The Missouri Mavericks certainly closed out 2016 with a bang. In what was one of the more entertaining affairs of the 2016-17 season, the Mavericks beat the Quad City Mallards in front of a sold out crowd at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, getting the game-winner from Rocco Carzo, while Josh Robinson stopped 32 of 34 Quad City shots for a 3-2 victory.
While that game brought flashes of the Brabham Cup champion team from a season ago, there are still concerns that come with it (only two shots on goal in the final 20 minutes of play would be one of those concerns). The Mavericks have had some roster shakeup over the last few weeks which looks to have rejuvenated this team a bit. Gone are the likes of Gus Young, Sam Povorozniouk, and Lukas Lofquist. Back in the fold are Andrew Courtney, Eamon McAdam, Carter Verhaeghe, Jesse Graham, and Zach Tolkinen. That’s a pretty significant swap, but a swap that I will take any day of the week.
Courtney is this team’s captain and leader, and his presence has been missed on the ice. McAdam was beyond impressive in his previous stint with the Mavs, and paired with Robinson, the Mavericks now have one of the best tandems between the pipes in the league. Graham and Tolkinen look to solidify a blue line that has been shaky all too often and is without their leader in Bryce Aneloski. Verhaeghe can be downright dominant at this level and has been on multiple occasions. The Mavs have lacked a pure finisher and he could be the remedy. Hopefully, the performance on Saturday is a sign of things to come. The Mavericks currently sit at 12-15-1-4 and have a good chunk of ground to make up in the playoff hunt.
So, since it’s the new year, it’s the time to make, commit to, and hopefully keep those resolutions. I teamed up with my friend Adam Twenter to come up with some resolutions for this Missouri Mavericks team:
- Figure out the power play
As good as the penalty kill has been (3rd in the ECHL), the power play has been equally as bad. The Mavericks currently rank 24th with the man advantage, at a measly 12% conversion rate. When the Mavericks are at their best, they are playing aggressive and forcing their opponents to take untimely penalties, which they’ve done a good job of so far this season. Their 154 power play opportunities are the most in the league. Unfortunately, with how terrible the power play has been, teams are perfectly fine with taking the penalty to thwart the Mavericks even strength scoring chances. Great teams are usually great on special teams. The Mavs are halfway there. -JR
2. Stay physical
Physicality is a big part of the Mavericks game. I’m not talking about big, CJ Ludwig type hits. I’m not talking about putting someone on their back, dropping the gloves, or hits that break glass. I’m talking about finishing checks, getting into the dirty areas, winning battles in the corners, forechecking like crazy, or screening a goalie while going to war with an opposing defenseman in front. The Mavericks thrive on this type of play, and I know John-Scott Dickson preaches it on a daily basis. When they get away from this is when they struggle. -JR
If you’ve been around Mavericks rookie head coach, John-Scott Dickson, for about two minutes you can tell that toughness is something that is preached and lived out on a daily basis. He urges his guys to play tough, be willing to step in for a teammate, protect their goalie, and deliver hits as often as possible. While they haven’t been as consistent on this front as we think he’d like them to be, they have shown flashes of it and the return of hard-hitting captain Andrew Courtney should help the cause. -AT
3. Protect the netminders
As it stands right now, the Mavericks have an incredible one-two punch to protect the cage in Robinson and McAdam. It is up to the skaters in front of them to make sure that they are protected at all times, while the puck is in play and when the play is dead. A friend of mine on twitter recently commented on how Allen protects their goalies and if anyone even gets close to Riley Gill or Jamie Murray or whoever else it may be that night, they are going to pay a price for it. I don’t understand why more teams aren’t like that. The Mavericks need to be like that. Protect your goaltenders at all times, whether it be clearing the crease during play, or making someone pay for that extra poke at the pads after the whistle. -JR
4. Find some kind of consistency
I feel like we’ve hit the inconsistency theme of the season over the head with a sledgehammer one too many times. I’d rather not talk about it anymore, but unfortunately, I have to because it continues to be a story. I know it’s getting old, but you know what else has gotten old? That would be beating very good, formidable teams, and doing so handily, while turning around and soiling the bed against teams that should be blown away. We have seen this team go toe-to-toe with some of the best in the ECHL. We know they can. They need to start playing like that every time their skates touch the ice. -JR
With the recent moves the Mavericks have made/endured, the team’s identity may be coming into focus and the roster may just have the pieces it needs to accomplish this task. The return of Andrew Courtney energized not only the crowd on New Year’s Eve, but the players as well. That was as complete a game as we’ve seen from the Mavs this season. The addition of Zack Tolkinen to strengthen the blue line will help and seeing Reed Seckel back at full strength gives this team a consistent veteran presence it has lacked all season due to injuries. -AT
5. Put teams away
Much like the two-shot, third period performance on New Year’s Eve, the Mavericks have a tendency to sit on leads late in games. That isn’t going to work, just ask Scott Hillman. There is a difference between playing smart and conservative, and going into turtle mode. I can understand and appreciate the fact that the opposition is throwing everything but the kitchen sink at you and the natural instinct is to concentrate on fighting off the continuous onslaught. However, teams are incredibly vulnerable at this time and the Mavericks have the skaters to turn a rush back around on their opposition in a hurry. Laying back and hoping to ride out the storm will end up costing this team games that they have no business losing. -JR
6. Commit to the message of JSD
At a recent home game, I was asked by three or four people if coaching was the problem with this team. It seemed like such a crazy notion to me and completely caught me off guard every time the words seeped into my ear canal. It’s a simple question so let me provide a simple answer with simple reasoning to defend my answer. First, the answer is no. Coaching is not the issue. While that may be an easy “go-to” since Dickson is a very young, first-year head coach with two different NHL teams providing young talent to his roster, it is certainly not the case. Now onto my simple reasoning to defend my stance, and I will pose it as a question myself. When this team is playing well, do you think they are doing the opposite of what Dickson has instructed them to do that has resulted in those flashes of brilliant play? Of course not. When the Mavericks are at their best, they are playing a fast, physical, north-south game that overwhelms opponents. That is the message that Dickson has preached since day one. It’s on the players to relay that message onto the ice on a consistent basis to get to where they want to be. They haven’t done that over the course of several games yet. They did it on New Year’s Eve, so let’s hope that’s the beginning of a long stretch of great hockey. -JR