Badgers Fire Coach Prince After 2 Seasons

In a move that was widely anticipated around the league, the Boston Badgers fired coach Cam Prince after two seasons on the job.  After the Badgers spent a significant amount of money adding big-name free agents this season, the front office was apparently disappointed by the extremely modest improvement in the team’s fortunes this season.  Perhaps worse, the locker room broke down into feuding cliques, and Prince showed few signs of effectiveness as either a uniter or a disciplinarian.

“Cam will always have an important role in the story of this organization, as the first coach we ever had,” said GM Jody Melchiorre.  “But we’ve been having some tough discussions here over the last couple of weeks, and we’ve made the difficult decision to go in another direction.”

Cam Prince

Prince’s sophomore season got off to an awkward start, as Prince (who used to be an assistant for the New York Night) was quoted mocking several of the Night’s star players, as well as the high expectations of the ownership and front office.  Prince’s quotes (which he later claimed were meant to be off the record) earned the Badgers a 7-3 drubbing the next time the teams faced off, and earned the coach himself a season’s worth of mockery from New York fans.

That controversy aside, the first month of Boston’s season went better than expected, as the team remained within shouting distance of the .500 mark.  After that, though, the Badgers collapsed, quickly falling out of contention and into the division basement, where they have remained ever since.  And as the team floundered, a gulf opened up between the team’s veterans and its younger players.  The veterans felt that the young players were lazy and more interested in partying than playing hard; the youngsters felt that the veterans were bitter and jealous, and lacked the speed to keep up in the modern sport.

LW Cary Estabrook, the first player ever signed by the Badgers, was symbolic of the divisions within the team.  The organization hoped the Rhode Island native could become a hometown hero; instead, his career dissolved in a haze of booze and parties.  After clashing repeatedly with Prince and team veterans, Estabrook was shipped away to Hamilton in midseason.

Prince’s inability to rein in Estabrook and some of the team’s other party animals soured his standing with the veterans.  “Prince always seemed overwhelmed by the job,” said one anonymous veteran player.  “He’d stand there on the bench, looking like a kid dressed in his dad’s suit, but when it came time to discipline guys or bring the team in line, he couldn’t do it.  And after a while, it seemed like he stopped trying.”

Last week’s locker-room brawl between defensemen Bjorn Tollefson and Graham Bellinger dramatized just how bad team morale and chemistry had gotten.  “Obviously, Bjorn shouldn’t have punched a teammate,” said the same anonymous player, “but he came from Michigan, where the locker room is a tight ship.  When he saw guys running wild and not focusing on the game, in his mind, he felt like he had to do something.  And he felt like Price wasn’t doing anything, so he had to take matters into his own hands.”

Prince was not present at the press conference announcing his firing, and reporters have been unable to reach him for comment.  Sources close to Prince say that he was stunned and devastated by the firing, and that he assumed he would have at least one more season to turn things around.

It’s not clear who Prince’s replacement will be.  Melchiorre said that assistant coach Mel Lonigan would be considered for the job, although team sources consider it unlikely that he would be hired.  Longtime Washington coach Rodney Reagle is available, and it’s expected that he will be interviewed.  Other possible candidates include Quebec assistant Sylvain Berard, Hamilton assistant Jack Thornberry and minor-league coach Butch Slazenger.

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Badgers’ Tollefson, Bellinger Square Off in Locker Room Bout

For the Boston Badgers, it’s been a frustrating season.  The Badgers spent a considerable amount of money in free agency, acquiring a passel of veterans in an effort to jump-start their growth from last year’s expansion beginnings.  In the first quarter of the season, it appeared that their investments had paid off, as the team got off to a respectable start close to the .500 mark.  After that point, though, Boston’s inexperience and lack of offensive firepower caught up with it.  The team sank to the basement and stayed there; they’re on track to finish with a record only slightly better than last year.

As the Badgers’ record has sagged, so has locker-room morale.  Sources close to the team describe a tense situation riven with factions, particularly between the older and younger players on the team.  Coach Cam Prince has reportedly struggled to patch the divides on the team.  And this week, the tension boiled over into a locker-room fracas that reportedly included actual fisticuffs.

Graham Bellinger

The alleged donnybrook took place after Sunday’s 6-1 loss to the Hamilton Pistols.  While the loss couldn’t be pinned on any one person, D Graham Bellinger had a particularly rough game, committing a couple of costly defensive-zone turnovers that led almost directly to Hamilton goals.  In the quiet postgame locker-room, Bellinger was getting dressed and talking with a couple teammates about what nightclub to go later in the evening.

