Chapter 21: The Grand Rapids Griffins completed the franchise’s 21st overall season of play, 16th as a member of the American Hockey League and 15th as the primary affiliate of the 11-time Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings with a 47-23-1-5 record and a second-place finish in the Central Division. Grand Rapids has competed in 1,666 games between the International Hockey League and AHL and has amassed an 885-604-27-49-101 (0.584) regular season record, to go along with seven division titles, 15 playoff appearances and a 2013 Calder Cup championship.
Playoff Bound: With Grand Rapids’ 3-2 win at Milwaukee on March 26, the Griffins clinched a Calder Cup Playoff berth for the 15th time in franchise history and fifth consecutive season. Five straight trips to the postseason ties a franchise record (1999-00 to 2003-04) and is the third-longest active streak in the AHL (15, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton; 6, Toronto). March 26 is the earliest date that the Griffins have secured a playoff spot since clinching on March 12, 2006. The 2013 Calder Cup champion, Grand Rapids is 79-72 (0.523) all time in the postseason and has won at least one series in each of the last four playoffs. In their 18 seasons of being affiliated with an NHL team, this year marks the first time that the Griffins’ parent club has not qualified for the postseason. The Ottawa Senators made the Stanley Cup Playoffs from 2000-02 while the Red Wings were playoff participants from 2003-16 as part of their 25-year run. This season’s berth marks the sixth time in as many full seasons as an AHL head coach that Todd Nelson has led his team to the Calder Cup Playoffs. In his five previous appearances in the postseason – including four with the Oklahoma City Barons and one in Grand Rapids – Nelson compiled a 25-24 (0.510) record. The 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs will mark Nelson’s third appearance in the postseason as a coach with the Griffins, as he served as an assistant on Danton Cole’s staff during the team’s run to the 2003 Western Conference Finals. As a player, Nelson played in 25 playoff games for Grand Rapids (1997, 1998, 2002) and recorded three points (1-2—3). Assistant coaches Bruce Ramsay and Ben Simon also have playoff experience with the Griffins, as Ramsay played in four games during the 1997 IHL Turner Cup Playoffs and Simon appeared in seven games during the 2007 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Winning Ways: The Griffins’ 47 wins this season marked the fifth-most in franchise history and the most since the AHL went to a 76-game schedule in 2011-12. Grand Rapids has reached the 40-win plateau in five consecutive seasons and 14 times overall in the club’s 21-year history. The Griffins secured win No. 40 in the 62nd game of the season, tying last year’s club for the third-fastest the team has reached the benchmark. Only the 2000-01 (59 games) and 2005-06 (60 games) squads did so quicker.
Keepin’ It 100: With a 5-1 win at Milwaukee in the last game of the regular season, Grand Rapids reached the century mark in points for the sixth time in team history (115 in 2005-06, 113 in 2000-01, 111 in 1999-00, 106 in 2002-03 and 100 in 2014-15) and second since the league went to a 76-game schedule in 2011-12. Todd Nelson reached triple-digits in points for the first time in his AHL head coaching career, surpassing his previous best of 99 with Oklahoma City in 2011-12. Grand Rapids finished as just one of four teams league-wide with 100 or more points. The Griffins also surpassed the 90-point mark for the 13th time in club history and fifth straight year.
Freezer on Fulton Fanatics: With a crowd of 9,324 at Van Andel Arena for the Griffins’ home finale, Grand Rapids finished the campaign with an average attendance of 8,245 (5th out of 30 AHL teams), to mark their second-highest average attendance over the last 17 years. Grand Rapids has averaged 8,000 or more fans for four consecutive seasons and 7,000 or more in each of the last nine seasons. The Griffins finished 25-11-0-2 at Van Andel Arena this season, which ties for the most home victories in a campaign since 2006-07.
Power Play History: Concluding the campaign with the league’s best power play efficiency at 24.4%, the Griffins shattered the franchise record for best power play percentage in a season, which was set by the 2005-06 squad at 21.8%. With 13 games remaining, Grand Rapids held an efficiency of 26.8% and was threatening the AHL’s single-season record, set in 1993-04 by the Springfield Indians at 26.78%. Grand Rapids’ 24.4% marked the third-highest in the AHL since the Griffins joined the circuit in 2001-02 and marked the second time (2005-06) the franchise has paced the league in that category. Head coach Todd Nelson oversaw a league-leading power play unit for the second time in his career, as this year’s Griffins join the 2012-13 Oklahoma City Barons squad that operated at 21.6%.
