ORLANDO, FL – The holiday season is a time for reflecting and dreaming. The generous souls at The Sin Bin want to help the sometimes battered and bruised squads get into the Christmas spirit, and we are doing so by putting together our annual 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. We started with the South and Central Divisions, and now we move to the North. The last installment dealing with the Mountain Division is coming soon.
Holding Down the Wild Card Spot with Better Defense
The Adirondack Thunder made it to the playoffs last year, but made an early exit thanks to the Manchester Monarchs. The Thunder are possibly on track for a return to the playoffs this year, but if it keeps its current course, it will be a nail-biter. The major weak spot is defense. Adirondack has given up almost 100 goals, and at this stage of the year, that is far too many. It puts the Thunder last in the North Division in that category and 22nd in the league. Adirondack is hoping that Santa will give some extra protein boost to the blueliners so they can keep those goals-against in check.
Canadian Fan Support
The Brampton Beast have the distinction of being the only Canadian ECHL team, but with so many AHL and NHL teams in the area, the Beast have had a challenging time getting fans to show up for the ECHL. A slow start to the season certainly did not help, but the team has been resurging and has managed to climb above the .500 mark with a 7-3-0-1 record over its past 11 games. The Beast average attendance currently sits below 3000, and the team would certainly like to see ticket sales follow wins on the upward trend. Yes, the Maple Leafs are only 21 miles away, but watching them costs a proverbial arm and a leg, while Brampton can show you some top quality hockey while leaving you money to spend on your loved ones for the holidays.
A Kris Kringle-worthy Advertising Campaign
Being one of the top teams in the league, you’d think that the Manchester Monarchs would have great fan support. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The Monarchs have struggled with attendance for years, and it’s time for the team to rethink its advertising and marketing approach. If there is one person who knows how to work the PR angle, it is Santa Claus. When the jolly old elf makes his way to Manchester this year, he should take a few minutes to sit in the Monarchs’ boardroom to give the advertising team a few good ideas.
Healthy Phantoms and Flyers
The North can lay claim to being the most competitive division in the league. Consider this statistic: As of Dec. 23, less than .150 points percent separates the first place Manchester Monarchs from the last place Worcester Railers. The Reading Royals find themselves in the exact center of the mix. One factor holding the team back is that injuries to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Philadelphia Flyers (the Royals’ AHL and NHL affiliates) have destabilized the Royals’ offensive lines with call-ups. If the affiliates can keep their players off the injured reserve, the Royals could live up to their name and become kings of the North.
Regaining Offensive Strength with Dirty Goals
The Wheeling Nailers have had a stellar season thus far. Being second in the North, the Nailers are hoping to make a return to the playoffs. However, the team seems to have lost some of their offensive magic they had at the beginning of the season. The separation between goals for and against in only ten, which means the Nailers have played far too many games where their victories have relied on a razor-thin margin. The Nailers are wishing for a resurgence of their offensive strength. If the team can crash the net and gobble up more dirty goals, it will find the road back to the Kelly Cup playoffs.
Staying Off that Naughty List
The Worcester Railers might be called the Jacksonville Icemen of the North Division—it’s a new team struggling to find their identity. But, unlike their southern counterpart, the Railers have been in the mix of things. Though they currently sit sixth in their division, their win percentage has them fourth. So they aren’t far off the mark. One distinction is that they lead the North in penalty minutes (435), yet their penalty kill currently sits at 18th in the league. The Railers are hoping that they can either stay off of Santa’s naughty list—and out of the sin bin. Better yet, they are hoping that they can find more success with on the PK so they can keep up their reindeer games without giving up too many goals.
I would like to thank Team Sin Bin for their assistance in helping assemble the holiday wish lists. For the North Division, a special nod goes to Josh Heistman, Ryan Bizzaro, and John Hafer.