Out of the Box: Happy Birthday, Mom.

If you have had the chance to get to know me over the past several years, you probably know how I was raised by a single mother, who was probably a bigger Giants and Yankees fan than most men.  Sadly, I lost her nearly 18 years ago to cancer, and this week, I’m thinking about her more than usual.

Today would have been her birthday.  And over the weekend, during my trip to Yankee Stadium in which the 1998 team was honored, a few memories hit me during my train ride to the Bronx.

Everyone has their memories of the 1998 Yankees, arguably the greatest baseball team ever.  (Don’t even think about it, haters.)  For me, and it dawned on me Saturday, this was the last season my mom was able to travel to New York City to see her beloved Yankees play.

It was late June, when the Yankees visited the Mets at Shea Stadium for a weekend series.  Mom had bought a ticket package through Amtrak for the two of us…tickets and a round trip train ride from the Rensselaer train station (the closest to where we lived at the time) to Flushing.  Literally, the train dropped us off near Flushing Meadows.  This marked my one and only trip to Shea, I might add.

I remember wearing my Tino T-shirt (Mom absolutely LOVED Tino) that day, and I think we had seats in the upper deck, between home plate and first base.  And guess who came through with a home run that day?  Yes, it was Tino.  The two fans behind us got so excited I ended up having beer spilt on me…and Mom and I both thought it was funny.

Weird how I remember a few of these things from so long ago.

Later that season, the annual family trip to the Bronx–which would be my mom, uncle, cousin, and myself–would take place in late August, just before I started my third year of college.  It was a Sunday afternoon game against Seattle that didn’t go very well.  Sadly, although none of us knew it at the time, that would be Mom’s last trip to Yankee Stadium.

She would be diagnosed with colon cancer in late July the following year, just before we had two Yankee trips planned–two free box seats as a retirement present for a game against the Indians, then a bus trip to Fenway Park for a Sunday night game against the Red Sox, my first time visiting the Green Monster.  While she recuperated from surgery, my cousin would take her place for both games.

When Mom first gave me the news, I tried to be positive about it.  Hey, if Darryl Strawberry can have the same illness and come back, she can too.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case.

Our last happy memory together?  Watching the Yankees finish off the Mets in the 2000 World Series.  She took a turn for the worse the morning after that game, and passed away about three weeks later.  At least she got to see her team win it all one more time.

So today, I’m thinking of Mom and what she would think of this year’s team.  I’d say she would be a Judge fan for sure.  And probably yelling at Sonny Gray or Giancarlo for something.

Tonight, while the Yankees take on Miami (I’m sure it would pain her to root against Don Mattingly–she was a huge fan of him too), I may leave the TV on in the other room, waiting for loud clapping or yelling.  Because Mom wouldn’t have it any other way.

Free Agency Progress Report 8/1

Finally, my first opportunity to put together an actual AHL post!

Just when I thought I wasn’t going to do a Free Agent Tracker this summer…well here we are on August 1st.  So how have the four New York teams fared since free agency began exactly one month ago?  Here’s where everyone stands:

New Jersey/Binghamton

New Arrivals: Bracken Kearns, Brian Strait

Departures: Yohann Auvitu (Edmonton); Seth Helgeson (NY Islanders); Andrew MacWilliam (Rochester); Vojtech Mozik (Europe); Karl Stollery (Europe); Luke Gazdic (Calgary); Petr Straka (Europe); Max Novak (Toronto); Ben Sexton (Ottawa); Carter Camper (Cleveland)

Staying Put: Brian Gibbons, Viktor Loov, Scott Wedgewood (RFA), Joe Blandisi (RFA), Blake Pietila (RFA), Blake Coleman (RFA), Kevin Rooney (RFA), Ben Thomson (RFA)

Still Available: Rod Pelley, Jan Mandat, Shane Harper

Other News: On Saturday, the logo was officially revealed and…you be the judge.  Let’s just say I’m a bigger fan of the sleeve patches and leave it at that.  Otherwise, it’s been a fairly quiet offseason, outside of Nicomania hitting the Garden State.

