It’s time for CycWords to look back at the 2010 calendar year that was for the Cincinnati Cyclones and to prognosticate where they can go from here.
The year started strong for the 2009-2010 edition of the Cyclones, coming into the new year with a 19-11-1 record. The Boys used the 5-0 trouncing of the Johnstown Chiefs on January 2nd to springboard Themselves towards the All-Star Break and down the stretch. The Team would finish the season with a 44-25-3 record for 91 points which was good enough for the 5th seed into the Kelly Cup Playoffs. We all know how it all culminated with an improbable Playoff run which eventually saw the Cyclones hoist Their 2nd Kelly Cup in 3 years.
When looking at the 09-10 Cyclones, it’s not about asking about what or who, as much as it is how. How does a team with goal scoring deficiencies manage to compete for the North Division title and eventually win a Championship? They did it with a workman like intensity, grinding games out by outworking the opposition and play soundly in the defensive zone. They may not have been the biggest, hardest hitting, fastest or most skilled but as Head Coach Weber once said at a Coach’s Show, They were hard to play against.
The summer of 2010 brought major changes to the Cyclones. Coach Chuck Weber finally made the move to the AHL with the Rochester Ameriks and Assistant Coach Dean Stork answered the call to lead the Greenville Road Warriors. The move by Weber came as no surprise to Cyclones’ fans as it wasn’t a matter of if Coach Weber would move up the ranks but when. The surprise came in the departure of Assistant Dean Stork. Stork was considered the heir apparent to Chuck Weber to many.
Then on August 12th, 2010 the Chuck Weber regime was finally laid to rest when the Cyclones hired Jarrod Skalde to coach the Cyclones. While Skalde lacked a lot of coaching experience he had quite the resume as a player. As a player Skalde had played under coaching legends such as Robbie Ftorek, Ken Hitchcock and the great Herb Brooks. Would Sklade have the coaching chops to keep the Cyclones rolling successfully? There was a lot of lip service throughout the late summer but only time would tell.
Also coming to an end over the summer was the affiliation with one of hockey’s most storied organizations when the Cyclones parted ways the the Montreal Canadiens/Hamilton Bulldogs camp and instead signed a deal with the Florida Panthers/Rochester Ameriks.
Despite the change at the helm, fans would still have a lot to cheer for as the summer signings and affiliation would return no less than 14 players from the 2009-2010 squad. With players such as Barret Ehgoetz, Matt Pierce, Mathieu Aubin, Brian O’Hanely, and Brock Sheahan, not to mention the possible return of Jeremy Smith from Nashville, there was no reason not to think the Cyclones would be an early favorite to be battling for the Kelly Cup come May. The only real question mark would be behind the bench; would new head coach Jarrod Skalde be able to steer the Squad to another Championship run?
When the 2010-2011 finally began, the Cyclones didn’t come out of the gate flying, posting a 2-5-3 record in Their first 10 games. Cyclones fans have become accustom to sluggish starts but this season, something seemed different. The power play struggled, the penalty kill hemorrhaged goals and the play seemed haphazard at best. With the complete off season turnover to the coaching staff changes were expected, but this wasn’t what we were expecting.
The Cyclones began to show signs of life in November when they strung several wins together and with the return of Scott Reynolds and Dustin Sproat from Europe the Cyclones’ faithful had reasons to believe the slow start was a thing of the past. Unfortunately, the turnaround was short lived and in December the Team began to slump again and when the year came to an end the Cyclones found Themselves with a 11-12-7 record on the outside of the playoff picture.
There are a lot of unanswered questions as the Cyclones move into 2011 and the bulk of the season. Despite the loss to Toledo to start the new year and being on the outside looking in on the playoffs there is still hope for the Cyclones.
There are still 10 games remaining before the All Star break and getting to .500 or better would be a great start. Based on last seasons playoffs when the Toledo Walleye secured the 8th playoff spot with a .535 winning percentage and 71pts and judging by the current Conference standings we figure 75pts (give or take) should put the Cyclones into the post season. In order to do so the Cyclones will need to win roughly 60% of Their games the rest of the way. The other potential saving grace is that the North Division leading Wheeling Nailers are still in reach.
If the Cyclones are to be successful they are going to have to recapture those hard to play against attributes that last season’s team was so successful with. The answer lies behind the bench with Coach Skalde. Can he adapt his systems which are more open offensively minded to be more defensive?
This weekends 3 game series with Florida will reveal a lot about just where the Boys stand this season. The Everblades are an incredibly offensive team and while the didn’t impress me with their defensive zone play they are quite capable of scoring in bunches. If the Cyclones are going to be successful against a team like the Everblades it will be as a Team and not through any individual effort. Should the Boys return home with 4 out of 6 points it will be a good start to making the push to the post season which has to start now.