Okay, sorry it took me a couple of days to get to this. Been a little busy with real life, not going ballistic over the exploits of a collection of teenage boys. Man, some of those who've been posting on Rod Pedersen's blog are disturbed individuals. Also, I'm not a big fan of the knee-jerk, "sky is falling" assessments. But here's what I think is largely behind another disappointing early exit from the playoffs for the Regina Pats.
1) Personnel. Simply put, not enough offense. How many players on this year's edition of the Pats had career years..........LAST YEAR? J.D. Watt (34 goals last year/13 this year), Tim Kraus (19/15), Ryan DePape (25/10) and Michael MacAngus (24/18) spring immediately to mind. Add to that some porous defense and erratic goaltending, and it's safe to say the players didn't live up to expectations.
2) Coaching. I honestly believe Curtis Hunt is a top-notch coach. He can only put the players in a position to succeed. The skaters have to follow through on their end of the bargain. Hunt didn't give up any weak goals or shorthanded markers in the playoffs.
3) Heart. Simply put, there wasn't enough of it on this year's squad. Nothing against Logan Pyett specifically, but I yearn for the days when Barret Jackman wore the "C" for the Pats. There was a guy who was not afraid to make teammates accountable, including pinning them against the dressing room wall if need be. Hell, he was doing that sort of thing in his rookie year! I suspect Colten Teubert could be the same sort of leader. We'll find out.
4) Culture. This is the biggie from my perspective. Remember in the mid to late 90's when a stream of players chose not to play here? The franchise hadn't won a lot and the previous ownership was not exactly free-spending in it's approach to creating a professional environment.
Give Pats G.M. Brent Parker some credit. He recognized what needed to be done, and invested a lot of time (and money) into improved training facilities, top-notch equipment, and generally transforming the Pats into a professionally-run organization. And the result? Players now want to come here, seeing Regina as a desirable destination.
But, here's the rub. Are they the right kind of players? I suspect many of the kids we've seen in Pats uniforms in recent years were all too happy to partake of the amenities, the free clothing, stopovers in Banff, etc. But, when push came to shove, how many of those players would be willing to give everything they had to the organization in return? Answer - simply not enough of them.
By trying to make this a more desirable destination, the Pats have been taken advantage of by the "me first" generation of hockey players. The kind that want the team to provide top-of-the-line equipment, while they're still playing midget hockey! That culture of entitlement needs to end.
Clearly, not enough players have responded to being taken care of. It's time for a return to the "either you bust your butt for this team, or there's the door" type of approach. And if the little darlings don't like the change, then I strongly suggest they're not the type of players you want around when the going gets tough anyway. Frankly, it's a privilege to play junior hockey for this franchise. Let's leave the rewards for after the work is done.