The Season has been rolling along for about a month so we decided it’s about time for us to check in. When haven’t had to much to say to this point, mostly because the Team has only played 6 games and 5 of them were on the road. We attempted to watch several games via America One and actually got a decent feed for the Cyclones lone win from Trenton. We, of course, were also present for the home opener this past weekend. So as we roll into the 2nd month of the Season here’s our take on the 2011-2012 Cyclones so far.
For the record…
…the Cyclones currently stand at 1-3-0-2 which gives them 6pts and puts them in 3 place in the North Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference. Since Their return in 2006 the Cyclones have never come out of the gate at full rotation but winning just 1 of 6 down right pathetic. We knew the the start of the Season was going to be tough but we still figured the this years Squad was capable of coming home to US Bank Arena with 2 or 3 wins under Their belts.
…or at least They should be. Through the 1st 6 games of the season the Cyclones have had no less than 11 forwards with AHL ties suit up and log ice time, yet the Team has lit the lamp just 16 times, the fewest in the League. Factor in that 8 of those goals came on the power play and that “goals for” total gets a little scarier. Sure, They’re averaging 2.66 goals per game, but with just 6 games play that number gets a little inflated by the 5 They put up in a losing effort against Kalamazoo. Yes, we’re quite aware that we like to preach defense 1st here at CycWords but with multiple AHL forwards in the lineup each night, anything less than a 3+ goals per game average can be considered anemic; even the 2010 Championship team, which was far from offense oriented, was able to average 3.26 goals per game.
If you can’t score a bunch of goals…
…you better keep the other team from scoring a bunch of goals. The Cyclones have conceded 19 goals in Their 6 games which is the 3rd fewest in the League. However, as an average it works out to 3.16 per game. This includes the 6-5 loss to Kalamazoo as well, but even if we throw out that game the averages are still a goal apart at 2.2 for and 3.2 against. In 4 starts Chet Pickard has played well as has Tyler Plante. Both have save percentages in the 90’s which should win games if the 5 players in front of them do their jobs. Overall, that’s not happening and this Team is nothing but average in Their own zone.
They are special…
…but not special enough. The Cyclones’ special team units are one bright spot to build on. The power play is converting at a 21.6% clip and the penalty kill stifles the opposition 84.6% of the time. The Cyclones have only racked up 104 penalty minutes to this point in the season which is the fewest in the League. A prodigal Cyclones head coach always aimed for a combined special teams percentage of 110 or higher. The thought being a total of 105 to 110 would keep you in games; 110 or higher and special teams could win you some games. The combined total for the Cyclones right now is 106.2% which is good and IS keeping them in games, but given the 5-on-5 mediocrity at both ends of the ice, it’s not enough. Even in Their 1 win the Team forced Chet Pickard to play a near perfect game for the whole 60 minutes despite 6 power play chances. Had the Cyclones converted even just one of those chances, that game gets a little easier.
When you put it all together you get a team that is better than it’s record indicates but there are still questions that have to be answered. The Cyclones have had an ever changing roster so far this Season and while that might be responsible for a break down here and there, it’s not the reason the Cyclones stand at 1-3-0-2. In the ECHL rosters are a tumultuous thing and that’s where the coaching staff comes in. It’s the coaching staff’s responsibility to keep the revolving door of players on the same page from game to game and that starts with the team having a clear cut identity.
It’s not enough to say “we’re a hard working team.” You have to work hard at something. In the Chuck Weber era the identity was defense. Players coming to Cincinnati new this was a defense first team. If they didn’t play solid defensively they were going to find there ice time dwindle or perhaps even find themselves watching from the stands regardless of their offense prowess. Even the offensive power house team of 2007-2008 put defense first and had the 2nd lowest goals against total in the League. We aren’t saying the Team has to be a hardworking defensive minded team (although we wouldn’t mind it), but we are saying that They need to be SOMETHING and right now we aren’t seeing it. If they become known as the hardest forechecking team in the League, fine. If they commit to sending everyone forward offensively to win games in a scorefest, fine. Whatever it is is fine, but everyone needs to buy in and They can be half ass about it. Until the coaching staff can instill a cohesive identity as to how the Cincinnati Cyclones play the game they will continue to struggle.
On the bright side, the Season is still young, the Cyclones have only played 6 games. However, it’s never too soon to climb out of a hole. And while it’s true that Championships are won in the spring not the fall, the holes that get dug in the fall can turn into graves come springtime.