Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Dramatic Turnaround

With five games remaining on their schedule, the Aalborg Pirates of Denmark's Metal Ligaen are still playing meaningful games into February. That's not to say that head coach Brandon Reid doesn't have them focused on the goal as the Pirates appear to be on the verge of entering the Metal Ligaen's postseason as the top-ranked team in the ten-team circuit after finishing last season below .500 and in eighth-place. To say that Brandon has turned this team around in one season with a few key additions would be an understatement, but it goes to show that Reid's efforts in becoming an effective communicator and coach from his past coaching stints have paid off for the city of 112,000 people!

Aalborg isn't quite out of the woods yet when it comes to securing top spot in the Metal Ligaen, but they're very close. The Odense Bulldogs are right on their heels followed by the Frederikshavn White Hawks. Odense beat Sonderjyske Ishockey earlier today by a 4-2 score, so Aalborg will need a win against Rungsted tomorrow to stay atop the standings. Needless to say, the race is on for first place.

In 2015-16, Aalborg finished the season 14-24-3-4 for 52 points and eighth-place in the league. They were a quick four-and-out in the playoffs at the hands of Sonderjyske who finished 41 points ahead of the Pirates as the top team in the league. Flash forward to today, and the Pirates are on pace for a 90-point season buoyed largely by the systems and teachings of Brandon Reid and the recruits he brought in to help play his system.

One of those recruits was former Brandon Wheat King Peter Quenneville who has torn up the league in the second-half of the season. Quenneville is a goal back for top goal-scorer in the league, and there's no sign of him slowing. The Edmonton, Alberta native and former seventh-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets played with the ECHL's Cincinnati Cyclones in 2015-16 where he had 11 goals and 15 assists in 58 games, but the sniper has rediscovered his goal-scoring touch in Denmark where it appears he may hit 30-or-more goals for the season. Quenneville currently leads the league in shots, and is near the top of the game-winning goal category as well. Needless to say, the addition of this piece was one of Reid's best moves in helping Aalborg get to where they are now.

However, the systems that Reid has put in place have also dramatically changed the way the team plays the game. In 2015-16, Aalborg was -45 in goal differential during the season on the strength of 129 goals-for versus 174 goals-against which, in part, led them to that eighth-place finish. Today, the team has a goal differential of +29 on the strength of 112 goals-for versus 85 goals-against - nearly half as many goals-against as one year ago. It's not that they're scoring a ton more goals; rather, it's simply because the defensive system is better, and that points directly to Brandon Reid and the coaching staff in getting the players to execute the game plan.

The best finish this team has had was in their initial season of 2013-14 after they were founded exclusively as an Aalborg team. They finished third that year with a 23-12-2-3 record, and it appears that franchise-best mark will be eclipsed this year by a large margin. The last two seasons were eighth-place finishes that saw Aalborg win a total of one playoff game. I have a feeling this season will see those memories erased as well.

It's amazing to think that Brandon has gone from coaching Vojens to working with the Canadian national sledge hockey team to becoming the head coach back in Denmark with Aalborg. I'm happy to see he and Jessica, his wife, doing so well, and to see the newest addition to the Reid family, baby daughter Clover, getting bigger by the day. He's already signed an extension to stay in Aalborg next season, and that might be the best move this club has ever made.

Brandon Reid is humble enough to say that it still takes a team to execute the game plan and systems, but it was he who put those systems and game plans in place day-in and day-out. The dramatic turnaround started in the summer before he arrived in Denmark where phone calls and visits to players he wanted on his team were made. While Brandon is entirely right that it DOES take a team to execute the game plan, the foundation for this season was being laid before any of the players pulled on a jersey or stepped on the ice.

That credit goes entirely to Brandon Reid.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: