Category Archives: AHL

A Message To Everyone In Hockey

Andrew Ference was my introduction to many things beyond the hockey world that affect the hockey world, Ken Dryden wrote some of the literature I’ve read and Brock McGillis is one of the many people I follow on Twitter.

That’s just a few of them, but there are many others like Marisa Ingemi, Ryan Clark, Eric Stephens, Amalie Benjamin, Jashvina Shah and Hemal Jhaveri, just to name some more.

I’m sure people will be bringing up the conversation surrounding specialty jerseys and tape in NHL games as they already have and will again someday.

I, for one, have no problems seeing whatever specialty jerseys in warmups and would encourage that players at least use whatever tape they feel like to coincide with that night or support that cause throughout the season a la Kurtis Gabriel’s use of Pride Tape in his career.

(Yes, I know, let’s abandon the traditional “don’t use ‘I’ statements” in op-ed pieces for a moment.)

Want to use Pride Tape? Use it in game. Not just warmups.

Want to use camouflage tape on Military Appreciation Night? Use it in game.  Not just warmups.

Want to use purple tape on Hockey Fights Cancer Night? Use it in game. Not just warmups.

Don’t just put away tape after warmups if tape— of all things— is so often changed from game-to-game, stick-to-stick, broken stick-to-broken stick or whatever. 

That said, the league needs to do a better job at distinguishing special nights.

Hockey Is For Everyone Night is nice in theory, but you cannot lump every cause into one, especially if it’s only the causes you’ve yet to show proof you care about beyond the brand image.

Hockey Is For Everyone Night should be a February thing, coinciding with Willie O’Ree puck drop ceremonies and Black History Month.

That is the night when you address why it took 60 years to put O’Ree in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018, after he broke the NHL’s color barrier in 1958.

Pride Night shouldn’t be slapped under the same banner (or worse, see the St. Louis Blues watch party). The Carolina Hurricanes had Pride Night done right this season and went an extra step on their social media to value the autonomy of every LGBTQ+ human being. Take a page from them.

(I’m not opposed to being bribed for the play-in/playoffs with any leftover Pride scarves you guys might have, Canes, fully knowing that this isn’t the place or time to be asking for free things.)

How can you accomplish these event nights and promote diversity within and without your organization? Hire minority candidates in executive positions and create things like Pride Committees and Black Hockey History Committees.

As we have seen from Akim Aliu, J.T. Brown, Evander Kane, Wayne Simmonds, Kurtis Gabriel, Andrew Ference, Brock McGillis, Ben Scrivens, Braden Holtby, Patrice Bergeron, Blake Wheeler, Logan Couture, Ryan Miller and other allies (I know I did not name them all here, but if you’re one of them I missed out on, please do not feel forgotten— continue to use your voice), I can only hope more players, coaches, front office members and retired players will continue to speak up, speak out and listen.

Racism exists. Fight it. Prevent it. Put an end to it.

Black Lives Matter. Police brutality exists. 

Yes, there are good cops, but the current overarching “justice” system negates their spotlight where credit is due. That can be fixed and the good cops that truly serve and protect their communities— their entire community, white, black, Latinx, straight, LGBTQ and all— will rightfully see their time when the system is overhauled.

As long as there is no true Justice, it is an Unjust system.

Please register to vote if you aren’t already registered (U.S., Canada) and, most important, complete your entire ballot. Vote for your executive branch and legislative branch, but do not neglect your attorneys general, sheriff and others.

Nobody should have to die and yet, here we are, addressing murder after murder under the law of “innocent until proven guilty”.

We spend the majority of our days listening rather than speaking, but in actuality, we’re only hearing unless we’re actively listening— and hearing and listening are two different things.

Hearing is knowing that your mother is yelling from downstairs for you to get out of bed because the bus is coming and you’ll be late to school if you miss it, but you roll over and continue to sleep anyway.

Listening is hearing that your mother is yelling from downstairs for you to get out of bed because the bus is coming, getting up, getting dressed for school and making the bus on time to go to school and learn.

Kim Davis is doing wonderful work as the NHL’s Executive Vice President, Social Impact, Growth Initiatives and Legislative Affairs. 

Practice doesn’t make perfect and the reality of things is that it often takes many attempts before landing something that sticks. 

But practice does make better and with enough practice, things can and will be better— it’s the commitment to that practice and the followup that must follow through that matters.

The National Hockey League and its member clubs can do better.

USA Hockey can do better. Assistant Director, Hockey Operations, John Vanbiesbrouck needs to go.

Hockey Canada can do better.

The American Hockey League and its member clubs can do better.

The ECHL and its member clubs can do better.

The International Ice Hockey Federation can do better.

Beer leagues can do better. EA Sports can do better.

If you’ve ever grabbed a hockey stick, watched the sport or played the video game— you can do better.

That means all of us must learn and grow as we so often do in every other aspect of our lives. 

If you’re a player, you once had to learn to skate. That took time, effort and many stumbles, but you got better over the years.

There’s no excuse for not being better as a person. 

You’ve already done it in so many other ways, what’s one more important thing that doesn’t just occur on the ice?

Picking Up the Pieces in Net

Shortly after the Vegas Golden Knights claimed backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban, off waivers from the Boston Bruins, they traded Calvin Pickard to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Tobias Lindberg and a 2018 6th round pick.

