Portland, ME – The sky isn’t falling, but admittedly for the Portland Pirates this current nine-day break couldn’t have come at better time.
The Pirates last played on Friday – a 5-2 loss to the Manchester Monarchs – and won’t play again til Sunday when they travel to Manchester for the second of a three game set.
The Pirates are sitting in last place (3-5-0-1) in the Eastern Conference with a seven points and after that loss, its left head coach Ray Edwards boiling over looking for answers.“We’ve given up the first goal,” said Edwards after Friday’s game of the fact that Portland has given up the first goal in six of their eight games this season. “We’ve given up five goals like (Friday night). We are not where we need to be. We’re dealing with what we have here and what we have here (expletive) didn’t work (Friday).”
Several days and a few brisk practices later have Edwards looking at the Pirates a little more pragmatically and with more optimism.
“As I told our group on Sunday I didn’t expect us to start the season 10-0,” he said. “I didn’t expect us to be 3-5-0-1 either, but I did expect to have some growing pains in some areas of our game. Nobody likes to be 3-5-0-1, but this where we are and we will fix (our issues). I feel good about this group because we will continue to grow and get better.”
One area where the Pirates felt they would have been stronger at this point of the season was on the blueline. Instead, Portland has given up almost four goals a game and as a result hasn’t been able to seize any momentum with their home schedule. The Pirates have dropped four of their five games at the Civic Center, which is something that frustrates Edwards more than the defensive woes.
“There are so many aspects of our structure that we feel that we need to get better,” he said. “This week will give us that chance to get better on that stuff. We need to re-establish our identity. We’re giving up way too many goals. Some of that is breakdowns, some of that is work related.”
“We’d love to be in better position,” said Edwards. “The thing that disappoints us the most is that we’ve lost four of five games at home. We have to establish our home ice for use to be successful. We have enough older guys on our team who have been through this type of thing before, but to lose four of five is just not good enough. We’re better than that. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve dealt with those issues the last couple of days and hopefully we’ve turned it around.”
Another issue that Edwards points at is the ever constant revolving door with the team since the start of the season. The Pirates have yet to ice their expected lineup because injuries, call ups, trades and waivers as is the case with Brett MacLean, who was recently re-acquired on waivers from the Winnipeg Jets.
Marc-Antoine Pouliot missed five games due to pneumonia, Ethan Werek suffered a bout of colitis and missed a couple of games, Brett Hextall is still out with an upper-body injury and Andy Miele was recalled by Phoenix nearly two weeks ago and is still with the club. Edwards even missed two games because of the death of his grandmother required him to return to his hometown in Ontario.
Edwards hopes this week gives the team a chance to start over, regroup and approach this month as if the season is starting over.
“We haven’t been able to have any continuity with our team,” he said. “Early on we’ve had different guys in and out of the lineup. We’d put a line together and all of a sudden we’d have a guy get hurt or called up and we’re changing the lines again. For the nine games, there has been something that’s knocked us off track. So were trying to get some continuity back into our lineup.”
Edwards plans on re-assigning several players at some point this week as the roster continues to swell to near 30 players. Portland currently has 17 forwards on the roster, and that could increase by one within the couple of day as the Coyotes decide on whether to assign Andy Miele back to Portland after acquiring Cal O’Reilly in a trade on last Friday. Edwards indicated that as many as four forwards could be heading presumably to Gwinnett, the Pirates ECHL affiliate.