First off, apologies for not posting last week – not that anyone noticed. My wonderful internet provider (coughCOMCASTcough) crapped out pretty much all of last Wednesday. Oh well.
It wasn’t as if the Walleye have done anything good as of late – as of this writing, Toledo is the worst team in the Eastern Conference, with just 13 points in 18 games. Gross. They’ve lost five in a row (including a stretch of three games where they were outscored 14-0) and have fallen in 9 of their last 10 contests.
So rather than bore you with game recaps, let’s just look at the stats from the last two weeks worth of games:
11/27/13: South Carolina 7, Toledo Walleye 0
SOG: Stingrays 31, Walleye 30
PP: Stingrays 1/2, Walleye 0/5
Losing Goaltender: Jared Coreau, 17/21 shots (Hannu Toivonen came in relief and stopped 7/10 shots)
Of Note: This was the game Head Coach Nick Vitucci bag skated the team for an hour post-game. You’ll see it did a whole lot of good.
11/29/13: South Carolina 4, Toledo Walleye 0
SOG: Stingrays 39, Walleye 32
PP: Stingrays 0/3, Walleye 0/2
Losing Goaltender: Hannu Toivonen, 35/39 shots
11/30/13: Wheeling Nailers 3, Toledo Walleye 0
SOG: Walleye 39, Nailers 29
PP: Nailers 0/3, Walleye 0/7
Losing Goaltender: Jared Coreau, 26/29 shots
12/5/13: Evansville IceMen 7, Toledo Walleye 3
SOG: Walleye 27, IceMen 25
PP: IceMen 2/2, Walleye 1/2
Losing Goaltender: Hannu Toivonen, 18/25 shots
Walleye Goals: Martin Frk (4), Marek Tvrdon (5), Trevor Parkes (11)
12/7/13: Evansville IceMen 6, Toledo Walleye 5 (OT)
SOG: IceMen 37, Walleye 27
PP: IceMen 1/4, Walleye 3/6
Losing Goaltender: Jared Coreau, 31/37 shots
Walleye Goals: Trevor Parkes (12, 13), Kyle Rogers (3), Stephon Thorne (1), Marc-Louis Aubry (2)
Of Note: The Walleye actually had a 5-3 lead late into the second period, but gave up three straight to earn a loser point. YAY, PROGRESS!
Since the ECHL doesn’t release any “advanced stats” (CORSI, TOI, faceoff wins, etc), we’ll try to draw a few conclusions from the meager offerings above. First, there is no doubt the goaltending has to be better. Since Mac Carruth got recalled to Rockford (and because of Corey Crawford‘s injury, he won’t be back any time soon), the Walleye have gone 1-6. That’s not to say Carruth would have won all of those games, but look at the Walleye goalie stats so far this season:
That’s…pathetic. In the five games mentioned above, Jared Coreau and Hannu Toivonen have only stopped 134 of 161 shots. If you throw out the 11/29 and 11/30 games where the save percentage was at least passable, that’s a .785 SV%. Simply brutal. I’m sure some blame also falls on the defense, as a goalie rarely wins games on their own, but even a save percentage of .875 might have given the Walleye a chance to gain some points. At this point though, I don’t think the team has any other option in net. Coreau is a Red Wings prospect in his first professional season, and is getting his feet wet as part of his “development.” Toivonen was signed to a contract to replace Carruth, which would indicate he will be here for the time being. Of course he could be put on waivers, but I doubt they’ll find a hidden gem of a goaltender on the ECHL EBUG scrapheap. The best option might be to wait until later in the season when the collegiate season is done to sign a senior that has not been drafted. But by that point, it’ll probably be too late to make a difference.
Of course goaltending is moot when you’re not scoring – and getting shutout in 3 consecutive contests is really, really bad. Sure, the opposing goalies probably stood on their heads a bit, but you have to find a way to score. Without any additional stats, it’s hard to determine the quality of shots taken (blasts from the blue line, rebounds, etc). Part of the problem is most likely a lack of scoring talent. Trevor Parkes (22 points) is really the only player scoring with any sort of consistency. There’s an 11 point gap between him and the next leading Walleye scorer, Travis Novak. The Walleye have only scored 50 goals in 18 games, an average of 2.7/game. That’s not good, especially considering the current goaltending situation. Of course there has been an endless shuffle of players between the ECHL and AHL, but that is the norm in this league. One has to question at this point the quality of forwards that have been signed to this team.
Lastly, the special teams have not been stellar in this stretch of five games. The penalty kill was in the top 10 until this recent slide. In five games, the Walleye have given up 4 goals in 14 PK situations, a kill average of 71.4%. I guess the silver lining is the Walleye aren’t taking a ton of minor penalties, but a consistent kill would be nice. How much of this is connected to the abysmal goaltending situation I cannot tell, but I’m sure it doesn’t help. Likewise the power play was only at 18% (4/22) during this period, which is ok, but not great.
So where do the Walleye go from here? If you listen to the masses on Facebook, Nick Vitucci should have been fired yesterday. You’d have to assign him some blame, as it’s obvious his bag skate on 11/27 didn’t do much to produce results, which may indicate the team is tuning him out. Vitucci is also the team’s Director of Hockey Operations, so some of the team’s crappy player signings rest with him as well. But Vitucci’s been involved with the organization as both a player and coach since 1993, so it may be a difficult cord to cut. Ultimately as it is in all sports, it all comes down to money. The Walleye currently sit third in the league in attendance, averaging 6,635 fans a game. If Toledo is raking in the money (and I have no idea if they are, but I would guess they’re not hurting), it might not behoove them to do anything. So unless fans stop showing up, we all might be stuck watching this sorry excuse for a hockey team for the foreseeable future. I CAN’T WAIT.
Blackhawks Prospects Update: David Gilbert has 1 assist and is a -3 with 10 shots on goal – he was retroactively put on the 21-day IR as of 11/13/13…Joe Gleason has 1 goal and 3 assists in eight games with the Walleye
The Week Ahead: The Walleye play the Cincinnati Cyclones at home tonight. They then play back-to-back games at home vs. the Evansville Icemen on Friday, December 13th, and Saturday, December 14th
Current Standings: North Division – 1) Evansville Icemen, 27 points (19 GP), 2) Cincinnati Cyclones, 25 points (21 GP), 3) Kalamazoo Wings, 24 points (19 GP), 4) Fort Wayne Komets, 20 points (20 GP), 5) Toledo Walleye, 13 points (18 GP)
Stats-O-Rama: Trevor Parkes leads the team with 13 goals (2nd in the ECHL), 9 assists and 22 points…Mac Carruth leads the team with a 4-3-0-0 record with a 2.50 GAA & .927 SV%…Emerson Clark has 79 PIMs (in just 8 games), good for third in the ECHL…Scott Arnold and Parkes are tied for second in the league with 4 power-play goals…The Walleye are 4th in the league on the power play (19.4%) and 18th on the penalty kill (83.1%)