Photo Credit: Mrs. Finest

Tucson sweeps two from Stockton – no Heat playoffs

On Friday, the Stockton Heat had an opportunity to remain in the Calder Cup playoff hunt, albeit an outside chance. The team directly above them, the Tucson Roadrunners, came into Stockton sporting a 1-6-1 record in their last eight games. After going 6-2-0-1 in their last eight, Stockton had set itself up for a late season run.

I am here to sadly report that the Time of Death on the Heat’s season was Friday, March 15 at 9:20 pm local time. It was a peaceful and solemn event. No fanfare, no celebration of existence, no excitement, just a small gathering of 2,670 in attendance to pay their last respects and file quietly out of the arena.

Missed it by that much

The Heat were badly wounded and on life support after the Sunday, March 10 debacle against the San Jose Barracuda where, while holding a 4-1 lead with fewer than 10 minutes left in the game, the team let San Jose steal the victory with a harmless goal at the 11-minute mark, then allowing two goals 22 seconds apart with fewer than 90 seconds left in the game, and a shootout loss. Even gaining a point, that was the death blow to the team. I added the highlights of that game here, as they were not available in my last post.

That San Jose game drained the Heat, and it showed on Friday against Tucson. The team a played flat, uninspired, and lifeless game. Sloppy play, overpassing the puck, and bad defense led to a 3-1 Roadrunner win.

Even when Juuso Valimaki scored in the second to tie things at one, the team did not respond like in the past. Jon Gillies did his best to fend off Tucson, but he was just one player. When he was finally beat with just over five minutes left in the second, the team folded. An empty net goal sealed the fate of the 2018-19 Stockton Heat.

The arena plays “I’ve seen Better Days” by Citizen King after every loss, but should have played “Taps” on Friday instead. The only thing missing was the Heat wearing black. Another year of missing the playoffs for the Heat, but hey, we did develop Dillon Dube, Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington, and Valimaki for the Flames, so all is good in the world of Flames hockey (dripping with sarcasm).

Trying to find the net

With the season unofficially over, the Heat bowed again to the Roadrunners on Saturday, this time by the final of 5-2. Even though they played a more physical game, they still were no match for a desperate hockey team trying everything they can to make the playoffs.

Adin Hill at work

Gillies allowed three goals in the second period to put the game out of reach (one was a 5-on-3, the other two high glove side). With the exception of those five minutes when he allowed the two latter goals, he was good in net over the past four to six weeks. But with Friday’s loss, the rest of the team appeared to be just going through the motions. I am expecting a bill from the post office, since the Heat appeared to mail this one in.

As for the remainder of the season, Stockton has nine games left for individuals to pad their stats and make a case for them to be re-signed next season. Players already inked include Buddy Robinson, Matthew Phillips, Glenn Gawdin, Dillon Dube, Juuso Valimaki, Andrew Nielsen, Tyler Parsons, Jon Gillies, and Nick Schneider. I would bring back Kerby Rychel, Ryan Lomberg, Tyler Graovac, Scott Sabourin, Adam Ollas-Mattsson, Rob Hamilton, and Rinat Valiev. I would like to see Curtis Lazar, but feel he will be on a NHL roster somewhere.

While Graovac and Sabourin were better than expected, Josh Healey and Spencer Foo regressed from last season. Time to move on from those two. I would also not sign Matt Taormina, Marcus Hogstrom, and Anthony Peluso. Brett Pollock is hit or miss with me, as he has been buried on the fourth line most of the year.

I have refrained from grading the coaching staff to date, but now the season is all but over, here goes. Time to clean house. Cail MacLean is a better position coach than head coach. Some of the decisions he made this year left my scratching my head. I understand he was dealt a bad hand to start with all of the call-ups and injuries, but he never quite adapted to the situation. He brought out the blender to mix lines, but too often in my opinion, which never allowed a line to fully gel. Lastly, he failed to assign a “C” to anyone this year: it was always a rotating three-some of alternates. This team lacked leadership all season and a captain could have helped. It would be nice to have a seasoned coach to come in and help mold this team into a winner.

I’ve seen better days indeed.

  • Willi P

    Last night’s Flames bottom 6. Thanks Stockton, 5 of 6.

    Mangiapane – Jankowski – Czarnik
    Quine – Lazar – Hathaway

    Have listened to a lot of interviews with Cail and I have to say, he does not sound like a head coach to me. Does not articulate well and fails to inspire confidence (as a fan). Not sure how he does in the room.

    That said, Flames left their AHL team high and dry on Defense IMO. Nothing in the pipe once Valimaki is called up. This really seemed to hurt the Heat performance this year.

