Now If Only the Red Wings Would Fold

There were massive changes on the Oilers’ ECHL affiliate last night. A few weeks ago the Fresno Falcons, who were leading the Pacific Division and had been in operation for 40 years, abruptly folded. James Mirtle has the details, but with a record of 18-10-2, it clearly wasn’t the result of poor play.

In any case, last night the Stockton Thunder canned head coach Chris Cichocki, and replaced him with former Fresno head coach Matt Thomas. It’s an interesting development, given that Thomas had the job four years ago when the Thunder were purchased and moved from Atlantic City to Stockton, but the new owner decided to hire Cichocki instead. Since then, Thomas’ Falcons have posted a 27-5-4 record against Stockton. Here’s Thomas’ record as an ECHL head coach (he was previously an assistant coach at the University of Maine and with Atlantic City):

2004-05, Atlantic City: 42-22-8, Lost in Round 1

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2005-06, Fresno: 43-15-14, Lost in Round 4

2006-07, Fresno: 34-29-9, Lost in Round 2

2007-08, Fresno: 42-22-0, Lost in Round 1

2008-09, Fresno: 18-10-2

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Career: 179-98-33

Thomas started making changes immediately, bringing in five players from Fresno, and putting two current Thunder on injured reserve while releasing a third. Judd Blackwater and Igor Gongalsky are both young forwards, but neither was much of a scorer in junior and their ECHL numbers to date don’t leave much hope that either will ever be an NHL player.

Daryl Marcoux, Matt O’Dette and Kenny Macauley are all defencemen; O’Dette’s a 33-year-old journeyman who brings size and a physical edge, while Marcoux is an undersized defenceman without offensive upside. Kenny Macauley’s the best of the bunch; he’s another undersized defenceman but he’s posted respectable numbers in both college and the ECHL and spent some time with the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate last year. Given the trouble Springfield’s had with their defence, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him play some minutes for Springfield this year, possibly at the expense of Robbie Bina.

To make room for the incoming players, 5’9” defenceman Dan McGoff (five assists and -16 through 26 games) was released, and Mike Lalonde and David Rohlfs were placed on injured reserve.

It’s a needed change. The Thunder had lost ten of their last thirteen games. Thomas has more changes in mind –- at his introductory press conference he said that he would pursue two other ex-Falcons, Oren Eizenman and Matt Stefanishion, if they were dropped from their AHL tryout contracts. Both players were at a near point-per-game pace with Fresno.