Monday Heat Musings: Treading Water In The Lone Star State

This
week the Stockton Heat headed south to the Lone Star State to face off against
the San Antonio Rampage and the Texas Stars.

They
found a way to squeak out a close win in the Alamo City on the back of two
Emile Poirier goals (finally!) and two primary assists from Turner Elson.
Saturday night was a different story though. It was one of those infamous Texas
ChainStars Massacre games the Flames’ AHL affiliates always seem to have. They lost
5-2 because Brett Ritchie’s a pretty alright player who notched a hat trick against
Joni Ortio.

This
week I talk about the Tale of the Two Kenn(e)ys and a dreadful couple of games
for the Heat’s power play.

KENNEY
MO’ PROBLEMS

MC_UMDvWMU-23.0.0

Photo Courtesy of Matt Christians

I’ve
gotten a lot of inquiries about how Kenney Morrison has been doing in Stockton
this year, which is fair. He was supposedly a solid acquisition as far as college
UFA’s go, so I get there is a bit of buzz around him.

Which
makes it that much harder to break it to you fine folks. To say he’s had a
rough year would be an understatement. He’s been more lost in his own zone than
Shadow, Sassy and Chance were in Homeward Bound. Some games it looks like he
has trouble figuring out which man to cover all while he’s anticipating where
the puck’s going to go. At times it almost looks like the game is a tad too fast for him to process.

But
let’s also be fair to the kid. Out of the Heat’s 19 games this season, Morrison
has been a healthy scratch in 12 of them. It’s tough to really get in a groove at
all playing as sparsely as he has. With how much Morrison has been struggling
this season, why not ease him into things in the ECHL? There are enough bodies
on the blue line that the Flames have that luxury. Sending Morrison to
Adirondack would leave the Heat with seven healthy defensemen, which usually
means a rotation of Patrick Sieloff, Aaron Johnson and Dustin Stevenson.

I
don’t think it’d be appropriate to count Morrison out just yet, however. It is
only his first professional season. There will be growing pains. There are
every year for almost every rookie rear-guard, but they need to play and Kenney
Mo isn’t playing often enough. He needs to learn how to deal with the infinitesimal
chaos of your average AHL game. Practice helps (which he’s doing a lot of), but it only goes so far. He
has to be able to put that practice into practice. His offensive instincts are
too good to go to waste.

THE
OTHER KENNY

Now
let’s talk about the other Kenny. You
know, the one who spells his first name correctly? Yeah, he’s pretty good. Kenny
Agostino’s starting to look like the crown jewel of Jarome Iginla’s remnants.
That’s not to say he didn’t look awesome last season in upstate New York, but I
wanted to be cautious in thinking that was going to be a normal Agostino season.
Now, 19 games into his sophomore season, he’s still looking like that player
(after a somewhat slow start to the year).

The
Yale University alumnus has seen an interesting pattern in his two years, not unlike
the future Hall of Famer he was traded for. Agostino has had a slow starts to
each season, but ramps up around Christmas time and becomes perhaps the Heat’s
most dangerous player in the new year. Sounds a bit like Jarome, doesn’t it? It’s
certainly looking like the same pattern this season.

What
Agostino does best is he recognizes developing dangerous chances and acts on
them with no deliberation. He thinks the game quickly and piles up the assists.
If he’s in a perimeter position with a defender’s stick in the way, instead of
peeling off, he’ll recognize his center or right winger driving to the net and
put it there. That play has gotten him more points than any other way.

It’s
easy for him to get buried amongst names like Granlund, Poirier and Grant, but
every game he earns a chance to be called up. Problem being, the Flames are
healthy and those chances aren’t coming as frequently as he’d hope. Keep an eye
on Agostino into the new year though. He’s going to really start heating up.

POWER
PLAY ANYTHING BUT

It
was painful to watch Stockton’s power play this week. They went 0/10 in two
games and had so few scoring chances you began to wonder if Ryan Huska taught
them zone entry at all.

It
was a hideous display of dump and chase on the power play and a gorgeous
display of opposing penalty killers getting to the puck first and clearing the
zone. The Heat made them look really good. The sad part about their power play
this weekend wasn’t even really how awful it looked – it was more about the
expectation of having a half decent power play all season. They’re 19th
in the league in road power plays (17th in total power plays). Fans
have come to expect a certain level of respectability from them, but they didn’t
show it this past week.

In
fact, you know it gets bad when Huska threw Blair Riley and Austin Carroll out
there in desperation to see what happens (no offense to Blair Riley or Austin
Carroll). Even if the Heat get set up on the power play, the book is out on
what they do once they have the puck: get it back to Oliver Kylington, Jakub
Nakladal, Aaron Johnson or Brett Kulak, let them fire it through traffic, hope
for the best. What does that sound like? Their parent club. Just like the
Flames, the Heat generate a great deal of offense on the rush, so unless they
can do that on the power play, their only hope is to let their premier defensemen
get it through traffic and try and get a tip.

  • everton fc

    Morrison seems a complete bust. Does he have conditioning issues? Why wouldn’t they send him to the ECHL?

    Good to see Poirier put up some points. How has Sieloff looked?

  • cberg

    Not sure how we can say Morrison is not a prospect now, especially with that report. Writer didn’t say much, other than he hasn’t played much. To me it is very strange how he was looking great on an AHL deal for the later part of last season to now he can’t even make out the basic of the game. The thing that has changed is his opportunity with the Flames and I’m betting that is killing his motivation and game.

    I get it that guys have to find a way to work through those things, and only the ones that do have a good shot at being successful, but to me the way the team has handled their prospects especially this past year would be a big downer for them all.

    One of, if not the biggest overall team issue this past 6 months has been an overabundance of talent and too many vets with no place to go. Although I give BT high marks overall, I think this has been a big problem and several promising prospects are suffering the fall-out from big promises followed up by limited to zero actual opportunity.

    I could put Wotherspoon, Morrison, Nakladal, Poirier, Agostino and Arnold ALL in that category, and Granlund to a lessor extent, and if changes aren’t made soon (this season) lots of these guys are going to be lost to the team.

    Sure, we are now in a play-off run with the guys we have but at some point decisions have to made for the LT, and I’m afraid ARE BEING MADE for the LT which is bad news for our younger prospects.

    I hate bad mouthing management, our the fire Hartley talk, but on this issue I feel the management is wrong and needs to make changes. Perhaps they already have, deeming many of our promising guys as not good enough. However, de-motivation due to lack of opportunity is real and I believe a far greater factor than many think real.

  • The Last Big Bear

    The Flames are really hard up for wingers in the system right now.

    It would be huge if the farm system could turn somebody like Agostino or Poirier into a 20+ goal top-6 winger.

    We’ve got some respectable bottom-6 guys out of the pipeline (Jooris, Bouma, Ferland), and a good 1-2-3 punch at centre. But after Johnny Hockey, the number of wingers who can be relied upon to score even 20 goals is pretty much zero.

    Hudler has hit the 20 goal mark 3 times in his career, and probably wont this year. Frolik might his 20, but it’ll be the first time he’s done it in 5 years. I don’t think anybody is counting on Jones for 20 goals per season anymore. Colborne is 25 years old, and still looking to break through that 10 goal barrier.

    And that’s pretty much our goal-scoring depth on the wing there. And we’re probably going to lose one or two of them for draft picks by the time the season is done.

    Seriously need some reinforcements on the wings.

  • cberg

    That’s a great update. I would also like to hear your read on Sieloff. This kid was very highly regarded before his illness and it seems current Flames brass does not have confidence in this kid. Regardless he is a 2nd rounder and could develop into a nice defensemen….is he still in The Flames plans?