If we judge the Falcons' year based on the performance of the team on the ice, we failed since we did not qualify for the post-season. However, I think it is also fair to point out some very positive things that took place this season.Bruce Landon of the Falcons started off his post season blog with those words, and I can't think of a better place to start my season review for the Falcons.
After thorough analysis by Landon, Chris MacFarland and Scott Howson of the Blue Jackets, a plan was put in motion for the city of Springfield to return to playoff action, something that last happened in 2003. Going one step further, the last time the Falcons franchise went past the opening round of the playoffs, you'd have to go back to 1997.
This was going to be our year! What happened? Read on after the jump:
The idea going into Jackets camp was for a revitalized Steve Mason, who now had a new goaltending coach in Ian Clark, to regain his rookie of the year form as the Jackets starter. Brought in as Mase's understudy was the incredibly talented Mark Dekanich. Dex, although untested in the NHL, served notice with his previous two AHL seasons, recording 2.33/.914 and 2.02/.931 numbers with the Milwaukee Admirals. Dex was injured late in the season for Milwaukee, and missed the 2011 playoffs. He was injured again in the first pre-season game against the Winnipeg Jets.
When Dekanich was finally cleared to start a rehab assignment with the Falcons, during a pre-game warm up suffered a severe groin pull which sidelined him for another two months. When finally ready for game action, this was not the Mark Dekanich that most observers expected. As it turned out, after parts of five games for Springfield, it was acknowledged that Dex's original ankle injury never healed correctly, and he was done for the season.
The direct impact to Springfield's planned tandem of Curtis Sanford and Allen York was immense. Sanford, who was supposed to be the Falcons starter, never made it to Springy, claiming the backup job to Mason after some injuries of his own. York, eventually played five games for the Falcons, before settling in with the Chicago Express. That is, until the season turned into "Allen York's Excellent Travel Adventure" (AHL transactions, followed by ECHL transactions):
October 20: recalled from loan by Columbus
November 13: returned on loan from Columbus
November 17: reassigned by Columbus to Chicago (ECHL)
November 20: reassigned by Columbus from Chicago (ECHL)
Novmeber 21: recalled from loan by Columbus
November 27: returned on loan from Columbus
December 5: reassigned by Columbus to Chicago (ECHL)
December 20: reassigned by Columbus from Chicago (ECHL)
January 4: reassigned by Columbus to Chicago (ECHL)
January 25: reassigned by Columbus from Chicago (ECHL)
February 3: reassigned by Columbus to Chicago (ECHL)
March 14: reassigned by Columbus from Chicago (ECHL)
March 19: recalled from loan by Columbus
November 20: reassigned by Columbus to Springfield
December 7: reassigned by Columbus from Springfield
December 22: reassigned by Columbus to Springfield
January 6: reassigned by Columbus from Springfield
January 25: reassigned by Columbus to Springfield
February 4: reassigned by Columbus from Springfield
February 10: reassigned by Columbus to Columbus
February 24: reassigned by Columbus from Columbus
February 25: reassigned by Columbus from Springfield
February 25: reassigned by Columbus to Springfield
February 26: reassigned by Columbus from Springfield
March 9: reassigned by Columbus to Columbus
Although York's travel logs are an extreme example, it shows some of the difficulty that the entire Jackets organization had in establishing any sort of continuity at any level this season. As Bruce stated, if you look solely at the on-ice results, all three clubs - Columbus, Springfield and Chicago failed. Disregarding briefly the turbulence in Columbus, Springfield was on the cusp of the playoffs until the last week of the regular season, while the Chicago Express fell just short of the post season, based on a tie breaker. While not a full blown success at either the AHL or ECHL level, the season for both clubs was not a full blown failure, either.
Cam Atkinson - 51 games as a Falcon, scoring 29 goals. Jackets fans got a taste of how good Cam can be the last week of the season.
Nick Drazenovic - Limited to just 41 games due to injuries, he still chalked up 41 points. A true gamer, night in and night out, look for big things from Nick if he stays healthy next season.
Brent Regner - In camp, Brent was likely Springfield's sixth, maybe seventh D-man. Not only did he persevere, but he prospered when called upon and by season's end, had played himself into top two on D.
Wade MacLeod - MacLeod's first full season of pro was more than just a learning experience. Once the season progressed to the second half, Wade found himself more often than not in the top six forwards. As his confidence grew, so did his point total.
Dalton Prout - Prout gets my vote for "Falcon of the Year". Like MacLeod, he was competing in his first pro season. While the distractions can affect some, Prout showed quickly that he had the ability to play some good defensive hockey. Again, like MacLeod, once we were into the second half, he started to let some serious bombs fly from the blueline, establishing himself as an offensive threat as well. Dalton had a great rookie season, culminating with his first NHL games!
Cody Bass - OK, so does playing only 23 games for the Falcons really qualify for "exceeded expectations"? It does when the player is Cody Bass. When signed by the Jackets last summer, he had just come off a Calder Cup win as captain of the Binghamton Senators. He was one of a handful of "character guys" brought in to exhibit leadership for the young Falcons team. He was reigning AHL Man of the Year. The accolades that he brought to Springfield (and Columbus) were well deserved. In an injury marred season, Bass brought not only character and leadership to the Falcons, but in a "Man's Man" way, brought a sense of duty to team ahead of himself. Cody Bass is the real deal, and the Blue Jackets wisely have already signed him for next season.
