IceCaps, not wanting to disturb current winning chemistry, stand pat on on AHL trade deadline day
The St. John’s IceCaps made moves at the last two American Hockey League trade deadlines and with the recent loss of leading scorer Kael Mouillierat to injury, there was some expectation that this year they might look at swinging some sort of a deal to address the situation.
But Wednesday’s deadline came and passed without St. John’s doing anything.
IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge wouldn’t say whether the team was mulling over something with regards to a trade or loan-out, or if there were offers coming in, but it’s obvious there was consideration given to what effect a move or moves — maybe even just the tinkering kind — would have had on a winning lineup and contented dressing room.
“I’ll say this. I like the work ethic of this group and we realize there is good chemistry in that room and we didn’t want to disrupt that,” said McCambridge on Thursday as his team — on a nine-game winning streak — prepared for tonight’s game against the Portland Pirates at Mile One Centre.
The attention to chemistry also applies to when it comes to possible line juggling.
An example: With John Albert and Eric O’Dell on recall to the parent Winnipeg Jets, the IceCaps are much thinner at centre. McCambridge could have moved Patrice Cormier, who has been playing on the wing on a line with Blair Riley and Kyle McKinnon, back to centre, where he has mostly operated during his three years as an IceCap. Instead, he made a temporary pivot out of Josh Lunden, who last played as a regular centre five years ago when he was at the University of Alaska-Anchorage.
“I thought about the idea of splitting them up,” McCambridge said of the Cormier-McKinnon-Riley partnership. “We actually did split them up for one practice — and I didn’t like it. We realized those three are reading off each other well in all three zones, so I’d like to keep them together for as long as I can, which is as long as we can maintain balance on our four lines.”
Going by tweets and e-mailed inquiries, there are quite a few people reading tea leaves when it comes to the two teams that will square off in a National Hockey League exhibition game at Mile One Centre in September, the thinking being that it’s an indication the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators may be frontrunners to provide a new affiliate for the IceCaps once the Winnipeg Jets do their westward-ho! move in 2015.
Truth is, any NHL team is in the running as a potential parent team — the IceCaps can’t afford to be picky — and there is little, besides supposition, to suggest the Isles or Sens are particularly prime targets. But for information purposes, here’s a status report on the two teams’ present affiliations.
The Senators have had their farm team in Binghamton, N.Y., since 2002, although the present affiliation agreement is scheduled to end at the end of the 2014-15. The franchise, however, does not belong to Ottawa, but to a local, multi-person ownership group.
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The Islanders, meanwhile, own their farm team, — the Bridgeport Sound Tigers — which has been located in the Connecticut city since 2001. The Isles, through the Sound Tigers, also have a deal to manage the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, one which runs until 2020. That agreement includes a clause saying there must be a pro hockey team as a major tenant, although it does not specify that the team must be the Islanders’ affiliate.
However, most talk about the Isles and their AHL franchise has centred on the possibility of it relocating to the Nassau County Coliseum in Uniondale on Long Island once the Islanders move their NHL operations from there to Brooklyn in 2015. In fact, last August, the head of the company that will be redeveloping the Nassau Coliseum stated plans were in place for the Isles to eventually put their farm club in Uniondale, although the Sound Tigers quickly denied it.
The IceCaps’ nine-game winning streak is a team record, but there may be an argument to be made that it isn’t a franchise record. That’s because the Manitoba Moose, the previous incarnation of the team, once won 10 in a row … IceCaps goalie Michael Hutchinson now has played enough games with St. John’s to officially qualify to be listed among the AHL goaltending leaders, and finds himself with the best save percentage (.929) in the league. His 2.14 goals-against average is fourth-best among qualifying netminders … Forward Jamie McQueen, who had been brought in by St. John’s earlier this season, but didn’t appear in any games, is joining the IceCaps again. The 25-year-old McQueen, who has 19 goals and 32 points in 38 games for the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies, has 46 AHL games to his credit, including 14 with the Norfolk Admirals earlier this season. St. John’s has dressed only 11 forwards for its last three games … IceCaps defenceman Kris Fredheim, who has been out with injury since Jan. 26, continues his progress towards a return; he’s been skating in practice with a red non-contact jersey …