Thursday, January 14, 2010

Texas Brahmas Insider All-Decade Team

The best of the Brahmas from 2000-2009
Part Two - The Defensemen

OK, I've covered the All-Decade Teams goalies, Brett Jaeger and David Cacciola. Easy choices considering the net minders we've seen over the past 10 years. Now it's time to consider the defensemen.

There were a lot of players to choose from, and at the same time there weren't. Gatis Tseplis and Murray Hogg each played half a season (1999-00), so they technically could make the list, but there were others who made larger impacts during the decade. Then there were guys like Dave Csumrik (2001-2005) and Clint Cabana (2000-2001) and Louis Bernard (1999-2001), but I couldn’t see them as All-Decade defensemen, considering other options.

I considered John Murphy (2002-03) and Scott English (2003-04) who you might remember were kings of the sin bin during a couple of the Brahmas worst seasons. Murphy had 35 major penalties (2nd in the league) and 365 penalty minutes in 50 games played (4th in the league). English had 72 minor penalties (2nd in the league) and 324 penalty minutes (second in the league) in 63 games played. But they weren't impact players, just resident tough guys during hard seasons when the old Brahmas addage: "Jus' fight 'em when ya can't score" took hold.

After thinking about it for some time and considering all the possibilities, here are the seven defensemen who made the list.

Craig Minard

Considered by some to be the heart and soul of the Texas Brahmas, team captain Minard joined the Brahmas as a free agent after suffering through the 2006-07 season with the Lubbock Cotton Kings.

Since joining the Brahmas, Minard has tallied 66 points (7 G, 59 A) and 141 penalty minutes in 135 games played. This includes three power play goals and 39 power play assists. Add to that, eight assists and 18 penalty minutes in 30 post-season contests. Off the ice, he assists coaches Dan Wildfong and Ron Vogel in many ways and is a natural for a coaching position when he decides to retire.

There was nothing better than seeing Minzy lift the President's Cup over his head after being robbed of that opportunity with Bossier-Shreveport in 2004. I'm hoping to see that again.

Mike Tilson

A versatile two-way defenseman, Tilson joined the Brahmas for his rookie season in 1999-00 and played for three full seasons before being traded to Corpus Christi in December of 2002 in exchange for three players. Everyone lamented that trade, a bullshit move by then head coach Todd LaLonde, who was removed from that position a week later.

During his time with the team, Tilson scored 134 points (38 G, 96 A) with 590 penalty minutes served in 220 games.

His best season as a professional came in 2001-02 when he racked up 44 points (16 G, 28 A) and served 175 penalty minutes in 63 games played. He also represented the Brahmas in the 2002 CHL All-Star Game.

The Brahmas acquired the rights to Tilson for the 2004-05 season but he did not return to the team, or to hockey for that matter. Never mind the off-ice issues, Tilson belongs on my list.

Kevin McLeod

One can't deny the impact McLeod has had on the Brahmas, not just in his scoring threat as well as excellent defensive play, but also in the level of quiet moxy that he brings to the ice. Currently playing in the American Hockey League for the Springfield Falcons, McLeod was an easy choice for the All-Decade Team.

McLeod played forward in college but was moved to the blue line by Fonger for his rookie season – he adapted well, becoming a versatile offensive defenseman. During his time with the Brahmas, he has tallied 104 points (43 G, 61 A, +18) and 183 penalty minutes in 151 games played. This includes 18 power play goals, 29 power play assists and 11 game-winning goals. In the post-season, he has scored 20 points (5 G, 15 A) with 40 penalty minutes in 30 games.

At the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, a plaque below a pair of skates reads: "Defenceman Kevin McLeod of the Texas Brahmas wore these skates while recording 50 points in 61 games throughout the 2008-09 CHL season. McLeod then would finish second among defensemen with 12 points during the club's successful playoff run that saw the franchise capture the first Ray Miron President's Cup title with a five-game series victory over Colorado."

Vlad Hartinger

He only played one season with the Brahmas (2005-06), but Hartinger was one of the steadiest defensemen we had. His time here was sandwiched in between five seasons with the New Mexico Scorpions, where he made his biggest impact. He played 43 games in Fort Worth and tallied 30 points (6 G, 24 A) with 114 penalty minutes. He also had four power play goals and 14 power play assists and was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise forgettable season.

The veteran defensemen would have been a terrific addition to the "new Brahmas" but was already committed to New Mexico in 2007-08. Despite his short stay, Hartinger makes my All-Decade Team.

Adam Davis

For me, a definite choice for the list. Davis was not only a fan favorite, but a solid defenseman who wore the Brahmas sweater for four seasons from 2001-02 through 2004-05. He joined the team as a rookie after two seasons with the Texas Tornado (NAHL) and didn't disappoint. He continued to improve each season and was definitely an impact player on otherwise underachieving teams.

Davis tallied 69 points (17 G, 52 A) and 227 penalty minutes in 238 games played. He added a goal, an assist and four penalty minutes in four post-season games played.

Davis signed with the Laredo Bucks in 2005-06 and won a President's Cup with the team.

Justin Kinnunen

Another easy choice, Kinnunen glides like an eagle on ice. One of those players you know just by how he skates. One of the quietest members of the team but always a fan favorite, the two-time CHL All-Star (2008, 2009) definitely belongs on the All-Decade Team.

The sixth year professional joined the Brahmas in 2007-08 and put up 43 points (11 G, 32 A) with 88 penalty minutes and played in all 64 regular season games. During the 2008 playoffs, he added nine points (2 G, 7 A) and 22 penalty minutes in 14 games played.

Last season, Juice was called up to the AHL and played in 11 games with the San Antonio Rampage. In 47 regular season games with the Brahmas, he tallied 33 points (12 G, 21 A) and 59 penalty minutes. He started all 16 games during the playoffs and added 11 points (4 G, 7 A) and 21 penalty minutes.

This season, Kinnunen has scored 13 points (3 G, 10 A) with 26 penalty minutes in 27 games played. It would be hard to imagine the Brahmas without Kinnunen and an All-Decade Team without his presence.

Nathan Saunders

Choosing the seventh member of the All-Decade team was difficult, to say the least. But with impact being a factor, I had to choose Nathan Saunders, the most timely enforcer of the past 10 years. Timely in the sense that for a team making a sure run for the President’s Cup, Nathan filled the role at the time we needed it most, and he did an effective job. Despite playing the least amount of games of any player on the list, Saunders gets my vote over Murphy, English, Jacobsen or some of the other toughs that have donned the Brahmas sweater.

Nathan joined the team on December 22, 2008 and his presence made other teams think twice about putting the pookie (to quote John Blanding) on any of the Brahmas players. Guys like Neil Clark, David Simoes, D.J. Jelitto, James Jernberg, Russ Moyer and others felt the sting of Saunders' fists in the coming weeks.

In 36 regular season games played, Saunders tallied 15 points (4 G, 11 A, +16) and 159 penalty minutes. He had two power play goals, six power play assists and one game-winning goal. During the playoffs, he added three assists, 44 penalty minutes and a championship ring.

It would have been nice to have Nathan back this season, but every player makes their own decision about moving on.

Photo Credits: Mike Tilson: Fort Worth Brahmas Hockey Club, Vlad Hartinger: Chip Crail, All others: Robert Keith

1 comment:

Old Bull said...

I would not have picked Saunders but don't really have an alternate selection. The other picks are probably representative of the lack of good defensive players over the years, many of whom couldn't even make the current Brahmas roster. IMHO.