By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department
TALENT, OR SYSTEM?
Blues' GM Doug Armstrong won the NHL's GM of the Year award for the 2011-12 season, and for the work he's done to bring the Blues back to the upper echelons of the NHL. But for as good as Armstrong is, and for all of the outstanding moves he's made in his role, he's still only human.
Every GM, no matter how competent or savvy he might be, is bound to have a few clunkers; not every decision he makes will be solid gold. It's entirely possible, perhaps even likely based on the evidence before us, that the decision to hire Dave Allison as coach in Peoria might just be one of those clunkers.
Allison's record as a head coach in the AHL is just OK; not great, not terrible. In 423 games behind an AHL bench prior to the start of this season, Allison coached his teams to 199 wins and 433 points (52.4%). His teams, however, missed the playoffs entirely in two of his five full seasons as an AHL coach. None of his teams ever made it out of the second round, and he was fired after 23 games as the Prince Edward Island Senators' coach in 1995 after leading the club to just 10 wins and 22 points (47.8%).
Currently, Allison and the Rivermen are on pace to notch just four wins and 14 points (29.2%) after 24 games. Their point percentage of 29.2 is dead last in the AHL, and only the Texas Stars (10 GP, 3-6-0-1, 35.0%) have as few points as the Rivermen.
The Rivermen have scored just 22 goals in 12 games (1.833 goals per game), which is second to last in the AHL, ahead of only Albany (18 GF, 10 GP, 1.800). On the defensive side, the Rivs have allowed 45 goals in 12 games (including one "team" GA for a shootout loss to Lake Erie ten days ago), a 3.75 team GAA that is also second to last in the AHL. Only the Connecticut Whale (11 GP, 42 GA, 3,82 GAA) are worse.
Peoria's special teams are among the AHL's worst. The "power" play woke up somewhat in the last week, with a man-advantage tally in each of the Rivs' three games in the last seven days, but is still a dismal 4-for-47 (8.5%), second to last in the league. The penalty kill is 26th of 30 teams, with 41 kills in 54 attempts for a 75.9% effectiveness rate.
Our conclusion here is that the Rivermen have adequate skill and talent to be successful this season. They have a solid mix of veterans and youngsters, they have legitimate NHL players (Ian Cole, Evgeny Grachev, Andrew Murray and Jaden Schwartz) on the roster, they have skill on all of their lines and on all of their defense pairings, and Jake Allen has historically started seasons slowly, only to come on like gangbusters at the end. The talent is there; thus, we can only conclude that a failure to adapt to the Hitchcock System is at fault for the Rivs' poor start.
Whether that is a failure of the players to execute the roles they are asked to play in that system, or a failure of the coaches to use the right players in the right roles for that system, remains to be seen. But the time to see results is fast running out for Allison and the Rivs.
THE WEEK IN REVIEW, PEORIA EDITION:
Peoria 4 at Charlotte 5 (OT), Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. LINK to AHL game sheet.
Peoria 2 at Charlotte 4, Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. LINK to AHL game sheet.
Peoria 3 vs Grand Rapids 5, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. LINK to AHL game sheet.
THE WEEK AHEAD, PEORIA EDITION:
Wednesday, November 14, 2012 ... Game Time 7:05 PM CST at BMO Harris Bank Center, Rockford, IL. NHL Affiliate: Chicago Blackhawks.
Friday, November 16, 2012 ... Game Time 7:05 PM CST at Carver Arena, Peoria, IL. NHL Affiliate: Vancouver Canucks.
Saturday, November 17, 2012 ... Game Time 7:00 PM CST at Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL. NHL Affiliate: Vancouver Canucks.
ICEMEN NOT ROLLIN' ON THE RIVER, EITHER...
The Evansville IceMen are also headed for the sandbar fast.
The IceMen are also dead last in their league, the ECHL, with a record of 3-9-0-1 for seven points (26.9%). Unlike the Rivermen, however, the Evansville power play is Top Ten in the ECHL with 13 goals in 71 attempts (18.3%). Their penalty kill, however, is 20th ouf 23 teams at just 78.9% effectiveness.
Rookie goaltender Paul Karpowich (6 GP, 1-4-0-1, 4.07, 86.7%) is the only Blues' prospect currently on the Evansville roster after forwards Cody Beach, Tyler Shattock and Brett Snne were called back to Peoria as injury replacements.
THE WEEK IN REVIEW, EVANSVILLE EDITION:
Evansville 2 vs Greenville 4, Tuesday, Nov 6, 2012. LINK to ECHL game sheet.
Evansville 3 vs Greenville 5, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012. LINK to ECHL game sheet.
Evansville 2 at Firt Wayne 5, Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. LINK to ECHL game sheet.
Evansville 2 vs South Carolina 1, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. LINK to ECHL game sheet.
THE WEEK AHEAD, EVANSVILLE EDITION:
CINCINNATI CYCLONES, Thursday, November 15, 2012 ... Game Time 7:35 PM EST at US Bank Arena, Cincinnati, OH. NHL Affiliates: Florida / Nashville.
FORT WAYNE KOMETS, Saturday, November 17, 2012 ... Game Time 7:30 PM EST at Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, IN. NHL Affiliate: Anaheim Ducks.