The Oilers have two minor-league affiliates: the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL, and the Springfield Falcons of the AHL. Back at the end of December, both teams were struggling; the Falcons had lost six games in a row, while the Thunder had lost three games in three nights and were winless in five games. Here are both teams records as of December 29th, and please keep in mind that the ECHL doesn’t have a “loser point”, so Stockton’s third column represents a tie, while in Springfield it represents an overtime loss.
Stockton Thunder: 10-20-1
Springfield Falcons: 12-16-5
If we view the teams solely from a win/loss perspective, Stockton is 10/20, and Springfield 12/21. The records were similar, and both teams were in the middle of slumps. The management on the two teams reacted differently, however. In Stockton, the ownership dismissed head coach Chris Cichocki (incidentally, Stockton president Dan Chapman issued one of the classiest coach-firing quotes I’ve ever seen), replacing him with Matt Thomas, the young but highly successful ex-coach of the Fresno Falcons. Additionally, the team brought in five players from the collapsed Falcons team, all of whom are decent but not outstanding ECHL players.
Springfield made changes as well. Early in January, team President Bruce Landon publicly complained about the lack of changes made by the Oilers’ hierarchy; despite his title as President and General Manager, Landon has very little say in personnel decisions, as the Edmonton Oilers (chiefly Kevin Prendergast) have the final say on all roster moves. Within the next week, the Oilers brought in free agent Shane Willis, traded for Ryan Stone, and offered Patrick Bordeleau a professional tryout. They chose not to make any coaching changes.
Here are the teams’ records after December 29th:
Stockton Thunder: 13-3-1
Springfield Falcons: 4-11-2
In terms of straight wins/losses, that’s 13/3 to 4/13; records that are almost precisely opposite each other. Now, some may argue that Springfield has suffered from call-up issues, but consider for a moment that Stockton was forced to sign a defenseman who hadn’t played a competitive game in two seasons, and dress two forwards as defensemen because injuries and call-ups have reduced their roster to 14 skaters. Stockton hasn’t been any luckier than Springfield; in point of fact they’ve faced far greater adversity in terms of injuries and call-ups.
Let’s consider, for a moment, the career numbers of the forwards with one or more previous AHL seasons who are currently in Springfield, because there’s an interesting and rather disturbing pattern. Percentage Change reflects the percentage change in the player’s points-per-game from last year, and I’ve ignored all players with small sample sizes (Brule, Stone, Spurgeon, Reddox, etc.)
2006-07: 30GP – 12G – 14A – 26 PTS
2007-08: 58GP – 21G – 26A – 47 PTS
2008-09: 41GP – 22G – 14A – 36 PTS
Percentage Change: +8 %
2006-07: 69GP – 17G – 36A – 53 PTS
2007-08: 78GP – 23G – 53A – 76 PTS
2008-09: 39GP – 5G- 23A – 28 PTS
Percentage Change: -26 %
2006-07: 68GP – 28G – 29A – 57 PTS
2007-08: 80GP – 24G – 36A – 60 PTS
2008-09: 50GP – 7G – 12A – 19 PTS
Percentage Change: -49 %
2007-08: 64GP – 14G – 21A – 35 PTS
2008-09: 32GP – 3G – 14A – 17 PTS
Percentage Change: -3 %
2007-08: 73GP – 12G – 11A – 23 PTS
2008-09: 47GP – 4G – 5A – 9 PTS
Percentage Change: -39 %
2007-08: 31GP – 2G – 7A – 9 PTS
2008-09: 37GP – 1G – 4A – 5 PTS
Percentage Change: -53 %
2007-08: 77GP – 7G – 10A – 17 PTS
2008-09: 37GP – 3G – 1A – 4 PTS
Percentage Change: -51 %
On average, these players have lost just over 30% of their offense from last season. That number is even worse when you consider that aside from Corazzini, these players are all in the upswing of their career; in other words, even a 0% change would not be a neutral score, as these players should be improving offensively.
Still, let’s look beyond the individual scoring numbers and compare the team’s ability as a whole to score and prevent goals to last season. Last season the Falcons scored 214 goals and allowed 257 over 80 games, meaning they scored 2.68 goals per game on average while allowing 3.21 goals against (apparently Kelly Buchberger is a big fan of fire-wagon hockey). This year, they’ve score 112 goals and allowed 153 through 50 games, numbers which average out to 2.24 goals for and 3.06 goals against per game. That means that Jeff Truitt has this team scoring .42 goals less per game, while allowing .15 goals less against – the upshot of which is that for every goal that isn’t scored on the Falcons this season, they score three less.
Combine all of this with some funny personnel decisions – demoting players like Cody Wild and to the ECHL while Bryan Young and Mathieu Roy remain with the team, for example – and there’s a pretty compelling case for the removal of Jeff Truitt as head coach of the Springfield Falcons.