We had all sorts of notes saved for an update. We were going to wax on about how great the Ben Simon era has started and the like, but yesterday the Cyclones dropped a bomb on the fan base; Mathieu Aubin and Michael Pelech had been shipped off to Utah in return for the dreaded future considerations. It’s a move that set the fan base reeling. A quick look at the comments section of the press release on the Team’s Facebook page illustrates how much these guys were liked by the fans. The contributions of the two will certainly be remembered and appreciated, especially Aubin and his roll in winning two Kelly Cups, and we wish them the best, but this is the ECHL and there’s no room for complacency.

While we appreciate what Aubin and Pelech have brought to the team over the years as much as the next fan, if we cut the heart strings and look at the deal rationally, it makes sense. For starters, counting the Aubin and Pelech, the roster stood at 26 players (8 defensemen, 14 forwards and 2 goalies), well above the ECHL limit which currently sits at 23 including the reserve spots (teams can still have an unlimited number of players on 21 day IR). Cyclones PR man Nick Brunker confirmed via Twiter that Tony Turgeon will be placed on 21 day IR. That lowers the roster to 25, still 2 over the cap so 2 players have to go somewhere. Who do you move? It’s a short list when you factor in the number of affiliated players currently with the Team; of those 26 players 15 are connected to one of the parent clubs. Those guys aren’t going to be moved. That leaves 11 players; 5 defensemen and 6 forwards). As we stated in our last post, we advocate hanging onto defenseman; they take a beating and have way to much value when the trade dealine rolls around to deal in an early season move.

That leaves the forwards. In our preseason post ventured that Eves, Aubin and Pelech were safe to make the team, which they all did (sort of). However, that assumption was made without ever having seen the Team skate or play a game. It there’s one word to sum up our observations of this year’s Team it’s skating. This team skates as well of better than any in recent memory, they can flat out fly around the ice. Honestly, we don’t think Aubin or Pelech could keep up with these guys. The knock on Aubin has always been his skating. He has a quick first step which helps him get to the front of the net, but even at the ECHL level he lacks the top end speed to create separation through the neutral zone. Pelech has great hands but is a lumbering skater and a defensive liability. His decision making always seemed to be a half step behind. And keep in mind, Pelech was a player that struggled in Toledo before finding  a home in Cincinnati.

So there’s our two cents. What do you think? Who would you have let go in order to keep the two of them in Cincinnati?

A CycWords update has been long overdue and with Cyclones hockey less then a week away from returning to US Bank Arena, what better time than now?

Behind the Bench…

First up, the big news of the summer; Skalde is out (on is own accord) and Ben Simon is in. We’re sure there were a lot of people jumping for joy at the news that Skalde had taken a position in the AHL and let’s face it there might be a little cause for it. It’s not like his record with the ‘Clones was prolific. Sure he lead the team to a 110-79-27 record in his 3 seasons behind the Cylones’ bench but those 1st two years were anything but successes. In 2010-11 he began the year with a team (most of which at least) had won a Kelly Cup the previous season, but that team was suited to play a certain style of hockey, and rather than adapting, Skalde chose to blow the thing up and by seasons end, the team looked different and still failed miserably in the 1st round of the playoffs. In his second season, the team was filled with young, skilled players that should have fit right into Skalde’s uptempo offensive game. Instead the team floundered their way through the season and missed the post season. It was 1st time since the team’s return in 2006 and just the 3rd time in Cyclones’ history the club failed to play in the post season. Skalde also didn’t make any friends in the fan base when he chose to drop 2-time Kelly Cup winning veterans Scott Reynolds and Barret Ehgoetz from the roster.

On the flip side, in his 3rd year, Skalde got it right. There was change in philosophy which saw defense emphasized, the team bought in, held each other accountable and ultimately finished the year atop the North Division. If not for the injury to Trevor Lewis and that fluke goal against Reading in the Conference Finals, we think the ‘Clones could have captured Their 3rd Kelly Cup. Last season’s success coupled with the number of returning players makes us wonder what the ‘Clones would be capable of with a little continuity behind the bench.

We’d like to wish Coach Skalde the best of luck in Norfolk. While it’s no secret we were highly critical of Skalde’s systems of play, there’s no doubt in his ability to develop a player at the individual level. We think he’ll excel as an assistant bench boss.  Best wishes Jarrod.

If Skalde had returned for the 2013-14 season we think the Cyclones would be short list of potential Kelly Cup winners, the question on our minds now is, “What now?” Honestly, we really don’t know what yo expect out of Coach Simon, who will be taking on his 1st  head coaching role. We’ve watched his press conference and PR man Nick Brinker’s interview and he says all the right things, but then again so has every head coach we’ve heard interviewed. OK, this isn’t really Coach Simon’s 1st head coaching job as he was player/coach of the Sheffield Steelers. That’s right, player/coach, can you say Reggie Dunlop? He lead that team to a Championship before retiring and joining the Rockford Ice Hogs as an assistant coach. That championship experience won’t be the only thing Simon will have going for him when the ‘Clones return to action with Matt MacDonald returning as assistant coach. The continuity of an assistant coach was something Skalde never had and we’re hoping it works in the Cyclones favor.

