Posts Tagged ‘Vinny Saponari’

A CycWords update has been long overdue and with Cyclones hockey less then a week away from returning to US Bank Arena, what better time than now?

Behind the Bench…

First up, the big news of the summer; Skalde is out (on is own accord) and Ben Simon is in. We’re sure there were a lot of people jumping for joy at the news that Skalde had taken a position in the AHL and let’s face it there might be a little cause for it. It’s not like his record with the ‘Clones was prolific. Sure he lead the team to a 110-79-27 record in his 3 seasons behind the Cylones’ bench but those 1st two years were anything but successes. In 2010-11 he began the year with a team (most of which at least) had won a Kelly Cup the previous season, but that team was suited to play a certain style of hockey, and rather than adapting, Skalde chose to blow the thing up and by seasons end, the team looked different and still failed miserably in the 1st round of the playoffs. In his second season, the team was filled with young, skilled players that should have fit right into Skalde’s uptempo offensive game. Instead the team floundered their way through the season and missed the post season. It was 1st time since the team’s return in 2006 and just the 3rd time in Cyclones’ history the club failed to play in the post season. Skalde also didn’t make any friends in the fan base when he chose to drop 2-time Kelly Cup winning veterans Scott Reynolds and Barret Ehgoetz from the roster.

On the flip side, in his 3rd year, Skalde got it right. There was change in philosophy which saw defense emphasized, the team bought in, held each other accountable and ultimately finished the year atop the North Division. If not for the injury to Trevor Lewis and that fluke goal against Reading in the Conference Finals, we think the ‘Clones could have captured Their 3rd Kelly Cup. Last season’s success coupled with the number of returning players makes us wonder what the ‘Clones would be capable of with a little continuity behind the bench.

We’d like to wish Coach Skalde the best of luck in Norfolk. While it’s no secret we were highly critical of Skalde’s systems of play, there’s no doubt in his ability to develop a player at the individual level. We think he’ll excel as an assistant bench boss.  Best wishes Jarrod.

If Skalde had returned for the 2013-14 season we think the Cyclones would be short list of potential Kelly Cup winners, the question on our minds now is, “What now?” Honestly, we really don’t know what yo expect out of Coach Simon, who will be taking on his 1st  head coaching role. We’ve watched his press conference and PR man Nick Brinker’s interview and he says all the right things, but then again so has every head coach we’ve heard interviewed. OK, this isn’t really Coach Simon’s 1st head coaching job as he was player/coach of the Sheffield Steelers. That’s right, player/coach, can you say Reggie Dunlop? He lead that team to a Championship before retiring and joining the Rockford Ice Hogs as an assistant coach. That championship experience won’t be the only thing Simon will have going for him when the ‘Clones return to action with Matt MacDonald returning as assistant coach. The continuity of an assistant coach was something Skalde never had and we’re hoping it works in the Cyclones favor.

The Cyclones have enjoyed Their share of success since returning in 2006 and with a good portion of last season’s North Division Champion team returning (including assistant coach Matt MacDonald) there’s no reason that success can’t continue.

Here’s a side bar for you, Ben Simon is the 3rd head coach the Cyclones have had since returning in 2006. He’s also the 3rd coach to have ties to the 2000-01 Orlando Solar Bears which knocked the Cyclones out of the Turner Cup playoffs that year. Chuck Weber was Orlando’s video coach, who infamously found the chink in the Cyclones armor which ultimately lead to their defeat. Jarrod Skalde and Ben Simon were both players. Here’s the 200-01 Solar Bears’ roster in the event you’d like to start guessing who might follow up Coach Simon.

The Team…

Currently the Cyclones preseason roster looks like this(players in red are affiliated):

Forwards (15): Barry Almeida, Mathieu Aubin, Josh Birkholz, Kyle Bodie, Mike Embach, Dan Eves, Jonathan Hazen, Philippe Lefebvre, Trevor Lewis, Anthony Luciani, Wade Megan, Mike Pelech, Vinny Saponari, Matt Smyth. Paul Crowder

Defense (8): Taylor Aronson, Antoine Corbin, Drew Daniels, David MacDonald, Josh McFadden, Chris Reed, Matt Schumnig, Brett Wysopal

Goalies(2): Rob Madore, Scott Darling

That’s a total of 25 players remaining in camp. The ECHL’s roster regulations remain relatively unchanged. The ‘Clones are allowed 20 on Their active roster, 2 on reserve and unlimited on 21 day IR. The reserve spots are almost like additional roster spots as there’s no minimum time length required for a player to remain if assigned to it. The 21 day IR is a little different in that it’s less retro active than in the past. In the pat if a player was on reserve for 7 days and then moved to 21 day IR the player would credit for time served essentially backdating the assignment to 21 day IR and only requiring the to remain out of action for another 14 days. This season the the assignment can only be backdated 3 days. Essentially the Cyclones have a roster cap of 23, provided there aren’t any players that actually have long term injuries and someone is willing to start the season on 21 day IR like Mike Embach did last season. The shortened version, at least 2 of these guys are going to be looking for jobs by the weekend.

