Thursday, September 29, 2016

Halloween or Bust!

I can feel it coming in the air...
Playoff ice in Nationwide Arena.
The CBJ's task coming out of training camp is going to be beating 2015-16 playoff teams with regularity.  Problematically, I haven't shaken the stunning turn of events at the beginning of the last season.  Though I am buoyed by the intensity of the work the team is putting in at training camp, last years sudden collapse out of the gate left its mark.

In the intervening time, the defense has been reshaped, at great cost, and the Monsters not only made the playoffs, they rolled to a Calder Cup championship.  The shock waves of this accomplishment have roiled the waters of the franchise a great deal.

Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch posted this quote in this Puck Rakers article about all the Player Try Out (PTO) agreements:

“One of the attractions here, honestly, is that Cleveland is a first-class organization,” Kekalainen said. “They won the Calder Cup last season. It's a great place to play in the AHL. It's one of the best spots in the league

I had forgotten the context of the amazingly good time it was to watch the Monsters win the Calder Cup.  A sold out Quicken Loans Arena.  Big gouts of flame shooting out of the score board.  This is not your run of the mill AHL atmosphere.  It is very, very good!  As Portzline pointed out in his article, this has brought an influx of PTOs.  Juxtaposed against this unexpected wave of talent, are the young Monsters trying to make this roster.  They showed they know how to win, led by Werenski and Bjorkstrand, and those two look to bolster the opening day roster.  The end result of this condition is that there are going to be veterans and youngsters that do not make the CBJ roster and are going to be sent down to the Monsters.  The big question is who?

Regardless of who makes the CBJ, the Cleveland Monsters of this year are going to have many new elements compared to the Lake Erie Monsters of 2015-16.  Why?  Because so many people from that team earned contracts elsewhere in the league.  If you are a veteran returning from Europe, and you can get in a great AHL venue and play well, it may well result in an NHL contract, particularly with another team coming into the league.  There are going to be more jobs next year, no matter what.  So in spite of the changes, I think the Monsters are going to do well again this year, because good performance with the Monsters by the veterans who 'lose' in training camp is linked with a probability of an NHL spot the following year.

With all that pressure, for a team that 'didn't make any changes' from last year, the CBJ may actually be quite different.  But different is not the same as good, which I interpret as 'beating playoff level teams regularly'.  This is also a young team, and there are likely to be some games lost as a result of youthful mistakes.  So this has to be season of short term goals.  And the first goal for the season is to be lurking around or above .500 by Halloween.  Last year by Halloween we had 2 points in the standings.  With 14 points available in October of this year, we want to have at least 7 points in the standings by Halloween.  This is not asking a huge amount, though it must be accomplished against good teams that made the playoffs in 2015-16 and also includes a road trip to the West Coast.

Last year, we were no longer in the hunt by Halloween, the second time I have seen that happen.  Please, not again!  So we need to have a good enough start to be in the hunt at the end of October.  It's Halloween or bust!

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

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