The Cyclones have enjoyed Their share of success since returning in 2006 and with a good portion of last season’s North Division Champion team returning (including assistant coach Matt MacDonald) there’s no reason that success can’t continue.

Here’s a side bar for you, Ben Simon is the 3rd head coach the Cyclones have had since returning in 2006. He’s also the 3rd coach to have ties to the 2000-01 Orlando Solar Bears which knocked the Cyclones out of the Turner Cup playoffs that year. Chuck Weber was Orlando’s video coach, who infamously found the chink in the Cyclones armor which ultimately lead to their defeat. Jarrod Skalde and Ben Simon were both players. Here’s the 200-01 Solar Bears’ roster in the event you’d like to start guessing who might follow up Coach Simon.

The Team…

Currently the Cyclones preseason roster looks like this(players in red are affiliated):

Forwards (15): Barry Almeida, Mathieu Aubin, Josh Birkholz, Kyle Bodie, Mike Embach, Dan Eves, Jonathan Hazen, Philippe Lefebvre, Trevor Lewis, Anthony Luciani, Wade Megan, Mike Pelech, Vinny Saponari, Matt Smyth. Paul Crowder

Defense (8): Taylor Aronson, Antoine Corbin, Drew Daniels, David MacDonald, Josh McFadden, Chris Reed, Matt Schumnig, Brett Wysopal

Goalies(2): Rob Madore, Scott Darling

That’s a total of 25 players remaining in camp. The ECHL’s roster regulations remain relatively unchanged. The ‘Clones are allowed 20 on Their active roster, 2 on reserve and unlimited on 21 day IR. The reserve spots are almost like additional roster spots as there’s no minimum time length required for a player to remain if assigned to it. The 21 day IR is a little different in that it’s less retro active than in the past. In the pat if a player was on reserve for 7 days and then moved to 21 day IR the player would credit for time served essentially backdating the assignment to 21 day IR and only requiring the to remain out of action for another 14 days. This season the the assignment can only be backdated 3 days. Essentially the Cyclones have a roster cap of 23, provided there aren’t any players that actually have long term injuries and someone is willing to start the season on 21 day IR like Mike Embach did last season. The shortened version, at least 2 of these guys are going to be looking for jobs by the weekend.

We’re proponents of hording capable defensemen, so why not keep all 8 of them. Although Aronson and McFadden are the only affiliated defensemen with the team, both Reed and MacDonald received late season AHL opportunites and as free agents, could receive a call up from any AHL team . If the Simon decides to keep 7 defensemen on the roster the ‘Clones could be just a phone call away from being short on the blue line. Both Corbin and Daniels went -3 over the 2 games in Alaska so if a defenseman is going to get get released look for it to be one of them.

Up front the Cyclones are carrying 15 forwards at the moment, 8 of which are affiliated. Florida did the ‘Clones a favor in recalling Mattias Lidstrom which opens up another free agent slot, at least in the short term. Looking at the list of unaffiliated forwards we can’t see Aubin, Pelech or Eves going anywhere. If the Simon hangs on to 8 defensemen, that leaves Embach, Birkholz, Smyth, and Bodie to fight it out for the remaining  2 roster spots (assuming Simon uses the 21 Day IR). We think Bodie and Smyth would have to be the odd men out in this scenario. If the Cyclones only keep 7 defensemen, the additional roster spot could be left open in the event Mattias Lidstrom (or another AHL player) is sent down, or the final spot could go to either Smyth or Bodie. Regarless of the outcome, the Cyclones will be returning a slew of players from last season’s North Division Championship team.

At this point it’s all speculation though. With the Team’s training camp trip to Alaska, where they split a 2 game series, all we have to go on are the box scores. We’ll find out with the rest of you as things unfold rolling into the weekend. There’s always a chance of players getting recalled so there’s no reason for Coach Simon to jump the gun on releasing players.

That’s all for now. Is it time to drop the puck yet?

 

**Update 10/16/13**

Just when we thought Florida was helping us out, they decided to complicate things by re-assigning John McFarland to Cincinnati. McFarland has the capability of being a game changing player at the ECHL level, unfortunately he’s another affiliated forward in a lineup already loaded with affiliated forwards. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good problem to have but there are downsides as well. Currently, with the addition of McFarland, the Cyclones have 16 forwards, 9 of which are affiliated with either Florida/San Antonio or Nashville/Milwaukee. Essentially it means that a very solid player (Embach or Birkholz) might have to be moved if nothing else changes. If that’s the case, Cyclones fans would do well to head over to Wikipedia to see if there’s a Patron Saint of Hockey Trainers or a Patron Saint of Healthy Hockey Players, at the very least, and start praying. If the Cyclones are forced to carry so many AHL affiliated forwards and the parent clubs get hit with too many long term injuries or illnesses the ‘Clones could find themselves scrambling to find players. Dealing with these scenarios was something Chuck Weber dealt with brilliantly, Jarrod Skalde eventually learned to deal with, and Coach Simon, well, hopefully he’s got connections in the right places.