Power Play Streaks: The Griffins tied a franchise record by notching at least one power play goal in 13 straight games from Nov. 9-Dec. 7. During the streak, Grand Rapids tallied two or more PPGs seven times.
|2016-17||13||Nov. 9-Dec. 7||33.3% (21/63)|
|2005-06||13||Feb. 24-March 23||22.3% (23/103)|
|2005-06||11||Oct. 15-Nov. 15||22.1% (17/77)|
|2002-03||9||Oct. 18-Nov. 7||18.5% (12/65)|
Power Play Notes: Grand Rapids relied on the power play for 31.9% of its goals (80 of 251), the highest percentage in the AHL. The power play was keyed by team leaders Ben Street (10-16—26), Matt Lorito (5-21—26), Martin Frk (12-13—25) and Tomas Nosek (7-18—25). Mitch Callahan was on the ice 43 times during a power play goal, tops on the team. Of the Griffins’ 80 power play goals, 35 were scored with five forwards on the ice, 29 with four forwards and one defensemen, 14 with three forwards and two defensemen, one with three forwards and one defenseman and one with six forwards. With 12 PPGs from Frk and 10 from Street, the Griffins had two or more players record double-digit PPG totals for the sixth time in franchise history and first since 2008-09 (Darren Haydar 16, Justin Abdelkader 10). Grand Rapids finished 41-9-1-3 (0.796) when notching at least one goal on the man advantage versus 6-14-0-2 (0.318) when not.
Griffins to Wings: A total of 13 players this season were recalled by Detroit from Grand Rapids, including eight who made their NHL debut with the Red Wings. A total of 36 players appeared in at least one game for the Red Wings this year and all but five spent time in Grand Rapids during their careers.
Spreading the Wealth: Behind Martin Frk (27), Ben Street (25), Matt Lorito (21) and Evgeny Svechnikov (20), Grand Rapids had at least three or more players with 20-plus goals for the third consecutive season. The Griffins had four players with 50 or more points, the most since the 2011-12 squad had six and eight skaters with 40-plus points, the most since the team in 2005-06 had 10.
Whoa, Nellie: In his second season as the Griffins’ bench boss, Todd Nelson has established his name next to a number of significant team records, including: longest and second-longest winning streak (15 games; Nov. 18-Dec. 26, 2015 and 13 games; Feb. 20-March 19, 2016), longest home winning streak (14 games; Nov. 11, 2015-Jan. 15, 2016), highest single-season power play percentage (24.4%, 2016-17) and tying for the longest power play streak (13 games; Nov. 9-Dec. 7, 2016). As an AHL head coach, Nelson owns a 267-164-14-40 (0.606) overall record, including a 91-53-2-6 (0.625) during his two seasons in Grand Rapids. He has won a greater percentage of his games over his first two regular seasons than any other Griffins head coach (see chart below. Note that it is actual winning percentage, not points percentage). The first player ever signed to a Griffins contract, Nelson is one of the most significant defensemen in franchise history. His 236 games played rank 23rd all time and eighth among defensemen, while his 56 assists place 15th and his 67 points are 16th among Grand Rapids blueliners. Following in the footsteps of Danton Cole (2002-05), whom he served under as an assistant coach, Nelson is the second former Griffins player to be employed as Grand Rapids’ head coach.
|Todd Nelson||2015-17||91 wins/152 games (0.599)|
|Greg Ireland||2004-07||94 wins/160 games (0.588) - includes last 32 games from 2004-05 through first 48 games of 2006-07|
|Bruce Cassidy||2000-02||95 wins/162 games (0.586)|
|Jeff Blashill||2012-14||88 wins/152 games (0.579)|
|Danton Cole||2002-04||92 wins/160 games (0.575)|
|Guy Charron||1999-00||85 wins/164 games (0.518)|
|Dave Allison||1996-98||70 wins/144 games (0.486) - fired with 20 games remaining in 1997-98|
|Curt Fraser||2008-10||77 wins/160 games (0.481)|
Russian Influence: Rookie Evgeny Svechnikov, Detroit’s first-round draft pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, skated in 74 games this year and ranked third on the team with 51 points (20-31—51). The Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia, native became only the fifth Griffins rookie skater to amass both 50 points and 20 goals in his initial season. Among first-year AHL players, Svechnikov finished fourth in points, tied for seventh in goals and ninth in assists. Svechnikov’s 12-game point streak from Jan. 20-Feb. 17, during which he accumulated 14 points (5-9—14) points, established a new record for a point streak by a rookie and tied for the fourth-longest run in franchise history.
