Every off-season is full of questions, and while the off-season hasn’t officially started for the entire league yet, these are five things that are jumping around in my head this week.
5. Who is in, who is out (teams)? It comes up every season… which teams are coming back and which teams are not? We know already about Chicago (with a classic clip of Steve Martinson fighting inside the penalty box). We know the story in Victoria.
But there are always rumors about teams coming in and other teams departing with unforeseen circumstances. The thing is, these days nothing is a secret or unforeseen. News is out there, and word travels fast. Chat rooms, facebook, twitter, and even websites like OurSportsCentral.com all make information travel as fast as possible. At this point, if there are any other changes to the ECHL landscape the news is out there somewhere… isn’t it??
4. Did Joe Thornton read my blog and change his ways? OK, this isn’t really about the Condors off-season, but I need to address it. His OT game winner last night sent the Kings spiraling into the off-season a bit premature. Yes, he got a lucky bounce, but you get lucky bounces when you’re in the right position, which he was. It was also Jumbo Joe’s second game winning goal since I blogged last week about his horrible playoff reputation.
Kings fans are surely disappointed by their early exit. But they played a helluva series and I’m sure made some more fans for the intensity in which they battled. By the way Kings fans, you’ll have to wait an extra long time for the start of next season, since they are inexplicably starting next season in Europe (I’ll blog again on that horrendous idea later in the summer).
3. What is my official sign that the season is over? That’s an easy one. The season is over when equipment manager John Doolan departs Bakersfield, which he did this morning at the crack of dawn to return to his permanent residence in Kansas City. You see, even when there are no games left to play, there is still a locker room, still sticks and tape and equipment and jerseys and player items to take care of. But all of that ends when Dools leaves town. The locker room, for all intents and purposes, it closed, locked up and dark when Dools leaves town.
Alas, Dools is gone. Therefore, henceforth, when I refer to “this season” you will know that I am referring to the 2011-12 campaign.
2. Who will win the Kelly Cup? Victoria over Kalamazoo.
1. Who is in, who is out (players)? This is not an easy one. The grass is always greener in May and June and July than it is in September. And for a lot of guys, the grass is the greenest shade imaginable in Europe. And still more players are under the impression that they will get an opportunity in the American Hockey League.
However, if half of every ECHL team roster ended up going to Europe and playing in the AHL, there’d be no room on the rosters for actual Europeans, and there would be no space in the AHL for NHL teams to place their 6-10 new rookie prospects that they add every season. So while there may be a dozen guys that say they aren’t coming back with plans to strike it rich in Europe and the AHL, I will say “see you next season” to the whole group and I’m sure it will be applicable to several who don’t expect it.
For the most part the 2010-11 roster of Condors will not be Condors in 2011-12, but you never know. You watched this team this season, as did I. If you remove your emotional prejudices from your judgment, you could probably select a handful of guys who were solid contributors whose return would benefit this organization. Who is on your list? Not everybody’s favorite will return this season. Perhaps your favorite player will never be a Condor again. Perhaps he will be back and be that familiar face you look forward to seeing on the first day of training camp.
What are the reasons for a player coming back or not? Think like a coach, who has X’s and O’s and needs for role players and guys that can be leaned on in pressure situations. Did your guy score any big goals this season? Did he do the little things that coaches like? Is he tough along the boards? Does he always hurry back and get his man on the backcheck? Does he hustle to the bench for a line change? Was he always the first one into the corner after loose pucks, even though he knew he was going to be hit hard? Can he play in every situation during the course of a game? And what is the air-speed velocity of an unlaiden swallow?
Brace yourself for the hard fact that there is a good chance your favorite player won’t be back next season. Personally, I would love to have a bit of continuity in the roster, but that’s a trend that is difficult to reverse for everyone in the ECHL. But either way, rest assured you will find another favorite this season.
Kevin Bartl is the Vice President of Communications for the Condors and part of the broadcast team, entering his ninth season with the team. His blog will come out every Tuesday on BakersfieldCondors.com. And bonus points if you identified the Monty Python reference.