Archive for January, 2011

About a month ago I suggested the Cyclones would need to win about 60% of Their games from here on out and getting to .500 by the All Star break would be a good start. Well, the All Star break has come and gone, the Cyclones sit at .500 (17-17-7, 41pts) which is good enough for 8th in the Conference. The downside is that They are in a playoff position technically but are really on the outside looking in. The 2 teams chasing the Cyclones are the Kalamazoo Wings (40pts) and the Toledo Walleye (39pts), both of which have 2 games in hand on the Cyclones.

To make matters worse, it wasn’t that long ago when the Cyclones had 3 game series with Division leading Wheeling which could have flipped the standings. Instead the Cyclones won just 1 of the 3 games getting out scored 15 to 7 in the process.

The Cyclones have 31 games remaining, in order to reach the 75+ points which will probably be required to make the playoffs They will have to earn roughly 40pts. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for error.

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It wouldn’t be a season…if the Cyclones didn’t play the South Carolina Stingrays at some point. That’s exactly what the Cyclones will get this weekend as the ‘Rays come to town for a 3 game series. The rivalry, which dates back to the 07-08 season, usually takes place in the post season but with the post season in question for the Cyclones, the series will be a good test for the Cyclones moxie. The Sting Rays currently sit in 5th place in the Conference, 11 points clear of the Cyclones.

Lip Service…If you attend the Cyclones Coach’s Show or listen to Nick Brunker’s pregame segments you’ve heard things like “we’re built to win close games,” and “when we come out strong and make things difficult…” come from the Coach’s and players’ mouths. The problem is, all to often the Cyclones give up early goals and play soft in Their own zone and the game is out of reach. Until there is a hard effort on a consistent basis for 60 minutes They will continue to struggle.

Roster Changes…Over the past few games the Cyclones have seen a few new faces join the line up. First, Chase Watson came over in a trade from Trenton. Then David Sloane finally rejoined the team after spending the bulk of the season on IR. Also, in the midst of call ups and suspensions Jon Higgins and Tyler Fletcher joined the squad.

Watson, who was acquired from Trenton for the dreaded future consideration has performed admirably in his 1st 3 games with the Club posting 1 goal and 2 assists for 3 points.

Sloane, who spent most of the season on IR was a guy that CycWords had high hopes for. Unfortunately, he failed to live up to expectations and has since been released.

Higgins and Fletcher where both called up from Knoxville of the SPHL mostly to fill ins. Both were serviceable but have since been released.

Speaking of call ups…Dylan Hunter has been up in Milwaukee for some time and I don’t think he’ll be back anytime soon. With Jamie Lundmark leaving the Nashville organization for Europe there should be a semi permanent spot in the Admirals line up for Hunter.

Cyclones All Star Brian O’Hanley spent some time in Rochester prior to the ECHL All Star break where he notched his first AHL goal.

Former Cyclone Chris Mueller made his NHL debut shortly after we put him on out Christmas list. He tallied his 1st NHL point January 16th against the Chicago Blackhawks. He notched 2 more on the 18th in helping JP Dumont log a hat trick.

Catching up the success of current and former Cyclones wouldn’t be complete with mentioning David Desharnais and Cedrick Desjardins. Desharnais tallied his 1st NHL goal on January 12th against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Desjardins was called up to Tampa Bay over Christmas, mostly to get some NHL level practice in. When Tampa’s back up goalie was injured it opened the door for Cedrick to dress for the Lightning. Ceddy would ultimately play in back to back games, winning them both. His 1st NHL win came against the Montreal Canadiens.

2 Return…When the Cyclones take the ice tonight against the Sting Rays They will have the services of Ryan Del Monte and Adam Comrie. Del Monte returns after playing 15 games with Worchester. His grittiness is something the Cyclones could really use right now. Adam Comrie, returns from a brief call up to Rochester.

There could be more help on the way…Nashville has reassigned Chris Muller and Matt Halischuk to Milwaukee. The Preds are inactive until after the NHL All Star break so this is most likely a short term assignment. However, if it is long term it could send someone out way. We’ll keep and eye on it and report if we hear anything further.

