What Went Wrong In Adirondack

This
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
in Adirondack”

This
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:

ORTIO’S INJURY

Hands
down, Ortio’s lengthy injury due to a high ankle sprain is the primary reason for Adirondack missing the playoffs.

Up
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.

Alright,
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
really
ugly.

When
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.

OTHER CRITICAL
INJURIES

Ortio’s
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.

Bill
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.

Forget
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.

It
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!

You
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.

These
two guys were vital organs in the body of the Flames and without them, the team
floundered.

FIRST YEAR COACH

I
think Ryan Huska was in over his head in his first year as a professional hockey
head coach, and here’s why:

First,
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,
scheme, anything.

Secondly,
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.

Lastly,
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.

DISAPPOINTMENTS

Luckily
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.

Last
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!?!

Out
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.

Patrick
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.

First
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.

But
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
decide that.

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.
Honda.

 photo Ehonda-100handslap_zpsg2crbhyu.gif

  • everton fc

    Great stuff.

    I still miss “Troy G”. He had quite a positive influence on Ferland, by the way. And he did indeed know when players were hitting the wall, due to youth, inexperience, perhaps maturity issues…

    Seiloff on the wing, right-side. He’s certainly someone they like, but can’t fit into any real role. Or so it seems…

    Can’t wait to see Arnold. Ferland/Arnold/Poirier. Looking forward to this!

  • Colin.S

    So convert Seiloff to forward and make him Ferland lite? Not a bad idea at all.

    To add to the disappointing, the NHLers playing on the roster were not exactly standouts either. Heck, Setoguchi’s career is probably done after this season, the fact he played NHL games this season looks like a miracle after the season was finished. McGratton is a great guy and likely is going to be a good front office guy either for the NHL or an NHL team, but he’s not a contributor on the ice. Why Gillies was ever signed I have no idea, but he was there.

    I hope for next year that the Flames brass finds more guys like Wolf, Hathaway and Jooris. Great young complimentary players that provide functional toughness and great depth and could even fill in on an NHL roster. Guys that have room to grow. Combine them with some of the Flames draft prospects and the team can do far better than this years results.

    • Parallex

      Meh, It’s only not a bad idea if they’re absolutely convinced that he won’t be able to hack it at D. Maybe he can be some Byfuglian like swingman but if you have to choose D or W then you ought to choose D unless you have no other option. We’ll see, maybe he can be Prust 2.0 for us… but he’ll have to find a way to stay healthy.

      Here’s the thing with Sieloff… he hasn’t been able to stay healthy, ever. Maybe it’s unfair to ding him for that but if the bread and butter of your game (at either D or W) is your physicality I think being able to stay healthy is a very important aspect to have.

    • gotommygo

      Any chance they could get Troy G back? They seemed to really like him so I assumed that he didn’t carry on with the team because he didn’t want to move all the way across the continent to NY (hence his taking the job with Vancouver Giants).

      His stint with the Giants didn’t last long and Stockton is much closer to Vancouver than Glen Falls.

  • RedMan

    I think it is also fair to add, under the “what went wrong” category, that the Flames gutted the team many times over throughout the year, which is just the way it goes. Not a bad thing, just is what it is.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    “We’re talking bumpier than Lemmy’s face.” Great metaphor which makes me feel old. I’m I the only guy that needed to google Žydrūnas Savickas?

    I’m wiling to give Huska a pass on year one of his contract, but I’d like to see Ward back at the helm as well.

  • The AHL is a development league. Player movement was significant which meant Addy’s focus was primarily in developing players rather than winning a championship. The head coach was a rookie with an impressive proven track record in major junior. Transition time is required for him as this was his first exposure to pro hockey. Losing Ortio late in season too injury was a key factor.

    I think this article is harsh on Hulska without ample justification….as a Flames fan Hulska and the development of the Flames prospects in Addy gets a passing grade from me…

    • everton fc

      While I’m a big fan of “Troy G. Ward”, this comment is worthy of a thumbs up. Huska gave us the guys who came up from the farm. He worked with them. They were ready. Thumbs up for Huska, for in all honesty, if you take a look at Addy’s roster, a lot of “also-rans” dot the list.

      Still, Troy G was good at developing PROFESSIONALS. That was his gift. He taught players how to be PROFESSIONALS. CAPS INTENTIONAL. He helped Ferland, helped Howse (who quit the game) and helped the org with a guy like Blair Jones. He also assessed Aliu and found him unworthy of our organization. All good. I hope he land somewhere decent.

  • Mort

    I’m sad we didn’t keep Troy Ward. He was a very good AHL coach for us, and I’m kind of surprised by his recent fall from grace (he was coaching the Vancouver Giants but was fired late last year). I felt like he could have coached in the NHL, and maybe he still could, but his career has been stifled to an extent lately.

  • Mort

    Count me in on the “bring back Troy Ward” wagon. What he did for TJ Brodie alone should have got him a hell of an extension, not being replaced by Huska, who’s shown no real positive signs.

  • Overall a good summary, especially focusing on the many, key injuries which as far as I am concerned is the primary factor in the team’s demise. Very clearly losses started piling up with the major injuries, no question about it.

    On top of that the biggest factor was the Flames call-ups which were also many and frequent throughout the season. This was bad for Adirondack but great for the Flames, as many players progressed to the point of getting the call.

    I disagree with your comments on the coach, Ryan Huska. You threw him under the bus in that section, seeming to blame many things on him, just after noting the major injury issues. In addition you give many examples of his sayings as “problems”, then immediately contradict yourself giving him credit for doing just what you asked (i.e. challenging players… guess he didn’t challenge the “right” players?)

    Considering everything I thought he did a very good job. He got the team up and going in a totally new location/Division, worked through many, many injuries, dealt with several NHL vets dumped on him, and prepared many players for the NHL which ultimately strengthened the Flames. Sounds like a good season to me.

  • Thanks for the comments regarding Huska everyone.

    I’m willing to give Huska the benefit of the doubt considering he was a rookie as well. I just hope he fixes the things I mentioned above because disheartening as a fan to continuously be told the same excuses for the team’s inability to win.

    I’m not entirely sure what Huska’s contract situation is, so I’ll just assume he’s going to be moving to Stockton as well.