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Thursday, July 31, 2014
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Published: Friday, 1/19/2001

Grade-card time is here for the Storm once again

Mid-term marks for the Toledo Storm, noting the most impressive statistic about the 22-15-2 entry in the East Coast Hockey League may be its attendance. In the small capacity Sports Arena, the Storm is averaging just over 4,500 a night, seventh best in the 25-team league ...

Come on, be honest.

Unless you were a straight A student, surely you went on the defensive when grade cards were handed out.

Don't think that doesn't happen with professional hockey players, also.

Come to think of it, that may not be a bad idea for the Storm.

Toledo went 11-7-2 during the second quarter, slightly better than its 11-8 opening term. Yet despite having the sixth-best winning percentage in the ECHL, Toledo has given up more goals - 135-134 - than it has scored.

Improve on that total, make a few minor personnel changes and all of a sudden, you've got a Kelly Cup contender.

Here's more analysis of the season to-date by coach Dennis Holland and the beat writer:

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Holland: James Patterson. I knew he was going to be a good offensive hockey player for our team. What I didn't know was how dominant he would be when he turned up his game.

Tim Verbeek has been rock-solid since Game 1. For a first-year player, that's quite an accomplishment.

Andrew Williamson's new commitment to playing all zones of the rink in the last six games has been noticeable. I think he's second on the team in blocked shots during that time to Jason Norrie.

Saevig: Toledo's power-play took off with the arrival of Detroit Red Wings' pro Ryan Gaucher at the beginning of the second quarter. The quarterbacking defenseman has helped elevate Toledo to the second-best man-advantage success rate in the league.

Defenseman B.J. Adams has shown an inclination to play with a bit more grit since the last grade card. Ditto for backliner Curtis Rich. Here's a reminder to them and their bretheren; there are two ways to get to a higher level. One is to score a ton of points and find the defensive zone. The second is to score a few points while taking care of your own end and fighting your way to 200+ penalty minutes.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Holland: Alexandre Jacques. It's not his fault, but with the slow start and the untimely injuries, he's been ineffective. When he's healthy, he's a veteran from the American Hockey League who can supply intangibles that the younger kids don't possess.

Saevig: Gimmie a D. Gimmie an E. Gimmie an F.

You get the idea.

Until the entire team buys into the concept of defense and backchecking, a good squad will never realize its potential.

For example, Toledo's top three scorers - Patterson, Williamson and Jeff Johnstone - have combined to score 60 goals. Nearly half of that total has come with a man advantage.

In even-strength situations, all have been on the ice for more goals against than goals for; a total of -14 to be exact.

That's the only reason Patterson his top-10 ECHL point total remain in Toledo. Personnel I've talked to in the National Hockey League and high minors all ask about him. They want to know if he's working hard in his own zone. It's the only question they have.

By the way, the Storm's fourth-leading point man, Verbeek, is +11.

RECRUITING/TEAM MAKEUP

Holland: From the beginning of the year, I've been looking for a hard-working, character hockey team and we are very close to that.

Saevig: Agreed. However, Toledo needs, in no particular order:

  • A commitment to D-E-F-E-N-S-E.

  • A back-up goaltender who can reliably spell workhorse Mark Bernard. Detroit pro Aren Miller is on recall to the AHL and there's no guarantee if or when he'll be back. There's also no guarantee the third-year goalie can reliably spot Bernard if he does return.

  • Defensemen Chris Bogas and Derek Booth to elevate their game. Bogas scored six-even-strength goals in Q2. He was a -2 in that same period. Booth has been just average for most of the season and that's not good enough on this team.

    OVERALL GRADE

    Holland: B. I'm very excited about the second half.

    Saevig: B-. Play some D and this becomes a B.



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