Night Re-Acquire Winger Petronov

According to New York Night GM Jay McKay, letting LW Misha Petronov leave in free agency was his biggest mistake.  Petronov spent three seasons in New York, but after a mildly disappointing 2019 season, the Night allowed him to walk away and sign a 2-year, $2 million contract with the Michigan Gray Wolves.  But Petronov rebounded toward his career norms in Michigan, while New York has badly missed his production on the wing.  So McKay reversed his mistake on Wednesday, re-acquiring Petronov from the Wolves, along with F Cary Estabrook and D Brandon Arrowood, in exchange for LW Flynn Danner, F Henry Constantine, and D Anson Brank.

Misha Petronov

‘We knew we wanted some help on the second line,” said McKay.  “And we talked about a number of guys, but in the end I kept coming back to Misha.  He’s a guy we know and he’s a good fit for our team, so why not bring him back?  Then it was just a matter of making the salaries work.”

In 42 games with the Wolves, Petronov put up 31 points (9 goals, 22 assists) and a team-leading +12 rating.  He has generally been less involved on the defensive end and along the boards, which made him a somewhat awkward fit in Michigan’s style of play, but suits New York’s run-and-gun approach perfectly.

McKay said that the winger will slot right back into his old slot on the second line, beside C Rod Remington and RW Ivan “Trainwreck” Trujwirnek.  “I am glad to be back with my old friends,” said Petronov. “It will be just like my former times again.”

Along with Petronov, the Night acquired a couple young players with potential upside.  The 25-year-old Estabrook was the first player signed by the Boston Badgers.  He has struggled to convert on his potential in the SHL, due both to the lingering effects of a knee injury he suffered in college and his struggles with alcohol and conditioning.  He signed with Michigan in the offseason, and clashed with then-coach Ron Wright virtually from the beginning.  He appeared in only 10 games with the Wolves, failing to record a point, and then he was banished to the minors.  McKay said that Estabrook would be assigned to New York’s farm team in Utah initially, but he would be called up before the end of the season.

“We believe that Cary has a lot to offer this club,” McKay told reporters, “And I’m a big believer in second chances, and Cary deserves one.”

Arrowood, meanwhile, is a 24-year-old offensive-minded defenseman.  He has shown a consistent scoring touch in the minors, but his deficiencies on the defensive end have prevented him from earning a call-up to the majors.

In exchange, New York gave up a pair of prospects that should aid the Wolves as they move into a rebuilding phase.  Danner is a 24-year-old winger who has produced regular 50-point seasons in the minors.  He made his SHL debut this season and produced promising results, with 13 points (7 goals, 6 assists) and a +6 rating in 28 games with New York.  He showed some upside on defense as well, with 23 blocks.

“Flynn checks a lot of the boxes we’re looking for,” said Michigan GM Tim Carrier.  “He’s a strong 200-foot skater, he can create his own shot, and he puts in good effort on defense.”

Brank, meanwhile, is a 20-year-old blueliner who was drafted by the Night two years ago.  He lost a position battle in training camp, but he produced strong numbers in Utah, putting up 22 points (5 goals, 17 assists) in 41 games.

Michigan also adds Constantine, a veteran on an expiring contract who can play any forward position. He should be able to fill in an provide some short-term offensive help for the Wolves.

While the Wolves are looking to the long term, the Night are focused on the present.  McKay came up with a typically creative trade to bolster their offense.  Given the crowded playoff picture in the East, however, the GM will need to hope that neither Danner nor Brank gives him a reason to regret this deal down the road.

Badgers Bulk Up With Lunsford, Addison

The Boston Badgers are in a challenging position.  They’re on the fringes of the playoff race in the crowded East.  It was a seller’s market at this year’s deadline, and the Badgers had some pieces – like winger Jorma Seppa and defenseman Patrick Banks – that could have fetched a solid return.  On the other hand, Boston already made one aggressive go-for-it move this season – acquiring LW Casey Thurman from Washington – and they’d clearly need more help if they were going to make the postseason.

