ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland and Labrador – The St. John’s IceCaps 2012-13 AHL campaign came to a merciful end on Sunday when the team fell 4-3 to the Toronto Marlies. The loss was just one of many for the IceCaps this season, as the club had a disappointing and frustrating season.
St. John’s IceCaps players salute their fans at Mile One Centre after the team’s final home game of the season on Sunday, April 14. Photo by Adam Pike
When the new hockey year began back in October, St. John’s had much brighter aspirations than finishing in 14th place in the Eastern Conference. The IceCaps considered themselves Calder Cup contenders and were vocal about their goal of winning the AHL crown this spring. Instead, they wrapped up their season on Sunday with a dismal record of 32-36-3-5, for a meager 72 points.
Let’s face it, for a team to fall that short of its goal a number of things have to go very wrong. Having watched every IceCaps home game from the friendly confines of the Mile One press box, it is my observation the biggest issues that plagued the club this season were as follows.
1. The coaching staff relied too heavily on veterans – There’s no doubt about it, the IceCaps’ coaching staff was way too in love with its veteran players. For almost the entire season the club relied heavily on AHL veterans to play crucial minutes in key game moments. Power plays, penalty kills, important face offs – every facet of the game. Some guys were deserving of this ice time, such as Jason Jaffray, but others failed to bring much to the table. The team’s young players could have benefitted from playing more in key situations, but they were not given the chance until the club had already fallen out of the playoff race and had little left for which to play. The fact that Eric O’Dell, who led the team in scoring by season’s end, was a healthy scratch to begin the year is ample evidence of how young players were all but ignored early in the calendar.
2. Poor play at home – The IceCaps were terrible on home ice this season. Their lack of production in St. John’s cost them multiple points and may be the definitive reason they failed to make the playoffs. They won only 13 of 38 homes games and far too often failed to give their hometown fans anything to cheer about.
The IceCaps battled the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in their final home game of the AHL regular season. The Penguins won the game 5-4, leaving St. John’s with only 13 wins on home ice this year. Photo by Adam Pike3. Injuries – They IceCaps to a man will say they can’t blame injuries for their dismal season, but it’s obvious it was a factor in their lack of success. Sniper Jason King played only nine games before being forced out with a concussion; Hunter Tremblay managed only 17 games before injuries ended his season; sophomore forward John Albert suited up for only 24 contests; and rookie prospect Ivan Telegin was only healthy for 34 games. Countless IceCaps players missed large chunks of time, adding up to more than 400 man games lost to injury.
4. Lack of offense – St. John’s struggled to score goals throughout the season, both on the road and at home. Although Jaffray, O’Dell and Kael Mouillierat had good offensive seasons, the rest of the club often looked lost in the offensive zone. Maxime Macenauer, Ben Maxwell, Carl Klingberg and Patrice Cormier all took big steps back in their development, especially in the other team’s end of the rink. Their inability to create offensive opportunities or to capitalize on chances created by others was a real thorn in the side of the IceCaps.
Despite the many struggles the IceCaps endured this year, there is still hope next season will see the team return to the playoffs. Young players such as O’Dell, Mouillierat, Will O’Neill, Ben Chiarot, Adam Lowry and Julian Melchiori displayed major signs of potential, improvement and development and could serve as the club’s core in the next couple of years.
At the very least they have given fans a glimmer of optimism heading into a long offseason.
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