The Isobel Cup Playoffs have long been over and the 2016-17 New York Riveters have already begun to disband.
Madison Packer has announced her retirement. Amanda Kessel is playing in the 2017 Women's World Championship and will likely be lost to centralization next year.
When asked about contract talks for next season Ashley Johnston, Katie Fitzgerald and Kelsey Koelzer all revealed that negotiations had yet to begin.
There is also some uncertainty about whether or not the league will play next year, although the NWHL insists there will be a 2017-18 season. Chad Wiseman not meeting with the media after the Riveters were upset by the Beauts also raises questions about who be coaching and managing the team when/if free agency begins.
More question marks.
It's easy to be distraught about how the Riveters season ended and where things stand today. The heart of the team is gone and the season undoubtedly ended on a sour note, but it would be a mistake to call it a failure.
New York went from the worst team in the league (by any measure) to the second-best.The Riveters we saw this year in Newark were not the Riveters we saw last year in Brooklyn. This year's team deserved a better fate.
- The offense. The Riveters had the second-best power play in the league thanks to Kessel's return. But it wasn't all about Kessel. Nine different Riveters averaged better than 0.50 pts/g this year. Rebecca Russo carried the offense in the first half of the season and Janine Weber exploded in the second half to finish the year with 22 points in 17 games.
- Wiseman's offseason. Wiseman was aggressive building the Riveters last summer. Very aggressive. The Riveters head coach landed draft picks of other teams and made the most out of Alex Carpenter wanting to play in Boston. Wiseman almost landed Hannah Brandt, but the USWNT player had a change of heart at the last minute - so he replaced her at the eleventh hour with Tatiana Rafter who finally achieved her potential as a dangerous goal scorer at the professional level.
- The kids. What more can be said about the Riveters 14 rookie players this year that hasn't already been said? New York was defined by its youth this year.
- The resilience. The Riveters went through an absurd amount of trials this year (more on that later) but emerged from those trials as the second best team in the NWHL.
After the loss to Buffalo I asked Ashley Johnston what word she would use to describe the Riveters this year. She didn't hesitate to say, "Resilient."
So. Many were calling this game a Riveters win before the puck dropped. The Beauts didn't listen. 3 goals on ~9 shots.— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) March 18, 2017
- The injuries. For the second straight season the Riveters were reduced by significant injuries. Kessel and Courtney Burke both missed significant time in the first half of the season with lower-body injuries and Jaimie Leonoff's offseason injury kept her from ever stepping onto the ice with the Riveters.
- The beginning. The Riveters started the year 0-3-0 after looking like a dangerous, deep team in the preseason. Kessel's injury, the uncertainty and inconsistency in net, an overabundance of penalties and an ineffectual power play had many Riveters fans chewing on their fingers.
- The ending. Was playing Koelzer a mistake? Did the team over-prepare? What went wrong? After spoiling the Pride's undefeated season the Riveters unraveled when they played the Beauts in the semi-finals. It was a game filled with missed defensive assignments, missed opportunities and mental errors. It was rough to watch.
- The salary cut. The drop in pay - which has been claimed to be anywhere from a 1/2 to a 1/3 pay cut without the consent of the players - cost the Riveters Morgan Fritz-Ward and jeopardized the 2016-17 season. Packer, Johnston and Rafter took to the front lines in sharing the player’s side of the controversy. It was an emotionally charged moment from the season that has already shortened some NWHL careers and will almost certainly shorten many more over the offseason.
- Fratkin the forward. Wiseman moved his most expensive defender to forward halfway through the season. Fratkin started the year on the top pair with Michelle Picard for good reason. She led all NWHL defenders in points last season. But the offense never came for the aggressive Canadian blueliner this year.
- Brick Wall Fitzy. Katie Fitzgerald could just as easily be filed under "good", but her story this year was beyond unexpected. Fitzgerald went from being a practice squad goaltender, to the Riveters backup, to the Riveters starter over Sojung Shin, to an All-Star, to winning the NWHL's Goaltender of the Year award.
Follow along here for more Riveters news and coverage and over at The Ice Garden for more NWHL and women’s hockey news and coverage.