It has been quite a year for the Missouri Mavericks. After overcoming struggles throughout the majority of the season, the Mavericks have now won nine of their last 11 games and are right in the thick of the playoff hunt. Since day one, there have been a lot of questions surrounding this team, and even after 49 games, some questions have been answered, others have not, and there are new ones emerging every day. Thanks to all of those who submitted questions for this edition of the mailbag. Now, let’s see if I can scrape together some answers that make it seem like I know what I’m talking about:

What are the realistic chances that Carter Verhaeghe makes it to the NHL given the way that he has played this season? – Tyler

Verhaeghe’s biggest obstacle to making it to the NHL is, quite frankly, himself. He has tremendous talent, there is no debate about that. However, his shortcomings are also easy to see. He needs a lot of work on the defensive side of the puck. To play in the NHL, unless you have other-worldly skills, you have to be, at worst, a decent defensive player. Verhaeghe’s backchecking prowess leaves a lot to be desired at times. Also, he has the tendency to try to do too much with the puck on his stick. When he simplifies his game, he’s at his best.

The Mavericks have to replace the monster numbers put up by Carter Verhaeghe. (Photo: John Howe/The Sin Bin)

While he has shown flashes at the AHL level, his numbers aren’t exactly eye-popping. In 53 career AHL games, he has 28 points. At only 21 years old, he does have time on his side. He’ll get every opportunity to prove that he belongs in the NHL. While he’s not at the level yet, he has progressed tremendously since the first time we saw him in Missouri. He has been dominant at the ECHL level. If he wants to make it to the NHL, and stay there, he needs to continue to progress towards dominating at the AHL level.

 

The Mavericks are hot right now. What do they need to do if they want a shot at making the playoffs? – Steve

The Mavericks are hot, this is true, but they have also taken advantage of a weaker part of their schedule. Wichita and Tulsa have not been playing great hockey as of late. This is a good sign and bad for the Mavericks. It’s good because if you think you are a good team, then you need to take care of business every time you play a team that you feel you’re better than. The Mavericks did that against Wichita and Tulsa. When I say that it’s “bad,” I suppose “bad” isn’t the best term to use, maybe “misleading” is better. The Thunder and Oilers are a combined 1-16-3 over their last 20 combined games. It’s hard to get an accurate assessment on the Mavericks during their recent stretch. Granted, they have been getting wins, and that’s all that matters, but they have some tough games coming up against Toledo (first in the Central Division) and Quad City (on an eight-game winning streak) this weekend that might be a more telling sign of where this team currently stands.

They also have to move forward without some key pieces. Verhaeghe, Eamon McAdam, Tyler Elbrecht, and Jesse Graham all were key contributors at some point over this recent stretch of winning hockey, and they are all gone. If they want to make the playoffs, then they will need several guys to step up and fill the voids left by the departed. They also have to drastically shorten the periods of uninspired hockey that we see every game. This team goes through period-long funks sometimes, and they end up digging themselves a hole that they can’t fight out of every time. They need to keep utilizing their speed and aggressiveness. They need to stay physical, despite losing their most physical piece in Elbrecht. They need to protect their cage and give Josh Robinson every chance to be the dominant netminder that he has proven to be. They need to keep attacking on the forecheck to put relentless pressure on the opposition. Most importantly, they need to put any loss that comes behind them and get right back to work the next game. We are about to find out how mentally tough this team is.

Do you think the Mavs will ever bring the Women’s National Hockey team to town for a themed weekend? – Keith

It is definitely a possibility. Lamar Hunt, Jr. is trying to do whatever he can to build and promote the game of hockey throughout the Kansas City metro area. He and I have discussed larger hockey events coming to Kansas City/Independence before, and he has stated that his primary focus has been 1) trying to get an NHL exhibition game at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, and 2) trying to get the ECHL All-Star Game to Kansas City. Those are two very lofty goals and are certainly achievable, but a lot of cards would have to fall into place to see either of those come to fruition. One thing is certain, Mr. Hunt is open to anything that will help grow the game in this area.

Who will step up now that we’ve lost Verhaeghe and McAdam? – Derek

With the McAdam loss, that’s easy. Robinson is the reigning ECHL Goalie of the Year. That’s always nice to have in your back pocket. He’s had an up and down year but has also been the victim of some pretty porous defense at times. Robinson has carried this team on his back before, and I have no doubt he can do it again if need be.