|2005-06||19||Donald MacLean||Jan. 6-Feb. 18|
|2000-01||17||Derek King||Dec. 7-Jan. 13|
|2005-06||14||Jiri Hudler||Oct. 8-Nov. 15|
|2016-17||12||Evgeny Svechnikov||Jan. 20-Feb. 17|
|2003-04||12||Jiri Hudler||Nov. 23-Jan. 17|
|1998-99||11||Glen Metropolit||Jan. 30-Feb. 21|
Iron Man: Rookie Kyle Criscuolo was the only player to appear in every game this season and became the ninth Griffin to play all 76 since the league adopted a 76-game schedule in 2011-12. The former Harvard Crimson captain tallied 41 points (17-24—41) to rank ninth in team history among rookie scorers.
Top Single-Season Rookie Scorers in Team History: In Evgeny Svechnikov and Kyle Criscuolo, the Griffins had two rookies log 40 or more points for the second time (2008-09) in club history.
|Teemu Pulkkinen (2013-14)||71||31||28||59|
|Gustav Nyquist (2011-12)||56||22||36||58|
|Glen Metropolit (1997-98)||79||20||35||55|
|Justin Abdelkader (2008-09)||76||24||28||52|
|Evgeny Svechnikov (2016-17)||74||20||31||51|
|Francis Pare (2008-09)||63||24||24||48|
|Kevyn Adams (1996-97)||82||22||25||47|
|Eric Himelfarb (2004-05)||76||19||24||43|
|Kyle Criscuolo (2016-17)||76||17||24||41|
|Robbie Russo (2015-16)||71||5||34||39|
Fantastic Frk: Martin Frk led the team with 27 goals and tied his output from a season ago to match a career best. He also established a career high with 12 power play tallies. Frk logged 11 markers on the man advantage in 2015-16 and is the second player in team history to record consecutive seasons with double-digit power play goal totals (Eric Manlow in 2004-05 and 2005-06). Including his 27-goal haul from last season, Frk is the ninth player in franchise history to log consecutive 20-goal campaigns and the first since Teemu Pulkkinen in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Tomas Tatar recorded three-straight 20-goal seasons from 2010-13, the only player in team history to accomplish such a feat.
Kaser’s Calls: The “Voice of the Griffins” since 2000 and a 38-year veteran of hockey play-by-play, Bob Kaser called the first NHL game of his distinguished career on Nov. 10 when the Red Wings defeated Vancouver 3-1 at Joe Louis Arena. Filling in for an ill Ken Kal, Kaser called a total of 13 games on radio for the Wings and also did one game on Fox Sports Detroit.
Shuttin’ It Down: For the first time in franchise history, the Griffins had four netminders record at least one shutout each. Eddie Pasquale led the way with four clean sheets to tie for ninth on the franchise’s single-season shutout list. Between Pasquale, Jared Coreau (2), Cal Heeter (1) and Jimmy Howard (1), Grand Rapids combined for eight shutouts, the most since the 2008-09 club blanked nine opponents.
The Puck Stops Here: Third in the league in goals against per game (2.50), the Griffins allowed only 190 goals, the sixth-lowest amount ever in franchise history (166 in 2003-04, 177 in 2002-03, 178 in 2001-02, 185 in 2014-15, 187 in 2013-14).
Showing Discipline: Finishing as the fourth-least penalized team in the league (11.1 PIM per game), Grand Rapids set a new franchise record in penalty minutes with 845. Rookie Dan Renouf led the team with 95 PIM, making him the first team PIM leader to not break the century mark (previous low: Brennan Evans, 111 PIM in 2013-14).
Race to 100: Three players notched their 100th point in a Griffins uniform this season. Tomas Nosek and Martin Frk both reached triple digits on Feb. 10, while Eric Tangradi’s 100th Grand Rapids point came on April 15. Tangradi met 100 points in 126 games, tied for 12th fastest in team history while Nosek did so in 162 games (16th) and Frk in 189 (20th).
All-Star Coach: Head coach Todd Nelson earned the honor to coach the Central Division in the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Capital BlueCross. Thanks to Grand Rapids’ 5-2 win on New Year’s Eve against Rockford, the Griffins clinched the best points percentage in the division through the end of play on Dec. 31, meriting Nelson’s accolade. In his seventh season as an AHL head coach, Nelson made his second trip to the AHL All-Star Classic as a coach, after he previously served as co-coach for the Western Conference at the 2012 All-Star Classic in Atlantic City, N.J. Nelson became the third head coach in Griffins history to coach in an all-star game, joining Jeff Blashill in 2014 and Bruce Cassidy in 2002 (AHL) and 2001 (IHL).
