ORLANDO, Fla. – 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 third 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 Division, and now we move to the North Division. The last installments dealing with the Central Division and Mountain Division are coming soon.
Healthy Goalies in the Devils’ Organization
The Adirondack Thunder have been cursed with goaltender issues this year. Starting from the beginning, the Thunder had a shortage of goalies provided by the Devils organization due to injuries, but soon after, Cam Johnson was sent down. However, not long after, more injuries were sustained, and Johnson was recalled to Belleville. Hopefully, a little Christmas magic can put the injury curse to rest. With stability between the pipes, Adirondack will be a serious contender for a North Division title.
Hoping for Some Senator Sizzle
The North Division is bookended by the two Canadian teams in the ECHL. The Newfoundland Growlers have taken the lead, and unfortunately, the Brampton Beast have been left to follow at the end of the pack. Many in the ECHL were surprised when the Beast announced in September that they were leaving the affiliation with the Montreal Canadiens and were going with the Ottawa Senators. That move unified the NHL, AHL, and ECHL teams in Ontario, which made sense geographically. But new affiliates usually take time to work out a successful synergy. The Beast hope that they can find their way onto Santa’s nice list and that some Christmas magic will lead to a productive winning relationship with the Senators.
Hold Onto the Fourth Spot
Some are still hoping that the Ghost of Christmas Past will turn back the time so that the team in Maine can redo its choice of mascots and pick the Wild Blueberries as opposed to the more ordinary Mariner name, but that’s not going to happen. So instead, the Maine Mariners are looking to the future. They are a playoff hopeful this season, ranking fourth overall with 29 points in the North Division and just one point ahead of the fifth-seated Manchester Monarchs. The Mariners are also in their inaugural season, and have gained some traction. With a lot of grind in the second half and a little Christmas wishing, the Mariners may see themselves facing Newfoundland come this years’ playoffs. A battle between brand new ECHL teams in the North would be one for the history books.
Put Some Power in that Power Play
The Manchester Monarchs’ power play unit is dead last in the league, with an 8.8 home power play percentage and a 9.0 overall power play percentage. So far this season, the Monarchs have only scored seven power play goals (both home and away). One can be certain that Manchester will be hoping for an improvement on their power play unit for the second half of this season, and hopefully, Santa will provide them with a strategy for improving when they have an extra man.
Keep Those Rookies Rocking
The Newfoundland Growlers have had one of the best inaugural seasons in ECHL history. Already, the Growlers are atop the North Division with 39 points, and they are second in the league, falling closely behind the Cincinnati Cyclones. At this rate, the Growlers will for sure make an appearance in the playoffs. A fitting wish for this new ECHL franchise will be to have a successful postseason run to end an amazing inaugural season.
One key for the Growlers is their kennel of rookies. The team’s affiliation with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Marlies clearly has put some sizzle in the club. Of the top five rookie goal scorers in the league, three of them (Scott Pooley, Giorgio Estephan, and Brady Ferguson) are Growlers. If those dogs can keep charging forward, it will be like a second Christmas in the spring when the Kelly Cup playoffs start.
Home for the Holidays . . . and Home Wins Thereafter
The Reading Royals have had some struggles on the penalty kill this year. Their PK unit is ranked 25th overall, the third worst in the league. The Royals have also had struggles at home this season, with a home record of 5-6-2-1. The silver lining to that cloud is that the Royals are currently on a seven-game winning streak, with a blazing road record of 9-1-0-3. A wonderful Christmas gift for this Royals team would be to gain a win streak at home and to see some discipline on the penalty kill.
Heat up the Offensive Boiler to Steam Back to the Playoffs
Last season, the Worcester Railers finished with 82 points overall, clinching them a spot in the playoffs. However, the Railers would fall 4-2 in the first round to Adirondack. This year, Worcester is currently ranked sixth in the North division with 28 points, tying them with the Manchester Monarchs, but momentum seems to be building. Maybe Saint Nick will give the Railers a win streak or two to get them in the running for this year’s playoffs. A key for the team will be more production in the offensive end. The team currently has two of the top five goalies in the league: Evan Buitenhuis and Mitch Gillam hold .929 and .925 save percentages respectively. Worcester ranks 27th (that is, last) in goals for with an average of 2.25 per game. But they are fifth in the league in their goals against average which is 2.75. With a little more production on the offensive end, the Railers will be back on track for the playoffs.
I would like to thank Carrie Roberts for help with the Adirondack Thunder’s wish list item.