Last year, I did this three wishes for the 2019-20 campaign and they had varying results in the grand scheme of things. First was the special teams, where the power play was better going from 12.8% to 16.7%, but they ended the season with an 0-for-47 streak, while the penalty kill was second in the East Division at 80.7% efficiency, raising from last year’s 73.3%. Next, the blue line was a bit beefier, but I think more durable than before. They worked has plenty of guys to work in and out and not have to drop a forward back there. Finally, I don’t know if there was a totally definitive first line, but they had definitive scoring strengths.
So, with that review down, my THREE WISHES for the 2020-21 season.
BRING BACK AS MANY AS POSSIBLE: There has to be a feeling of unfinished business for many of the players on this team and with the exit of five solid contributors, the Black Bears may have to reset once again. Hopefully, however, it’s not going to be a big reset for the rest of the squad. You would have to think a lot of these guys would want to come back to prove this team is a playoff caliber team and deserved to be in the playoffs for the 2020-21 season.
Granted, you’re going to have some guys trying to move up to the USHL or even possibly departing for college before the season– but if you can just tweak a little bit to fill the holes left by the graduating players– they should be good. Of course, my ideas of player personnel hasn’t had a great track record; which is why I’m in this position and now in a front office gig.
BETTER IN EXTRA TIME: The Black Bears went to eight overtime games in 2019-20, but only mustered one win in those games. Their seven losses in OT were the most in the league last season, with many of the losses coming on some bizarre instances– bad bounces on a clear, bad line changes off a turnover, and some power play goals against. While the point is nice, it still isn’t two points at the end of it.
Of course, the one thing to do is to finish it in regulation and not get into that overtime situations. However, keeping composure mentally in the extra frame is very crucial for this team where every point is crucial, as the race towards the end of this season showed.
DEFENSIVE ZONE CLEAN-UP: While they got better as they year went on, the play in the defensive zone was scary at times. Ill-advised passes, sloppy breakouts, and lapses in coverage were things that seemed to haunt the team from the beginning of the season. Like I said, it got better– but some mental lapses did happen later on in the season.
While I’m not delusional to think that it’ll be crisp and clean all the time, there needs to be better decisions made when in their own end for the upcoming season. A fair amount of goals-against were caused from turnovers inside the defensive zone and coverage being lost. Tighten up in the defensive zone and success will almost surely follow.