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Summer Mailbag: Replacing the Big Names, Captains, and More!

Summer Mailbag: Replacing the Big Names, Captains, and More!

July 18, 2019

Greetings Bears fans, and hope your summer is going well! Zack Fisch, the Voice of the Bears here, for another 2019 Summer Mailbag!

Thanks for all the great questions via Twitter. Remember, just tweet me @zackfisch, or email me at and your question may be featured in a future article!

Eric, @escheib1
Any idea when we will see the preseason schedule?

Hi Eric, thanks for writing in and hope you are well. At last check, the preseason schedule was still being finalized, but hopefully we’ll have it out there in the coming month. Things could change, but I imagine we’ll see the same as the last few years with two preseason games vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with one here and one there. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a third game added elsewhere, too. I imagine the last weekend of September is around the time you can expect these to be played. Stay tuned!

What’s the vet situation for the upcoming year?  Also, will anyone wear the C this season?

Peter, @buchanskid
Question: Will there be 6 alternate captains again this year?

As of today, veterans are: Erik Burgdoerfer and Mike Sgarbossa. Liam O’Brien is a vet exempt. Lots of room to add still.

I would have to think we’ll see a captain this year. My money is on Burgdoerfer or O’Brien. I’d bet both have a letter for sure, with one getting the “C”.

As for the six alternate captains, it’s different, but the New York Rangers did something similar with five guys wearing the “A” last year after their longtime captain Ryan McDonagh was traded away the year prior. Now that Carbery knows the majority of the team, I think he’ll have a pretty good idea on who deserves the honor of wearing the “C” this year.

Bill R. via email
Zack, we have lost 2 of our top 3 goal scorers from last year. We had a difficult time putting the puck in the net last year. How on earth are they ever going to make up for these losses? Relying on undersized wingers and rookies could spell big trouble for the boys this year?  Your thoughts.

Thanks to Chris (@CDurgey) and Tony (@tphillips626) for very similar questions.

This (as well the large amount of signed defenders) is certainly the biggest question mark heading into the season. Getting Mike Sgarbossa, the club’s leading scorer last season, to sign a two-year deal was huge, but Riley Barber and Jayson Megna departing, as well as Nathan Walker, all leave substantial holes in the lineup to fill.

First of all, I love the Philippe Maillet signing. He had 54 points (16 goals, 38 assists) on a bad Ontario team last year, and 18 goals in his rookie campaign the year before. Goal scoring wise Megna has an edge on him, but Megna put up 43 points last year, so Maillet, who is also a center, is essentially his replacement. Maillet might not be a household name in the AHL yet, but I think he’s going to be someone who plays a big role this season.

Replacing Barber isn’t easy. He made it clear he was going to leave, so there was no way they were going to retain him. I think the best way to replace his goals is with a veteran scorer. We discuss more below as to who is available, but I do think the entire organization is aligned that this is still a hole that needs replacing with the right fit. Is it too late? No, but I think that this add must happen before we drop the puck on 2019-20.

Adding and replacing other goals will have to come from within. Garrett Pilon had 33 points last year, and I expect him to be well north of the 10 goals he scored. Shane Gersich will need to score more than eight goals this year. While yes, you can never rely on rookies, you have to give them playing time. Joe Snively is one of those youngsters, and I think he’s going to get an opportunity to play in the top-six, and he impressed with seven points in nine games out of Yale.  Rarely do you see a team get a player right out of the NHL draft, but 2nd rounder Brett Leason should be here this season after an 89-point year in Prince Albert of the WHL. He’s a big body at 6-4, 200-pounds and was called the steal of the draft by many. Recent picks including 2nd rounder Kody Clark and 3rd rounder Riley Sutter should be here as well. There are more top draft picks or potential high-end guys than we’ve had in recent years. None are a sure bet, but they’re going to get opportunities to shine.

There are a lot of other scenarios that could come into play. What if one of Washington’s many defensive prospects gets moved for a forward? What if an established player like Boyd or Stephenson get bumped out in Washington with the Capitals new signings?  

