The beloved Monsters season is over, the Black Aces have been disbanded and the rink is quiet until training camp. Time to take a look at what was accomplished this year. First, we'll focus on the raw data because it never lies, right? Next week, we'll discuss the players individually and cap it off with an article speculating on the future.
Just a note: I'm going to compare numbers with the Western Conference only where possible, LEM didn't play any interconference games this year and there is a pretty noticeable divergence in play and stats between the East and West.
Lake Erie finished the year with a 32-33-1-10 record for 75 points, one point below even, good for 12th in the Western Conference & 4th in the North Division, and 8 points short of a playoff spot. Of the 32 wins, 22 were in regulation, 2 were in overtime and 8 came via the shootout. One way to look at this, in games the Monsters played they earned 75 points while their opponents earned 98, putting the true winning percentage at .434 rather than the .493 showing in the standings now.
The Road was particularly brutal this year, 8 regulation wins in 38 games including a 71 day stretch between Thanksgiving and early February without a single one. In the middle of January, a 5-game trip through the Midwest Division netted 0 points. In late March, a sadistic 7-game 2 week excursion through the Midwest and Texas found the Monsters returning home with only 4 points earned. Take out those two trips and LE is a .500 team on the road.
Besides all that, LEM never won more than 2 games in a row all year which makes it all the more incredible that they ended up winning 32 out of 76 one and two at a time. The inconsistency was truly baffling, beat the best team in the conference one night then go on to drop 2 in a row to the cellar-dwellars...
The Monsters scored 197 goals on the year, 135 at even strength, 57 on the power play and 5 shorthanded, on 2211 shots on goal for an 8.91% shooting rate. This put them 12th in the WC in scoring.
They also gave up 232 goals, 161 at even strength, 64 on the PK and 7 with a man advantage, on 2296 SOG against for a team .907 save percentage and this also put them 12th in the WC. Funny how that works out.
One huge discrepancy was in goals against on the road. LEM scored 2.68 G/game at home and allowed 2.62. Away from the Q they still scored a respectable 2.5 but gave up a crushing 3.47. Ouch, but let's go back to the 2 horrifying road trips for a moment. In those 12 games the opponents scored 53 goals, take those out and road G/game goes down to a more palatable 3.15.
The Power Play was fairly lackluster all season, 57 goals in 351 attempts for 16.2%, 13th in the West. The PK was better than you might think at 83.2% (7th in the WC) but with the amount of penalties taken the 64 goals against still hurt significantly. LEM ended up second to Toronto in PIMs with 1622 and 3rd in PPs against with 361.
Not so fancy stats:
PDO - 996
Shots For% - 49.1
Shots for/60 - 28.5
Shots against/60 - 29.6
PP+PK% - 98.5
Even Strength Goals F/A ratio - 0.839
Special Teams Goals F/A ratio - 0.873
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First off, LEM's defense (not just D-men, everybody) was horrible on the road. Many possibilities for this but it probably lies with inexperience and bad matchups for the most part.
Even though the shot stats look fairly even, the eye test doesn't confirm it. There were wild swings night to night that just happened to average out and a lot of scoring effects to boot.
5v5 scoring was anemic all season long, 1.7 goals a game at even strength won't get you very far and counting on a mediocre power play to win games is a poor strategy.
The PK was good throughout the year, but having to kill nearly 5 every game is too much to ask. Needless penalties were a constant and that needs to change.
Close to a third of the games went to overtime or beyond, which was ok I guess because the Monsters scored about 1.5 pts/game in those contests, which is average. The downside is that in regulation they only scored 0.8 pts/gm, which unfortunately is below average and the main reason they didn't end up playing for the Calder Cup.
For next season:
Winning more games in regulation is the goal here, just 4 more would have done the trick this season. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 would be fantastic. It's going to take some changes, we know the personnel will be different to an extent, but the guys who remain need to be open to new responsibilities as well. Possess the puck more, shoot more in meaningful parts of the game, be positionally sound and for crying out loud be disciplined on the ice.
Many of this year's stats look poor but they're not far off from average at all. A couple of puck luck bounces, a couple more goals, a couple of needless penalties not taken and the Monsters would have been in the playoffs for sure. Looking for outliers, other than the poor defense on the road and the amount of penalties taken in general, there isn't much. I keep harping on this, but the January road trip truly undid the season. On January 9th, the bus left with a team that was 17-13-0-3, 4 games over .500 and the best record they would see all year. They lost many key players to injury and callups, iced half an ECHL team, ended up losing the next 7 games in a row and never recovered.
Hopefully the changes that come over the summer allow the guys that return and the guys that are added to overcome the inconsistency and general malaise that plagued the second half of the season. This years' Monsters could play with anyone in the AHL on a given night, they just didn't.
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In current news, there are a few end of season interviews up on the Monsters site. They've put up Maggio, Bourke, Vandy, Hunwick, Clarkie, Pufahl, Cheek and Beaupre so far. A few interesting bites, Maggio talked about keeping in contact with the Monsters training staff over the summer, which indicates to me he'll be back. Cowboy Troy spoke about calf roping with his dad in the off-season. Cheek indicated that he's still injured and Beaupre interviews are always cool.
Season review of the players and personnel.