Last month when the Phantoms played a game in Atlantic City against the Albany Devils, I had a chance to see the team first-hand for the first time this season. It was, um, not pretty. It was so ugly, in fact, that I decided to look up the stats on the Phantoms to see how they compared to the worst teams in AHL history.
The worst team in AHL history, as far as 80 game seasons are concerned, was the 1989-90 Binghamton Whalers, who went 11-60-9 for 31 points.
25 games into the 2010-11 campaign, the Adirondack Phantoms are challenging that. They're 32 points behind the first place team in their division. In early-December. They're 3-20-2-0, good for eight points. The Phantoms might not earn that dubious honor of Worst AHL Team Ever when things are all said and done this season, but it doesn't matter. Just the fact we can have that conversation is enough to tell you what you need to know.
The Adirondack Phantoms are bad on an incomprehensible level.
They were on pace to finish the year 10-64-6, which would have given them 26 points, firmly entrenching the team in the record books as the worst team in the 75 year history of the American Hockey League.
With the team back tonight for a game at the Wells Fargo Center, the building in which they won the Calder Cup six years ago, it's time to check in with their progress. Are they still on pace to earn that dubious distinction?
Good news: the Phantoms are not going to be the worst team in the history of the league. They're still absolutely horrible, but a hot stretch of late that's seen the team go .500 in their last 10 (yes, that's a good thing) has their pace above that 31 point mark.
The team currently sits at 12-27-2-2, good for 28 points through 43 games.
So why have the Phantoms been able to improve from the worst ever to just the worst this year? You have to imagine that new head coach Joe Paterson has something to do with it. He talked about his impact on the club and what he's done differently since being promoted to head coach.
"I think when we went through that period there of losing, it's a mental thing for a lot of players. So when we started to go through that area we tried to just focus on playing solid for 60 minutes, or play solid for shifts, not worrying about what was happening with the clock. We try to play a little bit harder in our game, shorten our shifts is something too that we want to do, we've got some young players, but now it's 40 games in, so they're not young anymore. But we wanted to have shorter shifts so that if we did get caught out in a defensive area or whatever that we were always fresh. "
On Friday night, it'll be a tough test as they host the Baby Penguins. They're the best team in the AHL by 11 points, holding a 66 point to 55 point lead over their nearest challenger. Oh, and they have 38 point lead on the Phantoms, but hey, it could be worse.