DAVIS DREWISKE NAMED BULLDOGS’ 2014-15 IOA/AMERICAN SPECIALTY AHL MAN OF THE YEAR
30-year-old defenceman acknowledged for exemplary community involvement
Hamilton Bulldogs Media Release
HAMILTON, ONT. – The Hamilton Bulldogs are proud to announce that Davis Drewiske has been named the team’s winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award for his outstanding contributions to the Hamilton community during the 2014-15 season.
Over the course of this hockey season, Drewiske has been a leader among his teammates off the ice with his proactive approach to community involvement. Most notably, the Bulldogs defenceman took it upon himself to initiate a reading program in Hamilton-area schools in October. He visited schools throughout the year to discuss the virtues of reading, education and hard work. The University of Wisconsin alumnus encouraged students to ask questions and provided a positive influence to the children by promoting the value of staying in school.
Beyond Drewiske’s season-long reading program, he also took on a leading role in several other team community functions. He played road hockey with a group of fans as part of a team-initiated contest, engaged with fans during community practices and public skates, sang carols to sick children during a hospital visit during the holiday season, visited a class of underprivileged kids to answer questions, chat about hockey and give out gifts and snacks (aside from the reading program), started off the annual ‘Bowling with the Dawgs’ charity event with a heart-felt, impromptu thank-you speech to attendees, and acted as de facto MC in addition to greeting patrons and serving food at an ‘At Your Service’ charity fundraiser at Buffalo Wild Wings.
Drewiske is now one of 30 finalists for the AHL’s 2014-15 Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, honouring the overall IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year. The league award is named after the former Hershey Bears forward and AHL All-Star who died in 1997 following a 16-month battle with leukemia. The winner of the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award will be announced by the American Hockey League later this month.
The Bulldogs will be back in action tonight when they’ll host the Chicago Wolves at FirstOntario Centre at 7:30 p.m.
For more information on Hamilton Bulldogs flex tickets, group tickets, single-game tickets and 2015-16 season tickets, call 1-866-DOGS-TIX or visit hamiltonbulldogs.com.
Listen to all Bulldogs regular season and post-season games live on Hamilton’s AM 900 CHML, on www.900chml.com or watch live on www.ahllive.com. Catch every Friday night home game live in high definition on Cable 14.
By Dale Lamontagne, Hamilton Bulldogs Correspondent, Bulldogs Hockey Report
HAMILTON, ON — The Hamilton Bulldogs entered Friday’s contest against the Rochester Americans (AHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres) having lost their last match on Wednesday against the Adirondack Flames in overtime by a score of 5-4. Entering Friday’s matchup, the Bulldogs sit second in the North Division with a record of 28-21-9, good enough for 65 points. Rochester, however, is last in the North with a record of 24-29-6, for 54 points.
Friday’s game at FirstOntario Centre, however, had a similar outcome just like Wednesday’s tilt, with Hamilton losing, again. The Americans were able to defeat the ‘Dogs by a score of 3-1.
The Americans saw their first solid scoring opportunity eight minutes into the first as the Amerks’ shot the puck at Bulldogs goaltender Joey MacDonald and it squeaked right behind him, almost over the red line. But defenceman Davis Drewiske cleared the puck. Close call.
Towards the end of the first period, an odd situation occurred. A sheet of glass on the Americans bench shattered and delayed the game for about 15 minutes. Rochester’s backup goaltender Tim Boron nearly took a puck to the head and left briefly to clean the glass off himself.
Moments later, the game entered the first intermission scoreless.
At the 7:35 mark in the second period, TJ Hensick scored a goal but it was waved off because it was kicked in. The play was not reviewed and the game remained scoreless.
The second period picked up it’s intensity and saw the Bulldogs direct eight shots on goal (for a two period total of 23.) The Bulldogs came close to scoring on their power-play towards the end of the period, but time expired. The ‘Dogs entered the third with 40 seconds remaining on the man advantage.
The Americans started the third period on a good note as they would take the first lead of the game, thanks to Evan Rankin who squeezed the puck by Joey MacDonald on a 2-on-1 pass.
Seconds after the Americans goal the Bulldogs tied the game after a bullet of a shot from Greg Pateryn at the blueline which went through traffic in front past Matt Hackett.
The Americans struck again to take their second lead of the night with Chad Ruhwedel netting the goal after Joey MacDonald saved a point shot, but created a rebound and was found out of position. That was Ruhwedel’s his eighth goal of the season.
The Americans sealed the deal with an empty net goal with seven seconds left in the period.
Three Stars: 3. Greg Pateryn (HAM) 2. Matt Hackett (RCH) 1. Chad Ruhwedel (RCH).
By Dale Lamontagne, Hamilton Bulldogs Correspondent, Bulldogs Hockey Report
HAMILTON, ON — In the second game of the back-to-back between the Hamilton Bulldogs and Grand Rapids Griffins, the ‘Dogs skated away with a nice 5-2 victory to sweep the weekend set against the Detroit Red Wings AHL affiliate.
It didn’t take long to see the first goal of the game.
The Hamilton Bulldogs struck first with Nick Sorkin cleaning up the rebound in front of Jared Coreau, where he backhanded the puck by his glove hand. That was Sorkin’s fourth goal of the season.
The Bulldogs went up 2-0 fourteen minutes into the opening frame, thanks to Davis Drewiske.
Lots of credit goes to Maxime Macenauer, who fed Drewiske a nice pass, where he roofed it top corner with a wicked backhand shot. It was a helluva shot that you rarely see Drewiske do.
Jack Nevins and Chris Burton dropped the gloves right off the faceoff, but the officials would intervene before the two could scrap it out. So both players went off for minor unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and the game was played 4-on-4. Last week, Jarred Tinordi was knocked out flat after participating in a staged fight with a Utica Comets player and officials were quick to make sure the fight did not happen.
With only a handful of seconds left in the 4-on-4, the Griffins cut the Bulldogs lead in half, with Mitch Callahan beating Mike Condon on the blocker side.
Once Nevins and Burton got out of the box, they wasted no time beginning a fight. Both players landed a bunch of punches to the face and head area, but Nevins got the upper hand as he took Burton down to the ice.
The Griffins started the second period on a good note as they were able to tie the game on the breakaway.
Forward Landon Ferraro, son of former NHL’er Ray, scored on the breakaway after receiving the puck at center ice as a Bulldogs player turned it over.
But moments after the Griffins tied the game, the Bulldogs got their lead back after Charles Hudon and Jacob De La Rose had a nice 2-on-1 opportunity. Hudon dished to De La Rose the puck who beat Coreau on the blocker side.
