Todd Nelson Interviewed By Carolina Hurricanes; Ramsay Named Oilers Assistant

It was both inevitable and encouraged that Todd Nelson would eventually pop up in conversations with other teams looking to hire a new head coach. Nelson’s highly successful four seasons in Oklahoma City as coach of the Barons have been mostly un-phased by lock-outs, prospect heaviness, and injuries. Simply put, he’s one of the hottest AHL properties right now.

Mentioned several times today, but most prominently by Elliotte Friedman, Todd Nelson is being considered by the Carolina Hurricanes:

Most ponderers assumed that Nelson would land as an assistant with the Oilers, and that belief is still worth holding on to. Craig Ramsay has been appointed to Dallas Eakins coaching staff (with Kelly Buchberger moving to player personnel) while current assistant, Steve Smith, is rumored to be exploring his options. With Smith potentially gone, that leaves a hole (perhaps) in the traditional coaching panel with the Oilers.

Nelson might be hired by the Hurricanes. He might get an assistant job with the Oilers. Yet I claim that the former is a more real option for Todd at this time. He wants to be a head coach, and being passed over almost a year ago for Eakins has left him poised to take a job outside the confines of Oil Country.

Prepare yourselves, Barons fans, to be excited and disappointed by the loss of Nelson regardless of where he lands next season. He’s a winner. Coaches like that don’t grow on trees nor do they come to your newly assembled AHL team with quite the coaching resume as Nelson. A winner as a player. A winner as a coach. He’s a dandy.

Here at Tend the Farm we’ve talked in great detail about the potential roads that Nelson could travel (most recently here). This feels like the trail head moment. It’s all down hill from here.

More news to come, no doubt.

The Goalie Shuffle Begins — Chet Pickard returns to Europe

Photo Courtesy of Steven Christy. All Rights Reserved. 

Between the Edmonton Oilers, OKC Barons and Bakersfield Condors there were 5 2-way contract and 2 AHL contract goaltenders in the system this past season: Richard Bachman, Frans Tuohimaa, Olivier Roy (traded to Calgary in return for Brossoit); Laurent Brossoit, Tyler Bunz, Ty Rimmer and Chet Pickard. (In addition to that group, OKC also saw Ilya Bryzgalov, on a brief conditioning stint, and Jason LaBarbera for two games as well for a total of 9 goalies suiting up in OKC.)

Ty Rimmer and Chet Pickard were the 2 goalies of this group signed to AHL contracts, and both spent brief periods in OKC this past season. Rimmer was called up to the Barons in December and March, playing 3 games in OKC but he spent most of his time with the Quad City Mallards in the Central Hockey League and was chosen for that league’s All-Rookie Team. Chet Pickard started the season in OKC and went back and forth between OKC and Bakersfield a few times during the season, playing 6 games with OKC and 21 with the Bakersfield Condors.

With this many minor league goalies in the system it was inevitable that we would see goaltender departures postseason and this morning came news that Chet Pickard, drafted in 2008, 1st round 18th overall by the Nashville Predators, signed with the Odense Bulldogs in the Danish Metal Ligaen. Pickard should do very well in the Danish league and be a major component of this coming season’s team in Odense. He has previous experience in the northern European leagues when he played with Djurgården in the Swedish Allsvenskan league in 2012-13 and out of that season came some of the best stats of his professional career.

We wish you all the best, Chet!

Tend The Farm Picks the Calder Cup Winner (via the writing team & guest)

Your trusty Tend the Farm experts + guest attempt to pick the Calder Cup winner — the team to bring home the Cup and all the marbles for the 2013-14 season. This will be an interesting series since the Texas Stars and St. John’s IceCaps have not faced each other this season. As a matter of fact, the two teams have never faced each other. Ever. That is unfortunately what happens in the AHL when teams in the far West never venture past Rochester, Utica or this coming season, Glens Fall, New York. And you ask, if they are that far East, why don’t they play a few Eastern Conference teams? Great question. Oh look! There’s Syracuse and Albany right there! Ah, now I get it. The Eastern Conference teams would have to fly way out West to meet the Western teams on their own turf. As Horace Greeley said, Go West, young man, go West ….”

Before we get to the Cup picks, let’s look at our results for the Eastern and Western Conference Finals. Eric and I tied, picking both Texas and St. John’s, along with 1 accurate game count:

Conference Finals Eric Patricia Neal Bob
STJ vs WBS – STJ in 6 STJ in 6* STJ in 7 WBS in 6 STJ in 7
TX vs TOR – TX in 7 TX in 6 TX in 7* TX in 7* TOR in 7

 

And now … our TTF picks for the AHL’s Calder Cup Winner in a Best of 7 series:

Neal Livingston’s Pick:
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Texas Stars vs. St. John’s IceCaps – Texas in 6
I watched far too many Western Conference AHL games, and far too little Eastern Conference ones. That being said, Texas has been priming the pump of success all season long, and this is a team that has continued to gel even more down the backroads of struggle. I like that, and you should too. Despite the IceCaps being one whale of a team, I’m going with the Stars in 6. The baby Cup comes south, ya’ll.

