ALLEN, TX – Anyone who follows me knew Tuesday was the day all “future consideration” trades had to be completed, but that doesn’t make fans anymore prepared for what transpired.
Dyson Stevenson was the player sent to Wichita in the transaction that ended up having Alex Krushelnyski assigned to Allen for the playoffs. Dyson is the definition of a team player who will do whatever it takes for his team to be successful. Stick up for a teammate, block a shot, play forward, play defense, score a goal, finishes checks, the guy could and would do whatever he was asked to do. And a great guy off the ice who was outstanding in representing the team with the fans and in the community. I had a chance to talk to Dyson Tuesday afternoon and ask if there is anything he would like to share and this is what he said,
“It was a phone call I wasn’t expecting but it is pro hockey so anything can happen. I had an amazing time in Allen! I had the best teammates ever all three years and I would still do anything for everyone of them (until I play against them next year). The upstairs staff were all unbelievable to me! I owe Gus (Trainer) so much he was great to me especially with my concussions. Timmy (equipment manager) was unreal and the most professional equipment guy I have ever seen. I made a real close friend that I will miss everyday especially when I am on a bus and that is Monty Williams. He kept us safe on that shitty bus and still had time to be the most generous guy in the world. Finally, the fans in Allen were the best I have ever seen. Always positive toward the players and the team. And they wanted us to succeed more than any other fans in pro sports.”
– I had the pleasure of getting to know Dyson off the ice as we spent many days around a fishing pond talking about everything but hockey. He will be a success in Wichita because he is a leader and will be the ultimate teammate. With two Kelly Cup championships to his credit don’t be surprised if Dyson joins a long list of players that move on from Allen and become captain of their new team. (Daniel Tetrault, Jamie Schaafsma, Trevor Ludwig, Jarret Lukin).
– The other future consideration trade has not been announced as I write this but there will be a double dose of sadness when the player that was sent to Indy in the transaction that had Tyler Barnes assigned to Allen for the playoffs is announced. I will provide an update when the player is announced.
– The full story behind these two transactions will probably never be known but the basis was to try and win an unprecedented third Kelly Cup. I know coach Steve Martinson, along with many other observers, felt Allen had more depth going into the playoffs than in any other season. Things didn’t work out as planned and now Allen has lost two players that will be tough to replace. Martinson is hard at work recruiting the 2017-18 team and the old adage of cheer for the name on the front of the jersey and not the back could never be truer. However, it doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to players like Dyson Stevenson.
– For coach Steve Martinson there is an off season but for General Manager Steve Martinson there is never time to relax. Recruitment is something he spends time doing every day all year around but with Allen out of the playoffs early, Martinson has had extra time to recruit. He shared with me that a big difference this offseason is he has been able to talk to many more agents/players about coming to Allen. The first signings for next season should take place over the next few days as today is the first day to sign players. It doesn’t mean the team will announce the signings as that is more of a PR decision. Typically the team likes to make a big splash with the first signing announcement. With Chad Costello heading to Europe it won’t be him but maybe Riley Gill‘s re-signing would be a good way to kick off the first signing for next season. I have not talked to Riley but it would be such a great foundation for the team if he would re-sign.
Season-ending rosters were due Thursday and teams can list no more that 20 players. This list is not very meaningful as Allen only had 17 players on their protected list that was submitted on June 1. The next critical date will be on June 30. Until June 30, all of the Allen American player’s rights for the ECHL remain with Allen (unless the rights are traded) but on June 30, Martinson has to submit to the league a list of no more than eight players he wants to protect/qualify. These eight names do not include players that have already signed. Because only eight players can be protected, there is the incentive to get as many players signed by that deadline as possible. The eight players will be given qualifying offers which for the most part must be 5% above their salary from last season. The qualifying offer period is from June 30th to August 1st.
– The starting point in putting together the 2017-18 Allen Americans team is determining a budget. While the salary cap is a given cost ($12,800 per week), housing and insurance can cost the team more than the players’ salary. A big cost factor is how many married players are on the team. Married players get their own apartment while the single guys share an apartment. Health insurance is much cheaper for single players and married guys without children than it is for families.
With four championships and a second round playoff loss over the past five years you might think everything would be positive in putting the 2017-18 team together but that is not the case. Some of the players want to try playing in the AHL or Europe. So you have a situation where some players want time to find other opportunities before committing to Allen. Another issue facing Martinson is most players feel they deserve a raise in pay, however, the amount available for salaries will increase by just $200 per week for the entire team. The salary cap is set by the Professional Hockey Players Association (PHPA) and ownership and is spelled out in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). This past season the salary cap was $12,600 per week to be shared by all players on the active roster. Next season the salary cap will increase to $12,800. That is an average increase of just $10 per week per player.
What is Steve Martinson’s secret to recruiting? Have as many tools in your recruiting tool kit as possible. With the salary cap, competing based on salary is not the key to success as a player can always find a team willing to pay $50 or $100 more per week. The key to getting the best players is having other reasons to have them want to play for your team. Here are some of the many tools Steve Martinson uses when making a pitch to players.
