Sunday, November 16, 2008

How to Fix the Hatters?

Lets face it. The Danbury Mad Hatters have not started the season off the way they wanted to. They were looking to make an impression in the first year of the Eastern Professional Hockey League (EPHL) and certainly have but maybe not the way they wanted to. They are 2nd in the league with 212 penalty minutes in just 4 games, an average of 53 minutes a game. Danbury is last in goals for with 15 and has a record of 1-3-0-0 which puts them in last along with the Hudson Valley Bears who are seemingly turning into the main rivals. 
So what needs to be done? How can this team be fixed this early in the season? Lets look at this a bit more in depth with questions.
Is it the Coach? Absolutely not. Coach MacIsaac has done very well in terms of keeping the team together and getting his players ready for games. The Hatters have scored first in 3 of their first four games this season and jumped out to leads. They made a comeback in the third game of the season after being down 2 goals going into the third period. Mac has a system of hard work and grinding in place with the team that is working well. Obviously it isn't perfect but Mac has a solid base set down. 
Is it the players? Obviously some blame does have to go on the players because they are the ones on the ice but it isn't entirely theirs. Yes they blew multiple goal leads in their first few games and maybe have come out flat when they couldn't afford to. But the players on this team have offensive talent. Igor Karlov and Billy Tibbetts are two guys on the team who have the offensive skills to light up the league. Dan Hickman on the back end has the smarts to run the point on the power play and a shot to add another dimension to the Hatters offense. On the goaltending side of things, it has been a rough go for Derek MacIntyre and Jeff Hill. MacIntyre has been in goal for 3 of the 4 Hatters games with a 5.38 goals against average while Jeff Hill gave up 6 in his only game. With the Hatters giving up an average of 35 shots a game, the defense needs to step up in reducing quality scoring chances while the goaltenders need to make more saves...including some desperation ones. 
So where is the blame? The builders. I personally believe that the mantra of the team is a carry over from the Danbury Trashers and New England Stars franchises of being mean and pounding the opposition into the ice. But even the Trashers had scorers in their second season as they realized that the all tough guy teams except for a few guys weren't as effective in winning games. 
What this team needs is a change of theme. Instead of being mean and focusing on pounding the other team, go for a hard working mantra. Obviously don't completely do away with the toughness factor considering the rivalries that are bound to be forged but a focus on creating an atmosphere that promotes hard work and speed. Coach Dave MacIsaac will be needed if this is to become a reality but that is the way to go if this team wants to succeed in this league.
Another thing that needs to be done is getting the right players to fit in the system. Fast players are essential in a league where the ice surface is smaller. Players like Igor Karlov who have incredible speed will rack up points in this league. The management needs to invest in players who have speed but aren't afraid to mix it up as well. Danbury Trashers fans will remember Bruce Richardson from their inaugural season when he had 87 points in 76 games. His style of play is exactly the type that this Hatters team needs to adopt and the kind of players that are needed. Hard working, speed oriented, edgy guys who feed off the crowd and the energy on the ice, bench and in the locker room are the answer to the Hatters.
It is very early in the season and there is no reason to hit the panic button. But management should be looking for ways to fix this team which they undoubtedly are. They want a winner in Danbury and this start certainly will bring changes to the team. 

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