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Sunday, March 23, 2008


The AHL Report is the newest section to be added to the family of Illegal Curve feature articles, appearing each and every Sunday at your favourite hockey blog. Although the report will explore a wide range of topics, a special emphasis will be placed on developing prospects and NHL call-ups.

A rash of late-season injuries across the National Hockey League has forced the purging of countless rosters in the American Hockey League and will continue to create headaches for general managers and coaches everywhere looking to close out the regular season schedule with a steady line-up.

Perhaps no team has been affected by this March Madness more than the Manitoba Moose (I apologize for the alliteration). In an article that appeared in Saturday's Winnipeg Free Press, hockey writer Tim Campbell noted that the Moose have used 50 (yes fifty) different players this season. Presently, the parent Vancouver Canucks employ the services of Rick Rypien, Nathan McIver, Luc Bourdon and Ryan Shannon, players who have all spent the majority of the season in the 'A'.

The Canucks, much to the chagrin of Moose general manager Craig Heisinger and coach Scott Arniel, have yo-yoed players up and down all season as they have dealt with injuries to key players, most recently Aaron Miller and Matthias Ohlund. I could write ad nauseum about how unfair this is for the surging Moose but the reality of the situation suggests something different.

In fact, affiliation agreements allow NHL teams to call up players whenever they desire, regardless of the duration. The Vancouver Canucks supply the Moose with a myriad of cash and prospects so they are are entitled to shop-till-they-drop. And from all accounts, the Moose/Canucks relationship is one of the best amongst NHL/AHL affiliations.

My major beef lies in the fact that Canucks GM Dave Nonis has left the Moose scrambling on way too many occassions. The Moose are one of the top teams in the AHL, and are currently on an 8 game winning streak. The Moose, with a record of 40-24-5, are in second place in the North Division and are a serious Calder Cup threat this season. I have to question the relevance of flying Nathan McIver and Luc Bourdon all around North America when they don't even dress half the time. It is plain to see that McIver is a solid physical presence who offers something different than say Mike Weaver, but the Moose are stuck signing ECHL players to last minute contracts when they deserve better. You would think that Nonis could have traded for a 7th defenceman at the NHL's trade deadline ( Bryce Salvador comes to mind) but again, he has McIver and Bourdon to choose from.

The situation is obviously complex as the Canucks are pushing hard for the last couple of playoff spots in the Western Conference. Nonetheless, one has to wonder if inviting Luc Bourdon to sit in the press box in Vancouver is a better situation than allowing him to play big minutes on the blueline for the Manitoba Moose, who happen to require his services a little more.

For Illegal Curve, I'm Ezra Ginsburg.

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