Patricia Teter’s Pick:
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Texas Stars vs. St. John’s IceCaps – Texas in 7
Having watched Texas far too many times to count this season we have almost an insider’s view of their pros and cons, and this season Texas just has too many pluses to think the IceCaps will walk away with the Calder Cup. If you think Texas can’t hang in there through seven games against a tough team, just look at the Toronto series. And I admit — I would very much love to see the Cup in the West Division this season. Go Stars!     

Eric Rodgers Pick:
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Texas Stars vs. St. John’s IceCaps – St. John’s in 6

 

Bob Gianettino’s Picks:
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Texas Stars vs. St. John’s IceCaps – Texas in 7

Tend The Farm Stanley Cup Winner Picks: Final Edition (via the Writing Team)

Three Stanley Cup Playoff Rounds — with 16 teams in 88 games — have narrowed down the two teams for the Stanley Cup Final and your Tend the Farm Crew have now picked their favorites to take home the Cup. Who have you got for the win? The New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings have never met up in a Stanley Cup Final which will make this all the more interesting! Back in 1981, before most of you were even born (egads!), the two teams met in the first round with a Rangers 3-1 series win. And going back even earlier, way back in 1979, the two teams met again and the Rangers won all 3 games in a best-of-3 preliminary series. Hmm… there seems to be a trend here, don’t you think?

Before we get to our Final Cup picks, let’s take a look at TTF’s Round Three Results — Eric’s winning streak was derailed this round, but Neal and I did rather well I think!

Round 3

Eric Patricia Neal
NYR vs MTL – NYR in 6 MTL in 7 NYR in 7 NYR in 7
LAK vs CHI – LAK in 7 CHI in 6 LAK in 7 LAK in 6

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And now …  for the Tend the Farm’s 2014 Stanley Cup Winner … our picks are …..

Eric Rodgers Pick:
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Los Angeles Kings vs New York Rangers – Kings in 7
Four things I see in this one:

  • Lundqvist > Quick
  • LA offense > NY offense
  • LA defense > NY defense
  • Sutter > Vignault

Patricia Teter’s Pick:
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Los Angeles Kings vs New York Rangers – Rangers in 7
I’ll be in the minority with my Rangers pick, but sometimes you just have to go with your heart on these things. In the MTL-NYR’s series I said that goaltending would be key and it will truly be the case in the Finals. Henrik Lundqvist will be critical for the Rangers, as well as the team’s speed and defense. Vigneault’s wizardry and his Western Conference experience should come in mighty handy as they face an LA Kings team who has tons of skill. The Rangers will also need a few miracles and like the 1942 WWII song about a damaged bomber struggling to reach home, the Rangers will be “Comin’ in on a wing and prayer.” And, for you OKC Barons fans, you might want to look closely at the Rangers Black Ace goaltender who is none other than former OKC Barons David LeNeveu who, much like the Rangers, has had a rather astonishing and lucky season.

Neal Livingston Pick:
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Los Angeles Kings vs New York Rangers – Kings in 7
I love that one magic trick where the magician transports the lovely assistant from one curtained stand to another curtain stand in a split second. I’ve seen the Hollywood film that told me a dude replicated himself to perform the trick, but I was absolutely convinced that this one trick was performed using twins. I over-convinced myself even to the point that I stopped believing in the twin theory because it sounded too easy. I was right. I was wrong. Indeed the trick was done with twins, and I was wrong in assuming that it was too easy. Thus the trick worked.

This feels like a Stanley Cup Final where the Rangers need twins – in net, at forward, on defense – to sustain their somewhat surprising wave of success. But I’m going with the easy answer, and saying the Kings win in 7. The West dominates this season, and hey, why not? Now about sawing that lady in half…

 

“A Crazy year” for David LeNeveu, the New York Rangers’ Black Ace

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What are the odds? A million to one? Who could have ever dreamed of this scenario? It’s almost like a Walt Disney tale where an out of luck baseball pitcher is signed on a lark and steps in at the last minute during the World Series. Goaltender David LeNeveu himself acknowledges how luck, happenstance and being in the right place at the right time created a chance of a lifetime with the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final.

“It’s been a crazy year,” LeNeveu explained to New York Media earlier this week, “to come in here and enjoy the run with them has been unbelievable, a great experience.”

