Try 1 month for 99¢
Mallards logo

Well, that was a game I'm sure was rough for Quad-City Mallards fans.

Not just the loss, those happen enough, but the fact that three former members of the Mallards had a hand in the defeat.

It's been a recurring nightmare for fans at the iWireless, perhaps best represented by Joe Perry's hat trick last season, but a trend that keeps happening.

First things first, Kyle Thomas and P.J. Musico are good players. Mason Baptista is another solid player, but Thomas is in the midst of a career year. He has 18 goals this season and 21 assists, sixth in the league in points. He's really developing as a player with Fort Wayne.

I don't know why Terry Ruskowski let Thomas go after just one game. He wasn't the type of player he wanted, and the first season, that looked to be a good decision as Thomas played half a season in the SPHL and had just seven points in 23 games in his rookie season with the Komets. Last year, he had 15 goals and 25 assists, and this year is clearly becoming a very solid player.

That's just the crux of it. Thomas has put on size to go along with his speed, and is becoming a very good player. He wasn't that same player two years ago when he first played with the Mallards. Ruskowski let him go, and Thomas has proven him wrong. It's a mistake, but one that speaks more to Thomas' work ethic to improve than it does Ruskowski's ability to judge talent. When Thomas first arrived he was basically just a speedster. He's developed a lot of other tools, and he's become a good player. It would have been nice to see Ruskowski stick with him and try to coach him into this player, but Thomas at the time didn't fit the makeup that Ruskowski wanted for his team.

Now, as far as Musico goes, I thought he had a ton of talent last year and would have been a great addition for the team this year. Him not coming back was more a matter of circumstance, as the Mallards didn't protect him and Musico decided to return to Greenville. That move was all Musico's decision, and he only played one game there before getting traded to Fort Wayne. It's unfortunate that his first game with the Komets was against the Mallards, but Musico showed everyone again how good a goaltender he can be.

Players change all the time in this league, and more often than not, former players will be this team's undoing. It's just unfortunate to watch guys like Thomas and Perry -- who has 18 goals down in Orlando -- and wonder what if?

That said, this wasn't the biggest issue with the Mallards tonight.

Defensive meltdown

The Mallards have an issue while C.J. Motte is up in Charlotte. I've said numerous times Adam Vay is a raw goaltender with potential, but tonight was not his fault. The defense in front of him looked lost, and there seem to be more breakdowns in front of Vay than there do Motte.

Or, at the very least, Motte at this point is capable of surviving the breakdowns while Vay is not quite at that point.

That said, the Mallards looked lost at times defensively, getting beat to the front of their own net multiple times, letting guys walk the puck down low, losing battles in the corners. All told, it might be the worst defensive game this team has played this year.

I think part of this is due to some shifting with the defense. Jake Baker played while Mike Monfredo sat out, and as good a defenseman as Baker is, he is still shaking the rust off from having played just 10 games this year and only two in the last three weeks.

Not having Monfredo in the lineup -- a healthy scratch -- also hurts the defense with its most veteran piece out.

Monfredo will be back Friday, his absence was just part of a rotation, but him being out can't shake up the defense as much as it did Wednesday. The players have to figure it out even if he's not in the lineup, because Wednesday might have been their worst effort of the season.

Absent on the ice

Some players whose number I never noticed on the ice -- Sam Warning, Justin Kovacs, Nolan laPorte. Those are three of the Mallards' top point scorers, and they were nowhere to be seen tonight. The best line was the team's third line, and that won't be enough to win games.

The Mallards need to figure out how to get their top guys going again, because if guys like Warning, Petan, and others don't score, that puts a lot of pressure on guys who aren't natural goal-scorers to score.

Fort Wayne is a solid defensive team, but the Mallards had opportunities, they just rarely finished. They're going to have to start finishing again or this slide could start to get out of hand.


Sports reporter for the Quad-City Times