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.”

Jackalopes Slice Payroll Again, Deal Cherner, Anderson

One of the ongoing storylines in the SHL over the last couple of seasons has been the Dakota Jackalopes’ financial stability.  The Jackalopes have steadily pared payroll over the last couple of seasons, to the point that observers around the league have wondered whether the team will survive.  Those rumors bubbled up early this season when Dakota dealt netminder Dennis Wampler a few weeks after signing him to a sizable free-agent deal.  They swirled again a couple weeks later when goalie Christien Adamsson ripped the team as “cheap” in a postgame rant.

With the trading deadline arriving this week, the Jackalopes were expected to consider trades that would reduce their payroll even further.  They did just that, trading both of their top-pairing defenseman north of the border: Matt Cherner was dealt to the Quebec Tigres, while Rusty Anderson was sent to the surging Saskatchewan Shockers.

Predictably, the trades set off another round of rumors that the Jackalopes are in financial trouble.  GM Paul Mindegaard stoutly rebuffed those rumors while announcing the deals to the press.  “Neither of these was a dump deal,” said Mindegaard.  “These are hockey trades, and we think they’re going to make us stronger in the long run.”

Mindegaard noted that both Cherner and Anderson will be free agents in this offseason, and that Dakota had concluded that they couldn’t resign either player.  “We’ve been in talks with Matt’s and Rusty’s agents for a while now, but we’ve recognized there isn’t a fit there,” the Dakota GM stated.  “And we’re not competing for a playoff spot, so we made the difficult decision to make these trades and get some value back.”

The trade of Cherner was particularly hard on both the player and the fans.  The defenseman has been with Dakota since the SHL’s inception, and he has developed over time into one of the league’s top two-way defensemen.  Cherner has also been vocal about his desire to stay with the Jackalopes.  When news of the deal came down, he broke down in front of reporters.

“I’ve really been hoping there was a way that this wouldn’t happen,” Cherner said.  “Playing for this team in front of these fans has been a real joy.  This has become my home.  I guess I’ve seen the writing on the wall for a while, but now that it’s here, I just – just can’t… sorry, I have to stop now.”

In exchange for Cherner, the Tigres sent D Kirby Hanlon, C Jacob Cunniff, and their first-round pick to Dakota.  The 21-year-old Hanlon is having a solid rookie season with Quebec, putting up 16 points (3 goals, 13 assists).  Cunniff, also 21, has been a steady contributor with Quebec’s CHL affiliate (12 goals, 20 assists on the season), and he addresses a position of need for the Jackalopes, who are very weak in the middle.

“Matt’s one of the best defensemen in the league, and we weren’t going to let him go for cheap,” said Mindegaard.  “We got two very promising young guys – a quality blueliner and a top prospect center – plus a first.  I’ll stand behind that.”

Quebec, meanwhile, views Cherner as just the shot in the arm they need to make up ground in the East playoff race.  “Our identity is built around defense first,” said Tigres GM Pete Gondret.  “We’ve struggled a bit with keeping guys healthy, but we’ve added the best player available at the deadline.  I can’t wait to see what he achieves with us.”

To acquire Anderson, the Shockers parted with C Tanner Brooks.  The 22-year-old appeared in the CHL All-Star game; he’s known as strong on defense, and his offensive game has blossomed this season.  He’s widely regarded as the best center who hadn’t yet made the SHL.

“Tanner is a player we’ve coveted for a long time,” said Mindegaard.  “Between him and Jake Cunniff, we’ve gotten a lot stronger in our weakest area.  We’ve taken a step back on the blueline, but we have a lot of defensive prospects in the pipeline.”

This is the first time Saskatchewan has been a buyer at the deadline, and GM Cooper Matthews appreciates his haul.  “Rusty Anderson fits right in with our blueline corps, and strengthens us in an area where we’re already strong,” Matthews told reporters.  “It was a tough decision to part with Tanner, and I know I probably made [the Jackalopes] crazy going back and forth on that.  But we see an opportunity here, and we’re going for it.”

