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.

Thurman Knocks DC Crowd, Says He’s Willing to Be Dealt

If there’s a player who’s been the face of the Washington Galaxy, it’s LW Casey Thurman.  From the early days of the franchise, Thurman has been a leader in the clubhouse, whether talking to reporters after tough losses or teaming up with teammates to imitate Hershey’s singing cows.  When Washington went to back-to-back SHL Finals, it was Thurman who led them there.  He balances a love of locker-room lunacy with a commitment to playing hard and giving it his all, no matter what the scoreboard or the standings say.

Casey Thurman

It’s almost impossible to imagine a Galaxy team without Thurman on it.  But it became easier to imagine this week, when Thurman sounded a rare downbeat note in a postgame interview and suggested for the first time that he might be open to a trade.

Thurman spoke to reporters after Thursday’s 7-1 loss to the Hershey Bliss.  After the typical back-and-forth about the game, a reporter asked about the sparse attendance at the game.  As the Galaxy’s on-ice results have declined the last couple of seasons, so too has turnout.

Thurman paused a bit before responding.  “I’ve got to say, I miss the atmosphere in the old days,” he said.  “When the house was packed and the fans were living and dying with every goal, it gave you that extra boost when you needed it.  Now, the crowds are smaller and quieter.  They get going when “Cosmic Thing” comes on, but then the song ends and it’s quiet again.

“Don’t get me wrong,” the winger added.  “Our crowds are very nice.  They don’t boo us, even when we deserve it.  They don’t yell obscene chants at the other team, and they don’t fight in the stands.  They’re good people, and I’m glad they come.  But I miss the energy from the old days a little bit.”

Another reporter asked about trade rumors.  Thurman has a no-trade clause in his contract, but GM Wilson Shuster has made clear that the team is in rebuilding mode, and no player is untouchable.  Multiple teams have reportedly inquired about Thurman, who is signed through the 2022 season.

Thurman stated that Shuster had not approached him about any possible deals, and that he wasn’t in a hurry to leave.  “This is my home,” said Thurman.  “My family’s here.  We’ve got a good young team, and I love being a mentor to those guys and helping them develop their game.”

Then, after a pause, he went on: “On the other hand, I definitely know I’m an old man in this locker room.  Most of my old friends are gone: Coz [C Eddie Costello] is gone, and Bucky [D Kevin Buchanan, and [F] Gene [Kennedy], and Big O [G Roger Orion], and Lenny [D Leonard Wright], they’re all gone.  And I still don’t have a ring.  So if the right situation came along, where I could get that ring?  I’d have to consider it.”

Thurman was then asked if there were specific teams he’d like to go to, at which point he ended the interview.  But his remarks triggered speculation around the league.

Shuster said that the team was in no hurry to trade Thurman.  “Obviously, Thurm has been the heart and soul of this team for a long time,” Shuster told reporters.  “It would take a big return for us to move him.  That said, he would be a valuable piece for a lot of contenders, and we’re looking long-term.”

Thurman tried to walk back his remarks the next day, saying that he’d “had a bad day” and was “feeling bummed out” by the loss.  But any contender with the interest and the cap space to acquire Thurman will likely be calling Shuster in the coming days.  Depending on how those talks turn out, we may have to get used to the idea of the face of the Galaxy suiting up for someone else.

No Early Favorites in East

At the quarter pole of the 2020 SHL season, the Western Division is starting to shake itself out as expected.  The Portland Bluebacks are off to a hot start, eager to prove that their 2019 division crown was no fluke.  The Anchorage Igloos have resuscitated from their dreadful opening weeks and are back in the thick of the race, with the Saskatchewan Shockers and Michigan Gray Wolves also in the mix.

