Archive for the ‘OffSeason News 2012’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We didn’t have much to say last season but if you saw any of the games in person, which if you’re reading this blog you probably did, you know there really wasn’t a whole lot of good stuff to blog about. We didn’t want to be overly negative which would have been very easy to do so we decided to follow our mom’s advice and keep our mouths shut. Sure, there were some good things last year; the home record, the play of Anthony Luciani, Dan Eves and Michael Pelech, as well as the play of some the fill in guys like Derek St. Marie, who made up for what he lacked skill wise with pure energy and really brought a spark to his linemates. However, when it was all said and done none of those things translated to team success and the ‘Clones missed the playoffs for just the 3rd time in Their history (more on that later). Well, we’ve let stew long enough and it’s time to come at the upcoming season with renewed energy.

 Over the next few weeks we’ll be getting caught up on what’s been going on over the summer. So let’s get on with it….

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 The new North Division…

 If you’ve been following League news over the summer, you know the Chicago Express are now defunct and have been replaced by the Fort Wayne Komets and the Evansville Iceman. Evansville bounced around minor league hockey before getting absorbed into the the IHL/CHL before making their way to the ECHL. We think Evansville is a good fit for the League.

 Fort Wayne on the other hand might be a different story. The Komets are one of the longest standing minor league hockey teams out there. They have a storied history and great attendance, both of which are great for the ECHL. Then there’s the Komet’s ownership. There’s a lot of rumor and specualtion about the Frankes (Fort Waynes ownership) which if true could disrupt things within the League. If they decide to play by the Leagues rules, which so far it seems like they have, then their addition will be great for the Komets and the League.

 The League will also welcome the Orlando Solar Bears to the South Division, as well as, the San Fransisco Bulls to the Western Conference’s Pacific Division. We’re excited to see both Orlando and San Fransisco join the League. The ‘Clones and Solar Bears will always share championship ingredient. Despite it being a different League, the Solar Bears, along with a young video analyst named Chuck Weber, bounced the Cyclones from the playoffs in 2001 on their way to capturing the IHL’s Turner Cup. Weber would later guide the Cyclones to two Kelly Cup Championships in his four years as the Cyclones head coach.

 We’re also happy to see the League finally expanding westward with the addition of the San Fransisco Bulls. We haven’t been shy about voicing our displeasure with Western Conference’s eight teams and biased playoff format. The addition of the Bulls is a step in the right direction. However, it’s still not clear how an additional team will affect the Western Conference’s playoff format.

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 The schedule….

 It’s a long season; 72 games, 36 home and away, but for teams getting off to a slow start the season can be over before you know it. The Cyclones will play 6 road games in Their 1st 10 games, and They won’t see a road trip longer than 2 games until December 28th thru January 4th when They’ll take on all 4 Divisional opponents. It’s a schedule that should really help if the Team is anything like last season Squad which struggled mightily on the road on road trips while excelling at home.

Diving into the schedule a little deeper, the ‘Clones will face North Division opponents 39 times, Atlantic Division opponents 18 times and the South Division 15 times. The League has brought back inter-conference play this season but none of the Western Conference teams will make their way to US Bank Arena.

As per usual the ‘Clones will see a division heavy schedule with 39 of Their games being played against North Division foes. They’ll play 20 of those games at home. The ‘Clones will face Toledo 9 times (4h/5a), Kalamazoo 8 times (5h/3a), Fort Wayne 9 times (3h/6a) and Evansville 13 times (8h/5a). It looks to be a favorable division schedule for the ‘Clones, facing what has been a dominate K-wings team just 8 times while getting new comers Evansville 13 times. We think those 13 games against the Ice Men will be key if the Cyclones are to make a run at returning to the top of the North Division.

The 18 Atlantic Division games are split evenly with 9 at home and 9 on the road. The 2012-2013 Squad will get an early season bonding opportunity when they head north to the thriving metropolis of Elmira, New York for a pair of games in late October. They’ll also get the Jackals 2 more times at USBA. The ‘Clones will see the Trenton Titans the most of any Atlantic Division team splitting a 6 game series. The Wheeling Nailers will make 3 visits to USBA while the Cyclones will be getting that “Wheeling Feeling” just twice. Three (2h/1a) matchups with Reading wrap up the Atlantic Division tilts.

The ‘Clones will make 3 trips south this season starting with an early trip to Greenville for 2 games in November. The Boys will head south again to play Greenville (1) again along with Gwinnett (1) in early February. They’ll wrap up Their journeys south with 4 game trip through Georgia (Gwinnett) and Florida (Florida -2, Orlando -1) in late March before they return home for the final 2 regular season games at US Bank Arena. Florida (3), South Carolina (3) and Orlando (1) will all make trips to Cincinnati this season.

Overall, the schedule looks favorable for the Cyclones given that there aren’t a lot of long road trips. Keys for the Cyclones will be the 13 matchups with newcomers Evansville and the final swing south. Given the divisional bias of the schedule if the ‘Clones can’t play .600 or better hockey within the division the playoffs will prove to be an uphill battle.

In our next post we’ll pass along our thoughts on the personnel behind the bench, as well as the affiliates.