It’s been more than a month into the regular season for the Portland Pirates and so far results haven’t exactly been as advertised, leaving one to wonder if they’ve been sold a bad bill of goods.
The Pirates, recently snapping a two-game losing streak against the Providence Bruins last Saturday, have played 13 games and currently sit in the basement of the Eastern Conference with a 5-7-0-1 record.
Entering the game on Saturday, the Pirates had lost six of eight and even as they won, there was uneasiness in the air that this was more a mere anomaly than a statement that the Pirates were back on track.Portland built a 3-0 lead through forty minutes of hard work, and yet had to eke out a victory in the closing seconds to the Bruins, who scored twice in a 12 second span.
That’s not exactly comforting to those folks shilling out their hard earned money to sit inside the Cumberland County Civic Center and watch the Pirates consistently struggle with things that have been taken for granted over the past six years.
“When we get under pressure we seem to fall apart and it’s every guy for themselves,” said Mathieu Beaudoin. “We need to learn how to stick together as a team and stick with the system and that’s how we will win games.”
Pirates head coach Ray Edwards took a more pragmatic approach after Saturday’s win.
“We’re just learning how to win,” he said. “It’s a process… We’re trying to figure it out. It’s not perfect. We’ve got to figure it out. That’s the process we’re doing now, managing why we have letdowns and why things happen. We’re looking at it and trying to figure it out.”
Really? Should a group that has six players on the roster who have been to the Calder Cup Finals – four Calder Cup rings combined – in the past really need to learn how to win?
At what point is it all about putting in the work and executing the game plan?
The defense – which was expected to be the Pirates strong suit this season – has been mediocre at best, which is especially surprising when taking into account they have nearly 1300 AHL games of experience.
Yet, the blueline has some of the worse plus/minus numbers (-23) in the AHL, starting with Pirates captain Dean Arsene (-8), Tyler Eckford (-7), Michael Stone (-6) and Max Goncharov (-5). The lone bright spot has been Chris Summers, who currently sports a plus-7 rating in six games.
“The biggest thing is we have to realize that we’re not world beaters,” said Oystrick. “Our team identity is getting the puck in deep and forecheck. We need to get our feet moving and once we get that through our heads and we play as a team and as play as a group. I think we can be tough team to beat.”
They should be a tough team to beat. On paper the Pirates should have all the pieces in place to make a deep run in the playoffs – veteran leadership, an experienced blueline and a group of forwards that have the ability to score.
Of course, that’s why they play the games and why championships aren’t played on paper. So, it begs to ask the question. If the Pirates have all the pieces in place why aren’t they putting up the results?
That’s a question that can only be answered by the 20 guys on the ice. They have to look in the mirror and decide their own fate.
Edwards can put the game plan in place, but at the end of the day it’s up to them to be accountable in executing that plan.
If not, the message needs to change or those unable to grasp the concept should move on.
Just don’t shoot the messenger because it doesn’t help the development for the future employees of the Phoenix Coyotes.