Though training camp starts Saturday, Anaheim Assistant General Manager Bob Ferguson can't plan for anything. He's in charge of the Ducks' American Hockey League farm team in Norfolk, but with the National Hockey League locking out its players, Ferguson has to have several options ready. Are the Admirals going to keep a lot of young players or look more to veterans? Will they keep a lot of players or a smaller roster?
``We haven't established yet what our philosophy is going to be because nobody knows what's going to happen,'' Ferguson said Tuesday. ``There's going to be a trickle-down effect. Some good young players are going to start the year in the ECHL who would normally be playing in the AHL.''
Like the Komets, who will be the Admirals' ECHL affiliate, Norfolk opens training camp Saturday. At this time, the Admirals are expecting 32 or 33 players and are looking to keep 23 or 24. That larger list includes Komets Chris Auger, J.M. Rizk and Brandon Marino.
Anaheim has already assigned 18 players to Norfolk, and the Admirals have signed six others to AHL contracts. Ferguson and Norfolk coach Trent Yawney are guessing they may start the season with a larger roster than normal because of the lockout, but they also realize the Admirals also play only one exhibition game and then six games the first three weeks of the regular season.
``Those numbers will depend on what we're comfortable with, what our coach is comfortable with and the numbers he wants to have around here,'' Ferguson said. ``Our philosophy is based on the big picture. We would rather have players someplace playing and getting better rather than sitting here.''
Anaheim also has a lot of good players, some of whom were expected to crack the NHL lineup this fall. Instead, they'll be getting more seasoning in the AHL, pushing the quality and depth further down the farm chain.
``What we're excited about as an organization is what we're building from within,'' Ferguson said. ``We're very excited about our core group of young players who are on the fringe of breaking through. We've had very good drafts the last two or three years.''
Ferguson said he expects to send three to five players to Fort Wayne to start the season, but that could change at any moment depending on the lockout. The Komets need defensemen, and Ferguson said he expects to have nine in Norfolk's training camp.
``The hockey world needs defensemen,'' he said with a laugh. ``We feel that all nine are legitimate guys who deserve to be playing in the AHL, and a pretty good core of that nine have NHL experience. That might be a little bit high of a number for us to keep, so there's a pretty good chance one for sure and maybe a second will be coming your way.''
Whatever happens early, Ferguson said he expects a lot of player movement between Fort Wayne and Norfolk this season. He said it would not rare for a Fort Wayne lineup for a Friday game to be quite different for a Saturday game sometimes depending on injuries.
``That's going to be a lot different for all of us,'' he said. ``What we like about Fort Wayne is that we know that players who go there are going to get better. We're not only trying to prepare players to play in the NHL but to win in the NHL. The players we send to Fort Wayne will be sent to a place that knows how to win and they'll learn how to win there. They are going to go down there and be able to learn from players who have won championships and who have been places these players want to go.''