Two of the three northern teams in the 20-member Ontario Hockey League — Soo Greyhounds and North Bay Battalion — are among the early contenders this 2014-2015 season.
Then there is the OHL’s other northern Ontario team, the Sudbury Wolves, who are in last place overall and may be looking at a coaching change.
In Sault Ste. Marie, the Greyhounds have a record of 8-2 and are off to one of their best starts in years led by goalie Brandon Halverson and 17-year old forward Blake Speers, who leads the Soo in scoring.
But this is a season of powerhouse teams in the OHL and the Greyhounds are merely one of them.
In the Western Conference, as the Hounds are 8-2 the Erie Otters are 8-0-1 with the OHL’s top two scorers in Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome. And let’s not forget about the 6-2 Guelph Storm.
In the Eastern Conference, the Oshawa Generals are 9-1-1 and the Belleville Bulls are 8-2.
Back up north, there’s the Stan Butler-coached Battalion of North Bay, which has a record of 4-1-3.
Personally, I like any team that is coached by Butler who, to me, ranks as one of the most-underated coaches over the 39 years that I have been covering the OHL.
FIXTER ON THE FIRING LINE?
At the bottom of the OHL standings is Sudbury, which after a season-opening win, has lost nine straight games.
There are rumbles in Wolves country that the job of head coach Paul Fixter is on the line and there just may be some merit to those rumours.
Let’s face it, Wolves general manager Blaine Smith put together a skilled, veteran-laden team for Fixter in 2013-2014 but Sudbury went out meekly and weakly in the first round of the playoffs.
So what does Fixter have to say about the Wolves having the OHL’s worst record at 1-9 thus far this season?
“We have to score some goals and our power play has gone dry. Guys are getting the opportunity to play, young and old alike, and it’s up to them to produce. Last place is a terrible place to be but we have to start winning if we want to get out of last place.”
Understatements, to be sure.
PHOTO: North Bay Battalion coach Stan Butler.