Bellinger’s breezy talk irritated D Bjorn Tollefson, once of the free-agent veteran that Boston signed in the offseason.  Tollefson is a veteran of Ron Wright’s Michigan teams, and is known for his stern and businesslike demeanor.  Tollefson walked over to Bellinger and barked, “Maybe instead of going to the club, you should go to the rink and practice the outlet pass.”

Bellinger’s head snapped up, and he replied, “What the [heck] are you talking about?”

Bjorn Tollefson

Tollefson said, “You should get your head out of your [butt].  You party all the time, you cannot play defense, and you are a killer to the team.”

Bellinger stood up and snapped back, “Maybe you should quit riding my [butt] and mind your own business for a change.  You’re a washed-up old [expletive].  All you do is complain, and I’m sick of your [crap].”

Tollefson shouted, “[Screw] you.  Must I make you listen with my fists?”

Bellinger replied, “Go on, skin that smokewagon and see what happens, you fat [expletive]!”

Tollefson then lunged at Bellinger, and the two grappled and traded punches.  After a minute or so, their teammates were able to separate them.  Prince came out of his office, saw what was going on, then went back in his office and shut the door.  The locker room remained closed to reporters for a half-hour after the scuffle, and neither Tollefson nor Bellinger was around by the time the press entered.

Both players, and Bellinger in particular, looked a bit banged up during the next day’s morning skate.  Bellinger played in the next game.  Tollefson sat out, in what was believed to be a team suspension.

The Badgers were tight-lipped about the incident.  “What happens in the locker room, I don’t talk about that,” said Tollefson.  “It is only inside the family.”

“It’s a long season, and stuff happens sometimes,” Bellinger said.  “It’s over.”

Cam Prince

“A lot of people think they know what happened in our room, but they don’t,” said Prince.  “There’s a lot of bogus stories I’m hearing about this so-called ‘brawl.’  It’s ridiculous, is what it is.  These are professional athletes.  Tempers run high sometimes, but that’s it.  Sorry, folks, nothing to see here.”

Boston’s season is almost over, so it seems likely that there will be few long-term ramifications from this incident.  If anyone does pay for this, however, it’s likely to be Prince.  If the Badgers front office decide that the coach is unable to improve the team’s problematic chemistry, they might decide a new bunch boss in order.

Unsurprisingly, Prince declined to discuss whether he expects to be fired.  “I’m not even going to dignify that with a response,” the coach said in response to a question about his job status.  “Shame on you for asking.”

Outlook Hazy in Closely-Contested East

The 2019 SHL season is less than one-third of the way complete, but we’re starting to see the playoff picture take shape in the Western Division.  Barring a dramatic change of fortune, the Michigan Gray Wolves and Seattle Sailors are the favorites to make the postseason.  Similarly, the Dakota Jackalopes and Kansas City Smoke are nearly certain to be on the golf course come springtime.  That means the Anchorage Igloos and Saskatchewan Shockers will likely be chasing the Wolves and Sailors in the quest for a playoff berth.

In the East, however, nothing seems certain.  There is no obviously dominant team, and only one club appears to be out of contention.  Each of the contending teams has key strengths, but also potentially fatal weaknesses.  At this stage of the season, the East appears completely up for grabs.

“If you think you know who’s coming out of this division this year, I want to see your crystal ball,” said Pistols coach Keith Shields.  “Looks like it’s anybody’s game right now.”

The first-place Hershey Bliss won the Vandy in 2017, and the fluky shooting-percentage issues that helped doom them last season aren’t plaguing them this time around.  They’re fundamentally solid at both ends; they’re averaging 37.1 shots per game (second in the league) while allowing only 31.2 (good for fifth).  They’re also benefiting from strong special-teams play, with their power play (26% conversion rate) and penalty kill (85.5%) both in the top three in the league.

However, these numbers mask a curious weakness in 5-on-5 play, which is exposed by their -7 rating.  “5-on-5 has been a problem for us,” acknowledged Bliss coach Chip Barber.  “It’s definitely been a bittersweet season so far.”

