HabsWorld.net -- 

Well, the 2004-05 AHL season has come to an end, as the Philadelphia Phantoms swept the Chicago Wolves 4-0 in the Calder Cup final.  Today, we wrap up the season with a playoff recap, final Bulldog player grades, and each player’s status for the 2005-06 AHL season, as well as the latest on the rumoured re-affiliation with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.  We start though, with the playoff recap.

Playoff recap:

Division Semi-Finals (Round 1):

Atlantic Division:
Providence 4, Manchester 2
Lowell 4, Hartford 2

East Division:
Wilkes-Barre Scranton 4, Binghamton 2
Philadelphia 4, Norfolk 2

North Division:

Rochester 4, Hamilton 0
Manitoba 4, St. John’s 1

West Division:
Chicago 4, Houston 1
Cincinnati 4, Milwaukee 3

Division Finals (Round 2):

Atlantic Division:
Providence 4, Lowell 1

East Division:
Philadelphia 4, Wilkes-Barre Scranton 1

North Division:
Manitoba 4, Rochester 1

West Division:
Chicago 4, Cincinnati 1

Conference Finals (Round 3):

Eastern Conference:
Philadelphia 4, Providence 2

Western Conference:
Chicago 4, Manitoba 0

Calder Cup Final (Round 4):

East vs West:
Philadelphia 4, Chicago 0

Back to the good old days?

Earlier this month, the Edmonton Road Runners filed a request to the AHL to suspend operations, claiming that it is not viable to host a pair of pro teams out of the same arena (the other being the parent Oilers team).  Various reports now state that negotiations have begun with Montreal (Hamilton) and Dallas (Iowa) to allow Edmonton to assign “an unspecified amount of players” to each team.  At publication time, no such agreement has been made official, although Hamilton management has confirmed preliminary negotiations have begun.

Player status for next season:

As it stands, roughly half of the 2004-05 Hamilton Bulldogs team will not be returning for next season, which is the primary reason that the Canadiens appear to be seeking another split affiliation for next year.  Here are the player statuses for the 2005-06 campaign:

NHL-bound D Mike Komisarek, W Jason Ward, C Steve Begin, D Ron Hainsey
AHL FA’s D James Sanford, W Benjamin Carpentier, D Phillipe Plante
ECHL’ers D Matt Shasby, C Cory Urquhart, W Michael Lambert, G Olivier Michaud
Jr. prospects D Mark Flood, C Maxim Lapierre, W Jimmy Bonneau, C/W Danny Stewart, G Jaroslav Halak
Uncertainties* C Tomas Plekanec, C/W Chris Higgins, C Gavin Morgan, C Christian Larrivee, D Dan Focht
Moving to Iowa C/W Steve Ott, D Trevor Daley, C Antti Miettinen, D Dan Jancevski, G Dan Ellis
Returnees C Corey Locke, W Duncan Milroy, W Andrei Kostitsyn, W Marc-Andre Thinel, W Jonathan Ferland, D Andrew Archer, D J-P Cote, W Raitis Ivanans, G Yann Danis, W Alexander Perezhogin (suspension)

* Plekanec and Higgins will have a realistic shot at cracking the NHL’s Canadiens in 05-06. 
* The Habs hold a team option on Gavin Morgan’s contract; it has yet to be exercised.
* Larrivee is a restricted free agent, and it is not known whether the Canadiens will opt to qualify him.
* Focht is an NHL unrestricted free agent, and has yet to sign somewhere for the 05-06 season.

Final player grades:

Around midseason, we posted player grades with a detailed explanation of the selected grade.  Today, we do things a little differently, assigning a total of 4 grades per player, but with less of a description afterwards.  The 4 grades are: 1) 1st half (from the midseason grade article), 2) 2nd half, 3) Playoffs, and 4) Overall grade.  ECHL grades will also appear here, with proper notation.  The following criteria has been used for the grades:

A+ to A-:

I) Stars/Superstars playing at performance and role expectations.
II) Above average players producing beyond performance and role expectations.
III) Average/Role players delivering well beyond performance and role expectations.

B+ to B-:
I) Stars/Superstars playing below performance and role expectations.
II) Above average players producing at performance and role expectations.
III) Average/Role players delivering beyond performance and role expectations.

C+ to C-:
I) Stars/Superstars playing far below performance and role expectations.
II) Above average players producing below performance and role expectations.
III) Average/Role players delivering at performance and role expectations.

D+ to D-:
I) Stars/Superstars playing outrageously below performance and role expectations.
II) Above average players producing far below performance and role expectations.
III) Average/Role players delivering below performance and role expectations.

