NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The ECHL’s South Division continues to be very top-heavy, with South Carolina and Florida already punching their playoff tickets. Entering play Wednesday, the gulf between first and seventh in the division is a whopping 57 points, the most in minor league hockey (the NHL’s Atlantic division has a 61-point separation between first-place Boston and seventh-place Detroit). Digging deeper, while two of the playoff spots have been decided, there are three teams vying for the remaining two slots.
The Sin Bin’s Matthew Harding previews the seven-team South Division ahead of #ECHLDeadlineDay on Thursday, March 5 at 3:00 pm EST. He’ll break down the greatest need for each club, as well as their predictions on who will be active come deadline day!
South Carolina Stingrays Info: 43-11-3-1, 90 points
Home Record: 19-9-0-0
Road Record: 24-2-3-1
Last 10 Games: 9-1-0-0
Goal Differential: +74
Power Play Rank: 15th – 17.0% success rate (39-230)
Penalty Kill Rank: 1st – 88.5% kill rate (25 PPG allowed in 218 times shorthanded)
Greatest Need: Injuries have started to mount up for the Stingrays, but thanks to a stifling defense and great netminding, the Stingrays were the first ECHL team to clinch a playoff berth this season. While there is still plenty for the ‘Rays to play for, the greatest need for them currently is just to get healthy.
Prediction for the Deadline: The Stingrays will likely stand pat at the deadline.
Florida Everblades Info: 43-13-3-2, 87 points
Home Record: 22-7-2-0
Road Record: 19-6-1-2
Last 10 Games: 8-2-0-0
Goal Differential: +67
Power Play Rank: 25th – 14.2% success rate (32-225)
Penalty Kill Rank: 19th – 80.5% kill rate (46 PPG allowed in 225 times shorthanded)
Greatest Need: Improved special teams. The power play, which has been a backbone of the ‘Blades success in recent years, has fallen off the table this year. Moreover, the penalty kill has allowed the fourth-most power play goals in the league this year. The two combine to produce a huge warning sign for the ‘Blades playoff success.
Prediction for the Deadline: The additions of Gage Torrel and Jake Clifford could help with the special teams problems the ‘Blades have had this season. Further, with Nashville teetering on making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, should they miss, there will be an influx of talent on both the Milwaukee and Florida rosters. I’d expect Brad Ralph to be quiet on deadline day.
Greenville Swamp Rabbits Info: 27-29-4-1, 59 points
Home Record: 17-11-1-1
Road Record: 10-18-3-0
Last 10 Games: 3-4-3-0
Goal Differential: -19
Power Play Rank: 22nd – 15.4% success rate (35-227)
Penalty Kill Rank: 15th – 81.5% kill rate (43 PPG allowed in 232 times shorthanded)
Greatest Need: Better starts to games. The Swamp Rabbits have the worst first period goal differential in the league with a -24 (outscored 80-56 in the first). Having to claw to get back into games is not a good recipe for playoff success, but how do you address this issue at the deadline? Unfortunately, there’s probably not much Kevin Kerr can do, since it’s more of a mindset.
Prediction for the Deadline: Recent additions of Karl El-Mir, Cameron Heath, and Joe Masonius should pay dividends for the Swamp Rabbits, but don’t be surprised if Kerr goes shopping for another high-end player or someone to help add depth to the blueline.
Atlanta Gladiators Info: 28-28-1-2, 59 points
Home Record: 19-10-1-0
Road Record: 9-18-0-2
Last 10 Games: 7-2-0-1
Goal Differential: -30
Power Play Rank: 5th – 20.4% success rate (49-240)
Penalty Kill Rank: 17th – 80.8% kill rate (44 PPG allowed in 229 times shorthanded)
Greatest Need: Depth and defense. The Glads have been plagued by injuries this season and it definitely appears that help from the upper leagues will not be coming anytime soon. Despite their success recently, the Gladiators still allow the third-most goals in the ECHL, with an average of 3.81 per game.
Prediction for the Deadline: Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle is in a unique position. With the team on an eight-game point streak, does he stand pat or does he do make a move or two to bring in the depth? Pyle was somewhat active at the deadline last year, making two deals, and I think he will make a move or two to add to the depth of his club.
Orlando Solar Bears Info: 26-27-5-1, 58 points
Home Record: 16-12-1-0
Road Record: 10-15-4-1
Last 10 Games: 4-6-0-0
Goal Differential: -6
Power Play Rank: 19th – 15.6% success rate (35-224)
Penalty Kill Rank: 4th – 86.3% kill rate (32 PPG allowed in 234 times shorthanded)
Greatest Need: Offensive firepower. The Solar Bears have been anemic offensively at times this season, scoring two or fewer goals 30 times this season. While the Solar Bears are getting pucks to the net — 12th in the league in shots for per game (32.41/game) — their leading goal scorer, Trevor Olsen, only has 18 lamplighters on the season.
Prediction for the Deadline: With the Solar Bears teetering on the playoff brink currently, I would expect that Drake Berehowsky will work diligently to find an offensive piece or two to acquire.
Jacksonville Icemen Info: 22-28-5-1, 50 points
Home Record: 13-11-2-0
Road Record: 9-17-3-1
Last 10 Games: 4-6-0-0
Goal Differential: -32
Power Play Rank: 9th – 18.1% success rate (35-193)
Penalty Kill Rank: 12th – 82.5% kill rate (37 PPG allowed in 211 times shorthanded)
Greatest Need: Team defense. While plus-minus is a flawed stat, it’s one of the few provided by the league and in the spirit of that, we found just three players — defensemen Luke Shiplo, Chris Lijdsman, and forward Adam Dauda. The Icemen currently allow 3.59 goals per game on average. In their last 10 games, the Icemen have been outscored 41-31. They have allowed four or more goals in six of their last ten and four of their last five games.
Prediction for the Deadline: Icemen head coach Jason Christie has not been a big deadline dealer, going back to his days in Tulsa. I would expect that trend to continue this year, too.
Norfolk Admirals Info: 13-36-7-0, 33 points
Home Record: 8-17-3-0
Road Record: 5-19-4-0
Last 10 Games: 1-7-2-0
Goal Differential: -92
Power Play Rank: 24th – 14.2% success rate (32-225)
Penalty Kill Rank: 20th – 79.9% kill rate (45 PPG allowed in 224 times shorthanded)
Greatest Need: Everything. After an offseason that looked halfway decent on paper, it has become survival of the fittest in the Tidewater. Since January, head coach Rod Taylor has shipped out Christian Horn, Charlie O’Connor, Josh and Ben Holmstrom, Johnny Coughlin, Derik Angeli, Ben Masonius, and there hasn’t been much in return. It is very hard to identify what exactly the Admirals are hoping to accomplish through this firesale.
Prediction for the Deadline: The only real drama left is to see if Taylor will move the remaining asset on his roster, J.C. Campagna, who scored 35 goals last season. In spite of his poor defensive numbers, Campagna would definitely add offensive depth to a team making a push for the playoffs.
Don’t forget to catch The Sin Bin’s ECHL Trade Deadline Show from 7:30 to 9:30 pm ET on Thursday, March 5 via The Sin Bin app, Facebook Live, and YouTube for a breakdown of all the day’s deals.
Also, keep tabs on your team’s transactions with The Sin Bin’s Trade Tracker!