A little after the mid-way mark in the second, Nathan Paetsch was called for slashing, but he was not happy about it as he broke his stick over his net, then slammed the Griffins bench door before heading down the tunnel. Paetsch was given a slashing, unsportsmanlike conduct and 10 minute game misconduct.
Fast forward with 1:35 left, the Bulldogs extended their lead to 4-2 on the power-play.
Forward Hudon blasted the shot from the point and Coreau made the save, but there would be a huge rebound with Daniel Carr tucking the puck away to extend the ‘Dogs lead.
Carr’s goal would send the ‘Dogs into the second intermission up by two goals.
The Bulldogsmade it a 5-2 game just a couple of minutes into the third period, thanks to T.J. Hensick who buried a wrap-around-goal.
The ‘Dogs hung on to their 5-2 lead for the remainder of the period, defeating the Griffins for the second night in a row.
The Bulldogs are back in action next Friday as they host William Nylander and the Toronto Marlies. Game time is at 7:30 p.m. Get your tickets at hamiltonbulldogs.com/tickets.
HAMILTON, ONT. – The Hamilton Bulldogs Hockey Club announced today forward Gabriel Dumont has been named the 13th captain in team history. The club also named four alternate captains, including forward Jake Dowell and defenceman Greg Pateryn for home games, as well as defencemen Davis Drewiske and Joe Finley for road games.
Dumont, 24, is the longest-serving member of the Bulldogs’ active roster. Heading into his fifth full season with the team, the Ville Degelis, Que. native has played all of his 252 career American Hockey League regular season games with Hamilton, over which time he has amassed 109 points (53 goals, 56 assists) and 328 penalty minutes. In 31 career AHL playoff games with the ‘Dogs, he has collected 11 points (eight goals, three assists) and 18 penalty minutes. The 5-10, 184-pound forward was an alternate captain for the Bulldogs for the 2013-14 season.
The club’s four alternates also bring a demonstrated history of leadership. Dowell, 29, in his first season with the Bulldogs, was an AHL captain with the Rockford IceHogs (2009-10) and the Iowa Wild (2013-14). Drewiske, 29, in his second season with Hamilton, was captain of the University of Wisconsin Badgers in 2007-08 and was also a member of the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings. Finley, 27, in his first season with the ‘Dogs, has played five professional seasons and was an AHL alternate captain with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 2013-14. Pateryn, 24, in his third season with the Bulldogs, was an alternate captain with the University of Michigan Wolverines (2011-12) as well as with the Bulldogs last season.
Canadiens assign five players to the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs
Three forwards, two defencemen assigned bring Bulldogs training camp roster to 32 players
Montreal Canadiens NEWS RELEASE
MONTREAL, QUE. – Montreal Canadiens and Hamilton Bulldogs general manager Marc Bergevin announced today the Canadiens have assigned forwards Sven Andrighetto, Jake Dowell and Gabriel Dumont as well as defencemen Davis Drewiske and Greg Pateryn to the Bulldogs.
These assignments bring the ‘Dogs training camp roster to 18 forwards, 11 defencemen and three goaltenders. The five players assigned today will report to Hamilton, but won’t join the team for the pre-season games in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Bulldogs play their first pre-season game tonight when they visit the St. John’s IceCaps at Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium in Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L. at 5:30 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on AM900 CHML.
Hamilton Bulldogs 2014-15 season tickets, flex tickets, group tickets and single-game tickets are on sale now. For more information, call 1-866-DOGS-TIX or visit hamiltonbulldogs.com.
Listen to all Bulldogs regular season and post-season games live on Hamilton’s AM 900 CHML, on www.900chml.com or watch live on www.ahllive.com. Catch every Friday night home game live in high definition on Cable 14.
Hamilton Bulldogs 2014-15 Training Camp Roster (updated)
MONTREAL, QC. — Assembling an AHL team is a little different from doing the same thing at the NHL-level. Yes, each AHL franchise is a business and needs to be competitive to draw fans but the primary purpose of the team is to develop prospects. So each player must be on a path to the NHL? Well, not necessarily.
To help prepare prospects for a successful transition to the NHL, a competent coaching staff who are superb teachers (something desperately missing in Hamilton) are required, as well as character veterans who can demonstrate to younger teammates just how to be a professional.
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin added one of those character players when he signed Jake Dowell to a one-year deal. With 157 NHL games and 305 AHL games under his belt, Dowell will be able to provide the leadership role both on and off the ice as well mentoring his teammates. Last season Dowell won the Fred T Hunt Memorial Award as “the AHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey.”
Dowell was a teammate of Canadiens defenseman Davis Drewiske when both played with the University of Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA. Dowell won a Frozen Four championship in 2006 with the Badgers. Here are Dowell’s career regular season statistics.
But a testament to his character is found outside the stats sheet. Dowell has a unique family dynamic and is carrying a substantial burden. Dowell lost his father to Huntington’s disease during the AHL All Star break last season.
E:60, ESPN’s newsmagazine profiled Jake Dowell and his family’s struggle with Huntington’s. Dowell said, “It’s just a scary thing that you have to just absolutely be ready to accept your fate either way. It’s basically a flip of a coin.” Watch the video below.
E:60 tells the tragic and courageous story of hockey player Jake Dowell and the genetic curse that hangs over his family and, possibly, him.
HAMILTON, ON – There’s no hiding that it was a tough year in Hamilton. A team with a lot of fresh faces showed early season promise, before inconsistencies and midseason slumps left them in a similar spot to a year ago, battling to stay out of the AHL’s Western Conference basement. When the Bulldogs finally seemed to start putting things together late in the season, it was simply too late, with too much ground to make up in too little time.
The blame for a third straight year without a playoff spot can be put on many, but there were also some standout performances that deserved recognition. Below is a review of the years of all players to have dressed for at least 5 games for the ‘Dogs this season.
Sven Andrighetto – A
The diminutive speedy Swiss winger made his professional debut just a little more than three months after the Canadiens made him the 86th overall selection of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He produced right from the get-go with 7 points in 8 games in his first month, and quickly become a fixture on the team’s top scoring line, finishing with the best points-per-game average of anyone to spend significant time with the team this year. Andrighetto, 21, seems to be good for at least one shifty highlight-reel rush a night, and likely would have produced more than 17 goals and 44 points in 63 games (which still rank him among the league’s top 20 rookies) if he had better offensive linemates to work with. Certainly he looks to have an NHL future, but the question will be whether Montreal can really stand to add another 5’9″ body any time soon.