#35-Yann Danis    1st: A    2nd: A+    Playoffs: B-    Overall: A

Single handedly carried the team into the playoffs, but even he could not stymie Rochester.  Play slipped towards the end of the year, fatigue can be blamed for that.  Sure fire #1 next season.

#22-Steve Begin    1st: N/A    2nd: A    Playoffs: B    Overall: A-

Former Calder Cup MVP had arguably the biggest impact of any skater in the final 2 months, and brought a much needed offensive presence.  Back to Montreal’s 4th line come September.

#20-Antti Miettinen    1st: N/A    2nd: A    Playoffs: B+    Overall: A-

Unheralded Finnish centre gave an unexpected boost to the lineup down the stretch, and was one of very few who actually produced in the playoffs.  Will likely start in Iowa next season, but should end up in Dallas eventually.

#46-Chris Higgins    1st: C    2nd: A-    Playoffs: B+    Overall: B+

Higgins admittedly had a rough start to the season, but picked it up near the All-Star break, almost beating Tomas Plekanec for the goal scoring title.  Led the team in playoff scoring.  Will challenge for spot in Montreal.

#8-Mike Komisarek    1st: N/A    2nd: B+    Playoffs: B   Overall: B+

Another pleasant entry to the lineup late, he did everything asked of him, and resurrected Ron Hainsey’s play as well.  Will be in Montreal come September, no questions asked.

#39-Matt Shasby    1st: B (ECHL)    2nd: A- (ECHL)    Playoffs: B– (ECHL)   Overall: B+

Another young prospect who made the team originally, but was sent down to Long Beach soon after.  Took over as the top defender in Long Beach, and appears to have a spot in Hamilton secured for next season.

#14-Tomas Plekanec    1st: C+    2nd: B+    Playoffs: B    Overall: B

Another player who struggled early, but parlayed All-Star MVP honours into a strong second half.  Should challenge for a spot in Montreal next season, has reportedly indicated he is not too interested in going back to Hamilton next year.

#43-Jean-Phillipe Cote    1st: B    2nd: B    Playoffs: B   Overall: B

Unlike his numerical counterpart in Montreal, Cote’s strength is his defensive play, as he was arguably the team’s best all-round defender this season, when healthy.  Will start in Hamilton next year, but should see spot time in Montreal as an injury recall.

#23-Duncan Milroy    1st: B    2nd: B-    Playoffs: C    Overall: B

Started off strong, tailed off towards the end, but he remains the most improved forward from this year’s squad.  Should see plenty of ice time next season, and needs to keep improving.

#4-Dan Jancevski    1st: B-    2nd: B    Playoffs: C    Overall: B

One of the more reliable defenders this season, Jancevski added some offence to his game in the second half, which will impress Dallas management.  Will contend for a roster spot in Dallas in 05-06.

#51-Corey Locke    1st: A+    2nd: C-    Playoffs: C    Overall: B

One of Hamilton’s biggest threats in the first half, Locke virtually disappeared afterwards, doing hardly anything offensively, and he’s a former 2-time OHL scoring leader.  Will need to produce more in larger role next year.

#28-James Sanford    1st: B+ (ECHL)    2nd: B    Playoffs: N/A    Overall: B

Gave a much needed boost to the defence corps in late season, however, a healthy roster sent him back to the ECHL late.  Ineligible for the playoffs.  Has played well enough to earn a contract with Montreal, but not well enough to play in the NHL yet, will play AHL hockey next season.

#16-Jason Ward    1st: C    2nd: B    Playoffs: B-    Overall: B-

The former AHL MVP appeared to be a shadow of his 2002-03 form, as he often struggled at both ends, however, he was one of the more reliable players on the team.  Headed back to Montreal next season.

#41-Steve Ott    1st: B    2nd: B-    Playoffs: C-    Overall: B-

Was one of the biggest threats in the first half, but injuries cost him a lot of second half time.  Let his emotions get the better of him at crucial junctures late.  Should crack Dallas next season.

#6-Trevor Daley    1st: B    2nd: C+    Playoffs: C+    Overall: B-

Another Dallas prospect who started off strong, but began to struggle towards the end of the season, and really had a rough go at it vs Rochester.  3rd pairing d-man in Dallas next year.

#30-Dan Ellis   
1st: C+    2nd: B-    Playoffs: N/A   Overall: B

His start?  Horrible, but his finish?  Pretty good, albeit in limited action.  Appears to have the edge for the backup job to Marty Turco in Dallas.

#11-Gavin Morgan    1st: C+    2nd: B-    Playoffs: C    Overall: C+

Didn’t hit the offensive numbers many expected, however, he was the team’s top checker for most of the season.  Canadiens should exercise his option for next year.

