Saturday, April 2, 2011
Wait...they won 3-1.
Losing has become such a frequent thing for the team this year it's easy to assume it happened again. However, it didn't. The goaltending - which has been a point of concern all year long - was strong and the offense came through when it needed to.
Prior to the season starting, the Reign had high hopes of returning to the playoffs after just barely missing out last year.
On the eve of game one, their President Justin Kemp was on MayorsManor and emphatically said coach Karl Taylor was "not on the hot seat." Fast forward 71 games and they have 38 losses, tops in the league.
They'll play their final home game tonight, before another sellout crowd. But, where do they go from here?
Some thoughts from Taylor after the game last night...
MM: Looking back, can you give us the three highs and three lows of the season?
KT: Not yet. You call me mid-summer and then I'll be able to reflect. We're just trying to get through today. So, I don't really have that yet. As far as lows, there's been lots of challenges - I don't know if you'd call them lows because if you find a way to get through those challenges, they become good growth material to help your team come closer together.
MM: At the beginning of the year you were looking to rebound from the disappointment of not making the playoffs last season. How would you categorize the top two of three things that went wrong, what would they be - was it injuries, coaching, personnel?
KT: There's a lot of things and I take full responsibility for our record. I think everybody knows that. I don't pass the buck. I'm in charge here. It's my responsibility to have this team get better results and I wear it - it's on me, nobody else. We had some major injuries to some of our veteran guys. We lost (Chad) Starling and (Jon) Francisco, they were big guys for us and core guys that we had here. That hurt. We had four goalies at one point, then we had one and now we've gone through nine. So, that's been a challenging point as well. But, quite honestly, we just haven't played well enough as a group. Our home record stinks. It's the first time in my career as a coach that I've had a poor home record. Even last year, when we're .500, we were awful on the road and pretty good at home. That's a real sore point for me. Our fans give us great support and we haven't rewarded them enough with home with home victories. That's something that was very disappointing and I haven't been able to put my finger on yet.
MM: If those are the four categories - coaching, injuries, goaltending and the home record - can you put percentages on them?
KT: No. I'm 100% responsible for everything, always. Period. I bring the players here. If a player gets hurt, I have to find other guys. So, in the end, it's all on me.
MM: As you go into the off-season can you narrow it down to the first few things you want to target for improvement?
KT: I liked our forwards this year. I thought our 'D' were, we had a bunch of young guys to start off and it didn't quite work out. We had some injuries and a couple guys go back to Canada for university reasons. So, we need to improve our d-core, as a group, at the start of the year. Our goaltending, I thought, was solid. And then we lost (Martin) Jones, with all that stuff (note: he started the year in Ontario and then was reassigned to Manchester after just one game with the Reign). That changed everything and then you're kind of scrambling. Then, (Kellen) Briggs bolted to Europe. Everything changes in that moment. That's what our league is, those things occur. But, I think starting out, we really want to focus on our d-core and lowering our goals against. There's no question, that's killed us.
I'll definitely contact him next month for that high/low follow-up.
However, there are probably more than a few people who will be wondering if he'll still be around.
That's just the life of a coach, hired to be fired. It's nothing personal.
Interview with Ontario Reign President Justin Kemp
Opening Night Weather: More Thunder than Reign