MOLINE, Ill. — Festivus, Yule, and Christmas, are all fast approaching. While this won’t be an airing of grievances, it’s not Santa’s nice list either. Rather, I write Santa to ask for some things Quad City Storm might hope Santa will bring the team this Christmas. So, throw a log on the fire, set up the ol’ Festivus pole, and let’s drink some eggnog.
Dear Santa, please bring…
Even Strength Scoring Ability
The Storm’s special teams are phenomenal. The northern-Illinois based team has the top-ranked power play in the league, and the second-best penalty kill, all while being the eighth team in the league with 12 points (5-10-2 record) after 17 games. Of course, the Storm are also second in the league with times short-handed, with 88 compared to Macon’s 90. Almost half of the Storm’s 38 goals this season have come while on the man advantage — one goal came while short-handed.
Relying on other teams to take penalties in order to get goals on the board doesn’t bode well for long-term success. When you take out the 18 power-play goals for the Quad City Storm, the team has only scored 20 even-strength goals in 17 games (1.18 even-strength goals per game). Only Pensacola, the lowest scoring team in all of hockey (NHL included), had a lower even-strength goal per game average (1.11 goals per game in 18 games).
If the Storm wishes to make a significant playoff push, they need to see a major boost in even-strength scoring. Fans and players alike should look at one of their prized offseason signings, Vladimir Nikiforov, who has just six points (3G, 3A) in 16 games, as one of those players who can provide that boost.
There’s actually two subsections to this section: consistency through the season and consistency through a game.
The Storm are either hot or cold, and never luke-warm; by that, I mean they can’t make up their mind whether to be the great team that almost shuts out Birmingham 5-0 or the team which allows Birmingham come back to win 6-5 in overtime. The Storm can outplay Peoria, but make small mistakes that cost them the game.
Currently, the Storm struggles to play full 60 minutes; they either start out the game well and then go kaput, or they start out poorly and get themselves into a hole that they can’t dig themselves out of. An example of this is the game on November 9 against Birmingham. The Storm pushed them to the brink with a 5-1 after two periods. Then in the third period, the Storm allowed three goals in a two-minute span, and Birmingham took the two points in overtime. Allowing the other team come back like that and get one point out of the night doesn’t work when every point is valuable.
A Different Schedule
Quad City received the short end of the stick when it came to the schedule this season. Out of 56 games, 16 are against last year’s Coffey Cup winners the Peoria Rivermen. Peoria is a great team; right now, they’re third in the league with 31 points — one point behind Birmingham and Macon.
Does it make sense for the two Illinois teams to face each other so often? Budget wise, yes; it’s just as easy as the east coast travel. But that doesn’t mean it’s working in either teams’ favors. It’s allowing Peoria to gain points easier than if they faced Macon or even Huntsville more often, but some might say they’re easy points facing the expansion team. While standings points are fantastic if you’re just trying to get a playoff berth, Peoria isn’t being tested as in previous seasons where they faced tougher teams more often. Peoria has a 5-0-1 record against the Storm.
For Quad City, Peoria is a proven playoff contender — Peoria is famous for losing in the Presidents Cup Finals three straight years. Advancement through fire only works when something is actually being learned, and it doesn’t appear that it’s working for Quad City. The same mistakes are being repeated over and over, and while a rivalry is being created by facing each other 16 times, it’s going to be a bloodbath in favor of the Storm by the time the season ends.
Santa, my friend, the Storm are a good team; everything is in place for a fantastic inaugural season after you help with these issues. The Storm have some ingredients for a playoff push and aren’t doomed to be cellar dwellers for the rest of the season. Making the Presidents’ Cup Playoffs would be a success for the Storm, especially after having very few months to get a franchise running and players to play.