2007 saw one the most amazing playoff runs the Hamilton Bulldogs have ever made, at least over the last 20 years or so. With the help of freshly graduating goalie Carey Price, the Dogs seemed to be unstoppable round after round, heading to the highest honours of the AHL, the Calder Cup.
On that 2007 roster, there were 20 players. We'll call them the original 20.
Starting the 2007-08 campaign, 12 players came back with the team. We had players such as Duncan Milroy, Ajay Baines, Jonathan Ferland, Kyle Chipchura, G Yann Danis, Matt D'Agostini, Corey Locke, etc...
Among those who left, Andrei Kostitsyn and Maxime Lapierre came back with the Canadiens and Carey Price started as a second goalie behind veteran Cristobal Huet.
Starting the 2008-09 campaign, three of those are expected to graduate to the big club. We say Kyle Chipchura, Matt D'Agostini, and Mathieu Carle.
Out of the nine left, three made an another kind of jump. This time, they flew over the Atlantic Ocean to new horizons in Europe.
Now with just six left, Francis Lemieux has been traded to the Wings organization. Corey Locke left for the Minnesota Wild, while Yann Danis left to backup Rick DiPietro (well, I hope he will). Andrew Archer and J.P Cote are gone as well.
The only guy who should be left is Captain Ajay Baines, but it seems the 30-year-old player won't be wearing the farm team jersey anymore this season.
So, after two years, out of our original 20 there is no one left.
In a recent interview given to Hamilton Spectator, Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer expressed a few concerns. "We've lost the identity of our team. There's hardly anyone our fans will recognize."
Andlauer believes that the new guys coming on will have some trouble adjusting and with the scoring, too. "I think there will be a lot of 2-1 games, that doesn't make it fun for the average fan."
The man is conscious of the fans and the team's needs. That's why he and the big "O" have established a policy, saying that if Andlauer really wants to count on some key players, he would pay their salary from his own pocket.
They did it about two years ago, and the results were exactly what he had wanted. They won the Calder Cup.
With regard to the Baines situation, Andlauer had to cope with the decision from "above." He kept contact with the player all summer, probably talking about the season to come, the signatures to be made, and so on. But Baines never heard from GM Gainey or GM Brisebois.
"I didn't get the feeling I was really in their plans, that I was really wanted," said Baines.
Andlauer counted on the Habs to re-sign the B.C. native Captain, saying that he has heard from so many players about his amazing leadership.
At least, he says, "Out of respect that he wore the C for this team and scored the most important goal in team history, it should've been dealt with way before the end of July."
Of course, you will tell me this is the normal evolution of a farm team. According to the needs of the main organization, some players may graduate, others may leave. Then the new prospects come along and we move on with new faces. And so on.
But after the AHL Championship in 2007, Hamilton had a tough season of 82 points in 80 games (including a painful 12-game losing streak), that ended in missing the playoffs. So you sort of understand Andlauer's skepticism!
Still, Go 'Dogs Go!