Lockout over 1/6
After a 16-hour negotiation session, the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players' Association have reached a tentative agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, which signals the end of what had been a 113-day lockout. The lockout-bolstered incarnation of the Adirondack Phantoms is also coming to an end, though there has been no official word on what players will be heading to Philadelphia or when that call might come.
To figure out which players the Phantoms will lose to the NHL, I think it's probably important to break down the depth chart of the Flyers organization and see exactly where the teams stand. I've done that below, but I may have inadvertently left someone out. Please let me know if I have.
The bold italics are AHL contracts. Now bear with me on this, since a lot of the following could change or get thrown off by something sudden, like a preseason trade or a free agent signing.
Right off the bat, the Flyers have eleven forwards who I would consider locks to make the NHL team: Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, Ruslan Fedotenko, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read, Maxime Talbot, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Jody Shelley.
Thanks to the nearly four-month duration of the lockout, they also have seven defensemen who are healthy or close to it: Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Luke Schenn, Nicklas Grossmann, Bruno Gervais and Andreas Lilja. Goalies are Ilya Bryzgalov and Michael Leighton.
So right there you're looking at 20 players. Briere, though, recently suffered a wrist injury while playing in Germany, CSN Philly reported, and was expected to miss two-to-three weeks of playing time. If the abbreviated season starts Jan. 15 or Jan. 19 as expected, Briere would be right around the end of that timetable. Suppose he's ready, then Schenn and Couturier head to Philadelphia and you're looking at one, more than likely two forwards joining them in the convoy to give the Flyers 13.
If I were the general manager, I would pick two of Eric Wellwood, Harry Zolnierczyk, Zac Rinaldo and Tom Sestito, who had been playing in England. I think it ultimately comes down to Rinaldo and then one of Wellwood and Zolnierczyk, but the decision between those two is a lot closer than it was one month ago. That's the kind of thing that might be settled in an abbreviated Flyers training camp.
Maybe the Flyers are feeling generous and decide to call up three to give them a full, 23-man roster.
I don't necessarily think the Flyers need to call up a defenseman, especially because options 1-A and 1-B, Erik Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon, have been out of the line-up with injuries as of late. I would say that Gustafsson (ankle) is closer to returning than Bourdon (concussion) is, but he has had at least one minor set-back with his injury. We'll keep an eye out and see what happens. Maybe they'll surprise me.
What does all of this mean for the Phantoms? Well, they lose their top two scorers in Schenn and Couturier. The pair was responisble for 23 of the team's 79 goals, an absurd 29 percent, and had at least one point on 48 of the tallies. That's a little more than 60 percent. They also saw a ton of power play and penalty killing minutes, so Phantoms coach Terry Murray has some pretty big holes to plug.
With Garrett Roe out with an upper-body injury, that means Adirondack's No. 1 center at this moment is the recently-called-up Marcel Noebels. He was on a tear in the ECHL, but has been held pointless with third-line minutes in his first two AHL games. Roe will eventually return and will probably center the second line, but Rob Bordson got second-line minutes in his absence last night. Then you would think that Ian Slater sticks around to crash and bang on the third line and they find someone, possibly Andrew Johnston, to do the same on the fourth until Roe comes back. If the organization wants to keep giving Johnston top-six minutes in Trenton, which is why they sent him there in the first place, maybe they call up Luke Pither, who is now a point-per-game player with Wheeling.
Jason Akeson and Matt Ford are your top two right wings. Mike Testwuide can play the third or fourth line. Then you're probably looking at Matt Mangene or Shane Harper coming up from Trenton to fill that other position. The left side is where they get hit the hardest, apart from center. They're probably losing two of Zolnierczyk, Wellwood and Rinaldo, who has also played on the right wing, but McGinn has been seeing top line minutes and he'll probably continue to do so now that it's over.
The Phantoms probably hope both Zolnierczyk and Wellwood don't go to Philadelphia so that one of them sticks around to play on the second line. Tyler Brown, who has been a fixture on the fourth line, can move up to the third. Then they're looking at one other guy up front, maybe Zack FitzGerald plays regular minutes on the fourth line or Tom Sestito makes a return to the fold. Time will tell.
Remember Paul Holmgren's quote in HBO's 24/7 documentary when he was talking about the Jeff Carter and Mike Richards trades? "I said at the time I don't know if we're going to be a better team (or) a worse team, but we're certainly going to be a different team."
I think the same applies here with the Phantoms.
They're going to look like a much, much different team when they next play in Glens Falls Jan. 18.
More after practice Tuesday. We'll see which of these guys are still around.
Until next time,