Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bears embarrassed by Norfolk Admirals (UPDATED)

That was not the showing I expected to see.  After jumping out to a 1-0 lead on Steve Pinizzotto's 16th of the year the Bears apparently took the rest of the night off.  If I hadn't watched/listened to part of the game I would have wondered if the Bears just left after they scored that goal.

From that point on the Admirals scored 6 unanswered goals to take their first victory of the season against Hershey. 


I just read the review over at Sweetest Hockey on Earth and it was good.  I typically agree with everything they say but not this time.  2 things in particular stood out to me that I would like to argue now:

1.  Injuries
2.  Goaltending

Let's start with the injuries. 

You can NOT use injuries as an excuse and this team shouldn't.  Look at the lineup they put out there last night:

Keith Aucoin, Brian Willsie, Kyle Greentree, Mathieu Perreault, Boyd Kane, Andrew Joudrey, Francois Bouchard, Brian Fahey, Sheldon Souray, Patrick McNeill, and Dmitri Orlov. 

That is as talented a top 4 defense and top 2 lines that you will see in the AHL most nights.  Sure players are missing, Andrew Gordon, Lawrence Nycholat, Braden Holtby, Dany Sabourin, and Pinner and Patrick Wellar left in the 2nd with injuries.

They are all missed nightly.  But that doesn't explain a 6-1 loss.  Or the 5-0 loss a couple weekends ago or the 7-1 loss a week before that.

Every single team in the AHL and NHL is dealing with injuries right now.  The Pittsburgh Penguins are without arguably 2 of the best players in the NHL and they are still fighting hard.  They haven't been great (11-9-4 since Crosby went out) but they have competed hard.

And look at Wilkes-Barre...they have been without some or all of their top 7 scorers and yet they are still winning.  They have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games despite playing some games without all 7 guys.  Currently 3 are still missing from their lineup which is more than is missing from Hershey's. 

Maybe the loss of the goaltenders is tougher.  Ok, I will give you that.  If the Baby Pens lost Curry and Thiessen they would probably be in trouble.  But I also think that when you lose a goalie you tighten up defensively.  You pay closer attention, stay in position, and play a more physical game to slow down your opponent.

I don't see Hershey doing that in most games. 

One thing I will say about injuries is that they allow for a more positive outlook for the future.  Most of us are probably figuring that once Gordon comes back the offense will pick up.  And once Holtby comes back the goaltending with steady.  And once Nycholat comes back the defense should return to form.

I know that's how I feel. 

But that doesn't mean that the players that are there shouldn't be playing their best night in night out.  They aren't.  Some games, like last Saturday night, they play great...physical, energized, and showing effort in all facets.  Yet other games, like last night, they fail to show up. 

You can't do that and expect to compete in any league let alone the AHL.  The players that are healthy need to stop worrying about the guys that aren't there and start putting together consistent games.

Now the goaltending issue.

SHOE's argument was that the Bears should be looking at bringing in a goaltender to help the rest of the season. 

On the surface I would generally agree with that but let's look at it a little deeper.

First of all, Holtby will be healthy again and when he is he is the unquestioned #1 goalie for Hershey.  Can he stay healthy?  Will he get recalled to Washington?  Who knows.  Maybe.  But you can't worry about that in my opinion.

**UPDATE #1 - He is healthy and he was recalled to Washington.**

Second, Sabourin will be back.  I believe the time frame was 2-3 months when he went out in mid-January.  That would mean sometime between now and the middle of April (playoff time) he should be back.  I haven't heard anything otherwise so let's assume that he will be back for the start of the playoffs.

So the question is...does Hershey really need a goalie?

Sure it would be nice to have a steadier backup should Braden go down again before Dany returns. 

But where do you intend to get one?  Do you really believe there is a free agent goalie out there that is going to come in and improve the team that much?  Is there anyone out there that is more talented or more consistent than Todd Ford?

I don't have a definitive answer to that but I would imagine the answer is no.  Any goalie of that caliber likely would have found a team already.

So then you would have to go the loan/trade route. 

So everyone look at the roster on the left of this page.  Pick out an offensive or defensive player that you think Hershey could go without for the remainder of the season that would bring a talented goalie to Hershey in return.

Any names there?

No.  With the injuries and roster upheaval that has happened this season the Bears absolutely need every single player on the roster.  At least the ones that would gain a valuable goalie in return.

**UPDATE #2 - this shows you what I know...Nolan Schaefer rumored to be headed to Hershey.**

There is a chance that a team would loan a goalie to Hershey without anything in return but do you really think that any team in the AHL wants Hershey to get a good goaltender? 

Everyone wants to knock the Bears down...not build them up.

So getting a player via loan/trade is not likely to happen either because the cost is likely something Hershey can't afford to pay.

Now, would I be surprised if Yingst went out and found a goalie.  No.  I think it would be a good, solid move.  But I don't expect it to happen.  I just don't see how Hershey would be able to find a goalie that is better or more consistent than what they already have in town.

Honestly, Ford has been ok. He has gone 6-4-1 with a 3.04 goals against average so far. Sure he has been inconsistent but let's be honest...he was in the ECHL for a reason.

Obviously he isn't going to win the Calder Cup but with Sabourin and Holtby returning (at some point) he won't have to.

This team is good enough to win the Calder Cup.  Maybe they are just conserving energy during the regular season.  There are enough veterans on this team to know that the regular season isn't the most important thing in the hockey season.

Once you get to the playoffs everyone is on equal footing.  Records are eliminated.  Stats are reset. 

The talent and experience on this team will be able to compete with anyone come spring.  But it sure would be nice to see them compete with those same teams now just to put our fears to rest.

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