Poll: Should the Reign bring back Shawn Collymore?

The rundown on center/left wing Shawn Collymore:

2010-11 stats [career]: 17 goals, 38 points, 36 penalty minutes, -28 rating in 62 games.

Quote: “I’m trying to go to Europe. Hopefully I have an opportunity there. If ever I were to come back and play in the ECHL, this organization is a good one to play for. I’d definitely come back.”

Pros: Collymore only seemed to get better as he took on more responsibility in 2010-11, including moving from center to left wing. His speed stood out among the Reign’s forward corps and helped make him an effective two-way player. He was another calming veteran presence in a young room.

Cons: Collymore was a point-per-game player the last time he was in the ECHL (’07-08) but not this season, save a 10-game stretch in February before he suffered an ankle injury. Was 2010-11 a fluke, or is he starting to decline at age 28?

Poll: Should the Reign bring back Pat Bowen?

The rundown on defenseman Pat Bowen:

2010-11 stats [career]: 3 goals, 13 points, 32 penalty minutes, -10 rating in 52 games.

Quote: “I feel like there’s only going up from here, once you get comfortable with the league. I think you’ll see a lot more of what you saw the past few weeks this season.”

Pros: By the end of his first pro season, Bowen was a versatile, strong-skating defenseman. He might not have been outstanding at any one thing, but was playing reliable minutes in power-play, penalty kill, and even-strength situations. He’ll be 26 next season but is learning the game and can reasonably expect to improve.

Cons: Bowen must still prove he can be consistent over a full 72-game season — especially in his assertiveness, his decision-making, and his ability to create scoring chances. He didn’t always finish his checks even though he has enough size (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) to make it an asset at this level.

Poll: Should the Reign bring back Alex Bourret?

Here’s the rundown on left wing Alex Bourret:

2010-11 stats [career]: 12 goals, 37 points, 68 penalty minutes, -20 rating in 42 games

Quote: “The team’s pretty happy with the way I played. I was off the ice too. I did pretty good in that part. I don’t know about next year, but this year I’m pretty happy with what I did.”

Pros: Bourret is one of the most dynamic offensive players ever to come through Ontario. With him at left wing and Jordan Morrison at center, the Reign had a bona fide top-line pair that was as good as any they faced last season. Fighting and killing penalties weren’t his strengths, but Bourret was willing to do both when needed.

Cons: The minus-20 rating isn’t entirely his fault, but is still pretty hard to amass in only 42 games. Bourret’s fights often took him off the ice when he would have been more effective on it. He will be 25 next season and might not have the patience to stick around if the AHL call doesn’t come.

Poll: Should the Reign bring back Luke Beaverson?

I’m going to keep the blog warm with a series of polls over the next few weeks. There will be one poll per day and the question will be simple: Do you want the Reign to bring back this player next season?

As a disclaimer, understand that constructing an ECHL roster depends on more than just a player’s individual skill set – things like payroll constraints, salary cap constraints, how many apartments the team has available (and related to that, whether a player is single or married), whether the player is a veteran (defined as anyone with at least 260 games of pro experience; each ECHL team can have up to four), how many NHL/AHL players are assigned to Ontario, etc.

There are probably a few more minor factors but those are the big ones.

Still, in general, it’s a more useful question with ECHL players than NHL players, because their contracts only last one year. Every club is virtually guaranteed at least 50 percent turnover from year to year, regardless of where they finished in the standings. Most players won’t be brought back – but who should be?

Going in alphabetical order, we start with Luke Beaverson.

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Chaz Johnson post-season quotes.

It would be an understatement to say that 2010-11 did not go the way Chaz Johnson expected.

That he ended it in the American Hockey League left him feeling optimistic after a year of mostly pessimism. Individually, his numbers were fine: Johnson led the team with 22 goals and his 127 penalty minutes were second to James McEwan.

But in four games with Manchester he went scoreless and was released just before the playoffs started. He talked about his return to the AHL, plus some off-the-ice issues that affected his play.
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Kelly Cup Finals set, plus a video.

The Kelly Cup Finals matchup was determined last night when the Kalamazoo Wings eliminated the Wheeling Nailers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Kalamazoo will play the Alaska Aces, the top-seeded champions of the Western Conference, beginning Saturday in Anchorage.

Only one former Reign is on the roster of either team, Wings defenseman Jon Landry. Landry appeared in 18 games for the Reign in the 2009-10 season before being traded to Kalamazoo, where he’s been ever since. He has six points (goal, five assists) in 10 playoff games so far.

No former Reign will appear in the following video, although if you make it to the end you might recognize Justin Pogge, who was the opposing goalie for the Reign’s first two games of the 2009-10 season. It’s from the ESPN series E:60. If you like hockey and happy endings, you won’t regret the 10-minute investment:

Partial ’11-12 schedule announced; season starts at home.

