The Sudbury Wolves season is only five games old and it’s hard to believe there are fans out there who want to see major changes after the first sign of trouble. These are the same fans who were beating their chests in celebration after the team returned home with the gold medal from Russia and then went on to win the first two games of the regular season.
That warm and fuzzy feeling was soon replaced by calls for trades and a coaching change after the team returned 0-3 from a Western Conference road trip, outscored 16-4 by Saginaw, Plymouth and Windsor, collectively.
My first piece of advice is to step back, breathe and chill out.
Yes, last weekend was a road trip to forget. Almost everything that could go wrong did. There is no way to pull many positives out of the team’s performances from last weekend. But, without trying to make excuses, I would challenge anyone to find a team that doesn’t go through some type of adversity, especially early in the season. That said, there have been some things that have developed that should send up the red flags.
In all three games last weekend, the Wolves had more than their fair share of chances, but more times than not, they weren’t able to bury those chances. Some came early in games and really could have changed the whole complexion and led to much different outcomes. It’s tough to teach a player that particular skill, but that finishing touch can come with something as simple as confidence — something I am sure the team is lacking after three tough losses.
There has been a lot of talk about goaltending. I am not going to sit here and pin all three losses on Joel Vienneau, but you need your number one goalie to be more than just OK — especially an overage goaltender. You need that goalie to steal you a few games. Vienneau was just OK on the road trip.
Yes, there were some tipped shots and yes, there were some power play goals scored against him, but a number one goalie has to find a way to make stops that keeps his team in games while giving his teammates in front of him that feeling that if they make a mistake, he will be there to bail them out.
One of the most outrageous comments I’ve heard is that head coach Trent Cull lacks leadership skills and should be fired after getting suspended for two games on the weekend. We don’t have enough space to debate the thinking behind the suspension, so let’s say I agree to disagree with those who want Cull out.
I said earlier that weren’t many positives to pull out of the three losses and that is true, but there were some good signs. The two Dominiks continue to impress. While Kahun and Kubalik didn’t fill the net on the road trip (they did each score once), they continued to create chances and have shown the creativity that Coach Cull would like to see rub off on some of his other offensive guys.
Having seen all three games on the road, I think forward Jacob Harris was the team’s best forward and the most consistent. His work ethic was there on every shift and he too was able to create some scoring chances.
A player that might have caught the eye of the coaches was forward Jake Ryan. After impressing in training camp and playing the second game of the season, Ryan was a healthy scratch for the first two games of the road trip before getting back in the line-up in Windsor on Sunday. Quite simply, he made something happen every time he was on the ice, and while not a big guy, he isn’t afraid to throw his body around.
So it’s not all bad news.
This is why you have coaches. They get paid to find ways to figure things out and that challenge begins tonight in Peterborough with the start of another three-game road trip.
Like I said earlier, step back, breathe and chill out because remember, it’s a long season and this won’t be the only time the team struggles.
Stew Kernan is the radio and television voice of the Sudbury Wolves, and the news director at EZ Rock and Q92. This column appears every other week in Northern Life.