Abbotsford, BC – For the second consecutive year the Abbotsford Heat lost nearly 400 man games due to injury, that coupled with one of the youngest rosters in the American Hockey League, left the Flames top farm club outside of the playoff picture.
The Heat finished the regular season with a 38-32-10 record, fourth in the North Division and 11th in the Western Conference. As a result of the crossover rule for the AHL Playoffs, the Heat fell five points back of a post-season berth.
With the amount of rookies the Heat dressed in their line-up this season, goal scoring became an issue as the team scored a league-low 186 goals for, and their power play was also near the league basement at 27th out of 30 teams.
“I think our players did a really good job of dealing with the travel issues, the injury issues and they stayed consistent with what they wanted to do and that was to be a team that was hard to play against and competitive every night,” said head coach Jim Playfair. “That was our focus and our goal and I think we established ourselves as a team that was hard to play against.”
The team’s lack of goal scoring was highlighted as the team concluded their second year with a pair of losses on the road while being out-scored 9-0 at the hands of the Lake Erie Monsters and Toronto Marlies.
On a positive note the Calgary Flames gave two members of the Heat receive lengthy looks after Jay Feaster was named the team’s Acting General Manager. Lance Bouma and Greg Nemisz joined Heat alumnus Mikael Backlund in the NHL as the Flames made a late push for the eighth and final playoff spot.
“I thought we did a good job of having players ready to go up,” said Playfair. “Our job is to help them make the playoffs and it’s upsetting that Calgary didn’t make the playoffs, we didn’t make the playoffs and I think the entire organization, whether we have players going up and down, we have lots to improve on and it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to.”
Additionally, Abbotsford significantly improved on their discipline this season after finishing the 2009-10 campaign with a league-high 418 penalties. The improved discipline, along with the help of assistant coach Steve O’Rourke saw the Heat’s penalty kill improve from 25th last season to 11th in 2010-11.
Who to watch for
T.J. Brodie – Brodie was the lone Heat representative at the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic in Hershey, PA this season. The rookie finished the 2010-11 season second in points with 34 and led the Heat with 29 assists.
Carter Bancks – Bancks played in only 29 games during the 2010-11 season due to a concussion, but finished the season with 14 assists and 19 points. Playfair called Bancks an impact player late in the season and said if the 23-year-old hadn’t missed the 51 games he did with a concussion that the Heat would’ve been at the top of the North Division.
Greg Nemsiz – Nemisz was fourth in team scoring in his rookie season with the Heat. The 20-year-old had 14 goals and 33 points in 68 games this season. Nemisz also got his first taste of NHL action playing six games with the Flames and picked up an assist.
Leland Irving was arguably the team’s MVP this season setting career highs in wins (30), shutouts (8) and games played (61). Irving’s 30 wins were second among all goaltenders and his eight shutouts was a league-best.
"I'm just fortunate I was given a great opportunity and was able to get the confidence of my teammates and coaches. I was able to ride that, and it turned into a pretty good year,” said Irving, who becomes an RFA on July 1 as is entry-level contract expires.
"My goal is to play in the NHL in the future, and I did all I could on the ice. I felt like I left it all out there. I'm not going to get too caught up in what happens off the ice, but I'm sure everything will take care of itself."