is the first part of a two-part season review of the Adirondack Flames where
I’ll let you know what went right in the team’s inaugural (and only) season.
off the bat, it’s important to keep in mind that just because the Baby Flames
didn’t make the playoffs this season doesn’t mean it wasn’t an enormously
successful year for an organization in rebuild mode. In fact, I’d argue that
more went right for this team of youngsters than wrong.
are some of the reasons why the 2014-15 season was such a success in upstate
FREAK SHOW OF
your rookies make up about 45% of
your team’s offense,
only good things can come from that. It has been such a nice, welcoming change
to see young guys as the leading scorers on the team as opposed to AHL
Agostino currently leads the pack with 41 points, which is a pleasant surprise.
Often times it takes a while for a college guy to truly gain traction (see Josh
Jooris and Ben Hanowski last season). Agostino’s start to the season went about
as smoothly as a back country trail tallying just 12 points up until the end of
January. Then he scrapped that dollar store battery, put in an a Duracell and
flipped the switch. The result? 29 points in his last 29 games. The difference,
head coach Ryan
was he wasn’t getting his nose dirty enough. Turns out, Agostino is one of
those players – the type that gets more engaged the more physical he plays. The
Flames once had a captain like that…
there’s David Wolf, the Clydesdale. His first year in North America can’t be
looked at as anything but a complete success. Wolf was expected to be maybe a
third-line power forward, but he kept clawing his way up until he was on the
top line. Thirty-six points and 152 PIMS later, I’m convinced there isn’t a
player in the AHL that match Wolf physically, especially below the goal line.
All season he’s been able to hold a defender off with one arm, hold the other
defender off with his other arm and stick handle the puck using just his wrist.
Wolf was the straw that stirred the drink on this team. Expect him to be back with
another one year deal. He’s too dominant in the AHL not to be given another
can’t even think about Adirondack’s rookies without bringing up Emile Poirier,
AHL All-Star Emile Poirier. Going from a highly offensive league like the QMJHL
to the AHL isn’t easy, but the Bearded Wonder® has more sides to his game than
a twelve-sided die – and that’s what made his first season a big one. He picked
up 36 points in 55 games playing mostly top line minutes. There’s no doubt
about it Poirier will be an NHL player given he has such an array of talents,
it’ll be up to him and the coaches to find a niche for him.
Arnold and Garnet Hathaway were electric this season as well. Arnold is on the
fast track to become an effective third-line centre. Despite missing about two
months of hockey because of a shoulder injury, he was still able collect 35
points in 57 games. Hathaway became Adirondack’s version of Lance Bouma early
on and similarly surprised everyone with an offensive touch. His willingness to
dig the trenches made him an invaluable cog to the Flames’ team dynamic, which
earned him a much deserved ELC on Monday.
RAMAGE = WALL
you would have told me at the beginning of the season that Ramage was going to
be one half of the Flames’ shut down defensive pairing, I would’ve scoffed, “pff,
in the ECHL maybe.”
out, he’s not too bad at hockey and when you put him with Wotherspoon, you’re
looking at the single most boring pair of defenders you’ve ever seen in your
entire life. They’re just defensemen flavoured defensemen, those two. Because
of that, they turned out to be the best shut down pairing a Flames farm team
has seen in a while. Unfortunately, there are no resources available to track a
player’s SAT in the AHL, but you didn’t see that pairing get hemmed in their
own zone very often.
why whenever Wotherspoon was up in Calgary, the team had it rough. No one
seemed to really work well alongside Ramage either. These two were clearly one
of Adirondack’s biggest bright spots this season.
Unknown” always plays a factor in any
regular season success. Just look at the Calgary Flames and all of their
unknowns that turned out to contribute to their dazzling season. Josh Jooris
coming out of nowhere, Raphael Diaz turning it on three-quarters of the way
through the season, Gaudreau’s 60+ point year, so and so forth.
the Adirondack Flames, it’s tough to say exactly who the biggest surprise of the
season was, so let’s start with the most overlooked surprise this season: Ryan
former Quebec Rempart was playing like a seasoned veteran – that is, until he took
a skate blade across his hand and sliced some tendons (don’t worry, luckily it’s
not career threatening. He’s already rehabbing). There’s no doubt he was the
Flames’ biggest loss this season next to losing Joni Ortio. Culkin is one of
the best power play quarterbacks in the system, and for good reason. Before his
injury on February 6th, he had put up a goal and 17 assists in 37
games. The crazy part is that 11 of those points were on the man advantage.
When he wasn’t on the power play, he was one of Adirondack’s most fault-free
defenders. He always made smart, safe plays and took a surprisingly physical
approach to the game. A full, healthy season and the Flames could have a real
gem on their hands with Culkin.
“The Burner” Elson. This kid has some serious leadership in his blood. We knew
that from his days in major junior with Red Deer. However, he just couldn’t
seem to stick in the AHL for an extended period of time until this season, and
boy did he ever take advantage that. How many people truly expected Elson to do
anything of significance this season? Raise your hand. My hand is down. At one
point this season, Elson had a stretch of games where he scored 7 goals in 6
games and had 11 points in 10 games. You want to talk about driving possession?
He did it and he did it every shift. Head
coach Ryan Huska would put Elson with whomever he felt needed a jump start and
it worked every time. Expect him to get another contract because this kid is a
lock to become an assistant captain in Stockton, at least.
there’s Garnet Hathaway. Top 20 AHL Rookie Scorer, Garnet Hathaway to you. My
wish came true yesterday when the
lobster salesman was awarded an ELC by Brad Treliving. I have rhapsodized
this guy enough in previous articles, but every bit of praise he gets has been
well earned. He has been one of the most pleasant AHL surprises in recent history
as far as Flames farm teams are concerned.
SWEET BABY JESUS HE’S GOOD
we take a moment to acknowledge where this franchise might be without a stud
net-minder of Joni Ortio’s age and skill level? Think of the age gap that would
exist between 33-year-old Jonas Hiller, 28-year-old Karri Ramo and then
21-year-old Jon Gillies. That’s a major gap that would need filling if/when
Hiller and/or Ramo hit the ol’ dusty trail or just start to suck.
the Flames don’t have that problem because Ortio is poised to become the next
backup goaltender in Calgary. First thing was first though, he had to show that
his rookie season in the AHL wasn’t a fluke with the Abbotsford Heat. That’s
where Adirondack watchers may have gotten a little concerned because he had a
pretty rough go of it to start the year posting a 4.16 goals against average
and a 87.9 save percentage. Mulligan. After the first month, his numbers plummeted
to All-Star calibre levels and they started racking up the wins like it was
the unthinkable happened and big stupid Bodgan Yakimov of the Oklahoma City
Barons smoked Ortio, putting him out for 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain. After
that, Adirondack’s season looked an awful lot like one of those crazy YouTube
videos of sinkholes in China that swallow up entire city streets. With Ortio’s
goaltending, and the way he was playing when he got injured, I’m convinced Flames
fans would be watching two exciting post-season teams this Spring.
Check in next week for Part II: “What Went Wrong In Adirondack”