Since 2003 David LeNeveu, the 2002 #46 overall draft pick of the Phoenix Coyotes, has shuttled around the professional leagues a bit. He has played 327 AHL games with seven different teams (two teams twice at different times), 22 NHL games with Phoenix and the Columbus Blue Jackets, 74 games with two Austrian league teams, and 8 ECHL games this season.

Two seasons ago LeNeveu played with the Oklahoma City Barons as they held top place in the AHL for much of the season, winning the West Division Championship, and they went all the way to the Western Conference Finals before being eliminated from the Calder Cup Playoffs. And Dave LeNeveu was a large part of the team’s success that season. LeNeveu along with Yann Danis was one of the best goaltender tandems in the AHL that season and they both ranked near the top with the likes of Ben Scrivens, Ben Bishop, Jeremy Smith and Dustin Tokarski.

Last season while playing with the Linz Black Wings in the Austrian league (EBEL) LeNeveu sustained an injury to his eye after a slap shot puck to the mask from Swede Eric Johansson. LeNeveu received treatment and returned within less than a month to lead his team into the playoffs through the Semifinals.

Following his stint in Austria, LeNeveu and his family chose to remain in North America this season and he signed with the South Carolina Stingrays, the ECHL affiliate of the Providence and Boston Bruins. He only played 8 games for the Stingrays and 1 for the Providence Bruins before the Hartford Wolf Pack, the New York Rangers AHL team, nabbed him and signed him for the remainder of the season. In late January the New York Rangers signed him to a year contract after Henrik Lundqvist was injured and he backed up Cam Talbot the night of January 21st when the Rangers faced the New York Islanders.

When ask about this season LeNeveu explained, “We wanted to come back to North America but it took a while to get the contract we were looking for. We took advantage of a late run in Hartford, just missed the playoffs. I just didn’t want to quit playing. Thankfully, I was able to come up, still practice every day and stay in condition. It’s been a ride. This team’s not done yet, either.”

On Tuesday in Los Angeles LeNeveu talked to a reporter about his unusual situation. “Coming in as a ‘Black Ace’ early on, you’re practicing every day and you’re just trying to stay in good condition”, he explained. “You never know, you never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes the day turns over and you’re possibly in the net.”

Whether it is serendipity, fate or good luck, LeNeveu has found himself in a magical spot that many hockey players only dream about. “An opportunity presented itself, and I was just kind of in the right place at the right time,” he said.

“That’s what it takes for a lot of players who are up and down between the AHL and the NHL, it’s just being in the right place at the right time, getting a little bit of luck and taking advantage of that opportunity.”

The New York Rangers will play their first game of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday which could be enough time for Cam Talbot, the Rangers backup goaltender, to recover from his undisclosed injury. Here’s hoping Talbot well — I don’t wish any player an injury — but if you love a good underdog story you have to be cheering for the Rangers’ Black Ace goaltender David LeNeveu to be on the roster for a Stanley Cup Final game, even if it is only sitting on the bench. How great would that be!

LATE UPDATE 6/4/14: Official word from the New York Rangers is that David LeNeveu will back up Henrik Lundqvist tonight in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Los Angeles. Alain Vigneault, at today’s pregame press conference, had this to say about LeNeveu:

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See also my earlier article The New York Rangers Black Ace David LeNeveu published on my site at ArtfulPuck.

Matt Ford Signs A One-Year AHL Contract With Barons

Photo by Steven Christy

The flow. The right wing-ded-ness. The chugga chugga, I think I can I think I can. Matt Ford brings a pretty good set of intangibles to the Oklahoma City Barons in recent memories, and apparently he will be bringing even more in the coming season. Announced today by the OKC Barons, Matt Ford has signed a one-year AHL contract. That’s both good and interesting.

It’s good for Matt, who’ll turn 30 by the time the season starts, and he knows it. Four years of U of Wisconsin hockey produced very little offense, but minor league pro teams instantly came a knockin’. Although having played pro hockey since 08-09, Ford has only amassed two full seasons of hockey in that time. His best season to date was in Oklahoma City last year where he totaled 25 goals and 22 assists in just over 70 games. He played an integral part down the stretch, and was at times the Barons only offensive blessing.

If healthy, he’s a good player. Unlike the hired guns that Tambellini placed on the farm, the approach by MacTavish is slow, steady, and prospect friendly. This is one of those moves despite the fact that Ford isn’t considered a legit prospect to land in the Edmonton Oilers Easter basket.

Interesting get for the Barons who have very few right wingers in the quiver. Not that it matters all that much, but stacking the right side with prospects might be something worth watching in the coming weeks. Oh what do I know, I’ve got two right feet. (still dance like a boss)

For now he will play in the land of waving wheat, where he reportedly really enjoys the fans (who sure smell sweet), community, and perks of hockey in a state where football is God and Thunder basketball is seated at the right hand.