Griffins First Half Report Cards|
Struggling Team Offers Few Bright Spots...
By Jason Kasiorek
This marking period's lackluster report cards are a direct reflection of the Griffins many woes the first half. Invisible defense, an ailing offense, underachieving veterans, inconsistent netminding and a lack of leadership all played key parts in the club's slide to the 24th spot in the league.
These are the Griffins' first half grades:
The Rating Scale:
A - Excellence
B - Above Average - Exceeds Expectations
C - Average - Meets Expectations
D - Below Average
F - Fail
D Tom Galvin B+
The most impressive surprise on the roster so far, Galvin was signed on the eve of the season as an afterthought and has been the team's most effective blueliner most of the early going. Leading the team in plus-minus at (+11), Tom has been a plus or even in 30 of his 34 games. He plays a simple game and makes his partners better. Also very versatile, he has played either side of the ice and even a few shifts up front.
C Mark Hartigan B
This heady forward got off to a slow start at both ends of the ice before finding the range. Mark scored 8 goals in 11 games to earn a series of recalls to the NHL. A streaky scorer, Hartigan scores in bunches, and is a threat in all situations. Not a big player, Hartigan also plays a physical game and is a big hitter.
RW Carl Corazzini B
You almost don't even notice this small, speedy winger some nights until the end of the game when you see the scoresheet. Corazzini is a hard working, consistent player without a lot of flash and glitz. He is a steady veteran forward who is good in the room as he quietly puts up his 20+ goals and 50+ points each season. He showed good chemistry with Cullen early in the season, before that line was broken up. He is one of the team's top penalty killers.
C Darren Helm B
It didn't look good for Helm when he missed most of training camp and the early part of the season with a sterno-clavicular injury. But he turned a lot of heads with his world-class speed and aggressive game. It didn't take him long to beat out some established players for a regular spot in the lineup, and he hasn't looked back. His offensive numbers will suffer until he adds some muscle and stops getting knocked off the puck.
RW Jamie Tardif B
Tardif worked his way up from the checking line to the first line early on and continues to overachieve. Tardif does a lot of little things well, and has shown the ability to put the puck in the net while still maintaining a strong defensive presence. The energetic young winger is always in motion, going to the net or into the corners and will get a shot off from almost anywhere. One of the club's top penalty killers, Jamie also picked up the scoring slack when a lot of the team's big guns were slumping or out of the lineup.
LW Mattias Ritola B
Ritola has been one of the team's better defensive forwards since the start of the season. His offensive talent was evident early, but it wasn't until recently that it started to impact the scoresheet regularly. He has steadily improved all season, and if he can continue to harness his high talent level, should be a big surprise in the second half.
C Mark Cullen B-
Cullen started out the season red hot, scoring over a point per game before falling into the same slump that seemed to affect most of the team's scorers. Things were further complicated when he was injured and missed a string of games. He looks to be picking up the pace again as of late, but needs a big second half to put himself back in his normal scoring range.
D Jonathan Ericsson B-
Like most of the Griffins' blueline brigade, Ericsson had an up and down first half as he attempted to mesh his game with coach Stothers' defensive system. The rangy rearguard started to put things together recently, coinciding with the return of his physical game. He still has a ways to go in terms of his consistency, but has improved his play as of late.
C Ryan Oulahen C+
There are many things that Oulahen does well that don't show up in the box score and are consequently overlooked. He picked up right where he left off last season, but that is the rub. This year he was supposed to take the next step forward and add the offensive component to his sound defensive game. That has not happened despite quality ice time and even some powerplay time. This may very well be the limiter on how much further up the ladder he will go.
D Jon Insana C+
It was more of the same from Insana after a slow start recovering from a knee injury. Jon plays a steady, unspectacular defensive game built on his good wheels and first pass out of the zone. He struggled at times along with the rest of the defensive corps, but seems to have settled down as of late.
