Monday, May 28, 2012

Looking Ahead To 2012-13

By Andrew McGilligan
SN Staff

What will be considered as one of the best three-year runs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has come to an end for the Saint John Sea Dogs. Three Jean Rougeau trophies, two President's Cups and one Memorial Cup championships is a feat not likely repeated anytime soon.

With the 2011-12 season behind us, let's take a look at some story lines for next season.

ASSETS: After a successful three-year run, it’s unlikely the Sea Dogs will be as dominant in the 2012-13 season, but its won’t be a complete rebuild either. Players such as Stanislav Galiev, Tomas Jurco, Charlie Coyle, Zack Phillips and Jonathan Huberdeau will most likely be gone, but the cupboards aren’t bare.

Oliver Cooper gained a lot of experience playing on the veteran laden team and should be able to assume a bigger role next season. On defence, Pierre Durepos and Kevin Gagne will be back as 20-year-olds and extremely intriguing players for potential trades depending on the situation at the trade deadline and at the draft.

Mackenzie Brown had a strong campaign with the Woodstock Slammers which should benefit him greatly as he tries to make the jump to full-time Sea Dog. Sebastien Auger is looking like the guy who will be between the pipes, but count on the coaching staff to bring in some talent to challenge the incumbent. News 889 play-by-play man Tim Roszell name-checked Stephen Anderson and Benjamin Hade as two guys to watch for when training camp begins.

The Dogs could also have Stephen MacAulay and Ryan Tesink return. The duo, along with Durepos and Gagne should form the leadership core of the team. Those two forwards would also be much sought after by any team looking to make a run at the President’s Cup.

EUROPEANS: The past three seasons have seen two of the top European junior players skating in Sea Dogs sweaters in Jurco and Galiev.

Those two likely won’t be returning, but the Sea Dogs have the 52 and 112th picks in the CHL Import Draft. While the picks aren’t high, order doesn’t matter as much as convincing your picks to leave home and come to North America to pursue an NHL career. Mike Kelly has proven adept at being able to do this and with Saint John making its name the past three years as an exemplary CHL franchise with loads of NHL drafted players, more Europeans might be inclined to call the Port City home.

OFFICIATING: The league needs to take a hard look at its on-ice officials. The Memorial Cup featured two incidents where calls were not only wrong, but a national televised audience got to watch as the on-ice official botched the plays in the biggest tournament of the year. Both times a referee from the QMJHL was involved. When it happens once, it’s unfortunate. The second time, a trend seems to be emerging.
What this does is make fans wonder how many times this type of error has taken place during the season. The reason to go upstairs is to get the call right. The QMJHL has experienced staff monitoring the officiating, so there are people in place who can guide the league and perhaps even draft some policies for review. This needs to be taken care of because it goes to the integrity of the game. It’s a major concern and one the league hopefully takes a serious look at this summer.

TRANSPARENCY: The league did a good job this year explaining suspensions and how they were reached, but only do this for suspensions of three games or more. I think the policy should be amended and all suspensions explained.

This way it provides clarity for the team and fans as well as sets out identifiable precedents.

TOP TEAMS: I fully expect the Halifax Moosehads and Quebec Remparts to battle it out for the Jean Rougeau trophy and President’s Cup in the 2012-13 season. With loads of young talent, both teams got the necessary playoff experience and heartbreak some teams need to experience before winning.

Expect Nathan MacKinnon to battle for the league scoring championship.

My early prediction is the Mooseheads will hold off the Remparts for the President’s Cup. Should that happen it would mark the fourth year in a row the Maritimes hoisted the President’s Cup. A dark horse to ruin the plans of Halifax and Quebec City are the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.

Photo Credit: Marc Henwood/Station Nation

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