Bayne Ryshak can relate a little bit to what Willie Desjardins is going through.
The coach of the Ridge Meadows Flames probably isn’t bringing in a million-dollar salary coaching, but he cares about his junior B team. He’s a proud guy. And he doesn’t even like being associated with Vancouver Canucks head coach at this juncture in their respective careers.
But the comparisons, from the perspective of a Maple Ridge hockey fan, are obvious.
- Both teams had a great start to the season. The Canucks won their first four games, while the Flames started with eight wins and one loss.
- Both have since gone in the proverbial tank. The Canucks have been in a slump of epic proportions, not seen since Tom Renney led them to 10 straight losses in 1997, before being fired and replaced by ‘Iron’ Mike Keenan. Only a win on Tuesday night spared them from matching that dubious record. The Flames have lost four straight, and seven of their last eight, losing all of the momentum of a 7-1 start.
- Both are having an agonizing time scoring goals. The Canucks are the worst offensive team in the NHL by all metrics. It’s not that bleak for the Flames, but in those last seven losses they have only tallied eight goals.
Considering the league-leading Aldergrove Kodiaks are potting goals at a rate of more than four per game, that’s not going to give the Flames a chance to win.
Ryshak said that’s where the comparisons come to an end.
“The difference is they’re an old and slow team,” he said. “Their expiry date was three years ago.”
The Flames, on the other hand, are an up-and-coming team.
“And we’re young and fast,” said Ryshak.
Trying to get things turned around, the second-year coach tells his players to stick with their system on defence.
“You get back to the little details, and keep playing hard in your own end,” he said.
On offence, Ryshak urges his players to be willing to settle for ugly goals.
“I keep telling the guys ‘they don’t put pictures on the scoresheet,’” he said. “You keep it simple. Get a body to the net, and get the puck behind the goalie.”
With a few wins, and a few goals going in, his team will regain that swagger they had during their unbeatable stretch to start the season, he predicts.
“With confidence comes creativity.”
Part of the team’s early season success was the great play of the rookie goaltending duo of Paul Tucek and Braedon Fleming. They formed the best tandem in the league.
Then Fleming was called up to play junior A, and Tucek started to struggle.
Fortunately, Tucek had a great weekend.
“He had a little bit of a slump, but he’s out of it now,” said Ryshak. “He’s trending upward in the right direction.”
After newly acquired Kurt Russell allowed three goals on four shots last Thursday, Tucek came in and stopped all 24 shots he faced. Then, in a start against the Grandview Steelers last Friday, he stopped 28 of 30 shots.
“He mopped up really well, and he was good the next night too.”
Ryshak knows what’s he’s got, and the Flames have been in worse spots.
“We were in a lot worst shape last November, with less talent, and we turned it around.”
• The Flames have acquired forward Daniel Watson, who played for the Langley Knights last season.
The 18-year-old from Surrey had nine points in 30 games with Langley, but was pointless through five games with the Port Moody.thers this season.