The Mallards were able to ride a combination of excellent defense and average offense to second place for much of the season. Now their offense and place in the standings are both fading. The Mallards have only scored 1 goal in each of the last 4 games. In March, they are only averaging 1.7 goals/game. Why?
The Mallards’ two biggest scoring threats all season have been Joe Perry and Logan Nelson. Those two have not appeared in the same lineup together since January 30th. The month of December is the only month they both were both 100% healthy and in the lineup every game. The Mallards had their best month, going 9-5-0-0 and scoring 3.6 goals/game.
The Mallards have also made more transactions than every Central Division team except the Mavericks, who have made at least 16 trades this year (it may be more than that – I can’t keep them all straight). Even with all the trade deadline moves by the Mavericks, the Mallards have still had more transactions in the month of March (17) than the Mavericks (14). All 17 of the Mallards’ roster moves have happened since March 9.
There have been 15 different times a Mallards player was called up to the AHL, which leads the Central division. Joe Perry and Benjamin Dieude-Fauvel were called up for a big chunk of the second half. The next closest Central team to this is Allen, with 10 callups. However, most players recalled from other teams were assigned to them from a higher league first. Only two of the Mallards callups (Jani Hakanpaa and John Curry) were assigned to them first, and they only played 3 games combined for the Mallards. The rest of the Mallards’ callups were all players on ECHL contracts recruited by Coach Ruskowski. There are other teams that have had players assigned to them and played for them for most of the season. For example Danick Gauthier and Dan Milan have each played about 60 games for the Thunder, assigned to them by Syracuse. That is a luxury the Mallards have not had.
No, I’m not saying that coach should be holding back our players from a callup. The Mallards should be proud to produce so much AHL talent. It also makes the Mallards a very attractive destination for young players looking to make a name for themselves. The point is that some of this pain could have been offset if Iowa had assigned some players here to help offset some of the games lost. Instead, the Wild prospects were sent to the Alaska Aces. Hopefully this relationship changes next season.
In the second half of the season, the Mallards also added 6 rookies: Bennett Schneider, Berkley Scott, Mason Baptista, Alex Grieve, Austin Coldwell and as I was writing this, they just added Jake Baker! (Baptista is already back at college.) These players are capable, but are raw and still adjusting to the pro game. Combine the callups, send downs and injuries with all these new players, and it had to make it hard for the team to gel.
The Mallards were without both Nelson and Perry for most of February, but were still able to grind out an 8-6-0-0 record. So the task is not impossible. The only difference is the roster was fairly stable otherwise in February. It will be interesting to see if the team can finally gel and keep their playoff chances alive.