I’m glad I pushed my column back a day because a lot happened yesterday. Most notably, the AHL canceled the remainder of their season. I’ll give my take on it and give a few special shoutouts to AHL players. Also, a few reports published yesterday raised some eyebrows in the NHL community.
1. AHL Cancels Remainder of Season
Yesterday morning, the AHL announced that the league’s Board of Governors voted to cancel the remainder of the regular season and playoffs because of the Coronavirus.
I think most people expected this to happen. Although the AHL is an important part of the North American hockey ecosystem, it primarily exists to support the NHL. It’s going to be difficult for the NHL to resume play, and if they do, odds are no more regular-season games will be played. That will make the AHL season obsolete. If the NHL season does resume, I expect additional AHL players to travel with the team as black aces. So, we could see a few players crack the lineup that we otherwise might not have seen play this season.
While this stinks for everyone involved with the AHL, I don’t see a way they could have saved the season. The league just doesn’t bring in enough money and or generate enough interest to try and figure out how to revive the season. Before everyone jumps down my throat, I’m not saying there is any amount of money that makes risking people’s lives worth it, but the NHL has enough money to find a solution if there is one. The AHL does not.
As someone who has attended the Calder Cup Finals, I feel terrible for all the players, coaches, and staff that won’t be able to participate in them this year. They definitely deserved that experience.
Here are some shoutouts and fun facts about this AHL season that everyone should know.
Best Team (by points): Milwaukee Admirals
Most Points (skaters): Sam Anas, Iowa Wild
Most Goals (skaters): Gerry Mayhew, Iowa Wild
Lowest GAA: Dan Vladar, Providence Bruins
Highest Sv%: Dan Vladar, Providence Bruins
2. Red Wings Sign Mathias Brome
There hasn’t been much hockey news recently. Although many teams are signing international free agents, many signings have flown under the radar. The Red Wings are among those teams. They recently announced the signing of Swedish forward Mathias Brome.
Brome is 26-years-old and most recently played for Örebro HK in the SHL, Sweden’s top league. This season he scored 17 goals and 43 points in 52 games. That was good for sixth in the league in scoring.
The deal is for one year and it is a two-way deal.
The Red Wings have had great success in the past with international players. Most notably: Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Fedorov, and many more. The odds that Brome contributes much at an NHL remains to be seen. Most undrafted players don’t. Still, it’s not a bad idea to take a flyer on a guy who can clearly put up numbers in one of the better leagues.
3. Nordiques Jerseys Could Make a Comeback
Yesterday, reports surfaced that the Colorado Avalanche are mulling over the idea of wearing Quebec Nordiques jerseys next season. As most know, the Avalanche franchise began as the Quebec Nordiques when the team joined the NHL from the WHA back in 1979. In 1995, the team moved from Quebec and rebranded to become the Colorado Avalanche much to the dismay of hockey-crazed Nordiques fans. They were especially sad when they were deprived of the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup victory, the first season after the move.
Declan Bolger, the senior vice president, and chief marketing officer for Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, who own the Avs, said this to The Athletic,
“Next year is the team’s 25th anniversary season. I think there is an opportunity,” said Declan Bolger, who serves as the senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Kroenke Sports & Entertainment. “We’ve talked about it, but the opportunity has not arose up to now. It’s not the only thing we’ve talked about. We have talked about a lot of things.”
The Nordiques jerseys are too awesome to be kept in captivity. So good in fact I included them on my list of the best throwback jerseys. They were worn by the likes of Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. Sakic is the Avs current general manager by the way.
If the Avs are smart, they will break these jerseys out. With all the money they’re losing due to Coronavirus, I bet they would bring in a nice chunk of change with people buying up the new jerseys. Let’s not forget that the Carolina Hurricanes did the same when they broke out the Hartford Whalers sweaters over the last two seasons. Bolger even referenced the Hurricanes’ success in his comments to The Athletic.
If I weren’t such a big Red Wings fan, I would be the first to buy a Nathan MacKinnon Quebec Nordiques jersey.
4. Rask Wants to Play Into His 40s
Tuukka Rask isn’t going anywhere, at least he doesn’t plan on it. Yesterday, Rask was quoted saying,
“So far, I still have that passion of winning and playing.” “That drives me. The winning drives me. I haven’t put a number into it, at what age it might be, but we’ll see. Maybe it’s 36, 37, maybe it’s 42. You never know. [Zdeno Chara] is still playing and he’s getting older (43 years old), so maybe I’ll be the goalie who plays until 45, maybe not.”
I’m not sure what they put in the water in Boston, but first Tom Brady says he wants to play until he’s 45-years-old and now Rask is saying the same thing. And if Rask wants to play until he’s that old the Bruins should welcome him to do it. Even at 33-years-old, he’ shown no signs of slowing down. Let’s not forget he led the Bruins all the way to game seven of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals and they look just as deadly this year.
Over the past three seasons, Rask is 87-35-16, with a 2.33 GAA, .919 sv%, and 12 shutouts. This season, he leads the league in GAA while playing for the best team in the NHL.
Despite what people say about him, he’s been great in the postseason, too. Had the Bruins beat the Blues in game seven last season, he would have finally rid the monkey on his back. In 24 games, he went 15-9, with a 2.02 GAA, .934 sv%, with two shutouts. He was unstoppable.
The only uncertainty is his contract. He only has one season remaining on it. Considering he’s 33 and wants to play another 7-10 years, he could command another big payday. I would be shocked if the Bruins didn’t move Heaven and Earth to have his old-ass back.
5. LIU Announces D-1 Men’s Ice Hockey
Division-1 men’s ice hockey will welcome a new school into the mix next season. Long Island University announced that they will field the nation’s newest D-1 team. The university’s athletic department released this statement a few weeks ago.
This is super cool. To be honest, I had never heard of LIU before, but a new team in D-1 is always exciting. If they’re anything like Arizona State, they will be must-watch right off the bat. If you remember, Arizona State went from not having a D-1 team in 2014-15, to winning five games in their first season, to going 21-13-1 last season. If LIU can steal a page from the Sun Devils’ book, they’ll be in good shape.
I don’t know much about LIU’s campus, but I’m sure being close to New York City will be a nice draw for recruits. In regard to their conference, I can see them slotting into either the Atlantic Hockey Conference or the ECAC. Regardless, I’m excited to see a new team with new jerseys. ■