This Week's Games
Fri., Oct. 9 GRIFFINS at Bakersfield Condors 10 p.m. WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM /AHLLive.com
Sat., Oct 10 GRIFFINS at San Diego Gulls 10:05 p.m. WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM /AHLLive.com
New Era, New Logo: The Griffins begin their 20th anniversary season with a brand-new logo and overall look, as the team changed its primary logo and colors on Aug. 18. Marking the first primary logo change in the history of the franchise, the Reebok-designed logo features Griff fiercely protecting the skyline of Grand Rapids, reinforcing the pride that the Griffins have in their city while portraying an aggressiveness that was absent from the original logo. Prior to its adoption as the primary logo, the artwork had been featured on the Griffins' home Wednesday jerseys since 2012.
Full Circle: Todd Nelson, 46, became the 10th head coach in Griffins franchise history on June 19, 2015, after splitting the 2014-15 season in head-coaching roles with the Oklahoma City Barons (AHL) and the Edmonton Oilers (NHL). The Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, native guided the Barons to a 15-6-2-2 record and first place in the West Division, including a 10-game point streak from Nov. 15-Dec. 6, before taking over for Dallas Eakins as the interim head coach of the Oilers on Dec. 15. In his first stint as an NHL head coach, Nelson led Edmonton to a 17-25-9 record in 51 games. As an AHL coach, Nelson owns a 176-111-12-34 overall record. The first player ever signed to a Griffins contract, Nelson is one of the most significant defensemen in franchise history. His 236 games played rank 19th all time and sixth among defensemen, while his 56 assists and 67 points both place 13th among Grand Rapids blueliners. Following in the footsteps of Danton Cole (2002-05), whom he served under as an assistant coach, Nelson is the second former Griffins player to be employed as Grand Rapids' head coach.
Those Who Can, Coach: Providing support on the Griffins' bench this season are three assistant coaches in Bruce Ramsay, Ben Simon and Mike Knuble. All three assistants, along with bench boss Todd Nelson, are former Griffins players, with Ramsay and Nelson members of the Griffins' inaugural team in 1996-97. In all, "Rammer" collected nine goals, 14 assists and 781 penalty minutes in 175 games with Grand Rapids from 1996-99. His PIM still rank second all-time in franchise history, and he's one of three players to ever twice eclipse 300 PIM, producing 306 PIM in 1996-97 and leading the team with 310 PIM in 1997-98. Simon spent the 2006-07 season with the Griffins and tallied nine points (4-5—9) in 21 games, while Knuble appeared in just one game with Grand Rapids on Jan. 23, 2013. Knuble is only the second Grand Rapids native to play for the team after Luke Glendening made his debut during the same season.
Can't Stop, Won't Stop: Jeff Hoggan makes his return to Grand Rapids this season for his fourth campaign, marking the longest captaincy in Griffins franchise history. The 37-year-old, who was the oldest skater in the league last season, places among the Grand Rapids' all-time leaders with 48 goals (T22nd), 107 points (T22nd) and a plus-31 rating (T17th). Entering his 14th professional season, Hoggan has now accumulated 318 points (159-159—318) in 623 AHL contests with Grand Rapids, San Antonio, Providence, Worcester and Houston, while also registering 11 points (2-9—11) in 107 NHL games with Phoenix, Boston and St. Louis.
Coaching Ties: When new Griffins head coach Todd Nelson squares off against the Bakersfield Condors and San Diego Gulls this weekend, he'll be facing familiar foes. Prior to this season, the Condors were formerly the Oklahoma City Barons, who Nelson coached from 2010-14 and led to two Western Conference Finals appearances in just four full seasons. Within that span, Nelson accumulated a 176-111-12-34 record, and he will attempt to earn his first victory as Grand Rapids' head coach against many of his former players. Similarly, Nelson has ties to the San Diego Gulls through their head coach Dallas Eakins, who Nelson replaced on Dec. 15 as the interim head coach of the Edmonton Oilers upon Eakins' firing.
The Western Frontier: In January, the American Hockey League announced a 2015-16 expansion into the Western market in an attempt to bring a handful of developmental teams closer to their NHL affiliates. The new Pacific Division, which is primarily located in California, is comprised of the Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers), Ontario Reign (Los Angeles Kings), San Antonio Rampage (Colorado Avalanche), San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks), San Jose Barracuda (San Jose Sharks), Stockton Heat (Calgary Flames) and Texas Stars (Dallas Stars).
