The Unusual Case of Poirier’s Slow Start

Slow
starts have been pervasive throughout the Flames organization and few are
feeling that more than Emile Poirier.

We
shouldn’t panic, however. Anyone who has watched Emile Poirier knows he’s been
one of the hardest working Heat players this season. But when the Heat’s
scoring is dryer than the Mojave in July, all eyes wander in Poirier’s
direction.

SLOW
START

We
all know what Emile Poirier brings to the table. If he was a musician, he’d
have a hell of a set list: speed, skill, tenacity, physicality and peskiness to
name a few of the tools in his toolbox.

But
most of those attributes are secondary – an augmentation to what makes Poirier
so special. He went as high as he did in the 2012 draft because it was his
offensive skill that headlined what many scouts believed to be the total
package. It’s not like he’s been a disappointment since being drafted 22nd
overall. He had a superb 19-year-old QMJHL season followed by a fantastic 42
point American League rookie season.

Currently,
however, Poirier’s slack-jawed offensive prowess has been replaced with glassy-eyed
wandering. Normally when the Adirondack Flames were clicking last season when
he was in a slump, he still added something
to the line-up. He added his trademark butt-hole attitude, his physicality
and was able to wear down opponents. Now, with the team having scored just
eight goals in their last seven games, Poirier’s lack of production has been
magnified immensely. Is it unfair? Perhaps. But that won’t stop fans from being
fans and bloggers from being bloggers.

He’s
picked up just three assists in the last eight games (two of those helpers came
in the 7-0 season opener stompdown). He appears to be chasing the puck far too
often, and that’s not what Poirier usually does. When he’s at his best, he’s an
unpredictable sniper. At his worst, he’s a third-tier energy grinder, and that’s
not what we’ve come to expect out of Poirier.

HOW
‘BOUT THAT SCHEDULE?

We
can’t downplay the impact of this new sparse Pacific Division schedule.

No
matter how skilled you are, this schedule has the potential to be a cold, cruel
mistress. We all know hockey players are creatures of habit and routine.
Playing two back-to-back games once a week is enough to drive even the most
patient of monks into insanity. So the schedule certainly isn’t helping matters
when offensive players like Poirier can’t even get into a groove.

It’s
going to be interesting to keep an eye on the rest of the offensive players in
the division to see if they too are struggling to get on a roll.

THE
SOLUTION

Poirier
has played with a handful of different players this season in attempt to get
him going (I’ll be looking at Huska’s line juggling in the coming weeks in an
attempt to make sense of it), but no line combination has stuck to this point.

This
weekend Poirier played alongside Austin Carroll and Bill Arnold, and then on
Saturday with Turner Elson and Markus Granlund. That’s not bad. Not bad at all.
Arnold is one of the most versatile players in the organization and knows how
to play with and against skilled players, not to mention his own toolbox of skilled
abilities. Austin Carroll, on the other hand, is still in the ‘feeling out’
stages of professional hockey, but he hasn’t needed an adjustment period to maintain
his same old pesky, irritating self. The same can be said for the combination
of the immensely skilled Granlund and pesky Elson he was paired with against
Ontario.

Hmmm…
versatile, skilled, pesky, irritating… who does that sound like?

You’ve
got to give Ryan Huska daps for identifying the types of players Poirier should be able to excel alongside. It’s
a case of surrounding yourself with good company and Poirier had that this
weekend (even if he didn’t record a point). We’ll see if it works in the long
term or if it’s back to the drawing board.

The
Agostino-Granlund-Poirier experiment didn’t work out as well as planned,
unfortunately. Ideally that’d be the Heat’s top line. Those three looked okay
together, but Poirier wasn’t really himself playing alongside them. He had a
tendency to be a little too generous, opting to let Granlund take the shot.
Poirier’s a shooter and when he plays his game, he records shots in bunches.

This
season, he’s got just 12 shots in eight games (seven of those in three games).
That’s unusual for him and can’t continue if he wants to be recalled. We’ll
have to see how his new linemates assist him in becoming a scoring machine once
again.

