Fixter’s frustration rising as inconsistent play continues to dog struggling Wolves
This is a character trait the Sudbury Wolves seem to have forgotten over the last month or so.
During the incredible run from mid-November to mid-January, the will to win never seemed to be an issue. The message sent by Head Coach Paul Fixter and Associate Coach Dave Matsos was getting through to the players, it appeared.
They realized what it took to be successful both on and off the ice.
So, what has changed since then? That is the million dollar question.
Many people point to the OHL trade deadline. The Wolves made a couple of significant moves that were expected to be the final pieces of the puzzle to help the team make a run at both an Eastern Conference and league championship.
While things certainly got off to a good start with the additions of forward Radek Faksa and defenceman Trevor Carrick, the results have been anything but stellar since.
After last weekend, the Wolves are 6-6-0-3 and what was once a very comfortable double-digit lead atop the Central Division has shrunk to singles and has the Pack looking over their shoulder.
Reality crashed home after last Thursday's 2-0 loss in North Bay. Not only was it the Wolves' second straight scoreless game, but the loss also resulted in the Battalion moving into a tie for first place in the division.
Sure, the Battalion is a difficult team to play because of their defensive style, but the effort the Wolves showed during their winning streak seemed to have evaporated.
This certainly wasn’t lost on Fixter.
“They’re a frustrating team to play against, but I’m more frustrated with our effort tonight” he told me after the loss in North Bay. “Our give-a-shit meter wasn’t high enough.
“I don’t understand how you can’t get excited to compete in a game of that magnitude with first place on the line. We got outworked and we got out-competed and as the head coach I have to take responsibility for that, but you have to find a way to get yourself ready to go.”
These comments — or something similar delivered in the dressing room — may have had the desired effect on the weekend, because the team went out and got three out of a possible four points. They got their offence back in gear somewhat and showed signs of what made them successful during the streak.
In a recent column, I wrote that I didn’t believe the additions made at the trade deadline hurt the team's chemistry. The skill level of both Faksa and Carrick was there before they put on a Wolves uniform and there is no doubt in my mind that skill will win out in the long run.
What does have to change is the attitude of the players. All they have to do is look back to November, December and the start of January to figure out what led to that success.
What they will find is that the will to win was there — day in and day out — and it’s that work ethic that will get them back on track.
Stew Kernan is the radio and television voice of the Sudbury Wolves, and the News Director at KiSS 105.3 and Q92. This column appears every other week in Northern Life.