Those who don’t wear blinders seem to have accepted the fact that, over what was a six-game series, the Hamilton Bulldogs were better than the Soo Greyhounds and were deserving winners of the 2018 Ontario Hockey League championship.
Even head coach Drew Bannister — who recently departed his position with the Greyhounds for a similar gig in the American Hockey League — commented that the “better team won” in the wake of Hamilton’s upset series victory over the favoured Soo, which had finished first overall during the 2017-2018 regular season, 23 points ahead of the Bulldogs.
The majority of the Greyhounds fans who I have had conversation with since the season ended in disappointment for the Soo have also admitted that Hamilton was the better team in winning the OHL championship four games to two.
Still, there are a few Soo fans who think that the referees favoured Hamilton and officiating is the reason why the Bulldogs were able to upset the Greyhounds and win the OHL championship.
Personally, I thought the officiating was rather inconsistent. But the inconsistency went both ways.
The way I saw it, just as Hamilton benefited from a non-call in the Game 6, series-clinching victory, the Bulldogs were the victim of some shoddy officiating in the Soo’s Game 4 triumph that temporarily tied the series.
For any one to say that refereeing is the reason why the Greyhounds lost the series to the Bulldogs ranks as one of the more-serious cases of sour grapes that I have ever heard.
Like it or not, Hamilton won the OHL championship fair and square as a team that, simply put, out-worked, out-played and out-chanced the Soo over the course of the six-game series.
I had actually picked the Bulldogs to win the series, despite the fact that the Greyhounds were favoured.
Hamilton had a 12-3 record through the first three rounds of the playoffs while the way I saw it, the Soo was lucky that it got past the Owen Sound Attack and Kitchener Rangers to win seventh-and-deciding games in both series.
At any rate, Hamilton won the 2018 OHL championship and the Soo did not.
Despite losing so many players — not to mention aforementioned head coach Drew Bannister — to higher levels of hockey, I actually think the 2018-2019 version of the Greyhounds will be competitive and among the contenders in the Western Conference.
I particularly like the collection of young forwards that general manager Kyle Raftis has assembled, a list that includes Barrett Hayton, Ryan Roth, Joe Carroll and Sault Ste. Marie product Cole MacKay.
Hayton scored 21 goals as a second-year centre and looms as a first-round pick at this year’s National Hockey League draft.
Roth notched 15 goals in 68 games in his OHL rookie season. The small but speedy Roth could be on the verge of a breakthrough season in 2018-2019.
Carroll counted nine goals in 53 regular season games while MacKay found the back of the net five times in 42 outings.
With more ice time and responsibility, Hayton, Roth, Carroll and MacKay should be able to advance their respective game in major ways in 2018-2019.
Hayton and Roth were both born in 2000 while Carroll and MacKay have 2001 birth dates.
To be sure, the Hounds have plenty of youth on their side.