GM Jody Melchiorre considered both paths nearly up to the deadline.  He entertained deals for Seppa, Banks, and others.  But in the end, he decided to double down and go for it.

“At some point, if you’ve got enough chips in the pot, it doesn’t make sense to fold,” said Melchiorre.  “Our fans want to see a playoff team, and I want to give it to them.”

The Badgers needed an upgrade to their lackluster offense; adding Thurman was a much-needed boost, but their goal numbers are still in the league’s lower half.  But they also needed to find players who fit the team’s rugged, grinding, hard-hitting style.  In the end, Melchiorre found what he was looking for, landing RW Gordon Lunsford from the Michigan Gray Wolves and D Victor Addison from the Dakota Jackalopes.

Lunsford has been a quietly consistent cog in Michigan’s offense for years.  He’s regularly put up 50-point seasons with little flair or drama.  He’s capable of laying the kinds of heavy checks that Badgers fans love.  And he’s been a steady, dependable clubhouse leader for the Wolves since the beginning.  Although his numbers this year (8 goals, 20 assists, +10 rating) aren’t quite up to his career norms, he continues to be a solid performer.

“Gordon is exactly the kind of strong veteran presence I want here,” said Melchiorre.  “He’ll fit in perfectly on the ice and off the ice.  He’s got playoff experience, and he can help lead our team to great things.”

The Badgers didn’t give up a ton to get him, either: they acquired Lunsford in a one-for-one swap for RW Rory Socarra.  The 21-year-old Socarra has shown dazzling flashes of athleticism, but has yet to fully harness his potential.  He has yet to exceed 20 points in a season, and his current-season numbers (4 goals, 6 assists, -3) have once again disappointed.

All in all, it seems like a steal for Boston.  There is, however, one risk factor: Lunsford’s age.  He is currently 37 years old, the league’s oldest active player.  He has shown clear signs of decline the last couple of seasons.  And he’s signed through the 2021 season at a sizable hit of $2.5 million per season.  Might that come back to bite Boston down the road?

For his part, Lunsford isn’t concerned.  “I don’t think I’m near the end of the road,” he told reporters.  “I’m in great shape, and I’ve been healthy as a horse my entire career.  I’m ready to keep going and producing until I’m 40, or longer.”

In Addison, whom they acquired for minor-league blueliner Jackson Creed, the Badgers are hoping to find a defenseman who can provide some help in the offensive end as well.  The Badgers have two blueliners with a solid scoring touch: Banks and Matt Cherner.  They’ve also gotten help from Brody “Bruiser” McCallan, who has a good passing touch.  The rest of their defensive corps, however, has contributed virtually nothing offensively.  So Melchiorre picked up Addison, hoping that he can slot in on the second pairing beside McCallan and provide a bit of a spark.

The 24-year-old Addison has put up solid numbers in the minor-leagues, but has struggled to replicate those at the SHL level.  In 19 games with Dakota this season, he recorded no goals and 7 assists with a -5 rating.  But Melchiorre believes that Addiston can unlock the offensive side of his game with more consistent ice time.

“Victor’s been jerked around a lot in his career,” said Melchiorre.  “He’s been moved up and down pairing, on the ice one day and not the next.  No wonder he can’t find consistency.  What we plan to do is give him a consistent role beside the same partner and consistent minutes, and not panic and bench him if he doesn’t light it up immediately.  I’m confident that with some time and trust, he can thrive.”

That’s music to Addison’s ears.  “All I’ve ever wanted is the chance to prove myself,” he told reporters.  “In my last organization, I felt like I never got that chance.  I’m glad to have a fresh start, away from the chaos.”

Will Lunsford and Addison prove to be the difference-makers that launch Boston into a playoff spot?  Or will they prove to be too little, too late in a packed race?  Melchiorre and the Badgers look forward to finding out.

