The American Hockey League is announcing the 2014-15 year-end awards. As the media representatives for the Texas Stars, Stephen Meserve of 100 Degree Hockey and Sean Shapiro of the Austin American-Statesman submitted a ballot for each award. As winners are announced, we’ll break down the choices. Today’s ballot: the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award.
Keep the rule and guideline in mind from the first post: we can’t vote for Texas, and we tend to vote for Western Conference players.
Tom Rowe, San Antonio Rampage
Travis Green, Utica Comets
Roy Sommer, Worcester Sharks
Stephen: Coach of the year is a tough award to vote on. How much impact does a coach have on the outcome of a team’s season? Are there certain teams that would be good no matter who the coach was? If so, the coach of the year award should go to the coach who has the most impact on their club: the coach who takes a bad to mediocre team on paper and makes it good.
We’re talking about the unexpected playoff team or the sudden division championship after missing the playoffs for many years. For example, remember the year that Texas’ Willie Desjardins won, the Stars finished last in the conference the year before. That’s the kind of performance we looked for.
Sean: We’ve seen Tom Rowe 10 times this season and we’ll see him two more times this week as Texas and San Antonio close out the regular season.
After years of mediocrity in San Antonio, Rowe has the Rampage near the top of the Western Conference and already clinched the first division title in franchise history. He’s also done it with much of the same team that missed the postseason in 2014.
He did have a couple player changes — Dan Ellis in goal comes to mind — but the fact San Antonio leads the AHL in goals, has one of the best records in the league, and always comes ready to play, is a reflection of their coach behind the bench.
Stephen: Travis Green was an obvious choice for us as much for what he’s done this year as what he’s done over the past twelve months with the Comets. Utica did not have a great start to their reintroduction to the AHL last season. In mid-January, the Comets were 11-20-2-3 and pretty much left for dead in the Western Conference race.
Starting on January 18th, 2014, Utica ran off a four-game winning streak that kicked off a 24-12-3-1 finish to the season. Coach Willie Desjardins praised Green, and we actually included him in the third spot on our media ballot for coach of the year last season.
Including the end of last season, Green and the Comets are 69-32-9-3, a .664 points percentage, over their last 113 games. Our top ballot choice, Tom Rowe, and Green will be battling it out for the top spot in the West over the next few days.
Sean: We didn’t see Roy Sommer coach this year. Texas, as usual, didn’t play any Eastern Conference teams.
Sommer did, however, lead Worcester to a (likely) playoff berth, and his team has been gone against the typical trend in the Eastern Conference. In a conference filled with penalty minutes, the Sharks are the disciplined team that plays solid defense.
The Sharks don’t have the star power of other Eastern Conference teams, like Jordan Weal and Brian O’Neill, that helped Mike Stothers to his coach of the year honor. Stothers also inherited a very good team from last season, anything less than tops in the east could be considered a disappointment after Manchester’s first-round playoff debacle in 2014.