AHL enforcing tough men to change ways

The following rule was brought in by the American Hockey League this summer to start as of the 2014/15 season.

20.4 (“Major Penalties”)

An automatic game misconduct will be applied to any player who has been assessed two major penalties for fighting or three major penalties for any infraction in the same game.

The AHL were certainly stringent last year on offences they deemed worthy of further punishment using the following rule.

Rule 28 – Supplementary Discipline

28.1 Supplementary Discipline – In addition to the automatic fines and suspensions imposed under these rules, the President may, at his discretion, investigate any incident that occurs in connection with any Pre-season, Exhibition, League or Playoff game and may assess additional fines and/or suspensions for any offense committed during the course of a game or any aftermath thereof by a player, goalkeeper, Trainer, Manager, Coach or non-playing Club personnel or Club executive, whether or not such offense has been penalized by the Referee.

With that in mind and the ruling regarding helmets made stricter, I was intrigued to see whether AHL teams would re-sign their fighters and highest penalty minute collators from last season.

Here’s the low-down on the top ten worst offenders in 2013/14.

Zack Stortini led the way in PIM, attaining 299, while a member of the Norfolk Admirals. On seven occasions Stortini hit double figures in a single game while twice racking up 17 and 22 PIM respectively. Lehigh Valley Phantoms have acquired his services for the 14/15 season.

Michael Liambas finished second in the list but his PIM average usurped Stortini, at almost 4.5 minutes per game in his first full AHL season.

You may recognise the name as he was suspended for the remainder of the OHL season including playoffs for boarding Ben Fanelli during a game against the Kitchener Rangers in April of 2009. Milwaukee Admirals have re-signed him for next season.

Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond was the “AHL’s Most Penalized Player“ in 2010/11 with 334 PIM. Ironically during that season he picked up twice as many points as he acquired last year. In the second year of a two-way deal, it’s most likely Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will be his home again.

Brett Gallant has picked up PIM in the AHL with the ease Connor McDavid accrued goals and points in peewee. A total of 615PIM in 143 games for Gallant and last season he played his first 50+ games in the American Hockey League and passed the 250 barrier. He was re-signed to a one year-two way deal

Five and Six on the list both played for the Adirondack Phantoms but neither will be suiting up for the Philadelphia Flyers new AHL team, Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Both accrued 231PIM for the season but Zack Fitzgerald’s came in a staggering 38 games, at an average of over six. Shouldn’t really be too much of a surprise as he was the AHL’s PIM leader in 2009/10 and 2011/12. He is off to Scotland to be player/assistant coach for the Braehead Clan.

FightZack FitzGerald, left, of the Charlotte Checkers, fights with Piere-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, of the Albany Devils.
Image from http://www.CTpost.com

Brandon Manning hasn’t been offered a contract after finishing his entry level deal and is yet to find a new team. His points and PIM increased every season while with Adirondack and he suited up ten times for Philadelphia Flyers.

Bobby Robins is next and since coming back to the AHL with Providence Bruins, has consistently been amongst the top penalty minute earners. In fact last year he topped the table in that category. This will the second season of his two way deal with Boston.

Dane Byers is the first captain on the list and he will once more be wearing the “C” for the Hershey Bears in 2014. It was back to old ways for Byers whose total of 211PIM was a return to his highest total since his first full AHL season in 2006.

By no means is Kris Newbury just a hard nosed player as his 0.74PPG average in over 650 AHL games proves. He’s the third player to represent Adirondack Phantoms on the list as he spent the majority of the season with that team. Like the aforementioned Byers, his PIM tally is his highest in a long time, having to look back until his time with the Toronto Marlies in 2005/06 to see him hitting the 200 mark. Newbury has signed with the Hershey Bears after a loan spell toward the end of last year.

Completing the top ten is Curt Gogol, who began the season with Worcester Sharks before being traded and assigned to he Iowa Wild. Gogal has played under 150 games but passed the 500PIM mark with ease. He will be suiting up for his new team in 2014.

As mentioned, Adirondack Phantoms have three players in the top three with another inside the top 20.

Lake Erie Monsters are next with three player with Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Binghamton Senators both having two. The latter’s two representatives are remarkable both rookies in the form of Darren Kramer and Michael Sdao. Kramer’s total racked up at an average of night of four minutes per game

The question is will these players, let alone the teams, adapt for the new rules? It’s not just fighting that will be clamped down on as boarding and charging will be treated with as much disdain by the officials on the ice and those in charge of discipline inside the offices of the AHL.

I was witness to one of the games last season that has inevitably led to the AHL’s clamp down on discipline.

On Friday, March 7th 2014, the Toronto Marlies visited Lake Erie and both teams shared exactly 200 PIM.

Including ten fighting penalties and the same number of misconduct penalties, the officials weren’t at their best but there was nothing to excuse the majority of the behaviour from both teams.

The gloves being dropped after the opening face-off and again inside four minutes set the tone of the game.

I’m not anti-fighting per-se but a fight from the opening face-off is not a road hockey needs to be going down in this day and age.

I’m prepared to wager that the AHL will come down hard and fast with disciplinary action to set their stall early should players be ejected from games in the opening weeks of the season.

 

Note:

Rule 9.6 (“Helmets”)

A player on the ice whose helmet comes off during play will be assessed a minor penalty unless he immediately (a) exits the playing surface or (b) puts the helmet back on with the chin strap properly fastened.

 

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