Western Conference dog fight


Randy Russon
By
January 5, 2020

In what is an embarrassingly unbalanced Ontario Hockey League — the Western Conference is supremely superior to the Eastern Conference — Soo Greyhounds are above the .500 level.

Actually, the Greyhounds are one of nine teams in the Western Conference who are over the .500 mark as of this writing. Only the Sarnia Sting is below the .500 watershed in the 10-team Western world.

Meanwhile, over in the easy Eastern, barely half of the 10 teams are over .500. And the three worst teams in the entire, 20-member OHL all reside in the Eastern market.

Perhaps it’s time for the OHL to rank teams one through 16 when it comes to making the playoffs instead of the top eight in each conference. Because really, the disparity between conferences — as in the Western is so much better than the Eastern — has been evident for years now.

At any rate, two pretty good teams are going to miss the playoffs in the Western Conference this season. Two pretty good teams that would make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

Oh well. This headache should be a migraine for OHL commissioner David Branch and left for him to deal with.

At any rate, in what is a rebuilding season, the aforementioned Greyhounds are more than holding their own in the wild Western Conference with 40 points from a record of 19-18-2.

The 40 points has the Greyhounds not far from first place. But the same 40 points has them not far from last place.

And all in all — roller-coaster ride notwithstanding — the Hounds certainly rank in the achiever department through 39 games of the 68-match regular season.

Coach John Dean and his staff have coaxed a lot out of this group, which is mostly mid range when it comes to age of the players. The core group of the Hounds can return again in 2020-2021, save for the overage players, which includes goalie Bailey Brkin.

Simply put, with Brkin, the Hounds have a better shot than not at making the playoffs.

With Brkin — aka Brkin Wall, aka Croatian Sensation — in net, the Hounds have a record of 12-6-1. Without Brkin — a Western Hockey League refugee who was claimed off waivers back on November 12 — the Hounds have a record of 7-12-1.

Not to say that Brkin is a one-man Houndster.

After all, the Greyhounds do have high-end, high-scoring forwards such as Cole MacKay, Rory Kerins, Tye Kartye, Jaromir Pytlik and Zack Trott and impact defensemen led by Robert Calisti and Billy Constantinou.

But the prevailing view — at least among local sportswriters and knowledgeable fans — is that Brkin has been the difference between a playoff standing and a lost season.

Meantime, the OHL trade deadline looms — it is January 9 for overage players and January 10 for others.

As is, the Greyhounds are good enough to make the Western Conference playoffs.

Too bad they weren’t in the Eastern Conference, though. If so, the Hounds would be looking at a top three or four seed, with relative ease.

Soo Greyhounds overage goalie Bailey Brkin.

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