The holiday season has descended upon the AHL, which means that it is time to make wish lists.
Just about every AHL team has – or should have -- some need or desire that needs to be filled during this season of giving.
Some clubs have been good. Some clubs have not been so good. Some might just be happy to turn the calendar page on 2007 altogether.
The distribution of gifts is best left to the hockey gods, however.
Here is what might be on the wish lists of AHL clubs this holiday season:
AEROS -- Scoring. Lots and lots of scoring. Defenceman Erik Reitz leads all Houston scorers with a whopping 17 points. That is nowhere near good enough in the stacked Western Conference.
(MILWAUKEE) ADMIRALS – Recognition. The Admirals annually deliver a strong performance – both in prospects and in wins -- but rarely do they make headlines.
(NORFOLK) ADMIRALS -- Better karma and a few breaks. Who could argue with the job that Tampa Bay management did this past summer? Big talent was lured to winter in this beach resort. But injuries and players sticking with the Lightning have killed the Admirals.
AMERICANS -- Restoration of the Amerks’ old-time identity. The current off-ice soap opera is shameful.
BEARS -- A sniper. Alex Giroux departed for the Atlanta organization and was not replaced, at least not with a truly dangerous 40-goal scorer.
BRUINS -- AHL coaching honours for Scott Gordon, Providence’s bench magician and the AHL’s best head coach.
BULLDOGS – An end to the Calder Cup hangover. You know that losing the likes of Carey Price would be an issue, but the Bulldogs have collectively slumped.
CRUNCH -- Improved behaviour and relations with opponents during warm-up. On second thought, scratch that thought. Some pre-game dust- ups lend some spice and zest to the regular season. With Zenon Konopka and Jon Mirasty around, this team entertains, win or lose.
DEVILS – Where does one begin with this last-place club that appears headed to an eighth consecutive season without playoff hockey for a New Jersey affiliate? Coal, perhaps?
FALCONS – Continual good results from the new Edmonton affiliation. The Falcons-Oilers marriage was hardly a natural fit, but so far it has yielded positive results.
FLAMES – A return to last season’s performance while the club still was in Omaha. Expectations have not been met this season in Quad City, and a bad start did not create a positive first impression.
GRIFFINS – Better home-ice performance. Going 5-9-0-1 at home is not nearly good enough, especially for a club that aggressively retooled its roster this past summer.
ICEHOGS -- On-ice discipline. Only San Antonio and Syracuse rank anywhere close to the IceHogs and the 221 power plays that they have surrendered to opponents. Otherwise, Rockford fans have a bountiful haul this holiday season.
MARLIES – Fans and some local respect. The Marlies deliver an excellent on- and off-ice product, and it is first-class all the way at Ricoh Coliseum. When will the GTA realize that?
MONARCHS – Goaltending health and stability. Injuries in Los Angeles and Manchester have complicated the Monarchs’ crease situation.
MOOSE – Good health in Vancouver. It seems that the Moose are hit hard by recalls because of injuries in Vancouver. Moose players have enough of a travel burden already.
MONSTERS -- A less frightful special-teams performance. Ranking 27th on the power play and 26th on the penalty kill going into Friday will eventually kill a team, and, in the Monsters’ case, it has so far.
PENGUINS -- An identity. What exactly is this club’s identity, other than that of an inconsistent club? Past Penguins teams always were knowing for their speedy offence-first approach, and Michel Therrien was an identity all unto himself.
PHANTOMS -- A proven top-flight veteran scorer. Craig Berube’s club has been succeeding via the scoring-by-committee route. But last year’s leading scorer, Matt Cullen, never really was replaced, and the Phantoms’ top two lines have run too hot and cold this season.
PIRATES – Improved goaltending. If the Pirates are going to go with a platoon system, then Gerald Coleman needs to work on that .888 save percentage.
RIVER RATS – A day off for equipment manager Jason McGrath. Having to prepare on a Sunday at the end of a three-in-three weekend for the recall eight players from the ECHL at once is a tall task.
RIVERMEN – Goaltenders. The Rivermen brass has had to deal with a goaltending carousel in the early-going.
RAMPAGE -- Lots of time to practise before all of that airport and bus time, for the annual massive January-February road trip looms. But what a job that the new Phoenix regime and Greg Ireland have done in revamping what was a perennially losing AHL outfit.
SENATORS – Good health for Denis Hamel. Losing the sniper to an injury might be enough to upend the Sens for awhile if they are not vigilant. But the second half of the year has made up for a dreadful opening six months to 2007 for the Baby Sens.
SHARKS – A better penalty kill. Not particularly exciting, for sure, but improved performance while shorthanded would nicely complement what is a very strong power play.
STARS – Less anonymity. Playing out of Des Moines removed from most of the AHL map, what is usually a solid Stars team often seems to toil anonymously. But while Dave Allison's club is in tough playing out of a tremendously competitive division, this is a club that could eventually move upward through the Western Conference standings.
SOUND TIGERS -- Cohesion. New York Islanders management aggressively reshaped the Sound Tigers’ roster, but the pieces have yet to fit together properly, something that should be occurring by this juncture in the season.
WOLF PACK -- Health in goal. Somehow, some way, Ken Gernander is getting the job done on Asylum Street. But imagine how much more sturdy the Wolf Pack would be with a 100-percent healthy Al Montoya.
WOLVES -- Nothing else, really. The gifts have arrived. The AHL’s second-leading team in goals received Darren Haydar this week. That is plenty.
AHL Friday: For more on the AHL, go to blog.canoe.ca/ahl