Gabriel Dumont – A-
Dumont, 23, was deserving of co-MVP honours in Hamilton a year ago, but struggled to produce early on this season. Still, Dumont isn’t the player you should be counting on to score on a nightly basis, and he and the next player on this list were the two guys you could count on for a consistent effort night-in, night-out. Dumont’s ceiling seems to be as an intense, hard-working, two-way fourth liner, but as NHL teams most often look to fill those roles with big bodies first, his 5’10” frame will always hold him back. The Quebec-native is under contract for next season, where he will look to build off a strong end-of-season with the ‘Dogs (7 points in 7 games in April) in his continued quest towards a full-time role with the Habs.
Mike Blunden – A-
Blunden and Dumont were inseparable for much of the season, a duo that coach Sylvain Lefebvre would send out with any third linemate and in any situation, so it’s no coincidence the two paced each other in scoring. While that represented stagnation for Dumont, it was progress for Blunden, whose strong play was recognized with a token call-up for Montreal’s final game of the regular season. A leader on and off the ice, should the pending UFA be retained, he would be a strong candidate to assume the captaincy from Martin St. Pierre. There is no questioning Blunden’s work ethic, but he simply doesn’t have the legs to carry his 6’4″ frame quickly enough to be a regular everyday NHL’er, and his stone hands mean that for every point he was able to produce, two-to-three golden set-ups (typically from Dumont) went to waste.
Joonas Nattinen – B
If you don’t follow the ‘Dogs closely, you’d be forgiven for not knowing Nattinen much prior to this season. The 6’2″ Finnish centre missed all but 24 games due to injury a year ago, but had a strong bounceback campaign in 2013-14. Centering the third or fourth line for much of the season, through his work ethic alone, Nattinen seemed to inspire whichever wingers he was paired with to be at their best. Defensively responsible and strong in the face-off dot, while Nattinen’s offensive output was limited (15 points in 68 games), if he could play with the physicality he shows in spurts on a more consistent basis, he would have all the tools necessary to make a formidable NHL calibre bottom six guy. That said, Nattinen, 23, is an RFA this summer, and is unsure what his playing future holds. If he opts to return his native Finland, the 1:45 he played against the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 18th will allow him to live forever as an obscure Canadiens trivia question answer.
Christian Thomas – B-
There were lofty expectations of Thomas this season following his acquisition in return for vaunted prospect Danny Kristo, and an impressive rookie camp showing. Thomas showed flashes of his potential, often benefiting from playing opposite Andrighetto, but seemed to struggle to find a groove. His biggest weapon is a dangerous arsenal of shots, but unleashing them was dependent on set-ups from linemates, unable to create space for himself with any regularity. In addition to his shooting and despite his 5’9″ frame, the second year pro has the right instincts, willing to drive to the net every shift, and he did manage to increase his point-per-game production modestly from his rookie campaign. At age 21, it’s unfair to directly compare his output (11 goals and 27 points in 54 games) to 23-year old Kristo’s (24 goals and 42 points in 63 games), but Thomas will need aMichael Bournival-like off-season of hard work if he’s to challenge for an NHL spot as early as next season. He has tools, but is another player that will need to develop outside the norm to compensate for his lack of size.
Connor Crisp – B-
Many questioned the Canadiens selecting Crisp as early as they did in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, but the 20-year old improved his production in the OHL this season, and then fit in well during a small stint with the ‘Dogs towards the end of the year. Crisp moves up and down the ice adequately for a 6’2″, 220 lbs physical presence, and produced two goals in his first seven professional games as a result of his driving to the opposition net. It’s too early to speak to Crisp’s longer-term upside, but he has shown enough to earn a contract from the Canadiens, and may ease the “need” for signing a Nathan McIver or Kyle Hagel who brings little to the team (on ice) other than willingness to drop the gloves. He remains a project, but early signs are positive that he could develop into an NHL player.
Justin Courtnall – B-
Courtnall was an unknown coming into the season on an AHL deal, with many penciling him into a role as an ECHL call-up (where he spent most of last year). The nephew of former Hab Russ Courtnall earned every opportunity given to him this year, working his way into the line-up, and then off a fourth line, to spending considerable time with Dumont and Blunden. Despite his limited pro experience, at age 24, there may not be much room for development remaining in Courtnall’s game, but his responsible two-way play and hard work makes him a solid bottom six AHL’er. He only produced 9 points in 62 games, but was a guy you would notice for only the right reasons more often than not. He would be a welcome returnee next season, though it is just as likely he is edged out in the numbers game due to the potential additions of Crisp, Brady Vail, and Jack Nevins.
Martin St. Pierre – B-
I struggled mightily with this grade. Is it possible to give a team’s leading scorer and only proven offensive talent a lower grade than a B-? There was much hoopla surrounding St. Pierre’s signing last summer, as there should have been, given he is an AHL all-star and former point-per-game scorer. At age 30, however, it quickly became obvious that the Ottawa native’s best days were behind him. A majority of St. Pierre’s production (including 6 of his 10 goals) came with the man advantage, and he was frequently invisible at even strength. He was unable to elevate his linemates, and when paired with Patrick Holland – which was often – that line became a virtual black hole. That, in fact, can be identified as a first cause of the team’s disappointing season, as Holland and St. Pierre were expected to be two of the main offensive catalysts. This is not to say that St. Pierre brought nothing to the ‘Dogs, as many spoke to their captain’s leadership and important off-ice presence, and on a team with few truly skilled players, he did contribute important points on some nights. But his inconsistency and lack of intensity were such that coach Lefebvre even made him a healthy scratch for a night late in the season. Given this, I don’t expect him back, but he’ll need to be replaced with another veteran AHL scorer.
Brady Vail – B-
Small sample size for Vail, who saw a strange season end with a quick termination of his Bulldog tryout after just five games due to an ankle injury. Unlike last year, when he managed a goal and four points in a 12-game stint with the ‘Dogs, the versatile 6’1″ forward (and sometimes defenseman) was unable to find the scoresheet in the AHL this time, but to understand his season and future, one must look back to last summer. Vail had a strong 2012-13 campaign on a disappointing Windsor team, and despite looking AHL ready, was forced to return to the OHL because of his young age. Then something went wrong. A disappointing performance at Team USA’s summer WJC camp saw him sent home early in August. He came into Montreal’s rookie camp in September, and was the only drafted player cut prior to the start of the team’s main training camp. Then back with the Spitfires, he wasn’t given any of the leadership letters despite thought months earlier that he may have been next in line for captaincy. But his play and production picked up quickly, and he was one of the primary catalysts that got Windsor into the post-season. One would think the grit, scoring ability, and two-way play the 20-year old has shown would be enough to earn him a professional deal, but it wouldn’t be the first time a player was “blacklisted” by the organization for some unknown reason should he be allowed to re-enter the draft instead.
