INDEPENDENCE, MO – Imagine you’ve been challenged to a cross-country car race, with the winner receiving eternal glory, admiration, and envy of their peers. You throw some essentials in a bag, run out the front door towards a beautiful vehicle that was built and designed specifically for the rigors of this contest. You’ve got a full tank of gas, a playlist all lined up with your favorites jams, and all the road trip essentials that you need.
You climb into the driver’s seat, your pilot’s chair for this journey. With a flick of the key, the engine fires up and purrs like a content feline. You throw it in drive and the journey has begun. You’re rolling along, making great time, when all of a sudden, all hell breaks loose. Your engine explodes. All four tires blow out. Your stick shift breaks off. You look down and your floorboard is gone. You’re left to try to complete this cross-country marathon of a race with the technology afforded to Fred & Wilma Flintstone.
That sounds like quite the uphill battle, huh? While that may be a bit on the dramatic side, I feel as though it is a pretty accurate metaphor for what Kansas City Mavericks head coach John-Scott Dickson has faced so far this season. Injuries and call-ups have decimated his roster, and while every team is faced with similar issues over the course of a season, the Mavericks’ plight has taken it to a new level. Here is a list of players that have missed significant time due to injury or promotion:
- Rocco Carzo
- Darren Nowick
- Matt Robertson
- Dan Correale
- Mike McMurtry
- Jordan Kwas
- Shawn Pauly
- Kayle Doetzel
- Tyler Parsons
- Mason McDonald
For those of you keeping score at home, that equals the best projected offensive players coming into the season, the biggest offensive contributors so far this season, the best two-way forwards on this team (also some of the best in the league), the best penalty killers, the best shot blockers, the best defenseman on the roster, the heart and soul of the team, and two outstanding young goalies. Yeah, a pretty solid metaphor if I may say so myself.
Yet, here we are, 35 games into the season, and the Mavericks are not only defying all odds by staying afloat, they currently hold the fourth and final playoff spot in a tough Central Division race. This team has had every reason to pack up shop, sell off parts, and try to load up for next season. They haven’t. Dickson often says that he has a team full of grinders. Well, grind is exactly what they have done. With a record of 18-16-0-1, the Mavericks have kept themselves in the thick of things by doing exactly what their bench boss says that they do best: grinding.
It’s not always pretty. In fact, we’ve seen some pretty nauseating stretches of hockey at times, but this roster, depleted and weary has kept plugging along, kept coming to work every day and busting their asses the way their coach did in his heyday. That is a testament to what Dickson has instilled into that locker room since taking over as the head coach of the Mavericks. The same grit, hard work, and dedication that he brought to the ice every single day of his playing career is the very thing that has this Mavericks team in playoff contention when they have no business being there, especially considering the tsunami of crappy luck and adversity they’ve had to overcome so far this year.
That being said, this is a results-oriented business. Either your team is winning or they’re not. So, I guess I understand why some have taken aim at Dickson for the team’s struggles at times. It’s easy to look at a box score and hop behind a keyboard to vent some frustrations. Hell, I’m guilty of that at times too. However, the ire and frustration are misguided and misdirected if your social media outburst has Dickson in the crosshairs. The problem is that when there is no one to blame, the coach is typically the defacto stand-in for the lobbying of social media bombs. It happens all the time, right or wrong, and that’s part of the job of being a professional coach. If you want to calm the keyboard warriors, the solution is simple: win. That’s a simplistic view, yes, but it’s also true. I guess the only point that I am trying to drive home here is that those 18 wins that the Mavericks have amassed so far this season are a better indication of the man behind the bench than the 17 losses.
I stated back when Dickson got the job to replace Richard Matvichuk that he was the perfect person to lead this team, and I still fully believe that. We saw a resurgent team in the second half last season, and with players starting to get healthy, and hopefully some help from Stockton sprinkled in, the Mavericks can start to work their way up the standings in the Central Division. For what this team and this coaching staff has been through, they deserve a spot in the postseason, but no one is going to give it to them. They’ll need to work and grind harder than ever now, and if anyone knows about that, it’s their leader behind the bench.