Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 23

It's hard to believe that it's been 23 weeks since the announcement of the Moose returning to Winnipeg, and we're literally two days away from opening night at this point. While there wasn't a lot of Moose news over the summer as the franchise got settled back into familiar digs, the last couple of weeks have seen lots of player movement, some exciting developments, and even some jersey news this week! Manitoba will open the season on Friday in Toronto against the Marlies and play a two-game set against the Eastern Conference squad before returning home to face the defending Calder Cup champions in the Ontario Reign on October 15. If you're not excited yet, let's get you some more information to gear you up for this first season of Moose v2.0!

Moose Add More Talent

With the Jets finalizing their NHL roster, the Moose are finding more talented players joining their group. The Moose saw JC Lipon re-join the squad after playing last season in St. John's, and Lipon will be counted on to be a two-way force this season after having a good camp with the Jets. He recorded five goals and 26 points with the IceCaps last season, so there's hope that Lipon can bring a little more offence after recording a goal and an assist in four preseason games with the Jets.

Also beginning his season in the AHL will be Austrian forward Thomas Raffl after he signed a one-way, $575,000 deal with the Jets. Raffl is an interesting player as he recorded 26 goals and 53 points in 52 games with EC Red Bull Salzburg last season, and it appears the Jets were convinced the 29 year-old could contribute at the AHL level for now. Raffl will be given a chance to standout with the Moose, and I'm hoping we see Raffl become this Moose team's version of Michael Grabner.

The Moose will also get a great veteran presence on the blue line as long-time NHLer Jay Harrison has cleared waivers and will report to the Moose. The 32 year-old had three goals and nine points in 55 games with the Jets last season, and he'll be expected to bring his gritty game to the young blue line of the Moose. Getting a veteran like Harrison could be a huge boost in the dressing room for this young Moose squad.

The Exodus Out

David Leggio, who was in Jets' camp on a PTO and was re-assigned to the Moose, has officially been released by the club. Leggio found himself in tough with the likes of Connor Hellebuyck, Eric Comrie, and Jussi Olkinuora in camp and under contract, so the writing may have been on the wall for the netminder. He leaves with no action recorded in a Moose or Jets jersey.

Following Leggio out the door after being released from their PTOs are forwards Mathieu Gagnon, Brant Harris, Brendan O'Donnell and defenceman Mathieu Brodeur. None of these players really stood out in camp nor did they do anything of note in the preseason game against the Wild, so this was more about reducing the number of players in camp more than anything.

Goaltender Jussi Olkinuora was re-assigned to the ECHL's Tulsa Oilers as he'll start the season in the ECHL yet again. Olkinuora wasn't going to supplant either of Hellebuyck or Comrie after they have shown some solid play, so Olkinuora will get a chance to log some serious minutes in Oklahoma with the Oilers.

Ben Walker will join Olkinuora in Tulsa as the Moose decided to option him to the Oilers. Walker played 36 games with the IceCaps last season where he posted one goal and four points. Walker, 22, can use a little more seasoning, so getting some ice time in the ECHL won't be a bad thing for the youngster.

Finally, AHL veteran Brock Trotter was released from his PTO yesterday. Trotter, as mentioned before in this weekly article, has often been a thorn in the Moose's side during his time with the Hamilton Bulldogs, and had recently been playing in the KHL. Despite Trotter scoring in the opening game against the Wild, he was let go. Let's hope that he doesn't find a spot on another AHL roster where he can come back and bite the Moose in the rear like he's done in the past!

The Antlers Are Back

I was one of the more vocal complainers when the Moose debuted their new uniforms in Jets' font for the numbers, and they had been holding true to this font throughout training camp. The Moose had a glorious and unique font when they were in Winnipeg the first time, and it was disappointing to see the Moose move to a generic block font without bringing back one of the best fonts ever seen on a hockey jersey. Well, thanks to the Moose twitter account, I am happy to say that the antlered font will return for 2015-16 and ever more! Well, the ever more part I can't guarantee, but they wore the antlered font in both preseason games, so it's officially back!

Over The Airwaves

The Moose have signed a deal with TSN 1290 for the radio coverage for games this season, although they'll only see half delivered over Winnipeg airwaves. TSN 1290 will broadcast a minimum of 39 regular season Moose games this upcoming season with every game being available on Former CBC television anchor and sports reporter Mitch Peacock will have the call for all 76 Moose games this season.

"The combination of working with TSN 1290 and the high quality production they will bring to both the radio and online platforms will be a huge benefit for our passionate fan base," said VP Operations for the Manitoba Moose, Dan Hursh. "The addition of Mitch Peacock as the voice of the Moose brings a wealth of experience that will provide Moose fans with first-rate coverage of our team and our players."

There are your Moose headlines for this past week. The season starts on Friday in Toronto, and the Moose will hopefully return home 2-0 as they prepare for the home opener on Thursday, October 15 against the Ontario Reign! Get yourself ready, folks, because it all starts here!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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