Thursday, 15 October 2015

Horse Shoes and Hand Grenades: Struggling Grizz

I know what you are thinking.  The Grizzlies are close.  Yes they are.  Its only a matter of time.  They are close indeed.  But the problem which I have with that saying is that close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.  Close doesn't count in hockey.  Hitting a post doesn't get your team a goal.  In fact, it often creates a weird bounce and an odd man rush in the other direction.  OK, done venting.

The Grizzlies are 1-8-0-2 or something like that.  They have two points because they forced a couple of OTs but lost the games.  OK, I will admit, it isn't great and I have been saying that I think its coming around, but man, I am so tired of hearing people tell me how close they are all the time.  I can see it with my own eyes, yes, I get it, the Grizzlies are close.  But they are not close enough, not yet anyway.

Here is what bothers me:  330 shots in 11 games.  Most would like to see that average of 30 shots per game be a bit higher.  But with only 20 goals scored, that means that the Grizzlies score on only 6.06% of their shots.  It means that opposing goalies are holding a nice big fat .939 save percentage on Grizzlies shooters after 11 games.  Ask any coach in any league what he would pay for a goalie with a save percentage of .940 and do you know what he will tell you?

"Oh yeah? How much?"  (think John Cleese Monty Python Life of Brian)

"A lot."

"Right you're in."

But 20 goals in 11 games just won't do it and the season is almost at the Quarter Pole.  The current Grizzlies squad is on pace to score 109 goals this season which would set a new league record in terms of least goals scored in a Regular Season.  The old record was the 2012/13 Vernon Vipers at 139 and next in line is last year's 9 win Surrey Eagles team at 141 goals scored.  Sorry, but its true.

Now, I know what you are saying: "But Clay its still so early and the sample size is way too small, be patient!"  I hear that at every game and I get it.  Frankly, I am being patient, in fact the last time we talked I was preaching patience.  I am still preaching patience on everyone's part by the way. 

And its not all bad news.

#15 Keyvan Mokhtari at a modest -2, a rookie Didmon now plays a lot
Look, Tyler Welsh (2G), Keyvan Mokhtari (0G) and Spencer Hunter (0G) are not lighting it up offensively, although Welsh scored that pair vs Cowichan last Friday night at the ISC which was good to see.  And neither are Alex Peck (1G) or Nick Guiney (3G).  But did you know that each of those forwards currently lead practically all Grizzlies skaters in +/- so far on the season? 

Sure you say, they are all forwards, that's easy.  And yes they all play a lot of 3rd and 4th Line minutes, but some of them like Welsh and Mokhtari are starting to see much more ice time as of late.  My point is, each of them usually finish most games "Even" on the night.  Now that may not sound like much to shout about, but on a team who has scored only 20 goals and surrendered 37 for a team goal differential of -17, I would suggest that being -2 or -3 after 11 games on this team is pretty good, no matter who you are.

As I have said, I also really like both the goalies, Galajda and Benson. They are young and strong and they are keeping the Grizzlies in every game.  But what happens when they have an off night?

Can the new Grizzlie, #9 Luc Soares ignite the Grizzlies' offense?
The question now for me will be what Head Coach and GM Craig Didmon will do with his forwards.  The Chuck Bennis move on D as I have already stated was very good in my opinion.  On Tuesday Didmon released forward Sage Fleming. With the roster spot open he brought in via futures Luc Soares from the equally struggling Prince George Spruce Kings.  Soares is likely much better than the 4th Line minutes he was getting up in PG under new HC Chad van Diemen.  Could the new gig at The Q Centre spur him on and ignite the Grizzlies offense?  Didmon certainly hopes so, not to mention the nearly 1,000 patient fans at the Q Centre each night so far this season.

Will an unsigned Colby Livingstone create another Grizzlies move?
Add to that is the presence of another forward in Colby Livingstone from the KIJHL's Creston Thunder Cats and there may be another move not too far away. That will especially be true if Livingstone is more than just a very strong Jr. B forward.  Time will tell on that one.

But saying things like "they're close" just won't do it now, not for me anyway.  The Grizzlies are rapidly falling astern of not only the Island Division leaders, but with three losses to Alberni Valley, the Bulldogs in 4th place are now starting to pull away from contact with their Southern Island opponent Grizzlies.

The question now will be, can the Grizzlies start firing pucks into the net at a rate above 1.81/game?  Because horse shoes and hand grenades just aren't doing it at the moment.

The Grizzlies host the Powell River Kings Friday Night at The Q Centre, see you there. -CC 

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