Standings Change: The league's expansion to the west coast has resulted in a change in the number of games played for teams in the Pacific Division. All Californian teams in the Pacific Division will play 68 games during the regular season, while all other AHL teams will play 76. As a result, standings will now be ranked according to the teams' overall points percentages (points earned divided by points available).
Detroit Exports: Nineteen Red Wings-contracted players are on the Griffins' 26-man roster, including goaltenders Jared Coreau and Tom McCollum; defensemen Nick Jensen, Brian Lashoff, Richard Nedomlel, Robbie Russo and Ryan Sproul; and forwards Andreas Athanasiou, Louis-Marc Aubry, Tyler Bertuzzi, Mitch Callahan, Colin Campbell, Martin Frk, Anthony Mantha, Andy Miele, Zach Nastasiuk, Tomas Nosek, Eric Tangradi and Marek Tvrdon.
Fresh Faces: Four members of the Griffins' season-opening roster skated elsewhere in 2014-15. Here's a brief look at each of the new arrivals:
- Matt Corrente- Bringing a breadth of AHL experience to Grand Rapids' blueline, the 6-foot, 205-pound Corrente split the 2014-15 season between the Syracuse Crunch (2-6—8, 48 GP, 101 PIM) and San Antonio Rampage (1-4—5, 10 GP, 43 PIM). Originally selected by the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, 30th overall, Corrente has played 293 career games in the AHL between the Lowell Devils, Albany Devils, Charlotte Checkers, Crunch and Rampage. He also logged 34 career NHL games with the New Jersey Devils between 2009-11, picking up six assists and 68 PIM.
- Joel Rechlicz- A notable physical force in the hockey world, Rechlicz, 28, joins the Griffins after a 20-game stint with the Iowa Wild during the 2014-15 season, where he picked up one goal and 60 PIM. The Brookfield, Wisc., native has appeared in 207 AHL games since 2007-08 and has amassed seven points (4-3—7) and 946 PIM. He will miss the first three games of the season as a consequence of a charging incident in a preseason game versus Lake Erie on Oct. 2.
- Robbie Russo- Russo captained the Notre Dame Fighting Irish last season as a senior and enjoyed a career year, ranking second on the team with 41 points (15-26—41) in 40 games. A native of Westmont, Ill., Russo tied for first in the nation in goals by a defenseman and finished one point shy of tying for the lead in points. As a result, he was selected to the NCAA East Second All-American Team and the Hockey East First All-Star Team. In 142 career collegiate contests from 2011-15, Russo tallied 94 points (28-66-94) and 82 penalty minutes. The six-foot, 191-pound Russo signed a two-year contract with Detroit onAug. 16.
- Eric Tangradi- Anaheim's second choice, 42nd overall, in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Tangradi appeared in 48 games with the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs last season (14-17—31) and also skated in seven games with the Montreal Canadiens. A seventh-year pro with 143 NHL games under his belt, Tangradi was signed to a one-year contract by the Red Wings onJuly 8. Clocking in at 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds, the Philadelphia, Pa., native ranked seventh among Bulldogs scorers last season despite playing in far fewer games than the six skaters who eclipsed his scoring.
Suspension: Right wing Joel Rechlicz has been suspended for three games as a consequence of a charging incident in a preseason game versus Lake Erie on Oct. 2. He will miss both games this weekend, as well as the Griffins' home opener next Friday at Van Andel Arena.
Welcome Back: Twenty players from the Griffins' 2014-15 squad are on the season-opening roster: goaltenders Jared Coreau and Tom McCollum; defensemen Scott Czarnowczan, Nick Jensen, Brian Lashoff, Nathan Paetsch and Ryan Sproul; and forwards Andreas Athanasiou, Louis-Marc Aubry, Tyler Bertuzzi, Mitch Callahan, Colin Campbell, Martin Frk, Jeff Hoggan, Anthony Mantha, Andy Miele, Zach Nastasiuk, Tomas Nosek, Marek Tvrdon and Mark Zengerle. Two other players, left wing Triston Grant and defenseman Richard Nedomlel, played for the Griffins in seasons prior to 2014-15.
NHL Experience: Eleven Griffins have seen time in the NHL, combining for 625 regular season games; Nathan Paetsch (167), Eric Tangradi (143), Brian Lashoff (117), Jeff Hoggan (107), Matt Corrente (34), Joel Rechlicz (26), Andy Miele (15), Triston Grant (11), Tom McCollum (3), Mitch Callahan (1) and Ryan Sproul (1).
