There has been plenty of outrage out of Saint John since the league took two points from the Sea Dogs’ win over Gatineau early in the New Year and awarded them to the Olympiques. Lost in all of the straw man arguments and conspiracy theories being floated by many, however, is the fact that this was absolutely the right decision. And while many have pointed the finger at the QMJHL or the Olympiques, the only party to blame for this result is the Sea Dogs themselves.
Cries of foul play have gone up from Sea Dogs fans on Twitter, this blog, the accompanying Facebook page, and no doubt many other places over this ruling. If you’re unaware of the situation, a complaint was filed by the Olympiques with regards to their 3-2 loss to Saint John on January 4th. They claimed that Maxime Villemaire, who opened the scoring for Saint John, had not signed with the Sea Dogs prior to the game. The Q-League sided with Gatineau and docked two points from the Dogs, giving them to the ‘Piques instead.
The QMJHL certainly doesn’t a pass from me in terms of equal treatment when it comes to Quebec and non-Quebec teams, but there is no grand conspiracy at play here. This is the article of the QMJHL rule book referenced in this ruling:
If a team plays with a player who is not considered qualified by the Commissioner, the win or tied game as well as the corresponding points in the standings shall be deducted and given to the opponent (maximum of two points) per game
It’s tough to deny that this applies to the situation which the Sea Dogs found themselves in. Given that there has been no claim from the Sea Dogs that Villemaire did, in fact, sign prior to the game, there’s approximately zero reason to think that the QMJHL did anything shady to take two points from Saint John. They followed the letter of the law in this instance.
Many have accused Gatineau of being spoil sports for filing the complaint, which may be the most ridiculous statement that’s been made through this debacle. The Olympiques are no different from the Sea Dogs in that they’re looking to pick up every single point in the standings that they can. To expect them to overlook two points that they’re entitled to by the book is absolutely foolish. Those two points could make the difference between a first-round matchup against Victoriaville and one against Rimouski. They aren’t going to pass that up just so they don’t inconvenience the Sea Dogs.
The loss of two points makes things a bit more stressful for the Sea Dogs down the stretch as they look to lock up yet another regular season title, but it’s fitting that the result of this saga hurts Saint John as the blame begins and ends with the club. The Sea Dogs have some of the brightest management in the league; that much is obvious when you look at the success they’ve enjoyed the last few seasons. It’s not like they were unaware of the potential implications of dressing Villemaire for that game before he signed his card. Either it was a huge oversight, or they were banking on word not getting out. It did, and now they have to lie in the bed that they made. No doubt they’re unhappy with the decision, much like the fans are, but I’d wager a guess that they know where the fault lies on this issue, and I’d be surprised if they’d point fingers anywhere but inward.