The best case scenario is it receive 6 to 8 players from the affiliates. That bolsters the lineup but leaves enough ECHL free agents in place so when call-ups eventually happen the overall makeup of the team isn’t affected greatly. The ‘Clones find themselves with 11 affiliated players (not counting goaltender Scott “not Curtis” Darling), 9 of which are forwards. Coach Simon has a tough task in front of him in building this final roster. Yesterday we suggesting hoarding defensemen, and while we still like that idea, keeping 7 might be the most prudent thing to do, simply because carrying so few unaffiliated forwards is a poor decision.

If, however, Coach Simon likes the idea of hoarding defensemen, he does have some options however. First off, assess the health of the team, if there are any unaffiliated players dealing with injury or aren’t in game shape make arrangement to put them on 21 day IR as soon as possible. An ECHL team can place an unlimited number of players on 21 day IR, so if there’s a player, or players, that may not be in game ready until early November, put him on IR and deal with the numbers later; depending on other injuries and call-ups, it’s a problem that might even be avoided. Typically teams won’t use the 21 day IR for healthy players unless they’re willing to go on voluntarily, a la Mike Embach to start last season, so if everyone is healthy don’t expect to see more the 23 total players and that’s assuming a healthy players goes on the 21 day IR.

Another option is the get on the phone with the affiliates and request any players not game ready get re-assigned to the AHL. The AHL has different rules regarding injured reserve (it’s basically unlimited) and given the roster numbers the ‘Clones are dealing with, They can’t afford to offer a roster or IR spot to an affiliated player that isn’t game ready. Based on what we’ve seen coming out of San Antonio, this is the case with Mattias Lidstrom.

The final option if all else fails is trading someone. If it comes to this, we’re working on the assumption that Smyth and Bodie would be expendable over the likes of Embach and Birkholz. Both players are too valuable at this level to be released out right, so why not see if there’s any interest from other teams. If a trade were to be made the Cyclones would receive the dreaded “future consideration” which in the case could be a player down the road should the ‘Clones get hit with injuries and call-ups. If They don’t the deal could always be completed with cash at the end of the season.  It’s not the best option, but it is an option.

At this point all we can do is stay tuned and see how things sort themselves out. The opening day rosters are due into the League today by 3pm.

If you’re a Cyclones fan the final week of the season probably left you a little wanting. The Teams performance on “Fan Appreciation” weekend wasn’t what we had come to expect based on the previous 70 games. We saw a team taking it easy, just going through the motions, and a goalie that looked a little fatigued. Despite this, the Boys created chances and on Friday night it was enough to squeak out a win. On Saturday, it was a different story. The ‘Clones had Their chances but Evansville goaltender James Reid had all the answers and probably played his best game of the season. In Their own end, the typically stellar Cyclones looked rather lackluster and most Icemen scoring chances converted. It was a disappointing way to end the regular season.

However, all season long we’ve heard the Cyclones push the mindset to “keep looking up.” They clinched the North Division title and had an outside shot at winning the Eastern Conference but that flew out the window with the loss to Reading on March 16th. They were assured of the 2nd seed during Their southern road trip so what did they really have to push for? They could neither move up nor down the standings. They could only watch while the dog fight for the remaining playoff positions were sorted out. Sure there were a few guys that were trying to play their way onto the playoff roster, but for the most part the final games were more about staying healthy over anything else.

Despite the slide at the end of the season the Cyclones finished the year 42-22-8 for 92pts. They topped the North Division and finished 2nd in the Conference. They saw quite a bit of roster turnover through the year, but maintained winning consistently. The real turnaround happened on the road where the ‘Clones posted a record of 20-11-5 for 45 points. It was Coach Skalde’s best year as head coach. It was good enough to earn the John Brophy Award as the ECHL’s coach of the year. We sure there’s some of the ‘Clones fan base that are rolling their eyes at this but the turnaround is astounding, and the award is well deserved. Congratulations to Coach Skalde and the Cyclones for a great regular season but it all means nothing now.

On Monday, a click over to the ECHL’s standing page displayed zeros. No wins, no losses, no power play conversions, and no penalty kills; all the the regular season accomplishments are gone. The only thing left is the ‘Clones 2nd place finish which assures them home ice advantage against all conference foes but Reading, which they can’t face until the Conference Finals. It all comes down to the next 2 months, 4 seven game series, a race to 16 wins. Only one team will end their year with a win. This is the time of year we live for as hockey fans.

***

Before we dig into the Cyclones’ playoff roster let’s take a quick look at who didn’t make it.

Tyler Fernadez (F) – Tyler was the proverbial warm body. In game he was rather unnoticeable, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it’s not going to get you on a playoff roster either.

Jeff Rose (G) – We shouldn’t even have to explain this one.

