For the first time since January, I got to see about 35 minutes of hockey last night, live and in person at TWCA. And it was great to be at the arena after a schedule that has kept me at work for about 50 of the last 54 days (I swear, I have a day off in April! About four of them even!)
I will admit though, it was NOT a nice “return to live Checkers hockey” for me. The game was frustrating. I know I’m not alone in voicing that opinion. Everyone is frustrated. The players skated off the ice at the second intermission as fast as they could, heads down and defeated. The team has now lost three straight, and been scored on 17 times in those games, while only scoring four of their own.
As I read the teams official post-game press release, I thought to myself what a relief it is that I’m no longer working professionally in Public Relations, because coming up with anything positive about recent on-ice performance would be a huge challenge for me.
I’m merely a supporter of the team. Covering them isn’t my job, and I clearly have no income as a result of them playing, and I suppose technically, they negatively impact my income in that they are my biggest “hobby/fun” expense, in that I spend a lot of money on season tickets and traveling to away games.
What do I think is wrong? I’m not exactly sure. A number of things, probably. But whatever it is, I hope the team can figure it out and get it working again. The Checkers spent the first two months of this year atop the Midwest Division, and one of the top two teams in the Western Conference, and now, after a slide that has the team 1-4-1-1 during the month of March, and 3-6-1-4 in the past 10 games, a stretch that dates back to February 12.
- Justin Peters hasn’t won a game since he came back to Charlotte in early March. He’s 0-3-1. Peters hasn’t been the same since coming back to Charlotte. Last night, his play was relatively abysmal. The pucks that went in over his blocker were border line unforgivable for a goaltender with his experience. Is he frustrated he’s playing in the AHL again, flying commercial and riding buses? Maybe. But he’s also a professional athlete and knew he was going to be in the minors this year.
- Mike Murphy isn’t doing much better, and is 1-1-0-1 during the month of March. When he was pulled on Friday night after allowing four goals, I wasn’t surprised. The Checkers defense is bruised and broken right now, and PTO signings and ECHL call ups aren’t filling the holes they need to. I was surprised there wasn’t a wake up call to the players in front of him who continued to play relatively irresponsibly for the remainder of the games against Norfolk.
- Injuries, injuries, injuries – Two of the Justin’s are out of the lineup. Soryal, for the season, and Krueger, until his hand heals. Neither Justin is an offensive point-scoring dynamo, but their presence on the ice and in the room may be taking its toll more than we realize. Krueger has the highest +/- rating on the team with a 13, and nine points (1G, 8A). He’s been the most consistent defenseman in my opinion, in the truest sense of the word DEFENSEman. Soryal was a -5 and had 10 points (4G, 6A), and lead team in PIMs with 165 prior to his season-ending knee injury.
- Jeff Daniels – Is it the coach? Systems in Raleigh continue to evolve under head coach Kirk Muller, but the Checkers have maintained the same style of play as always, which was one that mimicked Paul Maurice’s systems he used with the Hurricanes.
- Spring Weather – It’s hard to focus during the month of March on anything other than the amazing weather, warm sunshine, and summer on the horizon. Barbecues, pool parties and golf all take away focus. Maybe it’s been too tempting to the players.
- Speaking of parties… was the team hungover from the bar crawl on Saturday in Charlotte? The ironic thing here is that I’m told the Admirals really did take part in the St. Paddy’s day green shirt wearing bar crawl, and there was an incident of drunk Admirals players being thrown out of their hotel lobby late late Saturday night/Sunday morning, prior to a matinee game that saw the Ads demolish the Checkers 5-0. Yikes.
- Hurricanes bleak playoff outlook. Let’s be real… the ‘Canes aren’t going to make the post season. It would be great, but it’s not going to happen this year. Is this affecting the AHL club? Are there disgruntled players on the Charlotte team who are frustrated they aren’t in the NHL? Are they disgruntled that they won’t have the chance to be Black Aces for the Hurricanes? I believe all are possibilities.