Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 39

So I've been doing a little thinking about this running weekly piece since the Moose are out of a playoff race and have very little to be excited about in the way of player achievements. The Moose hit a new low this past week as they played their way through California, so Antler Banter is going to focus less on game results and more on some of the stories coming out of Moose camp. I'll admit these changes aren't what I was hoping for, but it's clear that the "development" part of this Moose team isn't coming into the picture as clearly as management had wanted. I'm all for playing out the season and looking forward to Season 2 right now because Season 1 has been an utter disaster from a fan's standpoint. That being said, let's get into the banter for this week.

California Dreaming

I made it pretty clear in last week's Antler Banter that this trip through California would be tough. I don't think anyone would have guessed that the Moose were going to go oh-fer, but that was a possibility based on how the Moose have been playing and how the California teams have been faring in their games. The Moose didn't go pointless, but they certainly didn't help their win total in any way.

January 20 saw the Moose in Ontario where the defending Calder Cup champions handed the Herd a 4-1 loss in a game where Manitoba was thoroughly outplayed. This pushed Manitoba to a 11-22-2-3 record.

The Moose moved on to Stockton where they Heat were waiting for them in a back-to-back scenario. The Heat, for what it's worth, aren't very far ahead of the Moose in terms of points, but they would move further ahead. January 22 saw these two teams battle to a 1-1 tie through regulation time. Overtime solved nothing, so it was off to the shootout where the Heat scored on their second shot while the Moose went 0-for-3 on their breakaway chances as the Heat won 2-1 in the shootout. The Moose would pick up a point, but their record fell to 11-22-2-4.

January 23 finished off the back-to-back with the Heat and this game would need extra time as well. The Moose and Heat battled to a 2-2 tie through 60 minutes, so it was off to the overtime period where we'd find a winner. Aaron Johnson played the hero in this one with his goal 35 seconds into the extra period as the Stockton Heat picked up another win with the 3-2 victory. Manitoba falls to 11-22-3-4 despite gathering two points in Stockton.

The Moose would roll into Bakersfield for a two-game set on January 26, and there was some hope that Connor McDavid might still be in town and get a chance to pull on a Condors jersey. Alas, it was not to be, but it's not like the Condors needed his help on this night. They chased Eric Comrie from the net after 40 minutes, and the Moose were outshot 22-6 in the third period as the Condors won this game 6-3. In total, Manitoba was outshot 51-27 on the night and it looked like they wanted to go home. The Moose fell to 11-23-3-4 on the season in this rather dispirited loss.

Cellar Dwellers

The Moose find themselves in the unenviable position of dead-last in the AHL. For a team that has a ton of individual talent, there's a lot that this collection of boys-turning-into-men need to learn if the Winnipeg Jets are even going to come close to making the playoffs let alone winning the 2019 Stanley Cup as predicted by The Hockey News.

True North Sports and Entertainment needs to take a long look in the mirror and ask some tough questions about these youngsters. Are they good enough to win at the AHL level? Will they take the next step to make the NHL? Is head coach Keith McCambridge the right man to be guiding this young team? There are a lot of questions that will need answers, and right now everyone involved with the Moose should be playing for pride and for jobs with an added dash of do-whatever-is-necessary desperation.

This team is in shambles on the ice. I can't imagine they're a tight group off it.

Lone Star

If there's good news about the AHL All-Star Break, it's that the upcoming break will see the one player who absolutely deserves the bigger stage get that opportunity. While Connor Hellebuyck was originally named to the AHL All-Star Game (which I couldn't understand in having a 2-7-0 record), Eric Comrie was named as his replacement.

Comrie rightfully deserves to go to the game after all the rubber he's seen this season. Despite his record, Comrie has faced nearly 1000 shots already in 41 games. Comrie has shown flashes of brilliance in keeping the Moose in games they have no business being in, and he's backstopped the Moose in the majority of games where they've earned points.

No other player on this Moose team looks ready to take the next step like Eric Comrie. That's exactly what an AHL-Star should be in terms of his development. Good luck at the All-Star Game in Syracuse, Eric!

Does It Matter?

I guess it does, but the Moose will finish off their California road trip on January 29 against Bakersfield and January 30 against Ontario. They'll return home to play Toronto, so I'm expecting a solid 0-for-4 run from the Moose as they slump back to Winnipeg where the best AHL squad will visit.

At 29 points, the Moose may not break 40 points this season in what has turned into an utter disaster of a campaign. Admittedly, this is not how I expected the first season back in Manitoba to go.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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