J.T. MacDonald (F) – Family ties aren’t enough sometimes. He played well, but given the a la carte menu of players in the AHL that Skalde can choose from there’s just not room for a player of J.T’s caliber.

Jeff Winchester (D) – Jeff was a fill in player and performed admirably. He made good decisions and rarely got himself in trouble. The addition of Foss coupled with the defensemen playing in the AHL which can be added made Winchester expendable.

David Nicoletti (D) – Nicoletti came over from Europe mid-season and was solid for the ‘Clones. We think that had he stayed healthy he may have had a shot at making the post season roster but a foot injury from a blocked shot sidelined him down the stretch. He came back and played in the Friday night win against Evansville but was a scratch Saturday which makes us think he just wasn’t ready to come back and with the way the Cyclones play defense, filling shooting lanes and giving up the body to block shots, the last thing the ‘Clones need is s defenseman with a tender foot that any moment could block a shot and be back on the shelf.

Andrew Condoy (F) – In a regular ECHL season Conboy makes the roster. Since joining the Team he’s filled his roll well and aside from the Nathan Moon incident, avoided the goon like actions that he’s sometimes known for. Also, the addition of Justin Vaive made Andrew expendable.

Anthony Luciani (F) – Anthony being left off the list is probably the biggest surprise of the bunch. He’s a skilled guy but was hampered by injuries much of the season. While it’s a surpise, it’s not shocking with the likes of Hazen, McFarland, Shalla and Wilson all available for the post season.

***

The ECHL officially released the playoff roster earlier this week. The parameters are pretty simple; there’s a 20 man active roster and 3 reserve spots. However, they added something new this season, presumably due to the number of players that started the in the ECHL because of the NHL lockout. Essentially, teams got to submit a list of players that were playoff eligible but on assignment in the AHL. These players can join the team any time before the Conference Finals. A full list of the playoff rosters and a more detailed description of the roster rules can be found on the Leagues website.

As for the Cyclones, they’ve currently named 8 defensemen, 10 forwards, and 2 goalies to the roster. Additionally They have 6 players on the “eligible” list. As they’ve played all year, here’s the breakdown from the goaltenders forward:

Goal tenders (2):

Brian Foster – He was a stud in 2010-2011, strapping the Cyclones to his back, dragging them into the post season. His sophomore year with the Cyclones was a bit lackluster. While we don’t think he’s shown the same for thus far this season as he did in 2010-2011, he hasn’t had to. The defensive play in front of him, has been the core of the Teams success. If Foster can simply maintain the form he had to start the year, the Cyclones will be tough to beat. If he can find the form he had in 2010-2011, even better!

Michael Houser – Houser has carried the load for the last 2 months. He looked sluggish in the final regular season game but with the week off before the 1st playoff game, he should be ready for Friday night in Toledo.

Defense (8):

Taylor Aronson – Aronson’s play over the course of the year earned him some AHL time and a place in the 6 man rotation.

Taylor Ellington – Ellington joined the ‘Clones via a trade with Florida. He’s got some offensive upside, especially on the PP. He’ll see plenty of time  in the 6 man rotation as well.

Jeff Foss – Foss missed most of the year due to injury. He was assigned to the ‘Clones just in time to get his 5 games in. He’s a solid defenseman, with good size and ability. We guess he’ll be in and out of the 6 man rotation depending on how his injury reacts to each game.

David MacDonald – MacDonald has been one of the core guys on defense all season. It earned him a place on the playoff roster. His play has slipped a little over the last few games though. He’ll probably be watching more games than he plays, especially given the other available defensemen.

Josh McFadden – McFadden spent a big chunk of the year with the ‘Clones. We like his offensive ability but he’s been a little soft on the puck exiting his own zone at times. We’ve got him penciled in as the 7th defenseman.

Chris Reed – Chris is a solid stay at home defenseman. His play earned him some AHL time and a spot on the post season roster. Stay at home type defensemen become even more important in the post season so look for him to log plenty of game time.

Charles Olivier-Roussel – He’s got size, strengths and skating ability. He’s easily one of the top 3 d-men on the team.

Brian O’Hanley – The question here is, which “O-H” is going to show up? We all know how he’s capable of playing, but we also know how he’s capable playing. If he plays as he did to start the year or as he did in 2010, he probably rates as the most complete defenseman on the team. If he plays like he did in 2011-2012 or he did this season, post NHL lockout, we don’t want him on the ice.

Forwards (10)

Mathieu Aubin – He’s the captain. He’s got a reputation for being a bit of a goof but his ability at the ECHL level is a given.

Josh Birkholz – He’s got got speed and can finish. He spent the some time recently with San Antonio so hopefully some time up in the AHL will make him that much better.

Mike Embach – Mike made a commitment to this team early in the year when he chose to remain a Cyclone even though it meant being placed on 21 day IR. He’s scored some big goals lately. We’re glad to see his commitment be rewarded with a roster spot.