The East, meanwhile, is a totally different story.  There are only six points separating the first- and last-place teams.  No one is running away with the division, and no one is entirely out of it (at least not yet).  Each of the contenders has a key flaw that may derail its postseason aspirations.  Here’s a look at the state of play:

The Hamilton Pistols are the defending SHL champions, and they’re determined to become the league’s first back-to-back title-winners.  And offensively, they’re poised to do so: they lead the league in goals (71) and shots per game (39).  And it’s not just the usual suspects who are producing.  The second line of LW Magnus Gunnarson (7 goals, 15 assists), C Marco Venezio (6 goals, 5 assists), and RW Ben Summers (8 goals, 8 assists) has clicked brilliantly, and blueliners such as Clayton Risch (6 goals, 8 assists) and Hercules Mulligan (5 goals, 8 assists) have been activated on offense as well.

So why aren’t the Pistols dominating?  For one thing, they’ve had issues with injuries.  C Calvin Frye recently missed three games, all of which Hamilton lost.  No sooner did he return than LW Steven Alexander went down; he will likely miss several games as well.

The Pistols are struggling in net as well.  #1 starter Lasse Koskinen has rebounded from a poor start, but his numbers (3.39 GAA, .902 save percentage) are not up to his career norms.  And backup Ron Mason (0-3-1, 5.14 GAA, .851 save %) has been atrocious; it’s possible the 36-year-old is washed up.  The goaltending struggles aren’t helped by Hamilton’s awful penalty kill; their 73.7% kill rate is second-worst in the SHL.  If Koskinen continues to improve and the stars stay on the ice, they should be fine, but neither of those things are guaranteed.

The Hershey Bliss are currently tied with Hamilton for first place.  They’re probably the most balanced team in the East.  They’re tied for third in goals (59), and they’re in third in shots allowed per game (31.5).  The “Love Line” (LW Lance Sweet, C Justin Valentine, RW Christopher Hart) is clicking along as always.

So why isn’t Hershey much above .500?  They primary culprits appear to be special teams and goaltending.  Their power play, usually a strength, has been merely average so far (20% conversion rate, sixth in the league).  And their penalty kill has struggled; they’re only snuffing 80.4% of power-play chances, ahead of just three other teams.  Neither number is atrocious, but they aren’t helping.

In the net, free-agent signee Christien Adamsson (6-5-1, 2.87, .904) and rookie Nash Gould (2-1-1, 3.18, .906) are putting up quite similar numbers.  Coach Chip Barber has maintained that Adamsson is still the starter, but he may have to explore a more even distribution of minutes if this continues.  And surely, they can’t help noticing that last year’s starter, Brandon Colt (2-0-2, 2.40, .916), is outplaying them both in Michigan.

The Quebec Tigres are two points behind Hamilton and Hershey.  They’re practicing their usual rugged, hard-nosed defense (allowing a league-low 29.1 shots per game and blocking a league-high 16 shots per game), and they’re performing well on special teams.

Part of Quebec’s struggles are typical – their offense is limited, both in quantity (31.3 shots per game, tenth in the league) and quality (8.8% shooting percentage).  But the more surprising issue is the struggles of goalie Riki Tiktuunen (5-5-1, 3.18, .897).  If Tiktuunen cannot resume his usual elite level of play, it’s unlikely that the Tigres will reach the postseason.

The New York Night looked to be out of it last week; there were even rumors that coach Nick Foster was about to be fired.  But they’ve bounced back to the .500 mark, tied with Quebec.  In many ways, they’re the inverse of the Tigres.  They’ve scored 67 goals, second only to the Pistols, powered by a leg-eleading 11.4% shooting percentage.  They are one of two SHL teams with a pair of double-digit goal scorers already in Cs Brock Manning and Rod Remington.

On the defensive end, however, New York is a disaster.  They’re allowing a league-worst 4.08 goals-against average, fueled by a poor defense that yields an eye-popping 41 points per game.  Projected starting netminder Sherman Carter (4-2-1, 5.44, .863) appears to have lost his job to veteran “Jersey Mike” Ross (3-5-1, 3.18, .923), but no goaltender can be expected to stop the barrage of shots that the Night allow.

