As the days roll by and the verbal becomes more uncooperative on both sides, fans begin to cast about for something to do. If you look really hard, there are some interesting things.
The 04-05 American League was a strong, strong league. The Edmonton Roadrunners were one of the teams blessed with some nice young NHL talent:
- Raffi Torres, who had scored 20 goals in the 03-04 NHL season. He scored 21 in the AHL in 04-05 and returned to the NHL in 05-06 as a quality value contract. His 27 goals and big hits were a memorable part of the 05-06 team.
- Jarret Stoll, a young C who scored 10 goals in 03-04 and blossomed in the AHL in the lockout season. When the NHL returned for 05-06, Stoll was a better man and had a quality season.
- Brad Winchester, who was in his second AHL seaso in 04-05 and had not played in the NHL. Winchester spent the winter playing a complementary role and eventually found NHL footing. He scored a huge goal during the spring 2006 run for the Oilers. Was that lockout season–where he played with skilled men and scored 22 goals–a helping hand for the big man?
- Kyle Brodziak had just turned pro in 2004, and was in a depth role for much of the season. Still, he made progress and would be in the NHL for good by 2007 fall. Was that season in the very strong AHL a benefit?
- Toby Petersen had struggled to establish himself in the NHL, but had a good season with the Roadrunners and followed up with another in the AHL before finding his way in the big leagues again under MacT.
The Roadrunners aren’t the best example of the 04-05 push, perhaps champion Philadelphia gives the best testimony for advancement in a very strong minor league.
I do believe there’s something to be gained by placing your best young players in the minors during a lockout year. Maybe Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle and the Nuge and Yakupov and Justin Schultz will scatter, but the idea that these kids might go to OKC and spend the season there has some appeal.