Dan Eves – What more can be said about Eves? Coach Skalde has said it doesn’t matter who he’s lined up with, Eves makes them better players. He’s played all 3 forward positions not to mention defense when needed. Heck, he might even strap on goalie pads if asked.

Trevor Lewis – Acquired in a trade with Reading, Trevor is a motivated player. He’s got good hockey sense and, after missing time with injury and the failing to break into the Royals lineup, he’s got fresh legs. Lewis is a guy to keep an eye on this post season.

Mattias Lindstrom – The Big Swede. He may not score much but he’s a physical presence and probably one of the best shot blockers on the team.

David Pacan – David took home some rookie team honors and has game changing ability.

Michael Pelech – We’ve had a love/hate relationship with Pelech this season. We know what he’s capable of, but it seemed to up that his decision making has slowed down a bit. That being said we wouldn’t want to head into the post season with out him. Even when he’s a bit off, he’s still capable of putting some points on the board.

Matt Smyth – Matt has been on a tear down the stretch. Brought in as a gap fill player, his contributions couldn’t be ignored. It earned him a roster spot. And while he may not make it all the through the playoffs, we’re glad to see him get a shot.

Justin Vaive – Vaive’s addition made Conboy expendable. He plays a similar to to Conboy but has a better skill set.

Eligible List (6):

Garrett Wilson(F), Josh Shalla(F), Cam Reid(F), John McFarland(F), Jonathan Hazen(F), Anthony Bitetto(D)

All 6 of these guys are game changing additionsm but the ‘Clones will probably have to do without any of them until after, or at least late in, the 1st round. Also, if you do the math you see the ‘Clones have 26 potential players which means if all 6 eligible players return, 3 from the current roster will have to be cut or recalled if affiliated.

We venture that with San Antonio playoff chances improbable, Wilson, McFarland and Hazen are the most likely to be re-assigned. Once the AHL releases their “Clear Day” rosters, there is an outside chance of seeing Cam Reid, but with Milwaukee in the heat of battle for a playoff spot, it’s unlikely.

***

So there you have it, your CycWords look at the ‘Clones playoff roster. We’ll be back with a look at the 1st round match up with Toledo and look around the League before Friday.

If you’re a Cyclones’ fan the internet has been a place of doom and gloom over the past few weeks; player call ups and some lethargic play has had people thinking the worst. The last time we checked though, we saw the sky wasn’t falling, it was just rain, and as that little ginger orphan girl once sang, “the sun will come out tomorrow…” Well, it looks like the sun did come back out this past weekend as the Cyclones posted 2 big character building road wins against Greenville and Gwinnett. On paper things didn’t look good for the ‘Clones as they headed South without defensive anchor Chris Reed, and forwards Michael Pelech and Mathieu Aubin. Indeed, the Boys would fall behind but post 3rd period comebacks to pull 4 points out of the weekend. Here’s a quick side note regarding the Greenville game; Road Warriors head coach Dean Stork sent out his resident goon, Sean Berkstresser, as his final shooter in the shoot out, he does realize the shooter isn’t allowed to elbow the goalie in the head before shooting right?

The weekends’ wins keep the ‘Clones 4 points ahead of Toledo and 8 points clear of Fort Wayne in the North Division. They also, bring up and interesting talking point; the Team slumped coming out of the All Star break posting a 2-4 record despite having one of the most reinforced lineups they’ve had in some time. Fast forward to the trip South on the weekend and the Cyclones, with a roster weakened by call ups, play 2 very solid games. Did they coast through those games after the break thinking a talent filled lineup would see them through? Regardless of what the answer is, the results over the weekend, in the face of adversity, show the true character of this years team. In the ECHL, call ups happen and rosters change, but good teams find ways to win. That’s what the Boys did over the weekend.

***

We know you’ve been waiting for it and here it is, the Cyclones have a magic number of 33. If you’re not familiar with how magic numbers work, here’s the deal, the number will decrease by 2 every time the Cyclones win and/0r the 9th place team (based on maximum points available) loses, and by 1 if the ‘Clones lose in OT/SO and/or the 9th place team loses in OT/SO. When the number is 0, the ‘Clones are in.

Since, Reading is the only team in the Eastern Conference that’s managed to create any separation from the field and with just 9 points separating 4th place Greenville (which actually has more points than the ‘Clones) and 9th place South Carolina, staying on top of the North Division is key to avoiding the dog fight for a playoff position. The Cyclones’ magic number to clinch the North Division is 43. The same rules apply to this number except rather than decreasing when the 9th place team loses, it decreases when the 2nd place team loses, which is currently Toledo.

The Cyclones have 22 games remaining so they do hold Their playoff future in Their own hands, but let’s face it, those are big numbers for this point in the season, so there’s no time to take a night off. What will it take to get in? Based on history 80pts should be good enough to get in, 75pts is questionable, and less than 75pts and you get an early tee time. If the Cyclones can manage .500 over their remaining games, they should be safely playing in April. What will it take to win the North Division? It’s hard to put a point total on it but 14 wins over the last 22 will put the Boys at 90 points which should do it, and that means maintaining Their current .620 point percentage.

