Color Me Kisker: Positive Spins
With Thunder hockey coming to a close in Colorado during the month of February and the Olympics behind us, I thought that it’d be appropriate to write a little blog about the month of February, and how I personally am glad it’s over.
Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of positives to take from the month of February, but there was also a bit of misfortune.
I’ve always liked getting the bad news out of the way early so that we could put a positive spin on things. Maybe that’s why us folks from Buffalo, New York are labeled “losers” because our pro teams have never won (which isn’t true, go Bandits box lacrosse!), but I think it’s always good to put a positive spin on things. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t just focus on the negative things, and I always search for the good in everything.
Below is my list of five things that went awry during the month of February and how I’m putting a positive spin on it heading into March and beyond.
1. The Thunder go 5-7-0-0 in the month of February
It was a tough month for the Thunder and no question that only having two games during the entire month was a tough pill to swallow. Scheduling has been tough this year and then made even tougher for the Thunder after the Bulls ceased operations. The team added a game against the now dangerous Condors team and two extra contests in Alaska to keep the team on the road for a season long 7-game road swing. Going into this month, the team knew it was going to be difficult, but by posting a sub .500 record, this month will be looked at as a failure.
The positive side is that the Thunder got a couple signature wins and have won 4 of their last 5 games to end the month of February. Another big win in Ontario, a win in the Alaska finale, a Parker Milner shutout, an Overtime win in Colorado, and a good offensive performance in the Colorado finale all were great wins in their own right.
The positive spin to some of the losses include playing a fantastic, league leading goalie in Bako’s Laurent Brossoit. He’s the real deal and a fantastic goaltender who is tough to beat. The Alaska series was marred with a few calls going against the team and a few unlucky bounces. If a few of those bounces or calls go the way of the Thunder, maybe the team takes a one or two more in Alaska.
Look, the team played two home games the entire month, it was going to be a tough month from the get-go, and ending it 5-7 isn’t too bad. Sure it could have been better, but with the way that 7-game road trip went, that record could have been worse. Credit the guys for coming out and battling every day in practice and certainly during the games to turn things around.
2. Unpopular Roster Moves
Fans were disappointed when they found out that both defenseman Mike Dalhuisen and Greg Miller were traded by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers during the month of February. Dalhuisen quickly became a fan favorite of everyone because of his booming slap shot, his fights, and his demeanor off the ice.
The man who became known as “Thor” could be a beast on the ice who had no problems bashing a face or two, but off the ice he was friendly to everyone and would always take the time to say hi, and when he left, goodbye. Miller was a very similar situation. A guy who produced a lot of points after being paired with Joey Martin, was traded by the Sound Tigers and fans didn’t care for that move as well.
Miller was leading the team with 17 goals when he was traded. It was very apparent at the Thunder Booster Club wine tasting event that fans loved Miller as he was friendly, funny, and just an all-around good guy to be around.
While some fans may have been less than enamored with the moves, I believe that those trades were made in the best interest of the organization and players. The goal for any player at this level is to make the NHL, and if Mike Dalhuisen has a better shot to make the NHL via the San Antonio Rampage and the Florida Panthers organization and Greg Miller has a better shot with the OKC Barons and the Edmonton Oilers, why not just be happy for them.
The players were obviously not in the plans with the Islanders and Sound Tigers, and our affiliates determined that it’d be nice to trade the players to organizations they may fit better with. I find that a pretty respectable quality.
In return, the Sound Tigers got two very good players too in Adam Brace and Nicholas Tremblay. I knew a little about Brace due to his tie to Cory Conacher (the former Lightning and then Norfolk Admiral prospect) at Canisius College. I also knew about Tremblay having seen him quite a few times this season.
I was quite impressed with his two-way play and even during the Condors struggle when they lacked consistent goaltending and their captain Joel Broda, I thought Tremblay and Jordan Knackstedt were the two Bakersfield players who were the lone bright lights of the Condors team. I’m very excited to see Tremblay when he comes back and think we got a heck of a player who will ultimately play a different role than Miller played.
So far, Brace has come as advertised. A gritty, smaller winger with a TON of speed and enough skill to compensate for his smaller size, as he has 3 goals and 1 assist in 4 games with the Thunder including Sunday’s game winner vs. Colorado.
Oh and not to mention that a couple big names are gone from the ECHL as Mario Lamoureux left Ontario for Europe and the aforementioned Bakersfield captain, Broda, is now a member of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
3. Who’s going to lead the scoring charge?
To piggy back off point number 2, the question was posed as to who would lead the team in scoring? Greg Miller had 17 goals. He no longer plays for your team.
Joey Martin. Yes the man that I continue to mention in the broadcasts is the guy who already has, and will continue to put the team on his back and help push them into the playoffs. Once Deck left and an Alternate Captain was needed, there was no better candidate than Joey Martin.
