A short time ago, the Hamilton Bulldogs were the only remaining professional hockey team in Canada still competing in the playoffs for a Championship. All other Canadian teams in both the AHL and the NHL (including the Montreal Canadiens) had been eliminated from contention and were now watching in between rounds on the golf course.
Then, on Wednesday May 26, in Game #7 of the AHL Western Conference Finals, the Hamilton Bulldogs fell to the Texas Stars by a final score of 4-2 and were eliminated from the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Now, I’m not saying that Bulldogs fans expected the team to win the Calder Cup, but after the season the Dogs had this year, I’m sure that some, myself included, expected the Baby Habs to at least make the Finals.
Now that some time has lapsed since then, the initial disappointment that was felt from the Game 7 loss and the resulting elimination has faded and what remains is now to reflect on the remarkable season that the Bulldogs experienced this year.
It all began back in September when the Hamilton Bulldogs made the journey to Scotland to participate in the Gardiner Cup, a tournament hosted by the Edinburgh Capitals, featuring teams from the American Hockey League against teams from the UK Elite League. At the end of competition, the Bulldogs hoisted the Gardiner Cup high as the winners of the tournament, and thus began the start of great things to happen during the 2009-2010 season. They began the season with a franchise record 11-game point streak and followed that up by finishing with the second best record in the AHL with a 52-17-3-8 mark. Hamilton set a club record for most wins during a regular season (52) and also set the franchise record for points in a regular season (115). They can also boast of claiming the North Division regular season Title; the Western Conference regular season Title; and the North Division Playoffs Championship.
Having said all of this, it’s now time to take a look at the Hamilton Bulldogs players who were responsible for making this season what it was, and to grade them accordingly based on their performance.
Cedrick Desjardins: A+
Cedrick and his counterpart, Curtis Sanford, both ranked in the top three for AHL goaltenders, splitting time in net during the regular season. Desjardins finished 1st overall in the standings as the #1 goalie in the American Hockey League. He led the league with a 2.00 goals against average, placed second with six shutouts and finished fourth with 29 wins. On the year, Cedrick went 29-9-4 overall and finished with a 0.919 save percentage. The 24-year old from Edmundston, New Brunswick, was chosen as an All-Star goalie for the 2010 Canadian AHL All-Star team, where he claimed the Reebok Top Goaltender award by stopping 16 of 19 shots for the Canadian side. He was also selected as the AHL Goaltender of the Month for December. Desjardins only allowed nine goals on 177 shots in December, beginning the month with three shutouts in his first four starts. Midway through the season, Desjardins set a new Bulldogs franchise record for the longest shutout streak by a goaltender when he did not allow a goal in 212 minutes and 37 seconds of play from November 25th until December 9th. Cedrick’s six shutouts this past year ties the record with Jaroslav Halak for the most shutouts in one season by a Bulldogs goaltender. Desjardins also set a new franchise record for the most wins by a goaltender in one season with 29, passing the record previously set by former Bulldog, Yann Danis.
In the Calder Cup Playoffs, Desjardins got the majority of the starts, playing in ten games. He went 6-4 with a 2.62 GAA and a 0.902 save percentage.
Curtis Sanford: B+
Sanford finished 3rd overall in the AHL standings for the top goaltenders with a 2.13 goals against average in 41 games played. Overall, Sanford went 23-11-3 with 4 shutouts and a 0.916 save percentage during the regular season. He was injured twice during the season, and returned on May 8 from the second injury to take up the goaltending duties from Desjardins.
In the Calder Cup Playoffs, Curtis Sanford played in nine games and finished with a 5-4 record; a 2.02 GAA and a 0.925 save percentage, along with 2 shutouts.
In this section of the Bulldogs’ final grades, the players are not listed by position. They are listed by their total points accumulation during the season. We start with the top points scorers and work our way down. The players will receive their grades under that format.
David Desharnais: A+
Desharnais led the Bulldogs in scoring during the regular season despite missing 20 regular season games. He scored 27 goals and was fifth overall in the AHL with 78 points in 60 games. Desharnais also led the team with 51 assists, including a team-high 21 assists on the power play. In the playoffs, he scored 10 goals and 13 assists.
Brock Trotter: A
Brock Trotter was first on the team with 36 goals and placed second on the team with 77 points in 75 games played. Trotter’s 36 goals placed him fourth overall in the AHL. In the playoffs, he scored 8 goals and had 11 assists.
P.K. Subban: B+
Rookie defenceman P.K. Subban led all Hamilton defencemen in scoring and placed third overall in the AHL among all defencemen and fourth among all rookies with 53 points in 77 games played. The AHL All-Star led all AHL blueliners with 18 goals and he tied for the league lead with a +46, which also set a franchise record for the highest plus/minus rating for a Bulldogs player. Subban’s 18 goals, 53 points and 11 power play goals are also new franchise records for a Bulldogs defenceman in a single season. In the playoffs, he scored 3 goals and had 7 assists in only 7 games played.
Ben Maxwell: B
Regular Season – 57 GP; 16 goals; 28 assists; 44 points; +11 rating; 22 PIM
Mike Glumac: B
Glumac finished 3rd overall in team scoring. His regular season record for 75 games played was 20 goals, 20 assists, 40 points, +27 rating, and 70 PIM. In the playoffs, he scored 11 goals, 3 assists
for 14 points.
