Mid-season reviewBy: Mitch Peacock | Published: January 22nd 2016
The Moose hit the midway mark of their American Hockey League regular season schedule Wednesday night in Ontario, CA.
Game 38 of 76 saw the Jets’ top-affiliate fall 4-1 to the Pacific Division leaders in So Cal leaving the Moose at 11-22-2-3 for 27 points and seventh in the Central Division.
There have been solid stretches of play, like a 5-0-0-2 run at MTS Centre, and poor patches like one win in nine games to start the season but what’s the true big picture?
I talked with Head Coach Keith McCambridge during a lunch stop on the bus trip from Ontario to Stockton to get the perspective from behind the bench.
GENERAL THOUGHTS ON THE FIRST HALF?
The coach has no problem saying the team isn’t winning as much as he’d like, or as much as the players would like either.
It’s also clear finding ways to come out on top is a major motivator for the man who guides the team.
That said, when it comes to helping prospects adjust to the pro game McCambridge is confident progress is being made. “For the most part when we look at the players getting better and learning as individuals there’s been a consistent improvement.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT WHAT YOU’VE SEEN OVER THE FIRST 38 GAMES?
Multiple wins in Milwaukee against an Admirals team pushing for first in the Central and a competitive record at home are team positives from the first half.
Plus, seeing Connor Hellebuyck lead a group of Moose players to impress with the Jets is huge both on an individual level and for the organization.
Beyond that, there are players growing and showing potential through experience in the AHL who may not be ready yet but have their sights set on the top league in the world.
For the coach the up-side to the first half comes down to a growing team sense of identity and a stronger knowledge base on what it takes to succeed in the professional game.
“Whenever you have such a raw group there’s so much teaching that’s involved…and the ability to now take those players from grassroots with regards to their structure, and how you have to play at the American Hockey League level, and how that translates into getting your chance with the Winnipeg Jets it’s nice to see that really grasp and the players understand that in a day-to-day process through practice and games.”
AREAS YOU’D LIKE TO SEE IMPROVE?
“Obviously consistency” said McCambridge immediately after I posed the final question of our mid-season review. “I would like to be more consistent not only game to game but for me it’s shift to shift.”
The coach says recent games in Ontario and Charlotte demonstrate his point, plenty of good stretches of system execution and puck management backed by strong goaltending and then a dip for a few shifts that costs the team a few goals, and in the end points in the standings.
“Usually the momentum turn is so quick, and not being able to handle it the way we should we’re down with consecutive or back to back goals so those are uphill climbs for our group.”
There’s not much time before the second half of the season begins.
Tonight, the Moose faceoff the “next 38” with the opener of a two-game set in Stockton.
It’s the next chance to learn, grow, and push for wins and the coach is looking forward to it “I like the energy our young group brings!” said McCambridge
You can listen to the Moose face the Heat in Stockton Friday, January 22nd on TSN 1290 or moosehockey.com starting with the pre-game show at 9:15 p.m. CT.
The game is also available to watch via AHL Live on theahl.com