Welcome back to another addition of Meanwhile On The Farm. When we last left the Gulls they were in the midst of a frustrating span of games in which they surrendered valuable points in games that they likely should have won.
Recaps for the last lot of games are as follows:
- A game the Gulls had mostly in control despite being out-gunned, but gave it away in the third.
- A much more stacked Gulls line-up failed to show up until the second period and by then it was too late.
- The most unfair game of the season. San Diego did everything right but were beaten on the night by a hot goalie as they fell in the shootout.
- The Gulls play well in spurts but are ultimately beaten by costly mistakes. This one felt like one of those “could have won but didn't have the personnel” kind of games.
- San Diego finally breaks a five game losing streak off the back of Josh Mahura’s overtime winning goal scored on the breakaway. By coincidence, Troy Terry made his Gulls season debut as part of a conditioning loan.
- The Gulls spank the Reign 6-1 on 80s night, wearing what has to be the best theme-night sweaters they have ever adorned.
- A hard-fought victory and their third straight, the top line creates the win with the play of Terry paving the way.
- Riding the wave, San Diego notched their fourth straight win over the division leaders to go over .500 for the first time in the season.
- Gulls start slow but take the win off the back of Terry’s game winning goal during the NHL All-Star break. Move into a playoff position for the first time this season.
Game 37: San Diego Gulls vs Tucson Roadrunners
- I did not cover this game and didn't have time to catch the replay. But the Gulls lost in disappointing fashion despite having a very deep line-up thanks to the All-Star break.
- The Gulls drop one in OT on the road after blowing a two-goal lead but salvaged a point given that the Griffins had a 5-on-3 that began in regulation and carried over to the overtime session.
- With Max Jones, Chase De Leo and Terry recalled to Anaheim, the Gulls re-inserted some regulars with Michigan ties and all three responded as the Gulls got their first win over the Griffins this season. Gates Jr. had the game winning goal.
- Back at home after the All-Star break the Gulls put on a show for the Pechanga faithful, coming away 5-3 winners off the back of Kiefer Sherwood’s unorthodox hat trick consisting of a penalty shot goal and two short handed tallies.
Game 41: San Diego Gulls vs Ontario Reign
- On the second half of a back to back San Diego were their own worst enemy as they failed to defend a one goal lead and the Reign were able to send things to overtime with only 20 seconds remaining. They then forced a turnover from Isac Lundestrom at the Gulls blue line and stole two important points. I caught the end of this game (the game-tying score and the OT goal) so I didn't particularly feel like re-watching it after that.
Standings Update and Playoff Probabilities
The last-minute loss to the Reign dropped the Gulls back out of the playoff picture as they now sit fifth in the Pacific by points percentage with a 19-16-6 record. They have four games in hand on the Reign who now reside in the final playoff spot.
As it stands right now and has all season, the Roadrunners and Heat are battling it out for first with Colorado sitting relatively comfortably in third. That fourth spot is going to come down to a tight finish between the Reign, Gulls and Condors with ramifications depending on what all three teams parent clubs do at the trade deadline. The Oilers are in the playoffs and likely to be buyers so the Condors have a higher possibility of being further depleted in the final stretch. The Reign and Gulls - with both parent clubs fighting for the right to be in the 2020 NHL Draft lottery - have a very interesting few months ahead.
On the subject of parent clubs and locations...
AHL Affiliations Update
Over the All-Star break there were a few announcements made with regard to the AHL as well as flurry of rumors regarding potential restructures.
The change made that seemed the most important to me was this one:
● However, starting in 2020-21, players who have not turned 25 years old before July 1 of the upcoming season will not qualify as a veteran (regardless of number of games that they have played.— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) January 28, 2020
I quote tweeted this and expressed why I liked this change but essentially what it boils down to is:
- The NHL is changing, and increasingly more elite prospects are entering the league and staying there at a younger age.
- By extension the AHL is also changing as clubs are having to find more “veteran” players to fill out their line-ups in place of those who were expected to spend time in the AHL but graduated to the NHL much sooner.
- The AHL is and always will be a developmental league, but now there is less pressure on the late bloomers to develop within the mandated age limit before they are deemed veterans and potentially get less ice-time.
- Counter-point, it still doesn't really help college players who sometimes don’t make it to the AHL until they are 22-23.
Now for the restructures. Vegas has made it known that they wish to bring their AHL club closer to home. Since their expansion they have been been affiliated with the independently owned and operated - Chicago Wolves. The Wolves to their credit have also recently stated that they will no longer be affiliated with Vegas after this season. Speculation is that this would add an eighth team to the Pacific division to even their number up with the other divisions in the AHL. But wait, the Seattle expansion club Palm Springs based team will also be in the Pacific in 2021-22, making it a total of nine teams. That is where it makes more sense to move the Colorado Eagles into the Central Division where they would be closer to the teams residing on that side of the conference.
One other thing about the Pacific: All NHL Pacific clubs, with the exception of Vegas and Vancouver, have their affiliates in the same division. The Canucks own their farm team, the Utica Comets and have done so since 2013 - purchasing them when they were the Peoria Rivermen. The Canucks did actually plan to move the team to BC, specifically Abbottsford in the Fraser Valley (shout out to my host fam in Lillooet) but the Flames AHL team were already there, which has to be the biggest troll move in the history of AHL team placements. The Canucks even tried to place them in Seattle but at the time the Coyotes were rumored to potentially relocate there and the NHL nixed that. So the Canucks settled on Utica and there they have stayed, presumably because it was such a nightmare finding a location in the first place. One has to wonder, will the Canucks grow tired of having their prospects and call-ups on the other side of the country?