Ryan Russell: B
Regular Season – 74 GP; 19 goals; 18 assists; 37 points; +16 rating; 8 PIM
Playoffs – 19 GP; 7 goals; 5 assists; 12 points; +6 rating
J.T. Wyman: B
Regular Season – 76 GP; 17 goals; 20 assists; 37 points; +9 rating; 12 PIM
Playoffs – 19 GP; 1 goal; 2 assists; 3 points; -3 rating
Andre Benoit: B+
In the 2009-2010 regular season, Andre Benoit became the all-time leader in
points by a Bulldogs defenceman with 93 total and goals by a Bulldogs defenceman
with 23 total. He achieved this milestone by scoring 6 goals, 30 assists, and 36
points during the season. In the playoffs, Benoit scored 3 goals, 11 assists, and 14 points. This puts his career total playoff assists at 22, which also makes him the Hamilton Bulldogs franchise leader in all-time post-season assists.
Tom Pyatt: B
41 GP; 13 goals; 22 assists; 35 points; +17 rating; 8 PIM
Ryan White: B-
Ryan White’s claim-to-fame this season was accumulating a whopping 173 in penalty minutes (and of course the colourful long hair which tuffed out from underneath his hockey helmet). During the regular season,
he scored 17 goals in 62 games, along with 17 assists, and 34 points. He finished with a +9 rating. In the playoffs, he
picked up 4 goals, 5 assists, and 9 points.
Aaron Palushaj: B-
In 62 games during the 2009-2010 season, Aaron Palushaj scored 8 goals, 24 assists, and 32 points. Now, remember that he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens back on March 3rd from the St. Louis Blues where he had previously played for the AHL Peoria Rivermen. In Peoria, he scored 5 goals, 17 assists, and 22 points. After joining the Bulldogs, Palushaj scored 3 goals, 7 assists, and 10 points. In the playoffs with Hamilton, he scored 2 goals, 9 assists, and 11 points in 19 games. With the Bulldogs, his presence was immediately felt out there on the ice. A good acquisition in my opinion.
Yannick Weber: C+
A promising AHL defenceman with room for improvement. Despite 7 goals, 25 assists, and 32 points, sometimes I wonder if his mind is on his game.
Mathieu Darche: B-
Regular Season – 32 GP; 16 goals; 9 assists; 25 points; +7 rating; 4 PIM
Shawn Belle: C+
Picked up his game when P.K. Subban was recalled to Montreal but has never been able to get out of the shadows of his fellow blue-liners. In 70 games this season, Belle scored 3 goals, 16 assists, and 19 points. In the playoffs, he recorded 1 goal, 6 assists, and 7 points.
Grant Stevenson: C
53 GP; 8 goals; 9 assists; 17 points; 22 PIM
Frederic St. Denis: B+
59 GP; 3 goals; 14 assists; 17 points; +20 rating; 38 PIM
Mathieu Carle: C+
31 GP; 5 goals; 10 assists; 15 points; +4 rating; 26 PIM
Andrew Conboy: C
68 GP; 8 goals; 5 assists; 10 points; 13 points; -1 rating; 73 PIM
Mike Vernace: C+
Played in 62 AHL games this past season but only 15 of those were with the Bulldogs following being loaned out by the Atlanta Thrashers and the Chicago Wolves to Hamilton in exchange for Greg Stewart. Vernace did not produce any worthwhile numbers in the stats, but his presence was a welcome addition to the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Dogs certainly got the better half of the deal in this loaning of players.
He will return to the Wolves next season.
Chicago Wolves – 47 GP; 2 goals; 10 assists; 12 points; 29 PIM
Hamilton Bulldogs – 15 GP; 0 goals; 1 assist; 1 point; 23 PIM
Alex Henry: B
The team’s enforcer. 220 lbs and stands at 6-5. Did not play a full season due to an injury suffered during the pre-season. Played a total of 68 regular season games, with 13 assists, 13 points, and 154 PIM. In the playoffs, Henry played in 19 games, scoring 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, and 22 PIM.
Greg Stewart: D
The other side of the Mike Vernace player-loan with the Chicago Wolves. Not a good season for Stewart who suffered from back problems all year.
45 GP; 5 goals; 5 assists; 10 points; +6 rating; 90 PIM
Chad Anderson: C-
52 GP; 1 goal; 6 assists; 7 points; -1 rating; 26 PIM
Mikael Johansson: D
Was never noticeable out on the ice when inserted into the lineup. He was never able to adapt to the smaller North American ice surface, and returned to Europe.
20 GP; 3 goals; 3 assists; 6 points; 2 PIM
Dany Masse: C+
Masse spent a good part of the season injured and once healthy, was still
never a regular in the lineup. However, he did manage to play in 25 games, scoring 3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points, 6 PIM, and finished with a +2 rating.
Maxime Lacroix: C
27 GP; 1 goal; 2 assists; 3 points; 2 PIM
Eric Neilson: C
38 GP; 1 goal; 2 assists; 3 points; -4 rating; 94 PIM