Looking at the rest of the Conference, Evansville and Trenton are all but dead in the water, but the Cyclones still have 3 games left against each and They can’t afford to be complacent in those match-ups. Orlando isn’t far from having their bubble burst, they need to string some wins together in a hurry if they want to battle for the 8th playoff position. Wheeling and Kalamazoo are in a similar situation, a few more losses and both will get some extra nights to spend at their local casinos. That leaves the South Carolina Stingrays, they’ve got the best chance of all the teams on the outside. They’re tied with 8th place Fort Wayne, have played 2 more games at this point. On a personal note, we’re pulling for South Carolina here at CycWords, simply because we’d love to see the fan and media backlash that would occur in Fort Wayne if the Komets didn’t make the playoffs.

***

So there you have it, the latest edition of CycWords. Teams slump sometimes, but it’s no reason to watch every episode of Doomsday Preppers on Netflix. it’s how they react in the face of adversity and the Cyclones have done just fine throughout the season. It will be a dog fight but there’s no reason to think the Boys won’t be playing hockey in April.

The holiday break has come and gone. We hope you had happy holiday, merry Christmas (or whatever suits your fancy), and a safe and happy New Year. If you didn’t, watch this little nugget from the Belfast Giants. Yes, it’s old and we’ve posted it before, but it never gets old. It never fails to make us laugh, even in the middle of July when the ice has long melted.

Now that the holiday well wishing is out of the way, let’s get on to more important business. As the ball dropped in New York City, the Cyclones found themselves sitting atop the North Division. The Toledo Walleye trailed the ‘Clones by 2 points and the Fort Wayne Komets trailed by 6. The Cyclones have 2 games in hand on Toledo and 1 on Fort Wayne. The Cyclones have amassed a 19-10-2 record and, according to this weeks press release, if they manage to win Their next game before February 3rd, it will be the fastest They’ve reached the 20 win mark since the 09-10 season and 3rd fastest in club history (we’ll give you one guess which year’s team did it the fastest).

The ‘Clones have to look no further than Their improved performance on the road. Last year’s Squad faltered to a 9-21-6 (24pts) on the road while this year’s Team already sits on 18pts and looks to notch Their 9th win this Friday in Fort Wayne. In fact, the 2012-2013 Cyclones have practically the same winning percentage on the road as they do at home. The overall improvement in Team defense has to play a large role in the consistency we’re seeing from the Cyclones this season.

The Cyclones are in an interesting situation, carrying 3 goalies on the roster; 1 journeyman and 2 prospects. All 3 are affiliated making it an interesting dilemma for Coach Skalde to balance the playing time. The journeyman Brian Foster (13-4-2, 2.39gaa, .914sv%) has proven to a more than capable workhorse and is clearly the go to guy for Coach Skalde. The kids have to play as they say and both Zoltan Hetenyi (3-4-0, 2.83gaa, .887sz%) and Michael Houser (2-1-0, 3.33gaa .907sv%) will need to get more than 1 game a month to stay in game shape. Luckily, the Cyclones schedule is back loaded and with the games stacking up it shouldn’t be too difficult to get to get all of them some games. If the Boys play as They’re capable we’re comfortable with any of the 3 in the pipes. At the end of the day though, it’s about winning games and Foster has the favor of Coach Skalde, so look for him to continue to carry the load.

***

The last time the Cyclones skated on the ice US Bank arena They faced the Elmira Jackals. It was a game that, by the box score, looked rather close. The ‘Clones lead 1-0 to end the 1st period but the 2nd saw the Jackals take control of the middle of the ice, they scored 3 times, seizing momentum, and the Cyclones lost control of the game. It seemed like a script, the Cyclones lead early but the game slips away in the 2nd period, sometimes they manage to come back, some times the make it close but fall short. It made us want to take a look at 2nd periods to this point in the season to see if there’s something to it or if it’s all in our heads.

The key stat we took into account was 2nd period goal differential. We also looked at 2nd period shot differential. Shot totals can sometimes indicate the amount of puck possession a team has, but shot total accuracy varies from building to building around the league so take it for what it’s worth. What we found was an interesting trend. Over 31 games the ‘Clones are +2 during the 2nd period and are -12 on shots. However, in the losses the Cyclones are -13 in goal differential and -24 in shots.  So it does seem to be some substance to the thought that the 2nd period is where the game can slip away from the ‘Clones.

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The Cyclones have played in an abundance of close games this season so it’s natural we keep looking at the special teams play. The ‘Clones power play has crept up to 15.3 percent and while that’s not great it’s quite the improvement from where it was a few weeks prior. The power play has been steady as of late in the low 80′s. It’s currently at 82.9%, which ranks 10th in the League. It’s hard to find much to criticize about a team on top of Their division and winning 64.5% of Their games, but with the number of close games they’ve been involved in, it’s hard to think of where they’d be if the special teams (especially the power play) were even a few points more efficient.