Martin is widely respected on the team, throughout the league, and he’s having a heck of a season so far. While Greg Miller is talented player, there is no doubt in my mind that his numbers were helped by playing so much with Joey Martin. Martin is the type of player that makes everyone around him better, and it’s just a matter of time before Martin starts putting more in the back of the net.
The centerman now has 16 goals (one behind Miller’s 17) and Coach Kromm will really be spoiled for choice when his offense returns to full strength. When Tremblay, and Ryan Hayes return, Coach will be able to once again roll three #1 lines. I’m just getting excited thinking about the potential combinations!
4. Allowing too many goals
While scoring goals has been a strength of the Thunder, allowing them (obviously!) has been their weakness. The team has scored 173 goals this season, but has also allowed 173 goals. There have been times, like the game against Utah this month, where the team is just on. That game saw the Thunder limit Utah to 4 shots in the first, 8 shots in the second, and 5 shots in the third.
They blocked everything in front of Parker Milner that night, and they only needed their goalie to really come up big once or twice during the game as opposed to some nights when the goaltenders are asked to make more big saves.
That is sometimes the frustrating thing for fans, the defense will have a game like that, but then also have a game where they have momentary lapses. Take the Colorado series for example, there were just far too many breakaways allowed. The Aces also did a good job of getting behind the defense for uncontested breakaways. This is where my positive spin begins though…
Besides seeing the team dominate defensively like that Utah game, how about the goalies? They have done their fair share in helping to keep the team in games and giving the Thunder a chance to win near every game this month. Time and time again do Parker Milner and Brian Foster come up big to save what looks to be sure goals.
Foster’s save on Nick Mazzolini in the dying seconds of the Thunder’s win in Alaska was his defining moment of the month and even though he got a shutout, I think Milner’s defining moment of the month came in Saturday’s game against Colorado when he stopped at least five shots he had no business stopping.
As far as the defense goes, I think it’s a matter of sticking with consistency to help them out. It’s certainly tough when you have so many defensive moves in a month. Andrey Pedan and now Mike Keenan have come down from Bridgeport, Dalhuisen sent to San Antonio, and now Shawn Boutin on Injured Reserve has certainly contributed to some inconsistency in terms of partners.
Not to mention that when called upon to make a big play, Ryan Constant has been the man to call. Remember that game saving play he made in the shutout game vs. Utah? Puck squeaks to the side of Milner to the Utah player just waiting to tap it in but Constant turns and whacks it to the boards. HUGE game saving play.
He saves games, and wins them! How about that Overtime blast from the alternate captain?
I chalk this month up to a month of lessons learned for the otherwise young defense of the Thunder. Apart from Constant and Lee Baldwin, the defense is young and lacks pro big game experience.’
The defense will learn from their mistakes and come playoff time, I know they’ll be ready.
Also, Pedan is really good and since he’s played his five games, he’ll be eligible to come back for ECHL playoffs. This is a good thing.
5. Team USA Fails to Medal
The most disappointing thing in February is that Team USA failed to medal. After an amazing performance in qualifying, a game for the ages against Russia where T.J. Oshie scored FOUR shootout goals to win the game, Team USA failed to accomplish their goal of medaling at the 2014 Olympics.
The Positive: Tough to sugar coat this one…Here’s what I’d say. Team USA played their hearts out and lost to Canada 1-0. They left everything they had out on that ice surface and didn’t have anything left against Finland.
If the USA was going to lose out on a medal, I’m glad it was to Finland as Teemu Selanne deserves to leave international play on a high note. Jonathan Quick was great, so was Phil Kessel, but they weren’t enough to beat Canada.
The biggest positive spin I can put on this right now is that in a matter of months, Team USA will be taking part in the biggest and best tournament and they’ll be an underdog once again as they’ll be in a tough group with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana (who have ousted the USMNT in two consecutive World Cups). Many are picking them to finish outside of the top two, however, if they do qualify for the knockout stages, it could be the biggest boost to American soccer here in the States.
Get your American Outlaws membership ready to go and let’s get the American Outlaws Stockton chapter enough members to be an official chapter of the organization!
Logo of the Week
A lot of good players have come through the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks organization, but nothing was better than the old Anaheim/Cincinnati logos featuring Wild Wing. I mean, it might be cartoony, but it’s 10 times better than the current Ducks logos and colors.
I was just saying at the watch party yesterday that the purple Colorado Eagles jerseys are sweet. Same goes for the Ducks because nobody uses purple anymore. It’s a unique color for a jersey and the eggplant and green was a great color scheme.
Either way, this Cincinnati Mighty Ducks logo is a fun logo that brings me back to my days as a teenager in Cincinnati.