Consider these numbers as the St. John’s IceCaps look to wake up from a slumber through the early goings of the American Hockey League campaign:
At this point last season, the IceCaps had 12 wins and only three losses, with another three setbacks coming in overtime (where St. John’s at least picked up a point).
This year, the IceCaps have played 17 games, and have won only eight.
Last year, as of Nov. 24, five teams had made the trip to Newfoundland for a two-game series, and only one — the Connecticut Whale, on Nov. 12-13 — was swept by the IceCaps. The big difference is St. John’s was near unbeatable away from Mile One Centre, posting six wins and losing three times in OT — in other words, getting at least a point in every road game.
Switch gears to this season and St. John’s is still looking for its first series sweep on home ice in 10 games. Away from Mile One, the IceCaps are a pedestrian 3-4.
To the overly-enthused pom-pom wavers, agreed, that was last year and this is 2012.
But the point is this is close to the same roster as last season. The IceCaps were supposed to be, on paper at least, a very good AHL team again. Parade routes were being mapped out. On the list of things to do was find a new coach when Keith McCambridge was fast-tracked to the NHL.
And now, with a second season just about 25 per cent complete, St. John’s cannot score goals, the alleged stars look like they’ve flamed out and NHL help (Burmistrov, Alexander) is nowhere near being the impact player we expected from Winnipeg.
So what’s the answer? Simply put, there is no answer.
There will be no trades, and as Brendan McCarthy alluded to Friday, McCambridge isn’t going anywhere, and nor should he.
The only help that could come from Colorado, the ECHL affiliate, might be Norm Ezekiel, who — judging by training camp — brings plenty of energy. He’s small, like Kevin Clark, but not that small, and he won’t be filling any nets. But he plays hard.
So this is the hand St. John’s fans have been dealt. It’s up to McCambridge to play it.
Come to think of it, though, the onus isn’t on the coach, or some rookie in the ECHL who would — let’s be perfectly honest — make little impact. That is not the problem that afflicts the St. John’s IceCaps. Nor is it goaltending, or some perceived notion of a lack of toughness, or that McCambridge forgot how to coach.
No, it’s quite simple.
The stars on the St. John’s roster have to start playing like stars.
To date, they’ve been mere extras on the Mile One stage.
The mere mention of NHL lockout, along with Muskrat Falls, is enough to make me vomit ... So let me get this straight: forgetting for a minute the IceCaps’ vanilla play of late, it’s still professional hockey, with professional athletes who are/will be NHLers. But there’s a sect out there who will maintain a preference for local senior hockey. And that’s fine. I get it. Vaguely, but I get it. To somehow suggest, however, a — I don’t know — Bell Island-Mount Pearl Avalon East senior hockey game is somehow “better” than the American Hockey League, well, those words could only be uttered from the lips of an imbecile. And I can’t believe I just wasted the time it took to type six sentences on the topic ... I’m certain you’ve heard about Jack Taylor, the kid who made college hoops history with 138 points in an NCAA Division III game this week. Taylor, a 5-10 point guard, took 108 shots in the game. Great stuff, I suppose, but if I’m on Taylor’s Grinnell College team, I’m walking off the floor. One hundred and eight shots??? What are the others on Grinnell’s team doing, fetching water for Taylor? I’m all for taking your shots, but basketball’s a team game, and young Taylor’s clearly a me-first player. And where was Grinnell coach David Arseneault in all this? Coaches don’t instruct players not to score points (that only happens in minor sports), but to sit and watch a player take 108 shots in a single basketball goes against all coaching principles, or so one would think ...
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor.
He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org