Saturday, November 17, 2012

What Ails The Bears?

I would imagine that most of you have noticed that our Bears have been struggling to produce so far this season.  Through 13 games the Bears are 5-7-1-0 (11 points) and currently sit tied for second worst record in the Eastern Conference.

That is mediocre.

Through last night's games the Bears are averaging 2.46 goals per game, 23rd in the AHL.  They have scored only 8 first period goals, only 4 teams have scored fewer.  They have only scored 8 third period goals as well, only 1 (ONE!) team has scored fewer third period goals.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your outlook), those numbers are easy to explain.  The Bears have taken fewer shots in the 1st and 3rd period then every other team.  AND, they are 2nd lowest in shots per game with only 23.92.  Hell last night they didn't get their 3rd shot on goal until the second period.  Over 20 minutes of hockey they managed to record 2 shots.  It's no wonder they lost 6-1.

But anyone who has watched this team knows that the offense has been struggling.  Over the past 3 games the Bears have scored 3 goals.  One in each game.

There are good things too though...kind of. 

The Bears are allowing the 11st fewest goals per game, 2.92 per game.  And considering they give up the 25th most shots per game (33.31 per game) that is pretty good.

Only 8 teams have scored more 2nd period than the Bears.  It's something!

The Bears are winning 100% of the games where they lead after 2 periods.  Woohooo!  Problem is they have only managed that 4 times this season.

They have only lost 1 time when leading after 1 period.  Oh wait....they have only been in that position 3 times.

I think the worst stat is that the Bears are 0-9-0-0 when trailing after the first OR second period.  Basically, if you are at a game and the Bears head to either intermission doesn't look good.

So, are we in for a season of mediocrity?  Are we looking at the first non-playoff year of the Capitals affiliation?

I don't think so.  Remember that it is still early in the season.  I know it's already Thanksgiving, but the Bears have only played 17% of their games for the season.  Plenty of time for improvement.

Something to keep in mind and to watch for going's still a new system, new coaches, and new players.

Every player on the team is learning a new strategic system.  Based on my understanding, it is based on more of a counterattack philosophy then a full out attack.  The general theory would be to be better in your defensive zone by sacrificing some of the offensive fortitude of recent years.  Unfortunately it takes time to implement a new system and considering the condensed training camp exposure to it (typically most players would have started learning the system in Caps camp) and the sporadic playing schedule of the AHL in the early season, it is hard to make adjustments.

I have never been a huge fan of the new coaching situation (you know...the one where there is an NHL head coach alongside the AHL head coach), but I can't say how it is really going.  Everyone is saying all the right things, but you have to assume that it is affecting things.  Adjustments in lines and style now need to go through two 'CEOs' instead of just one.  Too many roosters in the hen house, if you will.

Can it work?  I would imagine.  Will it?  I don't know.

And finally, this is a brand new team.  So many of the key players from the past few years are gone and in their place are AHL veterans that may or may not work well with each other.  Again, it takes time to build familiarity with line mates and teammates in general.  And who knows what the locker room is like.  Are guys communicating effectively, are they getting along, is there a leader.

The locker room could be just like the coaching situation...too many leaders.  Guys have a certain leadership style and if two veterans have a style that clashes, it will cause a divided locker room.  Keep in mind that this is just speculation, but with all the veterans on the team now I wouldn't be surprised if there is some locker room division going on.  Especially considering that the team is struggling so much right now.

In the end there is no way to know any of those things.  None of us have coached with Adam Oates before to know if his system is being implemented effectively.  None of us are in the coaches meetings to know if decisions are being watered down in order to appease everyone.  None of us are in the locker room to know if the veterans are getting along or sitting quietly in their respective corners.

A few things I have seen that makes me question all of the above:

The numbers speak for themselves...they aren't producing.  It tells me that Oates' system is either not effective with this team, isn't completely implemented, or the players aren't executing it properly.

The line make up makes me question everything about the coaching situation.  There is no rhyme or reason for the line combinations that I have seen so far.  I want to see 2 unquestioned scoring lines with guys like Taffe, Disalvatore, Stoa, Galiev, Hamill, Potulny, Almeida, Berry, and Syner on them.  After that I want a checking line capable of scoring goals...Kane, Mitchell, and Beaudoin for example.  Then give me a high-energy checking line with Sjogren, Carman, Pope, Kalinsky, and/or Clackson.

Right now you see guys that should be on checking lines trying to play on the first line.  I understand the system's need for solid defensive zone play, but you have to be able to capitalize on the counterattacks if the system is going to work.

As for the 'too many leaders in the locker room thing'...I have nothing.  That is entirely just a speculative possibility.

I do still believe in this team.  I think there is enough offense that, given the opportunity and the right combinations, could make a very effective offensive team.  BUT, until we see it, it is just an unsubstantiated opinion.  So far there is little I have seen from this team to suggest that they can compete for a Calder Cup.

This team has talent.  No question there.  The biggest question this team built for Oates' system or the previous system?

The answer to that question is still at least a month away.  Before the season I was quite certain that we wouldn't really know what kind of team this was until Thanksgiving or so.  Let's see where things stand after the 25th.

In the meantime...


Author note - posts have been rather infrequent on here this season to date.  Unfortunately, that does not appear to be changing for myself.  With a demanding job, kids, and other side projects, I just don't have the time to write here as much.  So, the wife is going to take over much of the writing here and will continue to update the Facebook page with daily news.  I hope to get back into writing regularly this season, but we will wait and see.  Thanks for reading!  I am sure I will be back from time to time to offer my opinion and analysis.


Kenneth said...

I had sent a request previously as to why there was nothing new on the web page for so long.

Thanks for explaining your situation.

Anonymous said...

come up from the shore for afew games, have not had bears win any games. Shots on goal are very low, someone better tell the coach you have to shoot at the net to score goals instead of all that passing and dumping the puck.