We’re proponents of hording capable defensemen, so why not keep all 8 of them. Although Aronson and McFadden are the only affiliated defensemen with the team, both Reed and MacDonald received late season AHL opportunites and as free agents, could receive a call up from any AHL team . If the Simon decides to keep 7 defensemen on the roster the ‘Clones could be just a phone call away from being short on the blue line. Both Corbin and Daniels went -3 over the 2 games in Alaska so if a defenseman is going to get get released look for it to be one of them.

Up front the Cyclones are carrying 15 forwards at the moment, 8 of which are affiliated. Florida did the ‘Clones a favor in recalling Mattias Lidstrom which opens up another free agent slot, at least in the short term. Looking at the list of unaffiliated forwards we can’t see Aubin, Pelech or Eves going anywhere. If the Simon hangs on to 8 defensemen, that leaves Embach, Birkholz, Smyth, and Bodie to fight it out for the remaining  2 roster spots (assuming Simon uses the 21 Day IR). We think Bodie and Smyth would have to be the odd men out in this scenario. If the Cyclones only keep 7 defensemen, the additional roster spot could be left open in the event Mattias Lidstrom (or another AHL player) is sent down, or the final spot could go to either Smyth or Bodie. Regarless of the outcome, the Cyclones will be returning a slew of players from last season’s North Division Championship team.

At this point it’s all speculation though. With the Team’s training camp trip to Alaska, where they split a 2 game series, all we have to go on are the box scores. We’ll find out with the rest of you as things unfold rolling into the weekend. There’s always a chance of players getting recalled so there’s no reason for Coach Simon to jump the gun on releasing players.

That’s all for now. Is it time to drop the puck yet?

 

**Update 10/16/13**

Just when we thought Florida was helping us out, they decided to complicate things by re-assigning John McFarland to Cincinnati. McFarland has the capability of being a game changing player at the ECHL level, unfortunately he’s another affiliated forward in a lineup already loaded with affiliated forwards. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good problem to have but there are downsides as well. Currently, with the addition of McFarland, the Cyclones have 16 forwards, 9 of which are affiliated with either Florida/San Antonio or Nashville/Milwaukee. Essentially it means that a very solid player (Embach or Birkholz) might have to be moved if nothing else changes. If that’s the case, Cyclones fans would do well to head over to Wikipedia to see if there’s a Patron Saint of Hockey Trainers or a Patron Saint of Healthy Hockey Players, at the very least, and start praying. If the Cyclones are forced to carry so many AHL affiliated forwards and the parent clubs get hit with too many long term injuries or illnesses the ‘Clones could find themselves scrambling to find players. Dealing with these scenarios was something Chuck Weber dealt with brilliantly, Jarrod Skalde eventually learned to deal with, and Coach Simon, well, hopefully he’s got connections in the right places.

The best case scenario is it receive 6 to 8 players from the affiliates. That bolsters the lineup but leaves enough ECHL free agents in place so when call-ups eventually happen the overall makeup of the team isn’t affected greatly. The ‘Clones find themselves with 11 affiliated players (not counting goaltender Scott “not Curtis” Darling), 9 of which are forwards. Coach Simon has a tough task in front of him in building this final roster. Yesterday we suggesting hoarding defensemen, and while we still like that idea, keeping 7 might be the most prudent thing to do, simply because carrying so few unaffiliated forwards is a poor decision.

If, however, Coach Simon likes the idea of hoarding defensemen, he does have some options however. First off, assess the health of the team, if there are any unaffiliated players dealing with injury or aren’t in game shape make arrangement to put them on 21 day IR as soon as possible. An ECHL team can place an unlimited number of players on 21 day IR, so if there’s a player, or players, that may not be in game ready until early November, put him on IR and deal with the numbers later; depending on other injuries and call-ups, it’s a problem that might even be avoided. Typically teams won’t use the 21 day IR for healthy players unless they’re willing to go on voluntarily, a la Mike Embach to start last season, so if everyone is healthy don’t expect to see more the 23 total players and that’s assuming a healthy players goes on the 21 day IR.

Another option is the get on the phone with the affiliates and request any players not game ready get re-assigned to the AHL. The AHL has different rules regarding injured reserve (it’s basically unlimited) and given the roster numbers the ‘Clones are dealing with, They can’t afford to offer a roster or IR spot to an affiliated player that isn’t game ready. Based on what we’ve seen coming out of San Antonio, this is the case with Mattias Lidstrom.

The final option if all else fails is trading someone. If it comes to this, we’re working on the assumption that Smyth and Bodie would be expendable over the likes of Embach and Birkholz. Both players are too valuable at this level to be released out right, so why not see if there’s any interest from other teams. If a trade were to be made the Cyclones would receive the dreaded “future consideration” which in the case could be a player down the road should the ‘Clones get hit with injuries and call-ups. If They don’t the deal could always be completed with cash at the end of the season.  It’s not the best option, but it is an option.

At this point all we can do is stay tuned and see how things sort themselves out. The opening day rosters are due into the League today by 3pm.

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