What's wrong in Rockford?
The next stop on this off week is the AHL.
The IceHogs had one representative in the AHL All-Star Game, Mr. Kevin Lankinen.
Ironically, Lankinen has not been playing very well lately. However, his numbers overall are solid.
The main thing to note during the AHL All-Star festivities is that Martin Frk can really shoot a puck.
Ok, so we know the state of the Hawks and it will remain the same until Saturday when they take on the Coyotes.
Now, let's move on to evaluating the Rockford IceHogs. I have caught a couple of games recently, but instead of adding my $0.02, why don't I turn it over to our Rockford correspondent, Mr. Theodore Fox.
Theo, what is wrong in these Rockford IceHogs lately who have just 3 wins since Dec 20th?
What's wrong with the Hogs? Good question, Tyler. The easiest answer to point to is the litany of call ups to Chicago due to injuries to Hawks players as well as injuries within the Hogs ranks. That instability isn't the only reason, though, and really isn't the main reason either.
Let's start first with where the issues don't lay and that's with the netminders.
While each goalie could always improve in this or that aspect, show consistency and stamina over a longer stretch, and log minutes to gain experience, goaltending is actually the team's strength.
Just like an MLB starting pitcher who can be lights out on the mound yet have a mediocre W-L record due to no run support from his hitters, the Rockford goalies have been suffering the same fate with lack of goal support.
After going 15-4-1 from Halloween to December 20, the Hogs are 3-13-1 since then scoring 2 goals or less in 14 of those 17 games including being shut out 3 times.
Minus his last game where he gave up 7 goals, Delia has been trending upward. As many know, his head was elsewhere due to health complications with a loved one. Once that situation got better, his game dramatically improved.
Despite dipping numbers as far as GAA and save %, Lankinen has been fine. Not stellar but not horrid either. His strong start was just as much related to being compared to Delia's forgettable start than it was being a top goalie in the AHL.
Tomkins has also been solid as he truly earned his first NHL contract two and a half years after graduating from Ohio State. Though not a huge feat, he was still one of the best ECHL goalies last season. Having a chance now to play somewhat regularly in the AHL has allowed him to blossom.
What could be a cause for concern, however, is rolling with a goalie trio. This isn't a weakness on their part, of course. As Delia mentioned in a recent interview, it's tough for any of them to get in their reps in and get in a groove.
The blueline lacks a veteran leader and on-ice role model who really knows how to defend. He doesn't necessarily need to have NHL experiences so a lifetime AHLer could be just as impactful.
Honestly, they should have retained Andrew Campbell or signed someone with his pedigree. Although a career minor leaguer, Campbell was a dependable defender who also captained several AHL teams. In a few interviews last season, many young Hogs stated how much they benefited from his experience and mentorship.
The now-departed Holm may have been considered by management to be that veteran presence but he was no better than Gustafsson is on the Hawks: half-hearted attempts at defending and head always up ice when the puck was still in his own zone.
Youds was brought in shortly after Christmas but is worse than Holm: completely lost in the D zone and darts immediately for the neutral zone once a teammate gains possession even if the puck is still below the circles.
McCoshen is in his 4th AHL season but is still a somewhat viable prospect at 24 years old. He does wear one of the A's on his jersey so he does have leadership capacity.
Another backline issue is the coaching staff's decision to have 7 blueliners dressed when it has been entirely possible to start 12 forwards and 6 D-men.
Also, similar to the Hawks, the Hogs are terrible at defending odd-man rushes and get burned more often than not. The lone skater routinely takes the puck handler rather than closing off passing lanes. The goals on these rushes are deflating.
This quote by head coach Derek King (courtesy of an interview by Second City Hockey) sums up the issue with a depleted forward corps:
"When you're on a team like this when some of our guys are up (in the NHL) so their ice time gets more and they're probably put in situations they don't really need to be in right now. They need to stay within themselves and they need rest, they need to sit out a couple games like we did at the start of the season to concentrate on working out, concentrate on the skills and the skating on the ice. We just don't have that luxury right now because we're banged up and we've got guys going up."
Highmore, Sikura, Hagel, and Wedin have been recalled at least once each. Entwistle, Kurashev, Fortin, Soderlund, Hakkarainen, and Wedin have spent time on the disabled list.
To management's credit, they saw the abysmal goal production and have brought in 3 players who are in the top 7 of goal scorers in the ECHL: Spencer Watson, Peter Quenneville, and Gabriel Gagne. Yet, their contributions have been negligible.
Excellent breakdown, Theo. Let's hope the 'Hogs can get things turned around post-All-Star break.
See ya out there!