It's just been one game, but Josh MacDonald's acquisition could be a huge part of how the Quad-City Mallards season ends.
I know some fans were critical of the Mallards' decision to trade away longtime defenseman Mike Monfredo for MacDonald this week, and I can understand why. Monfredo has been the face of the franchise for the past five years, coming in as a rookie and quickly becoming a fan favorite. Every year, he came back to the team and was easy to like if you followed the team.
He also had been a solid defenseman over the years, and with his gritty play and occasional offensive flair, Monfredo secured a spot in the team's top 20 players of all time, decided this offseason by the front office and members of the media.
However, Monfredo's play had slipped this year. He was no longer the iron man he was early in his career, his offensive numbers has slipped, and he was a career-worst minus-11. He had simply lost a step, and it was costing the Mallards goals. It's no coincidence the Mallards haven't lost since Monfredo was out of the lineup.
The Mallards were able to trade Monfredo, probably taking advantage of his name recognition and connection to Rapid City from the Central Hockey League, and got a player in MacDonald who immediately became the team's leading scorer. It looked like a steal, and after one game, it looks like it could be trade that puts the Mallards over the edge.
MacDonald scored a goal and added an assist in his first game, meanwhile, Monfredo took a delay of game penalty that led to an equalizing goal against Allen in his first game with the Rush, then was minus-3 Friday night.
This is not a knock on Monfredo. He was perfect for this team for the past few years. He probably kept fans coming back to the arena, even when the team was struggling. I do believe at this level of hockey, you need players like Monfredo, someone who will be there every year, someone who the fans like and will come back to see. Considering how much roster turnover there has been the past five years, it's been nice for the fans to count on Monfredo to be there.
But fan favorites only do so much, and if they're not helping on the ice, their contributions are limited. The moves in the past three weeks -- firing Terry Ruskowski and making two trades, including the Monfredo trade -- shows the team is no longer content to just tread water and hope fans come in for the fan favorites like Monfredo. The organization wants to win, and it's hard to deny the team is playing a completely different style than it did a month ago.
If you're a fan, you have to be enthused by the way the team is playing. Right now, this team looks poised to make a legitimate playoff push, and if it took the trade of a fan favorite to add another edge, it will be worth it at the end of the year. There are plenty of players on the roster who could capture the hearts of the fans if given the time, and if the team keeps playing like this, it shouldn't take long.
One other note on the game, it was nice to see Adam Vay grab the shutout. It wasn't flashy, but he was very solid in the win. He continues to improve in each game he plays, and while there are still several things to improve on, he keeps making strides. It's good to see. Vay works hard every day, and he wants to get better. The progress he's made since the beginning of the year are clearly noticeable, and if he continues to do this, the Mallards will continue to move up the standings and become dangerous entering the playoffs.