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.