ALLEN, TX – It has been a while since my last post and I have to admit my intentions for each day this past week was to write a story, but the bad news for Allen fans kept coming and every morning I would put off my good intentions. Finally on Friday, some good news happened with the announcement that Riley Gill has re-signed for his fourth season with Allen.
– The foundation for any team is goaltending and with Gill returning to Allen, it gives coach Steve Martinson that foundation to build on. Riley had the best save percentage in the ECHL last season (.935) and almost led the Americans to the best record in the league, falling just two points short. Gill had the best winning percentage in the league with a record of 32-7-2. Allen’s record without Gill in goal was 17-12-2. Throw in three Kelly Cups and the most wins in ECHL playoff history (53) and you can see the first signing for next season is the most important one of the year.
– The rest of the news recently has been anything but good for Allen Americans fans. It is always great to see players get opportunities elsewhere but tough to see them move on. The worst was to hear in a 24-hour period that Spencer Asuchak, Harrison Ruopp, and Wade MacLeod will not return. For players heading to Europe, it is a great opportunity where they can see their salary double or triple from what they can make in the ECHL. Here is a recap of the players from last season who will not return this season (at least at the start of the season).
Chad Costello – Chad signed with the Iserlohn Roosters in the top league in Germany (DEL). I have read that this league is the equivalent of the AHL so it is a great opportunity for Chad.
Josh Brittain – Josh signed with HC Banksa Bystrica in the top league in Slovakia
Spencer Asuchak – Spencer signed with HKM Zvolen in the top league in Slovakia. The distance between the team Josh plays for and Spencer plays for is only 21 kilometers (13 miles). I had the chance to touch base with Spencer and ask him if there is anything he would like to share with all of his fans in Allen and this is what he said:
“The last four years in Allen were the best years of my life. Winning three championships in four years with such amazing teammates and fans will never be forgotten. I am very thankful to have gotten such a great opportunity playing for a coach of Marty’s caliber. I am excited for the new chapter in my hockey career and to see other parts of the world. Allen will always be a second home to me and I will always consider the teammates and fans as family.”
Wade MacLeod – Wade has signed with Lowen Frankfurt (DEL2) which is the second best league in Germany. Wade played for another team in this league (Starbulls Rosenheim) in 2015-16 and had 61 points (34 goals 27 assists) in just 50 games.
Dyson Stevenson – Dyson has signed with the Wichita Thunder after being traded from Allen as part of the deal that brought Alex Krushelnyski to Allen for the playoffs. This is part of what Dyson had to say when he was traded, “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 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 said this when Dyson was traded and it bears repeating again. Dyson 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).
Harrison Ruopp – Harrison was traded to Indy to complete the transaction that brought Tyler Barnes to Allen for the playoffs. His hard-nosed style of play and relentless checking will be missed. There has been no announcement from Indy of him signing a contract at this point.
– The list above represents some key players that Martinson will have to replace but he has done that many times in his 21 years of coaching experience. The question that remains is who else from the season-ending roster may not return.
Here are my thoughts on a few of the players that have not yet signed. Each year the San Jose Sharks sign players to two-way contracts and they spend time in San Jose and Allen. Martinson has some input and even identifies players that he feels would be a good fit with the Barracuda. If you had to pick players from last season that might get a look from San Jose the most likely based on their performance would be David Makowski, Bryan Moore, and Greger Hanson. It is interesting to note Moore was called up by San Jose last season and performed well. Hanson was called up by four different AHL teams last season (San Diego, Chicago, Binghamton, Charlotte) but not by San Jose. If you remember, Greger did the best in San Diego and even got some power play time and played on the second line. Makowski did not play any games in the AHL last season but with the year he had after returning from Germany in December there are probably several teams interested in him and Allen fans can only hope he signs with San Jose.
– Joel Chouinard certainly had the numbers last season including a league leading +47 to play at the AHL level but he may be at the point in his career where other factors such as family are more important to him. His wife has a career in Dallas and to have him re-sign to anchor the Allen blue line would be a big step.
– Martinson has most certainly agreed to terms with some of the role players on the team from last season and they are also a key to success. Possibilities include the following. Mike Gunn is a player everyone talks about as a great guy in the locker room and improving every season. Miles Liberati has great potential as a puck carrying defenseman. Kyle Neuber was injured all last season but could be a factor if he returns.