Buffalo/Rochester:

Arrivals: Adam Wilcox, Andrew MacWilliam, Stevie Moses, Barry Goers, Adam Krause, Kyle Criscuolo, Kevin Porter

Departures: Mat Bodie (Tampa Bay); Cole Schneider (NY Rangers); Patrick Mullen (Europe); John Muse (Lehigh Valley); Jean Dupuy (Toronto); Erik Burgdoerfer (Ottawa); Derek Grant (Anaheim); Justin Kea (ECHL Florida); Paul Geiger (Hershey)

Staying Put: Daniel Muzito-Bagenda, Evan Rodrigues (RFA)

Still Available: Tim Kennedy, Matthew Lane, Justin Vaive, Brady Austin, Mac Bennett, Tyson Strachan

Other News: It’s been a summer of change in western New York, as a new regime takes over in Buffalo–new GM (Randy Sexton), new coaching staff (Chris Taylor and Gord Dineen take over behind the bench), and quite a few veteran signings by the Amerks/Sabres with the aim of helping Rochester get back to being competitive again.

Tampa Bay/Syracuse:

Arrivals: Michael Leighton, Mat Bodie, Jamie McBain, Carter Verhaeghe, Alex Gallant, Reid McNeill

Departures: Tanner Richard (Europe); Mike McKenna (Dallas); Bryon Froese (Montreal); Kristers Gudlevskis (NY Islanders); Matt Taormina (Montreal); Henri Ikonen (Europe); Joel Vermin (Europe)

Staying Put: Michael Bournival, Jake Dotchin, Matthew Peca, Slater Koekkoek, Cory Conacher, Yanni Gourde, Gabriel Dumont, Kevin Lynch, Nic Riopel

Still Available: Stefan Fournier, Mike Halmo, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Mathieu Brodeur, Dylan Blujus, Adam Comrie, Jonathan Racine

Other News: Just a summer of reloading for the defending Eastern Conference champs, as the Lightning have done a great job of not only re-signing key members of last year’s Crunch team, but bringing in a netminder of Michael Leighton’s caliber.

Vancouver/Utica:

Arrivals: Jaime Sifers

Departures: Mike Zalewski (Europe); Chad Billins (Europe); Alexandre Grenier (Florida); David Shields (Europe); Curtis Valk (Florida); Derek Hulak (Lehigh Valley)

Staying Put: Darren Archibald, Joseph LaBate, Evan McEneny

Still Available: Colby Robak, Cody Kunyk, Pascal Pelletier, Borna Rendulic, John Negrin, Michael Garteig

Other News: It’s the fifth season of the AHL return to Utica, and other than the renovation of the Aud, it’s been a rather quiet summer for the Comets to this point player-wise.  Behind the bench, former Crunch coaches Trent Cull and Gary Agnew take over for the promoted Travis Green and Nolan Baumgartner (now with Vancouver), and Ryan Johnson was brought in as the new general manager.

 

2016 Free Agent Tracker (as of 9/1/16)

As we turn the calendar to September…we are down to two players still in need of a home as the season gets closer.  Raman Hrabarenka became the latest to join the Moving On category, as he will be attending Toronto’s training camp on a tryout basis.

Now for the last updated tracker of the offseason:

Signed for 2016-17:

Pavel Zacha

Joe Blandisi

Damon Severson

Ryan Kujawinski

Vojtech Mozik

Blake Coleman

Blake Pietila

Ken Appleby

Ben Thomson

Ben Johnson

Scott Wedgewood

Seth Helgeson

Josh Jacobs

Nick Lappin

Yohann Auvitu

Jan Mandat

Brandon Baddock

Carter Camper (via Washington/Hershey)

Andrew Macwilliam (via Winnipeg/Manitoba)

Karl Stollery (via San Jose)

