2003 - 2004
The Greater Greensboro Observer
April 7, 2004
Gens Miss Playoffs by a Single Point
By Brian Surette
The Greensboro Generals closed out the season in record-breaking fashion. Unfortunately, the milestone is not one the team will fondly remember.
The Generals' 4-2 win over the South Carolina Stingrays in the regular season finale was a good going-away present for the team, but going away was not what the players had in mind. Despite a successful 2003-'04 campaign that featured a second successive 40-win season, Greensboro is now the answer to a dubious ECHL trivia question.
The Generals became the first team in the 16-year history of the ECHL to win 40 regular season games and not make the playoffs. The previous winning-loser was Jacksonville, with 35 wins and no playoff prospects, in 1997-98.
"Most coaches in this league will say, 'Hey, boys, we need 40 (wins) to get in (the playoffs)," coach Rick Adduono said. "It's very mind-boggling is what it is. I'd have bet my wife, my house, my kids, that if you get 20 home wins and 20 road wins in a 72-game season, you're going to get there."
Greensboro finished the season 40-30-2 overall. The Generals had been in a season-long battle with the Stingrays, Florida Everblades and Roanoke Express for three of the four playoff spots in the ECHL's Southern Division. Columbia was the runaway leader in the division.
In the end, it was the schedule and the team's own style of play that doomed the Generals. Greensboro closed out the season with two roads games, while the Stingrays, Everblades and Express all finished with back-to-back home games. Granted, there was no guarantee that the Generals would have made the playoffs had the team played its final two games at the Greensboro Coliseum, but with its three opponents all at home for the season-ending weekend, the Generals were battling from an uphill position.
"When the (Stingrays) game was over I told the guys they did a great job," said Adduono. "It was almost like a calm before the storm. There was no real jubilation as they waited to see if Roanoke or Florida had lost. They skated off the ice real slowly and waited in the dressing room for 10 minutes for me to come in and let them know the outcome of the other games. That was a high that went to a quick low. It was real, real tough and it brought a lot of tears."
The Generals 40 victories were more than those of South Carolina (39), Roanoke (38) and Florida (37). Additionally, Greensboro's 30 losses were, also, more than the Everblades (25), Express (26) and Stingrays (28).
Wins and losses aside, the key element in the Generals' downfall came in games that counted as ties. Greensboro played an attractive "all-or-nothing" style during the season. The team won close games and lost close games, won blowouts and lost blowouts.
"We had to fight through a lot of hurdles this year as a team and organization," Adduono said. "This is the first time I've missed the playoffs and it brings you down to reality" "We did a good job this year and we're only human. I'd rather have it where the year ends and you're in the playoffs and you say, 'Wow, that's all that counts."
The difference between the Generals being in the playoffs and watching from the stands boiled down to a single point.
Florida recorded a league second-highest 10 ties during the season. Roanoke had eight and South Carolina five. Greensboro, along with Louisiana, the Central Division champion, recorded a league-low two ties. Had any one of Greensboro's 30 losses been a tie instead, the Generals would be thumbing their collective noses at South Carolina as they, and not the Stingrays, prepare for an opening round playoff series.
"We were in second place until the last few days of the season and you wake up (on Sunday) and there are three teams ahead of us with more ties, but less wins," Adduono said. "Can I let it eat at me? I'll probably say no, but it probably will. There were times when we didn't mean to blow a point, we just didn't get the point. That's just the nature of (hockey)."
Greensboro officials have until June 11, when the ECHL holds its annual meetings, to decide whether or not the Generals return for another season.