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Admirals' Stat-urday: Almost, But Not Quite

In his first game after being assigned to the Admirals, Dany Heatley scored both of Norfolk's goals including the game tying goal with just over 30 seconds left in the game. Unfortunately it was not enough as the Admirals would lose in overtime. The story of the season continues--almost, but not quite enough.

William Karlsson and Dany Heatley battle for a loose puck against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at Scope 1-2-2015
William Karlsson and Dany Heatley battle for a loose puck against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at Scope 1-2-2015
Courtesy John Wright/Norfolk Admirals

1 Dave Steckel scored his first goal of the season on Sunday against the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins).  It was Norfolk's lone goal in a 2-1 loss.

2 The recently assigned Dany Heatley scored his first and second goals of the season (and his AHL career) last night against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers), Norfolk's only two goals in an OT loss.  His first goal came on a two-on-one in the first period, and his second was scored with just over 30 seconds left in the third period to send the game in to overtime.

3 The Admirals picked up just one of a possible six points in a three game road trip this week, all against divisional rivals.  Norfolk still sits at just three road wins.

4 Antoine Laganiere added his fourth helper of the season last night against the Phantoms.  Through 32 games, Laganiere has 11 points (7G, 4A).

5 The Admirals have gone to overtime five times this season, twice this week.  Norfolk is 3-1 in OT with one shoot-out loss.

John Gibson got his first assist of the season last night against the Phantoms.  Through six games played, Gibson is 2-2-1, allowing 14 goals for 2.36 Goals Against and .928 Save Percentage.  Gibson is the first Admirals goaltender to face and lose in both overtime and a shoot-out.

7 William Karlsson managed to find the score sheet last Saturday against the Phantoms, assisting on Norfolk's first goal of the night.  Through 16 games, Karlsson has just seven points (3G, 4A).

8 Norfolk is ranked fourth in the AHL on the Penalty Kill with an 86.8% efficiency rating.  Through 36 games, the Admirals have allowed just 19 goals on 144 times short-handed.

9 Chris Wagner potted his ninth of the season Saturday against the Phantoms.  Wagner had nine points in just six games in December (1G, 4A) and added an assist in last night's OT loss to the Phantoms at Scope, bringing his season total to 17 points (9G, 8A) in 20 games, good for second on the team in scoring.

Louis Leblanc scored his tenth goal of the season last Saturday against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the PPL Center and his eleventh against the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) Tuesday night in Hershey.  LeBlanc put up four goals in 12 games in Dec.

--Dany Heatley scored two goals in his first official game as an AHL player (not counting his conditioning assignment).  He looked much better last night than we've seen in both the NHL and the AHL.  He's no longer fast (and won't ever be again) but his hands showed signs of life last night.  His second goal was clutch, and it was vintage Heatley.  I hope no other teams are interested in him and the Ducks don't want him back--his improvement will only continue to contribute to the Admirals offense.

--Three games, on the road, against three division rivals.  One point.  Not a great start to follow the Christmas break, and certainly not the result the team needed to start its climb from the basement.  In fact, the two points from the four games this week, again all against the East Division, may as well have been zero based on the performance of the other teams.

--John Gibson lost last night's game for the Admirals.  He allowed nothing past him through two periods as the Admirals' held on to a one-goal lead, but then seemed to fall apart in the third period, allowing two goals in five minutes, both definitely stoppable by most goaltenders in the league, let alone the Gibson we've seen in the past.  Gibson played in three of the four games so far this week, allowing seven goals on 102 shots, for a .931 save percentage.  Not sure if last night was rust or he's still not quite there from an endurance standpoint, but he, along with Jason Labarbera, have to be perfect until the Coach can finally get the offense to wake up.

--Speaking of offense, one has to ask just where it is.  A team with the likes of Max Friberg, Nick Kerdiles, William Karlsson, Chris Wagner, and Louis Leblanc, should be able to average more than just 2.24 goals a game.  But it isn't.  Post-game interviews with Coach Skalde are predictable and recycled, and it's always about "passengers" instead of drivers, about compete level, and about urgency.  The idea of motivation when it comes to professional athletes is an interesting one.  Some might say it's the coach's job to light a fire, to get the players motivated.  Others would contend that they are professional, that they shouldn't need another grown man telling them that giving 100% is important, because every player is paid to do it regardless.  I also can't understand, at this level particularly, why a player in the AHL would not seek to perform above and beyond their skill level in order to make it to the NHL.  Shouldn't playing in the top league in the world, making the money that goes with it, be motivation enough?  But yet the Admirals are still sitting in the basement of the East Division and Eastern Conference, a place they seem to be too comfortable with.

I'm not saying the players don't have pride, but I am saying there are some that don't seem to be pissed off enough.  And when asked about how to convert the "passengers" in to "drivers", Skalde's response has been to "watch video" and "drills."  I don't pretend to know better than a paid professional coach, but I have to think there is more to it than just pointing out what was done wrong and then running drills to correct it.  Each of these players is being paid to play a sport, being slotted in to a roster position that by now most know how to play above the basic level.  My father used to say "Knowing and doing are two different things."  I'd submit the players all know what to do, but there are some that just aren't doing it.

Skalde is in a tough position.  His only recourse if guys aren't willing to play is to take away ice time.  He also needs wins.  If the passengers are guys that can score goals, how long can he sit them?  Instead, Skalde has to put the guys on the ice and hope they decide to play.  That's not accountability, and that's what this team needs.  If players know that they can go out and give 75% and nothing will happen to them, that's all they'll give.  Accountability is on the coach's shoulders, and I'm not sure how many more times we'll be treated to the skipping record before it's replaced by a new one.

--Emerson Etem has been reassigned.  The writing is on the wall here folks.  He's a victim of numbers and the lack of patience with his development.  He's a good player that I believe will help via trade bring back whatever missing piece management decides is missing for a Ducks' post-season run.  For now though, the Admirals can surely use his speed and whatever spark he can bring to the offense.  Lord knows they can't rely on Dany Heatley to score two goals every night.

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