Coaches and managers in all sports extoll the importance of having veterans on a team.
The St. John’s IceCaps have plenty of veterans. In a way — at least in the here and now — it could be said they have too many.
That overflow in experience is at least partly responsible for the IceCaps’ decision to cut ties with forward Brian Sutherby, a former first-round draft pick with 460 NHL games to his credit.
The 30-year-old Sutherby, who had been operating on a professional try-out, (PTO) has been released by the IceCaps without having appeared in either of their first two games this season.
He was one of nine players on the roster who fell somewhere under the American Hockey League’s rules designating official veterans, rules which permit teams to dress, at the most, six such players in a game.
Forwards Jason King, Spencer Machacek, Aaron Gagnon and Ben Maxwell, along with defencemen Derek Meech and Dean Arsene, filled those veteran slots in the first two games and head coach Keith McCambridge said none had a performance that had him considering a change for the IceCaps’ home-opening game against the Adirondack Phantoms at Mile One Centre tonight (7:30 p.m., Rogers Television and CJYQ/930AM).
“It would have been nice to get (Sutherby) into a regular-season game, but number-wise, veteran wise, there weren’t any guys who let a position slip open,” said McCambridge,
“It was a decision from Winnipeg and ourselves that we would move forward (without him).”
Sutherby was the Washington Capitals’ first-round draft pick in 2000 and had played in the NHL for the Capitals, Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars, earning a reputation as a reliable defensive forward. However, he appeared in just 15 games with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage in 2011-12, missing most of the season after surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.
“He was brought in obviously to see if he could help out here and possibly be a potential guy for the (parent) Winnipeg Jets,” said McCambridge.
“We knew he hadn’t played a lot of hockey over the lasty year, so it was going to take some time to get his speed back up and his game to where it needs to be.”
McCambridge said the IceCaps concluded — given the current situation — it was unlikely they could provide Sutherby with the opportunity he needed.
“We already have (Derek) Whitmore sitting out and (captain Jason) Jaffray out and coming back to the lineup next week, so that’s two other veterans right there,” noted the coach.
“Sutherby’s a good NHL-experienced guy, (but) we see some guys in our organization potentially ready to fill the spot he was brought in to fill.”
Fans will get to chant “Eddie, Eddie!” tonight as Eddie Pasquale gets the start in goal for the IceCaps in the home-opener.
Newcomer Mark Dekanich was solid with 35 saves in St. John’s first win of the season, a 3-2 decision over the Connecticut Whale on Sunday, but tonight, McCambridge is opting to go with Pasquale, who emerged from what had been a three-netminder rotation last season to take over the No. 1 spot and later become a playoff hero.
Pasquale had 29 saves as the IceCaps fell 4-2 to the Springfield Falcons Saturday in St. John’s first game of the season.
“Dekanich was obviously really strong (in his start). Eddie had a real strong performance in Springfield, too. They both performed as they should perform,” said McCambridge, “but it’s Pasquale getting the opportunity tonight.”
When asked if he would eventually stay with the hot hand or preferred alternating his netminders, McCambridge answered: “I have, if you will, a master plan my head on how I would like things play out. Performance, quality of shots, the amount of work the goalie has on a given night. I’ll assess those things after each game and then make a decision.
“I do know it’s early in the year, so you need to get guys the ice time, the games they need under their belts.”
Given the way he left Thursday’s practice session at Mile One, St. John’s sophomore forward Carl Klingberg would have at least be listed as doubtful for tonight’s game.
During a drill, Klingberg was involved in a crease collision. He remained on the ice for some time before being helped to his feet and assisted off the ice by athletic therapist Alain Chabbert and a teammate.
Klingberg was in obvious pain and was coasting, not moving his legs, as he departed. After the practice, McCambridge said the Swedish winger would be reassessed this morning, only saying it looked like an injury that he had before “that popped up on him again.”
Every AHL team has benefitted roster-wise from players who would normally be in the NHL if there wasn’t a lockout, but few have done better than the Phantoms, whose lineup features seven players who appeared in 24 or more big-league games with the parent Philadelphia Flyers last season.
That group is headlined by 19-year-old Sean Couturier (77 games with Philadelphia), Zac Rinaldo (66), Brayden Schenn (54), Marc-Andre Bourdon (45), Harry Zolnierczyk (37), Eric Gustaffson and Eric Wellwood (24). And yes, the latter is the younger brother of former St. John’s Maple Leaf Kyle Wellwood.
In early games, Couturier and Schenn have played on a line with Rinaldo, who had 232 penalty minutes with the Flyers last season and 331 with Adirondack in 2010-11.
The Phantoms’ head coach also was in the NHL last season. That’s Terry Murray, who began the 2011-12 campaign as coach of the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings until he was replaced by Darry Sutter in mid-December.
The Phantoms’ assistant coaches are former NHL defenceman Kjell Samuellson and one-time Flyers’ tough guy Riley Cote, whose first pro season (2002-03) included a half-dozen games with the St. John’s Leafs ... Adirondack rearguard Oliver Lauridsen truly is a great Dane. Lauridsen, a native of Gentofte, Denmark who played American college hockey at St. Cloud State, is listed at six-foot-six, 220 pounds ... The Phantoms had originally been located in Philadelphia and playing out of what was the old Spectrum, beginning in 1996. In 2009, when the Spectrum was closed (and later demolished), the franchise was relocated to Glens Falls, N.Y., which had been home to the Adirondack Red Wings for two decades (1979-1999). The Phantoms’ move to Glens Falls has always been described as temporary as plans are to have the team transfer back to Pennsylvania play out of a facility under construction in Allentown. The move to Allentown is scheduled to take place in 2014. (All baby boomers should be humming a Billy Joel song at this point).