The Boston Badgers trail Quebec and New York by two points.  Like the Tigres, they’re built around a stout team defense and slow pace (yielding only 29.6 shots per game).  Also like the Tigres, they’re being undermined by a weak offense (having scored a mere 42 on a league-worst 27 shots per game) and a big-name goalie who’s struggling (Roger Orion: 5-6-1, 2.96, .897).  Unlike the Tigres, they are struggling mightily on the penalty kill, with a last-place 70.4% kill rate.

The Washington Galaxy are the one team that seems certain not to contend, although given the traffic jam at the top, they’re still technically within striking distance.  Unlike the other Eastern clubs, however, they’re not strong in any area of the game.  They’re in the bottom third of the league in goals (44), shots per game (32), shots allowed per game (38.8) and GAA (3.67).  They may have an impact on the playoff chase, however, if they decide to move some of their stars, such as LW Casey Thurman.

There’s plenty of time for the division to sort itself out, and for a couple of strong contenders to emerge.  For the time being, however, it looks like it’s (almost) anybody’s game.

Hogaboom Teaches Tips of the Fighting Trade to Young Teammates

Washington Galaxy D Bruce Hogaboom is reaching the closing stages of his career.  Once one of the SHL’s most feared fighters and dogged defensemen, the __-year-old is relegated to reserve duty this season, appearing in only occasional games.  This is the last year of Hogaboom’s contract, and he has strongly hinted that he plans to retire at season’s end.

Bruce Hogaboom

That said, the man they call “Boom Boom” isn’t just sitting idle in the pressbox, watching the days pass by.  He is active in team practices, serving as a mentor to the team’s young crop of blueliners.  Specifically, Hogaboom is training his colleagues in the fine art of hockey fighting.

“Soembody’s going to have to answer the bell when I’m gone,” said Hogaboom after a recent practice.  “These guys need to know how to scrap, how to tie your opponent up, how to make your punches count, when to bring a guy down and when to keep going.  That part of the game’s not going away, and I want to make sure our guys are ready.”

One of Hogaboom’s top proteges is Grant Warriner, a promising young two-way defenseman who has a healthy appetite for throwing hands.  “I’ve really liked the way he’s grown as a fighter,” said Hogaboom.  “He’s not as aggressive as I am, he doesn’t go looking for fights.  But when a guy wants to go with him, he’s up to the battle.  He’s got fists like cinder blocks, and he knows how to put a hurt on a guy.”

Warriner showed off his fistic skills on Sunday in a game against the Boston Badgers.  During the second period of the game, Warriner put a hard but legal hit on RW Rory Socarra.  This angered D Brody “Bruiser” McCallan, who decided to avenge his teammate by challenge Warriner to a fight.  The fight was spectacular, which both players trading heavy blows, but Warriner finally dropped McCallan to the deck with a pair of hard rights.

After the game, Hogaboom looked like a proud parent as he talked excitedly to reporters about the donnybrook.  “Did you see the way the Bruiser went down like a sack of flour?” said the veteran defenseman.  “That’s the way I dropped guys in my prime.  Boom boom, down!  Thing of beauty.  He really laid the Pledge of Allegiance on him.”

That last remark puzzled the assembled reporters, who asked for an explanation.  “I call it the Pledge of Allegiance, because we’re in DC.  Because he came with liberty and justice for all.

“You know, Liberty and Justice,” the defenseman added, raising his two fists in succession.  (It should be noted that Hogaboom named his own fists Randy and Matilda as a teenager.)

So does he consider Warriner his spiritual successor?  “Well, first off, that’s not fair to War, ‘cause he’s way better on offense than I ever was,” Hogaboom said.

Just as importantly, he’s hoping that each of Washington’s blueliners will carry on the “Boom Boom” spirit.  “A team should have more than one enforcer,” Hogaboom noted.  “If there’s only one guy the other team needs to watch out for, that’s one thing.  But when there are a half-dozen guys who can dole out the punishment, then teams know they’ve gotta watch out.  They know better than to take a run at your stars, because they know they’ll pay the price if they do.”

The veteran stressed that he’s not trying to train a team of future goons.  “You’ve got to play a complete defensive game, suppress shots, disrupt the other team’s flow, all that,” he said.  “But we’ve got coaches to help them with that.  No team has a fighting coach.  Well, except for me, I guess.”

