February 15, 2011

AHL Journal: Falcons' Commodore making best of demotion

by Dan Hickling

Mike Commodore (photo: Dan Hickling)

It seems a little strange to see Mike Commodore and his mile-high pile of red hair trolling rinks around the AHL, although he did spend five seasons in the league while honing his blueline craft.

Still, after five more years in the NHL, one might have thought he'd have seen the last of the bus rides and three-in-threes.

Now three years into a lucrative five-year pact with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Commodore finds himself right back where he started, having been demoted to the Springfield Falcons last month.

Such send-downs aren't usually met with good humor, but such has not been the case with the big redhead.

“He's been terrific,” said Springfield coach Rob Riley. “The way he works with the young guys. His patience. He's got a real nice way about him.”

Those sitting near the Falcons bench can hear Commodore shouting encouragement to his mates on the ice. And Sunday against Manchester, Commodore made a beeline for Falcons goalie David LeNeveu to tap his pads in encouragement after LeNeveu had been hung out to dry in giving up a shorty to Oscar Moller.

“(We have) a lot of young guys,” said Riley. “Impressionable guys. He's been really good.”

Striking gold

Amateur scouts employed by NHL teams are akin to gold panners.

So many streams, so few nuggets.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, however, seem to find plenty of precious metal no matter where they dip their plates, so long as it’s in New England.

Time and again, Pens scouts have pulled out many a prime prospect from all corners of the region.

Some came to the club via the draft – the Pens' penchant for Boston College defensemen (Philip Samuelsson, Carl Sneep, et al) is particularly strong – while others (goalie Brad Thiessen out of Northeastern) were simply undrafted free agents, available to be had by anybody.

Thiessen, now a second-year pro, is making the Pens look like geniuses, especially after last week's work.

Appearing in five games (including a make-up game with Albany), Thiessen allowed just three goals, won four out of five decisions, and helped the red-hot Penguins to maintain a cushy 10-point East Division lead.

That made him a slam-dunk choice for the AHL's Player of the Week honors, as announced by the league on Monday.

And by no means is Thiessen a one-week wonder. The one-time Hobey Baker Award finalist is near the top in several league categories, including goals-against average (1.87), shutouts (five), wins (22), and save percentage (.925).

Around the AHL

The AHL's single-game attendance record will almost certainly fall Saturday night, when the Providence Bruins and Connecticut Whale meet under a full moon at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn.The “Whale Bowl,” as it is being called, has already sold 22,000 tickets, which pushed past the existing attendance mark of 21,508, set last year, outdoors in Syracuse, N.Y. Club officials hope to reach the stadium's capacity, 38,000 by the time of the 7 p.m.face-off. “It’s a great tribute to the people of the state of Connecticut, but we have to get 38,000 because we want to sell the place out,” said Howard Baldwin Jr., president and COO of Whalers Sports and Entertainment, in a club release. “Everyone else, the NHL, college and AHL, has sold out, and if Connecticutwants to be back on the (hockey) map again, which I know it does, everybody needs to come out and celebrate this.” … Players continue to shuttle to and from between AHL clubs and their NHL parents. Monday saw rookie winger Jordan Caron sent down to Providenceby Boston. This came a day after center Zach Hamill made the same trip. Going the other direction was Portland Pirates goaltender Jhonas Enroth, who was reportedly called up by the Buffalo Sabres to spell Ryan Miller.

Dan Hickling can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.