ALLEN, Texas – The big day has finally arrived for the ECHL as the 2018-19 season officially gets underway with the opening of training camps. It is that time of year when all 27 teams think they have the talent to win the Kelly Cup. It won’t take long to separate the wheat from the chaff as 80 percent of the playoff teams will be determined by Thanksgiving. For most teams, the first couple of days of training camp are devoted to team meetings, physicals, testing etc. Allen’s first on-ice practice won’t take place until Sunday.
– The Americans issued a short press release about training camp but it did not include the roster. That should be available in the next day or two and I will devote an article to the players in camp as soon as I get the complete list. Here is the press release from the Americans. https://allenamericans.com/americans-open-training-camp-next-week/
– I get a lot of feedback from fans as the roster gets built each season and some of that feedback recently has questioned how the 2018-19 season will be different when 14 or 15 players from last season have been re-signed. It is a fair question. Here is my take on the upcoming season.
– Steve Martinson could be the best recruiter in the ECHL. You don’t win 10 championships in 22 years of coaching without being an outstanding recruiter. Martinson has stated publicly the team was hurt by injuries last season but an even bigger problem was the loss of key players to the AHL. Olivier Archambault, Vincent Arseneau, and David Makowski were all missed during the playoffs. Martinson’s focus this season has been much more on having high-end players be committed to playing in Allen combined with young players that want to move up.
– Martinson has signed more quality players going into training camp this year than he has in the past and he isn’t done recruiting. The roster as it looks today will be very different than the opening day roster. When all is said and done there will not be 15 players from last season on the 2018-19 roster. It is a broken record but it is true, this will be the most competitive training camp ever for the Americans.
– The final roster, in my opinion, will look much different than last season even though there will be a stable group of core players from last season. Last year, there was one rookie (Josh Thrower) on the opening day roster. This year there could be 4-6 rookies on the opening day roster.
– I have a very small window into the Allen locker room but the leadership is going to have a lot more impact this season. Joel Chouinard, who is an outstanding leader, will be captain for the second season and has the respect of everyone. He will only get better after his first year as captain in 2017-18. A big difference from last season is key veteran players, as far as I know, are focused on playing and winning in Allen.
Last season, David Makowski, Spencer Asuchak and Thomas Frazee were all on AHL deals. This season they are not under AHL contract and that subtle change will have an impact. Add in player/assistant Casey Pierro-Zabotel, who along with Chouinard has not missed a game the last two seasons, and you have a core group that will be in control of the locker room. I think this group makes a big difference this season especially if the team has a lot of rookies. They all have a singular focus on winning a championship in Allen and will do whatever they have to do to make that a reality.
– Another change for the upcoming season that will have a positive impact has to do with assistant coach Jason Deitsch. Jason won three championships with three different teams (Cincinnati Cyclones, Texas Brahmas, Allen Americans) during his playing career and served as captain for his college team, Texas and Allen. He was a team-first player that would do anything for his teammates. Deitsch is a McKinney fireman and has helped out Martinson in the past when his scheduled allowed. Last season Jason was still in training, working on his EMT/paramedic certification after finishing his firefighter training. Jason has now completed his training and has more control of his schedule so will be much more involved with the team. Jason will be a great sounding board for the players as well as Martinson.
– The Allen Americans have a new affiliation this season with the Minnesota Wild, which could be helpful for the Iowa Wild and the Americans. A strong affiliation is critical to success in the ECHL and it is clear from the conversations I have had with Martinson the Minnesota Wild will contribute in a positive way.
– The bottom line, for me, is the 2018-19 roster is shaping up to be more like the model used in winning the Kelly Cup in the past. A core group whose primary goal is to be in Allen and win a championship surrounded by some dynamic young players looking to move up and anchored with role players that will do whatever is asked in the interest of the team.
Will it end up with another Kelly Cup?
That is a difficult task when you consider Allen will be going for their third Kelly Cup in five years and only three teams in the 30-year history of the ECHL have won three championships. If you are an Allen Americans fan you can be assured Steve Martinson will do whatever is necessary to put the team in position to compete for another championship and that is all any fan or player can ask.
Did You Know?
In the 30-year history of the ECHL, only eight teams have won more than one championship. Here is the list with the year of their last championship in parentheses:
3 – Alaska Aces (2014)
3 – South Carolina Stingrays (2009)
3 – Hampton Roads Admirals (1998)
2 – Allen Americans (2016)
2 – Colorado Eagles (2018)
2 – Cincinnati Cyclones (2010)
2 – Idaho Steelheads (2007)
2 – Toledo Walleye (1994) – were called the Toledo Storm at the time