D Kyle Quincey C
Injured during training camp, Quincey was behind the eightball from the start, missing almost the first month of the season. He struggled upon his return, but has simplified his game and has focused on being harder to play against and more physical. This seems to be paying off. Kyle still needs to pick up his offensive game, which has slipped each season, as he is capable of being a two-way defenseman. His biggest issue continues to be consistency, and while improved, he never has regained the level of his first pro season, pre-concussion.
G Jimmy Howard C
The organization's top prospect, Howard had an up and down first half, recovering from an awful start to become the AHL goalie of the month for December before bowing out with an injury. On the nights he was on, he was a force. But he has been streaky this season, and when he was off he was brutal. As the season wore on, the off nights became fewer and fewer, but Jimmy needs to take the reigns and show that he can be a consistent starter as a pro.
C Evan McGrath C
If you are waiting for McGrath to become the scorer he was in junior, you will probably be waiting a long time. While the young center has gotten better offensively, he will not be wowing anyone with his numbers. He has played OK in the role as a defensive center and forechecker, but still has a lot of work ahead of him to finish the transformation.
LW Neil Clark C
Clark had a strong camp, and was signed when the team needed some energy and size. For the most part, he has done what was expected of him - played a hard, physical game without taking too many bad penalties or being a defensive liability. If he could add some offense to his game he could be a keeper.
D Brad Ference C-
For a veteran defensive defenseman with NHL experience, Ference had a brutal start to the season. A fair part of that was being paired with a struggling Kindl, but not all of it. The feisty blueliner wasn't playing well at either end of the ice, and came out on the wrong side of a few lopsided fights, leading to a few nights as a healthy scratch. But credit Ference for working through his troubles and turning his defensive game around in the last stretch before being felled with a nasty wrist injury.
D Garrett Stafford C-
Stafford has done little the first half to dispel negative comments on his defensive game, but has not played terrible in his own end. The problem is that the veteran offensive defenseman is not scoring at nearly the level he has at other stops in his career to make up for it. If he could regain his touch, it could be the answer to untracking the Griffins' powerplay.
LW Mike Walsh C-
Walsh was brought in to provide some energy and a physical presence, and did a good job of that until he became a defensive liability and was eventually dispatched to the ECHL for more seasoning.
RW Brett Engelhardt C-
Brett had a good start to the season offensively before falling into a month long slump which saw him fall from the first line to the doghouse. Engelhardt has not played consistently at either end of the ice, nor has his heralded physical game been apparent most nights. The likeable forward needs to play with more intensity on a regular basis and use his size more to fulfill his promise and be effective in the second half.
RW Adam Keefe C-
Adam got into some hot water with a stretch of undisciplined play leading to some time in the pressbox. Despite having a decent level of skill, it appears that he is more interested in the physical game than pursuing any offense. If he can find his game, forecheck, put pucks on the net, grind it out in the corners, and play the body, he should be a welcome part of the lineup. If not, he could find himself on the outside looking in.
RW Randall Gelech D+
Gelech was supposed to bring size, grit and a scoring touch to the team, and so far he is lacking in all three of those areas. After a horrendous start, which saw him become a healthy scratch, he found a niche in the lineup as a penalty killer and forechecker, which he was quite good at. But his inconsistency and lack of offense led him back to pressbox as of late. To get back in the lineup on a permanent basis, Gelech must keep up his good defensive work and start going to the net again, using his size to create traffic or battle for position in front.
D Jakub Kindl D+
A notorious slow starter, Kindl looked out of place to start the season, and only recently has started to regain his composure. Sporting a team worst -18, the young rearguard has nowhere to go but up. With his skill level, the sky is the limit.
G Adam Berkhoel D
Berkhoel has probably played well enough to have a couple more W's on the season, but the truth is he has not won a game since October 27th. Much more was expected from this highly decorated college netminder, and with Howard on the injured list the worst could be yet to come.
D Derek Meech Incomplete
Playing three games after sitting for a few weeks in Detroit is not enough to award a grade for Derek. By most accounts he played well despite posting a -5 in three games.