ALLEN, TX – The question I get asked more than any other these days and I am sure the one fans are asking themselves and each other is, what is wrong with the Allen Americans this season? My reply to that question is usually based on stats but maybe, just maybe the answer to that question isn’t in the statistics. In the past, the team was always greater than the sum of the parts, a skilled group of guys willing to do what was necessary for the team to achieve a goal. So far this season the whole is less than the sum of the parts.
– Let me tackle the stats part first as that is always easier for me. Here is a comparison of some stats covering the four seasons Allen has been in the ECHL. The info for this season is projected over 72 games for goals scored, goals allowed, goal differential, assists, plus/minus and losses.
Games Lost (including OT & SO losses):
2017-18: 38 (actual is 28 losses after 53 games)
2017-18: 235 (173 through 53 games)
2017-18: 230 (170 through 53 games)
Goal Differential (goals for minus goals against):
2017-18: +5 (+3 through 53 games)
2017-18: 404 (298 through 53 games)
Power Play %:
Penalty Kill %:
PP% + PK% (the best teams achieve 105%):
Goals Against Average:
2017-18: +65 (+48 through 53 games)
– It is easy to look at the stats above and conclude this is the worst team since Allen joined the ECHL. The worst power play and penalty kill makes for by far the worst special teams. The GAA is the highest since joining the ECHL which will lead to record losses this season. But also notice the Americans won the Kelly Cup in 2015-16 with a plus/minus rating of -11 and had a goal differential of only +22.
– So what could account for the performance this season? This is a very talented group of players. There are 11 players on the team that were drafted by the NHL and 15 who have played in the AHL. There are 900 games of AHL experience on this team.
– Spending a lot of time with Steve Martinson over the past six years is like taking a Masters Program in how to win championships. He doesn’t have a list of principles to winning but if you talk hockey with him enough there are themes you hear over and over again.
– It is clear to me there is something missing from this team other than raw talent. The results of four games one week apart this month says more than words can convey about the inconsistency of this team. Allen beat the #1 team in the ECHL twice by scores of 5-2 and 5-1 only to turn around one week later and lose twice to the #1 team in the ECHL by scores of 4-0 and 4-1.
– I had a conversation with Martinson after the loss on Saturday and here are some of the issues he is looking at:
1. Championship experience helps build championship teams and while there are a lot of good leaders in the locker room there is a tremendous amount of championship experience leadership missing from last season. Riley Gill is the winningest playoff goalie in the history of the ECHL, has three Kelly Cups but has played only two games this season. Others missing that have won multiple championships in Allen include Chad Costello, Gary Steffes, Dyson Stevenson, Greger Hanson and Aaron Gens.
2. There are steps you have to take in order to win and I am not talking about stats. How do you carry yourself off the ice. Are you doing everything you can to help your team with your off-ice conditioning and nutrition program? Partying is part of life when you are young but when, where and how can impact the team.
3. There is a way to play to win. Skill and stats that come from teams that don’t win can be suspect. Is scoring more important than winning and is shooting more important than a great pass? Is your focus on what you have to do to get to the next level or is your focus on what you can do to make this team better and if you do that getting to the next level will take care of itself. Are defensive responsibilities important or a necessary evil? Is everyone committed to getting the puck in and out of the zone the right way?
4. If the team comes first and you are willing to do whatever is best for the team it does not always serve your own best interest. If everyone buys in to this approach you have a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. That is when championship teams/contenders are born.
– Call-ups and injuries have certainly been a factor this season but that happens every season. This team has the talent to win every night. There are steps you have to take to win and there is a way to play to win. It is in the players control to make it happen and time is running out to get back on the right path.
– You can be assured there will be changes over the next month as Martinson tries to improve the roster. It could be by means of trades, recruiting players just finishing college or players just completing their junior careers. Players on the Allen roster are literally playing for their jobs and recent performance would indicate jobs are in jeopardy.
DID YOU KNOW: Wouldn’t you know the day I choose to talk about past championship leadership this photo shows up on Facebook. Costello and Hanson share the career goals scored record in Allen at 98. They have five championships between them and each was a playoff MVP. Chad has three scoring titles and three regular-season MVP titles as well. In their three ECHL seasons with Allen, they combined for over 500 points and averaged a goal and two assists per game. Chad and Greger are playing in the same league in Germany this season for different teams that aren’t far apart. The league is on a break for the Olympics so the Hanson’s and Costello’s had the chance to catch up. Oh, how the Americans could use these guys right now!