Views From The Press Box, End of Season Edition

Wednesday marks the opening day of the playoffs in both the NHL and the AHL. A hockey fan’s dream right? Somehow, I’m not sharing in the enthusiasm just yet, and I believe it’s ok if Rampage fans aren’t either. Now I’m sure by the time the weekend arrives and we’re in the habit of looking forward to a must-watch game every night that the mood will change. But for now, following a season in which the Rampage finished with the third best record in franchise history and featured an array of young talent yet still failed to reach the playoffs, I think everyone is entitled to a bit of a mourning period. Whether you’re the broadcaster who spends six months traveling with the team or the season ticket holder that invests 40 nights a year coming to the arena, it’s always tough to see the season come to an end, especially when it comes prematurely. I asked Coach Edwards before Sunday’s finale if there was a theme that could define this season, and he responded with one word: inconsistency. Be it through wins and losses, scoring and preventing goals, or the ability to close out games, the 2009-10 Rampage was a bit of a rollercoaster ride, although one that was certainly worth the price of admission. In spite of not reaching the postseason, there are several accomplishments that this group will take with them to their respective off-season homes including: The best record to start a season through eight games at 6-1-1; a share of the top power play in the AHL and the AHL’s best home power play, each a first in franchise history; a 30-goal scorer for the first time since 2006-07; five new franchise records set; and an AHL Man of the Year award winner. Today though, I’m sure we’d all happily trade in those accomplishments for the opportunity to still be playing hockey…

…The Rampage brass, namely General Manager Brad Treliving, will have plenty of decisions coming up this summer. His biggest and most pressing decision will be behind the bench where Ray Edwards has certainly done a good job in presenting his case to be the full-time guy. Under Edwards and Assistant Coach Mike Pelino, the Rampage finished the year by going 30-23-3-6 in their last 62 games and averaged 3.01 goals per game while limiting the opposition to 2.93 goals per game. Special teams flourished as San Antonio finished the season with the hottest power play in the AHL by going 21-76 (27.6%) in their last 16 games and 57-247 (23.1%) under the Edwards/Pelino tandem. Meanwhile, the penalty kill was just as impressive. The Rampage posted the ninth best penalty kill overall in the AHL at 83.8%, and allowed only 39 power play goals in their last 62 games after giving up 18 in their first 18 games of the season. Meanwhile, entrusted with some of Phoenix’s top talent from previous drafts, Edwards and Pelino helped eight players (Brett MacLean, Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker, David Schlemko, Sean Zimmerman, Alexandre Picard, Sean Sullivan, and Shaun Heshka) establish new career-highs offensively. Along with the coaching staff, the Rampage currently have 13 players on the roster who will become free agents after the season. The unrestricted free agents are Joel Perrault, David Spina, Francis Lessard, Jeff Hoggan and Ryan Hollweg, while the restricted free agents are Al Montoya, Josh Tordjman, David Schlemko, Alexandre Picard, Sean Sullivan, Miika Wiikman, Shaun Heshka, and Stefan Meyer…

…What do you think was the game of the year for the Rampage? Getting some feedback from around the office, I’ve selected six nominations in chronological order:

1) Rampage rally from a 5-3 deficit with 10 minutes to go in their road opener on Oct. 9, 2009 at Abbotsford and win 6-5 when Sean Sullivan scores the game-winning goal with less than six seconds remaining in overtime, spoiling the Heat’s AHL debut.

2) Rampage set three franchise records highlighted by six goals in the first period on Oct. 17, 2009 vs. Grand Rapids and go on to win 7-4 for their first victory against the Griffins since Nov. 30, 2007.

3) Rampage snap a season-high 11-game winless streak and give Ray Edwards his first AHL head coaching victory with a 5-1 win vs. Milwaukee on Nov. 29, 2009.

4) In a school-day game on Dec. 3, 2009 at Houston, the Rampage rally from a 3-0 second period deficit with six unanswered goals to beat the Aeros 6-3 at Toyota Center. The Rampage and Aeros combined to score six goals in a whopping 4:50 seconds.

5) Rampage score two shorthanded goals 22 seconds apart on the same penalty kill in the second period for the first time in franchise history and Josh Tordjman earns his franchise-best ninth career shutout in a 3-0 win vs. Chicago on April 3, 2010.

6) Rampage score two goals in the final 50 seconds of regulation and Gavin Morgan scores the game-winning goal in the final regular season game of his career to defeat Houston 3-2 on April 11, 2010.

Send your vote to either dweiss@attcenter.com or on Twitter at “SARAMPAGE” and I’ll post the results in a couple of weeks…

…Here are my picks for the AHL and NHL Playoffs. I’ve got Chicago beating Milwaukee in six games and Texas knocking out Rockford in five games in the West Semifinals. Chicago will win the West Finals in six games against Texas, but lose in six games to Hamilton in the Western Conference Finals. Hershey, following a record-breaking season on so many levels, will win the 2010 Calder Cup in a thrilling seven-game series against the Bulldogs. In the NHL Playoffs, Washington will defeat San Jose in six games to win the Stanley Cup…

…Bring on those questions! Send your questions and comments to dweiss@attcenter.com. Be sure to follow “Views from the Press Box” on Twitter all off-season at “SARAMPAGE”.

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