Hello again, everyone...your friendly neighborhood WBS writer here again, hoping you all are well and enjoying the glorious reflections of sunlight off of Lord Stanley's Cup. It's been an interesting few weeks since the NHL season concluded and the official start to hockey's "silly season" of insane trades (hello, Nashville/Montreal/Edmonton/Jersey) and contracts for all the money, so let's take a step back and summarize everything that has happened to the WBS Penguins since they left the ice in Hershey in late May.
The Captain Returns
The biggest question mark facing the WBS Penguins once the final horn rang in Hershey concerned its captain. For the entirety of the playoffs, we had heard that the 2015-16 run had roughly a 90% chance of being Tom Kostopoulos's last ride. Thankfully for all of us who count ourselves WBS fans, on May 24 TK took the 10%, signing a one-year AHL contract for 2016-17. At 37 years old, Kostopoulos will look to expand on his regular season total of 19 goals and 33 assists in 75 games (second best behind Carter Rowney's 56 points among players who spent all of last season in the Penguins organization), as well as his 12 points in 10 playoff games that seconded only Jake Guentzel for the team playoff lead.
Coming Back for More
In addition to Kostopoulos's return, the Penguins organization will welcome back
six seven contributors to its ranks for the 2016-17 season. Defender Tim Erixon was the first to come back, signing on June 27 after 20 points in 65 regular season games and 6 points in 10 playoff games for WBS. Following Erixon were alternate captain Steve Oleksy (19 points in 63 games, one assist in 9 playoff games) and the tough-as-nails Tom Sestito (14 points in 41 games, 4 points in 7 playoff games) on July 1, goaltender Casey DeSmith on July 5, forward Adam Krause (4 points in 15 games, no points in 3 playoff games) on July 6, forward Sahir Gill (14 points in 21 games, no points in 2 playoff games) on July 7, and defender Barry Goers on the morning of July 8.
New (Old) Faces in the Crowd
Sitting at my desk on July 1, watching the dollars fly, I was simply baffled at just how many defenders the Penguins organization signed as free agency opened. Perhaps it wasn't a surprise to see David Warsofsky, plucked off waivers by the New Jersey Devils last season, return to the Penguins, but after former Toronto first-rounder Stuart Percy, Rochester defender Chad Ruhwedel, and Portland All-Star and alternate captain Cameron Gaunce signed as well on July 1, I couldn't help but think how happy the WBS goalies would be seeing all this defensive ability in front of them. The Penguins also added forward Garrett Wilson, formerly of Portland and Florida, to their ranks on July 7, as well as former Cornell Big Red captain Christian Hilbrich (all 6'7" of him) on June 28 and former Barrie Colts captain Michael Webster on June 27.
- Atlantic: Bridgeport, Hartford, Hershey, Lehigh Valley, Providence, Springfield, WBS
- North: Albany, Binghamton, Rochester, St. John's, Syracuse, Toronto, Utica
- Central: Charlotte, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Iowa, Lake Erie, Manitoba, Milwaukee, Rockford
- Pacific: Bakersfield (68), Ontario (68), San Antonio, San Diego (68), San Jose (68), Stockton (68), Texas, Tucson (68)
• Players who enter into a fight prior to, at, or immediately following the drop of the puck for a faceoff will be assessed an automatic game misconduct in addition to other penalties assessed.
• During the regular season, any player who incurs his 10th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for one (1) game. For each subsequent fighting major up to 13, the player shall also be suspended automatically for one (1) game.
• During the regular season, any player who incurs his 14th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for two (2) games. For each subsequent fighting major, the player shall also be suspended automatically for two (2) games.
• In any instance where the opposing player was assessed an instigator penalty, the fighting major shall not count towards the player’s total for this rule.
So, that fight at the start of Game 5 of the Atlantic Division finals between Sestito and Liam O'Brien? Yeah...under these new rules, both players would have been kicked out of the game.
Or, remember this skirmish between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers a few years ago?
The box score from that night has Ryan Carter, Eric Boulton, and Cam Janssen for NJ and Mike Rupp, Brandon Prust, and Stu Bickel for the Rangers all getting five-minute fighting majors and nothing else. Under these new AHL rules, all six players would have been ejected from the game on game misconducts.
I'm all for the elimination of fighting from hockey. Let's get that straight. Often, during this most recent season I found myself doing anything and everything to distract myself from the ice whenever a fight took place. I don't pay for a 22-game WBS ticket package to watch fights; I pay for a 22-game WBS ticket package to see players like Conor Sheary, Scott Wilson, Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, Brian Dumoulin, Matt Murray, and so many others through the years hone their skills for promotion to and success in the big show. Fights have been a sadly necessary evil for me in the AHL lately, so anything the league can do to eliminate them is just great by me.
Big Tom, your thoughts?
@TheAHL Booorrrrrrinnnnngggggg— Tom Sestito (@TomSestito23) July 7, 2016
...I'll...just be over here, waiting for more WBS news to happen...enjoy your summer, everyone...
EDIT: Article updated to include the return of Barry Goers to WBS, announced by the team on the morning of July 8.