"Whether or not the average fan understands that, I don't know,'' Saint John Sea Dogs hockey operations director and associate coach Mike Kelly said to Scott Briggs of the Telegraph-Journal. "It's a tough question, but I think if you look over time and you see a team that is consistently good, fans come to appreciate that as well.''
It’s no secret that the Sea Dogs’ goal for the past two seasons has been to prepare itself for hosting the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup. A requirement for hosting the national tournament is having a competitive team.
"We've always wanted to keep one eye on 2012, but we've said right from the get-go that we think we have a really good team here.''
This time next year the Sea Dogs will begin their bidding process. The Windsor Spitfires have set up a website to help show the organizing committee that their fans are willing to support the tournament in 2011.
Saint John management had to do a bit of “damage control” today in the newspaper. When the news of no news broke yesterday afternoon, many fans hit the panic button (this fan included) and just about caused a riot at Harbour Station. But management assures fans that they made the right moves.
"We think there are maybe five or six teams in the league that are very competitive, and we're one of them,” said Kelly. "We've been like that since the beginning of the season and we don't expect to take a step backward. We expect to compete. Some teams have gotten better, but other teams have gotten worse. (Head coach) Gerard (Gallant) has done a great job with playing the kids and they've gotten better as a result.''
Many teams have gotten better including two in the Atlantic division. The Moncton Wildcats went on a shopping spree and the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles added some physical punch. Rouyn-Noranda, Drummondville and Victoriaville also made some noise during the trade window.
"Some teams did a lot,'' Dogs coach Gerard Gallant said. "We were the class of the league in the first half and Moncton went out and did a lot. They traded some young prospects and draft choices and they're a top team, there's no doubt. But does that mean we're not going to beat Moncton, or Rouyn-Noranda, or Victoriaville, or Drummondville?”
As Gallant mentioned, Saint John has something many of those teams traded away – solid young prospects and high draft picks.
The Sea Dogs’ base is already set for the next few seasons with the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau, Zach Phillips, and the underrated Pierre Durepos. But that doesn’t mean the Sea Dogs have packed it in for this season.
"I still think we're with those (highly competitive) teams,” Gallant said. “As far as I'm concerned, we have the best three 20s in the league (Mike Hoffman, Nick Petersen and Marco Cousineau) and we have great leadership. Now it's about guys picking up their game. We're in first overall, but we have to compete and play hard and be a confident team.
"There are always issues and it's how you deal with those issues and how you move along. Trades are very important to teams, but sometimes they can go overboard a little bit.''
And remember, championships aren’t won on paper, but on the ice. (Yeah, that means you Moncton!)