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Coach Skalde has made a couple of player transactions of late. The 1st of which was cashing in the “future considerations” owed the Cyclones by Wheeling in return for Andrew Hotham. It was a 3 team deal that saw the ‘Clones acquire Andrew Conboy from Trenton. Yes, the same Andrew Conboy that earned a game misconduct for jumping Mathieu Aubin a frew months back. He’s always been a physical player, one could argue he borders on being a goon. He’s a big kid and needs to be physical to be effective. He certainly adds a physical element to the the Cyclones that is lacking with Mattias Lindstrom on reserve, and let’s face it, with the defensive roster looking a little thin right now the Boys can’t afford to lose David MacDonald for a 5 minute stretch and while we love seeing Garret Wilson throw his weight around we’d rather have him on the ice as well. Conboy is more than just a fighter and while he may not be a game changer offensively, he certainly isn’t a liability either. He’s a big body the ‘Clones can throw in front of the net; a game plan that already yielded a game wining goal for the Team in his debut. The question is can he keep is cool and avoid the “bad” penalties he’s been known for over the years.

The Cyclones will have a new face on the blueline tonight when they take the ice in Fort Wayne after sending Maury Edwards to Florida in return for Taylor Ellington. On paper it looks like the Cyclones got the better end of the deal swapping the undrafted Edwards for Ellington, Vancouver’s 2nd round pick in the 2007 draft. However, the 33rd over all pick in the 2007 draft has spent the bulk of his career in the ECHL, logging games for Victoria, Kalamazoo, Chicago and Florida; that’s not something you typically see from a player drafted in the 2nd round. He’s got good size for a defenseman at any level as well, so what’s the catch? His write up on hockeysfuture.com might help shed some light on it:

A reliable defender, Ellington has tremendous reach and begun to develop a mean streak in the defensive end of the rink. Ellington cites his strengths as: his first pass on breakouts and his decision-making in the defending zone. His puck skills have improved but still need some work, as does his skating.

Overall, we think Ellington will be an upgrade for the ‘Clones blueline. While Edwards had shown improvement over last season he was still mistake prone; and his mistakes weren’t typically small ones, they usually lead to the red light turning on behind a Cyclones goalie.

***

Finally, it’s do or die time for the NHL. We’re not going to post link after link to what’s going between the League and Players Association. If you’re a reader of this blog you probably have an idea of where things stand and know next week is the deadline for getting a deal done and starting an abbreviated season on January 19th according to Commissioner Gary Bettman. If an 11th hour deal gets done expect some changes in the Cyclones roster. On the flipside, the Cyclones could see some new faces should the NHL season get cancelled. We aren’t going to speculate on who, but listen to the Coach’s Show from 12/17/12 and you’ll hear Coach Skalde mention that he’s had contact with a few NHL players about playing in Cincinnati during the lockout. However, with so many affiliated players and so few roster spots available for free agents, signing any would have been a risky move should the lockout end. However, with the cancellation of the NHL season a very real possibility, could Skalde pull the trigger and bring in some NHL talent?

Who Spells Comets with a K?

Posted: 2012/12/19 by Mike in Uncategorized

Tonight the Cyclones will get Their first look of the season at the Fort Wayne Komets. The ‘Clones currently sit 2nd in the North Division, leading the Komets by 2 points, with a game in hand. Up front the Komets are lead by Brandon Marino (9g-21a-30pts) and Josh Brittain (10g-10a-20pts). Their lineup also boasts 1.56 points per game forward Ryan Lasch; and even though those his numbers could be screwed with just 9 games played for the Komets, the 5’9” forward who has bounced around Europe and logged a few AHL games will be someone the ‘Clones will need to keep an eye on. The biggest threat in the Komet lineup probably comes from Luca Caputi. The 6’3” forward was a 4th round pick by the Penguins in 2007, has spent much of his career in the AHL but has logged 35 games in the NHL. He’s producing at a 1.11 points per game clip over his 9 games played this season. After those 4 players there’s a relatively large drop off production wise which should play into the ‘Clones hands, provided they play with the defensive fortitude we’ve seen for most of the season.

The Komets, like the Cyclones, are carrying 3 goalies on their roster. Ken Reiter (2.88gaa, .914sv%) has gotten the most work followed by Charlie Effinger (3.07gaa, 9.07sv%). Monday Night at the Cyclone’s Coach’s Show, Head Coach Jarrod Skalde said he expected Michael Houser to make his 1st start. Houser was place on IR during San Antonio’s training camp and assuming there haven’t been any set backs the former OHL player of the year will make his debut.

The ‘Clones need to make big efforts on special teams tonight. The Komet power play coverts at 13.5% which is only better than Cincinnati’s frigid 12.6%. However, while the Fort Wayne PK out performs Cincinnati’s, 83.9% to 83.3% respectively, the Komets have been whistled for a total 634 penalty minutes which is most in the Eastern Confernce and 3rd highest in the League. The ‘Clones have just 363 total penalty minutes. Digging a little deeper, the Komets have been short handed a total of 137 times to Cincinnati’s 96. The team that takes best advantage of special teams play will have a leg up tonight.