Hershey’s biggest problem, though, may be its longest-standing one.  The Bliss have perennially struggled to find security between the pipes.  They tried hard to land an upgrade during the offseason, only to strike out and settle for re-sign incumbent Brandon Colt.  Colt’s 11-4-0 record is impressive, but his underlying numbers (2.97 GAA, .905 save percentage) are hardly dominating.  If the Bliss are going to be serious contenders, they may need to improve in net.

The New York Night have surprised many observers with a strong start, and they currently sit in second, three points behind Hershey.  They’ve been the league’s most potent offense (with 75 goals on 39.5 shots per game), which was expected.  But they’ve traditionally been doomed by poor numbers at their own end.  This year, they’ve been better than usual, thanks in large part to a strong performance from goaltender Jesse Clarkson (9-5-1, 2.78, .923).

“To me, Jesse’s been our MVP so far,” said Night coach Nick Foster.  “He’s really saved our bacon.”

There’s more truth to Foster’s statement than he might intend.  New York’s defense remains lackluster; they’re allowing 37.1 shots per game, tied for worst in the league.  If Clarkson’s numbers slip back toward his career norms, or if he gets hurt, the Night might be doomed.

In addition, the team is benefitting from a 29.3% conversion rate on power plays.  Even for New York, which traditionally thrives in man-advantage situations, that seems unsustainable.

The Hamilton Pistols made the playoffs for the first time last year, and they returned all the key players from last season’s run.  They’re thriving 5-on-5, with their +17 rating the best in the SHL.  Their defense looks even stronger than last season; they’ve allowed a mere 29.2 shots per game so far, third best in the league.  They’ve gotten typically strong netminding from Lasse Koskinen (8-5-1, 2.22, .927).  And C Calvin Frye (16 goals, 12 assists) looks like a potential MVP candidate.

So why haven’t they broken out of the pack?  One key reason is their special-teams play.  Last season, those units were among the league’s best.  This season, their 13% power-play percentage and their 75.9% PK efficiency are both second-worst in the league.

Surprisingly, the Pistols’ biggest issue may be their biggest star.  LW Steven Alexander is off to an uncharacteristically slow start; his 6 goals are tied for third-highest total on the team.  It’s possible that the notoriously sensitive Alexander was rattled by his karaoke-bar birthday misadventures in New York.  Or maybe the slump is just a temporary blip.  But Hamilton typically rises and falls on Alexander’s stick, so they need him to turn things around soon.

The Quebec Tigres came within a game of winning the Vandy last season, and they have designs on making a return trip this season.  So far, though, they’ve been unable to keep their heads about the .500 waterline.  Offensively, they continue to click, with top scorers LW Walt Camernitz and RW Stephane Mirac continuing to produce at the rate that got them to the playoffs last year.

Ultimately, though, Quebec’s success is built around defense and goaltending, as always.  And while they’ve been solid in those areas this year, they haven’t been quite as good as they need to be.  They’re allowing 30 shots per game, fourth in the league.  Good, but not top-tier.  Goalie Riki Tiktuunen (6-6-3, 2.30, .923) has been good, but has not duplicated the form that won Goaltender of the Year last season.  The team needs Tiktuunen to perform at that elite level to succeed.

Tigres coach Martin Delorme argued that the injury to top blueliner Richard McKinley has hit his team hard.  “We are still trying to find our best pairings in his absence,” Delorme said.  “To lose a player of his caliber, it is a challenge.”  The coach did not rule out the possibility of Quebec upgrading their defensive corps via trade.

The Boston Badgers are surprisingly on the fringes of the race, despite the fact that they were an expansion team last season.  Top draft choice C Alain Beauchesne looks like the Rookie of the Year front-runner so far (11 goals, 16 assists), and G Roger Orion (5-8-2, 2.75, .916) looks like the free-agent game-changer that Boston’s front office was hoping for.

“Rog is a good enough goalie to keep you in any game,” said Badgers coach Cam Prince.

In the long run, it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to contend this season.  They’re currently being outshot 32.4 to 21.2 on average, and that’s too big a gap for even a scrappy Badgers team to overcome.  “I’d never say never with this bunch,” Prince cautioned.  “They’ve got a lot of fight in them.”

Even the last-place Washington Galaxy, stuck in last and seemingly headed for a dismal year, have a possible case for optimism.  Their 7.95% shooting percentage is among the league’s worst, and seems due to revert to the mean.  Then again, people said that about the Bliss last season, and they never recovered from their horrendous start.  And Hershey’s defense was a lot better than Washington’s leaky unit (which is allowing 37.1 shots per game).