Max Novak

Kevin Rooney

Rod Pelley

Reece Scarlett

Brandon Gormley (via Colorado)

Reid Boucher

Unrestricted Free Agents:

Yann Danis

Corbin McPherson

Moving On:

Brian O’Neill (signed with Jokerit 5/20)

Chris McKelvie (retired; named assistant coach at Army 5/25)

Graham Black (traded to Florida 6/10)

Paul Thompson (traded to Florida 6/10)

Matt Lorito (signed w/Detroit 7/1)

Pierre-Luc Leblond (signed w/Tampa Bay 7/1)

Mike Sislo (signed w/Colorado 7/1)

Jim O’Brien (signed w/Colorado 7/1)

Dan Kelly (signed w/San Jose 7/11)

Marc Andre Gragnani (signed w/Dinamo Minsk 8/1)

Brandon Burlon (signed w/Tucson (AHL) 8/3)

Joe Faust (signed w/Idaho (ECHL) 8/11)

Raman Hrabarenka (signed w/Toronto 8/22)

2016 Free Agent Tracker (as of 8/1/16)


Signed for 2016-17:

Pavel Zacha

Joe Blandisi

Damon Severson

Ryan Kujawinski

Vojtech Mozik

Blake Coleman

Blake Pietila

Ken Appleby

Ben Thomson

Ben Johnson

Scott Wedgewood

Seth Helgeson

Josh Jacobs

Nick Lappin

Yohann Auvitu

Jan Mandat

Brandon Baddock

Carter Camper (via Washington/Hershey)

Andrew Macwilliam (via Winnipeg/Manitoba)

Karl Stollery (via San Jose)

Max Novak

Kevin Rooney

Rod Pelley

Reece Scarlett

Brandon Gormley (via Colorado)

Restricted Free Agents:

Reid Boucher

Unrestricted Free Agents:

Yann Danis

Brandon Burlon

Corbin McPherson

Joe Faust

Raman Hrabarenka

Moving On:

Brian O’Neill (signed with Jokerit 5/20)

Chris McKelvie (retired; named assistant coach at Army 5/25)

Graham Black (traded to Florida 6/10)

Paul Thompson (traded to Florida 6/10)

Matt Lorito (signed w/Detroit 7/1)

Pierre-Luc Leblond (signed w/Tampa Bay 7/1)

Mike Sislo (signed w/Colorado 7/1)

Jim O’Brien (signed w/Colorado 7/1)

Dan Kelly (signed w/San Jose 7/11)

Marc Andre Gragnani (signed w/Dinamo Minsk 8/1)

Free Agency, Day 1: Boom Goes the Dynamite

That explosion you heard in the East was not from a Fourth of July celebration.  Or from a round of thunderstorms.

Nope.  That was the Albany roster as we know it blowing up.

On the first day of NHL free agency, a lot of players changed teams, but the AHL Devils took a huge hit, despite picking up three new veteran players that could see significant time here.

-Albany’s top 4 scorers from last season all have new homes, as Matt Lorito signed for two years with Detroit, and Mike Sislo and Jim O’Brien joined former Devil Joe Whitney in Colorado on one year contracts.  You may want to keep an eye on the San Antonio Rampage (Colorado’s AHL affiliate) after the day the Avs had.

-Also finding a new home: Pierre-Luc Leblond, as he signed a one year deal with Tampa Bay.  He’ll most likely be with Syracuse, taking over from David Broll as the primary enforcer (ironically the two fought each other a couple of times last season).

But, all was not totally lost, as New Jersey took care of a few of their free agents (DSP, Beau Bennett, Jon Merrill) and picked up Ben Lovejoy and Vern Fiddler.  And, three new vets who we’ll likely be seeing here come October:

Carter Camper#20 on the Big Board, the 27-year-old center spent all of last season with Hershey, picking up 34 points (9 goals, 25 assists) in 64 games.  He was second in the AHL in playoff scoring, scoring 6 times and assisting on 11 others in 21 games, and lead the AHL in playoff power play points (8).  He only has three games of NHL experience, all with Boston in 2011-12.  This will be his fifth AHL stop behind Providence, Springfield, Binghamton, and the Bears.  You can follow him on Twitter at @carter_camper.