Tigres Swing Big, Land Center Marlow

At the trading deadline, the Quebec Tigres found themselves where they’ve been most of the season: within striking distance of a playoff spot, but not quite there.  Faced with a small but persistent gap between them and the Hershey Bliss, GM Pete Gondret decided not to waste time upgrading around the margins, and instead made a big-ticket acquisition, landing C Warren Marlow from the Michigan Gray Wolves in exchange for C Phil Miller, LW Carl Bleyer, and their first-round draft pick.

“We had the chance for a big move, and we took it,” said Gondret.  “Life is too short for weak measures.”

Gondret said that he’d originally engaged Michigan about acquiring veteran winger Todd Douglas, who would have provided some depth scoring for the Tigres.  But as they talked, Wolves GM Tim Carrier mentioned that Marlow was available.  “And then I heard the angels singing in my ear,” the Quebec GM said with a laugh.  “This was a player I have always wanted.”

Warren Marlow

Center has long been a weak spot for the Tigres, and the 34-year-old Marlow provides a reliable option to fill that need.  He has been a consistent two-way threat, averaging about 20 goals per season and providing stout defense.  He’s lost a step with age, but he still recorded 19 points (11 goals, 8 assists) with Michigan so far this season.  With the Wolves failing to contend this season, they chose to move on from their veteran center.

“It definitely wasn’t an easy decision to part with Warren,” said Carrier.  “He’s given so much to this team over the years.  We wouldn’t have won the Vandy [in 2016] without him.  But we’re at a stage where we need to get younger, and we had a chance to get a top pick and a prospect.  I couldn’t say no to that.”

For his part, Marlow is happy to join the contending Tigres.  “Obviously, in Michigan for so many years, we were always in the playoff hunt,” said the center.  “And as a player, you get used to that.  Being able to get back to a contending team… that’s huge for me.  I’m looking forward to helping bring the Vandy to Quebec.”

In the 21-year-old Bleyer, Michigan acquires a promising young winger.  He has appeared in a total of 14 games for Quebec over the past two seasons, recording a goal and an assist.  With the Tigres’ farm team in Halifax, Bleyer has produced 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 30 games.

“Carl is a prototype Michigan Gray Wolves player,” said Carrier.  “He’s good on defense, he’s a hard worker, and he knows how to score.  I think he’s going to be a big contributor for us down the road.”

Phil Miller

As for Miller, he was primarily thrown in for salary-cap reasons, but it represents another stop for the well-traveled journeyman.  Michigan is the sixth SHL team for which the 31-year-old Miller has played in his career.  This is the third time that he has changed teams at the trade deadline, having gone from Saskatchewan to Dakota in 2016 and Kansas City to Quebec in 2018.

Miller struggled badly with the Tigres this season, recording only 2 assists and a -10 rating in 27 games before being sent down to the minors.

Regarding his latest relocation, Miller displayed a sense of humor when speaking with reporters about the deal.

“At this point, I keep my suitcase packed around the deadline, because I just assume I’m going somewhere,” said the veteran.  “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career, it’s this; don’t buy any green bananas.”

Deadline Chaos: League Takes Control of Jackalopes After Vetoing Trades

Typically, at the trading deadline, the highlight is the big deals that have been made, as teams pick up the missing pieces for a playoff run.  This season in the SHL, however, the story was the deals that weren’t made, as the league took the unprecedented step of vetoing a pair of trades by the Dakota Jackalopes, leading to a chaotic series of events that ended with the league taking control of the franchise.

The Jackalopes’ financial problems have been an open secret around the league for several years.  They play in the smallest market in the league, and their attendance has dwindled considerably as the team’s record has declined; as a result, the team has traded away almost all of its high-salary players.  Rumors have periodically swirled that Dakota cannot make payroll or is on the verge of folding.  Jackalopes officials have consistently denied rumors false.

