Well sort of, the Walleye have only played 35 of 72, but that’s close enough I suppose. So this season is another one of those streaky win a couple and lose a bunch. Of course all the doom and gloomers are crying about call-ups, the coach, and the marketing department for the Walleye’s lack of success. But here is a novel idea. The players are the ones that are playing the game. It doesn’t matter that the team is having a cartoon character meeting fans in the hallway during intermission. It all comes down to the 18 or fewer players that are on the lineup card. They are the ones not getting the job done. By now at this point of their career, these players have the fundamentals of the game down. It is up to them to execute them properly. The Walleye are not running some exotic “annexation of Puerto Rico” offensive system. For all appearances, they run the basic 2-1-2 forecheck system. They do tend to deviate a bit and leave a forechecker up high, but that’s neither here nor there. If guys that have spent 4 years in Division 1 hockey programs or in Canada’s Major Junior system still can’t play it by the fundamentals then it is their fault, not the coach.
The major fault in this team lies within their make-up. There is a bit of a trend running toward past loyalty over skill and ability. Loyalty to your team is noble, yet if it is affecting the play of the team, its time to cut ties. The Walleye have kept a few past players on well past their expiration dates. Call-ups or send downs are not the cause of the current situation. The core makeup of the team is who carries the team through the good and bad, not the spare parts that get sent from the upper clubs. It would be a safe assumption to say that most of the current players on this roster have at one time or the other at sometime in their careers played with, against, or know of each others hockey pedigrees. The minor league hockey world is very small at this level. Again it all goes back to the fundamentals of skating, shooting and passing. Good players can make the minor adjustments to fit in with what the coaches grand scheme of play is.
The few bright spots on this current roster are as follows: Alden Hirschfeld, local kid doing really good. A for sure next season keeper unless he moves up. Emerson Clark, my opinion of him has changed dramatically. During the first quarter of the season, he was a loose cannon to say the least. Undisciplined and a bit immature. But as his playing time increased, he is playing a much improved game. Playing a smart simple game is his skill set. His rough and tumble nature of course makes him a fan favorite. His un-predictable playing style keeps the other team on guard just enough to make up for the deficiencies in his skill set. My last pick goes to CJ Chartrain. You don’t notice Chartrain? It’s because he plays the right way. The best d-men are the ones you don’t see. Lack of offensive numbers prove that he is doing what he knows. Shutting the oppositions good players down.
Now the ugly part. Mentioning the dark side of the roster. Kyle Rogers. The captain, loved by many and loathed by just as many. His game has dropped dramatically despite his numbers. It is just time for him to really think hard about whether he is really helping or hurting this team. Leadership is always good, yet is he really leading by example? Phil Rauch, Toledo’s favorite son, slowed by injuries and just finally getting back into game form. But, like Rogers, his game has dropped off and it maybe time to think of the future outside of hockey.
MVP so far: Travis Novak, earned a well deserved call up to the AHL. Should be wearing the “C”. On pace to surpass last seasons numbers. Plays a versatile game, can play the fancy finesse game, yet can also play like a 4th line grinder digging out greasy goals. Could be the new version of Mr. Walleye Evan Rankin.
So I’m back…lets see how many of you can find this and engage in an intelligent hockey conversation.