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Grand Rapids Griffins Second Half Report Card
Griffins amazing run falls short in quest for postseason...
By Jason Kasiorek
www.griffinscentral.com
April 28, 2011

The Griffins were one of the hottest teams in the AHL for a large stretch of games in the second half. They rode the suprise goaltending of Jordan Pearce to within a game of 1st place before running out of gas and falling short of the last playoff spot. Captain Jamie Tardif, Ilari Filppula, Tomas Tatar, Frankie Pare and Chris Minard led the way offensively while the defense stepped up to make solid contributions as well. But the story of the second half really was the strong play of Pearce who turned in a 20 win season despite not playing until the halfway mark of the year. The second year netminder took over following the recall of Joey MacDonald to Detroit and the subsequent meltdown of Thomas McCollum. During one 29 game stretch, Pearce had a 17-5-1-4 record with a 2.64 GAA and a .915 Save percentage, pretty incredible numbers for a team that gave up 3.2 goals per game.

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

RW Jamie Tardif A
The captain was probably the teamís most valuable player this season, taking his game to the next level and establishing himself as a consistent scoring threat. He gave the team whatever it needed, shorthanded, on the powerplay, blocking shots, and dropping the gloves when necessary. Despite this, he doesnít appear to be in the parent clubís plans and will probably be moving on to another organization for a deserved NHL shot.

C Ilari Filppula A
Made great strides in his game at both ends of the ice as he adjusted to the North American game. He was much better at staying in motion and keeping his feet moving the second half, and the AHL all-star was lethal on the powerplay from the right circle. Filppula is an Unrestricted Free Agent and is a question mark to return unless he gets an opportunity to earn a job with Detroit.

LW Tomas Tatar A
The speedy winger came back from his first NHL recall energized and his game reflected it. He used his speed better and really took the puck to the net, scoring 15 goals in the second half. He really stepped up to become a go-to player and should have a monster season next year if he is in the AHL.

G Jordan PearceA-
Went from afterthought to possible team savior almost overnight. Pearce posted a 20-win season and carried the team to the brink of the postseason before running out of steam. The Notre Dame alumnus was solid but unspectacular and gave his team a chance to win almost every game he played. Despite his solid showing, he may not be back next season as he is rumored to be leaving to pursue his medical degree.

D Derek Meech B+
Smooth skating blueliner had a very good second half, leading all Griffins defenderís with 22 points. Meech does so many of the little things well, moving the puck up ice, and making the safe plays, that he at times makes the game look easy. He still falls victims to the occasional brain camp and can be hurried into making a bad decision, but that happened less than in the first half. Meech has surely shown he belongs in the NHL and as a free agent is likely to find employment elsewhere.

LW Chris Minard B+
Recovered from a disastrous first half to post some solid numbers and show off a decent scoring touch. His 15 goals the over the last half tied for the team lead and his 134 shots led the team outright. He is under contract for another season, but it remains to be seen whether he will be back to fulfill it.

D Greg Amadio B
The heart and soul of this team, Ammo provided leadership and maximum effort every time he stepped on the ice. He has a host of weaknesses, but somehow manages to play better than the sum of his parts would indicate. This warrior on the blueline stepped up his play in the second half to join Jamie Tardif as the most consistent Griffins. He was rewarded with a contract extension and should be patrolling the backend for a couple more seasons.

C Joakim Andersson B
It took the talented Swede awhile to find his offensive game, but towards the end of the season he was starting to pick up the pace. His size and strength served him well defensively, and he was a solid player for most of the year. His skating did not appear to be sub par as advertised, and he has the look of someone who could play an NHL style game. Look for him to make more of an impact next season.

C Frankie Pare B
Pare upped the ante in the second half, living up to the flying Frenchman moniker. The diminutive sniper caught fire down the stretch notching 14 goals and 28 points. He also managed to shore up his defensive game after falling down in that department the first 40 games. He showed some chemistry with Johnson and was a big factor in the Griffins offense. He has probably played well enough to earn another contract and another opportunity to crack the 30 goal mark.

D Doug Janik B
Janik finally settled down in the second half, regaining his form from last season as a physical two-way rearguard with a mean streak. The steady vet rang up 15 points in his last 34 games and posted a team high+12 defensive rating during that span. His calming presence did wonders for Brian Lashoff among others. With a year remaining on his contract he should be back for another season of mentoring the organizations young defensemen.

RW Adam Keefe B
A fun player to watch, and a crowd favorite, Keefe was a ball of energy every game, energizing the bench and the crowd with his never say die attitude. Despite limited skills, he was willing to do anything to win, blocking shots, dropping the gloves, and laying some punishing hits. He used his energy well as an effective forechecker and gave 100% every shift. At the end of the season the feisty winger indicated he was hoping to return next season.