– The only players I haven’t mentioned above are Gary Steffes, Tanner Eberle and Zach Hall. They all bring something to the table that the Americans will need to be successful. Whether they want to return and whether they will be offered a contract or are qualified remains to be seen.
– The big task for Martinson will be to find the players to replace all of the offense that has been lost from last season. Allen scored 294 goals last season which ranked second in the league. The Americans had eight players that averaged a point per game. It is likely five or six of those eight players will not return next season. Most high-end players will wait until after the NHL draft to see what impact the draft will have on AHL rosters. That all trickles down to ECHL players looking for AHL deals.
Another big day is Friday (11:59 pm EDT) when qualifying offers are due to players. ECHL players that are not signed or given a qualifying offer by next Friday will become free agents. The bottom line is Martinson will have lots of options in putting together a roster but it will take a while to sign high-end players. Stay tuned!
– I am sure you have seen by now the new ECHL division alignment. Here it is if you haven’t seen it or want to refresh your memory: https://www.echl.com/annual-echl-board-governors-meeting-concludes-2017
– As I predicted back on May 21 after the Allen schedule came out showing the Americans playing the Mavericks just eight times next season rather than the typical 13 or 14, the Mavericks would move to the Central Division and Wichita and Tulsa would move to the Mountain Division.
With this change, Allen will now play 55 of their 72 games against teams in the Mountain Division. In 2016-17 Allen only played 31 of 72 games against Mountain Division opponents. Below is a complete list of Allen’s 72 games by team. The asterisks are the Mountain Division teams.
*13 games – Tulsa (7 home 6 away)
*12 games – Wichita (6 home 6 away)
*10 games – Idaho (4 home 6 away)
8 games – Kansas City (4 home 4 away)
*8 games – Rapid City (5 home 3 away)
*6 games – Colorado (4 home 2 away)
*6 games – Utah (4 home 2 away)
2 games – Orlando (2 home 0 away)
2 games – Florida (0 home 2 away)
2 games – Fort Wayne (0 home 2 away)
1 game – Jacksonville (0 home 1 away)
1 game – Indy (0 home 1 away)
1 game – Atlanta (0 home 1 away)
– The odds are the Mountain Division will change again in 2018-19 as the Colorado Eagles are rumored to be pursuing a move to the AHL to be the Colorado Avalanche affiliate. Here is one of many stories about this move: https://thesinbin.net/report-colorado-eagles-in-discussion-for-possible-ahl-move/
It makes you wonder what players on the current Eagles team are thinking if the team will not exist after the upcoming season. Maybe it is better for them to find a new team this year when they have control rather than have to find a new team in 2018-19.
– The ECHL Board of Governors has approved the sale of the Alaska franchise to owners in Portland, Maine and they will compete in the 2018-19 season. Here are the details: https://thesinbin.net/hockey-returns-to-portland-beginning-in-2018-19/
– I know many of you get a broad range of minor league hockey news by following The Sin Bin at thesinbin.net. The group announced their annual awards this week and I was honored and surprised to be selected for one of the awards, “Newsbreaker of the Year” along with my friend and Allen Americans fan Mike Campos, who covers the SPHL. Here is a link to the award announcement: https://thesinbin.net/best-of-the-sin-bin-newsbreakers-of-the-year/
– Congrats to all Team Sin Bin award winners but a special acknowledgement to Writer of the Year, Chad Boerth, who covers the Orlando Solar Bears and Photographer of the Year, Sarah Hobday, who primarily covers the Norfolk Admirals but covered 61 games this past season in 11 different arenas in three different leagues (ECHL, AHL, NHL). You can get all of the details at https://thesinbin.net/
DID YOU KNOW: Chad Costello will be playing with his best friend, Jack Combs, in Germany. The two have amazing chemistry together as evidenced by their production when playing together for several different teams. Allen fans will never forget the 2014-15 season when they combined for 39 goals and 61 assists in 32 games before Jack went to Europe.
In 2010-11 they played together in Tulsa and had a total of 74 goals and 92 assists as they finished one and two in scoring for the Oilers. In 2012-13 they split time between Colorado (ECHL) and Bridgeport (AHL). Combined they played 63 games in Colorado and had 100 points (36 goals 64 assists) and in Bridgeport, they combined for 8 goals and 18 assists in 50 games. It should be fun to follow Chad and Jack this season in Germany.