“When it rains, it pours,” said Galaxy C Eddie Costello.  “And it feels like we’ve been living through a hurricane.”

There’s plenty of time for the race to shake out and for some teams to separate themselves from the pack.  For now, though, it’s a wild and wide-open ride for the Eastern teams and their fans.

Prince Blasts Night, Gets Bronx Cheer in NY

Boston Badgers coach Cam Prince put his foot in his mouth this week when speaking about his old team, the New York Night.  Prince’s ill-advised comments provided the Night with some bulletin-board fodder and led to a rude reception when the Badgers went to the Big Apple.

Cam Prince

On Sunday, Prince spoke to a Boston reporter about the ups and downs of life with the Badgers, who were an expansion team last season but are off to a competitive start this year.  At one point, the reporter asked Prince about his time in New York, where he served as assistant coach to Preston Rivers for a couple seasons.  Prince laughed and said, “Ah, New York… that was an educational experience.”

Pressed to elaborate, the coach said his time in New York “taught me how important it is for ownership and the front office to have a realistic view of your team… [Night management] expected us to win championships when we didn’t have the talent.  I mean, come on, you’re going to win the Vandy with Rick NelsonChase Winchester?  A top D pairing that can’t defend?  You’re smoking crack if you think you can go all the way with that.  But [owner Marvin] Kingman thought we could.”

Prince added that current Night bench boss Nick Foster “is a damn good coach, but he’ll get run out of there in a year or two.  Why?  Because you can’t win a title with that talent, but the guys at the top won’t accept less.  Here [in Boston], ownership and the front office understand what a winning team looks like, and that it takes time to build one.”

The story ran the next day, and immediately generated a firestorm of criticism.  After initially claiming he’d been misquoted, Prince then claimed he’d thought he was off the record when he made his remarks.  The reporter countered that they’d never talked about going off the record.

The Night reacted with a mix of outrage and glee.  Nelson represented the former: “Anyone who thinks we can’t win a championship with me is the one smoking crack.  If anything, it should be impossible not to win with a star as great as me. I’m a gift to any team.”

Foster, on the other hand, seemed delighted by the dust-up.  “Boy, Cam really kicked the hornet’s nest, didn’t he?” the coach said when informed of Prince’s controversial interview.  “I’ll bet the wonderful folks here in New York will be happy to remind him about it.  And we’re here in first place with Rick and Winch and all those players he called losers.  But hey, he called me a ‘damn good coach.’  So him and me, we’re all right!”

As bad luck would have it, Prince’s Badgers were scheduled to play at Neon Sky Center on Tuesday.  During the introductions, Night PA announcer Sonny Claussen rattled off Boston’s starting lineup, then paused before saying, “And now, let’s all give a big New York welcome to Badgers coach Cam Prince!”  As the arena filled with boos and shouted curses, Claussen played the ‘90s hit “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” by the Spin Doctors.  The first couplet of the song goes as follows: “Been a whole lot easier since the [expletive] left town/Been a whole lot happier without her face around.”  The camera zeroed in on Prince, who gave a half-hearted wave while grimacing.  The fans continued to harass Prince and the Badgers throughout the game.

After the 7-3 drubbing, in which New York scored six goals in the third period, Prince seemed to take the heckling in stride.  “I guess I had that coming,” said the coach.  “I shot my mouth off, and they responded in kind.  But hey, if the Boston-New York rivalry needed a jump start, I guess I provided that.  And don’t worry, I still love New York.  Or at least the pizza!”

Continue reading “Prince Blasts Night, Gets Bronx Cheer in NY”

Badgers Find No Escape on Bonding Trip

Cam Prince

As the Boston Badgers have struggled through their inaugural season, coach Cam Prince has looked for ways to encourage bonding among his players.  And with a number of new faces on the team after the recent trading deadline, Prince felt it was especially important to give his players a chance to get to know each other better.

With that in mind, on the Badgers’ trip to New York this week, Prince decided to take his players to an escape room.  In this increasingly popular form of entertainment, a group of players is locked in a room and must solve a series of riddles and puzzles in order to get out.  The Badgers’ trip to the room proved highly entertaining, but there were several surprises along the way that got in the way of the bonding aspect.

