Moose hit the quarter pollBy: Chris White | Published: December 4th 2015
Look up the American Hockey League standings on your mobile device or flip open the Sports’ page in the local paper and you’ll see the Manitoba Moose are not far from last-place as they hit one-quarter of the way through the 2015-16 season.
Make no mistake, the return of the Moose has been a tough go for one of the youngest teams in the AHL.
The 19 games played is only a fraction of a season and the standings only tell a portion of the story.
The organization went into this campaign fully aware things wouldn’t be easy for this group. Management knew the team would be low on experience, with a limited number of veteran players, but a promising group capable of competing and learning on the job.
And it’s those elements that are front and centre each-and-every day.
True it’s not easy to transform that into points in the standings or instant NHL players, but the success of goalie Connor Hellebuyck, the strides being made by the likes of Joel Armia and JC Lipon, and the promise of Eric Comrie, Chase De Leo, Nic Petan to name a few suggest things are moving in the right direction.
Every club in the NHL is involved in some form of player development, the Jets have simply made an extensive commitment to a large number of young players right now in the name of grooming as many as possible for future work in the best league in the world.
Because of that Head Coach Keith McCambridge, Assistant Coach Mark Morrison, and Goalie Coach Rick St. Croix are constantly working to help the talent on hand become the best pros they can be on-and-off the ice.
From what to wear to the airport for road trips, to one-on-one meetings about ways to improve their games, it’s happening daily and will continue to happen throughout the season.
Heading into this weekend’s start of the second quarter for the Moose, the team has 27 players on its roster including a rookie goalie (Eric Comrie), five rookie defenceman straight out of junior or college (Josh Morrissey, Jan Kostalek, Peter Stoykewych, Aaron Harstad, Brennan Serville), five rookie forwards (Nic Petan, Chase De Leo, Jimmy Lodge, Jiri Fronk, Axel Blomqvist), and two second-year forwards (Ryan Olsen and Scott Kosmachuk; Austen Brassard is in his 3rd year).
And while the win total is low, the team has been highly-competitive with 15 of its 19 games decided by two goals or less.
In addition, four of the team’s five wins have come in the last ten games; a small step in the right direction from a standings point of view but very much in line with the club’s philosophy that development can take place while making the push for wins a priority.
Injuries have slowed some of the team’s experienced players in the first phase of the season too and that’s made a difference, but captain John Albert has scored in each of the past two games. Thomas Raffl is finding his game, and Jay Harrison and Matt Fraser are returning to full-strength.
On top of that veterans like Matt Halischuk, Patrice Cormier, Brenden Kichton, Julian Melchiori, and Andrew MacWilliam continue to build their games and boost the team making a very positive second quarter entirely possible.
And that’s good news for Moose fans because it’s a second quarter largely set to take place on home ice with 12 of the next 14 games at MTS Centre after this weekend’s stop in Toronto.
The Moose play the Marlies in Toronto Saturday, December 5th at 4pm and Sunday, December 6th at 2pm, go to moosehockey.com for complete coverage starting with the pre-game show 15 minutes before puck drop.
– Mitch Peacock – MooseHockey.com