Thanksgiving is now behind us, for the most part. I still have a few naps planned for the coming days, which is one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions. As we start to move forward towards the most wonderful time of the year, outside of hockey season starting, we will all start piecing together the annual Christmas shopping lists, both for our loved ones, but also for ourselves. Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, our pockets will get considerably lighter but also our hearts considerably fuller as we start to find gifts for all of the loved ones in our lives.
The Kansas City Mavericks kick off a big two-game set just down south on I-35 as they take on the Wichita Thunder this weekend. When your record is 6-9-2 and you’re looking up at everyone else in the division, every series at this point is big. Every game is big. Every shift is big. We could talk about what the Mavericks need to do in order to right the ship and start climbing the Mountain Division standings. We could talk about what has gone wrong and what has gone right. But we’ve already done that……..a lot……. At this point, every player in that locker room knows what they need to do for the greater good. They know what role they have to play to get things back on track. They know it. We know it. So, let’s go a different direction this time around, shall we?
While we sit on the couch, with our mobile device of choice in hand, we’ll spend hours scouring the interwebs to come up with Christmas ideas. Why don’t we apply that same line of thinking for our Mavericks? Let’s be honest with each other, a Christmas wishlist could be substantial at this point for a team in the cellar of the division, but despite the last few outcomes, the Mavericks have actually been playing much better hockey of late. Now that progress needs to be turned into progress in the win column, before this early season hole becomes too deep to overcome.
So, let’s take a few minutes and piece together our Mavericks Christmas wishlist:
FIX THE ROAD WOES
It’s the end of November, and the Mavericks still do not have a victory away from the friendly confines of Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. That needs to change and change fast. This team has already played a significant amount of their home schedule, which means from this point forward, the majority of games will be on the road. They have to figure this out quickly, or things will get worse before they get better.
KEEP MAKING STRIDES ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Special teams play such a big factor in almost every game. The special teams play throughout the first few weeks of the season was downright dreadful, but they have since turned it around. They have finally hit the century mark on combined power play and penalty kill percentages, but that needs to get closer to the 110 or 115 mark. Improvements have definitely been made, but there’s still work to do here. Top notch special teams can carry a team at times.
DZ BROS STEP UP
When David and Darian Dziurzynski are at their best, this entire team is on a whole different level. I think we can all agree that they haven’t quite hit their stride yet. With emerging players like Jack Walker
and Bryan Lemos making significant contributions, possibly exceeding expectations at this point, if the DZ brothers can elevate their play, then the wins will start piling up. 14 combined points in 31 combined games is not the level we know they can perform, and they would be the first to agree. They both have incredible talent and the quicker they can figure it out, the faster this process will go.
EMBRACE THE GRINDER MENTALITY
There has been a common theme with all six of the Mavericks victories so far this season, even the 10-1 win over Rapid City. That them has been grinding out opponents defensively and getting the greasy goals offensively. This team has struggled to find an embrace an identity so far this season, when the identity that has worked for them is right under their noses. It all starts defensively, being physical, finishing checks, forechecking like madmen, and wearing opponents down physically and mentally. That is what they have excelled at during their moments of success so far this season. You don’t have to be big to throw your weight around, just ask CJ Eick. He does it every shift and that starts to wear on anyone. Players like Loren Ulett and Ryan Van Stralen have led the charge in this regard, and once everyone else follows suit and embraces that mentality, that win total will start to tick upwards. That style of play isn’t easy, especially with the daily grind that already is the minor pro hockey lifestyle, but it is what this team does best. Now they need to own it.
HAVE SOME FUN OUT THERE
I know this one is a little easier said that done, especially when the team is struggling and livelihoods are at stake. Sometimes though, it’s great to see these guys just play loose and have fun out there. I’m sure they love it too, and I know we as fans really love to see it. There are so many great personalities on this team and the brief glimpses we’ve been able to see those personalities shine through has been really great to see. Sometimes the best way to bust out of a funk is getting back to why you fell in love with this beautiful game in the first place, and that answer for everyone is because it’s so darn fun. These boys all love to play the game of hockey and there’s nothing better than seeing that with our own two eyes.
The Christmas season is officially upon us. It’s time to start envisioning those presents under the tree. This list will turn that lump of coal into a Furby, Tamagotchi, Cabbage Patch Doll, Betamax, Atari, or whatever crazy device kids like these days. Tis the season of giving and the Mavericks can give the best Christmas present of all starting this weekend in Wichita, winning hockey.