But at Wednesday’s trading deadline, Dakota struck a pair of deals moving their highest-salary players remaining.  One deal sent LW “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston, the team’s longtime star, to the Kansas City Smoke in exchange for LW Veikko Sikanen and a 1st-round draft pick.  The other sent RW Arkady Golynin to the Hershey Bliss in exchange for C Yegor Nestorov and a 1st-round pick.

Several teams, including the Jackalopes, have made salary-shedding trades in the past.  But this pair of deals raised a red flag with the league office.  Dakota’s total payroll is just $15.3 million – already the league’s lowest – and the combined salaries of Airston and Golynin are nearly half that total.  In addition, both deals reported involved millions in cash being sent to the Jackalopes; this kind of direct cash transfer has never happened before in the SHL.

“As a rule, I’m very reluctant to get involved made between consenting teams,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell.  “But when a team cuts its payroll to the point that it they can’t ice a competitive squad, that’s a problem.  If a team essentially tells its fanbase that it’s not going to even try to compete, that’s a problem.”

The Jackalopes, as well as their trading partners, reacted to the vetoed deals with outrage.

“We don’t think the league has any business getting involved in our deals,” said Jackalopes GM Paul Mindegaard.  “We’ve made no secret of the fact that we’re in a rebuilding phase, and for the league to step in and prevent us from acquiring assets, well, that’s hurting our ability to compete in the long term.”

“From our perspective, [the veto] really wrecked our shot at completing a deadline deal,” said Bliss GM Scott Lawrence. “We had a deal that both sides agreed to, that gave our team the upgrade we needed.  Then suddenly, we find out the deal’s a no-go, and we don’t have time before the deadline to execute a Plan B.  So that really kneecapped us.”

“Acquiring Ryan would have been a game-changer for us,” said Smoke GM Garth Melvin.  “We were excited, our fans were excited, and we felt like we had the firepower to be competitive in the West.  But the league ripped that away from us, and it really feels unfair.”

The players involved weren’t too happy either.  “Honestly, I’ve got whiplash from the whole thing,” said Airston.  “I’ve played my whole career here, and I signed an extension this off-season because I wanted to stay.  Then with no warning, I’m gone.  And then I’m not.  And now I’m here, wondering if the team can afford to pay me for the rest of the season.”

Mindegaard and owner Roger Scott argued that the Jackalopes needed to make the deals for financial reasons.  They argued that without the payroll savings and the cash payments, they would not be able to make payroll at month’s end.  This led the league to take a closer look at the team’s financial situation, and by week’s end, they had taken control of the franchise from Scott.

“Obviously, this is not a situation we wanted to find ourselves in,” said Commissioner Mitchell.  “But it was clear after examining the books that the Dakota franchise was at a very real risk of folding in midseason, so we had to act.”

The commissioner said that the league would plan to sell the team to another owner after the season.  He added that the team would almost certainly be moved to another city, but that they will finish the season in Dakota.

Interview of the Week: Ivan Trujwirnek

This week’s interview is with New York Night RW Ivan Trujwirnek.

SHL Digest: We’re here this week talking to Ivan Trujwirnek, hard-working winger for the New York Night. Ivan, thanks for speaking with us.

Ivan Trujwirnek

Ivan Trujwirnek: Yes, thank you very much.

SHLD: You’re not one of the league’s stars, but you’ve become a favorite of the New York fans.  What is it about you that they love?

IT: I think it is because I am more like a normal guy.  I am not tall and handsome, but I work very hard and I run into people a lot, so this makes people like me.

SHLD: And they do!  There’s a whole group of Night fans who call themselves the “Wrecking Crew,” who wear your jersey and cheer whenever you touch the puck or deliver a hard check.  You’re the only New York player with a personal fan club – not Brock Manning, not Rick Nelson, not Chase Winchester.  Does that surprise you?

