Earlier today the Jackets assigned Kyle Wilson to Springfield. The 6 foot, 200 pounder has had difficulties in finding his game in Columbus. Previously, Wilson skated in the Capitals organization. Last season he was a member of the Calder Cup champion, Hershey Bears.
In addition to Commodore and Wilson, earlier this week the Falcons welcomed back Chris Francis, who earlier this season netted his first pro goal with the Falcons. Also joining the Falcons on a PTO is Kevin Harvey. Harvey, a role player has played in 117 AHL games, scoring 11 goals and 12 assists while spending 479 minutes in the sin bin.
The Falcons are 1-6-0 in their last seven games, going into tonight's game in Charlotte, NC. Can these guys help?
I've been optimistic about both the Falcons and the Jackets all season long. This, despite both clubs' abundant failures at times. Maybe last year's Falcons club desensitized me to the point where I could perhaps watch a mite game and feel like one team deserves to skate with the Stanley Cup.
The thing that fueled my optimism then, and still does, is the ability and professional potential of the men on both rosters.
Enter Mike Commodore.
How does a guy with a big money contract deal with his situation when his employers shake up their management/coaching structure? Somehow, Commodore became Scott Arniel's seventh guy. That's got to hurt. I maintain my personal optimism because I've seen the accomplishments of Wade Redden after he had been waived by the New York Rangers. Redden and his $6.5 million contract cleared waivers and was assigned to Hartford (now the Connecticut Whale). It would have been very easy for Redden to sulk in the corner of the room, take shifts as an obligation and keep to himself. Instead, Redden has taken to mentoring the Rangers' prospects. I've seen him play a couple of times in person this season and have seen his leadership for the Whale. Based on that, I am hopeful that Commie will also put his differences with Howson and/or Arniel behind him, take the high road and realize he's still making monstrous cash to skate in the "A".
Wilson's addition to me is more of a mixed bag. Just because you've won a Calder Cup, doesn't necessarily make you the best player in the league. Even in a championship environment, there is still somebody who is the best player on the team, and there's one who's the worst. I can't say how important a part of Hershey's 2010 championship run Wilson was. I can say that showing a +17 in 77 regular season games and then going 6-6-12 in 21 playoff games would undoubtedly put him in the top half of a winning club. So then, why the hard time in adapting to Columbus and the NHL? The short answer is that it just takes some guys longer than others. I've seen Kyle Wilson play, and yes I strongly believe that he can play in the National Hockey League. Again as with Commodore, if he can come to Springfield and play the same brand of hockey that he played for Hershey, he will be a tremendous help to the Falcons.
Currently the Falcons are having a brutal time. As you all know, the Jackets have recalled Matt Calvert and Grant Clitsome with both stepping in and immediately playing some fine hockey for the Jackets. These two guys, while good players, were not the backbone of the Falcons. A reliable part of the team, yes...but their absence should not be resulting in the current freefall which has landed the Birds in last place in the Atlantic Division of the AHL.
The injury bug has affected the Falcons more than anything else. Tomas Kana and Kyle Neuber have been gone for most of the season. The injuries that continue to adversely affect Springfield include Mike Blunden and Nik Filatov, both injured last Sunday and still out of the lineup. Also out of action has been Trevor Smith, who was acquired in the Nate Guenin trade. Smith had only played four games for Springfield when he was hurt.
Here in Springfield, it's business as usual. The Falcons in last place. Callups and injuries affecting the team. But optimistically, with good attitudes from the newcomers blended with their sizable talent, I still think the Falcons can overcome their current nine point deficit in trying to get to the Calder Cup playoffs.