ORLANDO, FL – The holiday season is a time for reflecting and dreaming. This year, The Sin Bin wants to help the sometimes battered and bruised 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.
After reading this, I suggest that you check out the wish lists for the South and Central Divisions so you get an idea of what other teams around the ECHL are dreaming. In this installment, we take a look at the North Division. The Mountain Division’s wish list will arrive soon to wrap up everything in a tidy bow.
A Successful 2017 CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic: While the Thunder would like some help in its tightly contested three-way race with the Brampton Beast and the Manchester Monarchs, the Adirondack organization’s greatest wish is for a jolly and merry All-Star Classic on Jan. 17 and 18. That event will bring the eyes of ECHL to Glens Falls, and its success would pay long-term dividends for the team through the publicity. Attendance figures for the Thunder are already up over last year, and the spotlight of the All-Star Classic should improve those numbers even more in the coming months.
The elephant in the room for the Thunder is the condition of the Glens Falls Civic Center itself. The team had to postpone its Dec. 20 game against the Reading Royals due to concerns of a crew clearing snow from the building’s roof, the latest report is that the lobby will have to remain closed until repairs can be made. This is not the first time that the building has faced challenges, as a portion of the roof was compromised in 2015 which led to the cancellation of some events. Here’s hoping that Santa will follow up a successful All-Star Classic with some solid repair work that will keep the facility secure for the long term.
Strengthened Defensive Reserves: The Beast have built quite an offensive machine this season, but for the Beast to make a deep run in the Kelly Cup playoffs this season, they need to tighten up defensively and in net. Through 26 games this season, Brampton is allowing 3.67 goals per game (fourth worst in ECHL.) While Zach Fucale has carried the load for the Beast so far (12-3-0, 2.69 GAA, .908 sv%) they will need to have better results from their backup netminders, whether it be Bryan Pitton or Andrew D’Agostini, while Fucale is playing in the Spengler Cup.
Greater Respect from Greater Toronto: While it is in a hockey-saturated market (Greater Toronto Area), those looking to see some good developmental hockey should consider taking in a Beast game. The Beast are 18th in the ECHL in attendance, averaging 3,144 fans/game. It would speak volumes for the ECHL to see a member team succeed in hockey’s Mecca.
Bye Bye to Blown Leads: Right now, the Jackals could really use some pointers on how to keep a lead. After a rough start to the season, the Jackals finally figured out to at least play like a competitive team and over the past few weeks we have seen that this team is capable of winning against the best teams in the league. However, it feels like almost every time they have had a lead, either they lose it, almost blow it, or lose in OT. Then, after looking good against Florida, they fall flat twice against Manchester.
Sealing Up the Defense While on the Power Play: Of all the teams in the division, it may have been the hardest to find what the Manchester Monarchs could want for Christmas. Head coach Richard Seeley has done a great job of constructing a well-balanced roster with scoring depth, good defense, and capped with a goaltender who is in the top-10 in the ECHL in most categories.
But, after searching long and hard, we may have found something.
We are wishing for tighter defense while on the power play. So far this season, the Monarchs have allowed five shorthanded goals. Is it likely a flaw in the power play system or a defenseman pinching too far down the wall? One can’t be sure, but with the spotlight special teams get in the playoffs, it is something that Seeley should tighten up.
Burying Those Blown Lead Losses: The Royals are kindred spirits of the Jackals when it comes to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Reading now has amassed a total of seven “blown lead losses” this season: These are games where the Royals have taken the lead but which have ended with the other team grabbing the win. The most painful of these experiences occurred in the Dec. 15-16 set against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. In both tilts, the Royals started strong, but faded down the stretch, allowing the resilient Greenville squad to exit with ttwo pointsnts and leaving the Royals scratching their heads. The Royals will be looking to turn around this trend when they enter 2017. They will also look to overcome their uneven play. They had an impressive eight-game winning streak that started on Nov. 25, but they are currently in a three-game skid. Here’s hoping that that 2017 will bring more streaks of the good kind to Reading.
Kris Kringle Wisdom for Christian: When Nailers coach David Gove took an unexpected leave of absence in the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs last year, it left the team in a lurch, and Jeff Christian took over the helm with a confidence that was inspiring. It came as little surprise that Christian was given the head coaching position this season, but his young tenure has not come without growing pains. The stretch of games starting with its Nov. 26 overtime loss to Greenville that put the team on an especially bumpy road. But Christian is developing resilience, and his two most recent wins this week against the Manchester Monarchs and the Cincinnati Cyclones have given Wheeling faithful something to cheer about over the holiday break. We hope Santa can continue to give Christian budding wisdom and an even keel as he steers the Nailers into 2017.
Many thanks to Matthew Harding, Kyle Nuss, Brent Baldwin, Joe Zufelt, and Team Sin Bin who provided ideas for this wish list.