Hounds haven’t won yet

Randy Russon
March 12, 2018

The envelope, please. Oops, there is nothing written inside of it as of yet. Must mean that the Soo Greyhounds have yet to be declared Ontario Hockey League champions after all.

It is a good thing that the OHL insists on a series of best-of-seven playoff rounds to determine a champion.

Otherwise, OHL commissioner David Branch would have already handed the playoff championship trophy to the Greyhounds, who seem to be everyone’s favourite to wear the crown of supremacy.

To be sure, the Greyhounds are the no. 1 team in the OHL and the toast of those who compile the weekly Canadian Hockey League rankings.

And yes, the Greyhounds are a very good team. Exceptional, even.

But eventually, they still have to win four playoff rounds to win the OHL championship. Four playoff rounds that total 16 games.

Do I think the Hounds are the best team in the Western Conference? Even with the likes of other strong and scary teams such as the Kitchener Rangers, Sarnia Sting and Owen Sound Attack, yes I think that the Hounds are the best team in the Western Conference.

Are they the best team in an OHL that also includes the Hamilton Bulldogs, Barrie Colts, Kingston Frontenacs and Niagara Ice Dogs of the Eastern Conference? Even though I really like how general manager Steve Staois has assembled a power house in the Hamilton steel town, I would still give an edge to the Greyhounds, at least on paper.

But as the old saying goes, anything can happen in a playoff series, where the pressure on the favoured team intensifies and where momentum seized can be a major difference between winning and losing.

Then there is always the play of the goaltenders. A hot goalie can steal a series and a cold goalie can dampen the spirits of his team.

There are so many intangibles to take into account when looking at the various playoff match-ups that lie ahead.

As for the Greyhounds, just getting out of the Western Conference for a date in the OHL finals, will be no walk in a summer park.

For one, Sarnia may feel it “owes” the Soo after the Greyhounds shocked the heavily-favoured Sting in the opening round of the playoffs two years.

And if Kitchener can stay with the Greyhounds in the speed and discipline department, the Rangers have a goalie in Mario Culina who is every bit as good as the Soo’s Matthew Villalta.

So what will it come down to for the Greyhounds to take what has been an elusive trip to the Memorial Cup for the first time since 1993?

The Hounds seemingly have it all. They are deep and skilled at all positions and they are very well coached by Drew Bannister and his assistants.

What they may not have is the good fortune that often goes with winning a championship.

And until the games are actually played and the series are all finished, only then will we know if the Greyhounds will carry the OHL purse to the Memorial Cup dance.

P.S. Keep an eye on the Bulldogs of Hamilton. Just saying.

PHOTO: Soo Greyhounds have a dandy coach in Drew Bannister.

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