ORLANDO, FL – The holiday season is a time for reflecting and dreaming. This year, The Sin Bin wants to help the sometimes battered squads get into the Christmas spirit, and we are doing so by putting together special wish lists for Santa. If that North Pole miracle-worker can bring at least some of these treats in his sleigh, it will make the New Year bright. Previously, we looked at the wish lists for the South, North, and Central Divisions. Now, we bring it all home with the bruising boys from the Mountain Division.
Late Game Lamp Lighting: Head Coach Rob Murray has brought the Aces back to a playoff contending club after two down years, with good goaltending and a high-powered offense. The Aces have been outscored 38-32 in the third period, overtime, and shootouts. By comparison, the Aces have allowed 35 goals in the first two periods this season. Murray and the Aces should ask Kris Kringle for tighter defense and more scoring late in the game.
Reclaiming that Special Team Magic: Last year, Allen had a fierce power play, but the train has gone off the track in that department. It’s currently ranked 20th in the ECHL at 15.3%. Even more troubling, the Americans have given up a league leading eight short handed goals. The fact that the team also leads the ECHL in penalty minutes with a whopping 623 gives you some indication of where part of the special teams problem lies. The Mountain Division has earned a reputation for its fighting spirit, but that style is going against flow of where professional hockey at the high ranks has been heading. So here’s hoping that Santa can put some power play presents under the Americans’ tree.
A Local Allen Angel: Some Allen fans are feeling like their team is the redhead, ugly stepchild of Steven Brothers Sports Management, LLC – a group which is based in Wichita and which owns the Wichita Thunder, the Tulsa Oilers, and Allen. While the owners have provided much-appreciated quality entertainment for the three communities, minor league hockey involves limited resources, and having all these teams under the same ownership means perceptions of favoritism are inevitable. It would make things interesting if some local Allen angel would appear to offer Steven Brothers a lucrative deal that would bring the Americans under independent local ownership.
A Bit Less Naughtiness: For as long as they have been in existence, the Eagles have been a club that have piled up the penalty minutes. This year’s team is no different. However, if the Eagles have designs on making it out of the first round of the Kelly Cup playoffs for the first time ever, Santa Claus should bring the Eagles some restraint. The Eagles have the fifth-best power play in the league while allowing 19 goals on the penalty kill this season.
Road Warrior Spirit: The Steelheads are a Jekyll and Hyde team. They are 11-4-1-0 at home, but are just 5-6-1-1 on the road. The Steelheads have 22 road games remaining, and given their record, the road wins will be a major factor in determining whether the fish will be playing in late April. As he demonstrates to the kids every Christmas morning, Santa knows how to rock it on the road, so he can certainly show the Steelheads a thing or two about how to bring home the goodies when hitting the trail.
A Kinder Schedule to Fire Up the Home Fans: The Mavericks could use a schedule that has them playing more home games early in the season. They have played a ton on the road thus far, and it has left the home fans out in the cold. Here’s hoping that Santa will be smiling on the team and bring it a more balanced schedule in 2017. The Mavs could also use Vladimir Tarasenko (from the Blues) and John Tavares (from the Islanders) on development or rehab assignments until about June. Neither are in dire straits, but the holiday season is the time for dreaming.
More Elves to Assist the Goalie: The Rush could use consistency in front of the net. Too many times the players have left their netminder on an island, and they have been unable to prevent screens, pesky deflections, and rebound attempts. So the Rush wish for better defense in its own zone. Maybe a trip to the North Pole to observe how the elves all chip in to assist Santa would help to bring that teamwork spirit to Rapid City.
Stockings Full of Scores: If your hockey team scores 79 goals in 29 games, that’s a problem. Excluding Michael Pelech, who has only played five games in a Grizzlies uniform, Mathieu Aubin and Tim Daly are Utah’s leading scorers. When one of the team leaders in that category is a blueliner, you know something is a bit quirky, but when you consider that you are talking about only 18 points, you understand how that could happen. The two are currently tied for 93rd in the ECHL in scoring. Tim Branham and company need to have jolly ol’ St. Nick on speed dial to get an offense, stat.
I would like to thank Matthew Harding, Adam Twenter, Mike Crook, Barry Janssen, and Team Sin Bin for providing me with wish list ideas.
As we head into 2017, I wish all my readers a healthy, joyous, and rewarding year.