I apologize if this sounds like a lovely-feel-good-oh-yeah-the-Sea-Dogs-are-great-piece, but man, this stuff needs to be pointed out.
The Sea Dogs booked their ticket - again - to the QMJHL semifinals on Wednesday, easily sweeping away the Val-d'Or Foreurs. It's the second straight year Saint John will be appearing in the semis - an impressive accomplishment for any franchise.
The thing is, Saint John making it to the semifinals doesn't even feel like a big deal anymore. Since 2008, the Dogs have made the semis six times. That's six times in the past 10 seasons. That, in junior hockey, is crazy.
While it can be difficult to compare the OHL and WHL playoffs to the QMJHL's because of the setup, we'll do it anyways. Here's a few things to consider:
- The premier junior hockey franchise in this country, the London Knights, have made it to the OHL final four just four times during that same 10-season span (they could make it five this year, but they have their hands full with Erie).
- The Edmonton Oil Kings, who like the Sea Dogs appeared in three straight league finals, have appeared in the WHL final four just three times since the 2008 playoffs.
- The OHL's Erie Otters, who have had four straight 50-win seasons, are looking for their fourth league semifinal appearance since 2008.
- The powerhouse Portland Winterhawks have been on a similar trajectory as the Sea Dogs. They could be appearing in their sixth league semifinal series since 2011 if they win their second round series.
- Closer to home, the Moncton Wildcats have been in the semifinals six times in their history (since 1996-97). The Halifax Mooseheads seven times since 1994-95. The PEI Rocket/Charlottetown Islanders, who have been around since 2003-04, have never made it past the second round (that could be changing soon). The Sea Dogs have only been in the league since 2005-06.
This is the long way of saying teams like the Sea Dogs and Winterhawks are anomalies in the cyclical world of junior hockey. To come this close to a championship so many times so often... it's remarkable.
Appreciate what you have witnessed over this past decade, Saint John. Very few other cities have seen a franchise perform like this. And, while Dogs fans may not like to think about it, there's a good chance we'll never have a decade like this again.