This afternoon the New York Islanders announced that Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach, Brent Thompson, would become the Islanders new assistant coach. Coach Thompson, like many others, began his coaching career after years of playing the game himself. Selected 34th overall by the LA Kings in the 1989 entry-level draft, Thompson (‘Tommer’, his ice name) played 121 games in the NHL with the Kings and Winnipeg Jets organizations. He also played for six different AHL teams in his 14 years as a player before beginning his career as a coach.
While Islanders fans become increasingly impatient with the teams’ rebuilding, Sound Tigers fans await the annual summer, team reconstruction.
233 goals were scored by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season. Not a team record and not even close to an AHL record, but enough to win the Northeast Division title. Of the 49 skaters that laced them up last year, six of them accounted for 104 (or roughly 45%) of that total. None of them will return for next year.
Winning a title obviously requires good goaltending, and the tender tandem of Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson was exceptional. Each of them earned Goaltender Of The Month recognition from the AHL during the year. One of them will not return next season.
It almost seems like it's been the same story heading into the off-season year after year now; the Isles lack a top-six forward and top-four defenseman that could help make them a competitive team that could be fighting for a playoff spot.
They've tried free agency and have been shot down by guys like Paul Martin. They tried the trade market with James Wisniewski, who ended up being a major disappointment while wearing orange and blue. They even tried that route once more, gaining the negotating rights to Christian Ehrhoff. He didn't want to sign, and I think after seeing how he played under his very luxurious contract, most Isles fans probably don't care.
Although both trades were under different circumstances, they shared one glaring similarity. Not one of them involved any actual players leaving the Island. Ehrhoff's rights were acquired for a fourth round draft pick, and Wisniewski came on board in exchange for a 2011 second round pick and conditional 2012 fifth round pick. Despite the early signs of GM Garth Snow developing a pattern, there is reason to believe that could change heading into this summer's off-season.
To paraphrase an old adage; ‘An opinion is like a proctologists playground, everyone has one … and they all stink.’
With the NHL season ending and the draft just two weeks away, anyone who follows the sport of hockey will read or hear many opinions offered on what their favorite teams’ needs are, who to draft and which free agents should be pursued. It’s just fun to spend other peoples’ money.
So once Mr. Wang is done spending his folding money on NHL players’ contracts, let me offer my opinion on what should he should do with the change left in his pocket.
An opinion is only as good as the assumptions it is built on. So here are some of the things I will assume (with ‘ass-u-me’ being another obvious rectal reference), before I offer my opinions. This summers’ Islanders training camp will be a very competitive one at all positions. There will be a battle for back-up goalie between Anders Nilsson and Kevin Poulin. The loser of this battle will become the Sound Tigers top tender for the 2012-13 season and prove himself a winner. (Kevin Poulin/Photo: Pope Steve XXVII)
Before I begin talking Islanders hockey, I owe my readers, as well as the other bloggers that write for this site, an apology. For those of you who don't know, the bloggers here at TCL Isles follow a schedule that I create. I also arrange my blogs to follow in that schedule as well, and I continue to remind our staff to do their best to keep up with it while trying to allow some freedome since it's the summer.
I have been out of sync with managing the site for about the past two weeks. Without getting into things, I can promise that I am now fully back on track and apologize for my absence.Fortunately, there hasn't been an over abundance of stories to report.
Sadly, John Tavares lost to Pekka Rinne in the EA Sports voting bracket for the cover of NHL 2013. He made it all the way to the semi-finals but fell short to the Predators net-minder. Maybe next year will be a different story. But Islanders fans certainly made a point to the rest of the league by showing that their voice can be loud when they have a reason to be heard.
I can pretty much talk about hockey 365 days a year, and do. When a friend asks me a question about the AHL or the Sound Tigers, they will get an answer. It took me a while to realize that because they asked me something about the game I love, did not mean they shared my enthusiasm. I first noticed it in the spring when a friend for years asked me to explain what a ‘developmental team’ was. Listening to my response as I explained the roll the AHL was intended to play in the development of players for the NHL, his eyes began to glaze over when I approached the V-260, V-320 (veteran of 260 or 320 professional games) grey areas. An “urgent call” took him from me, and the next day I was ‘un-friended’ on Facebook. That is when I decided it would best to write about the game. While it is still boring to many, at least the number of ‘Happy Birthday’ wishes I get from Facebook friends won’t diminish.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “How much do the players get paid in the AHL?” Were I a man of few words, the answer for this 2011-12 season would be a short “The league minimum is $39,000 the highest paid is getting $6,500,000.” This is true though misleading, and as I am not a man of few words and don’t want to mislead you, let me bore you from bottom to top.
I learned to love the game of hockey early in life. The first magazine I subscribed to was the ‘Hockey’ magazine, which became mine after my dad had read it. On the cover of the first edition was Maurice ‘The Rocket’ Richard, my first sports hero. Life was easier then. When you went to the store for cereal you had eleven to choose from; three were the hot cereals ‘Wheatena’, ‘Farina’ and ‘Rolled Oats’, none were instant. Cold varieties roared like tigers, were ‘shot from guns’ or would ‘snap, crackle and pop’ for your listening pleasure. Sugar Pops had yet to be given their more nutritionally acceptable name of ‘Corn Pops’ and nobody apologized for it.
The release of assistant coaches Scott Allen and Dean Chynoweth by the Islanders has led to speculation that Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson will be joining Jack Capuano and Doug Weight behind the teams bench. I hope this is not the case for three very good reasons. First, I think that coach Capuano should be allowed to select his own assistants and can’t think of any successful organization that doesn’t allow their head coach to do the same. Secondly, as remarkable a job as coach Thompson has done in Bridgeport, he has not finished his work here. Lastly, I am a selfish Sound Tigers fan and don’t want to lose him. (Okay, maybe that’s only two good reasons.)
This was a season like no other. From its quick start to its abrupt ending it was unique. In season’s past, after mini-camp, the team would form early in September and begin getting ready for the upcoming year. Practice, photo-shoots, training, find lodging, practice, training, media day, practice, training, meet and greet, practice, training. After two weeks, a pre-season game or two and the season is at the doorstep. Not this year.
The team stayed on Long Island until the last minute, perhaps to give the new coaching staff the training and practice that they needed with the Islanders systems. Whatever the reason, the normal two plus weeks was compressed to a few days. The routine remained the same, but with little time on hand the players were getting up at six in the morning to look for housing before heading to practice, training, etc. Condos and houses rented, friendships that will last for years were made and the season began. And a great season it would be, a banner season by all standards.
With the possible exception of World Cup Soccer, there is no contest in sports more intense than playoff hockey at any level. Tonight at 7pm The Webster Bank Arena will play host to the AHL’s opening round of the Calder Cup Championships. This years contest starts with an historic battle between the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, proud affiliate of the New York Islanders, and Hartford’s Whale, the New York Rangers sister club.
While the two teams have met some 130 times in the last 11 years, they have never faced each other in the playoffs. While Bridgeport holds a slight advantage in this years’ regular season 10 game competition, the only advantage that earns them is home ice. This is only an advantage if the fans come out and make it one. The fans that do show up can expect to see professional hockey at its best. Here is how I see it: