More of the same…those words sum up the Cyclones organization pretty well as it heads into the 2012-2013 season. In this post we’ll give you our thoughts on the affiliates and coaches which will guide the ‘Clones through the season.
There was no official press release regarding the affiliates but if you’ve been reading the press releases you know that it’s business as usual for the Team. Once again the Cyclones will maintain dual affiliates with both Nashville/Milwaukee and Florida/San Antonio feeding the ‘Clones players. We were impressed with the talent that came our way from San Antonio last season and we think we can expect it to continue this season. On the Nashville/Milwaukee side of things things have been pretty hit or miss over the years. This season that trend could change for the better.
This season, perhaps more than any in recent memory, the NHL affiliates could play a greater role throughout the ECHL. With the NHL locking out players and the their season up in the air, NHL teams are sending more players than ever to the AHL; the Florida Panthers have assigned 25 players (16 forwards, 5 defensemen and 4 goalies) to San Antonio while the Nashville Predators have supplied Milwaukee with 22 players (12 forwards, 8 defensemen and 2 goalies) and that’s not counting the NHL players which can be signed to AHL deals. How is that possible? The guys over at Admirals Roundtable explain it pretty clearly. There are some familiar names on those lists of players but we’ll take a close look at that in an upcoming post. There are limits on active roster sizes and it doesn’t take math PHD to realize that more quality players are going to trickle down the food chain. That could mean more young NHL prospects being assigned to the ECHL or more quality AHL contracted players filtering our way. It also means fewer roster spots for free agents throughout the minor leagues. The bottom line is the talent pool for minor league teams will be deeper and higher quality than it has in years. That is, if the NHL remains shut down…
As ECHL fans we’re hoping the the NHL and NHLPA come to terms quickly or not at all. If the NHL gets up and running in early October it would likely mean business as usual for teams in the ECHL. If the NHL season is fully lost, Cyclones’ fans will see a team that could rival the 2008 Kelly Cup Squad in regards to talent (the only problem is the rest of the League could be elevated to that level as well). The other side of the coin is if the NHL returns to operations in December, it would likely mean rosters would be gutted throughout the minors leaving those teams scrambling for players. If the lockout goes long term the advantage goes to teams with multiple affiliates. If the lockout ends mid-season the advantage goes to the teams who had single affiliations or none at all. The standoff between the NHL and NHLPA is something we’ll be keeping an eye on.
Behind the bench it’s more of the same for the Cyclones as well. Jarrod Skalde will be returning, an off-season move which had many fans scratching their heads. Skalde, entering his 5th year as a head coach, his 3rd with the Cyclones holds a career coaching record of 128-131-37; he’s steered the Cyclones to 68-57-19 record over his 2 seasons behind the bench. Those aren’t exactly stellar numbers. Moreover, Skalde missed the playoffs, becoming just the 3rd coach to do so. We should note that we’re referencing the history of a team called the Cincinnati Cyclones, not just this current franchise; the ‘Clones missed the playoffs in 92-93, their first season in the IHL, under Dennis Desrosiers and in 03-04, the last season before suspending operation, under Chris Cichocki. In a pure coincidence we find ironic, Jarrod Skalde played a handful of games for that 92-93 team.
We’ve been hoping to put former head coach Chuck Weber behind us but he’s given us so many sound bites or Chuckisms, if you will that he’s a hard guy not to bring up. The Chuckism that comes to mind here is putting players in a position to play off their natural talents to succeed. It makes sense right, coaching to the abilities to your players. However, under Skalde, we haven’t seen it happening. In his 1st year with the Cyclones Skalde inherited two-thirds of a Kelly Cup Championship team. That team’s success was rooted in defense; enter Skalde, a much more offensively minded coach, and the team faltered. The common fan consensus was Skalde would be better with “his group of guys.” In year the 2 the ‘Clones had much more offensive roster. Were they “Skalde’s guys?” Perhaps not by choice but they were a group of offensively minded guys Skalde should have excelled with. Instead the results were much the same and we heard about roster turnover from call-ups and how young the team was. Our response to that is, it’s the ECHL, there will always be young players, and since the League is a feeder league to upper levels of hockey roster turnover will always exist. Those can’t be excuses, they are just what goes with being a coach in the ECHL. What can Cyclones expect this season? History tells us it will likely be more of the same.
There could be a glimmer of hope on the horizon for the ‘Clones as for the 3rd consecutive season Coach Skalde will have a new assistant coach, former Cyclones’ defenseman Matt MacDonald. We know what you’re thinking, doesn’t Matt MacDonald plus Cyclones equal losing? While that phrase never actually came out of our mouths, we won’t lie, we weren’t the biggest fans of Matt as a player, but we’re hoping he can follow in the footsteps of another Cyclones’ defenseman turned coach, Dean Stork.
It’s no secret we prefer defense based hockey here at CycWords and coach MacDonald was considered a true defensive d-man. He also played under a very defensive minded head coach in Chuck Weber. Oh and did we mention he won a Kelly Cup Championship? So he’s a guy that knows what it takes to get there as a player. We’re hoping he can bring a more defensive mindset to the team.
Training camp opens Friday. The on-ice workouts are open to the public and we’ll be trying to make it to a few to give you a run down on roster as we head into the preseason weekend and opening night.