Nick Tarnasky – C+
If Tarnasky could skate, he would undoubtedly be an NHL player. A vast majority of the 29-year old’s 13 AHL goals this year came from the lip of the crease, as he uses his 6’2″, 224 lbs frame effectively to park himself right there. Unfortunately, he is seldom noticed otuside of that area, as he isn’t the guy you want carrying the puck up ice, and would often be caught down low, resulting in odd-man rushes against and reflected in his team-worst -17 rating. Tarnasky’s other asset is his fighting ability, but even still, while he represented an upgrade on Zack Stortini a year ago, he would just as easily be replaced as return.
Nick Sorkin – C+
Sorkin was given a professional tryout following the end of his college career with the University of New Hampshire, and early on seemed like he’d be no bigger blip on the radar than Matt Grassi the year prior. But Sorkin improved every game throughout his short stint in Hamilton, climbing the depth chart not unlike Courtnall, and working his way on to a scoring line. He moves well for a 6’3″ forward, and seems to understand how to position himself well on the ice to get open in dangerous spots. Still, with just one goal in eight games, he is on the fence for whether he can turn this tryout into a season-long AHL contract for next year. Turning 23 in June, he may be edged out in favour of younger talents.
Louis Leblanc – C
Early on, it looked like Leblanc might have learned his lesson from last season and gotten back on track. The effort was there, he was playing a smarter, more disciplined game, and the results were coming with 8 points in his first 8 games, interrupted by a brief call-up to Montreal in the middle of his hot streak. From there, however, it was all downhill, managing only 20 points in the next 61 contests, and rarely having an impact on the game, typically chasing the play rather than controlling it. Despite decent footspeed, he frequently seems to be a step behind the play, and rarely engages physically. Admittedly Leblanc didn’t have much to work with, shifted down to a third line once his struggles began, and frequently saddled with Tarnasky at even strength, while receiving little powerplay time. But it was on him to prove that he deserved a better opportunity, and he was unable to separate himself from the pack, unlike some others on this list. Leblanc did manage to simplify his game and reduce the poor offensive-zone penalties of which he was often guilty a year ago, but the hope of him becoming an impact player seems to have vanished, and at this point his ceiling is an adequate two-way third liner. That has its value, of course, and at age 23, it’s too soon to declare he’ll never be a full-time NHL’er, but Leblanc himself has to consider his options thus summer as his 3-year entry level contract comes to an end. The most likely scenario is probably a one year deal from the Canadiens to prove himself, unless another team is interested in taking a flyer on a former first round selection, and he is included in an off-season transaction.
Patrick Holland – C
Holland was among Hamilton’s top forwards down the stretch a year ago, playing wing on a top line with Joey Tenute. As such, it was expected that he would play an important role on St. Pierre’s wing this year, but he never quite got going, resulting in a significant and disappointing dip in his development curve. His decline in production (from .4 PPG to .3 PPG) between his rookie and sophomore years came despite continued opportunity to man the point on a powerplay unit, though to his credit, he did manage to round out his game as a serviceable penalty killer as well. As seen during training camp and his short call-up, Holland can be a multi-dimensional player, willing to block shots and battle in his own end, but ultimately his natural ability is in playmaking, and that is the skill that he’ll need to continue to develop if he’s to get another crack at the big leagues. The 6’0″ forward has a year left on his ELC before any decisions need to be made, and he’ll again be expected to play a significant role as a young veteran in Hamilton in 2014-15.
Maxime Macenauer – C
Macenauer, 25, is a veteran of 29 NHL games, though how he ever convinced the Anaheim Ducks that he was good enough to make the roster in 2011-12 remains a mystery. A confident, defensively responsible pivot, Macenauer is clearly a coach’s player, earning the trust of Lefebvre and being handed a regular role as a first line centre between Andrighetto and Thomas, despite a lack of production. His 24 points in 73 games came through playing big (and largely ineffective) minutes on the powerplay and between his skilled wingers, while his most positive impact seemed to come on the penalty kill, where his strong face-off and positioning work helped the P.K. be one of the bright spots on this year’s Dogs team. The team seems to like him, so he could be retained, but on-ice he could easily be replaced (and ideally upgraded) by any AHL veteran free agent.
Stefan Fournier – C-
In his rookie campaign, Fournier would impress one game out of four, notably when playing with Nattinen, but for all the positive flashes, he would find himself back in the press box due to frequent, poor, momentum-killing penalties. Turning 22 later this month, Fournier still has time to work on his discipline and hockey smarts, and the organization can do nothing but be patient given the two years remaining on his entry level deal. Still, he doesn’t have the skills to be more than a third or fourth line AHL forward, and will have to battle for ice time with any new additions to the club for next season.
Jordan Owens / Erik Nystrom / Akim Aliu / Ben Duffy / Stephen MacAulay – D
All five of the above players left the Bulldogs during the course of the season, with only Nystrom technically remaining part of the organization as a player drafted by the Canadiens, but having signed a new deal to remain in Europe. Aliu was a darling of Bulldogs training camp, but his play puttered out early on in the season. MacAulay impressed in his first game in Hamilton after a call-up from the ECHL, but it was a flash in the pan before he and Duffy both opted to further their studies rather than continue playing pro hockey.
Robert Czarnik / Steve Quailer – D
Another less successful experiment was the trade of Qualier for Czarnik. Quailer produced in limited playing time with the Bulldogs, notably when slotted on Nattinen’s wing (a common theme), whereas Czarnik was never given much of a chance, and didn’t make much of the opportunities he did receive.
Greg Pateryn – A
Hamilton’s most consistent defenseman, the 23-year old Pateryn has little left to learn at the AHL level. His 15 goals rank second in the American Hockey League among blueliners and more than double his totals over a four year college career. He backed up his 34 points in 67 games with sound play in his own end, combining physical play with adequate footspeed on his 6’2″ frame. One would think the Canadiens would fine a place for a young, two-way right-handed blueliner with size, but Pateryn hasn’t been given a true opportunity to adapt and learn in the NHL. If the perhaps likely scenario of Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi starting the year in Montreal comes to pass, Pateryn is another favourite to take over as Hamilton captain, able to ease the transition of former D partner Mac Bennett to the pro game.
