Interview of the Week: Jefferson McNeely

This week’s interview is with Washington Galaxy RW Jefferson McNeely.

SHL Digest: This week, we’re here with the star of the Washington Galaxy, Jefferson McNeely.  Jefferson, thanks for talking with us.

Jefferson McNeely

Jefferson McNeely: I never pass up an opportunity to talk!  Let’s do it.

SHLD: The last time we interviewed you was four years ago, when you and the Galaxy were on the verge of clinching your second straight division title.  Needless to say, it’s a different situation now.

JM: You mean that we’ve gone down the toilet?

SHLD: That’s not how we were going to put it.

JM: It’s okay, it’s true.  The only thing we’re competing for now is the #1 draft pick.

SHLD: You’re a competitive guy, by all accounts.  How does it feel to be on a team that’s struggling?

JM: I’m not gonna lie, it’s tough.  Being in a playoff race, playing for those stakes, it gives you that extra juice.  When you don’t have that, the grind starts to wear you down.  It’s a long season, man.

SHLD: You’ve been in Washington since the beginning.  One of your longtime teammates and friends was Casey Thurman, who was dealt to Boston earlier this year after expressing criticism of the crowd and the team’s direction.  How did you feel about the trade?

JM: It was a bummer to see Thurm go, obviously, but I definitely wasn’t surprised.  There’s no point keeping a Ferrari in the garage if all you’re going to do is driving it to the store.  I don’t know if Boston has the horses to compete this year, but they’re moving in the right direction and getting Thurm is a huge plus for them.

SHLD: Did you have any qualms with the things he said?

JM: Absolutely not.  Listen, if anyone around here has the standing to criticize how things are going, it’s him.  He’s in the prime of his career, and he doesn’t have a ring.  He shouldn’t have to spend the rest of his prime on a last-place team.  He did what was right for him, and I have nothing but respect.

SHLD: A lot of the things you just said about your former teammate also apply to you.  You’re a couple years older than him.  Are you trying to hint that you’d wish you’d been moved at the deadline?

JM: No, not me.  You forget, I was a free agent before the season and I chose to stay in DC.  If I wanted out, I’d have gone somewhere else then.

SHLD: So what’s the difference between you and Thurman?  How is it that you’re happy to stick around, while he had to go chase a title?

JM: I’m accustomed to DC.  I like the city, and I like the fans.  And, honestly, I’m used to being the star, and I like that too.  Thurm is the kind of guy who would go be a bottom-line grinder somewhere if he could help that team win a title.  I like to win, but I’m not a bottom-six guy, either.  Different personalities.

SHLD: So if you get to the point where your skills start to slide and you’re not getting top-line minutes anymore, would you retire?

JM: Yeah, probably.  Of course, easy for me to say that now.  Let’s see what happens.  I’ll probably be 39, 40 and still trying to hang on by my fingernails.

SHLD: So, what is it like working with a young Galaxy roster?  Are you trying to serve as a mentor to the younger forwards?

JM: Yeah, absolutely.  I think we’ve got a lot of good talent, and I’m trying to make sure they develop their skills and stay out of trouble.  The coaches are focused on their on-ice skills, and I’m trying to work with them on the off-ice stuff.  Where to go after the game, how to keep from going crazy on the road, the types of people to stay away from, things like that.

SHLD: Do you think you might be a coach someday?

JM: Might be.  Who knows?  Right now, I’m focused on playing, and I think I’ve got a few years left at least.

SHLD: Fair enough!  That does it for this week’s interview.  Thanks again, Jefferson, and good luck the rest of the season!

JM: Hopefully the next time I talk to you, it’s because we’re going to the Finals again.

