With 20 games remaining in their MHL season the Weeks Crushers will need some statement games if they want to be taken seriously heading into the playoffs.
Sitting fourth in the Eastlink Division with 35 points they should have a playoff spot locked up, but does making the playoffs mean much?
They’re currently five points back of the third place Amherst Ramblers (41) and 12 back of the Yarmouth Mariners (47) who are first in the division. Don’t forget the Fred Page Cup host Truro Bearcats who are in the mix in second with 45 points.
Below the Crushers in the division are the CIBC Wood Gundy Lumberjacks (14 points) and Metro Shipbuilders (nine points) and both have played more games than the Pictou County squad.
Showing positives in their final games of 2012 by putting together a three-game win streak, the Crushers streak was ended when they were trounced 8-2 by the Yarmouth Mariners in their final game before the break. Speaking with head coach Jason Malone prior to the holidays he said if he had a choice he would’ve had his team playing again the next day after the loss, rather than thinking about a major loss like that for a few weeks, but that wasn’t the case.
In a season in which the Crushers were expecting or hoping to be a top contender, they have losing records against the top three teams in their division: 2-3 against Amherst, 0-2 against Truro and 0-2 against Yarmouth. What this says to me prior to their first game of 2013 is that fans shouldn’t get their hopes up that the team will be going anywhere in the playoffs.
That said there have been streaks of positives late in the 2012 portion of their season, they are 2-2 against the leagues best team (Summerside Western Capitals) and Brennan Saulnier was traded over the break for two players that will bring size to the lineup.
I wasn’t in the locker room and as much as I wish I were a fly on the wall, when a team moves their top scorer it isn’t without reason. I’m unsure if Saulnier played any role in the team struggling to get out of a slump, but I think that the fact the Crushers have added some size, which will be around for a few years, is a good thing.
My prediction for the rest of the season is the Crushers will win half of their remaining regular season games give or take one. They play Yarmouth and Truro four times each and Amherst three times, not to mention a pair against the Woodstock Slammers, who they’re 0-2 against so far this season.
I believe the team’s talent is under-achieving and with the remaining games they need to take a serious look at who needs to step it up individually, what they need to do as a team and what it’s going to take to not only turn things around this year, but more importantly heading into next year. This younger team could make a significant push next year if they figure out how to push their level of play over the top, rather than being just missing whatever that minor detail is that is holding them back.
Christopher Cameron is the sports reporter for The News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.