JUST
HOW IMPORTANT IS EMILE?

Very.

We’re
hoping last night’s version of the Calgary Flames is here to stay, but that’s
an uncertainty at this point. Scoring was a bit of an issue for the Flames and
it’s no secret Brad Treliving would love to add another top-9 scoring winger.

Well,
Poirier could be that top-9 scoring
winger. He fits the Flames’ desired identity to a tee. Speed, skill, energy,
#truculence. If Poirier can find a way to start putting up points in bunches
like he did last season on the east coast, he could push his way to the top of
the depth chart very quickly. Let’s face it, at this point there isn’t a ton of
competition in the minor-pro ranks for a top line offensive winger.

It’ll
be up to him to slowly get his game back on track and get his name to the
forefront of Treliving’s mind when it comes time for a recall.

  • everton fc

    The parent club gave Ferland his first chance when he was mired in a post-concussion slump last season. He wasn’t producing points – I think he went pointless for a stretch of 8-10 games, at one point – but they called him up anyway, probably because of attitude and will (not to forget style of play). Perhaps the parent club should/will do the same if another winger goes down? Might be the way to get him back on track, even though it’s not exactly “deserved”, from what I’m reading above.

    One thing you mentioned that concerns me, and may hurt the development of our players, though it doesn’t seem to do the same in the Scandanavian leagues:

    “We can’t downplay the impact of this new sparse Pacific Division schedule.

    No matter how skilled you are, this schedule has the potential to be a cold, cruel mistress. We all know hockey players are creatures of habit and routine. Playing two back-to-back games once a week is enough to drive even the most patient of monks into insanity. So the schedule certainly isn’t helping matters when offensive players like Poirier can’t even get into a groove.”

    Again, maybe an undeserved call up gets this kid rolling, though it can only occur, sad to say, via injuries on the parent club.

    Good stuff, Mike. I like reading your pieces on the AHL team.

  • cberg

    Great points in the article, especially the impact of the schedule. It remains to be seen its impact but I’d anticipate it having a similar effect on all the teams so we’ll be able to see it across the Division. I’m also guessing setting up in a new City and State will take some time. In addition, Stockton is literally a world apart from Glen’s Falls, which is still a wintry locale, small-town type community not far-removed from the Quebec he’s from.

    As for Poirier I was thinking from his Development Camp play and early pre-season he would be a strong candidate to make the team but with the glut of players he never stood a chance and I have no doubt that fact has weighed heavily on him and others. It is one thing to have the slogan “Always Earned, Never Given” but when that doesn’t seem to play out in reality because of an excess of vets it would be easy to get demotivated. Dealing with this type of attitude is going to be key to him/others moving forward. Last year’s play of Kulak is a prime example after he got sent down to the ECHL.

    Keeping our NHL line-up fresh with a regular influx of young, more-motivated and better(?) talent is going to be key to keeping everyone motivated. So far Kulak has come up and played well, now Grant seems to be doing the same. Here’s hoping more will get the opportunity to do the same.

  • everton fc

    I have been concerned about Poirier as well in terms of development and progression. As a fan I no doubt have the worst view in the world but my basis for the opinion is based on last years few NHL games and subsequent lack of any meaningful impact and camp results which actually placed him behind his peers.

    I would like to see him as an injury call up this year and hopefully he earns his way on that list based on his Stockton performance. If this kid is not in serious contention for an NHL position next year on the Flames then I’m afraid we have potentially a wasted top prospect…..

  • Howie Meeker

    I WANT to love Poirier as a prospect but after two live viewings and two tv viewings this season (small sample size I know) I have not seen any of the above mentioned traits. He doesn’t look fast or pesky or physical or anything.

    Hate to be pessimistic but I’m not feeling Klimchuk or Poirier these days…. So far not a single useful piece from the Iggy and Jbo trades and don’t say it’s still early because it’s not anymore!