2020 SHL Season Preview – East

Hershey Bliss

The last several seasons have been a strange odyssey for the boys from Chocolate City.  The Bliss went from winning the Vandy in 2017 to a fifth-place nightmare season in 2018 to a division title in 2019.  So what will 2020 hold?  The Bliss are largely returning the same roster as last year, adding a couple of depth pieces in D Wayne Snelling and F Mason Kilborn.  This means that their above-average offensive and defensive numbers should remain intact.  The one major change they made is in net, where they got younger and (arguably) better, replacing thirty-somethings Brandon Colt and Ollie Richardson with Christien Adamsson and rookie Nash Gould.  Goaltending has long been a sore point in Hershey, and Adamsson’s presence should provide a definite upgrade.  (Whether rookie nerves will get the better of Gould remains to be seen, but minor-leaguer Hobie Sanford provides a solid alternative if Gould falters.)  Assuming Adamsson performs as expected, the Bliss‘s success will likely rest on their ability to improve their shot quality.  Hershey has always been a volume shooting team, but their shooting percentage frequently ranks among the league’s worst.  Last season, only Michigan’s was lower.  If the Bliss can learn to wait for the right shot instead of the first shot, they could be serious Vandy contenders.

Hamilton Pistols

After rocketing to the top of the standings in 2018, the Pistols showed they were no fluke in 2019, earning a return trip to the playoffs and marching all the way to their first SHL title.  Facing a cap squeeze, they were unable to bring back deadline rental Eddie Costello, but GM Marcel LaClaire made a couple of bold moves to bolster the second line, adding veteran C Marco Venezio and RW Ben Summers on surprisingly affordable deals.  They also called up D Elvis Bodett, a dynamic offensive defenseman, from their affiliate in Oshawa.  It all should add up to a high-octane attack; no one should be surprised if the Pistols lead the league in scoring this year.  None of their new additions are particularly strong in their own end, though; Hamilton’s defense should still be solid, but probably a step down from last year.  Goalie Lasse Koskinen, who posted the best season of his career in 2019 (26-11-2, 2.25 GAA, .925 save percentage), will need to be sharp again for the Pistols to defend their title.  One player to watch: star LW Steven Alexander.  Last season, after a lackluster first half, Alexander got married and wound up lighting the league on fire in the second half, willing his team to a title and garnering MVP honors.  How will he react to reaching the mountaintop?  Will a taste of success dull the edge of his competitive drive, or will it make him hungry for more?  The answer to that question will likely determine Hamilton’s fate this season.

Quebec Tigres

After the Tigres made a surprising run in 2018 that fell one win shy of the Vandy, we warned that their success was driven in part by luck: they had a surprisingly high shooting percentage and managed to stay out of the penalty box more than you’d expect from such a physical team.  Our warning proved prescient.  The Tigres didn’t collapse in any particular area of their game last season, but they declined just a little in every way… and that proved to be the difference between making the playoffs and staying home.  The roster looks pretty much identical to last season; their big deadline acquisition, D Matt Cherner, departed in free agency, but the Tigres acquired Kevin Buchanan from Washington to replace him.  GM Pete Gondret is clearly betting that a couple more puck will bounce Quebec’s way and get them back into the postseason.  He might be right about that.  The Tigres’ defense will once again be ferocious; in particular, top pairing Laurie Workman and Richard McKinley continue to improve with experience.  The team lacks top-notch scorers, but they do have decent offensive depth; seven players recorded double-digit goals in 2019.  And their goaltending remains a strength; Riki Tiktuunen (25-19-4, 2.19, .923) remains one of the league’s top non-Lundquist netminders, and Riley Lattimore is a more-than-adequate backup.  All of this should keep Quebec in the mix.  But while their competitors in Hamilton and Hershey made clear upgrades in the offseason, the Tigres didn’t.  Will standing pat be enough in this division?