2020 SHL Week 7 Transactions

  • On Monday, the Kansas City Smoke recalled F David Facinelli from their CHL affiliate in Omaha and returned C Edz Zalmanis to Omaha.  The Smoke had a need for a center when Mike Rivera and Nile Bernard suffered injuries, so they promoted Zalmanis just over two weeks ago.  He appeared in 9 games during his stint with Kansas City, scoring 2 goals and adding 2 assists.
  • Also on Monday, the Michigan Gray Wolves placed RW Boris Badenov on the injured list.  Badenov, who was playing for their minor-league affiliate in Cleveland, suffered a lower-body injury in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Omaha, and is expected to be out of action for 4 to 6 weeks.  To replace Badenov on the roster, assistant coach Glenn Reichler was activated and added to the roster.  (Story here.)
  • On Wednesday, the Quebec Tigres activated LW Stellan Fisker from the injured list.  Fisker missed 10 games with an upper-body injury suffered two and a half weeks earlier.  In order to make room for Fisker’s return to the roster, the Tigres returned LW Carl Bleyer to their affiliate in Halifax.  Bleyer appeared in 4 games for the Tigres, recording a goal.
  • On Friday, the Hershey Bliss placed minor-league D Seth Dowd on the injured list.  The 34-year-old Dowd, who was playing for their affiliate in Milwaukee, was taken off the ice on a stretcher after ramming head-first into the boards.  He underwent surgery and is expected to miss the rest of the season.  To replace Dowd on the Milwaukee roster, the Bliss signed D Knute Skoeglin, who appeared in 10 games for Milwaukee last season.
  • On Saturday, the Washington Galaxy activated D Grant Warriner from the injured list.  Warriner, the Galaxy’s top young blueliner, missed two and a half weeks with an upper-body injury.  In order to accommodate Warriner’s return to the active roster, the Galaxy demoted D Serkan Mratic to their CHL affiliate in Baltimore and released D Nate Cimino.  Mratic recorded 2 assists and a -18 rating in 22 games with Washington; the 19-year-old Cimino notched a goal and 2 assists over 13 games with Baltimore.

2020 SHL Week 6 Transactions

  • On Sunday, the New York Night announced that D Ed Francis, who had been playing for their minor-league affiliate in Utah, will miss the rest of the season.  The 30-year-old Francis suffered a severely broken leg during last Saturday’s game against Minnesota, an injury so severe that it required surgery to reconstruct the leg.  In the wake of the injury, Francis announced that he would retire from hockey. (Story here.)  To replace Francis on the roster, the Night signed D Gustaf Bergstrom for the rest of the season.  Bergstrom recently played a 10-game stint in Halifax, where he recorded a goal and six assists.
  • On Friday, the Washington Galaxy traded LW Casey Thurman to the Boston Badgers in exchange for LW Marty “Fish” Pescatelli, D Kermit Kaufman, and a first-round draft pick.  (Story here.)  In related moves, Boston demoted LW Norris Young to their CHL affiliate in Hartford and promoted D Jackson Creed from Hartford.  They also signed D Gerry Michaud to a minor-league deal.
  • On Friday, the Night demoted G Sherman Carter to their CHL affiliate in Utah and promoted G Corey Franklin-Lee from Utah.  Carter, expected to be New York’s top starter in the next, has been atrocious so far this season.  Despite compiling a 5-5-1 record, he has put up a 5.75 GAA and an .861 save percentage.  The 20-year-old Franklin-Lee makes his first appearance on an SHL roster; with Utah this season, he has gone 9-4-2 with a 2.82 GAA and a .905 save percentage.
  • On Saturday, the Quebec Tigres placed D Kevin Buchanan on the injured list.  The veteran blueliner has been plagued by injuries this season; he missed 10 games with an upper-body injury earlier this season.  It is unknown whether this latest setback, suffered in the second period of Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Hershey, is an aggravation of his prior injury or a new one.  To replace Buchanan on the roster, Quebec recalled D Hampus Olsson from their CHL affiliate in Halifax.  Olsson was sent down two weeks ago when Buchanan returned from his prior IL stint; he spent 9 games in the minors, recording 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists).  To fill Olsson’s roster spot in Halifax, the Tigres signed veteran D Igor Shovshenkov.

Badgers Pull Off Blockbuster, Acquire Thurman from DC

When LW Casey Thurman publicly lamented the direction of the Washington Galaxy franchise in a postgame interview a couple weeks back, it seemed like the star winger’s days with the only SHL team he’d ever played for were numbered.  Thurman’s time in the nation’s capital came to an end on Friday, as the Boston Badgers – desperate to spark their flailing offense and climb into contention in the East – acquired him in exchange for a pair of prospects and their first-round pick in the draft.

