Destined for the Basement?

Updated: December 11, 2012

No matter which way you slice it, spin it, analyze it or say it, the end result is the same.  The Western Royals have been underachievers and right now appear to be headed to the basement of theNewfoundlandand Labrador Senior Hockey League (NLSHL).

This team is filled with talent and experience but it has never performed.  Regardless of the changes made by management on the ice and off the ice, the Royals lack the intensity, drive and some even say heart to compete in the NLSHL.  Some fans question coaching while others blame management.  However, responsibility of the Royals poor performance has to be placed squarely on the players with a little bit of coaching and management tossed in on the side.

Take a look at Steve North.  Yes, he’s now out with an injury, but North has never really played with the same intensity or heart that he did when he first broke into the league.  However, his performance problems didn’t start just this season, it started after North was injured several seasons ago when he went digging for a puck and hit the boards hard.  That hit changed his game and the old Stevie North that was a fan favourite faded to what he is right now.

Then there’s Scott Doody.  He was one of the youngest and brightest players in the Royals organization.  He had the legs, the skills and the heart but quickly found himself surrounded by perennial underachievers as line mates every since.  Sure, he’s tried to make the best of it but his play has suffered because of poor coaching decisions.  On any other team, Doody would be in the top scorers.  However, he sits with just 5-points, overshadowed by what the Royals management think are the big names in the game.

In analyzing this team, one would be amiss not talking about Bradley Dyke.  The Royals have stuck with the goalie for years hoping that he would gain confidence and step-up to play a role within this organization.  Dyke has never performed or played as well as what both the Royals coaching staff and Royals management thought he could.  Instead of stealing a few games here and there, if you were to look at things objectively, Dyke probably cost this team more in games.  In fact, one could argue that Dyke’s poor play added pressure on the defence, making them also struggle.

Let’s not forget the play of Ryan Sparling.  He is arguably one of the best players in the NLSHL and after 10 games he sits with just 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists).  He has hockey sense, can skate, pass and check when needed.  When he’s on the ice at times it’s like he is carrying the weight of the entire team on his shoulders but that is just his way.  He likes to be the centre of attention and you have to question him being a team player at times.

One certainly has to also question some of the tactics employed by Darren Langdon.  While he is one of the most intense players on the ice, sometimes that intensity costs the Royals with bad penalties.  Some will argue this is the result of a reputation that Langdon has built through the years and that the referees show bias because of it.  With Langdon currently sitting in third place in team scoring and tenth overall in the league, no one can deny his contributions on the score sheet and as a leader.  However, his leadership is sometimes questioned when he steps up his intensity and ends up in the penalty box during the least opportune times.

Looking back at the blue line, one has to question the role that Brad Rice is playing on the Royals.  He is arguably one of the best defensemen in the league but has failed to step up to the plate and influence a much younger defensive squad.  This has unfortunately led to the Royals giving up way to many odd-man advantages and more shots than most teams.  Rice should be a pillar on defence and be the key to the power play but he has shown anything but this season.

With the season now half over, the Western Royals must make some changes and shake things up.  They signed a new import goaltender and have indicated they are willing to make more changes to be successful in the league.  Whether these changes will happen anytime soon is anyone’s guess.

It is obvious right now the Royals are headed in the wrong direction and if this organization does not right a sinking ship sooner than later, they will occupy the bottom floor of the league standings, surpassed by even the newest entry in the league who are already nipping at their heels.

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