December 29, 2009

Falcons are in a free-fall

by Dan Hickling

Kip Brennan (photo: Getty)

Whether you want to call the current freefall of the Springfield Falcons a “losing” streak or apply the softer “winless” term, the net effect is the same.

The Birds are in a world of hurt.

It's been 15 games since the Falcons have tasted victory, a skein stretching back to Nov. 21 and a shootout win at Hershey.

Since then, the Falcons have gone 0-11-4, and have dropped games in any number of ways.

There have been the first period blowouts and the last-minute collapses. There have even been three extra-session disappointments that have, at least, given Springfield a total of three points for their trouble.

It's not as though they haven't been trying.

"I've never seen a streak like this before," said veteran forward Kip Brennan, who has played for both cellar dwellers and winners. "It's very disheartening. Guys work hard and you don't get the outcomes that you want. We have to begin a new season right now. Look forward and not behind."

Previously, the longest win drought in the Falcons' 16 years of existence had been 13 games, that one coming in 2006.

They set a new low-water mark on Saturday, when they were pasted 7-2 by a Worcester squad, whose captain -- Ryan Vesce -- was a member of the ill-fated Falcons a few years ago.

Vesce, who is nursing some “lower body” soreness, still can feel the sting of that difficult year.

"It's the worst," said Vesce. "It's not fun, but that's kind of the way it goes sometimes. After a while, you've got to keep pushing. All streaks come to an end. Right?"

That's the hope held by the parent Edmonton Oilers, who are enmeshed in a six-game losing streak of their own.

“It's disappointing,” said Oilers assistant GM Kevin Prendergast. “It's not what we wanted.”

Prendergast cited the call-up of goalie Devan Dubyk to Edmonton, and the loss of high scoring winger Chris Minard to a concussion, as the key causes of the Birds' plight.

“It's been unfortunate,” he said. “Something we're not happy with. There's a long way to go in the season, but we have to stop the bleeding, and stop it very soon.”

The Falcons still have a way to go before reaching the AHL's all-time winless streak, a 23-gamer crafted by the defunct Pittsburgh Hornets back in 1963.

Around the AHL

Springfield appears to be headed for its seventh straight playoff miss, and the ninth in 10 years. Meanwhile, Edmonton, whose three-year deal with the Falcons expires after this season, is assumed to be on its way out of Springfield. It owns a dormant AHL franchise (which costs the Oil just shy of half a million dollars to keep mothballed) and is said to be eyeing Oklahoma City as an AHL landing spot. However, Prendergast cautions against assuming anything. “Our situation in Springfield has been just phenomenal,” he said. “It's a first-class outfit. (Falcons president) Bruce (Landon) does a first-class job. Everything in the building (the MassMutual Center) is perfect. And the extra practice time for being in the (compact Atlantic) Division is huge for our organization. But there are business decisions (to be made). Nothing is final, yet.” … Rosters for the AHL All-Star Classic, to be staged in Portland Jan. 18-19, will be released this week. Meanwhile, the coaching staffs for the event have been settled on. Hershey's Mark French, as part of the previous year's Calder Cup winners, will handle Team Canada, while Manchester's Mark Morris, as coach of the team with the AHL's current best record, will direct Team PlanetUSA. … Corey Locke of the Hartford Wolf Pack remains at the front of the AHL scoring parade with 41 points (15-26-41), a position he's held for most of the season...Meanwhile, Darren Haydar of the Lake Erie Monsters was named the AHL's Player of the Week. Haydar, who starred collegiately at UNH, notched five goals and three assists in three games for the Monsters.

Dan Hickling can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.