#65-Ron Hainsey    1st: D    2nd: B-    Playoffs: B-    Overall: C+

Picked up his play late in the year, but still not the season many were hoping for.  Defensive play still needs lots of improvement.  Will likely start with the Habs, but not because of his play overall this season.

#5-Andrew Archer    1st: C    2nd: C+    Playoffs: C    Overall: C+

Showed consistent improvement in his defensive game all season, but is no threat offensively.  The big test comes next season when he reaches the 2nd pairing.

#25-Michael Lambert   
1st: C-    2nd: B– (ECHL)    Playoffs: A (ECHL)   Overall: C+

Not a great rookie campaign, but played well late in Long Beach, including a strong playoff.  A roster spot is his to be had next season, but can he hold it?

#27-Cory Urquhart    1st: B- (ECHL)    2nd: C+ (ECHL)    Playoffs: D (ECHL)   Overall: C+

Not the greatest of seasons for the ’03 second rounder.  Made the team out of camp, but was demoted early on, and struggled for the most part in Long Beach.  Will have to fight for a spot in Hamilton next year.

#17-Andrei Kostitsyn    1st: C    2nd: C    Playoffs: C+    Overall:

Not a terrible rookie season, but left many wanting more.  Really struggled down the stretch, which carried over to the Worlds.  Will get a true test next season with plenty more ice time.

#21-Jonathan Ferland    1st: C-    2nd: C+    Playoffs: C    Overall: C

Showed some improvement in the second half, which is encouraging.  Offensive game is not developing like many hoped, but his physical game is coming along well.  Should finally see regular ice time next season with the ‘Dogs.

#7-Phillipe Plante    1st: C    2nd: C    Playoffs: C    Overall: C

AHL veteran played his style all year long, nothing flashy, but got the job done…when he actually played, having lost ice time to some youngsters.  Hasn’t done enough to warrant a contract in Montreal, but played well enough to be back in Steeltown.

#38-Benjamin Carpentier   
1st: C    2nd: C+    Playoffs: C   Overall: C

Carpentier’s true usefulness came late when he became Hamilton’s emergency defenceman.  The tough guy has limited skills, and with Raitis Ivanans in the fold, may not be re-signed for next season.

#26-Christian Larrivee   
1st: C- (ECHL)    2nd: B- (ECHL)    Playoffs: A- (ECHL)   Overall: C

Yet another difficult season for the Canadiens draftee, doing very little at the AHL level, and struggled with the exception of the playoffs in the ECHL.  His contract’s up, and it probably won’t be renewed, at least through Montreal.

#95-Olivier Michaud    1st: C (ECHL)   2nd: C+ (ECHL)    Playoffs: C– (ECHL)   Overall: C

Not a terrible season by any means, but not one many hoped for either.  Struggled when handed the starting job in Long Beach.  Will have to fight for Danis’ backup job next season.

#24-Marc-Andre Thinel    1st: C+    2nd: D+    Playoffs: D    Overall: C-

An impressive start raised some hopes that he may be coming around, but that went away fast.  Often a scratch towards season’s end.  Needs to show significant improvement next season, or his days in Montreal are numbered.

#36-Raitis Ivanans   
1st: C    2nd: C    Playoffs: C   Overall: C-

Ivanans did his job all season long, serve as the team’s tough guy.  That’s all he was asked to do, and that’s all he can conceivably do.  Could start in Montreal in 05-06 without another signed enforcer in the organization.

#44-Dan Focht    1st: D+    2nd: N/A    Playoffs: N/A   Overall: D+

Was not the force management hoped he’d be.  Missed most of the year overall due to injury, and has done little to merit a contract at the NHL level.

Bulldogs Player of the Week:

The final results are in from the April poll, and the winner is (well, was): Chris Higgins.

Full April Results:
Chris Higgins 35%
Ron Hainsey 23%
Yann Danis 20%
Tomas Plekanec 15%
Jason Ward 8%

(Rounded to the nearest percentage point)

Past Monthly Winners (as previously selected:)
G Yann Danis
November: C Tomas Plekanec
December: C Corey Locke
January: W Jason Ward
February: G Yann Danis
D Ron Hainsey
April: C/W Chris Higgins

Based on the results, as well as his overall play this season, HabsWorld.net is pleased to name G Yann Danis the 2004-05 Bulldogs Player of the Year.

That’s a wrap for the 2004-05 series of the Bulldogs This Week.  Be sure to continue to check HW to see if anything materializes during the offseason; if so, we’ll have it for you.  On behalf of the staff, “thanks for reading” everybody.