Nathan Beaulieu – B+
Beaulieu isn’t the player he was down the stretch in the AHL a year ago, where he dominated games in Scott Niedermayer-like fashion. The yo-yo trips to and from Montreal didn’t seem to rest well with him, and – given he’s blessed with all-world skill – it really is the mental aspects of the game that he needs to sharpen. An effortless skater with slick hands and a booming shot, the 21-year old tends to get frustrated or give up on plays when beaten or after making a mistake. Paired with a player like Pateryn or Josh Gorges, there’s no reason to doubt that Beaulieu could play in the NHL as early as the Fall, but he’ll need a responsible partner to help him make the jump. Once he has that learning under his belt, though, there is no reason to think he can’t be a regular top four rearguard.
Jarred Tinordi – B
Clearly the Canadiens have identified Tinordi as the guy they want NHL-ready fastest, a position in the depth chart which can’t be attributed to his AHL play. It’s not that Tinordi had a bad season in Hamilton. There was even a stretch prior to one of his call-ups where he was clearly the ‘Dogs’ best rearguard. But he isn’t particularly physical, gets himself out of position in his own end, and despite strong skating ability and willingness to jump into the rush, has limited offensive production to show for it. Tinordi’s frame and potential can’t be denied, but he’s still very raw in his development, and will need a lot of coaching and patience if he is to live up to expectations and be more than a bottom pair filler.
Davis Drewiske – B
Drewiske was very obviously disappointed to be sent to Hamilton once recovered from injury, and early on in his stint with the ‘Dogs, it looked like he might not stay in the AHL very long. Over his first few games, Drewiske played with the intensity you’d expect from a guy who has been forced to sit out so many months. But after that initial surge of adrenaline wore off, the poor decisions and mistakes seemed to crop up a little more regularly in his game, and you were reminded why the 29-year old has yet to lock down a full-time NHL gig. Drewiske has a year remaining on his NHL deal, but given he is likely under the three above names on the organization’s depth chart, he seems likely destined for waivers and a possible return to Hamilton next year.
Morgan Ellis – B-
A hot-and-cold season for Ellis saw him start the season as a prolonged healthy scratch. When given an opportunity to play, he took full advantage, using the departure of Magnus Nygren and injuries to Darren Dietz to help secure a job in the top four, where he was frequently paired with Beaulieu. Ellis managed a modest improvement in his point production, while gradually improving his all-around game, but remains far more of a project than most believed when he graduated from junior hockey two years ago. He was unable to maintain a high level of play, and the late season saw him return to scratch status in favour of some names lower down this list who have no NHL futures to speak of. Especially given the expected arrivals of Bennett and Darren Dietz, Ellis will need to prove he can remain relevant in the upcoming final year of his entry level deal.
Magnus Nygren – B-
Nygren was impressive upon his arrival in Hamilton, particularly in the offensive zone where his blistering point shot helped him put up 8 points in 16 contests. After a minor injury, however, Nygren decided he wasn’t happy with life on or off the ice in Hamilton, opting to return to his native Sweden to complete the season with Farjestad, where the 23-year old scored at a torrid pace with 12 goals and 20 points in just 25 games. The 6’0″ rugged blueliner was guilty of numerous offensive zone turnovers in Hamilton and needs to improve play in his own end, but his skills can’t be overlooked, and recent comments indicate his willingness to attend Montreal’s camp in the Fall, though his options would be limited to NHL or SHL with no interest in returning to the American League.
Darren Dietz – C+
Dietz’s pro rookie season was interrupted by multiple injuries, limiting him to just 34 games. The 20-year old is still seeking his first professional goal, after coming off a season where he led all Canadian Hockey League d-men in markers with 24. He should play a bigger role in Hamilton next season if he can stay in the line-up, and is likely to be joined by his former Saskatoon Blades teammate Dalton Thrower. Dietz is one of those middle-ground d-men at the pro level, not unlike Ellis, who does everything well enough without any one particular ability standing out. For this reason, it may take him longer to fully adjust to this stage and even longer still to get noticed, but he does have two full years remaining on his ELC to pile on some experience and learnings.
Joel Chouinard – C+
After Courtnall, Chouinard was the best of the players on AHL deals this season (though this isn’t saying particularly much). When it wasn’t Ellis sliding into the team’s top four on D, it was Chouinard, thanks to his defensive effectiveness and quick playing of the puck (and the absence of other viable options). At 24, Chouinard’s potential is likely nothing more than a bottom pair AHL d-man, but this season he helped compensate for the losses of Nygren and Dietz this year that could have left the ‘Dogs in quite a pinch. Unlikely to be back unless for extra depth in the ECHL, Chouinard was a stop-gap that must be upgraded for the team to improve.
Nathan McIver – C
McIver would look like he fit in well one shift out of five, but you’d be reminded of his limited skill set the other four. He basically gets into the line-up because of his pugilistic skills as the truest pure enforcer on the squad, and well, every team carries facepunchers in the American Hockey League. No reason to expect him back next year.
Drew Schiestel – C-
Schiestel was a surprise to go as early as he did in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft – taken in the 2nd round by the Buffalo Sabres – and he has never lived up to the organization’s expectations. The 25-year old Hamilton native showed no signs of getting back on track this year either, frequently misplaying pucks and losing coverage in his own end. The roll he can play is limited to full-time ECHL’er, providing depth as a call-up in case of injury.
Dustin Tokarski – A
Really the only reason the Hamilton Bulldogs were competitive at times this year, Tokarski confirmed his status as one of the top goaltenders in the American Hockey League this season. Sporting a sensational .920 save percentage and a 2.36 GAA, it was thought by some that Tokarski may seek a new challenge overseas or request a trade to another organization for a shot at a full time NHL gig next season, but his agreement to a two-year extension with Montreal provides the Canadiens with strong depth between the pipes. Though the indisputable trend is to favour netminders with size, Tokarski’s quickness and determination compensate for his 5’11” frame. The structure of Tokarski’s new deal speaks to the team’s plans for him, with a two-way contract for next season and an NHL only deal the year after, coincidentally the timing of the end of Peter Budaj’s current stint with the Habs, but this is dependent on his clearing waivers in the Fall.
