The Evansville Thunderbolts need a miracle to avoid the worst season in SPHL history

Usually it’s great teams having a historic season that garner all the headlines and attention, because everybody always wants to know about a winner.

Well, when you’re having a season as bad as the Evansville Thunderbolts are, it also deserves attention, because barring the team suddenly getting white-hot (relatively speaking) down the stretch, the Bolts are likely heading towards the worst season in SPHL history, no matter which way you look at it.

After getting swept this past weekend, the Bolts sit with a horrendous record of 4-24-2, good for just 10 of a possible 60 points on the season so far, a rate of just .167 points per game, which seems almost impossible when you remember that teams also get points for reaching overtime.

Should the Bolts continue at that rate of .167 points per game on the season, they would finish the year with approximately 19 points total on the season, a number that would be the worst mark in SPHL history by a mile.

Now to answer your question of who the worst team in SPHL history is, at least in terms of points and wins, there are two answers. Way back in the very first season of the SPHL the Winston-Salem Polar Twins posted a mark of 14-42 on the season, good for last place and a record low 28 total points. But in fairness to the Polar Twins, the SPHL at the time did not award a loser point, something they achieved five times that season, which would have boosted their point total to 33 in the modern era. Regardless, as it stands now, their 28 points in that first season are still (for now) the lowest in SPHL history.

As for the fewest wins in SPHL history, that mark was set in 2014-15 when the Huntsville Havoc picked up just 11 wins, finishing the season with a mark of 11-38-7, good for 29 points thanks to the seven overtime defeats. That Huntsville team, and last year’s Fayetteville Marksmen that had 12 wins and 30 points (that they reached with an OT win in the last game of the year) are probably the two worst teams in SPHL history to this point.

Again, at the pace the Thunderbolt are going, they would hit 19 points, a full nine points back of the league record that was set before loser points were awarded. And hitting 19 points would mean some combination of no more than four wins and at least one overtime loss, meaning that at their current pace they would top out at just eight wins, three short of Huntsville’s mark.

I know the team has had issues with call-ups, injuries, sickness, and whatever else that Coach (for now) Moran addressed a couple of weeks back, but you know who else has had to deal with call-ups, injuries, sickness and other roster challenges? Every other team in the SPHL, and none of them have four wins in 30 games, or have had to issue excuses on the team’s social media pages to try to quell the growing anger in the fanbase.

So just how hot do the Bolts need to get over their final 26 games to avoid these marks of futility? Well, to hit 29 points, they would need to accumulate 19 of a possible 52 points that remain, a rate of .365 points per game, more than double their current rate of .167 points per game. 19 points is either 19 trips to overtime, or winning up to nine more games and losing once in overtime. Again, over the last 26 games they likely need around nine wins to avoid being the worst team in SPHL history. In case you forgot, they’ve won four in 30 to this point.

And in case you were wondering, no, .365 points per game is not even all that impressive, or even remotely good. If a team averaged .365 points per game over the full 56-game season (112 points possible), that would equate to just 41 points on the season. 41 points is bad. A team that netted 41 points on the season would finish in dead-last seven times if you plunked them down in every previous SPHL season, and would make the playoffs just once. Basically, take a last-place team, make them twice as bad, and you have this year’s Evansville Thunderbolts.

And the problem has been pretty much everything, they can’t score (9th in the league with one more goal than the worst team, who has played one fewer game), they’ve given up the most goals in the league by a mile at 119, basically four goals per game (the next worst team on defense is giving up just 3.36 goals per game), and they haven’t won a game on the road all year, and have reached overtime just once on the road.

That last point is really where Evansville has problems if they’re going to avoid going down in infamy. Because through the first 30 games, they played 18 of them at home, where they’re 4-13-1, compared to just 12 games on the road. That means over the last 26 games, only 10 are on home ice at the Ford Center, while 16 are on foreign ice, where again, they haven’t won a game all season.

But if there is a chance, it’s that they play Pensacola and Quad City, who are both also terrible with 20 points on the season, eight times (six against QC) over those final 26 games, four at home and four on the road, and have just six games left against the league’s Top-3 teams in Peoria, Macon, and Birmingham, with four of those on the road.

And who knows, maybe those players who are all injured/sick/called up/terrible will come back to the team and things will pick up. But you can’t count on that, and assume that is going to happen, or be the thing that cures all that ails you, because when you’ve won four times in 30 tries, you need a lot more than just a couple guys to return to the lineup.

Add it all up, and it’s looking like we’re in for a historic season in the SPHL, it just happens to be the kind that everyone in Evansville would like to forget.


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