Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 15

Antler Banter rumbles into town once more as we take a look at all things AHL once more, and there are definitely a few stories to be followed from tonight's article. We have a firmer date from the AHL about a schedule release, there are changes coming for an AHL team, there was a new affiliation in the ECHL with a NHL and an AHL club, and there were a pile of key signings as NHL and AHL teams finalize rosters and add depth in those organizations. While I was hoping the Manitoba Moose were going to make some noise, it's a quiet Antler Banter on that front, so let's get into other news around the American Hockey League!

Date Makers

The AHL release a tweet today that gave fans an idea of when their team's respective schedule will be released. Basically, it all depends on the NBA schedule which will be released tonight. Why would that matter, you ask? Well, three AHL teams share arenas with an NBA franchise and the NBA usually gets the nod for preferred dates over minor-league hockey.

The Lake Erie Monsters share Quicken Loans Arena with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and I'm quite certain that LeBron James and his crew are the main attraction in that venue. The Milwaukee Admirals play second fiddle to the Milwaukee Bucks in that city. San Antonio is pretty much a Spurs town, and the AT&T Center is no different as the Rampage get non-Spurs dates. Being that all three of these teams play in the AHL's Western Division means that scheduling around the NBA makes the AHL schedule a little more difficult.

Adding to that headache are the two AHL teams that share a rink with NHL teams. The Manitoba Moose and Winnipeg Jets will skate on MTS Centre ice while the San Jose Sharks and San Jose Barracuda both will occupy the SAP Center in San Jose. Again, both teams are in the Western Conference, so there's some serious juggling to be done on the western front by the schedule makers.

With the NBA schedule released tonight, though, the AHL has stated that their schedule will come out within the next two weeks. I expect that it will be closer to the fourteen-day limit they've stated, but we now have a timeframe in which we'll see the AHL's dates. I'm already psyched to see which dates I'll be booking at the MTS Centre for Manitoba Moose hockey!

Changes Are Coming

There was some buzz on Twitter late in July regarding the logo to the left for the Grand Rapids Griffins. Speculation was that the alternate logo for the Griffins may be used this season by the Griffins after NHL '16 showed the logo used in the game. That screen grab, captured by @FlamezGaming, clearly shows a different Griffins logo from what we're used to seeing. Grand Rapids had yet to announce anything regarding a uniform or logo change, though, so everyone kind of shrugged and moved on.

Today, I received an email from the Griffins that stated that the "Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League will unveil a new look for the franchise in advance of their 20th anniversary season in 2015-16" on Tuesday, August 18. As we saw with the San Diego Gulls, EA Sports is usually right on the money when it comes to what's seen in the game, so I would get ready for the above logo to appear as the Griffins' new logo. I'm guessing there will be new colors and new uniforms as well, so clear your schedule at 11AM on August 18 for another uniform unveiling!

Coyotes Get Rush

No, Geddy Lee won't be suiting up for the Arizona Coyotes this season. The Coyotes announced on Tuesday that they had signed an affiliation agreement with the ECHL's Rapid City Rush! Rapid City, based in South Dakota, is just beginning its second season in the ECHL after being founded as a member of the Central Hockey League in 2008. They play home games at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, South Dakota. They won the CHL's Ray Miron President's Cup in 2009-10 over the Allen Americans who won the ECHL's Kelly Cup this year.

It's a one-year deal between the clubs after Arizona opted to leave the affiliation with the Gwinnett Gladiators. The Springfield Falcons will undoubtedly have a direct line to the Rush as there's a good chance players will be shuffled between those two clubs.

Key Signings

Let's run through the signings by highlighting those players who could see NHL time this season if their AHL seasons go well.
  • San Antonio signed defenceman Justin Hamonic to a one-year deal. Hamonic is not related to Islanders defenceman Travis Hamonic despite both players being from Manitoba. Don't make that mistake, readers!
  • Calvin Pickard re-signed with the Avalanche, and will most likely start the season with the San Antonio Rampage. Pickard was crucial in Colorado's season last year after they saw multiple injuries to their goaltenders.
  • Philip McRae signed with the Bakersfield Condors after spending last season with the Chicago Wolves where he finished fifth on the team in scoring.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers signed Chris Porter to a one-year, two-way deal. Porter spent time with the St. Louis Blues last season and has played 173 NHL games in his career. Porter will look to crack the Flyers' roster, but he'll probably spend most of the season with Lehigh Valley.
  • The Springfield Falcons signed defenceman Steven Delisle who spent last season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The 25 year-old had two goals and 13 assists last season.
  • The Bakersfield Condors signed Edmonton's 2013 second-round pick Marc-Olivier Roy to a deal. Roy should be a good fit in Bakersfield as he'll get a chance to develop his offence in a professional setting after spending last season in the QMJHL.
  • Matt Carkner re-signed with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for two years. The 34 year-old will expected to be a leader once again for the Tigers as he carries 237 games of NHL experience. Another great depth signing.
  • The Islanders also brought back goalie Kevin Poulin on a one-year, two-way deal. Poulin will see a lot of action in Bridgeport, but is a very capable goalie in terms of NHL play. The Islanders shouldn't have a depth problem this season.
  • The Hershey Bears added Austin Fyten from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms today on a one-year deal. Fyten has played 122 career AHL games with Texas, Oklahoma City and Lehigh Valley with his first full season coming last season with the Phantoms.
That's about all for tonight, folks! We're most likely looking at next week for a schedule release, so stay tuned to the AHL's website and Twitter feed for updates as they happen. From seeing a pile of new teams to welcoming back the former IHL rivals of the Manitoba Moose, I'm psyched for the upcoming season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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