– Allen has never missed the playoffs and has been to the championship final five times in eight years and won four championships. You can count on many additional weeks of pay as Allen makes a deep playoff run along with a couple of extra months of lodging and playoff bonuses. This can total $10,000 – $15,000 more in compensation for a player over a team that does not make the playoffs.
– You will play an upbeat, aggressive offensive system in Allen that is also dedicated to defensive hockey. Points you score in the ECHL won’t keep you in the American Hockey League (AHL) but points will get you noticed. You have to be able to play without the puck and you have to understand the game and that is what we will help you with in Allen. With our system, you will have plenty of opportunities to get points. We won’t handcuff you in the third period with a lead. We will take less risks but we will keep our foot on the gas. If you want to play in a system where you can score a lot of points come to Allen.
– You will play in a great facility in the eight-year-old Allen Event Center which is surrounded by shopping and restaurants.
– You will play for a team that has a history of moving players to the AHL. Allen has had over 30 players from their roster spend time in the AHL in their three ECHL seasons. Our goal is to see you progress in your hockey career.
– You will be able to develop your skating technique by working with Luke Chilcott who is the skating coach for the San Jose Barracuda (AHL) and the Allen Americans.
– While playing in the Dallas Metroplex you have access to whatever interests you may have including the Stars, Cowboys, Mavericks, and Rangers. Playing where you have a major international airport makes it easier for you and your friends and family to travel in and out of DFW and for players to get to AHL cities quickly if called up.
– You will live in a place where you can play golf year around. Average high temperature during the hockey season is 79 in October, 66 in November, 57 in December, 55 in January, 61 in February, 69 in March, 77 in April and 84 in May. It is a great place to live whether you are single or married.
– If you like to fish there are plenty of opportunities within 30 minutes of your apartment. Fishing is great.
– One of the biggest detriments in recruiting in the past was that it was well known Allen traveled by bus more than other teams and players would bring that up as a problem. With new ownership, Martinson can now tell players the team will be flying more and they have a newer, better bus when they drive to the closer cities. One of the bigger obstacles has been overcome.
– You will be helped with whatever your post-hockey career interests are through our intern program and you will be able to develop business contacts while you are still playing that will be useful after you retire. The DFW Metroplex is a great place to build a post-career network.
– There is a great fanbase that supports the team and the players.
– With his record in Allen, Martinson will have plenty of players and agents calling him this summer. When you have a successful program in a great location a lot of players will want to play in Allen.
– Because Martinson has been around minor pro hockey for so long he has a real advantage when it comes to recruiting. But even with the contacts he has developed over the years, he spends many hours going over data to determine who to recruit. He has a couple of techniques that he uses to find those diamonds in the rough, players who have underperformed but will thrive in his system and players that have not been used in the right way on their current teams. It is no coincidence that each year there are players that come in and have a career year in Allen. Whether it is young guys or experienced players, they thrive in the Martinson system.
– Another issue the coach needs to be aware of is the veteran status of each player as the number of veterans on the team is limited to just four. A veteran is defined as a player with more than 260 regular season professional games (for games in Europe only the top six leagues count). The Americans finished this season with four veterans (Chad Costello, Gary Steffes, Joel Chouinard, and Josh Brittain). Greger Hanson passed the 260 games played mark this past season and is now a veteran. With Costello and Brittain signed in Europe, Martinson will have some veteran spots available. It is always good to have at least one veteran slot available for new players that might want to come to Allen.
Here is my opinion of how Martinson will approach recruitment for next season.
– Coach Martinson will have a base of corps players returning. That doesn’t mean everyone wishing to return will be signed but he will reach out to everyone to see what they want to do. Players like Spencer Asuchak, Greger Hanson, Bryan Moore, David Makowski, and Zach Hall are surely looking for AHL deals. Best case for Allen is San Jose will sign some of them. There will also be players already signed in San Jose that might start the season in Allen.
– Players that are ready to sign immediately will be the top priority. Those that wait run the risk of other players being signed and a slot not being available or money not being available when they are ready to sign.
– Coach Martinson will strive to get as many players signed as quickly as possible. A good goal would be to have two lines, four defensemen and a goalie signed by June 30. That may be a bit ambitious but it is a good goal.
– With the average salary being about $640 per week ($12,800 divided by 20 players) finding good rookie players that make less than the average is critical so you can pay the top-end guys.
-The popularity of players with the fans is not a big factor when it comes time to signing. It is strictly based on performance. You can always find another popular player.
– If Martinson finds a good player at the right price they will get signed right away.
– With just four veteran slots available the decision on veterans will be a difficult one.
– The affiliation with San Jose will continue though it has not been formalized yet. Allen will have players assigned for development from the beginning of the season.
One thing is certain, Steve Martinson will have the same type of team as he has always had. They will compete hard, be physical and be difficult to play against. The team will be tough but also skillful. He recruits guys that understand you must work hard, be in great shape, follow the system, be a team guy and finish checks. He builds his teams to have depth rather than a few superstars. This approach has worked for 21 years and it will work again in year 22 as he puts together the 2017-2018 team.
DID YOU KNOW: Dyson Stevenson played for Wichita coach, Malcolm Cameron, in junior hockey for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League. Stevenson’s last year playing for Cameron before turning pro (2013-14) he had 76 points (38 goals 38 assists) in 66 games.