(The Flames won’t be playing games any time soon, but the Heat’s season will begin as scheduled. To get an insider perspective on what we can expect from Calgary’s AHL affiliate this year and where we can watch them, I sent some questions to Abbotsford’s play-by-play voice Ryan Pinder)
1.) First up – When does training camp start? And when is the official start of the season?
Training Camp Begins on the 28th of September, and the season opens on the 12th of October as the Peoria Rivermen (STL) visit the AESC (that’s acronym for Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre). Also, the ever-popular affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks (this year the Chicago Wolves, as it was last year) come to town on the 19th and 20th of October which will draw big numbers.
Ten of the first 13 games this season are on home ice. Given the current NHL lockout, the front-end loaded schedule could pay dividends in this, the club’s 4th season.
2.) Where can fans go to watch or listen to Heat games? And what are the best sources of information and coverage?
All games broadcasts are available on TheAHL.com – audio is free, video is pay-per-view. We’ll be on Sportsnet 960 the Fan in Calgary with regularity until the lockout is resolved and a new CBA is penned. Also, we are working on other radio and TV partnerships that at this points aren’t completed this whole ‘lockout thing’ has added a new dynamic to our season.
3.) TJ Brodie and Sven Baertschi were penciled into the Flames line-up, but were recently confirmed as assigned to the Heat. Where do you expect them to fall on the depth chart? How will that affect the line combinations?
I would anticipate TJ’s role with the club would be similar to what we saw from him last Fall before his call-up in Novmeber, if not a bigger role. Top-4 defender and PPQB was the job description last Fall. In fact, Brodie and Piskula were the top pairing out of the gate last season before Clay Wilson rounded into form and emerged as an MVP candidate.
How Baertschi fits in is a greater unknown, but it’s wouldn’ be unexpected to see him in a top-6 role given his pedigree and his relationship with Troy G. Ward (Ward has seen him progress starting in Penticton at the YoungStars last September, then the following Flames Training Camp last season, and more recently Development Camp this past July. Baertschi will certainly be one of a glut of forwards trying to earn a spot in the top-6. Consider Paul Byron, Dustin Sylvester, Krys Kolanos, Ben Walter, Roman Horak, Max Reinhart, Akim Aliu, Ben Street, Greg Nemisz, Ryan Howse, Michael Ferland and numerous others will be vying for top-6 time too.
4.) Who are some names some Flames fans may not be as familiar with, but will be primary players on the Heat?
C Ben Walter, LW Dustin Sylvester, G Danny Taylor, C Quintin Laing, D Joe Callahan, C Ben Street, and G Barry Brust would all qualify as non-familiar players as none played in the NHL last season. Also, all but Walter and Street are on AHL deals, meaning those contracts are Abbotsford property rather than Calgary.
The above list will be leaned upon heavily this season (as many were last year).
5.) Where do you expect other rookies like Max Reinhart and Michael Ferland to land on the depth chart this year?
Great question. As I alluded to when answering the where the Swiss kid fits in, there are a TON (no a metric TONNE) of forwards that will be in a serious scrap to earn a top-6, top-9 and even a starting spot on this roster up front.
Reinhart has drawn heaps of praise over a small sample size with the club and was trusty enough to earn playoff minutes at the expense of regular AHLers, so you’d think he has a leg up, but Ferland has a dynamic that is quite rare. The Brandon, MB power forward who didn’t play top tier hockey until his Midget year has a track record that says he hits hard, fights and scores. That is a rare combination.
6.) The Heat don’t have an enforcer right now (although Breen and Aliu aren’t exactly shrinking violets). Given how rough the AHL can be, will the team need to add a goon before the season starts?
With Ivanans in Latvia (playing with Riga in the KHL) and PL3 unsigned, the team has lost its two BEST pure-fighters from last season (at this point), but that doesn’t mean the team doesn’t have some moxie. Lance Bouma, Breen & Aliu (as you mentioned), James Martin, Michael Ferland, Nick Tuzzolino, Joe Callahan and even Carter Bancks are all comfy dropping mits and all fought last season and over recent runs in their careers.
7.) As far as I know, neither Leland Irving nor Henrik Karlsson have been assigned to the Heat yet. That means Danny Taylor and Barry Brust will be duking it out to become the Heat’s starter. How do you see Abbotsford’s goaltending shaking out this year?
It should be a great battle right from training camp between Taylor and Brust. With both Karlsson and Irving having to clear waivers to get to the AHL, who knows what will shake out there. ***SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT*** For more on the Goaltending position check out my posting on the Heat Hub as we go position by position in our ‘Eyeballing the 2012-13 Roster‘.
8.) Because of the lock-out, the Heat will have a more depth this year than ever. Of course, so will every other AHL club. Where do you seem them landing in the standings?
Tough to say. When will the lockout end? That’s a factor too. The more players each club loses to their NHL parents the more holes they have to fill mid-season, which can completely alter a team’s chemistry. One thing we do know is that the AHL will be home to most of the top pro hockey players in the world under 22-years of age as long as the NHL . Are you as excited as I am? (…you’re probably not)