Wolves brass revamps roster as NHL returns
Wolves coach Scott Arniel, center, has juggled a lot of lineup changes this season, and the return of the NHL means more players will be called up as others head to Vancouver for NHL camp.
Photo courtesy of Steve Woltmann/Chicago Wolves
Wendell Young emerged from his office at the Triphahn Ice Arena in Hoffman Estates Tuesday to catch a few minutes of practice.
Mostly, though, it seemed the general manager of the Chicago Wolves came out to catch his breath.
"Busy," was the answer Young gave when asked how his days have been going since the National Hockey League and its players reached a tentative deal on a new collective-bargaining agreement on Sunday.
The Wolves are the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks. Now that the lockout is all but officially over, five key players have left the Wolves for training camp with the Canucks: forward Andrew Ebbett, right wing Zack Kassian, center Jordan Schroeder and defensemen Chris Tanev and Kevin Connauton.
All but Connauton sat out Sunday's game once it became apparent the lockout was ending.
That meant Young had to work the phones to bring up players from lower leagues.
The Wolves signed forward Eric Kattelus from Kalamazoo of the East Coast Hockey League, and defenseman Adam Polasek was reassigned from Kalamazoo to the Wolves.
"It's been a lot of work," Young said. "I feel like I'm back in the summertime trying to put a team together. We've had a ton of injuries this year, compounded with the lockout being over and Vancouver recalling five players. It's a trying time, trying to make sure we have, first, enough players, and then enough quality players."
AHL teams usually are in flux anyway, with their parent clubs calling up players and sending some back during the course of the season. The lockout complicated matters in the minors from the get-go, and now that the work stoppage is over, there are new challenges.
"By design, we had a lockout team and a non-lockout team; we carried extra players all year," Young said. "We lost two players early this year to season-ending injuries. And we've got some other players who've been injured, so we're waiting on those players, too. By design, we had two depth charts, one for an NHL season and one for a non-NHL season."
Although the Wolves didn't have to worry about call-ups during the lockout, the injury situation and carrying extra players made for some sticky issues.
"Having extra players around, it's tough to practice that way," Young said. "I think there's an uncertainty to the game, too, because everybody's looking. The guys who are thinking they're going to go up to the NHL are reading the paper and the Internet and Twitter constantly. They don't know if they're here for the year or not.
"Also, the players not getting as much ice time because the NHL players were here are watching that and saying, 'I'm going to dress more. I'm going to get into more games and get more ice time.' It was stable in one way, but there was a lot of uncertainty, too."
The mood seemed good on the ice as the team went through a spirited 90-minute practice Tuesday morning.
"It's funny," said head coach Scott Arniel. "Since September, you've been waiting for this day. You knew it was going to come. You were hoping it was going to come. You prepare. The what-if scenarios are always in place. It came to this past Sunday, and all of a sudden four guys are taken out of your lineup. Reality kind of hits home, and you're scrambling to put a lineup together.
"You know what? It means opportunity for new players, which is the big thing. We had guys who got sent down to Kalamazoo. We had guys who were sitting out because we had too many bodies because of the same situation. Now they've been thrust into new roles, and very important roles, whether it be playing the power play or playing more minutes or playing on some of the top lines.
"That's what we talked about this morning at practice: Take advantage of this opportunity."
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