New York Night

It feels like Nick Foster’s bunch might have missed their window.  In 2018, with traditional powers Hershey and Washington declining, the Night surged into third place and looked like they were ready to contend.  But they stagnated last season; with Hamilton and Quebec rising and Hershey rebounding, New York seemed a step behind.  New GM Jay McKay made some significant changes this season, but it’s not clear if they’ve made the team better.  The most obvious upgrades were on the blueline, as the Night added Rusty Anderson and Dave Frederick on sizable deals.  On offense, they picked up reliable veteran LW Charlie Brooks from DC, but lost Misha Petronov in free agency; at best, that’s a wash.  The move that will likely do the most to determine the Night’s fate came in the crease.  McKay decided that youngster Sherman Carter was ready to become the starter, and so he let incumbent starter Jesse Clarkson depart and signed fan favorite “Jersey Mike” Ross to be Carter’s backup.  Carter posted solid numbers in 2019, but he has yet to establish a record of consistent success in the SHL.  Clarkson rarely received the spotlight, but he has been a quietly effective goalie throughout his career.  And given that the Night play an up-tempo firewagon brand of hockey, their netminders tend to take a beating.  Their chances of contention (and possibly Foster’s chances of continued employment) rest on Carter’s ability to withstand that beating.

Washington Galaxy

If there’s any silver lining to Washington’s dismal performance in 2019, it left no doubt as to whether the team needed to rebuild.  After a reported reluctance to commit to a teardown, GM Ace Adams was shown the door.  New front-office boss Wilson Shuster has been more willing to start over, moving blueliners Buchanan and Leonard Wright and winger Brooks during the offseason.  There’s a decent chance that some of the other big names – LW Casey Thurman, C Harvey Bellmore, even RW Jefferson McNeely – might also be headed out the door.  Suffice it to say that the Galaxy won’t be contending this season.  But does this roster have long-term potential?  It’s a very young group; half the roster has less than a season’s worth of SHL experience.  Unsurprisingly, this means a team full of question marks.  LW Alan Youngman and C Tucker Barnhill showed great scoring promise in the minors; will that translate in the SHL?  Can Ambroz Melicar be the strong two-way defenseman in DC that he was in Baltimore?  Can Buzz Carson and Darrell Bondurant (whose combined 3.73 GAA and .894 save percentage were second-worst in the league) develop into a quality goaltending tandem?  Is coach Peter James the right fit to help this young squad grow and mature, or will the Galaxy regret letting Rodney Reagle go?  The results this season will tell a lot about the long-term direction of this franchise.

Boston Badgers

Last season, the Badgers made a big splash by signing several prominent free agents, led by G Roger Orion and LW Pascal Royal.  But after a mildly promising start, the Badgers quickly sank back into the basement, handcuffed by an abysmal offense.  This offseason, Boston landed another big-name free agent, signing Cherner away from Quebec.  He makes the team stronger on both ends; he’s one of the league’s best offensive defensemen, while also providing rugged and reliable defense.  With Cherner on board, as well as promising youngsters Brody “Bruiser” McCallan and Kermit Kaufman, the Badgers may have the league’s best defense.  Their top draft pick, RW Levi Rudyard, shows promise.  And another year of experience should help their top scorers, LW Lix Darnholm and C Alain Beauchesne, become even more dangerous.  But in the end, this team’s lack of scoring punch will be too great a hurdle to overcome.  Even with their excellent defense and Roger Orion in net, the Badgers won’t be able to win every game 1-0.  The Badgers are continuing to build in Quebec’s mold, and new coach Kyle Barrow should be able to impart the important lessons he learned as Sam Castor’s assistant in Anchorage.  The Badgers are on a path to contend, perhaps as soon as next season.  If they can add another secondary scorer – and if they can keep their pugnacity directed at their opponents – they could become a threat in a hurry.

 

Projected Finish:

  1. Hamilton
  2. Hershey
  3. Quebec
  4. New York
  5. Boston
  6. Washington

Division Finals:

Hamilton def. Hershey

Portland def. Anchorage

Finals:

Hamiton def. Portland