With the Lewiston Maineiacs’ eighth season in the books, after a season during which the team won 40 games for only the second time and reached the third round of the playoffs — also for only the second time — we sat down with head coach J.F. Houle to hear his assessment of each facet of the team’s play this season. Before he did that, beat writer Justin Pelletier also made his own list of grades for the team. Here are the two assessments:
Coach J.F. Houle Justin Pelletier
Offense B+ A-
Defense B B-
Goaltending B B+
Power play C C
Penalty kill A A
Coaching B B+
Coach J.F. Houle
I thought we were one of the most offensive teams in the league. That’s a pretty good accomplishment. We had (Etienne) Brodeur who had 53 goals, and that alone, we’re the only team with a 50-goal scorer.
That’s a tough one. If you look on paper, you’d think it would be like a C+, but the way those guys played and stepped up when guys were injured, I’d give them a B. (Ian) Saab stepped up, (Zach) Shannon stepped up when we needed him, (Zachary) Renaud was good before he got injured, Dillon Fournier is only 16. For what we had, I thought they played pretty good.
I think Nick Champion was really good for us. I was really pleased with him. He was a big part of those 40 wins (he had 27 of them), and he was really good in the playoffs. (Andrey) Makarov, he’s 17 years old, he’s coming on. I like him a lot. I think he’s going to be the goalie of the future for us, and he made some key saves in key games. It must have been a tough adjustment with the language and the distance. But he feels a lot more comfortable now … (Antoine) Bibeau, I was really happy with him, too. He played two games, both wins, and he’s done real well in AAA. He’s also the future of our organization.
It was good in the playoffs, but during the season, we just couldn’t get that leg up. We didn’t have everybody clicking at the same time.
I thought that was probably the best part of our game. All of the forwards and defensemen who played on the PK, they did a great job of blocking shots. We had no choice but to be good on the PK, because we were undisciplined at times.
I think we did a decent job. We tried our best to motivate these players, and I feel we exceeded expectations as a team. I think all in all, it was a good season.
The Maineiacs were solid in this department. With two defense-first coaches behind the bench, the fact that the team found the back of the net 265 times far exceeded expectations. Also, especially in the playoffs, the team proved it is a multifaceted attack.
If there was one glaring weakness overall on this team, it was a lack of high-end depth on the blue line. The players who served on the blue line this season performed admirably, and many of them improved vastly. But if the team wants to contend next season, it’s an area that needs to be addressed.
Despite his status as a 20-year-old, and his experience, Nick Champion was largely an unknown going into the season. After carrying the load early, he proved many critics wrong. He tired near the end of the season, but proved he was one of the league’s elite. Andrey Makarov and Antoine Bibeau both showed that they can be counted on, and with another summer to grow and learn, that should be an outstanding tandem moving forward.
This part of the team’s game brought out the boo birds on many occasions this season. It finally clicked in the playoffs, but only after some serious line juggling.
Stellar. All season, the team was a force. Of course, the players also had plenty of practice. But that aside, the unselfish nature of the group lent itself well to being solid on the PK, and it absolutely showed.
It’s not easy, trying to meld young minds from different social and economic backgrounds, let alone in sport, where cohesion is key. This staff did all of that well, and the team really bonded under its leadership. Youthful exuberance and veteran leadership was a good mix for the players.