With 3 games left before the holiday break, tonight’s tilt in Fort Wayne is a big game. A win and the Cyclones will be within a point of Division leading Toledo with 2 games in hand. A loss and there will be a bit of a log jam at the top of the division. Also, a win allows for a split in the weekend series while a loss, would force the ‘Clones into needing a sweep over South Carolina to potentially keep pace with the rest of the Division.

We’re looking forward to seeing this weekend’s match up with South Carolina. The Cyclones won the first tilt 3-2, but with a split in Greenville and dropping 2 games against Florida, hold 2-3 record against the South Division. We were impressed with Florida. They had good size and speed which more than made up for their statistically questionable net minding. Based on what we’ve seen of the South Division thus far, we feel it’s the strongest of the 3 Eastern Conference Divisions. The only weak team in the South appears to be Orlando.

We’ll be checking back in over the holiday break with some big picture thoughts on the Cyclones as well as set up the first 6 games after the break.

With the quarter mark of the ECHL season fast approaching we felt CycWords was long over due for an update. So without any further adieu or fanfare, here are our thoughts on the Cyclones 2012-2013 campaign so far:

  • The ‘Clones are off to a start which rivals the 2008 Kelly Cup Champion Squad who posted 17 points in Their 1st twelve games (The 07-08 Team would go on to win Their 13th game while this years Squad lossed). While the Team is chalk full of talent this year, so is the rest of the League so we have to give credit where it’s due, and that is on the shoulders of the coaching staff. When Jarrod Skalde replaced Chuck Weber to start the 2011 season he brought along a more NHL style game (ie offensive). The downside to this was ECHL caliber players seemed to struggle with this type of game and the caliber of players required would play in the ECHL long before being called up. This season, with no end in sight to the NHL lockout, it looks like Coach Skalde has a group of guys capable of playing within the systems he’s coaching. Matt MacDonald also deserves a lot of credit. He’s brought an emphasis to the defensive zone play we haven’t seen since Chuck left. If you haven’t had a time to watch Making the Cut yet, we suggest you give it a look. You’ll see a change in terminology which has brought not only individual accountability to the defensive play but team accountability as well. We know there is still a lot of hockey to be played but while a Division, Conference or even playoff birth can’t be won in October/November, they can certainly be lost.
  • We know he’s been gone for 3 seasons now, but Chuck Weber gave us so many sayings about what successful teams do, it’s hard to not keep bringing them up. Coach Weber always said he wanted his teams to be “hard to play against.” He wanted guys finishing “bumps”, blocking shots and passing lanes, and keeping their feet moving. When they played their game, they won more often than not. I see the same mentality in Matt MacDonalds defense (Shocking right?). Being hard to play against is about taking away time and space, and we see guys buying in not only at the individual level but we see it from the 5 player units on the ice. The next time you’re at a game, watch the defensive zone play; if you see shots being blocked, passes deflected and the puck being kept in safe areas, then you’re probably seeing a Cyclones win. Is it cliché? Of course, but only because it’s true. In the Cyclones 3 losses this season they have been beaten in puck battles, not blocked shots and simply been soft defensively. It’s cliché because it’s true.
  • All but 3 (1 win and 2 losses) of the Cyclones 1st 12 games have been decided by 1 goal. If not for the empty net goal scored in the losses to Greenville and Reading it would be 12 of 13. On the plus side, the Team is 8-3-2 and all of the games were winnable; except for the Reading game in which a late 3rd period goal gave the ‘Clones a chance but in reality They ere dominated by the Royals. On the flipside, The ‘Clones were a just a bounce of the puck away from being 3-8-2.
  • Special teams’ play can win games, but it can lose games as well. Chuck Weber had a formula; if the power play and penalty kill percentages are added together, 100 is about break even (special teams win as many games as they lose), 105+ and your special teams will steal a game here and there, 110+ and your special teams is winning games for you, less than 100 and you’re losing games based on special teams. Right now, the Cyclones add up to 89.2% (9.9% power play and 79.3% penalty kill), that simply isn’t good enough. Look at the scoresheet from the Evansville game, the Cyclones went 0/5 on the PP, while the Icemen score twice with the man advantage. A goal on the PP and the Cyclones are assured a point. One less goal allowed on the PK and Their assured a point. Do both and They tally another regulation win. The argument could be made for all of the games the ‘Clones have dropped points in. The Cyclones special teams…right now they ride the short bus.

All of that being said, the Cyclones are off to a great start. At 8-3-2 They sit on top of the North Division with 18 points ahead of Toledo by a point but with 2 games in hand. The 3rd place Fort Wayne Komets trail by 3 points. While the Cyclones have dropped their last 2 games They’re still in great shape for this point in the season. We’ll be keeping an eye on the special teams play. At this point that could be the key to Their success this season. If they can’t get it together, well that’s a whole different story we don’t want to think about at this point.