Even when there are no games scheduled, there are games being played behind the scenes. For example, I doubt if there is a general manager in the Ontario Hockey League who is not plotting ahead of the looming January 10 trade deadline.
It may be the festive season but in the hockey season that never really takes a break, talking the talk will lead to walking the walk in more than one OHL town.
In Sault Ste. Marie, the Greyhounds rather astute general manager Kyle Raftis will be listening to trade inquiries relative to veteran players that include star goalie Matthew Villalta and star forward Morgan Frost as well as the team’s three overage skaters.
In London, where the Knights represent what may be the most functional, fruitful franchise in the OHL, president/coach Dale Hunter and his general manager/brother Mark Hunter will be thinking inside and outside the box for ways to make their team the clear-cut favourites to eventually win the Western Conference championship.
In Saginaw, where Spirit general manager Dave Drinkill works relentlessly and around the clock as one of the more-prepared hockey bosses in the OHL, the trade wheel has been spinning since before the season even started. Drinkill has made a half dozen transactions as both buyer and seller and the feeling is that Trader Dave is not done dealing.
In Kitchener, where the Rangers are in danger of missing the Western Conference playoffs, what moves will general manager Mike McKenzie make? Don’t be fooled by McKenzie’s baby blue eyes or youthful age of 32. The hard-nosed McKenzie has the acuity of a hawk and will make whatever “hockey is a business” decision he feels is best for the Rangers, even if it means making a coaching change.
In Flint, where the Firebirds will unfortunately miss the playoffs for the second straight season and third time in four terms, general manager Barclay Branch is in major decision mode. Does Branch hold on to the many marketable players that the Firebirds have or does he hold a fire sale and get maximum returns on major assets?
In Ottawa, where the 67s are sitting atop the Eastern Conference market, general manager James Boyd has already made the big trade that has provided capital gains for the Barber Poles. That is, as the 67s chase 2019 OHL and Memorial Cup championship glory, they have 2017 Memorial Cup championship goalie Michael DiPietro between the pipes thanks to a recent blockbuster trade with the Windsor Spitfires.
And in Sudbury, the surprising Wolves are making a run in the Eastern Conference after finishing with the worst record in the OHL in 2017-2018. Wolves coach Cory Stillman has effective systems in place and Finnish goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is one of the best at his position in the OHL. With the Wolves ahead of schedule on their franchise rebuild, look for general manager Rob Papineau to make a minor deal or two that will add some veteran depth to the in-progress project that is going on in the Nickel City.
PHOTO: Kitchener Rangers general manager Mike McKenzie.