Today was one of those days where it starts rainy and never stops. Perfect day to update the blog. Yesterday the Warriors dropped a big game to the South Carolina Stingrays 4-1. The only positive note is that Jeff Caister who has been in and out of the lineup this season got his first goal. Hopefully that will build his confidence as the season goes along. I wasn't very surprised that the Warriors lost as they've had a week off and usually teams with a layoff take a bit to find the wheels again. I look for much better results tomorrow night as Stork and Company take on a familiar team in the Cincinnati Cyclones.
Since the rain has been on full force today I sat around with the calculator. I did some projections. At the current rate. Here is what the playoff picture would look like.
(2)South Carolina 95
(X) Trenton 60
Chicago- This team has played very well so far. As an expansion team it may seem a little shocking but not when you think of Steve Martinson who is a somewhat controversial figure but has several titles at various professional levels under his belt. I don't expect a ton of affiliated call ups as it seems like Columbus/Springfield don't have a ton of guys in Chicago. I think Martinson is going to sign and use the guys he wants to for the most part which may rub people the wrong way but it's worked in the past. Which is why I think this team will continue to be a top 5 team in the ECHL. An interesting note as I was writing this it seems like Yannick Tifu has been traded to Reading which comes as a shock to me.
South Carolina- This team looks very good. The Road Warriors have had some success against them earlier in the season. Grubauer has to be so far one of the elite goaltenders in the ECHL. I'd expect if any injuries happen in Hershey or Washington Grubauer will be on the way! The defense is solid as well as a balanced lineup on forwards. Unless call ups decimate this team I could easily see this team being the #1 overall team.
Wheeling- This is a team that seems to thrive on how the young players preform. I don't mean any disrespect but this is not a popular place for free agents to land. Last year this team got a big offensive punch with Ben Street this year a very similar punch has been injected into Wheeling by Rookie Chris Barton. Street got a call up last season and didn't return. I'm guessing selfishly the fans don't want to see Barton leave. In net Wheeling has one of the more impressive tandems. Peter Delmas who GRW fans know way too well and Patrick Killeen who is a complementary boost in net. Barton is not the only rookie game changer on the team. Andrew Hotham, Zach Hansen an Olivier Dame-Malka all young blue liners will continue to help. Already this is a team that had a big player leave the team as Nick Plastino who left for Europe , Plastino was a big offensive threat on the blue line but like the quote goes one player is not bigger than the team. Basically as I said earlier this team will go as far as the young players can take them. As long as the call ups/Lonas don't stack up too much I can see this team still being a solid playoff team.
Kalamazoo- The Eastern representative in the 2011 Kelly Cup finals look to be an elite team again. Like Wheeling , The K-Wings have already lost a big player in Patrick Asselin who left for Germany last week. I do think Kalmazoo will miss his offensive input but I don't think its the end of the world for them. This team is one of the older teams in the east. I think they may be philosophically a Western team. The Ageless one Kory Kalander, Justin Taylor, Brandon Svendsen, Trent Daavettila and one of the most underrated players in the league in my opinion Dean Strong. Have been Kalamazoo main stays and will fill the void that Asselin has left. Between the pipes you have Riley Gill who I would put as a solid net minder but the real treat is Maxime Clermont. Clermont a New Jersey Devils prospect who some have pegged the possible Heir apparent of the New Jersey net. Clermont will be a solid player of the K-Wings but will probably see multiple call ups to the AHL which will hurt Kalamazoo. I see this team having a a great season I think they can challenge for the top seed.
Gwinnett- The Gladiators 2010-11 Season mimicked seasons. The first part of the season was much like summer in the south, blazing hot. Unfortunately for the fans in North Georgia the season ended like Christmas in the North Pole. Gladiators are hoping that this season will be far from last. So far ex Wheeling Nailer forward Joey Haddad has been as advertised leading the team in scoring. First year head coach John Wroblewski was also able to bring in Tyler Murovich from Wheeling who will also help. Maybe the most overlooked signing for this team is Nikita Kashirsky former Stingray who if he is on his game can be one of the biggest offensive threats in the league. Pat Galivan and Andy Brandt return from last season. I see top to bottom a good but average lineup but in net Gwinnett has 2 game changers. Jeff Jakatis who is currently in Rochester and Phoenix prospect Marc Chevire. Both Jakatis and Chevrie are great goaltenders that being said call ups will dictate how much time they spend in Gwinnett. I see this team being in the playoffs but a 5th-8th seed.
Greenville - Out of fairness I will keep this short and sweet. I'm obviously a bit biased on how I feel about the team . I think in Net Greenville has one of the best goalies in the league Nic Riopel. He is one of those goalies who can steal a game if needed. Forward wise Jeff Prough, Brendan Connolly, Justin Bowers have carried the team as far as forwards go. Wes Cunningham and Cullen Eddy added a dynamic offensive paring but with Eddy currently called up. Someone will have to fill his void. The thing that happen in Greenville last season which hasn't happen so far is the lack of Rookies stepping up. A lot of mix and matching going on with the young guys and some have not been in the lineup due to play or injuries. I believe at some point these guys will get in the lineup and be able to step up and help out the team and take some of the pressure off Prough and the other vets. I think this team maybe a wild card I could see them winning the division I could also see them sneaking into the playoffs. Only time will tell
Florida- Is there any team harder to read right now? Florida is one of those teams who some nights look like a Kelly Cup Contender and other nights look painfully average. In Net John Muse and Pat Nagle two rookies from the College ranks who are both very good. Like all rookies they'll have some rocky points as we've already seen against Greenville but overall I'd have to say this combo is going to help them win some games. Both under contract to AHL(Muse) and NHL (Nagle) contracts so I'd safely say you'll see them up and down at least a few times this season. As far as forwards go this team has a nice mix of returning players and rookies. Guys like Robby Dee, Philip-Michael Devos who can contribute as rookies. They've also had scoring from DJ Rutherford the pesky forward who came over from the CHL this season. Those players have preformed well but , Overall this team looks average. A guy they had to start the season Justin Shugg would be a big boost to their team but it's unknown if he'll be sent back down this season. I think this team is going to make the playoffs if they can avoid their 2 solid goalies getting called up long term. If that happens well I don't think you'll see any playoff games in Florida this year.
