For all of those of you fed up with a National Hockey League in lockout limbo (more like lockout hell some might suggest), know that St. John’s IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge shares your disgruntlement.
“It has gotten to that point, it has,” answered McCambridge Monday when asked if the yo-yo pace of negotiations between the NHL and its players union has become a distraction at the minor-league level.
“It’s gotten to where you just want to know what’s going to take place, who you are going to have, who you are not going to have.”
McCambridge suggested the dragged-out lockout is now having a tangible affect on AHL teams like his.
“Where is the motivation? You have an older team, guys knocking on the door if they’re on top of their games, (but) there’s not that push to get to the NHL and earn a National league salary,” he said. “I think that’s something that weighs on players’ minds. Any other year, you have that carrot, that if you play well, here’s your opportunity.
“That’s not there now.”
McCambridge said he has talked to other AHL coaches who have the same opinion.
“I feel that’s the reason behind some of these teams that look like one thing on paper, but that they’re not quite what they should be.”
The IceCaps take on the Hershey Bears tonight and Wednesday at Mile One Centre in a matchup of teams with identical 11-12-1 records and similar rosters, made up in large part of minor-league veterans and players who have seen part-time work in the NHL.
That doesn’t describe the Springfield Falcons, a team with a half-dozen players who will go straight to the Columbus Blue Jackets if the lockout ends. The Falcons extended St. John’s losing streak to three games by beating the IceCaps Friday and Saturday at Mile One and while McCambridge said he “liked the will” his injury-plagued side showed against Springfield, the challenge was tough to overcome.
“Right now, we’re an American Hockey League team that just played a team with a swarm of NHL guys,” he said. “We are as we would be every year if there is no a lockout — an American Hockey League team, cut and dried.”
While the IceCaps’ coach is anxious for the lockout to end, he also admitted there would also probably be relief for many AHL teams — St. John’s included — if the decision was made to cancel the NHL season altogether.
“At least it will be black and white,” he said. “(The players) will know once and for all where they will be playing (for the remainder of the season) and we’ll know what we have. There’s so much grey right now.”
The same nine remain on the shelf
There is no good news for the IceCaps on the injury front heading into these games against Hershey. Those nine players who were unavailable against Springfield Saturday will be unavailable tonight.
For the record, that’s team captain Jason Jaffray (shoulder), forwards Jason King and Hunter Tremblay (both concussion-like symptoms), centres Eric O’Dell (ankle) and Patrice Cormier (knee), forward Alex Burmistrov (unspecified, but believed to be shoulder-related), defencemen Travis Ramsey and Julian Melchiori (both with broken fingers) and forward John Albert, who hasn’t been right since being hit from behind in a game against Portland five weeks ago.
In fact, the prognosis on Albert — who, along with Burmistrov, went to Winnipeg last week to be checked out by Jets’ medical personnel — has actually gone from day-to-day to an expectation he’ll be on the shelf for four weeks.
“It’s a nerve. When he gets hit in the back, there is a tingling sensation in his arm,” said McCambridge.
And while there had been hope Melchiori might be able to return fairly soon, it turns out he has a compound fracture, meaning he too, will be out for at least four weeks.
McCambridge won’t be guided into offering the injuries as the reason for the IceCaps’ recent losses, but even then, can’t help revealing the frustrations of the moment.
“I really felt we just making some really good strides coming out of that road trip (earlier this month, which saw St. John’s win two of three). We were just starting to build momentum,” he said before reverting to stiff upper lip mode.
“It is a long season, but we have to make sure we’re bringing our (best) game every night no matter who isn’t in the lineup, and we have to make sure we’re not feeling sorry for ourselves.”
Sol recalled from Colorado
The nine injured players represents exactly one-third of the IceCaps’ roster of 27 skaters, or at least it will until defenceman Cody Sol arrives here.
With St. John’s down to 12 forwards and six rearguards in terms of healthy skaters, and the team looking ahead to a five-game pre-Christmas road trip after these matchups with Hershey, the 21-year-old Sol has been recalled from the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles.
Sol, who had three goals and two assists in 21 games for Colorado and sits fifth in the ECHL with 93 penalty minutes, is six-foot-six and 245 pounds, immediately making him the biggest player on the IceCaps.
Sol has been to two training camps with St. John’s and almost made the IceCaps last fall before being returned to Kitchener of the OHL for an overage junior year. But while he has yet to play a regular-season game for St. John’s, if and when Sol suits up for the IceCaps, it won’t represent his first AHL contest. A fifth-round 2009 draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers, he appeared in one game for the Chicago Wolves as a 19-year-old in 2010.
The Bears also recalled a defenceman from their ECHL affiliate this week, bringing in Brett Fleming from the Reading Royals. The difference? While Flemming had to travel 80 kilometres from Reading, Pa., to Hershey to hook up with the Bears, Sol’s trip involves 4,230 kilometres in air distance between Colorado and Newfoundland.