Not only that but the vets they do have are doing very little. Many like Ready, Kavanagh and Neilsen have hardly got a pooint or have no points at all. Only the rookies and youngsters have done much.
I don't think we should blame Syml as yet. He brought them along ok last year and they did well in the playoffs. However they've taken far too many undisciplined penalties and that's somethng he has to get a handle on.
The moose let a lot of career AHLers go in order to make room for Canucks prospects. While the team has a lot more potential now (and with the current players will be miles better in a year or two), the on ice product at the present time is much worse than it was last year.
All I have to say, is if Stan Smyl is Burke's candidate to take over from Crawford when he leaves/is fired, then the Canucks are in big, big trouble. Never been a Smyl supporter (as a coach, of course).
Any number of conclusions could be drawn as to why the Moose are struggling. Here's some I've come up with:
-- Went with youth movement, therefore players making rookie mistakes
Likely excuse, but I don't totally buy it. There's four rookies on the team (Kesler, Nolan, Koltsov, Mojzis), and admittedly they're going to have their share of growing pains. But Stan Smyl won't be dressing all of them in the same game that often (mostly because there isn't enough room to fit them in). Nolan's only played four games and Mojzis has been out with a broken finger since the first game of the year. So that leaves two rookies playing full-time with a bunch of "vets". So as much as these guys will make rookie mistakes, the other guys on the team have to be held quite responsible for how the team's playing right now.
-- Younger defensive corps playing below last year's standard
Partially true. Having veterans like Brian Chapman, Justin Kurtz, Bryan Helmer, and Nolan Baumgartner around made things a lot more secure in the Moose's end......however, they weren't without fault themselves. They had a hard time clearing any rebounds or pucks in front of their goaltenders on countless occasions; they weren't always defensively sound (Bryan Helmer and Rene Vydareny...ugh, that was an ugly pairing); they elected not to shoot too much when given the puck in the attacking zone (Helmer was constantly holding the puck instead of shooting in wide open lanes, especially on the power play); and their first pass out of their zone weren't always accurate (one of the reasons Justin Kurtz found a cosy chair in the press box for a few games).
The same things could be said about this year's crew, but they could elect to hide behind the "youthful defence" tag (I hope they don't). One big difference between this year's and last year's d-man crew was that last year, there was a definite power play QB (Nolan Baumgartner). That's where the 2002-03 d-men had an advantage. This year, there isn't really one, although Jaroslav Obsut has done well on the PP, and once the two rookie d-men work on their games a bit (and in the case of Mojzis, come back from injury), then we'll have a couple of other guys who could eventually take over the reigns on the PP.
-- Line juggling, and the goaltender rotation
The first one, I wouldn't doubt having a bit of an effect on things. The latter......not really this year...yet, but I still have issues with it.
Stan Smyl has juggled the lines since the start of the season, and hasn't let up in his pursuit of finding the perfect combinations. In the past three games alone, he's gone with 16(!) different combos while the team was even-strength (didn't keep track aside from that). He's also switched around the defensive pairings a bit, though thankfully not as much as the forward lines. I find it bizarre that he made so many changes in the matter of a few games, but I guess you have to find some way to get the team to score (which they've done little of lately).
Smyl has also sort of worked in the goaltender rotation again this month. In a sense, it is necessary, considering there's so many games in such a small space of time (ex. there's five games next week alone). At the same time, I hope it isn't quite as permanent as it was early last season. I honestly hated the rotation idea, because it didn't allow either Alex Auld or Tyler Moss to find their games. Only when one of them was up with Vancouver or injured did the other get a lot of work, and end up playing like they normally should (re: Moss' late-season run last year). The goaltenders so far this year have played better than they did last season, as you can observe here:
Alex Auld GPI MIN AVG W L T EN SO GA SVS SPCT
2002-2003 5 298:56 3.01 3 2 0 0 0 15 138 0.902
2003-2004 5 299:43 2.80 1 4 0 1 0 14 144 0.911
Tyler Moss GPI MIN AVG W L T EN SO GA SVS SPCT
2002-2003 4 244:28 3.68 1 2 1 0 0 15 112 0.882
2003-2004 4 243:24 2.71 1 2 1 0 0 11 111 0.910
Team Goaltending GPI MIN AVG W L T EN SO GA SVS SPCT
2002-2003 9 545:00 3.30 4 4 1 0 0 30 250 0.893
2003-2004 9 547:19 2.85 2 6 1 1 0 26 255 0.907
Each has had one bad game so far, but for the most part, they've been solid and have kept their team in games they had no business being in. Hopefully they can keep it up.
They scored ten goals in their first two games. They've scored eleven in their last seven (two in their last three!). Need I go on any further?
-- Stan Smyl isn't the right coach for the team
I've honestly debated this ever since he took over the reigns (via Vancouver management) from Randy Carlyle. I've cursed about some of the things that he's done with the team (i.e. the goaltender rotation); wonder how well he can motivate his guys (especially in light of their current skid, though at other times last year, he had one-on-ones with certain players, and those worked); and some have criticized the way he runs his practices (I can't say for sure, as I've never watched one since the affiliation with Vancouver). At the same time, I feel he's done certain things right. For example, he's not afraid to bench someone or scratch someone if they did something stupid (Kavanagh and Fedorov were benched for part of a game two Sundays ago) or are performing below expectations (that has happened with Justin Morrison already this year). I don't even believe Carlyle did that much in his tenure here, yet he had some pretty successful years as Moose head coach despite it.
He's an okay AHL coach, but relatively unspectacular. I'd take someone like Binghamton head coach John Paddock in a heartbeat if given the opportunity. His minor league coaching record speaks for itself.
-- Lack of leadership/motivation
This might be the big one. Moose captain Dallas Eakins went down with an injury early in the first game of the year. Ryan Ready has assumed the roles, but in all honesty, none of the veterans have really stepped up to lead the team out on the ice. The closest one I could say that have stepped it up a bit (at least in play) are Zenith Komarniski, Jimmy Roy (who's not even Canucks property!), and lately, Chris Nielsen. They're working their butts off, and it's a shame that they aren't getting rewarded for it with points. But really, I'm still waiting for someone to jump up and lead this team until Eakins comes back from his injury (which won't be until late November/early December).
So really, what's the answer? Be damned if I know, but at least I tried figuring out what it was through long-winded paragraphs. :p Draw your own conclusions, I guess. I'm just hoping they can build on the third period of Sunday's game.