Had a conversation between periods with the person beside me about how this year's pirates just don't seem to have an identity. After reminiscing about all of the teams gone by I got the idea for a little exercise.
Today I took a look in the hockey database (http://www.hockeydb.com)at the roster of players from the Pirates 92-93 innaugural season. That team won the calder cup that year. 20 players on that roster made it to the NHL for at least 2 games, 15 had significantly long stays and 10 were bonafide NHL mid to upper level talent. Outside of Ouellet and possibly Fussey, I just don't see that level of talent in Portland right now.
Did the same exercise with this year's roster, got a total of 11 players that have been in the show greater than 2 games, 2-3 that have had significantly long stays in the show, and only Ouellet, maybe Fussey and Yonkman (if he finally heals) have a shot to be mid to upper level talent.
How did this team go from being one of the deepest feeder systems to a bottom feeder in 10 years?
People keep hoping Cutta will finally show the same consistency and ability that we saw glimpses of the year he was drafted when he played a few games for the big club before going back to juniors.
Personally... I think he's a reincarnation of Alexei Tezikov. Lots of potential and given numerous chances... but nothing to show for it in the end. If he doesn't make the big club (or at least make a real good run at a spot) next season, I'm completely writing him off.
And man, is Yonkman ever frustrating? I feel for him. He should be tossing people out of our crease in Washington right now, but the last 3 years it's just been one injury after another.
As for the downward spiral of our farm system, a lot of guys got traded (Zednik, Bulis, Sivek, Beech, Lupaschuk, Farrell, Gratton), were busts (Svejkovsky-injuries, Volchkov, Karmalov, Tezikov, Elomo--all euro picks from Poile, suprise suprise), or were allowed to leave or go back into the draft (Stephens, Boynton, Siklenka, Van Buskirk, Halverson-retired from concussions... a few others). Sure not all of those are big time NHLers, and some never will be either. But those are all the guys that we were pretty stoked about when they were still developing.
Right now, I think we have some guys in Portland who could show the current Caps a thing or ten about heart and sticking up for teammates. I'd love to see guys like Mink, Forbes, Berry (here now), Yonkman (injured), and Verot up with the big club in the place of some of the guys mailing it in right now. Miller, Jagr, Kwiatkowski, Gruden... and send Gordon back to juniors because he looks completely lost most of the time.
The Caps have no ECHL team and share UHL Quad Cities. So development must come from the Jrs. or Portland.
I think you nailed something important in the fact that the Caps rely on someone else to provide a good chunk of the lower level development without a whole lot of control over how the players are brought along. I wish I had time to look and see how many of the inaugural team's players did time in the ECHL in richmond, but I bet the number was pretty high as well. That loss of feeder could be a contributor.
Beez without a doubt the Pirates lack identity. But IMO not talent. Several players just didn't show up at the beginning of the season. Pellerin was a total bust...I think more to do with the fact that he thought he'd get a shot in DC but quickly realized he was on a dead end. Ciernik is wasting space on the top line with Whitfield and Forbes and I'm hoping Army will get mink back on that line and reunite the P's top line from last season (IMO they were better then the Ferraro line). Forbes and Whitfield are great AHL players (Whitfield an All Star). Mink is solid but out hurt. Reunite that line and Portland has a great scoring line. Ciernik is just killing the top line. He is a –9…how beats me but he needs to go. Too bad it can’t happen!
The P's really miss Minks scoring and intensity though. Podkonicky and Methot haven't even gotten in many games let alone looked to be offensive help. The veteran rule tied Army's hands early on. Parsons and Ulmer have at least shown up. Whitfield lead the team in goals and Forbes leads the team in scoring.
But on D Zinger, Hajt, Pudlick are all solid AHL D-man. Zinger being nicest surprise of the group. He and Pudlick Portland have been solid and the P's have one of the best defenses in the league. Only allowing 2.14 GAA a game and the goalies have a collective .930 S%. If they could get the O jump-started they would go a long way.
Just talking about draft picks for a sec:
Tvrdon has finally shown up in NA...I don't know who that was the last two years but he's suddenly looking like a good two way forward with NHL potential. Maybe his contract is up? He definitly has put on a ton of muscle and weight!
Fussey is showing signs that he's going to be something but he hasn't played a full game yet. Can someone comfrim that he is a natural LW? At times he looks better on the right. He has a wrap around move the other night that was stunning. Give him a little more time to adjust and he'll start lighting the lamp regularly.
Cutta shows moments of brilliance and then looks lost. I think it is more his partners (Army has him split with Libby and Robitaille) and he looks back to form with Robitaille who is much better IMO then Libby. Libby IMO is a disaster with Cutta. I liked Libby a lot last year but he's trying way too hard probably just trying to get noticed and he's making too many mistakes that Cutta has to cover for.
Stana for a late rounder could be a real dark horse. His recall may have been about money but his numbers in Portland were on par with Max.
Yonkman...well he's turned into quite a project but with a lockout looming may get the chance to spend all of next year in Portland to get back on track. In the few game he played he looked great. I hope his surgery goes well and he's back soon and can get on the right track.
Dale don't lose sight that Cutta is just 21. As D-man go he still has a lot of time to mature. If injuries start to take effect in DC GM ought to look to giving him a lot of ice time with the Caps and getting him the confidence he needs. That Ottawa call up where he was on the ice for 5 goals just killed his confidence. When he got the call up out of Portland he was the best player on the ice when he came back to Portland he might has well be the bench boy.
Get Cutta a touch of confidence and the Caps will have a solid 2-3 D-man on their hands. If he gets stuck another season or two in Portland he'll already have written himself off. This kid is all about confidence you can just see it in his face when he makes a mistake or when he makes a big play.
His skating is better then any forward Portland has. He has the skill and size (6-3) to be in DC now...IMO Carlyle could work wonders for him as he has with Gonchar. Get Cutta to DC and have Carlyle take him under his wing and the organization will see results.
Dale don't lose sight that Cutta is just 21. As D-man go he still has a lot of time to mature.
Really? I thought he was like 23 or something. In that case, I'll give him a bit more time. I had heard that he had a very poor camp and was beginning to think he might be a bust.
Trust me, considering the state of our blue line right now, I think we should be giving everyone at least a chance... too bad we don't have van Buskirk and Rohloff still. We'd have a bit more depth with those guys.
I do like that Eminger came back into the lineup tonight and instead of Cassidy scratching Berry like everyone assumed he would, he actually scratched one of this old Griffins cronies (Gruden) instead.
Cutta DOB: December 29, 1981...so he's 22 at the very end of this year.
I just noticed Yonkman isn't much older: April 1, 1981. While he may not get a shot at the NHL until he's 24 (assuming lockout next year) he hasn't really gone off the chart as far as age goes either. He just needs a solid year of healthy play in Portland in 04/05 and he's right back on track. (that's an "IF" but it can't be ruled out that he will make it back just fine)