‘I’m going to give you 23 players in the American Hockey League and you have to win.’” GM Pierre Gauthier to new Hamilton Bulldogs coach Clement Jodoin.
Pressure? What pressure? Clement Jodoin becomes the fourth Bulldogs head coach in four years. Last season’s Hamilton coaches were promoted to the Canadiens in July. Two of their top scorers and one of the team’s best defencemen took off for Europe and two of the AHL’s best goaltenders took advantage of unrestricted free agency to sign elsewhere.
Gauthier expects Jodoin to produce a winner on a team that will carry eleven players who weren’t in Hamilton last season including six rookies. The previous three head coaches, Don Lever, Guy Boucher and Randy Cunneyworth produced, in order, a Calder Cup championship, a loss in the AHL finals and a loss in game seven of the league semi-final. Coaches don’t win without players and, in each instance, Lever, Boucher and Cunneyworth were handed the talent with which to win.
Some of Pierre Gauthier’s late moves this last season indicate that a winning atmosphere is a priority for his minor league franchise. He acquired Nigel Dawes and goaltender Drew MacIntyre to fill a major void left by injuries and the promotions of David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty, Ryan White and Yannick Weber plus the season ending injury to number one goaltender Curtis Sanford, . Without Dawes and MacIntyre, Hamilton would not have pushed the Calder Cup semi-final to the final two minutes of game seven against the Houston Aeros.
Gone from last season’s regular Hamilton lineup for various reasons are Dawes and MacIntyre along with forwards J.T. Wyman, Ben Maxwell, Dustin Boyd, and Ryan Russell plus defencemen Kyle Klubertanz and Mathieu Carle as well as Sanford.
Gauthier was able to keep the players he wanted however plus bring in some veteran help in 33 year old Brian Willsie, a 30 goal scorer with Hershey last season and goaltender Nathan Lawson, a 27-year-old out of the Islanders organization. He also brought the high-scoring Brock Trotter back from Riga of the KHL.
Forwards Andreas Engqvist and Aaron Palushaj are still there. So are defencemen Brendon Nash and Frederic St. Denis along with a number of prospects in varying stages of development. When the season opens one or two of them will probably fill out the Canadiens roster which now stands at twenty-one. The rest will be Jodoin’s challenge.
There are six rookies under contract to the Canadiens including 2009 first round draft pick Louis Leblanc and Swiss defenceman Rafael Diaz.
The Canadiens size, or lack of it, has become a constant NHL talking point. Not a problem on the Hamilton roster where there are ten players 6’2” or over led by the 6’6” Alex Henry. Forwards Andrew Conboy, Michael Blunden and Andreas Engqvist are 6’4”. Brendon Nash, Mark Mitera and rookie Joe Stejskal at 6’3”. At 6’2” are Alexander Avtsin and Ian Shultz.
The Hamilton Bulldogs depth chart – (** = rookie)
:LW Centre RW
Brock Trotter Louis Leblanc** Aaron Palushaj
Phillippe Lefebvre** Andreas Enqvist Brian Willsie
Andrew Conboy Joonas Nattinen** Alexander Avtsin
Dany Masse Gabriel Dumont Michael Blunden
Hunter Bishop Olivier Fortier Alain Berger**
Defence Brendon Nash Frederic St. Denis
Alex Henry Raphael Diaz**
Joe Stejskal** Mark Mittera
Goal Nathan Lawson
Returning Bulldogs 2010-11 Individual Stats
|32||Frederic St. Denis||76||5||18||23||16||34||3||0||108||4.6|
C-Louis Leblanc Montreal (QMJHL) 51GP 26-32 = 58pts. Plus-20
C/RW-Brock Trotter – Riga (KHL) 49GP 9-17=26 pts. Plus-3
LW-Phillippe Lefebvre-Montreal (QMJHL)- 60GP 19-24=46pts. Plus 26
C-Joonas Nattinen – HPK (Finland) 21GP 0-2=2 pts. Minus-8
RW-Alain Berger – Oshawa (OHL) 65GP 29-23=52 plus-19
RW-Michael Blunden-Springfield (AHL) 37GP 12-9=21 minus-6
RW-Brian Willsie- Hershey (AHL) 76GP 30-38= 68pts. Plus-27
D-Michael Mitera – Syracuse(AHL 71GP 6-16=22 minus-5
D-Rafael Diaz – Zug (Swiss) 45GP 12-27=39 plus-11
G-Nathan Lawson (NYIslanders) 10G 1-4-2 4.96GAA .893 savde%
G-Peter Delmas – Wheeling (ECHL) 15-6-2 2.03GAA .28save%