Make that five coaches in four years
It is no secret that the Norfolk Admirals are not playing their best hockey this season. Norfolk has two wins and eight points, which are both worst in the league. Taking the brunt of this play is Rod Aldoff, who was chosen over the summer to replace the abruptly departed Eric Veilleux. Aldoff’s team couldn’t play offense, then they couldn’t play defense, and then they couldn’t play offense again, and the goaltending was spotty at best. Aldoff, who was Norfolk’s fourth coach in as many seasons, was let go today and replaced by Robbie Ftorek.
A few things are at play here. First, we have to acknowledge the personnel disadvantages brought on by the Edmonton Oilers. Last year’s team at least had the privilege of having AHL-contracted players, along with draft choices like Ben Betker and Greg Chase. Many of those players are not here this year, but the recent additions of Jadeon Descheneau (5 points in 10 games) and Zach Pochiro (5 points in 11 games) have had some help. The defense has some returnees from last season, though many haven’t lived up to their potential. Gabriel Verpaelst has 7 points, Sam Noreau has three (with two goals) and Adam Phillips has five. There’s not a lot of depth on this team, to be sure. Nick MacNeil is leading the team with a paltry 10 points, which is disappointing 20 games into the season. Goaltending is another issue. Connor Knapp has been serviceable with a .912 save percentage, and should arguably be the starter. Instead, the Oilers want to see Eetu Laurikainen get time. Their perspective makes sense-a young goalie should spend as much time as possible on the ice. However, Laurikainen has had trouble adjusting to the North American pro game. Over 10 starts, he’s posted a dismal .882 save percentage. Those numbers are not helpful to an inconsistent (at best) offense.
Rod Aldoff was not brought in by Mango Media Group. Hiring Robbie Ftorek is the first real move under new President of Hockey Operations Michael Santos. It is most likely important to the ownership group to have their choices in place. Ftorek certainly has the pedigree, with stints at the AHL, OHL, and NHL level as a head coach. Ftorek led the old Albany River Rats to the 1995 Calder Cup, which might be considered his best coaching job. Changing the coach is certainly a strategy I understand. Aldoff was historically unsuccessful, and keeping him may have sent a message in the wrong direction to fans and players. The roster, however, is not going to change overnight. When Ftorek goes behind the bench on Friday night, his team will still be facing a team that should be favored in the Manchester Monarchs. A win Friday night does not justify his hiring; a loss does not somehow make Aldoff’s dismissal an outwardly bad idea. Unlike the NHL, where we have mountains of data, there is very little to tell us about the process of how the team is playing. At some point, a guy like Josh Brittain isn’t going to be shooting 3.2%. Luck will probably improve, but it’s difficult to say what we will get from the team.
Ben Boudreau is still here.
Edit: Admirals Director of Communications Walt Ruff had this to say:
Ruff’s tweets make me think Aldoff might be reassigned by the Oilers to be a scout. His tweets also point to the same points about Mango Media (the Admirals): they want their choices in place. Remember, Edmonton made these decisions up until a few months ago.