Perhaps the most anticipated part of the recent Pipeline Show interview with Kevin Prendergast was getting his take on the problems in Springfield. Asked what the problem was with Springfield this season, he gave a lengthy reply:
"Obviously there’s not one thing that went wrong… they were out of it by mid-January and on paper it wasn’t that bad a team, it was a good team. They got off to a 9-4 start, we thought everything was going great, and within one week their three best defensemen all got hurt, and they weren’t out for a week they were out for 6-12 weeks and it left us with 4 small defensemen at that point and we called up from the East Coast League two more small defensemen. We needed leadership from the veteran guys that we signed to help carry the team; we didn’t get that from them. We had underachievers from, basically every player on the team outside of Potulny."
I didn't remember Springfield getting off to a 9-4 start, so I went and checked out their record at their official website. It turnes out that the Falcons went 9-4-3 before dropping five straight; meaning that Prendergast wasn't exactly lying but he was certainly stretching things a little bit.
Next he said that their three best defensemen were injured within a week. Here's the list of significant Springfield defensemen from this past season, ranked by point totals:
- Taylor Chorney (6', 196lbs): 68GP, 21PTS, -29,
- Theo Peckham (6'2", 216lbs): 47GP, 19PTS, -7
- Cody Wild (6'1", 183lbs): 59GP, 18PTS, -14
- Mathieu Roy (6'2", 210lbs): 59GP, 17PTS, -20
- Sebastien Bisaillon (6', 205lbs): 31GP, 12PTS, -1
- Bryan Young (6'1", 191lbs): 63GP, 10PTS, -2
- Mike Gabinet (6'3", 210lbs): 45GP, 8PTS, -13
- Robbie Bina (5'8", 180lbs): 37GP, 8PTS, -18
- Jake Taylor (6'4", 225lbs): 28GP, 4PTS, +1
- Josef Hrabal (6'1", 176lbs): 17GP, 1PTS, EV
After that 9-4-3 start, three defensemen were injured in quick succession: Jake Taylor, Mike Gabinet, and Bryan Young. Of those three, Taylor was a top-four defenseman, Young was a third-pairing defenseman, and Gabinet was a fringe AHL'er who was scratched on opening night. They were all injured long-term, and the loss of Taylor in particular hurt the team. Later in the interview, Prendergast expanded on this point:
"I thought we had depth; just what happened is we lost the three biggest defensemen, it left us with guys like Peckham who’s 6’1" who’s our biggest one at that point, and Taylor Chorney’s 5’11 and Cody Wild is 6’. They’re not physical guys, we lost our physical presence back on the point."
This is closer to the truth, but still misleading. Prendergast knocks an inch off of the size that each player is listed at, and knowing how generous some descriptions are that may well be true. But the lineup still had Mathieu Roy and Theo Peckham - both aggressive, physical defensemen and both bigger than Bryan Young.
I agree that Springfield had injuries this year, maybe even more than most AHL clubs. That said, if Prendergast really believes that the biggest problem with Springfield this season was the loss of three defenseman - only one of whom was a member of the team's core - he's deluded.
I don't think he believes that. I think that while he mentioned the underachievement from key players, Prendergast was trying to cloud the issue by bringing up these injuries. What is worth noting is that during the 12 game stretch where the Falcons won a single game, both Gabinet and Young were back in the lineup. Sure, the team had injuries, but that doesn't change the fact that the lineup simply wasn't good enough.