The Hershey Bears inked forward Tim Spencer to an AHL contract on Thursday, as he’ll get the opportunity to become the team’s enforcer on the fourth line this upcoming season. Hershey fan favorite Joel Rechlicz held that role for the past few seasons, but he signed with the Minnesota Wild earlier this offseason.
Spencer, 28, returns to the AHL after a one-year stint playing overseas for the EIHL’s Sheffield Steelers. In 61 games, the forward recorded 34 points (10 goals, 24 assists) and 147 penalty minutes, with his point total ranking eighth among his teammates.
The 6-6, 230-pound native of Carnduff, Saskatchewan has appeared in 104 American Hockey League games with the Manitoba Moose, Binghamton Senators and Springfield Falcons, recording six points (three goals, three assists) and 263 penalty minutes. His pro career also includes 168 games spent with Alaska, Las Vegas, Elmira, Florida, Chicago and Trenton of the ECHL, with a total of 29 points (eight goals, 21 assists) and 541 penalty minutes. –Hershey Bears Press Release
The AHL recently changed a few rules for the 2014-15 season, including an automatic game misconduct applicable for any player that accrues two major penalties for fighting or three major penalties in a single game. The top developmental league for the National Hockey League also updated rules on Overtime and helmets.
The NHL along with the rest of the hockey world in North America is looking to make the game safer for their players and fighting is a major issue in the game that league officials want addressed.
“With the full support of the league’s Competition Committee and Player Development Committee, the Board has approved these changes with the betterment of our game and the safety of our players in mind,” said AHL President and CEO David Andrews in a statement this summer.
The Bears have a host of probable players on the roster this season that will be more than willing to drop the gloves. With players such as Captain Dane Byers, rigid defenseman Steve Oleksy and even Garrett Mitchell is there a need for another enforcer on the roster? The team had trouble generating offense throughout the lineup last season and their power play was the worst it has been in many years.
Finding a player than can fight and provide offense should be a goal of any team that wants to win a Calder Cup championship to supplement the skill players with the forwards on the bottom six. The last player to truly fit that role for Hershey was Steve Pinizzotto who signed with the Edmonton Oilers earlier this summer.
The 30 year old forward has notched two assists in 18 career NHL contests for the Oilers and Canucks after going undrafted to begin his career. Pinizzotto worked his way up the ladder after playing for RIT collegiately for two seasons. He joined the Hershey Bears on a minor league deal and eventually signed his entry level deal with the Washington Capitals prior to the 2009-10 campaign, where he played an integral role in helping the Bears win the Calder Cup championship.
Below is a table of all notable recent enforcers for the Bears, note Pinizzotto’s offensive capabilities compared to the rest of the group. Even Hershey’s opponents around the AHL have produced some scrappy bottom six forwards who play nasty, most notably Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Bobby Farnham, Norfolk’s Zach Stortini and Providence’s Bobby Robins.
Spencer may join Hershey’s ECHL affiliate in South Carolina and play there most of the season, that story has yet to unfold. After missing the postseason, Hershey hasn’t exactly been players in the free agent market to this point. Washington has made the big signings that will affect the Bears’ roster for the most part, while the Bears and GM Doug Yingst have added depth players on AHL deals including Braden Pimm, Wade Epp, and Erik Burgdoerfer along with Tim Spencer this summer. There’s a good chance that the majority of those players spend most of their season in the ECHL.
The AHL schedule is set to come out in another week as Bears training camp looms in late September. The East Division is bound to be a tough one with the addition of Lehigh Valley to the booming hockey state of Pennsylvania. Hershey has a young team and letting them develop should be the philosophy and is the best way for the team to be successful.
Matthew Speck covers the Washington Capitals organization for The Hockey Writers. He provides coverage of both Washington at the NHL level and prospect related content. Matthew also covers local sports for the Lebanon Daily News in Central Pennsylvania. You can email him at email@example.com with any questions or comments.