#148 and #149: Two former Griffins currently on NHL rosters are expected to make their debuts this week, potentially becoming the 148th and 149th Grand Rapids alumni to play in the NHL. Mattias Janmark (Dallas Stars) appeared in just two regular season games with the Griffins at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season and went on to tally one assist in six 2014 Calder Cup playoffs games with the team. During those same playoffs, the Stockholm, Sweden, native skated in two games against his club's AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars, who eliminated the Griffins 4-2 en route to an eventual Calder Cup. Dylan Larkin is also slated to make his NHL debut after earning a roster spot with Detroit through training camp and the preseason. If Larkin makes his debut with Detroiton Friday, he will be the first Red Wings teenager in 25 years to make his NHL debut on opening night. The last to achieve this feat was center Mike Sillinger, who went on to accumulate 548 points (240-308—548) in 1,049 career NHL games from 1990-2008.
In the Show: A total of 33 former Griffins can be found among the season-opening rosters of 10 NHL teams. They range from Ottawa's 36-year-old Chris Neil, the longest-tenured active Griffins alum (No. 38) whose 14 seasons and 893 NHL games are the most ever logged by a player after leaving Grand Rapids, to Detroit's 19-year-old Dylan Larkin, who could make his Red Wings debut on Friday. The complete list of Grand Rapids' current NHL alumni is as follows: Boston - Jonas Gustavsson, Chris Kelly; Buffalo - Carlo Colaiacovo; Calgary - Jiri Hudler; Carolina - Andrej Nestrasil; Dallas - Patrick Eaves, Mattias Janmark, Jason Spezza; Detroit - Justin Abdelkader, Joakim Andersson, Jonathan Ericsson, Landon Ferraro, Luke Glendening, Jimmy Howard, Tomas Jurco, Niklas Kronwall, Dylan Larkin, Petr Mrazek, Gustav Nyquist, Xavier Ouellet, Teemu Pulkkinen, Kyle Quincey, Riley Sheahan, Brendan Smith, Tomas Tatar, Danny DeKeyser (INJ), Darren Helm (INJ), Jakub Kindl (INJ) and Alexey Marchenko (INJ); Nashville - Calle Jarnkrok; New Jersey - Jordin Tootoo; Ottawa - Chris Neil; and Tampa Bay - Valtteri Filppula.
Newbies: The Griffins have four players who will be considered rookies this season, including newcomer defenseman Robbie Russo. Tyler Bertuzzi (two regular season games, 14 playoff games), Zach Nastasiuk (11 regular season games, 11 playoff games) and Richard Nedomlel (three regular season games) have all appeared with the Griffins over the course of the previous two seasons but have not met the AHL's 25-game threshold.
Griffins' Coaching Tree: Five former players or coaches for the Griffins are currently involved in coaching with other AHL squads, including Lake Erie head coach Jared Bednar (1998-99), Providence head coach Bruce Cassidy (HC 2000-02), Hershey assistant coach Bryan Helmer (2004-06), Springfield assistant coach Doug Janik (2009-12) and Ontario head coach Mike Stothers (HC 2007-08).
Fri., Oct. 9 at Bakersfield Condors (0-0-0-0) - Rabobank Arena - 10 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 9:35 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 0-0-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Season Series: First of two meetings overall, first and last on the road. NHL Affiliation: Edmonton Oilers.Head Coach: Gerry Flemming (1st season). Notes: Friday's game in Bakersfield marks the first game for the Condors' new franchise...The Condors were formerly the Oklahoma City Barons, whom current Griffins head coach Todd Nelson led for six seasons from 2010-14...Condors right wing Andrew Miller tied for 15th overall among AHL scorers last season, notching 60 points (27-33—60) in 63 regular season games...The Edmonton Oilers recently assigned goaltender Ben Scrivens to Bakersfield. Scrivens most notable recorded a 59-save shutout of the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 30, 2014...Condors goaltender Laurent Brossoit ranked second among AHL goaltenders in total minutes played (3049:00) during the 2014-15 season.
Sat., Oct. 10 at San Diego Gulls (0-0-0-0) - Valley View Casino Center - 10:05 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 9:35 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 0-0-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Season Series: First of two meetings overall, first and last on the road. NHL Affiliation: Anaheim Ducks.Head Coach: Dallas Eakins (1st season). Notes: The San Diego Gulls are the former Norfolk Admirals, who relocated to California during the offseason as part of the AHL's western expansion...Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins preceded Todd Nelson as the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers last season before his firing from the job in December... Saturday's game against San Diego marks the franchise-opening game for the new Gulls.