Come October, hopefully at least on paper, all this will be a little clearer where the goals will come from.

Paul, @pdunn611
What AHL veteran forwards are still available that could be targets?

Taylor, @TaylorWalls21
Not a ton of high profile AHL vet scorers still on the big board. Who do you see being a fit that the team could sign in the next few weeks leading up to training camp?

Some big names that I’d have circled if I was calling the shots would be guys like Matt Moulson and Erik Condra. Both are leaders and are going to get you guaranteed points. I mentioned that Moulson was linemates with Maillet in Ontario and that an Athletic article said he was looking to keep playing out East. However, he very well could be looking for an NHL deal, as the main reason he was in the minors in the first place was his $5 million dollar salary that Buffalo buried.

Alexandre Grenier and Eric Tangradi are established scorers in this league coming off not as productive years on struggling teams. Wade Megan, a former 66-point scorer, is also available. Former Flyer Matt Read is also on the market. Trevor Smith had a down year in San Antonio, but he’s still available, and has a long history of scoring and being a captain. Casey Bailey was overseas last year and had a really poor season in the KHL, but I think the former Penn State forward is good for 20 goals at the AHL level.

A whole other category is players who have spent most of their time in the NHL that could have to fall to the AHL this upcoming year. Stefan Noesen and Phillip DiGiuseppe are examples of this type of player who did not get a qualifying offer after decent NHL time. (UPDATE: DiGiuseppe signed with the Rangers, nevermind on him.) Both have been productive in AHL stints. More established players who have been holding on and getting a training camp tryout before getting an NHL deal in past years could be an option if they want to keep playing. I don’t think a guy like Drew Stafford returns to New Jersey, so I’ll throw his name on this list too. He’s gotten an NHL deal last minute these past few years.

What do you need to see out of Shane Gersich in Chocolatetown to show you he is ready for full time NHL duty? Also where do you see Leason fitting with the Bears?

Gersich has a ton of potential, but still has work to do. His speed is elite and his best asset, and Spencer Carbery complimented his maturity, leadership, and desire to learn. Gersich was an impressive scorer at the NCAA level. That didn’t quite translate in his rookie season as he tallied just eight goals and 24 points last year with the Bears. He was praised for a strong Development Camp in DC, and lots of eyes will be on him this year. To make a big jump this season, I’m looking for two things: Accuracy and improved strength winning puck battles. I thought Gersich could have had 15 goals last year, maybe even more with the chances he had that went high or wide. A little more finish, and his numbers are going to improve. Winning puck battles and maintaining balance to stay on his feet will also be a point of growth.

Leason is going to get an opportunity to get good minutes and key opportunities offensively. He’s said he’ll have to work on his strength playing against bigger and stronger players, but he’s a player who has gotten better every year and the Capitals really feel they got a steal and a pro ready talent with him.

Anything new happening this year at Giant Center with better light show for pre-game intros like other teams have?

I don’t think you’re going to see the millions of dollars for on-ice projections like NHL teams have coming to Giant Center anytime soon. In fact, I’m trying to think of any AHL building I’ve visited that’s not an NBA building that has that. Regardless, the staff is always looking at ways to improve the fan experience, and there are some discussions about improvements to the building that hopefully will occur sooner than later.

Jimmy T. via email
Of all the players who left, who will you miss the most? I think I’ll miss Ness the most. That guy was so smooth on the blue line.

I will miss them all, but for me, it’s Nathan Walker. I loved showing up to the rink and seeing what Walks had up his sleeve that day. He was always making you laugh, and he had this great fake feud with Media Coordinator Matt Trust that always had him endlessly giving Matt a hard time. Walker worked his tail off on the ice and was a class-act off it. He’s as crazy as they come in all the best ways. Change is part of hockey, but walking into the locker room without his antics will be different.

Thanks for all the questions. I’ll be away from the office for the next few weeks, but we’ll shoot for another Summer Mailbag in August. Until then, I’ll be waiting to welcome the newest little Bears fan into the world. #BabySharkWatch is officially on!

Go Bears!

Hershey Bears in a victory embrace

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