One month. 31 days. A constant give and take (mostly giving…), resulting in the team being on unsteady footing in their division standings; 1 point out of fourth and 2 points out of last. Out of the gate, the 2011-2012 Monarchs looked awesome. They were fast, skilled, and seemingly capable of lighting the lamp at will. In their season opener, they destroyed the Springfield Falcons in a 5-2 routing. The next night they fell 1-0 to the St. John’s IceCaps, but looked strong throughout. The ‘Caps just wanted it more. But since then, the team we saw in the Jungle on opening weekend has been mostly missing. What gives?
Some of the diehard fans might argue that a lack of solid goal tending is to blame for their slide. After all, you can’t win a game if you give back every goal you score. Others might point out that a few of the team’s losses were while Slava Voynov was doing his stint up in LA (you’re welcome, Kings fans). If you ask me, I just think that it’s a problem of chemistry. The roster has a lot of new players and only a select few returning vets. The question is how do you fix that? Chemistry doesn’t just happen. It takes time and experimentation.
Is it possible that it may not come until it’s too late? Sure. I just hope not.
I’m pretty active in the online community, and as such, it’s tough to sit back and be impartial when I see fans flaming players left and right in communities like the Monarchs’ Facebook page after a bad game. Social media does give everyone a voice, but it can be simultaneously prosperous and poisonous. A friend of mine once said to me, “could you imagine what some of the players would feel like if they saw what the fans were saying?” They might be pro athletes who are there for a reason, but they’re people too. People are fallible, they make mistakes, and they aren’t all going to be the next Kopi or Quick overnight.
Despite all this doom and gloom, I do think that there’s some good things happening with the guys. Returning captain Marc-Andre Cliche is currently the team’s leading goal scorer, and clearly has been making everyone on his lines better. Kozun has surprised me quite a bit in that he is showing up; he’s not letting being sent down to Manchester go to his head. And Lokti is making his presence known offensively, busting out ridiculous dekes and slick passes which have netted him assists (and some goals).
Between the pipes, it’s a little tougher to find the light. Both net-minders seem to be struggling to find their game early on. Both Zats and Jones have had just as many great performances as they have bad. Taking a look back at the two home games from this past weekend, each guy played one game and both lost. The contrast between the two performances was stark, though.
In the team’s bout with local rival the Providence Bruins on Saturday night, Zats played great throughout the entire game. He stood on his head several times and the defense had his back all night. He made huge saves when he had to, but ultimately a freakish hop up and out of his glove on a routine save led to a tied score. Neither team could secure victory in the 4-on-4 overtime that ensued, and the outcome of the game came down to a shootout where – unfortunately – the Baby B’s managed to notch the only goal. A point is a point though, I suppose.
During their Sunday matinee with perennial rivals the Portland Pirates, it was Jones’ chance to stand tall between the pipes. A win would have made the team 2-1-0 on the weekend. Sadly, it just wasn’t meant to be. The Pirates scored the first goal of the game when one of their snipers rocketed a top shelf goal short-side over Jones’ shoulder. The Monarchs would only manage to score one goal before the day was through (courtesy of Kozun), while the Pirates managed to notch three more. To call the game a wash would be an understatement.
So what now? Do they keep doing what they’ve been doing since it clearly works sometimes? Do they retool their approach and look for a way to exhume the magic they exhibited on opening night? I of course have some creative suggestions:
Give Hill more damn minutes on D!
Bench Hickey and/or Deslauriers until they stop making foolish mistakes.
Give Jones “the talk” because he needs it. His ego is on the ice but he’s clearly not.
Tell all of the guys that an ugly goal counts the same on the scoreboard as a highlight reel tally.
Pull the damn trigger when there’s traffic in front of the net!
I’m no coach, but any/all of that stuff would be a start. They need to remember what coach Morris always tries to tell them when times get rough; “play for each other.” It takes a team to win a game.
The season is still young – thankfully – but they need to figure things out. I truly believe there is something special about this team. I just wish that they’d believe that themselves and show us their full potential before it’s too late. Here’s hoping for a bounce-back win tomorrow!