Not A Rebuild, A Sound Tigers Reconstruction
While Islanders fans become increasingly impatient with the teams’ rebuilding, Sound Tigers fans await the annual summer, team reconstruction.
233 goals were scored by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season. Not a team record and not even close to an AHL record, but enough to win the Northeast Division title.
Of the forty-nine skaters that laced them up last year, six of them accounted for 104 (or roughly 45%) of that total. None of them will return for next year.
Winning a title obviously requires good goaltending, and the tender tandem of Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson was exceptional. Each of them earning Goaltender of the Month recognition from the AHL during the year. One of them will not return next season.
Of the 12 restricted free agents in the Islanders organization, only Matt Martin should expect a new contract, perhaps through arbitration. The remaining eleven RFA’s were Sound Tigers last year and many will not return to Bridgeport.
On June 25, qualifying offers will be extended to some of these restricted free agents. A few; Rahkshani, DiBenedetto and Katic, have already accepted offers to play in Europe next year and may or may not return to the Islanders organization after their time abroad.
There may be a player or two who, like Tomas Marcinko last summer, accepts the offer and returns for one more chance. Those not tendered an offer, will pursue their careers elsewhere and if they do return to the Webster Bank Arena, will wear an opponents colors and receive a warm welcome home.
Many fan favorites from last years’ division championship team such as: Kael Mouillierat, Steve Oleksy, Trevor Frischmon, and several others who were called up from the minors last year, will not be here on opening night October 13, when the banner they fought for is raised.
These are the blue-collar players that gave the team its grit, heart and identity.
The head coach of the Sound Tigers, Brent Thompson, largely responsible for the teams success through very demanding practices and conditioning regimens, as well as an ability to find minor league talent to fill team needs, is also rumored to be among the missing next year. It is all part of the process of development, and the Sound Tigers are truly an AHL developmental team.
As painful as it is to part with last seasons’ heroes, it is just as exciting to look forward to the continued development of the players returning and those about to begin their careers as professional hockey players. While fans will have to wait until September to see the roster, this years’ crop of freshmen looks exceptional.
The talent that has been accumulated after several successful drafts, is ready to put their skills on display in Bridgeport. Players the likes of John Persson (Photo: Pope Steve XXVII) and Brock Nelson, both of whom were seen briefly at the end of last year, will more than likely return.
Joining them may be other talented future NHL'ers such as Andrey Pedan, Johan Sundstrom. Many more who didn't make the bigs after their first taste of summer camp, will surely make an impression in the AHL as Sound Tigers.
It promises to be a very exciting season in Bridgeport next year, with a newly reconstructed team proving themselves worthy of playing under the banner won by last years team of players, some no longer with the team, but all of them forever Sound Tigers.