They say you can’t out run time. Apparently, you can’t out skate it either. The Albany Devils did their job in valiant fashion. Then the Springfield Falcons did what they needed to do. After that, the Portland Pirates took care of business too. Alas, the AHL schedule is no longer 80 games (and may yet shrink again from 76 to 72 or less next season) and the Pirates will be heading to New Hampshire for a Calder Cup playoff date with the Manchester Monarchs. Hence, the Devils are left to ponder their fate.
It started so well, historically so for the A-Devils. Albany began the AHL campaign with a bang, charging out to a 6-0-0-1 start, leading the Eastern Conference with 13-points and the league with 32 goals. Only the Utica Comets had more points. At the conclusion of the season, Utica finished with the top seed in the West, while Albany placed tenth in the East and a goal short of 200 tallies.
The team that skated into November on a five-game winning streak, also finished strong, winning four straight to close out the April slate. So what happened between both of those loaves, known as the rest of the season sandwich? What brought the AHL Devils so close to a second consecutive playoff berth but on the outside looking in for the 13th time in the last 15 seasons? I’ll examine the good and bad and attempt to sort it all out.
- The good stuff:
- Paul Thompson – The lone AHL veteran inked during the off-season by the Devils. Thompson netted three hat-tricks, including two late in the season. Thompson’s 33 markers were second in the AHL and set a franchise single-season record, dating back to 2006. Most impressive for the AHL All-Star, who posted just eight goals the season prior.
— AHL (@TheAHL) March 29, 2015
- Scott Clemmensen – Shaking off the mumps and the rust from backing up Cory Schneider, Clemmer recaptured his 25-win magic from 2008-09 and was dynamite down the stretch. After being sent back down in early March, Clemmensen posted a ledger of 7-3-1, with a goals against average of 1.57 and a save percentage of .942, in his final dozen contests.
- Joe Whitney – Yet another AHL All-Star campaign for Whitney, who recorded 23-goals and whose club leading 60 points were the most by an AHL Devils player since Peter Vrana’s 61 in 2007-08.
- Raman Hrabarenka – Easily the most improved player on the squad, really picked his game up on the blue line. Would’ve had an even more impressive season if not sidelined by a dirty hit by the Comets’ Darren Archibald. In 47 games, Hrabarenka still led club defencemen with four power play markers.
- Mike Sislo – After shuttling between Albany and Newark for stretches, Sislo made his mark toward the end. For the second consecutive season, the Sislo kid notched a 20-goal campaign.
— AHL (@TheAHL) April 18, 2015
- Matt Lorito – The Brown product made a huge impact late. Lorito registered 12 points in eleven games and recorded five points in his final game against the Syracuse Crunch.
- The bad stuff:
- Callups and lack of reinforcements – Mind you every team must endure this but aside from Thompson, a few weeks of Mark Fraser and the final dozen of a healthy Clemmensen, there wasn’t much help for Albany. Keith Kinkaid, Steve Bernier and Peter Harrold went to New Jersey in November and it hit the club hard for a stretch. Plus an odd situation with the club still in the race and the parent club out of it, Hrabarenka and Seth Helgeson were called up to New Jersey and Albany was left short-handed on the back-end. Unlike last year, when the likes of Adam Larsson, Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill were sent down at the conclusion of the NHL campaign, Merrill and Damon Severson never saw the ice in Albany at the end.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 9, 2015
- Inconsistent/lack of scoring – Much like the parent club, the A-Devils had a few games here and there where even a goal or two would’ve led to a point or two more toward a postseason position. Last year, a balanced scoring attack saw the squad light the lamp 220 times. Stefan Matteau notched his first goal in the first game of the season, went through a prolonged drought but finished strong with 12 on the whole. Reid Boucher netted 12 goals before February but only scored three after that point, totaling 15 on the year. Plus, there were players young and old who just couldn’t score consistently enough or cash in on their opportunities.
- Too much passing/playing “the system” – At the risk of sounding like the guy yelling “shoot!” in the stands, this club, much like their parent club, would’ve been a lot more aggressive in putting the puck on net, placing a body or two in front of the net and trying to crash and cash in. Blame it on the personnel on the ice if you want but if there were adjustments made in coaching philosophy at the NHL level, why wasn’t there any made on the ice at the AHL level? In other words, why was the “DeBoer system” still being used after he was gone?
- Dog days of February schedule – It is inconceivable to me how in the dead of winter, the A-Devils only had a pair of home contests on the schedule. Ultimately, it created a hole too big to dig out of. After an 8-4-2-1 mark in January, Albany faltered in February, going just 2-8.