Opinion: Disecting the Titan’s losing streak
11. Eleven. Onze. Undecim. Elf. Undici. Одиннадцать.
No matter the language, it’s a great number. That is unless you’re the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. For this team, it’s a horrible number attached to a losing streak that has lasted nearly a calendar month. Not since a 2-1 victory over the Charlottetown Islanders on Jan. 12 have the Titan tasted victory. In the 11 games since then, the opposition has out-scored the Titan by a 48-12 margin which includes five shutouts in that stretch.
So what seems to be the problem? Let’s break it down into four sections.
Firstly, from the on-set of the season, the Titan was never going to be a top-scoring team. Gone were the offensive power houses like Zach O’Brien, Matthew Bisonnette and Christophe Lalancette. Either by way of aging out or being pieces to complete trades made by members of the team’s staff no longer in power, the Titan needed for players to step up and assume the role of a scoring leader.
Many tried, but only a few have risen to the top of the Titan’s score sheet. Those who did are those who mostly came from other teams after the season began. The Titan brought Scott Oke and later Matthew Boudreau on board a couple of months into the season to try and spark the offense.
In 35 games since being traded from Rimouski, Oke has found the back of the net just nine times while picking up 11 assists. Boudreau found Bathurst to be his third team of the season after stints in Shawinigan and Victoriaville and in the 18 games since his trade has scored four goals while adding nine assists.
Compared to who Boudreau replaced, Adam Stevens had 11 goals and 11 assists in 38 games prior to being traded to Gatineau. As for Oke, he replaced both Patrik Zdrahal who had five goals and seven assists in 18 games while Dominic Beauchemin had five goals and six assists in 17 games. Both were traded to Rimouski for Oke and prospect Charles-Anthony Poulin.
The challenge of any young team is to find that scoring touch. Not including those born in 1993, the Titan have four players born in 1994, five players born in 1995, eight players born in 1996 and one born in 1997. With the three players born in 1993 not returning due to aging out at the end of this season along with one player born in 1994 due to the rules on over-agers, this team is likely only going to get younger with several players in Midget AAA and Junior A ready to make the jump.
Secondly, there’s the matter of the mounting injuries. Aaron Kerr, 17, missed most of January and has been out of the line-up for most of this losing streak. Despite only having four goals and five assists on the season, Kerr has been one of the key players on the Titan’s often strong penalty killing unit.
In addition to this, the Titan lost one of their better forwards to injury as Patrick Walsh left the team to take care of an upper body injury that had been plaguing him since last season, while recent forward call-up Grant Janes has been out of the line-up since Jan. 21, also with an upper body injury.
The holes in the forward lines have forced those who would normally play top roles on defence to move up. Lucas Grundy was the first to move onto the forward line, and now he’s missed several games due to yet again, an upper-body injury. Jake Primeau also moved up onto the forward line. The acquisition of defencemen Nicolas Dumulong, Nicolas Latulippe and Mark Trickett have given the Titan enough defencemen to compensate for these moves, but it leaves their best blue-liners in areas that may not play to their strengths.
We’ll combine the third and fourth items as they’re interconnected. Those have been the recent schedule and the coaching change. From Jan. 17 through to Feb. 1, the Titan played nine games in a 16-day stretch that saw them have no more than one complete day off that did not involve travel or a practice. The horrid pacing of the schedule did not allow the Titan for much time to adapt to the new coaching system put in place by Ron Choules, who took over for the dismissed Danny Dupont during the early stages of this losing streak.
Different coaches have different styles. With Dupont, the Titan had one of the best penalty killing units that helped compensate for the weak offense. Choules has a different style from this and likes to employ a more attacking style. Choules would have preferred more time to allow his team to adapt to the new style of play, but with a team that was on the verge of a burn-out, he wasn’t able to put forth the plan to a higher degree until earlier this week.
The Titan will have one of their best chances to snap this extended losing streak tonight as they face the Saint John Sea Dogs, a team they are 2-2-0-1 against this season. The Sea Dogs are one of the teams the Titan have faced during the course of this losing streak, dropping a 4-0 decision on Jan. 26. Time will tell if the Titan will be able to pick up the victory, or if they will need to look towards a date in Charlottetown next Friday to snap the streak against an equally slumping Islanders team.