Robert Mayer – B
Mayer represents quite the mystery in Hamilton. There is no doubt he was regularly outplayed by Tokarski, and yet coach Lefebvre continually sent Mayer out to start more than his fair share of games. And it wasn’t that Mayer didn’t have the talent to play at this level; he turned in some big performances to bank points for the ‘Dogs when it looked like they might still have a chance to reach the post-season. But consistency has always plagued the Czech-born, Swiss-citizen netminder, and you can typically tell from his first shot faced of the night whether he’s going to have a strong or poor outing. The situation is a curious one, complicated by the fact that the Canadiens gave Mayer a two-year deal last summer, meaning he has a year remaining when the Habs would likely prefer to promote 23-year old Mike Condon to the role of backing up Tokarski after he dominated the East Coast Hockey League. Mayer is as good as he will be, while Condon’s development is on a rising curve, so it’s possible the team agrees to allow Mayer to head to Switzerland this summer, or deals him to another club in need of AHL depth.
Devan Dubnyk – B-
Dubnyk was acquired simply because the Bulldogs were playing for their playoff lives in a pivotal 3-games-in-3-nights weekend and starter Tokarski was up in Montreal. Unfortunately, his season of struggles continued in Hamilton with a 3.33 GAA and a .893 save percentage, meaning his visit to Hamilton is certain to have been a mere layover. Dubnyk was a reasonable, proven NHL goaltender prior to this year, so there is no doubt he’ll get a contract from someone for next season in another effort to re-assert himself, but the Canadiens’ organization has no motivation to offer him a prolonged stay.
So it was a tough year. But all is not lost, given the Canadiens will benefit from the experience gained by players like Beaulieu and Tinordi this season as they are promoted to the next level. And turnover from one year to the next in the American League can be so great that this year’s results don’t necessarily spell doom for years to come, even though it was the third straight season without playoff action in the Hammer. How does general manager Marc Bergevin – holding his own part of the blame for not finding the right veterans to fill out his AHL affiliate’s roster – go about turning the team around? A winning roster based on the pieces under contract might look something like this:
Sven Andrighetto – AHL VET UFA – Christian Thomas
Charles Hudon – Jacob De La Rose – AHL VET UFA
Mike Blunden – Gabriel Dumont – Louis Leblanc
Patrick Holland – Brady Vail – Connor Crisp
Greg Pateryn – Mac Bennett
AHL VET UFA – Morgan Ellis
Dalton Thrower – Darren Dietz
Of course, being competitive depends on those AHL VET UFA spots being filled by quality players, and not Drew Schiestels and Ben Duffys, but you can add a real wildcard to the mix in Tim Bozon. Already signed by the Canadiens, Bozon continues his courageous recovery from a bout with meningitis that saw him hospitalized in a medically-induced coma last month. An established WHL sniper, it is unclear at this point where he’ll be in terms of health and physical conditioning by next Fall, and in turn what role he might be able to play in the organization. Also already signed is Jack Nevins, an undrafted prospect who has fit in well enough in a late-season stint with the ‘Dogs after his QMJHL career came to a close. Nevins is interchangeable with Vail and Crisp should the organization choose not to sign either, or reinforces the club’s important depth at this level.
Thanks for following Hamilton Bulldogs coverage at All Habs all season long, and we will continue to follow every development over the off-season.
HAMILTON, ON – A team with every reason not to show up on a Wednesday night got some help from two players who strongly believe they have plenty to play for, as the Hamilton Bulldogs – despite any hope of a playoff berth virtually nil at this point – downed the playoff-bound Abbotsford Heat 3-1 at First Ontario Centre.
The win was just Hamilton’s second in their past seven games, leaving them ten points out of the 8th and final playoff spot in the AHL’s Western Conference with only fourteen games remaining. The situation would have been even more grim if not for a couple of familiar faces that made returns to the line-up.
First was Dustin Tokarski, unquestionably the MVP of a Bulldog team that has struggled to score all season, relying on stellar goaltending to win games. Fresh off a shutout of the Buffalo Sabres Sunday, Tokarski wasn’t forced to turn in his best effort of the season against the Abbotsford Heat, but managed 27 saves that allowed his side to overcome an early 1-0 deficit. As Devan Dubnyk‘s difficult season has continued in the AHL, having Tokarski back between the pipes should bring an extra dose of confidence to his team’s play, just as Carey Price‘s return seems to have done for the Canadiens.
Next was Michael Bournival, returning to game action on a conditioning stint in Hamilton after missing considerable time with a concussion. Bournival was a surprise in making the Montreal roster out of training camp in his second professional season, but hadn’t looked at all out of place in the NHL after hardly lighting the American League on fire last year. He showed in hist first AHL game of the season just how far his game had progressed, slotting right on to the top line with Christian Thomas and Sven Andrighetto, and energizing it to be the game’s best all night. Bournival would register an assist on Thomas’s game-winning goal, accepting a pass from Andrighetto and firing a shot on Aaron Dell before Thomas would bang home the rebound.
If Dell’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s because he attended numerous Canadiens’ off-season Development Camps back in the day. Many assumed the organization would sign Dell out of the University of North Dakota given their extended look at him and the thin pipeline in goal at the time, but such a move never came to fruition, and Dell has struggled to establish himself as more than a top ECHL starter to date.
But back to Bournival, a peculiar Sylvain Lefebvre decision was to play the natural center on left wing on the top line. Andrighetto, having played wing all season, was shifted to centre for the first time. While it may be as simple as limiting Bournival’s responsibilities for his first game back in over a month, it’s also interesting to consider the Canadiens may have taken the same approach as they did with Louis Leblanc. That is to say having made the determination that a player doesn’t project to the next level as a centre, and thus permanently switching him to the wing.
Integrating Bournival into the line-up required Lefebvre to make a decision on who to sit. Rather than cut one of his fourth line energy players, the head coach decided to use the opportunity to send a statement to a guy supposed to be one of his offensive leaders but whose game has been in sharp decline as a sophomore. Just as he tried to do in sitting Martin St. Pierre two weeks ago, Lefebvre hopes a one-game benching of Patrick Holland will get the versatile, two-way forward going for the final stretch. The situation is a pretty significant reversal from this time a year ago, where Holland was far more valuable to the ‘Dogs as a first line winger than Bournival as a third line pivot.
At 22, Holland is hardly a lost cause, but if he want another sniff at the NHL beyond the five games played there this year, he’ll need to show in the final year of his entry level contract that the present season was merely a blip on the radar of his development.
Two other notable players were out of the line-up Wednesday, but not by the coach’s own will. An injury plagued pro rookie season for Darren Dietz has come to an end, the team announced, with the defenseman not expected to return until 2014-15. A less serious lower body injury forced Greg Pateryn to miss the game. The d-man is considered day-t0-day, with his absence necessitating huge minutes from a top pairing of Nathan Beaulieu and Davis Drewiske.
