These days, to be a Griffins fan is to be in despair. Sure, the season is still young. Sure, anything could happen. But when your team has just lost seven games in a row, with positives being few and far between, it’s hard to even hope for the playoffs. Before Grand Rapids began this skid, they were 6-3-2, not an outstanding record, but good enough for second in the division. Their last win was November 4, against Manitoba. That game was the end of a three game win-streak. Sixteen days and seven games later, the teams stands at 6-9-3, fourth in a very unimpressive division. The worst of the streak was a matinee game on November 14, an 8-1 loss to Milwaukee.
So what’s going wrong? Well, everything, apparently. While Howard hasn’t been horrible, he’s not playing like we know he can-like he did last season. Jimmy was outstanding during the playoffs, but he doesn’t have the same confidence. Liv has been terrible. He lets in weak goal after weak goal, and when he does that, it seems like the team gets frustrated and self-destructs. The offense is not scoring and the defense is not helping the goaltenders.
You can basically point to one major factor for the Griffins’ struggles. That is a lack of a top line scorer, a clutch scorer. With MacLean, Hudler and Manlow gone, Filppula was expected to fill that role. But, as we all know, he is now gone as well. That leaves Kip Miller, Matt Ellis, and Darryl Bootland with a bunch of young guys. Kip Miller is 37, and the top scorer on the team, with 18 points. Matt Ellis has 10 points in 18 games. Darryl Bootland has been mysteriously scratched recently. Before being scratched, he had 5 points and was +3. Langfeld and Kolanos are doing fairly well, both with 12 points (6-6). There is not a guy out there taking control and scoring when we need it.
Some would suggest that the team just needs to gel. After all, they have less than half the same guys as last season. However, after 18 games and many more pracitices, they should be there or close. Another part could be a lack of confidence in the goaltending. But for having no confidence, they sure do hang those guys out to dry a lot.
Another reason is pure bad luck. The bounces are not going the Griffins way. In fact, they are directly going against the Griffins. In the game on Saturday, for example, against the Chicago Wolves. In the Wolves first goal, the puck deflected off a defenseman’s stick, over Jimmy’s head, and into the net. Later, Howard made a save, but the rebound went right into Ryan Oulahen’s back and bounced into the net.
Someone needs to step up, its that simple. Whether that be Ellis (the captain), or Langfeld, or someone else, someone just has to. Personally, I think they need to bring Bootland back. I don’t know why he’s being scratched to begin with, but they sure could use him on the ice. You can blame bad bounces or the team not gelling or whatever, but after seven losses in a row (granted, one being in OT), something’s gotta change. Their next game is Friday, at home against Chicago. Hopefully they can manage a win.