Each year during the summertime offseason, the faces of the hockey teams in the AHL usually undergo a major change. New players come in; other players leave; some see their dreams come true by being promoted full time to their NHL parent clubs. For the Hamilton Bulldogs, this situation is no different.
If you go over the Bulldogs projected roster for this coming season based on player signings and departures, there is a gaping hole which needs to be addressed, and that is a lack of defensemen at this time. Popular belief (and I don’t disagree one little bit) has P.K. Subban playing in Montreal this season along with, possibly, Mathieu Carle and/or Yannick Weber. Following two years with Hamilton, Shawn Belle has signed with the Edmonton Oilers organization and the services of Mike Vernace have also been lost as his loan to the Bulldogs by the Chicago Wolves has come to an end. Also, Alex Henry and Andre Benoit remain unsigned, so it does not take a math specialist to realize that the Bulldogs need some help on the blueline.
Frederic St. Denis is returning, along with newcomers Kyle Klubertanz, David Urquhart, and Brendon Nash,
so there is still room for the Hamilton Bulldogs to pursue some AHL defensemen from the free agent market.
The following are some of the players which might make interesting free
agency additions to the Bulldogs lineup:
The first name which obviously comes to mind is one of the players who I just mentioned: Alex Henry.
For the past two seasons he has been the Dogs team enforcer, weighing 220 lbs and standing at 6-5. The 31-year old’s veteran leadership and experience was rewarded last season when he was named as the Captain of the Hamilton Bulldogs. He did not play a full season last year due to an injury suffered during the preseason yet still managed to play a total of 68 regular season games, with 13 assists and 154 PIM. Originally selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the 3rd round (67th overall) in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Henry played his first three professional seasons with the Bulldogs from 1999-00 until 2001-02 when Hamilton was affiliated with Edmonton. His NHL experience totals 177 games played with the Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, Minnesota Wild, and the Montreal Canadiens, tallying a career record of 2 goals, 9 assists, 11 points, and 269 penalty minutes. But it is his presence in the AHL, having played in over 400 American Hockey League games, that the Bulldogs need to do what they can to resign Alex Henry and keep him on the Hamilton defence corps. He has been, and would continue to be, an asset to the team.
Andre Benoit is another d-man who the Bulldogs would be wise to re-sign if they can. In the 2009-2010 regular season, 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 this regular 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 postseason assists. He also ranked 2nd in points with the Dogs back in the 2007 Calder Cup Playoffs with 13, en route to winning the Calder Cup Championship.
Mark Flood is a former Montreal draft pick from the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, selected in the sixth round, 188th overall. He began his professional hockey career in 2005 playing in the ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) for the Dayton Bombers where he scored 11 goals, 14 assists, and 25 points before signing on as a free agent with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL affiliate of the NHL Columbus Blue Jackets). In 2006, Flood was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes organization where he spent over two seasons playing for the AHL Albany River Rats. The 6-1, 190lb defenceman played 165 games with the Rats, scoring 19 goals, 44 assists, and 63 points. His best season occurred last year playing for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders) when he recorded 10 goals, 23 assists, and 33 points in 61 games. Following an injury to one of the
Islander players, Flood was called up to the NHL making his debut on March 25, 2010 against the Calgary Flames.
Mathieu Roy is another former Hamilton Bulldogs player, selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the 7th round, 215th overall, in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. To date, most of Roy’s professional career has been spent in the AHL with the now-defunct Toronto Roadrunners; the likewise now-defunct Edmonton Roadrunners; and the Hamilton Bulldogs. Roy played for the Dogs for two seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07, recording his first goal with the Hamilton Bulldogs versus the Toronto Marlies on October 21, 2005. He would go on to achieve 9 goals, 28 assists, 37 points, and 122 penalty minutes in 81 games with Hamilton. During this time, the 6-2, 220lb defenceman was tied with Dan Jancevski for third in the AHL with a rating of plus-16. In recent years, Roy has been playing in upstate New York with the Syracuse Crunch and the Rochester Americans.
OK now…..don’t laugh…..the final name I want to include here to wrap up this article is the three-time Stanley Cup Champion (1986, 2002, 2008) who leads all American-born players with 1,651 career NHL outings, and has racked up 948 points (185 goals, 763 assists) and 2,891 penalty minutes in 25 NHL seasons with the Montreal Canadiens (1983-90), Chicago Blackhawks
(1990-99) and the Detroit Red Wings (1999-2009). Of course I am talking about
The 25-year NHL veteran has been awarded the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenceman three times (1989, 1993, 1996) and has been named to the NHL’s First All-Star Team five times (1989, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2002). He has also participated in 11 NHL All-Star Games.
At the conclusion of the 2008-2009 season, the Detroit Red Wings announced that they would not be re-signing Chelios. As a result, he signed a 25 game pro tryout with the AHL Chicago Wolves (affiliate of the Atlanta Thrashers). When the PTO was concluded, the Atlanta Thrashers signed Chelios to a two-way contract and kept him with the Wolves until he was recalled to the Thrashers, hoping that he could provide a spark for the team’s playoff hopes. After Atlanta was eliminated from contention, Chelios was returned to Chicago. While with the Wolves, Chris Chelios was the oldest active player in the AHL at age 48. He ranked second overall on the team with 17 assists, 22 points, and finished with a +34 rating. Not bad for an old man. I personally saw him play with the Chicago Wolves vs the Hamilton Bulldogs this past season and I can say that Chelios still has “the right stuff” to get the job done.
However, although he never formally announced his retirement at the end of the 2009-2010 season, he acknowledged that his career may have come to an end. On May 12, 2010, Chelios said in an interview that he was 99% sure that he would retire before the start of the 2010-2011 season.