The Hartford Wolf Pack has forgotten how to hunt. It has been a horrible skid as the team is now 1-5 in their last six games.
This is not the same team that had a top spot in the league at the very start of the season. The team has been shut out five times this season already and three times were in the last six games. The offense has been bad and that is being kind. The teams only win in the last 17 days was home last Saturday against the Pirates of Portland.
The Goaltending shuffle in Hartford has continued but Goaltending has not been the problem, Malcolm and Missiaen haven't opened the flood gates on goals allowed. One problem that is very obvious is the teams time in the box. They lead the league in something, penalty minutes. The Pack have 605 penalty minutes, the most in the entire AHL. Heck, the Hartford (penalty box) Pack have more penalty minutes than any team in the NHL too. 81 minutes more to be exact, the Pack have 251 more penalty minutes than the division leading Springfield Flacons. Only the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins are an example of a first place team with a high penalty minute count but most teams at the top have numbers up to 40% lower than the Pack.
I am not a coach but I am willing to bet that the chances for scoring opportunities decline when you have less players on the ice than your opponent. Having a physically tough team is important in the goal of winning a championship and developing players, but so is discipline. Staying out of the box is a part of that discipline.
If Center Michael Kantor and Defenseman Dylan McIlrath were called up to the NHL they'd probably get the news while they were in the penalty box. They lead the team in penalty minutes average per game. Dylan McIlrath leads the league in penalty minutes right now. Both he and Kantor average a little over five minutes a game. You can figure out the break down of the call they are getting. Stu Bickel and Michael Haley are next on the team, Bickel averaging 3.50 minutes in the box per game and Haley with about 2.76 minutes.
The Pack traditionally have been known for having teams with physical play, that explains part of it, but the recent trade may increase those minutes. Yesterday the New York Rangers traded Brandon Mashinter to the Chicago BlackHawks for former 2008 first round pick Kyle Beach
(11). Beach has not played a game in the NHL and is the only pick of the first 17 of 2008 to not have gotten a shot in the NHL.
Former Hartford Whaler Defenseman and head coach of the Blackhawks Joel Quenneville was quoted as saying he believe that the Rangers will give Beach that shot. Beach has played for the Rockford Ice hogs since 2009. In that time he has 31 goals and 45 assists in 169 games. He also brings only 10 penalty minutes in the seven games so far this season. Last season, Kyle Beach had 204 minutes spent in the box in 66 games. That number put him seventh in the league in penalty minutes last season.
The teams offense does have some bright spots with Danny Kristo, 17 points in 20 games, and Captain Aaron Johnson, 17 points in 22 games, lead the team in scoring. Oscar Lindberg is third with 10 points in 22 games. They will be able to score even more with more time at even strength or on the power play. It will take a change though to get more even ice time.
Players take some bad penalties but this being a younger team they will have to rely on the coaching staff to get them to spend more time on the ice than watching their team lose from the box.