IT: Yes, it is very much a surprise to me.  The first time when I get the puck and I hear people cheer in the upper deck, I was confused.  I thought maybe they were making fun of me.  But then I learn it is for real!

SHLD: Have you met any of them?

IT: Yes. They come down next to the glass during warmup.  I sign their jerseys and give them pucks.  They are very nice people.

SHLD: How did you get your nickname “Trainwreck”?

IT: The first time I play in America, my coach cannot say “Trujwirnek.”  I say it to him many times, but still he does not have it.  Finally he says, “Oh, I give up.  The hell with it.  From now, I call you Trainwreck.”  And soon my teammates also call me this.  So okay, I go along.

SHLD: Does the nickname bother you at all?

IT: No.  I think it is a good nickname, since I crash into other players a lot.  I am a trainwreck, it is true.

SHLD: A lot of the Night’s players are finesse types, who like to shoot and prefer offense to defense.  You, on the other hand, play a harder-hitting, old-fashioned game.  Do you find it hard to mesh your style with your teammates?

IT: No.  I think it is a good balance.  They like to skate fast and take shots, and I stay back and play hard along the walls and in the neutral zone.  We work together.

SHLD: Your team is struggling to stay in the playoff race.  What do you need to do to get up to the top?

IT: I will of course play hard.  I think maybe we need to not always be quite so fast, not to allow breakaways all the time.  If we can have the good luck also, that will be good.

SHLD: Sounds like a good combination!  Well, thank you for your time, Ivan, and good luck the rest of the season!

IT: Thank you.  Hello to the Wrecking Crew!

Smoke Penalized for Mid-Game Ribs

Kansas City is a barbecue town.  They’re famous for, and justifiably proud of, their love of slow-smoked meat.  The Kansas City Smoke took its name in honor of the city’s ‘cue heritage, and they refer back to it at every opportunity.  Several of the city’s best-known barbecue joints operation concession stands at Heartland Telecom Center.  They even had youth hockey players take the ice dressed up in the colors of local institutions Arthur Bryant’s and Gates B-B-Q to “decide” which reigned supreme.

Up until this point, the Smoke’s ‘cue connections have been a good thing for the team.  This week, however, the team’s fondness for KC’s favorite food led to trouble, as the team was penalized for snacking on ribs instead of taking the ice.

The incident occurred in the third period of Sunday’s game against the Michigan Gray Wolves.  The Smoke recently added half-racks of ribs to their concessions offerings, and team president Eddie Whitmore wanted to make fans aware of the new option.

Pitmaster Pete

In order to make a splash, the team armed their mascot Pitmaster Pete with a vending tray full of single ribs, and turned him loose during a stoppage in play to hand out free samples in Section 101, near the Smoke bench.

The idea was a hit, as fans clamored to get their hands on a rib.  The promotion was so popular, in fact, that the fans jammed the aisle, briefly leading Pete to fear for his life.

But the real trouble began when some of the Smoke players noticed the commotion going on behind them, and discovered the rib giveaway taking place.  A visibly annoyed D T.K. O’Neill began banging on the glass and shouting at the mascot, “Yo, bring those ribs over here!  We want a taste!”

“The fans were way more excited about those ribs than anything that was happening on the ice,” noted O’Neill after the game.  “On the one hand, that’s a little hurtful.  On the other hand, I totally get it.  Because who doesn’t love ribs?!”

With the help of his handlers, Pete wriggled free of the mob of fans and made his way down toward the bench.  Several players, including O’Neill, held out their hands and demanded ribs.  The mascot unstrapped the vending tray from his neck and passed it over the glass, where the players gratefully grabbed it and began chowing down.

Only one problem: the stoppage was over, and the Smoke were expected to send players over the boards to take the faceoff, but they were otherwise occupied.  Referee Darren St. James skated over and asked coach Randy Bergner to put his team on the ice.  Bergner ignored him, as did the rest of the team.

