Flyers Faithful would like to thank Tim McManus for taking time out of his busy schedule once again to provide insight on the Adirondack Phantoms. We are eternally grateful for all of the help he has given to us.
Flyers Faithful: Last season the Phantoms finished 13th in the conference with a .450 win percentage. This season, they’re 12th but have a .524 win percentage and are only 3 points out of a playoff spot with some games in hand over teams above them and 2 points out of first in the division. Are theymbetter than their standing suggest or is the Eastern Conference just better on the whole?
Tim McManus: This is a tricky one. The Eastern Conference, on whole, is about what it was last year. But the Phantoms are in the Northeast Division, which is the league’s worst, bar none. The Phantoms are actually the same number of points (three, heading into the weekend) behind the division lead as they are the conference’s eighth spot. I expect only one team to make the playoffs from the Northeast Division.
On one hand, the easy division helps the Phantoms because they’re competing for first with other struggling teams. But on the other hand, the league’s schedule is unbalanced, so the Phantoms play many more games against the tougher East Division.
FF: In 30 games last season, Michael Leighton had five shutouts, a .926 SV%, and a 2.22 GAA. Through his first 30 games this season, his numbers have dipped quite a bit. To what do you attribute that changes?
TM: Really, the dip has only been lately. Through early December, Leighton’s numbers were just bout as good as they were last season. He’s struggled lately. It seems like he’s been leaving some bigger rebounds that teams are capitalizing on. But he’s also faced a lot off odd-man rushes lately as the team has struggled with turnovers. Can’t put it all on him. He just hasn’t been able to have one of those games where he steals one or makes 40-50 saves to win a game they were outplayed in. He did that a bunch last year.
FF: The Phantoms appeared to right the ship after Joe Paterson took over. What sort of impact has he had on the team?
TM: Joe Paterson is just such a calm, steady guy. I think he was the perfect touch for a young team last year that had a lot of lows. His approach never changes and I think they needed someone like that. His intensity is more the quiet kind. He also seems to be a great one-on-one guy. I see him often in the hallway pulling guys aside and having private conversations. I think he lets guys know where they stand.
FF: Numerous injuries to the Flyers caused disruptions in Glens Falls due to a parade of players being called up and returned back to the AHL. If and when the Flyers get healthy and the Phantoms have a stable roster, are they a playoff team? Are they already a team poised to make a run in the postseason?
TM: As they stand now, the Phantoms are probably a borderline playoff team. It’s going to be a struggle the whole way. Of course, being in that poor division, if they could find a way to win it, then they automatically get the No. 3 seed. That would be a huge help. If Leighton gets hot at the right time, they could win a round or two, but that’s a stretch right now. The talent level is higher than in the previous two years, but the Phantoms don’t have a lot of the higher-end AHL veteran talent you generally need to win championships here.
FF: The Phantoms appear to be in a slump. What’s going on with the team?
TM: For one, the offense has disappeared. This was never a team with a lot of finish, and the scoring numbers are somewhat inflated from the time when Brayden Schenn and Harry Zolnierczyk were here.
This is a team that has to work hard for its goals every night in the absence of a high-priced AHL scorer. Denis Hamel has gone cold. Mike Testwuide only lately has shown the scoring touch from last year. Eric Welllwood and Jason Akeson both seem to be more playmakers. That leaves
a lot of blue collar type scorers, and lately, the work rate just hasn’t been there for whatever reason. They get shots, but not high-quality chances. They’ve been cheating a lot to create offense and that has led to some bad-looking chances the other way.
The Phantoms create so little offense from possession in the offensive zone. Their cycle game is non-existent. It seems to either come off a rush or not at all. Paterson has been trying to get them to hold onto the puck longer in the zone for a couple months.