C Brent Raedeke B
Rookie speedster improved marginally during the second half as glimpses of his offensive game came out with more ice time. He has tremendous speed and agility and is more skilled than his numbers would indicate. The area he really excels is on the forecheck, where he is a demon, using his speed and grit to steel the puck and keep it deep. The experience he gained this season should pay dividends next season.

C Cory Emmerton B-
Emmerton was not as much of an impact player at either end of the ice in the second half, which could partially be explained by losing his regular line mate Mursak for a large group of games. In any case, his development in the AHL has peaked or flat lined depending on your view, and he will be given an opportunity to battle for an NHL job next season in training camp. If he doesnít stick he will likely be claimed on waivers ala Mattias Ritola last season, so is unlikely to spend another season in Grand Rapids.

D Travis Ehrhardt B-
The first halfís breakout player, Ehrhardt slid back a bit in the second half, but still turned in an impressive performance. He found himself slotted on the wing as much as on the blueline during the final 40 games, but acquitted himself well as a swingman. He has an impressive package of skills: shot, skating, physical play, and sees the ice well. His next goal is to carve out a regular spot in the lineup.

RW Jan Mursak B-
Mursak had an up and down second half, but clearly was not the same player after returning from Detroit. He has however proven what he needs to at this level and will be given every opportunity to win a job in the NHL out of training, and wonít be returning to the Griffins.

D Brendan Smith C+
Injuries got the best of him as he was not the same player much of the second half at least the few games he got into. If he can stay healthy he has already showed off a set of NHL level skills on both sides of the puck. Smith, like most rookie defensemen, needs to add some muscle over the summer and work on being able to withstand the rigors of the professional schedule. He is well on his way to steady NHL employment, and another AHL all-star season is probably on tap.

D/F Brandon Straub C+
Straub delivered about what was expected of him in the second half, playing a clean, physical game without a scoring touch. He proved to be a very good forechecker, with better skill than expected, especially evident on the cycle. He filled his role well, but is not likely to return for another season.

D Brian Lashoff C
Lashoff finally got to play semi-regularly after recovering from a string of injuries. He got better as the season went on and hopefully a clean start next season will give him an opportunity to play at the level he can. While his offensive game was missing this season, he was impressive defensively and made a good first pass to start the transition. Expect him to bulk up over the summer and return with a greater impact next season.

LW Jordan Owens C
The speedy winger was just starting to raise his game from a lackluster first half when he suffered a broken arm and was forced to miss the last quarter of the season. It is no coincidence that once he started to bring his physical game consistently, the rest of his play picked up as well. Owens has an intriguing collection of skills, speed and grit, which will probably get him another opportunity to see if he can put it all together next season.

C Jamie Johnson C-
Coming off a brutal first half, Johnson had nowhere to go but up. He developed a little chemistry with Pare and had a good string of games down the stretch to keep the season from being a total write off. He has another year left on the books, but could be bought out after his disappointing season.

D Logan Pyett C-
Another third year player at a crossroads with the organization after a subpar season, Pyett was largely ineffective at both ends of the ice. If you take away the hat trick he scored, he only had one goal in the last 40 games, not enough for a player of his ilk. When you add in his defensive woes, which were apparent down the stretch, and the glut of young defenseman looking for spots, a new contract is not assured. However the organization has stated before that they like his potential, and the fact that he falls just short of veteran status could get him another try.

G Thomas McCollum F
McCollum continued his freefall, losing his confidence and his job in short order. He spent the majority of the second half riding the pine or in the ECHL with Toledo. He was pressed into service with the parent Wings, but ended up getting blitzed and only lasted a few minutes. With a lot of questions hanging over his head, next season could be a make or break one for the young netminder.

D Sergei Kolosov F
Kolosovís nightmare season continued as he missed significant time with a knee injury and then was even less effective after returning. He never was able to regain his game and was brutal at both ends of the ice. After going scoreless with a team worst -10 rating over the last half, it looks like this could be the end of the line for the 6í4 defenseman, at least in the wings organization.

C Gustav Nyquist Inc.
Nyquist looked like he belonged in late season action after ending his collegiate career. He was creative offensively with a lot of flair, but his defensive game could use some work. He should be able to find work on a scoring line in the AHL next season.

RW Willie Coetzee Inc.
Didnít show much in very limited action the second half before being assigned to Toledo (ECHL). Much like Mursak a few years ago, Coetzee should benefit from his trial by fire and make more of an impact next season.

D Sebastien Piche Inc.
Piche is on the last year of his contract and will be looking to build on his strong second half. He was solid in light duty on the Griffins blueline before returning to the ECHL and putting up some big numbers.