We are all figuring this out, and looking at the players with the two numbers in mind: age and games played. I am updating this article as I learn more specifics regarding players’ status, but below is my working list. I welcome comments from more sage minds, so hit me up with changes and suggestions if my calculations are off.
With regard to the adjustment coming to the veteran rule noted above; that would mean the following players on the Gulls would be counted as veterans next season:
- Sam Carrick (27 years old)
- Chris Mueller (33 years old)
- Chris Wideman (30 years old)
- Justin Kloos (26 years old)
- Blake Pietila (26 years old)
- Alex Broadhurst (26 years old)
- Jani Hakanpaa (27 years old)
- Corey Tropp (30 years old)
- Ryan Johnston (27 years old)
- Andrew Poturalski (26 years old)
- Scott Moldenhauer (25 years old, this is where the vet rule still hurts College players)
Players who meet one criteria but not the other. There are some questions about where these players fit:
- Kiefer Sherwood (24 now but will turn 25 in March. This will make him 25 by July 1, but he will not have met the 260 game mark).
- Daniel Sprong (22 years old, 193 professional games. He may reach the number of games played by July 1, but be too young for the status change.)
- Chase De Leo - has played over the amount of games required to be a vet (316 and counting) so is technically a vet this season, but will not turn 25 before July 1st so we will see where he fits in this new rule.
Completely safe are:
- Alex Dostie (22 years old, 120 pro games)
- Jack Kopacka (21 years old, 69 pro games)
- Antoine Morand (20 years old, 40 pro games)
- Josh Mahura (21 years old, 97 pro games)
- Isac Lundestrom (20 years old, 178 pro games although he had played 91 games in the SHL before coming to North America which count against the total, a potential by-product of the new rule will mean European drafted players have longer to develop in the AHL before being considered veterans)
- Max Comtois (21 years old, 58 pro games)
- Troy Terry (22 years old, 119 pro games, possibly irrelevant though because he will not be waiver exempt next season)
- Brendan Guhle (22 years old, 175 pro games)
- Simon Benoit (21 years old, 105 pro games)
- Hunter Drew (21 years old, 28 pro games)
- Brent Gates Jr. (22 years old, 44 pro games)
- Deven Sideroff (22 years old, 97 pro games)
- Max Jones (21 years old, 122 pro games)
So as you can see the Gulls are fairly vet heavy this season and with possibly only Benoit-Olivier Groulx coming through next season - the evidence is there that the Ducks need to load up with some young talent at the deadline.
Since his acquisition Chris Mueller has had the biggest impact in the face-off circle. I don’t have the stats to back it up because the AHL doesn't cover face-off percentage but just know that when the Gulls are on the Power Play, in the offensive zone and Mueller is taking the draw, you can bet that San Diego will get possession.
Before his acquisition the Gulls had 16 power-play goals through 28 games, since he joined the club they have nine in the last 13. Of those nine, Mueller has assisted on two of them, scored two of them and been on the ice for one other.
Captain Sam Carrick still leads the team in scoring, doing slightly better than last season’s point per game final effort with 32 points in 31 games thus far. Mueller is second with a combined point total (between Syracuse and San Diego) of 28 points in 44 games. Sprong comes in third with 24 points in 31 games. Carrick has been the most consistent of late, with five points in his last four games, but no other player has really been on any kind of hot streak recently. We saw a couple of great games from Brent Gates Jr - enough for him to surpass Alex Dostie and Deven Sideroff on the depth chart - but then a scratch for the most recent tilt with the Reign. Brendan Guhle has been trending upward with his play lately also, to the point where he has looked the more polished in comparison to Josh Mahura. It should also be noted that Antoine Morand has been his consistently hard-working self; when the coach keeps you in the line-up as a rookie over the All-Star break despite being presented with a plethora of weapons up front, it really says something.
Half-Way Point Surprises & Regressions
I gave my mid-season grades a month or so ago but some of the Gulls missed out because they hadn't played enough games. One of those that missed the cut was Scott Moldenhauer. I am of the belief that it has been his possible unexpected emergence that lead to Patrick Sieloff becoming expendable. The former Western Michigan captain has surpassed his AHL career games played and points, having seen 21 games of action and earning three assists on the season thus far.
I also gave an A to Alex Dostie, because at the time he had a regular spot in the line-up and was somewhat consistent at going to the net or rushing the puck with speed. But the Ducks 2016 fourth-round pick has not seen action since mid-January, missing the last seven games. He began the year well but will need a big second half if he hopes to come back next season as this is the final year of his three-year entry level deal.
Deven Sideroff is another player that needed a big year, but he has just been sent back to Tulsa of the ECHL after being missing from the Gulls lineup since Jan. 18.
Jack Kopacka has also struggled to get back into the line-up after last seeing action Jan. 25 in Michigan. I wrote with admiration about how the 2016 fourth-round pick completely took over a game against the Heat a few months back but since then he has been the merest slither of a shadow of that game-breaking player.
I had so much more to write about (let me know if you want me to do an article on the AHL Veteran rule, I see a lot of questions on Twitter about it) but this is getting too long so wrapping things up...
The Gulls have 27 games left on the season, 10 of those are at home and only two of those are out of the division. It is a tough schedule to close out the season with a playoff spot on the line but the line-up has also been bolstered with additional aid. Buckle your seat belts because it is going to be a fun second half!