is the second part of a two part review of Adirondack’s season. If you haven’t
already, check out the first part: “What Went Right
season can largely be looked at as a complete success for a rebuilding
franchise. You’ve got young guys playing big minutes, leading the team in
scoring and playing in all scenarios. You’ve got an NHL-calibre goalie
progressing nicely. Plus, you’ve got a handful of surprises who weren’t
expected to do much, but became key pieces on an already talented team.
Unfortunately with any team there are also dark
times, failures and unmet expectations. These are them:
down, Ortio’s lengthy injury due to a high ankle sprain is the primary reason for Adirondack missing the playoffs.
until Ortio’s injury, the Flames were getting brilliant goaltending. It was a
regular day at the office to see Ortio contorting his body into positions akin
to the girl from The Exorcist just to save a goal. Then, on February 20th,
Bogdan Yakimov of the Oklahoma City Barons made him into a crêpe.
so then you’ve got Brad Thiessen (the journeyman AHLer) and Doug Carr (an
extremely inexperienced rookie). They combined for a 4.05 goals against average
and a 88.4 save percentage. That’s ugly. Really
Ortio went down at the end of February, this team still had a shot at a
post-season berth and were knocking on the door for a while. Once he went down,
this team hopped on the Toboggan of Losses and lost all the ground it once had
in a very tight Western Conference race.
injury may have been the sole reason for most of the failures of this team, but
there were some other key injures that set them back.
Arnold missed nearly two months, TWO MONTHS, with a shoulder injury. This came
just minutes, literally minutes, within fellow centre Corban Knight being
traded and right around the same time Granlund was recalled. Three top centres,
gone. That was Adirondack’s equivalent of losing Monahan, Backlund and Stajan
all within the same few days.
the Marianas Trench it left down the middle of Ryan Huska’s line up and let’s
take a second to appreciate just how lucky fans are to have Bill Arnold in the
system. He’s a pack mule, a workhorse, an underground coal miner – the guy puts
in work. He can handle big minutes and can defensively shut down the best of
them. What’s more is he just might be the best faceoff man in the Calgary
Flames organization. Losing Arnold was also an enormous blow to the play of his
linemates – namely, Emile Poirier whose stats dipped in his absence.
could be argued that losing Ryan Culkin on the blue line was the equivalent of
losing Arnold up the middle. At the time of Culkin having his tendons sliced in
his wrist, he was almost as effective as Tyler Wotherspoon on defence. His
contributions to the Flames power play can still be seen among the top in rookie
power play assists despite being out since February 6th!
take Ryan Culkin out of the lineup and you no longer have your first unit power
play quarterback. This is a kid who can thread passes like it’s nobody’s
business. He’s got a slightly above average shot, but it’s accurate and he puts
it in a spot where his teammates can pot a rebound if he misses.
two guys were vital organs in the body of the Flames and without them, the team
FIRST YEAR COACH
think Ryan Huska was in over his head in his first year as a professional hockey
head coach, and here’s why:
when things were going very badly for the team (no matter in what aspect), it
seemed as though he’d do little or nothing to correct it. He’d attribute their
misfortunes to “teams being really good in this league” and his all-time
favourite line when things weren’t going well: “It’s just the ebbs and flows of
the game/week/season/shift.” Most experienced coaches would say things like, “our
leaders need to step up,” “we need much better energy,” or admit “there’s work
that needs to be done on offense and/or defense.” But Huska seemed to
continuously blame it on the “ebbs and flows.” For example, at one point the
power play was so bad that they gone weeks without a goal. Huska commented that
it’s just the “ebbs and flow” of special teams and they’re going to keep
sticking with it. This is a particularly frustrating take to the viewer because
that power play was beyond disjointed. Something had to be done. Switch up the personnel,
Huska had a way of unjustly asking his players to step up, which added an
inordinate amount of pressure on them – especially his young players. At one
point during the season when the team had strung together a bunch of losses, he
publicly challenged Joni Ortio to be better and carry the team. He did the same
thing with rookies David Wolf, Kenny Agostino and Max Reinhart at certain points
as well. To me, that’s a challenge you issue to your veterans who have been
through the peaks and valleys, not
your rookies and sophomores who are experiencing a new league.
he didn’t have the knowledge or understanding of how to deal with rookie slumps
and the infamous “College Wall.” In Troy Ward’s tenure as head coach he could
sense when rookies were beginning to slump and approximately when his
collegiate players were going to hit that “wall,” so he’d prepare accordingly
by giving them lesser roles, less ice time, and pair them with a veterans until
they got over the hump. While I can’t blame Huska for seemingly not having the
ability to deal with these slumps, I’m sure he has a network of people he could
seek advice from. In fact, he’s got a Jack Adams candidate on speed dial.
for the organization, there weren’t a lot of disappointments in terms of player
performance, but the ones that did disappoint are considered fairly important
pieces to this rebuilding organization.
season, Max Reinhart threw the Abbotsford Heat on his back like a young Žydrūnas
Savickas. He set the Heat record for most points in a season with 63 as he
Granlund created magic all year long. This season, however, it’s been pretty bumpy.
We’re talking bumpier than Lemmy’s face. In his first 44 games he had a measly
15 points (good for 13th on the team). Since March 1, he’s up to 39
points (24 points in his last 22 games), which is good for 3rd on
the team! SAY WHAAAT!?!
of a seven month hockey season, Reinhart had a really really rough go of it for
five of them. Something was just a little… off. He wasn’t the same Reinhart we
were used to seeing in Abbotsford. The strangest thing about his lengthy
drought was that he was actually getting decent scoring opportunities, but nothing was going in. All of that aside,
his finish to the season definitely makes you exhale. It’s a good sign for next
season that the old Reinhart came back.
Sieloff’s season wasn’t such a happy ending. In fact, it’s one you’d like to
forget, but build off of. We could talk all day until we’re blue in the face
about the merits of whether or not Sieloff is a bust, but that just wouldn’t be
fair to him.
off, the amount of serious injuries (never mind a near-fatal illness) that he’s
had to deal with in his young life is astounding. He’s lost nearly two full
seasons of critical development! He’s 20 years old right now, but in terms of hockey
development he’s an 18 or 19 year old OHL defenseman. That’s why we should go
easy on all this “bust” talk.
let’s talk about the disappointing part of his season. In terms of development,
he gained professional hockey experience by virtue of being an AHL line up, but
there wasn’t a whole lot of progression play-wise from Sieloff. He had decent
games on defence, which is nice to see, but there was very little consistency.
Is it too early to expect consistency from him given his history? I’ll let you
On the bright side, Sieloff is an utter nuisance
when he was placed up front to play forward. Ryan Huska mentioned how Brian
Burke would like to see him playing on the right wing, so he gave it a try. The
results probably made Burke upturn the corners of his mouth. Nearly every shift
Sieloff was stirring up something and regularly got in a fight. And when you fought
with him, he’d sock you harder that Dolph Lundgren and slap you quicker than E.