How will the Saginaw Spirit set its roster for the second half of the 2018-2019 Ontario Hockey League season? The only person who probably knows the answer to that question is Saginaw general manager Dave Drinkill.
It was a turbulent first half of the season for Saginaw which, in spite of a half-dozen trades, a number of injuries to its defense corps and an unexpected coaching change, takes a tidy record of 18-11-4 into the resumption of play following the Christmas holiday break.
The Spirit went into Christmas with a 4-0-1 record in its previous five games. And ever since Drinkill made the bold move to fire head coach Troy Smith and promote associate coach Chris Lazary to bench boss, Saginaw has a record of 7-2-2 spanning 11 games.
With 40 points in 33 games, Saginaw sits fifth in the Western Conference standings. But the Spirit is only one point out of third place, seven points from second spot and nine points out of the lead.
A disciplined team that has the fewest penalty minutes of any of the top five clubs in the Western Conference, Saginaw could well advance a spot or two and secure home ice advantage for at least one round of the spring playoffs with its current roster.
The Spirit has four forward lines that are as balanced as any of the Western Conference contenders. On the blue line, the Spirit has managed to overcome one injury after another to veteran personnel. And between the pipes, Russian-born goalie Ivan Prosvetov has been getting better and better as he gets used to the faster pace of the OHL after two seasons of apprenticeship in American junior leagues.
So what will Drinkill, as the GM of the Spirit, do ahead of the looming January 10 (January 9 for overage players) OHL trade deadline?
There are those with a good handle on the inner workings of the OHL who are of the notion that Drinkill is working on a major trade that will land older, veteran players for Saginaw in exchange for younger talent and/or future draft picks. And to be sure, the names of players who are rumoured to be headed to and out of Saginaw are those of the impact variety.
Drinkill has a lot of the same traits as George Burnett, who is the general manager of the Guelph Storm in addition to being its head coach. That is, like Burnett, Drinkill is an all-business kind of guy who is not shy to make a move to benefit the team, even if said transaction involves a high-level, high-profile individual.
Right now, the Spirit is in a rising state with its 7-2-2 record since the coaching change from Smith to Lazary. And what happens — or doesn’t happen — next on the player personnel front is in the firm hands of Drinkill, as the general manager.
PHOTO: Veteran Saginaw forwards Brady Gilmour, Damien Giroux and D.J. Busdeker.