Well, after a 4-0 start turned into a 5-7 disappointment, it was relatively clear that changes needed to be made.
“Even when we were 4-0 or 5-1, Vince and I sat and talked, and we weren’t extremely happy with everything,” said Titans general manager Rich Lisk.
“There’s still tweaking that has to be done…I wouldn’t say it’s desperation. We saw an opportunity to make ourselves better, and if we were 10-0 at this point and we saw an opportunity to make ourselves better, why wouldn’t we?”
The Trenton Titans took what they believed to be steps towards improvement on Monday, announcing that they traded defenseman Mitch Versteeg to the Kalamazoo Wings in exchange for center Justin Taylor. In addition, they acquired left winger Kelsey Wilson from the San Francisco Bulls for future considerations, and activated Ryan Grimshaw off of reserve.
“You have to trade something to get something,” Lisk said. “And we had the luck of having a good free agent market this summer, with getting a (Connor) Goggin and a Grimshaw, which gave us the glut of defensemen. So we had to trade a good defenseman in Mitch Versteeg, but we got a good player in return that helps fill a need. And Goggin and Grimshaw are guys that deserve to be in the lineup, and this worked out perfectly.”
Wilson does qualify as a veteran — of which a team is allowed a dress a maximum of four per game — having played over 260 regular season games of professional hockey, as stated in the ECHL-PHPA CBA.
Perhaps the writing was on the wall for Versteeg when he was a healthy scratch for Sunday’s shootout loss in Reading.
In his second season with the team after having spent the previous two in Kalamazoo, the 24-year-old had scored five goals and tallied 12 assists in 59 games with Trenton since 2011-12. A steady defender, Versteeg had become noticably more active in the offense, which drew some criticism from observers.
“He didn’t get ask to get traded,” said Lisk of Versteeg.
“We didn’t think he played very well the night before, so Vince said, ‘You know what, let me give Goggin and Grimshaw a chance.’ And then we started getting phone calls. You see that he doesn’t play, and people start to make calls. We said let’s look at this, Goggin and Grimshaw played well and this gives us an opportunity to look at this, and that’s where it went from there. But, we didn’t think (Versteeg) played well the night before, and these guys deserved a chance to play.”
Taylor, 23, was in his third season with the Kalamazoo Wings. After posting 25-23-48 and 23-23-46 lines in his first two years, the centerman had been disappointing offensively this season, registering just three assists in his first 11 games with the Wings.
“Obviously, losing 2-1, 2-1, 4-1; we needed to get some more scoring in here, and Taylor fits that mold,” Lisk said.
“And he fits the mold we’re looking for, he’s averaged 20-25 goals the past two years and over 100 penalty minutes, so he’s got that toughness with him too, so he’ll help us fill that void.”
Wilson, 26, is a well-known AHL enforcer with five full seasons spent at that level with the Milwaukee Admirals and Toronto Marlies. This season, his seventh in professional hockey, was his first at the ECHL level. With San Francisco, he registered two assists in eight games, but far more notably posted 42 penalty minutes. A two-time double-digit goal scorer at the AHL level, he provides the “jam” and “sandpaper” that Titans head coach Vince Williams been wanting out of his roster, and could be a replacement for forward Andrew Conboy, who has been a disappointment so far.
“With Wilson, we’ve got Conboy and we’ve got (Alexandre) Carrier, but you can’t have enough toughness,” Lisk said.
“Here’s a guy who’s basically played his whole career in the American League, with one year in Austria. He’s put up 15 goals in the American League. You’re hoping that translates to 20-25 goals here and 100 penalty minutes. Now, you don’t have a guy like Akeson having to drop the gloves at the end of the game in Reading, or you don’t have Banwell having to fight twice or guys beating up on Bohmbach. Conboy can only do so much, Carrier’s still a young guy that we’re working with. Wilson is a good veteran presence that can help with that also. And he can play.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com