I had a feeling this team might struggle early on, especially since they were bringing in a new head coach, new-ish GM, new management, new front office staff, and the youngest roster in the USHL, but I did not think this team would finish the way they did.
When fans asked me what I expected of the 2014-15 Stars before the season ever started, I said they probably wouldn't be a playoff team, but if the young kids on the roster gelled quickly and caught fire, they might made a run of it. I figured this would probably be a .500 club, but I also thought they could surprise me and be a little better. However, the team struggled with consistency all season long, and missed the playoffs for second straight season, which has never happened in franchise history.
A lot contributed to the second worst season in Lincoln Stars history, and we'll talk about that here in a bit. I'm a bit of a statistics junkie, so I first want to review some numbers from this past season. I'm not trying to be negative here, but these numbers are certainly not fun to look at. But I truly believe there is truth in numbers.
I don't believe it's fair to compare this team to the 2009-10 team that finished dead last in the USHL, but I'm going to post some statistics below to illustrate the two worst seasons in franchise history. Again, I'm not trying to pile on here. Believe me, I would much rather be recapping a playoff season for the Stars.
2014-15 Regular Season
Overall record: 18-37-5 (2nd worse record in franchise history)
Winning percentage: .342 (2nd worst winning percentage in franchise history)
Home record: 10-20-2 (most regulation home losses in a season in franchise history)
Road record: 8-17-3 (tied for least amount of road wins in a season)
Goals scored: 150 (2nd lowest total in franchise history)
Goals against: 242 (most goals allowed in franchise history)
Shots on goal: 1,594 (least amount in franchise history)
Shots on goal against: 2,131 (2nd most in the USHL this season)
Penalty minutes: 1,183 total minutes (lowest amount since the 2002-03 season)
Power play percentage: 14.3% (15th place out of 16 teams this season)
Power play goals scored: 31 (least amount in franchise history)
Power play goals against: 58 (15th place out of 16 teams this season)
Penalty kill percentage: 74.9% (15th place out of 16 teams this season)
Shorthanded goals scored: 6 (11th place out of 16 teams this season)
Shorthanded goals against: 9 (8th place out of 16 teams this season)
Team shooting percentage: .094 % (11th place out of 16 teams this season)
Team save percentage: .886% (16th place out of 16 teams)
Average attendance: 3,197 (first time in franchise history the team did not finish in the top 3 in league attendance)
2009-10 Regular Season
Overall record: 16-36-8 (franchise low)
Winning percentage: .333 (franchise low)
Home record: 8-18-4 (least amount of home wins in a season ever)
Road record: 8-18-4 (tied for least amount of road wins in a season ever)
Goals scored: 143 (2.38 average goals per game - lowest total in franchise history)
Goals against: 220 (2nd highest total in franchise history)
Shots on goal: 1,829 (6th place out of 14 teams)
Shots on goal against: 1,832 (8th place out of 14 teams)
Penalty minutes: 1,775 total minutes (most in franchise history)
Power play percentage: 14% (12th place out of 14 teams)
Power play goals scored: 42 (11th place out of 14 teams)
Powerplay goals against: 69 (12th place out of 14 teams)
Penalty kill percentage: 79.46% (11th place out of 14 teams)
Shorthanded goals scored: 5 (12th place out of 14 teams)
Shorthanded goals against: 11 (7th place out of 14 teams)
Team shooting percentage: .078 % (franchise low)
Team save percentage: .880% (franchise low)
Average attendance: 4,146 (first place overall-fourth straight season the Stars led the USHL in attendance)
Maybe it's just me, but I think it's interesting to look at the parallels between the two worst teams in franchise history. The 2009-10 team was hit hard by injuries. That particular roster was a revolving door of players. This year's team didn't have that problem. They stayed relatively healthy.
The young, inexperienced roster, a rookie head coach, a new GM and owner probably all combined to contribute to what we saw this season on the ice . We can only hope those in charge learned a lot of lessons this season, and know they can't make them again next season.
GM Jon Hull's vision was that this would be a puck possession team. Unfortunately, that didn't come to fruition and the stats above are indicative of that. The shots totals specifically indicate that this team spent more time chasing the puck than they did with possession of the puck. If you don't have the puck on your stick you can't shoot it on net. That's not rocket science.
In my opinion, team defense was a big reason why this team failed. I don't want to single out just the defensemen because defense is a team aspect. All players have to buy in and play together as a unit. However, the inexperience on Lincoln's blueline coming into this season played a big part. Of the seven defenseman on the roster who started the season in Lincoln, only Connor Frantti had prior USHL experience. I've said for years that if you don't have USHL experience at that position, you're going to struggle. I don't care how good your goaltending is.
Speaking of goaltending, it wasn't consistent in 2014-15, but I definitely think the problems I mentioned in the paragraph above had a LOT to do with why Cam Hackett and Peyton Jones struggled at times this season. Game in and game out, they faced a shooting gallery. They didn't get much help from their teammates. They saw more rubber than roadkill on O Street in Lincoln. Honestly, without Cam Hackett, I wonder if this team would have won 12 games. He'd get my vote as team MVP. His end of season numbers might not be pretty, but neither was the defense in front of him.
I'm hopeful that the defensemen coming back next season, now with a full year of USHL experience under their belt, will strive and we'll see much better play overall as a defensive unit. That obviously will help the goaltenders as well.
Special teams was an issue the entire season, unfortunately. The Stars never got into a groove this season with the man advantage. Uncharacteristically, Lincoln's penalty-kill unit this season was just as disappointing. In past season, even when the Stars were the most penalized team in the league, the PK unit was in the top third of the league. The penalty kill unit, along with the Stars' power play, never improved during the season, in my opinion. In fact, I'd argue that it got worse as the season transpired. The numbers above show that special teams wise, this was the worst performance in Stars history.
Three players on Lincoln's roster played all 60 games this season: forwards Dominick Sacco, Patrick Polino, and defenseman Ryan Jones. Big props to all three. To make it through an entire season and not miss any games, considering how fast and physical the league is, is very impressive.
It certainly wasn't the season we as fans wanted to experience, but we are all very proud of our Stars here in Lincoln. I want to thank each and every player on the roster for busting their ass and sacrificing so much for our entertainment this season. Their effort will not be forgotten. I also would like to thank all of the player parents for sending their sons to Lincoln. It was a pleasure watching them this season, and they will always be a part of our extended Stars family.
Thanks again to all of you who make this blog a frequent stop on your internet rounds. It has been an honor keeping this blog active for all of your Lincoln Stars needs. I've said it a million times, but without you, I'd still be talking to myself. So thank you for your patronage.
Before I wrap this up, I want to mention that I'll be making a big announcement on the blog tomorrow (Monday), around noon. I can't let the cat out of the bag just yet, but make sure you come back here around noon on Monday to check it out.
Thanks for reading. Go Stars.