Thursday, March 6, 2014
The way Coach Kevin Dineen sees it, the younger players on the Portland Pirates are going to have to grow up fast if the team is to recover from its dismal start.
''With some of my young kids, there is a lack of professionalism,'' Dineen said this week. ''They have to learn how to prepare themselves for practice. They have to listen, and they have to execute drills. It's a maturation process, and it's a major issue for our team, right now.''
The Pirates, at the bottom of the standings in the AHL's Atlantic Division, will play their next four games at the Cumberland County Civic Center after winning only one of their first eight road games. Portland has won its only two home games.
Dineen didn't point at any individuals, but nine of the 24 players on the roster are AHL rookies.
''It better change pretty quick,'' he said, ''or we're going to be so far out of it we're not going to give ourselves any chance.''
After their first 10 games, the Pirates are 3-7. At the same point last year, Portland had nine wins and an overtime loss.
''It's a young team, which is not unlike last year,'' said right wing Mark Mancari, in his fifth season as a pro. ''It's easy when you're winning and you're young. But when you're young and you start losing, you start pressing a little more.
''These guys don't know necessarily what it takes at this level to win, and they begin to think they don't have it.''
The Pirates have been notoriously slow starters this season, as they have trailed in the first period in nine games.
''A lot of our problems is because we were not mentally prepared for the start,'' said left wing Jeff Cowan, a veteran of eight NHL seasons. ''When you're on the road and you're not ready for the start, it's a huge difference when the opponent comes out and goes hard.''
Dineen takes some of the responsibility for the team's lack of preparedness.
''There's areas, as coaches where we need to prepare players,'' he said. ''We want them to be prepared for what we think the other team is going to do. There have been times this year where I felt my preparation wasn't proper, so part of it is a coaching issue. But it's also an individual thing there has to be a dedication to go out there and execute and play with emotion.''
The Pirates rank 26th on the power play among the AHL's 29 teams, and last killing penalties.
''There are numerous areas we need to work on,'' Dineen said. ''A lot of it is systems-related. It's a sign we have to bear down on these guys to get what we're asking and to execute it. If you're sloppy in practice, it carries over in games.''
There were signs of improvement during this week's practice.
''The attitude has been pretty good, pretty upbeat, not like it was at the start of the season when we were losing every game,'' Cowan said.
''Hopefully, we can continue that attitude into the weekend here and get on the winning end.''
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: