the North American game and leads the Griffins in scoring.
After consecutive Calder Cups, the Hershey roster went through significant changes due to promotions to the parent Washington Capitals and players leaving for opportunities elsewhere. Rather than be content with their back-to-back Cups, the Bears and Capitals went about restocking the AHL roster, bringing in veteran goalie Dany Sabourin, defenders Brian Fahey and Lawrence Nycholat and forwards Kyle Greentree and Brian Willsie. Hershey also took Sheldon Souray off Edmonton’s hands. The newcomers have largely produced, though Sabourin has struggled at times.
The Moose retooled considerably over the summer, but it has been one of the much lesser-hyped additions, rookie goaltender Eddie Lack, who has delivered the most. Though the Moose have been inconsistent for much of the season, Lack’s steady play has more or less allowed him to beat out veteran Tyler Weiman, one of the Moose’s big summer additions. Jeff Tambellini has largely stuck with parent Vancouver. Rookies Cody Hodgson and Jordan Schroeder have shown some promise, but both are now shelved with injuries. Joel Perrault and Jonas Andersson have combined for a mere five goals.
The Admirals are one of the AHL’s most pleasant surprises. Adding gritty Mike Angelidis, European pro Johan Harju and established veterans such as Chris Durno, Mathieu Roy and Michael Vernace has worked nicely.
With a new affiliate and coming off a brutal season in Springfield, the Oilers delivered a crush of established names to the Barons. Among them is Alexandre Giroux, who has twice led the AHL in goals for a season. Seen as a possible contender for a job in Edmonton, Giroux landed back in the AHL after a mediocre training camp. He endured a 14-game stretch without a goal, but has heated up in December. Rookie blueliner Jeff Petry has made a successful transition to the pro game. Back from Europe, Martin Gerber has provided instant net credibility.
More often mediocre than not in their history, the Rampage picked apart Calder Cup finalist and rival Texas over the summer. Former Stars Mathieu Beaudoin, Matt Climie and Garrett Stafford have melded nicely with a solid San Antonio roster that is dotted with prospects and one-time NHLers such as Jed Ortmeyer and Petr Prucha. The Rampage lead the Western Conference and look like a real force for the spring.
The Penguins loaded up last summer to do their part in an AHL arms race with Hershey, their bitter Pennsylvania rival. Andrew Hutchinson, Corey Potter, Brett Sterling and Ryan Craig have all been solid for the AHL-leading Penguins, who pose a considerable threat to the Bears’ bid for three straight Calder Cups.
THIS & THAT
• Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Eric Tangradi won AHL weekly player honors for a five-goal effort over the Penguins’ three games last week.
• Between a home game Dec. 12 against Hershey and Dec. 27, Charlotte will play just three games. After Dec. 27, the Checkers will play 18 games in 33 days.
• Friday, Dec. 17th’s slate will be the AHL’s busiest night ever, with 15 games scheduled.
From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world’s second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiles prospects destined for the next level. It appears every Thursday only on TheHockeyNews.com.