Hindsight is 20/20– considering Marc-Andre Fleury and Subban are both on the injured reserve and Vegas is down to their last hope (well, before they really get desperate) in Oscar Dansk— but should they have been so quick to pull the plug on Pickard? Should any team, including the Maple Leafs, be so quick to bury him as they have in the American Hockey League with the Toronto Marlies?

The short answer is no, Vegas maybe shouldn’t have traded him (considering depth in goal is imperative when at least one goalie is injured) and Toronto could probably still utilize some life out of him. The obvious answer is the Golden Knights made a pure-business decision (and it paid off, despite Subban’s current status– they got a player and a pick for one player), while the Maple Leafs added depth that comes in handy, a la Vegas’s current situation.

Pickard is a 25-year-old goaltender who was rushed in for too large of a role with the organization that drafted him 49th overall in 2010– the Colorado Avalanche.

Last season, Pickard went 15-31-2 in 50 games played (48 starts) with a goals against average of 2.98 and a .904 save percentage. He had never seen more than 20 games in a season at the NHL level and was destined to be a career-long backup goaltender– until Semyon Varlamov went down with a season-ending injury last season.

If you think Pickard should take the blame for the Avalanche’s lack of success last season, you probably also think there might be a goaltending controversy in Boston right now and should reconsider your status as a fan of hockey.

For one thing, Colorado was a mess in more than one aspect of the game last season. For another, Tuukka Rask is still the Bruins starting goaltender and there’s no question about his certainty as a statistically elite goaltender who is once-in-a-generation for his time (other than Braden Holtby, who might be the only other candidate for consideration as “once-in-a-generation” currently).

Anyway, back to Colorado.

Carl Soderberg had 14 points last season. Fourteen. Fourteen points for a player who was expected to shake things up in light of the Ryan O’Reilly trade that the Buffalo Sabres soundly won.

Last season’s Avs had a league-worst -112 goal differential, which also happened to be the worst in the salary cap era since the 2004-2005 season long lockout (maybe even further than that, though the game has changed significantly since the season that wasn’t in 04-05).

Everything was working against a backup goaltender, turned default starting goaltender overnight with no offense and no defensive support.

In Pickard’s two seasons as a backup, his goals against averages weren’t spectacular (a 2.35 in 16 games played in 2014-15 and a 2.56 in 20 games played in 2015-16), but they were consistent with that of what you’d expect from a backup goaltender seeing time in only about a quarter of an 82-game season.

His .932 and .922 SV%’s in 2014-15 and 2015-16 respectively paint a clearer picture of a young backup with a seemingly reliable potential for developing into a full-time backup that could take on up to 30 games a season, significantly reducing the workload for Varlamov.

Then came last season, where the pressure mounted and the Avalanche’s next backup goaltender of the future, Spencer Martin, rose up the depth charts.

Golden Knights GM George McPhee identified his starting goaltender months before June’s expansion draft, given the contract situation in Pittsburgh, as well as their needle in a haystack luck in finding, developing and unleashing the wrath that is Matthew Murray in goal on the rest of the league.

Marc-Andre Fleury had been penciled in on everyone’s mock Golden Knights roster from puck drop last season with the backup role left unfilled for Vegas to unveil in June.

When Colorado left Calvin Pickard available, Vegas swooped in, hoping a change of scenery would work in addition to providing the 25-year-old with a defense, let alone some scoring production that could help balance the scoreboard in a pinch, should Pickard let in a goal or two. At least, that’s what the plan seemed to be.

Until the Golden Knights had a chance to get a top-AHL goaltender who had yet to really break out in the NHL with a clogged pipeline of goalies in Boston.

Malcolm Subban will be a goaltender in the NHL. He might just be a backup, but he’ll be a good one, given enough time and the right guys in front of him.

Calvin Pickard got the short end of the stick, but sometimes taking a step back in your career leads you forward again.

Are NHL GMs guilty of looking at one bad year and sentencing a player for life because of it, especially if that bad year was last season? Yes– it happens all the time in hockey and it’s frustrating as hell.

Pickard once had a 2.47 GAA and .918 SV% with Lake Erie in 47 games played in his first full season of professional hockey (2012-13). That was when he was unrealistically projected to become a starting goaltender after never posting a goals against average below 3.05 with the Seattle Thunderbirds in four years of major junior hockey.

Through two games with the Marlies, Pickard has a 3.59 GAA and a .901 SV% this season, but it’s still early for the goaltender who amassed a 1.49 GAA and .938 SV% in seven games with Canada at the 2017 IIHF World Championship this spring.

Splitting time with Toronto’s best prospect in goal, Garret Sparks, won’t be easy, but it’s perhaps the greatest thing that could happen to Pickard. After all, he’s back in a system with lots of support and is a pending restricted free agent at the end of the season– free to regain his confidence and take his talents elsewhere in the league as a backup goaltender.

He’s better than a backup like Jonas Gustavsson, but not everyone’s a Philipp Grubauer in a league that’s more reliant on their number two goalie than everyone thinks. Calvin Pickard should be just fine.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #75- Captain’s Practice (with Cap’n Cornelius)

Nick and Colby are joined by the Cap’n this week as the trio discuss the Vegas Golden Knights home opener, bad starts for the Arizona Coyotes, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks, as well as other thoughts around the league. The New York Islanders really need an arena and the Carolina Hurricanes really need some fans.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.