With another weekend of hockey in the rearview mirror, Dakota Johnson and I give you our three takeaways from the last week in the ECHL and tell you who we would choose as the league award winners for the week.

3. Rob Murray‘s Return to the Oilers Bench

After taking five days off to recover after collapsing on the Oilers bench in Quad City on November 17, Oilers bench boss Rob Murray made his return to the team Friday night in Rapid City:

In Murray’s absence, the team was coached by assistant Zac Desjardins, but had dropped three games in a row prior to Friday night’s contest against the Rapid City Rush.

In Friday’s contest with the Rush, the Oilers played invigorated and inspired hockey and beat them 3-1, with all the goals coming in the final 20 minutes of regulation.

The ECHL is better with Coach Murray behind the bench. Welcome back, coach!

2. Florida and Wichita have identical records. Who would you give the edge to?

As things stand now, Wichita would win the Brabham Cup thanks to their goal differential over Florida — +5 goals for over the Everblades. With the Thunder asserting themselves as one of the top dogs in the Western Conference, it is a fair question to ask who would win in a seven-game series between the Thunder and Everblades.

So, let’s take a look. The bold green text in the boxes indicates which team has the advantage on paper.

Even Strength (5-on-5, 4-on-4, 3-on-3) 38 5-on-5 goals
2 4-on-4 goals
3 3-on-3 goals
37 5-on-5 goals
0 4-on-4 goals
1 3-on-3 goal
Special Teams — PP 14-60 23.3% – 3rd overall 15-76 19.7% – 6th overall
Special Teams — PK 62-73 84.9% kill rt — 7th 77-89 86.5% – 6th overall
Goaltending 14-2-2, 2.31 GAA, .930 sv% 14-2-1-1, 2.25 GAA, .919 sv%
Coaching Malcolm Cameron 352-218-75 Brad Ralph 192-87-27

There is one thing the table doesn’t look at and that’s the style of game the two teams play. Florida is one of the few Eastern Conference teams who play a physical style of hockey, with players like John McCarronMitchell Heard, and Justin Kea carrying the load for the ‘Blades. In this hypothetical matchup, the physicality throughout the lineup would tend cause problems for Wichita.

3. How much parity does the league have this year?

It’s early but in three of the four divisions, there’s a clear top-4 while the bottom three are just dragging. Even though parity seems to be less than last year in the ECHL, we are going to go division-by-division and tell you why that may not be the case for long.

The North is the only division where you could go from 4th to 6th in a night is the North, where each team is over .500. Two good teams will miss the playoffs in that division.

The only division in the ECHL where you could legitimately see the bottom two teams staying where they are currently is the south. Jacksonville is filling the role of “traditional expansion” team (poor record, but hey…there’s hockey!) while Norfolk is a raging dumpster fire with Milwaukee’s players being moved out of the Tidewater to Atlanta. Orlando is surging and expected to get Darryl BootlandSean Zimmerman, and Joe Perry back soon.

In the Central, Kalamazoo is has been known to make a second-half surge, which usually starts in late December and rolls into the playoffs. Quad City just got their Captain Chris Francis back and when they get back to full-strength again, could be a tough beat for anyone. As we eluded to yesterday, Bernie John‘s days should be numbered in Indy as they are not likely to improve much the rest of the season. Much like the north, a good team or two will likely miss out on the playoffs.

In the Mountain, it’s hard seeing Utah staying just below .500 the rest of the season, especially with the firepower they have in Kyle Thomas and Greger Hanson, and a solid netminder in Kevin Carr. Tim Branham has to shore up the defense, however. Rapid and Tulsa both continue to fight inconsistencies, but Rapid seems to be ahead of the curve more than Tulsa.

Time to hand out some virtual “hardware!”

If we were given award ballots, here are our choices for the league’s weekly awards. Due to a time crunch, we are going to give you our honors, sans stats.

Harding’s Awards

Goalie of the Week – Anthony Peters (CIN): 2-0-0, 0.50 GAA, .982 save percentage. He should have been the obvious choice this week, but….you have to be nominated first.

Player of the Week – Stephen MacAulay (FLA)

Johnson’s Awards

Goalie of the Week – Anthony Peters (CIN): See above

Player of the WeekShawn O’Donnell (CIN)

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