BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Birmingham Bulls have been through quite a change this offseason. Gone is the franchise’s first head coach, Jamey Hicks, who is tending to family matters in Canada. Now, former Bulls Captain Craig Simchuk takes over behind the bench, backed by his former head coach and Bulls legend Jerome Bechard. The roster has also turned over some from where it was nine months ago.
Here’s our breakdown of the Bulls:
Initial Schedule (Home Games in BOLD and all times Central):
Dec 26 – Pensacola @ BIRMINGHAM – 7:00 pm
Dec 30 – Birmingham @ Pensacola – 7:05 pm
Jan 2, 2021 – Birmingham at Macon – 6:30 pm
Jan 7 – Pensacola @ BIRMINGHAM – 7:30 pm
Jan 8 – Birmingham @ Pensacola – 7:35 pm
Jan 9 – Knoxville @ BIRMINGHAM – 7:00 pm
Jan 16 – Birmingham @ Macon – 6:30 pm
Jan 18 – Huntsville @ BIRMINGHAM – 1:00 pm
Jan 22 – Macon @ BIRMINGHAM – 7:30 pm
Head Coach: Craig Simchuk, First Season
Last Season: 17-23-4-2, 9th in the SPHL
2019-20 Season Summary:
The Birmingham Bulls enter the 2019-20 season looking to build on a successful sophomore season. In year two as a franchise, the Bulls tied an SPHL record for the largest points turnaround between seasons, going from 50 points in year one to 80 points in the second season. Birmingham set a new SPHL record for most wins to start the season, winning their first 11 games of the season, shattering the previous record of seven wins by the Huntsville Havoc to start the 2010-11 season. Unfortunately for Birmingham, the success of the ’18-19 season would not carry over. The Bulls would not pick up their 11th win of the season until January 24, 2020, 30 games into the season. One of the biggest issues that ailed Birmingham was scoring production. The Bulls averaged 2.64 goals per game last season, as the team would struggle to a 17-23-4 record.
Hot or Not?
During the offseason, the Birmingham Bulls look to have solidified one of the issues that plagued them in 2019-20. Austin Lotz returns to the Bulls franchise for 2020-21. Lotz joined the Bulls back on January 11, 2020, and picked up his third career shutout in his Birmingham debut on the same night. A downgrade going into the 2020-21 season will be the missing pieces of the “money line” from 2019-20. Jacob Barber retired, while Josh Harris is missing in action, leaving only Mike Davis from that line.
- Austin Lotz – Went 4-2-1 with the Bulls last season, had a 2.89 goals against average and a .914 save percentage
- Mike Davis – Had 37 points (18G, 19A) in 46 games as part of the “money line”
- Cole Stallard – Scored the third most goals on the team last year (13) and had 22 points
- Jacob Barber – retired
- Art Brey – unknown
- Josh Harris – inactive
- Tanner Froese – Had 22 points (8G, 14A) for Pensacola Ice Flyers in 2019-20
- Logan Nelson – Comes down from ECHL Atlanta after posting back-to-back career years offensively. In 331 ECHL games, Nelson has 199 points (79G, 120A)
What to Watch For:
The 2020-21 season for the Birmingham Bulls will be one to watch for many reasons. The most obvious change comes behind the bench. Craig Simchuk will make his head coaching debut tonight, replacing Jamey Hicks. Despite it being his first time as the head boss, he’ll have a familiar face beside him. Former Birmingham Bull and SPHL coaching veteran Jerome Bechard joins Simchuk behind the bench. Bechard became a Birmingham hockey fan favorite during his playing days in the 1990s before moving on to Columbus, Georgia, where he would lead the Columbus Cottonmouths to the 2005 President’s Cup.
Expect a more physical Bulls team for the upcoming season. With the offseason signings of Cody Dion and Chris Lijdsman, both players who have been known to throw their 6’4 and 6’2 bodies around the ice, the skill players for Birmingham this season should find it a little easier to drive to the net knowing these two guys will be there to have their back.
Birmingham is fortunate to be playing this season. Thanks to various COVID-19 restrictions across the United States, the Bulls are one of five SPHL teams taking the ice in 2020-21. The Bulls and the City of Pelham are starting the season with a limit of 75% capacity (3,000 seats) in the arena with fans required to wear facemask at all times.
Ronald Hagood, Jr. covers the Birmingham Bulls for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @SinBinBulls.