Drewiske has played strong two-way hockey since joining the Bulldogs, and will be an important piece if the team manages to win enough games to keep things interesting over the final fourteen contests. Once the season is done, he will undoubtedly serve as one of the “black aces” in Montreal, and will be available to challenge for an NHL roster spot in the Fall, given the year remaining on the contract he signed last summer.
Also interesting to watch we’ll be how Hamilton handles its three-headed monster in goal. Despite Tokarski’s far superior play, the staff never hesitated to sit him for Robert Mayer after a tough loss, and now with both Dubnyk and Mayer in the mix, despite all he’s shown, Tokarski’s leash may be even shorter.
The ‘Dogs have two home games this weekend before heading out on a nine-game road trip. Friday’s game against Milwaukee and Saturday’s rematch with Abbotsford are must-wins, or the team will see the plug pulled on the life support on which its season rests. This also means it may be the last chance for hometown fans to see their team in meaningful action this season, so grab your tickets now from http://www.hamiltonbulldogs.com/.
HAMILTON, ON – In a season filled with ups and downs, one wouldn’t be wrong to single out last weekend as the Hamilton Bulldogs hitting rock bottom.
The ‘Dogs had a golden opportunity to close the gap on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with three games all at their home barn of First Ontario Place. Moreover, two of the three games were against rivals also battling for that last spot. It seemed the time for this streaky club to make a statement was “now or never,” with 13 of their final 18 games beyond the weekend being on the road.
If any messages were sent to the league by way of Hamilton’s play, it was unfortunately not what coach Sylvain Lefebvre and his staff were looking for. Though the team was “in” all three games, opening the scoring each time, the only conclusion that could be drawn from an 0-3-0 record is to expect a third straight year of no playoffs in the Hammer.
Lefebvre had few answers following Sunday’s loss to Lake Erie – a defeat that allowed the Monsters to vault pass the ‘Dogs in the standings and drop them to last place in the Western Conference. Few answers to why second periods have haunted the team all season. Why the first goal against seems to deflate the entire bench. Why the spring in the team’s skates off the opening face-off doesn’t last longer than twenty minutes. Why the club has regularly been unable to cash in scoring chances that would put games away.
He’ll tell you they don’t try to lose games. That they work on scoring every day. That they aim to be consistent. That nobody is giving up. But what message does it send when the team fails to execute on three consecutive nights at the most pivotal point of the season? Have they quit on the staff? On each other?
Lefebvre showed he wasn’t backing down from the challenge Sunday, playing what one might say was his last card: making captain Martin St. Pierre a healthy scratch. Discussed previously here on All Habs was that – despite leading his team in scoring – St. Pierre has been a disappointment this season. Often soft and/or invisible at even strength, his points have come almost exclusively with the man advantage. Further, he was frequently guilty of undisciplined penalties in the offensive zone. His compete level just wasn’t where it was expected to be for a player known as a perennial all-star in this league.
Clearly, it was about sending a message to both St. Pierre and the rest of the team. But it meant taking a team that has scored the second fewest goals in the AHL and depriving it of the man with nine points more than his closest ‘mate on the season. The ‘Dogs may have only managed three total goals in the Friday and Saturday games, but the captain had been in on all of them with three helpers.
So, it didn’t work. For one period, it looked like the gamble – which some suggest may have meant the head coach putting his own job on the line – would pay off as Christian Thomas had the game’s only goal. But a missed Sven Andrighetto penalty shot in the second opened a door for the Monsters to hang around long enough to beat Devan Dubnyk – which they did, four times.
In addition to specifically pointing to that Andrighetto shot as a turning point, Lefebvre called out his powerplay failing to produce. On a normal night, he’d be right. But on a night where you’ve chosen to sit one of your two true skill forwards – and your top powerplay point producer – in the press box, it becomes hard to hide behind poor special team execution. There is something far more wrong in Canada’s Steeltown.
It starts with the construction of the team, which is on general manager Marc Bergevin and his staff. The young squad clearly needed a veteran presence on the blueline, and adding Davis Drewiske with just over one quarter of the season to go is too late to be truly impactful, even if the rugged d-man was the team’s best at the position this weekend. Second, just as was the complaint about Bergevin’s work in Montreal prior to landing Thomas Vanek, he went out of his way to over-acquire tough, character players, skimping on the skill needed to put pucks in the net.
Then there’s Lefebvre himself. Questionable platooning of goaltenders and odd line combinations have plagued his two seasons behind the bench, and while he hasn’t always been given the best elements to work with, one has to ask the same question as they do with the Canadiens: which players have truly improved under their head coach?
Hab fans will quickly point out Hamilton’s main role as a development team, and the transitions of Brendan Gallagher, MichaelBournival, and soon Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi as successes. But how much of that is strictly on the players themselves, given we’re talking about two first round picks and two players who continue to play in the exact same style they have since their junior days? Of the hold-overs in Hamilton, who is better than last year? Not Beaulieu who was utterly dominant in the final quarter of 2012-13. Not Louis Leblanc – at least not significantly, as it would be hard to be worse than last season. Not young veterans like Mike Blunden and Gabriel Dumont. Certainly not Patrick Holland whose game has fallen off the planet. Maybe Morgan Ellis, but that only after Lefebvre was basically forced to insert him into the line-up after holding him out as a healthy scratch for the first month. Greg Pateryn may have improved his production significantly, but he was rock solid in his own end last season, which hasn’t always been the case this year.
So what’s next? The good thing about the American Hockey League is that Lefebvre is right in saying players can’t give up. The Toronto Marlies had a slogan of “Every game is a tryout,” which could be no truer. Even once the seemingly inevitable happens and the team is mathematically eliminated from post-season contention, players must continue to try to perform to earn new contracts or consideration for call-ups to the Canadiens.
Theoretically, there should be an influx of much-needed talent for the final few games, as the likes of Charles Hudon, Brady Vail, Mac Bennett, and perhaps even Jacob De La Rose would be eligible to join the club once their current teams are eliminated from the CHL playoffs (and SHL in De La Rose’s case). The four – along with Dalton Thrower who will be having season-ending ankle surgery – should be Bulldogs next Fall, but do you even want them around the group for the remainder of the current campaign with seeming leadership disarray? That question will likely be best answered by player development coaches Patrice Brisebois and Martin Lapointe, both of whom spend considerable time with the group in Hamilton.