“I don’t really have words for it, to be honest,” said Thurman.  “And you know how much I love talking, so that’s saying something.  I thought I was going to be here for my whole career.  But I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Once word got out about Thurman’s dissatisfaction with the Galaxy, GM Wilson Shuster found himself flooded with offers from other teams.  But Boston was one of the only teams that could fit Thurman’s $4 million salary under the cap without sending salary in return, which reportedly appealed to Galaxy owner Perry Dodge.

Casey Thurman

In Thurman, the Badgers acquire one of the league’s biggest stars and biggest characters.  The 31-year-old went to the SHL Finals twice with Washington, in 2015 and 2016.  He’s often among the league’s top scorers, and he holds his own on the defensive end as well.  Although he was not producing at his usual offensive pace this season, Thurman was second on the Galaxy in points with 21 (7 goals, 14 assists) at the time of the trade.

“It’s rare to find a player of Casey’s caliber available in midseason,” said Badgers GM Jody Melchiorre.  “And when he became available, we went after him aggressively, because he fits the perfect mold of the player we look for.  He’s a star who can generate a ton of offense, but he thinks like a grinder.  He plays hard the whole 200 feet, and he’s going to be a great leader and mentor for our younger guys.”

Marty Pescatelli

To acquire Thurman, the Badgers had to let go of a pair of prized young players.  One of them, LW Marty “Fish” Pescatelli, returns to the team that first drafted him.  Pescatelli was an 18-year-old rookie when the Galaxy shipped him up to Boston in a deal for LW Charlie Brooks and D Scott Hexton.  He blossomed in the Badgers’ system, and was named to the CHL All-Star Game last season.  The 20-year-old has struggled to stay healthy this season, but he’s produced when he’s played, with 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) in 13 games.

“We’re really excited to get Fish back in our organization,” said Shuster.  “He’s quick-wristed with a cannon for a shot, and we think that he can grow into the kind of brilliant two-way scorer that Thurm has been for us.”

Kermit Kaufman

In addition to Pescatelli, the Galaxy also acquired 22-year-old defenseman Kermit Kaufman.  Kaufman is a rugged stay-home defenseman who knows how to sacrifice his body to disrupt opponents’ offensive flow.  In 23 games with Boston this season, he recorded no goals and 2 assists, but he had 38 blocks, the third-highest total on the team.

“Kermit has really grown into an elite defenseman,” said Shuster.  “He’s got a body like a battering ram; some of our guys have found that out the hard way, when he’s thrown some rough checks at us.  We’re building a hard-hitting young defensive corps, and Kermit’s going to fit right in there.”

There’s no question that adding Thurman will boost Boston’s lackluster attack.  But will that be enough?  At the time of the deal, Boston was tied with Washington for the league’s worst record at 7-14-2, and they were last in the league in goals scored with 54.  If Thurman can recover his traditional scoring touch in Badgers green, he should provide a boost.  But other players will need to step up as well, most notably goalie Roger Orion and the team’s league-worst penalty-killing unit.

Of course, Melchiorre might not be done dealing.  “We’ve still got plenty of cap room to play with, and if we see a chance to improve, I’m not going to hesitate,” the Badgers GM said.  “We’re not waiting around.”

2020 SHL Week 5 Transactions

  • On Wednesday, the Washington Galaxy placed D Grant Warriner on the injured list.  Warriner suffered an upper-body injury late in the second period of Tuesday’s 4-2 win over Michigan and did not return.  He is expected to be sidelined for about 3 weeks.  The team did not make a corresponding move at the time.
  • On Friday, the Dakota Jackalopes placed RW Arkady Golynin on the injured list.  During Thursday’s game against New York, Golynin crumpled to the ice after a late-game knee-on-knee collision with Night D Dominic Sanchez, a hit that resulted in a one-game suspension for Sanchez.  Golynin will miss at least a couple of weeks with the injury.  This could be a serious blow to the Jackalopes, as the winger led the team in points with 18 and was second in goals with 6 at the time the injury occurred.  To fill Golynin’s roster spot, the Jackalopes promoted RW Dylan Alizarin from their CHL affiliate in Idaho.
  • Also on Friday, the Jackalopes’ affiliate in Idaho activated D Georg Ochre from the injured list.  Ochre was sidelined for almost 3 weeks with an upper-body injury.  To accommodate Ochre’s returned to the roster, Idaho released D Gerry Michaud from his temporary deal with the organization.  Michaud appeared in 4 games for Idaho and did not record a point, although he did have 5 blocks.