Elmira- If you looked at the ECHL Score sheets you couldn't miss the tear Evan Barlow was on. Not surprisingly he's in the AHL right now at a nearly point per game pace. Elmira misses Barlow but Mike Radja and Rookies ( former Road Warrior) Dustin Gazley and Artem Demkov have picked up the pace. Gone are the days of The Donati Brothers , Tifu and others in Elmira. This is a whole new team. The B-Sens are a good working partner with Elmira so I expect to see a ton of movement. Which can be very frustrating for fans of this team. Guys like Riley Armstrong, Josh Godfrey, Maxime Gratchev can be big time players but it's really a mystery how much time they see in Elmira. In net former Road Warrior Brian Stewart is playing well and maybe one of the more underated goalies in the league. German product Timo Pielmeier is also a solid option in net. Marco Cousineau who had a battle with Riopel in the playoffs last season has been loaned to the Central Hockey League could possibly end back with Elmira. He showed last year obviously he can be a game changer and obviously a valuable asset to have. I really have no idea where this tea will end up I'd say they have a chance to make the playoffs but call ups and loans will probably determine if this team gets to play deep into the spring.
Reading- If you can pinpoint one team that should have more points, It has to be the Royals.Olivier Labelle and Yannick Riendeau have been big offensive producers but out side of that not a ton of production from the forwards . Chad Painchaud had been the 3rd leading scorer before being traded to Chicago for Yannick Tifu today. A big plus for Reading has been some offensive production from the Blue Line. Denny Urban, Marvin Degon and Rob Kwiet have all hit double digit point totals for the Royals. In net Joe Palmer has been and will need to continue keep this team in games. Rookies Mark Owyua(Currently in the AHL) and Karel St. Laurent have also played with some good and some mixed results. This is team that I think will eventually figure it out. I could see a few trades coming and making this team better. I will be anxious to see how Tifu help this team. I'd consider this team a contender for the 5-8 spots in the Playoffs.
Toledo- The Toledo Walleye are that team that started off really slow but finally picking it up. This team has a lot of affilated players on the team. This team like Reading boast a solid offensive blue line Gleason Fournier, Bryan Rufenach two Detroit prospects who have produced so far will be a help if they stay with Toledo. Some other rookies like , Forward Adam Estoclet and Rob Flick have helped as well. Toledo's most prolific player Evan Rankin(Currently on loan to Rochester) is scoring and getting things done. Former first round draft pick Thomas McCollum has shown signs as being an good pro Goaltender but will most likely see time with Grand Rapids(he currently with them). Toledo will likely have to depend on Carter Hutton and possibly Alec Richards for the time being. Toledo is one of those teams that could jump up and get into the mix but still aren't quite there as of now. One of the best things about this league is your just one roster move away from improvement or regressing as a team.
Cincinnati- Wow I don't know what else to say about this team. Look at their roster and you'll see so many guys who are loaned/called up and in the case of blue liner Adam Comrie who was on a tear at 6 points in 4 games apparently on hiatus from the sport. Gone are guys like Wacey Rabbit, Joel Champagne , Garrett Wilson and many more. The good thing for this team is it has to get better. Eventually the dust will settle and you'll get some more of the talented guys back on this team. For now guys like Daniel Koger, Mathieu Aubin will have to step up for the Clones. In net Chet Pickard former Nashville first rounder has improved but still not at the level that was expected out of him. Tyler Plante who has some experience as an NHL Backup should probably be in the AHL but for whatever reason is down here. I believe if they play well the team can come back. Right now I'd give this current team a very small chance to make the playoffs but like I said it's going to get better for the Cyclones if I saw this team battling for a playoff spot near the end of the season I wouldn't at all be surprised
Trenton- So many changes during the off season long gone are the Trenton Devils , Welcome back the Trenton Titans. That being said it hasn't been all smiles in Trenton. The team has had some scoring from Andy Bohmbach, Randy Rowe and Rob Bordson but that has not been enough . Through the lineup this team has not had a ton of consistency. The Goal tending has been below average. The bottom 3 forward spots seem to be a gong show of sorts. They've taken chances on guys released from other teams such as Ryan Hayes, Jordan Pietrus, Chase Langeraap. Some have worked such as Ryan Hayes others have not. I really don't see this team making the playoffs unless more Consistency is found. The Goal tending has to improve, which you can't blame all on the guys between the pipes. It takes a team to win and lose a game! Hopefully for the fans of Trenton this team will shoot up the standings but for now I don't see it happening
I hope you enjoy my thoughts on each team. I guess I could of chosen a better point to do it but most teams have played at least 15-20 games so I figured why not.