The 2019-20 campaign for the Hershey Bears ended with 14 regular-season games remaining, and with them one point out of first place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division. For head coach Spencer Carbery, who came three wins shy of back-to-back 40 win seasons in Hershey, it ended before a possible long playoff run.
“This team had the right character and the skills needed to be successful and that’s why it was such a disappointment when the season was canceled before we had the opportunity to battle for the Calder Cup” Carbery said. “They wanted to play the right way and had the approach to work hard every day to get better.
“A lot of credit has to go to Washington who brought in quality people, so that made my job, not necessarily easier, but more enjoyable,” continued Carbery. “Any time you’re working with people who are coachable and want to get better that really becomes the most important part of the process.”
When questioned about when the NHL and AHL might return to the ice, he stated, ”There are so many factors involved in the decision as to when the AHL might get started based on whether there will be fans allowed to attend in all the states we play in. Say one state allows 5,000 people and another allows zero and if the NHL doesn’t start until January would they consider letting their prospects play in the AHL before that like they did during the 2005 lockout.”
He continued, “The possibility of playing a condensed schedule really means you can’t afford to get off to a bad start because there will be less time to catch up. The league has been trying to schedule less 3-in-3 game weekends, so I don’t know how that’ll work out. There are the health and safety concerns, which come first, plus the financial side if you’re going to be playing with no or very few fans in the building.
“Most of the AHL teams are owned by their NHL affiliate but there are a few, like Hershey, who are no,” added Carbery. “That means the objectives are a little bit different in how things are done. Those with NHL ties say the money doesn’t matter because they value the game for the young prospects and that is their number one priority.”
He ended his thought with, “An independently owned team, like the Bears, looks at the financial side of it in a different way. Normally Hershey is in real good shape but you have to remember that the economy has affected all of their businesses ventures.”
Changing the subject, ‘Carbs’ said, “It’s safe to say the majority of guys who played for Hershey this past year have time remaining on their Washington contracts, that could be one or two years. There are a couple of others like Brian Pinho, Connor Hobbs, and Shane Gersich who are restricted free agents while Daniel Sprong and Tyler Lewington are unrestricted free agents.
“At this time it’s hard to say what moves the Capitals might make down the road,” Carbery continued. “Braden Holtby is an unrestricted free agent so he could or could not sign with them or Ilya Samsonov might be moved, but in either case it would affect us losing Pheonix Copley or Vitek Vanecek. Both of them are under contract for I believe two more years. As much as we’d like to have them again, they’ve both proven they deserve a shot at the NHL.”
The interview concluded with Carbery giving a brief review of the season and what these players accomplished personally.
“Matt Moulson was on an AHL contract and reportedly was considering retiring,” said Carbery, “but indicated he might want to go another season because of the way last year ended, and if he wanted to do that as a coach I’d love to have him. Rookie Philippe Maillet had a great year once he got comfortable with the organization to lead the team with 44 points and was tied for first with three other guys with 27 assists. Another outstanding rookie was defenseman Bobby Nardella once he was able to work his way into the lineup. His play the latter part of the year was a big reason for the success the team enjoyed. He finished with 31 points in 41 games, the most since John Carlson’s rookie season when he had 39 points in 48 games.
“Tyler Lewington, based on his season, will earn a nice contract with the Caps or some other organization after playing his solid defensive game while finishing with a plus-17 and cutting down on unnecessary penalties.,” continued Carbery. “He is a coach’s dream the way he competes and conducts his business. Another guy I’m not sure about who was on an AHL contract is Erik Burgdoerfer who had a strong second half of the season for us as a leader and competitor who worked hard and set a great example for the young defensemen.Mike Sgarbossa earned some early season time in Washington but played just 39 games for Hershey, scoring 40 points before he was injured. Another unrestricted free agent is Liam O’Brien who will have his choice of where he wantsto sign but I’d love to have him back and I know everyone in Hershey feels that way about him. He has done so much for the organization in his time here but the decision of what todo will be up to him and his agent.”