When Soo Greyhounds head coach John Dean recently said that he has total faith that his ninth-place team can win the Western Conference of the Ontario Hockey League, I thought that those were pretty serious words.
Well, I have no doubt that Coach Dean indeed believes in his kids and if they follow through with his words of wisdom and execute, they certainly can make this team push for top spot.
I also believe with a young team, Coach Dean also wants to reassure them that the win/loss column so far is not indicative of their abilities and wants to keep them mentally strong. In the words of Ed Grimley: “Great coaching, I must say.”
Until that can happen though, the Hounds need to regroup from a disasterous stretch of losses after starting off the season 4-0. I also think that although this team has underachieved against some weaker teams in this stretch, that is a learning curve that will pay dividends later in the season.
Due to injuries and the fact that Barrett Hayton’s status is in limbo as he remains in the National Hockey League with the Arizona Coyotes, it has forced some of the young kids to play two or three times the amount of minutes that a rookie would normally play.
I believe with the current rule that a junior player can play up to nine NHL games before having to be sent back to junior hampers the team in the capacity that until this happens, Greyhounds general manager Kyle Raftis has to weigh the pros and cons of trading draft picks and players for an overage to settle this team down up front.
The chances are decent that Hayton will return but until we get that confirmation or denial, Raftis has his hands tied. If Hayton comes back, a big move to a contender can bring two or three promising 17 or 18 year olds and a boatload of draft picks for the next year or two.
Meanwhile, Coach Dean as of late has also spoken of the fact that his veterans are at times taking the night off and need to set a better example for the younger kids.
I don’t necessarily see this other than Jacob LeGuerrier and Ryan O’Rourke at times taking poor penalties, and goal-tending — we’ll get that in a minute.
I don’t know if Joe Carroll is injury prone, or has an existing injury that gets aggravated easily, but he sure seems to be injured quite a bit and this will definitely affect the line combos.
In regards to a player that has not played very well in my opinion is overage goaltender Christian Propp. As much as a coach will never center a kid out, he must be scratching his head. Propp has had some fine games and has been left out to dry on dozens of occasions, but letting in soft first shot goals or soft goals for that matter digs into the team’s subconcsious if you are always trying to battle from behind.
I liked what I saw from backup goalie Evan Taylor last year and would think he would be getting more starts in the next little while.
The fax machine has been very silent for the last month or so on the status of Czech net-minder Nick Malik. Malik is playing in a men’s league and has played the majority (11) of his teams games and is sporting a low 2.44 goals against average.
In relation to GAA on the Hounds roster right now, Taylor has a 3.20 mark and Propp has a disappointing 4.35 goals against.
I don’t think Raftis wants this goal-tending situation to go on much further and I can’t see something not being addressed in the next little bit.
The Hounds have so many good forwards and have no trouble scoring goals but keeping them out of the Soo net has been the biggest problem so far this year.
Just so the math is clear, the Hounds are rated number one with goals scored in the entire league, but on the downside, they have the fourth most penalties and are in the the upper middle of the pack with goals against.
On defence, I really like that Drew Wawrow has been buying into the program and has been rewarded with many minutes. Last year after the trade that brought him here from the Sudbury Wolves, he barely broke a sweat as he was generally a healthy scratch or when inserted into the lineup, played only a shift or two per game.
Well, Hounds associate coach Jordan Smith must have got to Wawrow, as this kid is playing with confidence and is asserting himself as a top six defenceman.He has thrown some dynamite checks out there and is playing with a lot of poise and confidence.
Summing, things up so far this year, I think the Hounds record doesn’t resemble how they have played. I believe the boys have been burned a few times and a couple more games could have easily gone into the Dub Ya column.
The Hounds are not a ninth out of 10 teams in the Western Conference. Inexperience and being the most penalized team in the Conference has led them to this situation but it is something they can work on.
It’s time for the Hounds to regroup and start winning again as every point missed counts whether it is a playoff miss, or a home ice advantage miss.