It’s Moose season
TEN STORYLINES TO FOLLOW as the team begins its chase for the elusive Calder Cup
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/09/2010 (4506 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Manitoba Moose will open their 15th season today with the beginning of training camp and as always there is no shortage of storylines to follow.
The Moose ran all the way to the Calder Cup final two seasons ago but last year barely made the playoffs and were bounced in the first round.
There’s been a coaching change, new leadership will have to step up on the ice, and in the net there are question marks, where once there was the AHL’s top netminder in Cory Schneider.
Training camp runs for two weeks before the club opens on the road Oct. 8 in Peoria against the Rivermen. Moose GM Craig Heisinger has attempted to build a competitive roster but much of what happens in Winnipeg will depend on the actions of the parent Vancouver Canucks.
Here’s our list of top storylines to be explored this season in Mooseland:
DROUGHT ON THE PRAIRIES: The Moose have gone 14 seasons without a title in either the IHL or the AHL. The NHL’s Winnipeg Jets never came close to winning the Stanley Cup and the fans around here last celebrated back in 1979 when the Jets won the WHA’s Avco Cup. The Moose would love to capture a Calder Cup and put an end to that drought.
LEADERSHIP: The last time the Moose had to even wonder about their leadership was 2004-05, the lockout year. Since that time, captain Mike Keane has ruled the roost, but he wasn’t offered a contract this summer.
MEET THE NEW BOSS: Head coach Claude Noel takes over for Scott Arniel, who is the third Moose coach in a row to take an NHL head coaching position. Noel is experienced at many levels and comes to the Moose with a championship pedigree, having won the Calder Cup while head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals. Arniel took the Moose to the Calder Cup final and Noel should make the transition a smooth one for the organization.
HELP FROM ABOVE: The fortunes on the farm always depend to a degree on the West Coast office. If the Canucks stay healthy and leave the Moose alone, good things should result. But injuries up top can result in a shortage of experience and talent in antlers. This is an unpredictable but expected reality.
GREEN TEAM: Youth is again a huge question mark for the Moose on defence. Many of last season’s young defencemen had fantastic press clippings and fooled a lot of pundits before Game 1. It turned out to be a wildly inconsistent group for a lot of reasons. This season, the only known commodities are Nolan Baumgartner and Travis Ramsey. The balance of the blue-line are prospects from the Canucks who, oddly enough, have been assembling great press clippings.
HE SHOOTS, HE SCORES (SOMETIMES): The Moose were among the AHL’s worst offensive teams last season with a franchise-low 204 goals, but were able to largely cover that up with the stellar play of goalie Cory Schneider. Improvements appear to have been made, but there’s a reason they play the games — to find out.
MASKED MEN: How the Moose replace Schneider will be key. Schneider was Manitoba’s best player the last couple of seasons and leaves a huge void. Tyler Weiman is supposed to be a capable replacement but the proof is yet to be viewed.
THE VETERAN GAME: As of today, the Moose are projected to have just three veterans on their roster, which gives GM Craig Heisinger some flexibility in the future if he doesn’t like how things are going. Five are allowed in any one game (a player with more than 260 games experience in the AHL, IHL, NHL or Europe), plus one exempt player (320 of same).
PROBLEM OR SOLUTION? Canucks prospect Cody Hodgson is likely slated for some time in Winnipeg and he could provide offence and smarts to the Moose lineup. Hodgson, however, has not shown much interest to date in playing at the AHL level. If Hodgson has determined that some time with the Moose is inevitable and part of his development process, then Manitoba could benefit from his considerable talents.
SURPRISE: Moose talent man Bruce Southern always seems to uncover a gem or two that others have missed. Southern is partly responsible for the likes of Rick Rypien, Alex Burrows and Alexandre Bolduc, to name a few. If he can scout up the next wunderkind, Moose fans will have another reason to get to the rink.
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