|Julian Talbot's 14 goals this season ranks him second among AHL rookies.
Not many people, Talbot included, expected the reunion to take place.
Before Talbot could again play for Rivermen assistant coach Davis Payne, his head coach with Alaska of the ECHL last season, he had to pass a three-pronged gauntlet of skepticism. It’s been worth it for Talbot, Payne and Peoria. Talbot is second among AHL rookies this season with 14 goals. His 25 points overall tie him for third among newcomers.
“They knew about me,” Talbot said of the organization. “But I don’t think they knew that much about me.”
Here’s the quick primer. Talbot, 22, contributed 20 goals and 33 assists for Payne’s Aces last season. That effort was good enough to get him an invite to the organization’s prospects camp last summer.
Not a lot was expected from him there, but he showed enough to get a ticket to St. Louis’ preseason camp. The initial thought was that Talbot could be an ECHL depth player again, but he worked his way to a spot with Peoria.
Then, proving he is more than a fringe AHLer, Talbot found a full-time niche on the Rivermen.
“I was definitely shocked. I was hoping to stay here, but expecting to start in Alaska,” he said. “There’re a lot of good players in this league. Every camp I went to was a new challenge. But I like challenges. There’s always something to prove.”
Two somewhat contradictory factors have helped him wrestle with this test. First, Payne’s voice in his ear calms his jitters.
“It’s probably been a good comfort factor for him that I’ve seen how good his game can be,” Payne said. “There’s times a guy needs a boost. I’ve given him a vote of confidence based on what I know he can do.”
Secondly, Talbot retains just enough anxiety to know how quickly he can backslide.
“To start the year, everything seemed to be going in for me. There always seems to be a time in the season where nothing is going in for you, so I hope it lasts,” Talbot said. “Every day I want to work hard and make sure they don’t have a reason to send me down.”
Paying his dues -- After graduating from the best developmental league in the world with flying colors, Grand Rapids defenseman Derek Meech is finding the job market in Detroit to be quite challenging.
When the Red Wings promoted Meech from Grand Rapids to start the season, they told him he would likely be the team’s seventh defenseman. They were dead-on with that prediction.
Meech, 23, has recorded six shots and averaged 9:01 in ice time during a meager nine games with Detroit this season. Last week, Detroit sent him to the Griffins for a few games’ worth of conditioning. The jump in his stride when faced with the prospect of real playing time was evident.
“Right now, that (sitting in Detroit) is the way it is. This is some of the dues I’m going to have to pay right now. It’s such a fine line between career AHL players and guys who stick in the NHL,” he said. “Every day I have to come in and treat practice like game situations. I’m learning a lot in practice. There are no better guys to learn from.”
Road to Hershey -- New Hershey assistant coach Mark French has pulled off a unique hat trick.
He spent Thanksgiving in Wichita. Christmas in Reading. And New Year’s Day in Chocolatetown.
“It’s not too bad. I don’t think I would have asked for it at the start of the season,” French said. “I ended up in the right place. It’s still a little surreal when I wake up in the morning and wonder where the hell I am.”
French started the season as head coach of Wichita of the CHL, but was fired in early December. He then helped out as an assistant with Reading of the ECHL.
|Bruce Boudreau's promotion to the Capitals created an opportunity for Mark French to move up to assistant coach in Hershey.
Meanwhile, Hershey boss Bruce Boudreau was promoted to take over in Washington, and Bears assistant Bob Woods moved up to the top spot in Hershey. That left a vacancy as the second-in-charge there, and French swooped in at the end of December.
Now he’s in the challenging position of walking into the middle of Hershey’s play and learning the lines on the fly. Assistant coaches are typically cast in the buddy’s role, a trust that takes time to build.
Since French is coming from outside the organization in the heart of the season, he’s a stranger to the players. French said he’s just keeping things low-key and trying to show the players he can help them improve.
“It’s important to sit back and watch and have an impartial eye. I think you give them their space. I think players are generally supportive of anyone they think can help out,” French said. “You’re not going to earn (trust) overnight. The key there is they want to know you’re a team player.”
Around the AHL -- Bridgeport’s Jeff Tambellini set two team records in the Sound Tigers’ 6-2 loss to Philadelphia on Jan. 6. He scored his fifth shorthanded goal of the season, breaking Sean Bergenheim’s mark of four, and he extended his goal-scoring streak to seven games. …The Phantoms have changed their captaincy. Current captain Boyd Kane will miss 6-8 weeks after undergoing hip surgery, so defenseman Denis Gauthier was named to take his place. … Philadelphia’s 3-0 record last weekend was all the more impressive considering that five of the team’s top-10 scorers missed at least one game due to injury or recall to the Flyers. Sixteen players appeared in all three games, and of that group, 13 players recorded at least two points. As a team, the Phantoms recorded 13 goals and 25 assists for 38 points over the three games, yet no individual player accounted for more than four of them. … Eric Manlow recorded his 400th career AHL point in Hamilton’s 4-1 win over Grand Rapids on Jan. 4, becoming the sixth player to reach that milestone this season. …The Rochester Americans narrowly avoided the wrong kind of history in their 5-1 loss to Manitoba on Jan. 4. The Amerks broke their scoreless streak at 252:09, just shy of the AHL record set by New Haven in 1938-39 at 258:49. … Two former Calder Cup winning goaltenders made their returns to the AHL last week as Marc Denis (Hershey, 1997) joined Norfolk and John Grahame (Providence, 1999) suited up for Albany. … Darren Haydar’s three-goal effort in the Wolves’ 6-3 win against Milwaukee on Jan. 5 marked the Wolves' fifth hat trick in 35 games this season; Chicago set a franchise record with nine regular-season hat tricks during the 1995-96 season. … Syracuse is having a tricky time trying to break even for the first time this season. Five times the team has played a game that would lift it to .500 if it won; all five times, the Crunch lost. … Penalties for players closing their hands on the puck can be rare, unless you play for Worcester. The IceCats were whistled for that infraction three times in three games last week. … Norfolk is 0-7-1-1 when scoring exactly three goals in a game, but 5-2-0-0 when scoring exactly two goals. ... Between Norfolk last season and Rockford this year, the Chicago Blackhawks’ AHL affiliates finished calendar year 2007 with a record of 48-21-5-6 (.669).