On paper, at least, the partnership between the Chicago Wolves and veteran goaltender Drew MacIntyre should work.
But, after finishing first in the West in 2009-10, the union has sputtered this season as both goaltender and team have struggled and the future of the Wolves-MacIntyre relationship seems questionable, at best.
The three-goaltender arrangement in the Chicago crease has made it crowded and it would be best for all parties to resolve the situation before long. Prospect Edward Pasquale (117th overall in 2009) needs playing time in his first pro season, but MacIntyre needs to play, too. He is willing to go elsewhere to make that happen and the Wolves enjoy a player-friendly reputation, so a trade would solve a lot of problems.
Throughout his pro career, MacIntyre has been a steady presence in American League creases. Prior to his arrival in Chicago last season, MacIntyre averaged 47 games per season in his previous three campaigns. In 2008-09 with Milwaukee, MacIntyre assembled a 34-win season in 55 games with the Admirals.
So when MacIntyre, a Prince Edward Island product, headed to the Wolves, the partnership felt like a natural fit. He was a stout AHL goaltender entering the prime of his career at age 26 and the Wolves were perennial contenders.
But Chicago struggled badly to open last season, costing coach Don Granato his job. Chicago eventually rebounded, but another slow start this season plagued the Wolves. A strong December has helped mitigate some of the damage the bad start caused, but for MacIntyre, the season has hardly gone as planned.
"My whole tenure here has just been kind of one thing after another," MacIntyre said after a win over Manitoba last week. "This is no exception. That's the business side of hockey. I've definitely had to learn some lessons in patience."
Last season, NHL veteran Manny Legace landed with the Wolves for a brief stint. Furthermore, Peter Mannino came to Chicago and established himself as a legitimate AHL-caliber goaltender and handled the bulk of last season's playoff workload. And the parent Atlanta Thrashers are set in goal with Ondrej Pavelec emerging as a Vezina candidate.
This season, along with Pasquale's emergence, a six-goal shellacking at the hands of the San Antonio Rampage to open the year hardly helped MacIntyre's cause. Then between Oct. 23 and Dec. 18, MacIntyre appeared in only two games, surrendering seven goals in 40 minutes in one of them. The Wolves farmed out Pasquale to the ECHL on Dec. 27, a move that helped clear the club's goaltending glut and provide some crease time for MacIntyre.
The AHL veteran responded by winning all four of his starts since Dec. 18, allowing two or fewer goals in three games. In all this season, MacIntyre has a 4-3 record to go with a 3.48 goals-against average and .883 save percentage.
Pasquale likely won’t stay in the ECHL for long and MacIntyre is treating this current stretch as a chance to showcase himself for a move elsewhere in the AHL. At least a few clubs are being plagued by uneven goaltending and a veteran like MacIntyre would immediately firm up the goaltending picture.
"That's my mind frame, for sure," MacIntyre said of his current predicament. "Still, saying that, I love these guys. We have an unreal bunch of guys. I definitely want to battle for them and help them as much as I can. Whatever happens, I just want it to happen quickly so I can move on."
Ideally, MacIntyre would like to find a situation that would allow for a playoff run. He has turned down European offers in the past and still has the NHL on his radar. A strong playoff run can never hurt a 27-year-old goaltender who will be a free agent after this season.
"I really haven't given up on that dream and I just think I can do it," he said. "I just want to play. I want to play so much. Not just play, but I want to go the playoffs and make a run at it. I've never won a championship. But right now, I just want to play."
THIS & THAT
• Adirondack goaltender Brian Stewart won weekly honors for a 3-0 week that included a 1.34 goals-against average.
• The AHL named its top players for December: Hamilton's David Desharnais won player honors for a three-goal, 20-point month. Manitoba goaltender Eddie Lack won goaltending honors for a 7-2 mark with a 1.99 goals-against average for a rejuvenated Moose club. Manchester's Martin Jones won the rookie nod for a 7-1 month with a 1.99 goals-against average.
• Syracuse center Trevor Smith was shipped to the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Nate Guenin. Norfolk's Ty Wishart was shipped to the New York Islanders in the Dwayne Roloson deal and has landed with Bridgeport. Michael Del Zotto was sent down to the AHL by the New York Rangers after they recalled defender Ryan McDonagh.
From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world's second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiles prospects destined for the next level. It appears every Thursday only on TheHockeyNews.com.