Lorito and Russo Named All-Stars: Griffins forward Matt Lorito and defenseman Robbie Russo were selected to play for the Central Division All-Star Team at the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Capital BlueCross, which was held Jan. 29-30 at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pa. Lorito was selected to his first all-star game in his second year as a professional. Russo is the first player in franchise history to be named to a year-end All-Star Team, an All-Rookie Team and an All-Star Classic. During a historic rookie campaign in 2015-16, Russo became the first player in the team’s 20-year history to earn both All-Rookie and All-Star Team accolades in the same season when he was named to the AHL Second All-Star Team.
Win Some, Lose Some: Compare the statistics during the Griffins’ 47 wins and 29 losses (including overtime and shootout):
|GF||GA||PP %||PK %||SF||SA|
Back-to-Back-to-Back: Compare the statistics for when the Griffins played on successive nights:
|W||L (incl. OT, SO)||GF||GA||PP %||PK %||SF||SA|
Fine with Nine: Nine Griffins ranked among the AHL's individual leaders during the regular season:
|Jared Coreau||2.33 GAA (11th), 0.917 save percentage (T14th), 19 wins (T16th)|
|Eddie Pasquale||0.919 save percentage (T11th), 2.43 GAA (13th)|
|Matt Lorito||21 power play assists (T9th), 56 points (T15th)|
|Ben Street||6 game-winning goals (T4th), 10 power play goals (T18th), 25 goals (T14th)|
|Martin Frk||232 shots (1st), 12 power play goals (T5th), 27 goals (T7th)|
|Tomas Nosek||18 power play assists (T17th)|
|Evgeny Svechnikov||5 game-winning goals (T2nd among rookies), 51 points (4th among rookies), 3 shootout goals (T2nd among rookies), 20 goals (T7th among rookies), 31 assists (9th among rookies), 6 power play goals (T9th among rookies), 4 first goals (T9th among rookies), 12 power play assists (T11th among rookies), 62 PIM (17th among rookies)|
|Joe Hicketts||27 assists (T5th among rookie defensemen), 7 goals (T6th among rookie defensemen), 34 points (7th among rookie defensemen), 12 power play assists (T11th among rookies and T6th among rookie defensemen)|
|Dan Renouf||95 PIM (4th among rookies)|
Take Me to Your Leaders: Following this year's performances, many Griffins rank among the franchise's all-time top 10 statistical leaders (regular season):
|Brian Lashoff||330 GP (7th)|
|Mitch Callahan||365 GP (2nd), 94 goals (3rd), 24 power play goals (T5th), 797 shots (6th), 12 game-winning goals (T6th), 186 points (7th), 422 PIM (9th), 92 assists (10th)|
|Nathan Paetsch||+84 rating (2nd), 359 GP (5th), 121 assists (6th), 587 shots (10th)|
|Robbie Russo||+55 rating (7th)|
|Martin Frk||24 power play goals (T5th), 13 first goals (T5th)|
|Tomas Nosek||7 shorthanded goals (T2nd)|
|Eric Tangradi||2 overtime goals (T5th)|
|Brian Lashoff||2 overtime goals (T5th)|
|Matt Lorito||0.158 shooting percentage (8th)|
|Jared Coreau||11 shutouts (3rd), 110 GP (4th), 6400:23 minutes (4th), 64 wins (4th), 2951 saves (4th), 0.920 save percentage (T4th), 2.41 GAA (7th), 5 shootout wins (9th)|
|Eddie Pasquale||0.919 save percentage (T6th), 2.43 GAA (8th), 4 shutouts (T10th)|
One for the Books: A few Griffins enjoyed seasons that ranked statistically among the best in franchise history:
|Martin Frk||12 power play goals (T7th)|
|Ben Street||6 game-winning goals (T6th), 7 first goals (T8th)|
|Eddie Pasquale||4 shutouts (T9th)|
Honor Roll: Four Griffins received significant individual honors from the AHL this season:
|Matt Lorito||2017 AHL All-Star Classic Participant, AHL Player of the Week (11/20/2016)|
|Robbie Russo||2017 AHL All-Star Classic Participant|
|Todd Nelson||2017 AHL All-Star Classic Head Coach|
|Nathan Paetsch||Named Griffins' IOA/American Specialty Man of the Year|