The fourth season of Reign hockey is already off to a different beginning than the first three.

The team announced Tuesday that next season will begin at home on Oct. 15 against an opponent to be determined; the Reign began their first three seasons on the road.

No road games or opponents were included on the partial schedule announced Tuesday, but a few quirks are already apparent. There will be two only home games the entire month of December (10 and 14), and 10 home games in March. In fact, the entire home schedule is weighted more toward the end of the season: Of the 36 home dates, only 13 fall in the first three months (October, November, December) while 23 fall in the final three months (January, February, March). So there figure to be more road trips early in the season.

There will also be fewer three-in-three home weekends. In fact, there’s only one (February 17-18-19). There are only four three-in-four home weekends: Nov. 16, 18 and 19; Feb. 8, 10 and 11; Feb. 29, March 2 and 3; and March 21, 23 and 24.

Here’s the complete list of regular-season home dates announced Tuesday:

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Beau Erickson post-season quotes.

Three Reign players finished the season on the rosters of AHL playoffs teams: Shawn Germain, Beau Erickson and Chaz Johnson.

Germain had no idea he was headed to the Manchester Monarchs when he left Citizens Business Bank Arena for the last time, but Erickson and Johnson were already with Peoria and Manchester, respectively, when their ECHL teammates were conducting their end-of-season interviews in Ontario.

Erickson’s AHL stint didn’t last long, as Peoria was swept in the first round by the Houston Aeros, and he was the backup in all four games. With the Reign, Erickson was thrust into the number-one goalie role after Kellen Briggs abruptly left for Germany in January. That wasn’t easy, but Erickson made the most of it. After losing his first five starts, he went 11-7-1-2 to finish the season.

It would be hard to invent a more fan-friendly athlete than a tobacco-chewing goalie from Iowa. Here’s what this one had to say Monday:
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It’s official: No more Victoria.

The ECHL Board of Governors unanimously approved the withdrawal of the Victoria Salmon Kings from the league, effectively killing the franchise.

The move seemed inevitable once S-Kings owner Graham Lee decided earlier this year to move the Western Hockey League’s Chilliwack Bruins into Save-On Foods Memorial Centre, giving the arena three hockey tenants for next season (along with a British Columbia Hockey League team).

Reign president Justin Kemp said in an e-mail that it was “a relatively easy vote.” Interestingly, he said the Board voted during a conference call nearly a month ago, but the announcement was delayed until today.

The Salmon Kings players all become free agents. That figured to be the case anyway, since ECHL contracts only last one year. But for ECHL veterans like Chad Painchaud, Ryan Turek, P.J. Atherton, and others who called Victoria home last season, the future becomes a little less certain. Be assured that the league’s other coaches won’t mind having this extra time to recruit the Salmon Kings’ best players.

Still uncertain is the ECHL schedule for next season. A Loveland, Colorado-based CHL team has been rumored as a possible addition, but that could be mere speculation. If the Western Conference is indeed reduced to seven teams, that’s almost a one-third reduction in size from the time the Reign entered the league a short three years ago.

A reduction in Western Conference teams from eight to seven would result in big differences. The pool of players would become smaller and the level of competition figures to go up (again), but the effects of Repetitive Visiting Uniform Syndrome will be felt in Citizens Business Bank Arena and the other six buildings. Would the current playoff format change? Would more Eastern Conference teams be included on the schedule?

Those questions can’t be asked and answered until the number of teams is finalized, and that could be at least a month from now.

By all accounts, Victoria was a beautiful place for players to play and visit. Aesthetically the eight-team balance out West could be restored with the addition of another club.

But good luck replacing this.

Report: Colorado team could join ECHL, part II.

As promised, a follow-up to the recent report that the CHL’s Colorado Eagles could be joining the ECHL:

A league spokesperson declined to address the addition or subtraction of specific teams, which is to be expected since the schedule is still a work in progress. Reign president Justin Kemp has seen a draft of the schedule, but declined to go into details about whether Colorado or Victoria were on it. “I’m not given the opportunity to comment on the league, or other teams,” he said.

That said, here’s what we can report:

• The door hasn’t been officially shut on the Salmon Kings franchise by the ECHL. We don’t know whether the team would have to relocate, but with the Save-On-Foods Memorial Center already supporting a WHL and BCHL team next season, it would be hard to imagine trying to sell an ECHL team there, too.

• The expansion Chicago Express are definitely playing in the Eastern Conference. If the league wants to bring an additional team into the Western Conference to offset losing Victoria (and keep it an eight-team conference), Chicago isn’t a candidate – at least not right now.

• A finalized schedule should be released by the end of May or early June.

• That doesn’t necessarily mean the rumors will go away soon. An ECHL spokesperson said that in the past, teams have been added to the league even after the schedule was released to the public.

We’ll post more here when we know it.