The 2014-15 Bulldogs will likely look a lot different than this year’s edition, both on and off the ice. While Bergevin made a statement hiring a very young and inexperienced coaching staff to lead his AHL affiliate, he’ll need to make quick judgments on their future considering the impressive group of prospects that will be making the transition from juniors over the next two seasons, with their development vital to the big club’s future.
HAMILTON, ON – With three home games in three days, this weekend was pivotal for the Hamilton Bulldogs to climb back into the AHL Western Conference playoff race. As the team plays 13 of their final 18 games on the road, it was critical for them to close the gap on the 8th and final spot in front of their own fans. But as much as the team got off to good starts, taking an early lead in all three contests, they failed to collect the four or six points they critically needed. And on Sunday, playing to salvage some positives out of the despair, they failed to even pick up two, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Lake Erie Monsters, who leap-frogged the Bulldogs in the process, dropping Hamilton to last place in the West.
Pre-game in Hamilton was unusually eventful, as first there was a notable absence from the team’s warm-up. Captain Martin St. Pierre was announced as a healthy scratch; the latest development in what has been a trying season for the veteran, despite his two assists yesterday. Though St. Pierre may lead the Bulldogs in scoring, almost all of his production has come with the man advantage, nearly invisible at even strength, and frequently guilty of poor penalties. Regardless of his play, benching your team’s top scorer and dressing room leader when as a club you struggle to produce is a bold move. So bold, one might argue, that it represented coach Sylvain Lefebvre‘s last straw tactic to try to get his team to play up to their potential, conceivably putting his own job on the line in doing so.
Next, there was almost a second curious storyline as the Bulldogs had only four skaters on ice throughout the national anthems. Nick Tarnasky was missing in action after being announced as part of the starting line-up. The pugilist raced down the hallway from the dressing room and on to the ice just prior to puck drop, ending any conspiracy theories, and then immediately dropped the gloves with Guillaume Desbiens off the opening face-off.
In Devan Dubnyk‘s second start since joining the Bulldogs, it was his teammate Morgan Ellis who made certain the netminder was sharp early on. Two blatant defensive zone giveaways gave the Monsters the game’s first two quality scoring opportunities, but both times the 6’6″ keeper had the last word, swallowing up any rebounds.
After their goalie’s heroics, Sven Andrighetto got the home team’s offense rolling. A solo rush saw him weaver between defenders before firing a wrister on goal, but despite the ensuing scramble, neither he nor Maxime Macenauer could tap a rebound past Calvin Pickard.
Andrighetto would make good later on in the frame, finding Christian Thomas alone at the top of the face-off circle, with the sniper making no mistake in firing a one-timer top shelf to open the scoring. The Swiss winger would nearly got on the scoreboard himself moments after the first tally, taking a delayed feed from Davis Drewiske during 4-on-4 play, but again Pickard resisted.
Strong firsts are nothing new for this year’s Hamilton Bulldogs squad, but the second frame has been their nemesis. A slow start was reversed following a Sylvain Lefebvre timeout, with the ‘Dogs carrying the play for much of the middle stanza without being able to add to their lead. The best chance came as Hamilton was awarded a penalty shot on a call most recently seen at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. With the puck on Louis Leblanc‘s stick in the attacking zone, a Monster defenseman inadvertently batted a broken stick along the ice at the puck-carrier, and the refs were quick to whistle play down and point to center ice signalling a penalty shot.
Coach Lefebvre went with his most dangerous skater for the shot, but Sven Andrighetto‘s quick backhand to forehand deke was matched with an equally quick Pickard pad.
A common problem for the boys from the Hammer as been failing to capitalize on chances, and thus allowing other teams to hang around for too long. That was the case again in this one, as Nathan McIver would leave his side shorthanded, guilty of an extra two minute penalty prior to a fight with Daniel Maggio. Immediately off the face-off in the ‘Dogs end, David van der Gulik fired a hard wrister up and over a falling Dubnyk to tie the game.
Another common problem has been second period collapses, and in a case of “jamais un sans deux,” van der Gulik was again Johnny on the spot just three minutes later, accepting a dish from Andrew Agozzino completely uncovered the slot and beating Dubnyk with a heavy release.
If the team’s season was on the line in the third period, they disappointingly didn’t play like it. Managing only four shots the entire frame, any hopes of a comeback were wiped out when Matt Hunwick pinched into the high slot on the powerplay, converting on a van der Gulik pass and beating Dubnyk just under the bar blocker side. Michael Schumacher added a fourth tally off a Hamilton turnover, sliding a backhand five hole on the Hamilton netminder in a game that was already out of reach.
Post-game, coach Lefebvre wasn’t entirely happy with his team’s effort, but saw Sunday as a game that could have gone either way. “The powerplay didn’t come up big. Tonight if Andrighetto scores on the penalty shot, it’s 2-0. Our second periods have been nowhere to be found this year. We gain momentum in the first period, then we come out in the second and we’re flat. I don’t know what it is.”
Certainly one of the “what it is” is a lack of scoring, for which the coach also has few answers. “We work on scoring everyday. I wish we could score more goals, but that’s how it is right now and we have to play well defensively. Last night, the empty net goal was the thirteenth this year. We’re in games, but we just can’t find a way to win games when we have to comeback from behind, and scoring is part of it.”
How does a last place team stay motivated with eighteen games remaining in the season and the already slim hope of a playoff berth now requiring nothing short of a miracle? “If we stop believing and we quit, no one is going to benefit from that. It’s our job as coaches and our job as players not to quit, and to battle till the end. Guys are playing for their lives, playing for their livelihoods and their jobs. That’s the plain and simple truth,” summarizes the coach, alluding to the fact that at least on an individual basis, players remain in competition for NHL call-ups.
And then there’s the captain. The team’s lone goal scorer on the night, Christian Thomas, didn’t hide his disappointment in St. Pierre’s absence from the line-up. “It was definitely tough. He’s a presence in the room. He’s a good leader; older guy, brings veteran status out there, but we come to the rink and whatever the lines are, we can’t change it and just have to do our thing out there. He definitely helps, but today I’m not going to blame it cause he wasn’t playing, but we should have showed up more.”
Coach Lefebvre didn’t shy away from tackling the issue of his controversial line-up decision head on. “[St. Pierre] was a healthy scratch tonight. Not happy with his game. Been talking to him a few times, sending him messages here and there not happy with his game. Sometimes as a coach, you have ways to get guys going. Hopefully he’ll rebound and get to playing the way he can play. He’s our captain. He’s the guy that sets the tone, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Things won’t get any easier from here on out, as after three-in-three at home this weekend, they’ll play three-in-three in different cities on the road next week.