Since there are limits on the number of players that can share a single escape room, Prince divided his squad into four groups.  One group consisted of the top two forward lines; C Jens Bunyakin captained that group.  Another group included the third line and reserve forwards; F Randy O’Connor was in charge of that group.  The third group included the top two defensive pairings and starting goalie Dennis Wampler, with D Timothy “Cyclone” Winston as captain.  The final group included the bottom defensive pairing, reserve blueliner Horst Hasenkamp, and backup goalie Carson Wagner as captain.

The squabbles began as soon as the teams were announced.  Ds Jurgen Braun and Moose Baker argued over which of them was a second-pairing defender and thus belonged with Winston’s group; Prince ruled in favor of Braun.  Bunyakin asked to trade RW Gene Kennedy to Winston’s group for Wampler, a known puzzle enthusiast; Prince said that there would be no trades.  Wagner suggested scrapping the groups altogether and letting the captains pick teams; that request was also denied.

“If our guys don’t make it in hockey, they should all become lawyers,” said assistant coach Mark Morganhurst.  “They’re all great at arguing.”

Once the groups were locked away in their respective rooms, further hijinks ensued.  In Bunyakin’s group, RW Jorma Seppa and Kennedy were chained together, and had to find a key to free themselves.  Unfortunately, this confinement brought out a previously unknown claustrophobia in Kennedy, who suffered a panic attack and had to be calmed by Bunyakin until the key could be found.

“Fortunately, I have a 3-year-old at home,” said Bunyakin, “which equipped me perfectly to deal with Gene.”

In Winston’s room, there was a jigsaw puzzle that the team had to assemble in order to find a clue.  Wampler and D Brody “Bruiser” McCallan both wanted to be in charge of assembling the puzzle.  The disagreement became so heated that the two nearly came to blows and had to be separated by their groupmates.

“Wamp’s giving up at least 70 pounds to Bruiser in that fight,” said Winston, “so I knew we had to stop it.  I didn’t want to explain to Coach that we had to put our starting goalie on the DL because Bruiser broke him in the escape room.”

O’Connor’s group managed to figure out all of the clues well within the 60-minute time limit.  But when they tried to leave their room, they found that they couldn’t.  Escape room staff spent an additional half-hour just trying to free the trapped group.  As it turned out, the prank-loving Kennedy had jammed the lock to their room.  When O’Connor finally emerged, he had to be restrained from choking Kennedy.

“I hoped that this evening would bring us closer together,” said Prince.  “I’m not sure if we succeeded in that, or if we brought guys closer to killing each other.”

Wagner’s group wound up getting out first, despite being the smallest group of the four.  “Maybe we’ve just got a head for these things,” said Wagner.  “Or maybe it’s because we just focused on getting out instead of trying to fight each other.”

Prince said that he would continue to seek out bonding opportunities for his team.  He doesn’t plan to try another escape room, though.  “I’m pretty sure that once this story gets out,” said the Boston coach, “we’ll be banned from every escape room on the continent.”

Estabrook’s Troubles Come to A Head

Cary Estabrook

It’s been a difficult season for Boston Badgers RW Cary Estabrook.  The 23-year-old winger signed with Boston last year – the first player ever signed by the Badgers – while he was rehabbing from a major knee injury.  He made the team out of training camp, but he has struggled badly this season.  Estabrook’s injury seems to have robbed him of some explosiveness, and he has struggled to adjust to the speed of the professional game.  He has yet to record a point this season.

An already difficult season got worse for Estabrook this week, as a couple of incidents got him in hot water with Badgers coach Cam Prince.

Prince has been trying to impose some discipline on his young and struggling team, holding additional practices and meetings.  The coach called a team meeting on Monday morning to discuss the team’s work ethic, which he felt has been lacking.  Estabrook overslept and missed the meeting, and didn’t show up until halfway through that day’s practice.

“I just forgot to set my alarm, I guess,” Estabrook told reporters.  “I knew we had a meeting, and I was planning to go, but then I woke up and looked at the clock like, ‘Oh [expletive], I’m late.’”

Prince responded by fining Estabrook $500 and benching him for the next day’s game against the Hershey Bliss.  “We’re all professionals here, and part of that is taking responsibility and getting where you need to be on time.  If Cary had bothered to show up for the meeting, he would have heard me talk about that.”