 

-Mike-

It’s moving month, or month and a half as the case may be for the Cyclones. The next 6 weeks will see them play the bulk of Their remaining home games, all but wrap up Their season series with current North Division leading Wheeling and see South Division opponents South Carolina, Florida and Greenville come through USBA. While the Cyclones will have a very busy March, it will be the next 6 weeks that will see the Cyclones either solidify Their playoff hopes or slip to find themselves on the outside looking in.

Here are my thoughts and some other tidbits to chew on:

On Pace…Last update I suggested that the Cyclones would need to win roughly 60% of Their games the rest of the way in order to make the playoffs and getting above .500 before the All Star break would be a good start. The ‘Clones have won 5 of 7 since the start of 2011 which puts them at 16-14-7 for 39pts and .527 win percentage. It’s a good start but with 4 Divisional games left before the break anything can happen, but I like the trend.

Home Cooking…If that trend is going to continue after the break the Cyclones are going to have to improve at home. They are currently just 6-9-2 at home. That’s not good and with 11 of the next 14 games taking place at USBA over the next 6 weeks, if the Boys can’t improve at home they’ll have quite an uphill battle ahead of them in March.

Raising the Bar…When the Cyclones headed to Florida for the 3 game set I would have been happy had the Boys just managed 3 or 4 points from one of the League’s more potent offenses. Instead, the ‘Clones came away with 6 points and more impressively, held the Everblade offense to just 2.3 goals per game, which is almost a full point less than their season average. Had the Cyclones not allowed 5 goals against in the 3rd game of the series, that average would have been much better. While Florida isn’t the most difficult team to game plan for, their roster is loaded with some of the most skilled guys in the league, the 3 wins against that kind of lineup show what the Cyclones are capable of when the coaching staff gets it right and the players execute for 60 minutes.

Best of 3…Coming off a 3 game sweep of the Everblades, the Cyclones returned home for a date with Kalamazoo before entering into a big 3 game set with the Nailers. The Cyclones kept Their momentum rolling with a scrappy OT win against the K-wings setting things up for the Nailers. Unfortunately, for the nearly 6000 in attendance, after playing nearly 12 consecutive periods of solid hockey, the Cyclones got nailed. Before the game was even 8 minutes old, the Cyclones found Themselves in a 3-0 hole. After a goalie swap the Cyclones battled back thanks to a 2 goal effort from Brady Calla but the 3-0 hole was too much to overcome.

I didn’t get a chance to watch game 2 of the series at Wheeling but it sounded like a rather balanced match, once again showing that when the Boys play the way They need to They can play with and beat just about anyone.

With only a handful of games left against the Division leaders, it makes Tuesday’s rubber match a must win for the Cyclones. The ‘Clones and Nailers are even on games played. A win for the Cyclones will make the Division race a near dead heat with the Cyclones trailing by a mere point, while a loss will put the Boys 5 pts behind.

Olson continues to impress…I’ll admit I wasn’t an early supporter of Olson, mostly because I’ve never been a proponent of having an enforcer playing a roll which sees him play a regular shift, aka defense. Benn was more than effective as an enforcer but his skating and defensive showings in those early games made him look like a liability. As the season as wore on Benn has proven to be more than capable on the blue line. In fact, he currently leads all Cyclone defensemen with a +7 rating. While Olson has become a fan favorite for pugilistic reasons, he’s become a CycWords favorite for his play.

Balanced Scoring…It probably doesn’t come as a surprise but the Cyclones don’t have a player in the top 10, top 20 or even top 30 in the League when it comes to scoring. The Cyclones leading scorer is Mathieu Aubin who currently ranks 32nd in the League. While the Cyclones lack a superstar scorer, Their scoring is spread very evenly through the line up which makes them difficult to match up against.

Scotty doesn’t know…Scott Reynolds has, for several seasons been a stand out defensive forward for the Cyclones. After spending the 2008-2009 season in Europe, he returned to the Cyclones in 09-10. Last season Scott put up 56pts in 70 games and finished the season +19. Reynolds was one of Coach Weber’s go to forwards, along with Barret Ehgoetz, for defensive situations and penalty kills. Scott excelled in these scenarios and the points he put up were a pleasant added bonus. Scott started the season overseas this season and since returning to the Cyclones has 19 pts and is -4. If the Cyclones are going to make a serious run They will need Scott to regain the form that made him one of the Leagues top 2-way forwards last season.

 

 

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.

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Looking forward…..

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.

-Mike-