For the first time in four years, fans of the Lewiston Maineiacs have so little to complain about, they’re starting to complain about things over which they have no control.

Like ice conditions.

And arena cleanliness.

Though they do have power over the latter. The solution is easy: Don’t be so gosh-darned messy.

But on the ice, the hockey community of Greater Lewiston/Auburn appears to be pleased with the on-ice product.

The team has done well, with 26 wins in 36 games, and three of their 10 losses have come by way of the dreaded shootout (The Maineiacs still have just one shootout win in their history).

But can it do better?

Of course it can.

So can some of the players, the coaching staff and the front office.

Here are some midterm grades for the Lewiston Maineiacs.

Goaltending: A

I’m not too keen on giving anything an A, let alone in the first category I grade. But Jonathan Bernier (19-7, 2.44 GAA, .910 save percentage) and Peter Delmas (6-3, 2.89, .902) are the top pair of goaltenders in the league. By far. If anyone in the league deserves an A for their first half performance, it’s these two players.

Defense: B

How can a team that has allowed the fewest goals in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (97 in 36 games, 2.69 per game) need work? Scary, isn’t it? Too many times, the defense has left Bernier to do his best to keep the team afloat. Individuals like Michal Korenko, Tom Michalik, Sebastien Piche and yes, even Chad Denny, have turned the puck over more times than I care to see in one season. This group is far more talented than this. Turnovers can cause tense moments. Turnovers in the playoffs cane lose a game – and a series.

Offense: B+

The team has scored goals this season, certainly enough to win the majority of its games. But it sits just ninth in goals scored. In goal differential, though, the ratio of goals for (148) to goals against (97) is a difference of plus-51, second only to Cape Breton’s plus-54. There are a few players I thought would have more points at this point in the season. Stefan Chaput comes to mind. But his role this year, along with linemates Stefano Giliati and Marc-Andre Daneau, has been primarily in the lockdown mode against other top lines. The positive side, here, is that the Maineiacs have developed a score-by-committee approach that I really like. Not a single player has 40 points, let alone 40 goals like Thomas Beauregard of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, but eight different players have 10 or more goals, and two more are on the brink at nine each. Bravo.

Coaching staff: A-

The only reason that this bunch doesn’t get an A is that the team lost 10 games. Seriously. This staff is solid, from top to bottom. And it shows when Clem Jodoin is out of town, because Ed Harding and Jeff Guay run the ship the way they’ve learned and adapted under Jodoin. And it works.

Front office: B-

I am a young professional in this community. If I didn’t cover hockey for a living, I would still be at the rink. I always was growing up. I am a rink rat.

But not everyone in Maine is like that. They need motivation to go to the games. The ‘B’ part of the grade is for all of the new stuff the team has come up with. Too many to mention here, their in-game promotions have shown marked improvement from last season.

But unless I went to the rink, I would have a hard time hearing about this team. I listen to XM Radio, not to local radio. I don’t watch cable TV much, either. This staff has got to find a way to reach people like me, and those who don’t even read the newspaper. Web advertising, maybe? Send Lewy into the community with game-day fliers.

First half awards

Best defenseman – Kevin Marshall

Best forward – Marc-Andre Cliche

Best rookie – David Perron

Unsung hero – Marc-Andre Crete

All I want for Christmas is …

A power play quarterback: I don’t care if the team gets the player via trade, or if they successfully convert a current player. This team still needs one of those QB-type players to properly run the power play. In the playoffs, this team will live and die with its PP success.

A dominant forward: I like the scoring-by-committee thing. I really do. But even as a decoy, a high-end forward would complete this offense. Develop one or go get one, I don’t care.

Continued strong goaltending: Jonathan Bernier just suffered a serious blow to his ego when he got cut from Team Canada. He can take the rejection in two ways. Maineiacs’ fans are hoping it lights a fire under his you-know-what to be even better. Me, too.

100 points: I know, I know, the team is on pace for 106 points through 70 games. But it takes a solid team effort to get that far. It would put the team in elite company and help solidify this product in a lot of people’s minds.

3,000 fans at a game: It’s happened just once on its own (twice if you count the night when officials bought two tickets to make it an even 3,000). This team needs the fans. Be there.

A President’s Trophy: Notice I didn’t wish for a Memorial Cup.

Not yet. I wanted to start small.


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