Excuses are like opinions, and opinions are like…well, we all know what opinions are like. And, they all stink, right?
An excuse is just that, an attempt to excuse behavior, or justify a failed expectation. From the outside looking in, it is easy to fabricate illusions and apologize for a team’s perceived failures. Maybe the bus rides are too long; maybe the call-ups and injuries create a chaotic environment. To the Admirals, it’s no justification. Over the past few weeks, I’ve given the players and coaches ample opportunity to turn their reasons into a liberating defense of their performance, both in my own personal analysis and during interviews. In the latter, they have emphatically rejected that chance.
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, affectionately known by fans as PL3, is a Norfolk Admirals forward. Expected to fill a 4th line role for energy and grind, his plus-side has been a pleasant surprise. In half the games as many of his teammates, he accrued 7 points (3g, 4a) in just 13 games. He isn’t interested in defending himself or the team. “You see that banner hanging up there, right? 28 wins. It’s no excuse. They did it; so can we,” said PL3 in reference to travel and game schedules. Road trips and the oft-experienced 3-in-3 where the Admirals play a game in three consecutive days, sometimes against three separate teams in three separate towns, can be exhausting and difficult; however, no Admiral buys into the notion that it justifies inconsistency and failure to play a full sixty.
Thanks to the help of a Norfolk Admirals fan with a particularly strong ability to compile data, I was informed that the Admirals have had more than 60 transactions that directly effected the roster since the NHL lockout ended. At the time of review, this was 20 more transactions than any other team in the American Hockey League. To me, that’s a pretty significant factor in determining a team’s ability to play consistently. I tossed the slow-moving softball of an excuse to Nate Guenin, the Admirals team captain the other night. “I don’t think that’s the reason at all,” he said. “Look at before the lockout, we weren’t very consistent then, either. If anything, it is an opportunity for other guys to expand their role. You just have to have the ‘hate-to-lose’ mentality,” Guenin continued. Trent Yawney, Norfolk’s head coach, was pretty dismissive of the effect of transactions as well. He noted that it is not only a part of AHL hockey, it is a part of being a professional; it is expected.
Last Friday, the Admirals disintegrated in front of a larger-than-average home crowd. They came out strong, but they crumbled after Providence scored first. “Sometimes, we get a taste of success,” said Guenin about the team’s meltdown last Friday, “but we have to realize that it won’t get any easier (as the regular season draws to a close).” In reference to some common issues with effective passing, Nate Guenin added, “If we want to be a playoff team, we can’t be throwing grenades at each others’ feet all game and expect to win.”
Where do they go from here? Well, you have to remember that the Admirals are 9-4-1 in their last fourteen and 5-1-1 in their last seven. Furthermore, for a team that has struggled all year on the road, the Admirals are 4-0-1 in their last five road games, and three of those games were against division rivals. Last Saturday’s rematch at home against Providence had hints of prior mistakes, but the team played strong and came from behind to win in a shootout, offering Norfolk D-man, Jordan Hendry, an opportunity to tally the shootout-winning goal on his birthday. Regulation wins create the largest level of separation between teams, and even though the Admirals went to overtime, 2 points are 2 points and they will take everything they can get at this point during the season.
Personally, I still think that the constant roster changes have negatively impacted any sustained, positive momentum for the team. They may not want to use it as a justification, but I imagine it creates a level of chaos and uncertainty in the locker room and on the ice. My subscription to this may be one of many, many factors that exclude me from the ranks of “professional athlete” (or athlete at all); however, I am happy to give the Admirals a little grace while I hold on to the hope of a playoff berth for the Admirals.
Let us know what you think!
Happy Stats of the Week:
1. Josh Brittain has taken full advantage of his opportunity since the lockout ended. While having an agreeable 10 points in 23 games, he has tallied 3 game-winning goals in the last 13 games.
2. Kyle Palmieri scored a hat trick in the Ducks eventual routing of the Nashville Predators the other night. Congratulations to him!