Andrew MacwilliamThe 26-year-old defenseman spent all of last season in Manitoba, scoring once and picking up 14 assists in 72 games.  He started his career with Toronto after finishing his college career at North Dakota, getting in 12 games with the Maple Leafs during the 2014-15 season.

Karl StolleryAnother veteran signing on defense, the 28-year-old spent last season in San Jose with the Barracuda, where in 67 games he scored a career high 6 goals and 18 assists.  He started his career with the Avalanche organization, spending three seasons with Lake Erie before joining the Sharks.  He has some NHL experience, appearing in a combined 12 games with Colorado and San Jose in 2013-14 and 2014-15.  You can follow him on Twitter at @stolleryk.

2016 Free Agent Tracker (as of 7/1/16)

Happy first day of free agency!  A few pieces of business before we get to the first official tracker of 2016:

-Add Raman Hrabarenka to the unrestricted free agent list, as he was not tendered a qualifying offer by New Jersey before Monday’s 5 PM deadline.  Reid Boucher and Reece Scarlett were tendered offers, and remain RFAs.

-Need a guide to who’s available on the minor league free agent market?  You have two sources to use: the Chirps from Center Ice official Big Board (which I had an assist in helping put together), or Highland Park Hockey’s list.

-Finally, mark your calendars for July 12th-16th, for the annual New Jersey development camp.  I’ll have more details on that later.

And now, your first scorecard for the summer:

Signed for 2016-17:

Pavel Zacha

Joe Blandisi

Damon Severson

Ryan Kujawinski

Vojtech Mozik

Blake Coleman

Blake Pietila

Ken Appleby

Ben Thomson

Ben Johnson

Scott Wedgewood

Seth Helgeson

Josh Jacobs

Nick Lappin

Yohann Auvitu

Jan Mandat

Brandon Baddock

Restricted Free Agents (all given qualifying offers):

Reid Boucher

Reece Scarlett

Unrestricted Free Agents:

Yann Danis

Marc Andre Gragnani

Pierre-Luc Leblond

Jim O’Brien

Dan Kelly

Brandon Burlon

Mike Sislo

Rod Pelley

Max Novak

Corbin McPherson

Matt Lorito

Joe Faust

Raman Hrabarenka

Moving On:

Brian O’Neill (signed with Jokerit 5/20)

Chris McKelvie (retired; named assistant coach at Army 5/25)

Graham Black (traded to Florida 6/10)

Paul Thompson (traded to Florida 6/10)

Offseason Notebook #4

This week in the Notebook:

-The first hint of Albany’s preseason schedule was announced on Wednesday: they will travel to Wilkes-Barre on October 6th to face the Penguins.

And two new sets of birds have joined the AHL fold:

-On Wednesday, the Springfield Thunderbirds, formerly the Portland Pirates,  were introduced to the world.  The name (and in my opinion, the logo) comes from a combination of previous AHL franchises (the Indians, then the Falcons) and a tribute to two local Air National Guard bases.  The bird looks like a newer, more dressed up version of the Falcons previous mascot Screech (who may or may not be previous?  We shall see).

-Yesterday, the former tenants of the Mass Mutual Center, the Falcons, were re-introduced as the Tucson Roadrunners.  Personally I’m a fan of the new logo, reminiscent of former Roadrunner teams that played in Arizona since the mid 1960s, through the old Western Hockey League, the WHA, the Pacific Hockey League, the IHL, and the ECHL.  Then there are the many Looney Tunes puns that could come out of this (Acme sponsorship, anyone?)…

The notebook may be closed for the next two weeks, as I plan on a separate draft entry (which I hope to have out by next Sunday afternoon/evening), followed up by the first Free Agent Tracker of the summer July 1st.