Patrick Cullity - Pat Cullity was by no means the most gifted player to lace 'em up this season. However, his contributions as a walk on PTO were sizable. Cullity was another player who showed the ability to step up and play quality minutes, when the team needed it the most.
Greg Amadio - Amadio was a trade deadline acquistion in exchange for Mike Thomas. The Grand Rapids Griffins loss was definitely the Falcons gain, as Amadio quickly showed himself as a no-nonsense warrior. Another "team above self" guy, Amadio is already re-signed for next season.
Paul Dainton - While Paully D didn't record as many miles as Allen York, his travels were plentiful this season. After a stretch with the Express, Dainton was loaned to the Reading Royals of the ECHL, before returning to Springfield for the critical February/March playoff drive. Paul's play through the end of the season especially, exceeded expectations for a rookie netminder.
Martin St. Pierre
Callups (Giroux, Byers, Calvert, Joudrey, Savard) and injuries (Mair and Legace) added to the limitations of this group. "Met Expectations" should in no way be inferred as a negative on these guys. St. Pierre led the Falcons in scoring, but he was signed as someone who was expected to contribute at a high level. Bogosian did not put up good scoring numbers. He was however, relegated to mostly third and fourth line duty, with some special teams mixed in. His ability to adapt to all situations expected of him, and his dedication to team showed him to be a character guy in his rookie season. I felt Ruth played his best defense of the season when he was paired with Brett Lebda. A little more physicality, and Ruth could have a breakout season in '12-'13.
DIDN'T MEET EXPECTATIONS:
The underlying theme for these guys? Injuries. Severe, debilitating injuries. Callups to a lesser extent (Kubie and Maks), but the shoulder injuries, the leg injuries, Cody's shattered finger and subsequent surgery. Blomqvist's concussion which lingered for months. It was a rough season for these guys, and I think that all can rebound nicely next season.
INCOMPLETE (POSITIVE IMPACT):
I wanted to give these guys an "honorable mention". Lebda in his time here showed himself to be a classy professional. He mentored the young Falcon defense while rediscovering his own game. Longpre, a trade deadline pickup, contributed right to the very end of the season. He didn't put up a lot of numbers (3-0-3 as a Falcon), but brought the presence of a scoring threat every time out. Spencer was another PTO from early in the season who played himself into a standard AHL contract. A role player, he didn't see a lot of minutes for the Falcons, but when he did, he gave everything he had.
These players all joined Springfield after signing ATOs. Morley saw limited action in three games before being released on March 29th. Clemente came in after finishing up in goal for Brown University. The undrafted 22 year old recorded a 1.99 GAA and .930 save percentage in six games with the Falcons, including his first pro shutout. I think it will come as little surprise to see him invited to Jackets camp in September.
New, a prep school teammate of Cam Atkinson, played against Cam in Hockey East as a member of the Providence College team. In two games with Springfield, he showed a good defensive presence as well as scoring his first pro goal, and adding two assists.
Collins led the ATO scorers with 1-4-5 in 8 games. Also adding his first pro goal was last year's 2nd round draft pick, Boone Jenner. Jenner will only be 19 when next season rolls around, so he will likely return to the Oshawa Generals. Hansen picked up his first pro point in two games as a Falcon. Although kept off the scoresheet, Weber and Vogelhuber both showed poise in their limited ice time (each played in two games).
2011-2012 Falcons Individual Stats:
|Martin St. Pierre||C||73||11||53||64||0||56|
|Nathan Longpre - season totals||F||59||11||10||21||+5||10|
|Patrick Cullity - season totals||D||49||1||9||10||-1||57|
|Greg Amadio - season totals||D||62||0||8||8||-12||222|
|Mike Thomas X||RW||25||1||3||4||-6||16|
|Ray Macias X||D||3||1||2||3||+3||0|
|Manny Legace (with Springfield)||G||35||0||2||2||0||2|
|Darcy Campbell X||D||3||0||0||0||0||2|
|Chad Costello X||F||4||0||0||0||-1||2|
|Danny Taylor X||G||10||0||0||0||0||0|
The Jackets announced earlier this week that Rob Riley will not be brought back for a third season behind the Falcons bench. At the risk of repeating something I said on Monday when the announcement was made, given the constant and overwhelming quantity of injuries and callups, Riley and his assistants, Brad Larsen and Nolan Pratt did a great job, not just in fielding a lineup, but fielding a competitive lineup. Games that the Falcons were out of could be counted on one hand, probably with a finger or two left over. Personally, I don't perceive the coaching change as a rebuke of Riley, as much as the Jackets continuing to be proactive in putting together the best roster they can, from the coaching staff on down.
Summing up, the just completed Falcons season was certainly a disappointment, based primarily on the lack of playoff action. The compete level that this club showed, despite adversity I'm sure none of the players have ever dealt with in their careers, was excellent to say the least. Now, with one season done, the plans for next year are starting to be formed. Already signed for Springfield are Greg Amadio and Andrew Joudrey. Recently signed by the Jackets is Cody Bass, who could play with either squad. As the summer wears on and the roster takes shape, stay with us here at The Cannon for all the latest on the AHL affiliate of the Blue Jackets, the Springfield Falcons!