Above: The Mavericks celebrate a goal from Radoslav Illo. (Photo: John Howe/The Sin Bin)
The Missouri Mavericks have fought their way back into playoff contention, already defying odds that looked insurmountable. The recipe for this season would make anyone think that the Mavericks would be cellar-dwellars throughout the season. A first-year head coach? Check. Their legendary captain out most of the season due to injury? Yup. The youngest team (at times) in the league? Sure. Decimated by call-ups throughout the entire season. You betcha. The Mavericks have had their backs against the wall the entire season, but time after time, they have fought their way out.
Every time this team seems to be hitting their groove, looking like a team that deserves a place in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, another gut-punch comes along. First, it was Ville Husso, then Bryce Aneloski, then Carter Verhaeghe, then Jesse Graham. The latest to pack their bags for the AHL are Darren Nowick and Kevin Tansey, arguably the two most important skaters on this team. Now, every single one of those guys deserves their spot at the next level. At the absolute very least, they have AHL talent, if not more. There’s a part of all of us that is incredibly happy for these guys. They have worked their whole lives for an opportunity like this, and I think I can speak for every member of the Orange Army and say that we hope that they all make it to the NHL. However, we’re not in Bridgeport, or Chicago, or Bakersfield. We’re in Independence, Missouri, trying our best to figure out how John-Scott Dickson and Brent Thiessen are going to fight their way out of another impossible situation.
The ECHL Trade Deadline is looming, Thursday at 3pm to be exact. It is beyond obvious that the Mavericks need to make a deal, but the question is, at what cost? Here is a list of players that can be traded: Shawn Pauly, Eric Scheid, Rocco Carzo, Dan Correale, Matt Robertson, Andrew Courtney (injured), Reed Seckel, Dane Fox, Stephen Silas, Don Olivieri, Zach Tolkinen. The players that will bring you the most in return are Carzo, Correale, and Fox. Anyone willing to part ways with any of those guys? I didn’t think so.
Option number two is trading for players in exchange for future considerations. While this is a viable option, it may not be the most realistic. First of all, there are currently 20 teams in the ECHL that have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. That all but eliminates those teams trading with each other. Also, there is a need for defensemen on just about every team in the playoff hunt, which gives those teams that have a plethora of defensemen all of the leverage. They can hold out for the deal that they are looking for, and by no means are in a position where they have to make a deal. You also run the risk of losing a player at the end of the season that you planned on being a part of this team in 2017-18. While this is the most likely trade scenario for the Mavericks, and it could be effective now, it could hurt this team next season.
The third option is to start making phone calls on players coming out of college. The Mavericks have already shown their willingness to do that by bringing in Silas, and I’m told that they have looked at multiple college players in the last week. This is an attractive option because it costs you nothing, but it also comes with great risk because no one knows how these players will translate to the professional level. Also, you’re asking players that have never skated a minute of professional hockey to fill voids left by the most dynamic players that have departed. To say that those expectations are lofty would be the understatement of the century.
The Mavericks are in a tough spot. They need to make a move or two or three. They have so many holes to fill and no good solution on how to fill them. It’s a basic principle in sports transactions that to get talent, you have to give up talent. The problem is that the most desirable talent that the Mavericks have are cornerstones to their play on the ice.
Dickson has praised the fight and the grit that his team has played with all season, and the bench boss deserves his fair share of the credit. Looking at everything that they’ve been through this season, it’s incredible that they are only three points out of the playoffs. With their roster depleted and their backs against the wall once again, do they have enough left in the tank to fight their way out one more time and stake their claim to a playoff spot that they have battled for all season? We’ll soon find out, but the one story that cannot be left untold is how this team has defied the odds all season long and every time they were told that they were done for, they sharpened their skates, taped their sticks, took the ice, threw punches, netted goals, and strung together wins to make sure that statement held no water. This team fights and they’ll need to fight harder than ever to overcome the mountain of odds that currently stand in their way.