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Jotting it Down with Jesse: Call to the Hall

Friday, June 26th
Jotting it Down with Jesse: Call to the Hall

The Hockey Hall of Fame announced its annual induction class Wednesday evening, and as is the case virtually every year, there is always debate among fans and media about whether the selection committee “got it right.” 

Personal opinion: I think it’s absolutely crazy that another year has gone by, and yet somehow, forward Alexander Mogilny has ***STILL*** not received a call from the selection committee to congratulate him on his forthcoming enshrinement.

Mogilny was something of a trailblazer – he was the first Russian-born player to defect from the Soviet Union and the first Russian captain in the NHL. In the 1992-93 season, Mogilny and Teemu Selanne each tallied 76 goals to become the first European players to lead the NHL in goal-scoring. In addition to a Stanley Cup title with the New Jersey Devils in 2000, Mogilny also excelled on the international stage, as he earned gold medals at the World Junior Championships, World Championships and Olympic games. 

For a guy who played most of his career in the 1990s and early 2000s during the NHL’s dreaded “Dead Puck Era,” this was a player who exuded excellence and class at virtually every stop in his career. 

The ECHL did not establish an inaugural Hall of Fame class until its 20th season of operation; at this point I think it would be far too early to establish a bona-fide Solar Bears Hall of Fame. 

Having said that, I think through eight seasons of operation we’ve seen some pretty talented players suit up for the Solar Bears, so it led me to craft my all-time starting lineup for the Solar Bears. 

Goaltender — Garret Sparks 

You can't hope to get anywhere in hockey without solid goaltending. And historically the Solar Bears have had some solid choices between the pipes. John Curry established credibility for the organization during the team’s first two seasons. Ryan Massa is the club’s all-time wins leader. Cal Heeter and Connor Ingram have carried Orlando the farthest in the postseason. But in the end, Sparks gets the nod here based primarily on a superb 2014-15 season in which he led the ECHL with an eye-popping .936 save percentage, while posting 21 wins in 36 games. The fact that he ultimately went on to reach the NHL just a season later validates this selection for me. 

Defensemen – Eric Baier and Michael Brodzinski 

For four full seasons, Eric Baier was a lynchpin for Orlando on the blue line – his 236 career games with the Solar Bears are a testament to his longevity and durability with the team. He had his share of big moments, like the team’s first-ever playoff overtime win to stave off elimination in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. As the Baier era closed, Michael Brodzinski has filled that role of a reliable two-way defenseman who is adept at breaking the puck out of the defensive zone and has some bite. While Brodzinski may not have Baier’s size, in two seasons he has also established himself as a threat on the ice for the Solar Bears. 

Other candidates for consideration included: Blake Kessel, Mike Monfredo, Bryce Aneloski, Brenden Miller, Cody Donaghey, Nolan Valleau and Derek Martin 

Forwards – Troy Bourke, Eric Faille and Joe Perry 

This was the position I struggled with selecting and being satisfied with the most, but in the end I went with my gut. Eric Faille leads the franchise with 130 points, and Joe Perry owns the club’s career goals record with 53. Troy Bourke – despite only playing just under half a season for Orlando – rounds out my third selection at forward. Simply put, he was a dominant playmaker who could find a teammate with such ease I often remarked during broadcasts that he had no business playing in this league, and I wonder what a player of his caliber could produce over the course of a full 72-game season. To this day, his 1.5 points-per-game average is the best production rate of any Solar Bears forward. 

Other candidates for consideration included: Hunter Fejes, Denver Manderson, Brett Findlay, Chris LeBlanc, Trevor Olson, Mickey Lang and C.J. Severyn 

Disagree? I challenge you to submit a better one. 

New App in Town

Haven’t you heard? We’ve got a new app out. Go to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now and download it for your iPhone or Android today. Our marketing team has worked hard on this, and as we get closer to the season we expect to roll out some additional features to make this a must-have in your pocket for every Solar Bears fan. 

Pedersen Gets AHL Deal

Congrats are in order to Brent Pedersen. The forward, who has spent parts of the past two seasons with the Solar Bears, did enough in his 36 games on a try-out with the Manitoba Moose to earn a full-fledged contract for next season. He was a point-per-game player in his ECHL career with the Solar Bears, and full praise goes to Drake Berehowsky for identifying his talent while playing in the Canadian U Sports system – it's an under-utilized goldmine of quality ECHL and AHL talent that often flies under the radar.

Signings Update

With this week's acquisition of Tommy Panico from Newfoundland and the signing of Paul Meyer, the Solar Bears have already a solid core of defensemen to compliment Alexander Kuqali and Kevin Lohan. Combine that with forward and 2019-20 captain Chris LeBlanc, and the team is already off to a solid start preparing the roster for the upcoming season.

ECHL News 

The Board of Governors meeting earlier this week yielded one slight change to the league’s tiebreaking procedures, as regulation wins will now serve as the first tiebreaker to determine standings in the event two teams have the same number of points. 

My two cents: I like the move. As we get later into each season, I would imagine we’ll likely see teams play more aggressively near the end of regulation in order to win outright, instead of being content to let the game go to overtime to secure a guaranteed point. 

NHL Draft Lottery Tonight 

There will be some mild intrigue live on television tonight, as the NHL is hosting Phase 1 of its draft lottery at 8 p.m. on NBCSN and the NHL Network. Alexis Lafreniere, former junior teammate of 2019-20 Solar Bears forward Jimmy Huntington, is the consensus No. 1 selection for whenever the draft is ultimately held. There’s a slight wrinkle to the draft lottery proceedings as it will include the seven teams not participating in the Return to Play plan, plus the eight teams that don’t advance out of the play-in-round to determine eligibility for the actual Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Tampa Bay Lightning, as one of the teams that received a bye to the postseason, will not be eligible for the draft lottery. 

Jesse Liebman is the director of communications and broadcasting for the Orlando Solar Bears and enters his sixth season behind the microphone as the team’s play-by-play voice for the 2020-21 season. Use the form below to shoot him your questions, comments or blog ideas.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Solar Bears. All opinions expressed by Jesse Liebman are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Solar Bears or their Hockey Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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