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Friday, April 06, 2007

2nd Place Wolves

The Wolves are neither here, nor are they there. Now trailing the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights by two points, all without playing a game, the end of the season and the tightness of the Western Division race is now so marked that I can foresee an end to this season with the Wolves tied with the Milwaukee Admirals and the Knights.

So, the season comes down to the final week and probably even comes down to the final games, in the case of the Wolves that is next weekend, playing the Admirals in the Bradley Center on Friday the 13th, the fourth place Iowa Stars on Saturday night at the Allstate Arena and Knights on Sunday afternoon.

Why did the Wolves, so hot and scoring with abandon early in the season, end the season so cool? And, with the Knights having trailed the Wolves for so long, why not look even further behind and realize the hot team in the Western Division is the Milwaukee Admirals?

I’ll repeat that in a different way. The Wolves turned cool in the second half of the year. The Knights came within three of the Wolves weeks ago. The Wolves haven’t significantly improved to hold the Knights off, so it has to be that the Knights have, along with the Wolves, been cool.

It is time to look at the leadership. For years I have held off criticizing John Anderson. But I have felt his work behind the bench in the Philadelphia Calder season was disappointing. There were structural problems, too, for the Wolves that season, which finally came into clear view during the playoffs. So, I’m not blaming Anderson entirely for the loss. But, he didn’t seem to be able to adapt to the Phantoms play.

And the Phantoms won. And the Phantoms deserved the win.

Now, with four top-scoring players and also some key defensive players, such as Andy Delmore, the Wolves face a tougher opponent, who they have not beaten at home all season.

Claude Noel. I had to eat crow about the Milwaukee Admirals last season, significantly underestimating them. I haven’t done that this year, though I have always felt that the Wolves were the better team, on raw talent.

Yet they have taken all of the games the Wolves have played against the Admirals at the Allstate. Guys, put on the burgundy. Sleep in a hotel. Do what it takes to take the last two games against the Admirals.

And coach, you need to stop trying to look cool among the season ticket holders. You need to explain your philosophy. Among the season tickets holders there is an increasing volume belonging to the people who want your contract terminated.

Why did the team peak early? Let’s think back about the Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton Penguins that peaked early last season (if my memory serves me), and the Rochester Americans who peaked early the season before. Both exited early.

Meltdowns in the second half should not happen.

As far as Claude Noel… god bless this man. He deserves a shot at the NHL. Take a look back at my comments when Denis Savard was picked to lead the Blackhawks. Kick the great Savard upstairs and offer that Chicago position to Noel. It would be a great choice for the Madison Avenue minor league team and would strike a great marketing blow against the Wolves too.

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