    • Baalzamon

      To be fair, they signed Hogstrom and he was hurt literally all year. They also traded Kulak for two AHL guys (Taormina and Valiev). They couldn’t have known that Taormina (usually a reliable scoring defenseman at the least) would collapse and also spend the season injured.

      They probably should have sent Kylington or maybe Prout back down after acquiring Fantenberg though.

  • CalgaryBornandRaised

    Tough road for the Heat this year SF, but can you take solace in knowing the Heat developed some key contributors to the Flames success this year? Been a long time since the Flames graduated so many AHLer’s to the NHL

  • Brian McGrattan's Salute

    Sorry to hear about this. I’m definitely with you that part of developing players is getting them post season experience. Hockey skill can only translate with confidence, courage, heart, and other such intangibles. Playoff hockey is a great place to develop these things.

    Hopefully someone can overtake Cali. I don’t think I was alone in thinking, at the start of the season at least, that Stockton had the best opening night roster since I’ve been following Calgary’s affiliates. So it was a surprise to me that they did so poorly, even to start. I know they had their challenges, and call ups, but I still didn’t think the results reflected what the team could have done (at least for the first few months).

    Here’s to hoping we get some back up for the Heat in the draft and through signings.

    Speaking of which, what do you think of this new Luke Philip kid?

  • Honkydonk

    The good news is you have a group of guys that include Joly, Rucika and the guy we signed yesterday about to join the AHL team.

    The bad news is we have only drafted 3 defenders in our last 21 draft pics which means unfortunately that cubboard is bare as guys like Kylington and Anderson are full time NHL guys now.

    So we will have to get smart at who we draft this time around in addition we will have to get smart at identifying unfounded gold d men for th AHL next season.

  • ZZMiddle

    SF, I feel your pain buddy. One of the hardest things in sports fandom to follow a development team. A guy is lighting it up in Midget, he gets the call to AAA Midget. Burning up a Jr.B league, Jr.A team calls him up. Killing it in JrA? Major Jr or NCAA comes calling. It never ends. Stockton sends a couple guys to Calgary, The Kansas City Mavericks get bent over. Nature of the beast.

  • calgaryfan

    I understand Brad Pascall is responsible for the Stockton Heat, maybe he is not the right guy for the job. I know Stockton is a development team but you need to surround the young players with some quality vets to make the team competitive. What does losing and being at the bottom of the league show the newbies.

  • buts

    Thanks for all the updates as it’s very refreshing to read your honest feelings about the players and coach’s. Sometimes writers sugar coat evaluations not to burn bridges for advancement and hurt feelings. Your the eyes in Stockton….thanks again.

  • HOCKEY83

    Lazar would be the perfect player for Edmonton to pick up. Cheap forward and he’d probably finaly get his chance at playing second line minutes with some talent Nuge or Drai

  • SydScout

    The respect and appreciation for SF here is great. He’s done a fine job of keeping us informed. What a champ, deserves better. I’d chip in to crowd fund SF a trip to YYC during the playoffs as a payment for the work he does for FN.

  • MDG1600

    Lots of blaming the coach and injuries. Does it not occur to anyone that our prospects are not very good ( cough… cough… John Gillies…cough cough) IMHO the only two players on the roster that have a ghost of a chance to be quality (top 1/2 of the roster) NHLers are Valimaki and Dube.

    • MiamiRedhawks

      Yea….they have anointed him as the golden goalie for way too long. I hate to be so critical. I wasn’t impressed with his 7 game season. High glove side and so slow to reset were a couple of things I saw then. Schneider also worries me.

        • MiamiRedhawks

          I was hoping they would have done that this season. So it tells me either Gillies is better or still the chosen one. It seems Macdonald was written off some time ago and Schneider is under him. So things look pretty bleak. I wish I could go to more games to give more insight on the farm. (also I bet SF would be a good hockey buddy.)

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    It is unfortunate that Calgary had to dip into its talent pool when Stockton was on a roll. With Lazar, Quine, and Stone they were finding their groove. I have to think other clubs have been depleting their AHL club rosters late in the season as well.

    • Getpucksdeep

      The AHL’s catch 22. If you’re really good you likely have a few really good players. Good players get called up. Some say we have to draft better however with picks like Andersson, Valimaki and Kjlington all demonstrating they can play at a young age and play well …that’s pretty good drafting and now we clearly have another 2nd round gem in Dube. Don’t forget Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett and Tkackuk all jumped right in after we went what 10-15 years I think without a single 1st round pick making the team in his 1st year? We’re short of AHL help because we have drafted well.

      • Beer League Coach

        Agreed. Great for Flames. Not so great for the Heat. That is the way it is with farm teams. We had the same frustrations with Cannons in AAA baseball.