Estabrook was back in the lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Michigan Gray Wolves, although he saw his minutes significantly limited.  In the middle of the third period, the puck was flipped out of play and into the Badgers’ bench, where Estabrook was sitting.  The winger decided to flip the puck over the glass to a fan sitting behind him.  Unfortunately, the puck didn’t get the height that Estabrook intended, and it wound up failing to clear the glass… and striking his coach straight in the forehead.

Prince clutched his forehead and doubled over as the trainer and assistant coaches rushed to his aid.  As Estabrook turned around and realized what he had done, his heart sank.  “God, that’s the last thing I needed,” the winger said.  “That’s how bad my year is going: I try to give a fan a souvenir and I wind up beaning my coach in the head.  I just can’t keep the ball out of the gutter.”

Although the puck opened up a cut on Prince’s forehead that bled profusely, he was able to get things under control and did not require stitches.  He was initially upset about the incident, but he softened after Estabrook apologized and explained what happened.

“There’s always a risk of flying pucks when you’re on the bench, but you don’t usually expect friendly fire,” Prince told reporters after the game.  “I know Cary and I have been butting heads lately, but I believe he wasn’t out to get me.  It’s just one of those unfortunate things that can happen to anybody.”

Estabrook now faces the tougher challenge of getting his lost season back on track.  Rumors around the team suggest that the winger, a Rhode Island native whom the Badgers hoped would become a face of the franchise, is struggling with the weight of expectations and has been drinking and partying to excess to relieve some of the stress.  According to those rumors, his “oversleeping” on Monday was actually the result of a hangover.

Estabrook denied that specific charge, although he was vague on the subject of his late-night habits.  “It’s been a hard time for me all around,” he admitted.  “I’m not going to respond to rumors or anonymous quotes.  The bottom line is, I’ve got to buckle down and get myself straightened out.  That’s all there is to it.”

Interview of the Week: Cam Prince

This week’s interview is with newly-named Boston Badgers coach Cam Prince.

SHL Digest: This week, the Boston Badgers named their first-ever coach, Cam Prince.  And we have the honor of being the first to interview him.  Cam, thanks for speaking with us.

Cam Prince

Cam Prince: I’m glad to be here!  This is an exciting day for me.

SHLD: This is your first head coaching job.  How does it feel to be getting your first shot with a brand-new team?

CP: It’s a very cool opportunity, to tell you the truth.  It’s a total blank canvas here.  I’m so excited to be working with [GM] Jody Melchiorre to build this team from the ground up.

SHLD: What convinced you to take this job?

CP: A number of things.  I really like the opportunity to grow together with the team.  And I think Boston is just a tremendous hockey team.  So many diehard fans here.  Finding a way to win them over to the Badgers is going to be a lot of fun.

SHLD: Jody has said that he wants to build a scrappy, hard-working, defense-first team.  Meanwhile, you were an assistant coach for New York, which is a very offense-oriented team.  Are you prepared to coach a team full of grinders?

CP: Oh, absolutely.  My time with the Night definitely showed the limitations of an offense-only approach.  And as an expansion team, it’s generally easier to put together a scrappy team rather than a squad of elite scorers.

SHLD: Speaking of your time with New York: Do you think that was a factor in your being selected as coach?  Kind of trying to get started on the Boston-New York rivalry?

CP: I don’t think so.  I mean, that might have been one reason they interviewed me.  But it’s not like the Night fans have a lot of memories of me, or are going to have a grudge against me.  I mean, Preston Rivers, sure.  But I wasn’t as memorable as him.

SHLD: What about on your end?  Do you have a personal rivalry with the Night?

CP: There’s no love lost there, I can promise that.  I’ll definitely be fired up to coach against them.  And if we can finish ahead of them in the standings, that will be a successful season in my book.

SHLD: So far, you have a grand total of one player: Cary Estabrook.  Have you met him yet?

CP: (laughs) Not yet.  I talked to him on the phone this morning.  I told him I was looking forward to meeting the team.  He said, “Well, you just did.”

SHLD: Care to make any predictions about how your first season will go?

CP: Before I even have players?  Sure, we’re going to win the Vandy! (laughs)  Seriously, with the [expansion draft] protection rules, I think we’ll have a chance to put together a solid team.  Are we going to make the playoff right out of the box?  I wouldn’t think so.  But we should be able to re respectable, at least.  And like I said, if we can beat New York, that will be a win for me.

SHLD: Well, we should let you get back to building your team.  Congratulations, and good luck next season!

CP: Thanks!  I can’t wait to get started.