It must be noted that with the deals, the Jackalopes shaved about $2 million off of a payroll that was already second-lowest in the league.  Mindegaard stressed that he plans to work quickly to sign extensions with their newly-acquired players, as well as key members of their existing team.  “

“We’re not going broke, folks,” said the Dakota GM.  “Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s fake news.”

Shockers, Tigres Lead List of Uni Changes for 2018

The SHL’s 2018 season will see the addition of two new teams, the Boston Badgers and Kansas City Smoke.  But Boston’s and Kansas City’s uniforms aren’t the only new threads that fans will see on the ice this year.  Almost half of the league’s existing teams are making changes to their looks, with two teams – the Quebec Tigres and Saskatchewan Shockers – making major overhauls.

New Quebec Tigres Home Uniform

According to Quebec GM Pete Gondret, the Tigres’ revamp was the brainchild of owner Marc Delattre, who felt that the team’s old uniforms – which famously featured striped sleeves and socks – were too busy.  “Mr. Delattre was not a fan of our old costumes,” said Gondret.  “When he watched our games, he said ‘We look like a junior team, not professional.'”  Delattre wound up hiring fashion designer Rene Saramond to develop something cleaner.

Saramond’s design, which was reportedly inspired by vintage hockey sweater designs of the 1920s, preserved the stripes, but compressed them into a narrower band across the chest, sleeves, and socks.  Each band contains seven stripes, which symbolize the seven gates in the ramparts that surrounded the old city of Quebec.

“These uniforms are a perfect blend of old and new,” said Gondret.  “They speak to the history and tradition of both hockey and of Quebec, but at the same time they are fresh and sleek and modern.”

The Tigres unveiled their new jerseys at a season-ticket holder event in late November.  Captain Stephane Mirac, who modeled the home jersey, said that he is a fan of the new look.  “The old uniforms, they were a bit too garish,” Mirac told reporters.  “Now, we have a better look, and as we start winning more games, we can be proud of how we look and how we play.”

Meanwhile, the Shockers’ uniforms are largely similar in design to last year’s, but they’ve made a significant change to their color scheme.  Previously, the Shockers were notorious around the league for sporting the eye-searing combination of yellow and seafoam green  Reportedly, this unusual look was chosen by owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz, as those are his favorite colors.

New Saskatchewan Shockers Home Uniform

The fact that the colors clashed with one another apparently did not trouble the owner, although it did trouble Shockers fans and players.  Former Saskatchewan RW Daniel Bellanger, who played for the Shockers for half a season in 2015, likened the color combo to “a wound that is infected and filled with pus.”

After years of lobbying by the players, coaches, and front office, Doofenshmirtz finally relented this season, dropping seafoam and replacing it with electric blue.  GM Cooper Matthews hailed the new look, calling it “striking and eye-catching, but more pleasant to look at.”

Upon receiving news of the new colors, Saskatchewan players erupted in celebration.  C Napoleon Beasley declared the new combination “really cool!  We’ve got a new look we can be proud of.  The old look kind of made guys a little sick just looking at it, to tell the truth.  And we definitely came in for a lot of heckling about it from fans in other arenas.  But that’s over now!  Now they can just heckle us for our play instead, and that’s way better.”

A couple of other teams are making smaller but still noticeable changes to their uniforms for the new season:

  • The New York Night are are making a number of tweaks, adding drop shadows to the numbers on the back of their uniforms and adding more silver to their black-and-white-heavy palette. They’ve also gone from single-color stripes to a two-color pattern on their home and road unis (and changed the stripe pattern on their alternates to match.)  GM Royce McCormick called their new look “sophisticated and classy, just like our city.”
  • The Washington Galaxy have added white outlines to the logo on the front of their home jersey and to the numbers and name on the back.  According to GM Garnet “Ace” Adams, the team made the tweaks in response to feedback from fans, who sometimes had a hard time reading the jerseys from the upper rows of the Constellation Center.  “We always put the fans first,” said Adams, “and we want them to be able to see who they’re cheering for.”  In addition, the team switched from gold to blue numbers on their road jerseys, as well as changing from red socks and helmets to white.