 

Dane Fox will need to continue his scoring ways with the recent departures for the Mavericks. (Photo: John Howe/The Sin Bin)

 

It’s harder to identify one person to fill the role that Verhaeghe had on this team. Obviously, guys like Dane Fox and Rocco Carzo come to mind, but I also think Darren Nowick needs to continue to progress. Nowick has become a dynamic offensive threat in what is still his (technically) rookie season. Eric Scheid has impressed since being acquired from Florida. Look for him to take on a bigger role as well.

What will be interesting to see is how the Mavericks fill the void of the departure of Elbrecht, who was traded to Manchester on Thursday to complete the future considerations due to the Monarchs from the Zach Tolkinen trade. Elbrecht was a nice player for the Mavericks. He brought a level of toughness that was much needed at times. He had his flaws on the ice but had really been playing good hockey lately. He was also a well-respected player by his teammates and a leader in the locker room. This was a move that the Mavericks did not want to make, but didn’t have much of a choice. Sometimes a guy like Elbrecht is harder to replace than others. We’ll see how that affects the Mavericks moving forward.

The loss of Tyler Elbrecht will be felt on the ice and in the locker room. (Photo: John Howe/The Sin Bin)

Will you be my Valentine? – @SinBinRoyals

No. (Nodding head yes)

McAdam and Verhaeghe make me wonder who do you think is the most talented player that has played for the Mavs? – Matt

This is a tough conversation to have. The level of play that the Mavericks are currently at is so much higher than the teams from the Central Hockey League days, that it almost makes you disqualify any player from 2009 to 2014. That doesn’t seem fair though because that means that Sebastien Thinel, Ryan Jardine, Colt King, and so many others are immediately out. I don’t know if I could pick the most talented player ever for the Mavericks. Verhaeghe is certainly in that conversation. Jesse Root and Tyler Barnes are up there as well. Since I’m going to take the chicken way out, I’ll give you the most talented player(s) from each year, but also the most underrated from each team:

 

Season Most Talented Most Underrated
2009-10 Jeff Christian, Charlier Effinger, Nick Sirota Mike Burgoyne
2010-11 Rob Nolan, Ryan Jardine, Mike Berry, Nick Sirota Blake Forsyth
2011-12 Sebastien Thinel, Andrew Courtney, Ed McGrane Brandon Coccimiglio
2012-13 Sebastien Thinel, Colt King, Kenton Miller, Ryan Jardine Trevor Kell
2013-14 Eric Castonguay, Andrew Courtney, Sebastien Thinel, Colt King, Trevor Kell, Mike Ramsay, Shane Owen Matt Stephenson
2014-15 Andrew Courtney, Lindsay Sparks, Josh Brittain Marty Lee
2015-16 Tyler Barnes, Jesse Root, Rocco Carzo, Kane Lafranchise, Bryce Aneloski, Josh Robinson Pat Cullity
2016-17 Carter Verhaeghe, Rocco Carzo, Darren Nowick, Kevin Tansey Dan Correale

Thinel, Courtney, Jardine, Sirota, King, and Carzo are the only players who show up multiple times on that list, but I don’t know if I would pick any of those guys. There have been so many talented players come through Missouri that have played on completely different styles of teams that it really makes for a great debate topic.

 

Will the ECHL provide counseling services for the Orange Army if Allen wins the Kelly Cup again? -Jeff

I’ve started typing multiple different responses to this question because there are so many different ways to answer it. I feel like I’ve gone full circle in regards to my feelings on the Allen Americans. On one hand, some of the best people that I’ve met since I started this endeavor are fans, employees, or players from Allen. On the other hand, there have been teams that they’ve put on the ice that I have absolutely hated with every fiber of my being. I’ve taken a step back and put full consideration into this incredible feat that they have accomplished, winning four consecutive championships. Here’s what I come up with, stay with me here. This feat that has been achieved by Allen deserves to be respected, honored, and revered by all. It truly is unbelievable. I couldn’t be more happy for those friends and colleagues that I have that are connected to that organization in some way.

However, I’ve realized that it is perfectly fine to respect and envy their accomplishments, while still hating the team itself. I am not a fan of a lot of the things that Allen does on the ice. I’ve made no secret regarding my feelings on that. However, it’s effective, so effective that no one has been able to replicate it, or, more importantly, no one has been able to stop it. Allen has demolished everything in their paths, from the Central Hockey League to the ECHL, and they don’t appear to be taking their foot off of the pedal anytime soon. As long as Steve Martinson is behind the bench in Allen, they will be perennial championship contenders. We hate them for many reasons, but their success is definitely high on that list.

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