After asking repeatedly and receiving no cooperation, a frustrated St. James finally whistled Kansas City for a delay of game penalty.

“There’s a time and a place for eating, and it’s after the game is over,” noted St. James.  “It’s my duty to keep things moving along.  And besides, they didn’t offer to share.”

Bergner designated O’Neill to serve the penalty.  He complied, albeit reluctantly.  When he arrived at the penalty box, the first thing he requested was a towel to wipe the barbecue sauce off of his hands.

After the game, a 5-4 Smoke win, O’Neill indicated that he had no regrets.  “Look, I love this game,” he told reporters.  “But I really love ribs, and it’s not fair to make me choose between the two.”

Whitmore seemed pleased with the outcome.  “We knew that the ribs were going to be a hit, but I didn’t think that they would be so popular that even the players would demand a taste,” the president said.  “I’m just glad that Pete made it through all right, and that we still won the game.”

Whitmore said he would ensure that going forward, ribs would be included in the team’s postgame spread.  “In-game snacks are a no-no, but I want to make sure they get their fix.”

Continue reading “Smoke Penalized for Mid-Game Ribs”

Latest Shockers Promo a Glow-in-the-Dark Disaster

If there’s one constant in the history of the Saskatchewan Shockers, it’s their record of promotions gone wrong.  The litany of failed promos is nearly endless: the time they put a sumo wrestler in goal, they time that angry fans littered the ice with off-key kazoos, the children’s books full of errors and obscenities, the T-shirts that featured owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz’s face where the team’s logo was supposed to be, or the team rally song that included a line calling the town of Saskatoon boring.

Heinz Doofenshmirtz

The common theme in all of these disasters: Doofenshmirtz.  The owner’s combination of heedless enthusiasm and disinterest in details leads to a lot of creative ideas that tend not to pan out as expected.  According to team’s sources, most of the team’s promotions are dreamed up by Doofenshmirtz himself, and he is often also involved in their execution, turning to less-than-competent relatives and friends to help carry them out.

No matter how many times these promotions fail, however, the owner keeps coming up with new ones.  Recently, the Shockers offered their fans another Doofenshmirtz-planned giveaway: “Shock Boppers.”  These featured a pair of glow-in-the-dark lightning bolts, connected by springs to a headband.  Each fan received a Shock Bopper upon entering.

Between the first and second periods, the team dimmed the lights at Potash Arena so that the fans could see their Shock Boppers glowing.  As the fans rocked out to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” the seating bowl was filled with undulating lighting bolts.  It was a pretty neat moment, and the team later posted a video of it on their Instagram account.

Sounds like a successful giveaway, right?  Well, it was… until a few days later, when fans began posting angry comments on the Instagram videos.  It seems that the glow-in-the-dark paint on the Shock Boppers was flaking off, leading to messes at best and hospital visits at worst.  Some fans complained about coming home to find flecks of glowing paint all over their carpets and furniture.  Others told of take pets or young children to the emergency room after they swallowed the paint flakes.  One irate mother threatened to sue the Shockers for child endangerment.

After initially trying to resolve the issues individually, the team eventually realized that the problems were widespread.  It seems that Doofenshmirtz outsourced the manufacture of the Shock Boppers to a firm in his native Drusselstein, one reportedly run by his cousin.  “Yeah, in Drusselstein, quality control isn’t… really a thing,” the owner said.

Within a couple of days, the Shockers announced a recall of the Shock Boppers.  Fans who returned the giveaway received a credit for merchandise at the team store.  This failed to mollify fans who had to deal with cleaning or medical bills as a result of the paint flaking off; the team arranged settlements with those fans.

Has Doofenshmirtz learned his lesson?  On the one hand, he did say that he planned to let his marketing team handle the execution of future promotions.  On the other hand, he vowed that “I’ve got a bunch of great ideas that I’m working on.  Just wait and see!”