Monday, February 15, 2016

Playoff Preparation - Taking Stock of the Allen Americans

The Allen Americans are in the midst of six straight road games having just returned from Alaska before traveling to Missouri for a game on Friday and Tulsa on Saturday and Sunday. Something coach Martinson said to me in his post game comments after the loss on Saturday got me thinking about how the Americans will perform down the stretch in the regular season and during the playoffs. With 70% of the regular season completed it is a good time to take stock in where the Americans are  and where they are going.

-  Steve Martinson had this to say after the loss on Saturday, "I have gone through this with championship teams before where it becomes, we got ours, now I want mine, rather than everyone pulling on the same rope with a chip on their shoulder."

- Martinson certainly knows what he is talking about having won nine championships in his 19 years as a head coach.  He has won championships in three different decades and four different leagues. He has won back to back to back championships twice. There is still plenty of time to get things turned around but it is getting close to crunch time.

- Allen has played 50 of their 72 regular season games and has a record of 29-18-2-1 (61 points). They are in second place in the Central Division, trailing Missouri by 18 points. Last season after 50 games, Allen had a record of  35-9-3-3 (76 points) and had an 18 point lead over second place Quad City.

- Allen's inability to generate shots has been a year long problem and has drastically reduced the number of goals they have scored. The Americans had 2364 shots on goal last season and are on pace to have just 1959 this year for a difference of 405 shots. Allen scored 292 goals last season but are on pace to have just 219 this year for a difference of 73 goals. Defensively, Allen is on pace to allow nine more goals than last season (212-203) so the biggest issue as been on the offensive end of the ice.

- The remaining schedule is favorable for the Americans with 13 games at home and just nine on the road. After the three road games this weekend, Allen will finish up the season playing 13 of 19 games at home including 11 of the last 14 games at home.  The Americans have just one long road trip remaining to Colorado and Rapid City in early March. All other away games are against Central Division teams. 

- Two key opponents for Allen down the stretch are division rivals Missouri and Tulsa. Allen plays Missouri seven times (4 home 3 away) and Tulsa four times (1 home 3 away).  If the Americans don't do well against Missouri and Tulsa it may be an indication of a short run in the playoffs.

- Nine of Allen's remaining 22 games are against teams that are in last place in their division with little or no hope of making the playoffs. These nine games include five with Wichita (4 home 1 away), one in Rapid City and the final three games of the season at home against Evansville.


- The playoff roster will certainly be different than the current roster but just how much different will it be? There are a lot of factors that come into play and how the Americans play over the next couple of weeks is certainly one of them.

- Here are my thoughts on possible roster changes. It is impossible to predict if any of these take place but it is a menu of where potential roster changes could come from. These options range from highly likely to very unlikely.
- With most ECHL teams having AHL affiliations, who gets sent down for playoffs is a big variable. There are plenty of examples of  #1 ECHL seeds losing to #8 seeds because the #8 seed was sent numerous AHL players at the end of the season. There are some exceptions but in general, AHL players must play in five regular season ECHL games (10 for veterans) to qualify for the the playoffs.

- Who and how many players get sent down to the ECHL by their NHL/AHL affiliates is somewhat dependent on how the NHL/AHL teams have done during the season. If neither make the playoffs the ECHL team will normally get plenty of help. For Allen, the San Jose Sharks (NHL) will most likely make the playoffs but the San Jose Barracuda (AHL) are fighting for a playoff spot and are currently on the outside looking in. If the Barracuda miss the playoffs that could be a big benefit to Allen.

- Three player from San Jose that are most likely to return to Allen are Rick Pinkston, Daniel Doremus and Nikita Jevpalovs.

- If the Sharks and/or Barracuda sign players currently playing in juniors or bring in already signed junior players at the end of the year, dominoes will fall that might bring other players to Allen.

- Eric Roy has played well since being loaned to Lake Erie (AHL) but is still on a tryout agreement. Eric has played in 10 games, has four points (1 goal 3 assists) and is a +6. He could get signed to a one way or two way contract by Lake Erie or could be released from his PTO. No matter what happens with Eric, it is possible he could be in Allen for the playoffs.

- When Jonathan Parker and the rights to Justin Baker were traded to Brampton for Reggie Traccitto, there was also future considerations as part of the trade. It is possible that another player could be headed to Allen from Brampton to fulfill the future considerations.

-  Martinson could find junior players just finishing their careers and sign them to amateur tryout agreements. These players do not have to play in a regular season game. 

- There is always the Jack Combs returning to Allen rumor that keeps swirling around. Since Jack is on a one way deal with Hartford (AHL), there is supposedly some way he could end up in Allen given a certain set of circumstances. Apparently no ECHL team holds Jack's rights. Combs played 26 games earlier in the season with Hartford's ECHL affiliate (Greenville) but has been in Hartford since Christmas. Would put this rumor in the long shot category.

- Steve Martinson always has other deals he is working on to improve the team late in the season. Todd Robinson (2013), Bruce Graham (2014), Anthony Maiani (2014), Konrad Abeltshauser (2015), Chris Crane (2015) and Vincent Arseneau (2015) were all late season arrivals that played key roles in winning championships.

The bottom line is the Americans still have 30% of the regular season remaining and a lot can happen in the last 22 games. Allen could falter and get passed by Tulsa for second place in the division or they could thrive and close the gap on first place Missouri. No matter what happens, Steve Martinson will make roster changes heading into the playoffs. The performance of the team over the next few weeks will determine how many roster changes will be made.

DID YOU KNOW: The Allen Americans currently have a winning percentage of .610. In his nine championships, Steve Martinson never had a team with a regular season winning percentage lower than .629.

No comments:

Post a Comment