Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fronts: A little epilogue to this tale of Mavness

That was a real nice fish story his Royal Mavness told about the one who got away, Boston University-bound Ethan Werek.

" 'Up until (Friday), we thought he was coming,' Mavety said following a round of golf in Bath yesterday with puck-game colleague Dick Cherry. 'We were disappointed. We wished him luck and now we move on.' "
Boo effing hoo. Frontenacs fans are sympathetic to sob stories. Have you heard theirs? It's about a team which hasn't got past the first round of the OHL playoffs this millennium, since the dream team of GM-for-life/permananent interim coach Larry Mavety and owner Doug Springer took form. Who's coaching the team this season again?

"Then, in the waning stages of last season, following the Frontenacs' second-last visit to Peterborough, a startled Mavety bumped into the touted forward (Werek) outside the rink.

" 'I was taken off-guard; I was wondering what he was doing there,' Mavety recalled.

" 'He was hanging around and talking with a few of the guys that he knew on the club. So, I ask him: "You want to play in the OHL?" and he says, "Yes."

" 'I told him we were back up in Peterborough the next Thursday and, if he wanted to, he could play for us.'

"The Kingston coach also inquired how the player's junior A club was fairing in its second-round best-of-seven playoff series against the Huntsville Otters.

"Mavety didn't exactly frown when he was told that the (Huntsville) Otters owned a 3-1 lead.

" 'Wouldn't you know it. Stouffville came back and won the series 4-3. Go figure.' "
Mavety seems startled most of the time, so that's one part of the story that doesn't set of the B.S. detector. The red herrings, in descending order:

  • Whatever Werek said during this alleged chance meeting is immaterial. Sixteen-year-olds don't make these choices. It's up to their parents and player agent. Werek's family said all along their son was going to Boston University. Is it also possible that a 16-year-old doesn't know how to say no yet?
  • It's unfathomable that Werek's handlers would have let him throw away even one free year of schooling at Boston University (which costs $47,958 US this year, according to its Wiki) in order to join the Frontenacs for the last two weeks of a lame-duck season.
  • Werek said he wanted to play in the OHL. The Frontenacs aren't part of the OHL; they're kind of like a banana republic.
  • Mavety doesn't have his facts straight. Werek's Stouffville team wasn't down 3-1 to Huntsville. Stouffville was behind 3-2 on Saturday, March 1, when Kingston made its "second-last visit to Peterborough."

    Game 6 was the following afternoon, on Stouffville's home ice, and it was the first time they had trailed in the series. How many hockey players, in that situation, would have believed that their team wasn't capable of rallying to win the series and going on to the next round? None that you would want playing on your team.
  • Why didn't the Frontenacs just cut bait and give up Werek's rights to get an extra draft choice?
The Whig-Standard's choice to refer to former No. 2 overall draft pick Wes O'Neill as "Nowhere Wes" was presumably done in service of hoisting Mavety and Springer by their own petard. It's perfect for capturing the spirit of the thing -- Mavety's skewed sense of reality. Let's hope that was the intention. (In fairness to the paper, one should expect a little hometown reporting in a smaller city — Kingston's not so big that it's not a place where everyone is afraid of everyone knowing their business. There's a huge "you have to live here too" factor, and that's acceptable, but this crosses the line by a country mile. Larry Mavety long ago forfeited the privilege of being the only person quoted in a single-source story.)

Here's Mavety, six years after the fact -- "Ahhhh, Wes O'Neill ... He ended up going in the fourth round, and now he's playing in the East Coast league." Wow, it's like poor Wes O'Neill's life spiralled downward and he ended up working in a gas station. Oh, the things you have to believe and say when you work for Dougie Springer.

(One story that's made the rounds is that Springer overruled his hockey people and demanded the Fronts draw a line in the sand by selecting O'Neill with the No. 2 pick in the 2002 OHL draft when it was known he would not report. The apparent we'll-show-him-who's-boss gesture backfired horribly.)

O'Neill was a four-year player at Notre Dame (yearly tuition and fees. $36,850; room and board: $9,830; who knows what they charge for foreign students). Notre Dame is consistently rated as one of the top 20 universities in the country by U.S. News and World Report, has something like a 95%-plus graduation rate for varsity athletes and O'Neill probably made contacts which will serve him well throughout his working life. (By the way, played 51 games in the AHL last season, just six in the ECHL, his first in the Avalanche organization. The Avalanche organization?! Maybe the Leafs will sign him in a few years.)

That's the kind of context that's needed whenever Mavety flaps his gums. At this point, there's a much higher trust factor with what fans say on message boards than with any pronouncements from Planet Mav.

O'Neill isn't the first hockey player who didn't live up to what wizened hockey minds projected for him when he was 16. That just as easily could have happened if he'd played in the OHL. The Springer/Mavety Frontenacs haven't been a cradle of future NHL rearguards, although they have lucked into a good one in their first draft pick, Ottawa native Erik Gudbranson

However, despite being doomed, O'Neill was the 115th overall selection in the draft. How many defencemen have the Frontenacs had taken higher than that in the past 10 years under Mavety? One — Ben Shutron (95th overall) in 2006. 

The only defenceman who's come through Kingston during Mavety's tenure and gone on to become a regular in the NHL is Shane O'Brien of the Tampa Bay Lightning, every hockey nut's favourite to give up the most goals in the league this season. (Ironically, in light of Mavety's slagging of O'Neill being a fourth-rounder, Shane O'Brien was an eighth-round NHL pick when he played in Kingston. The NHL draft doesn't even have an eighth round anymore.)

That's the kind of context that has to be there whenever Mavety is flapping his gums.The bottom line is that Werek was never, ever coming to Kingston, except to attend a relative's graduation from Queen's. It's exasperating, embarrassing, yet altogether entertaining to see Mavety and Springer apparently be hoisted by their own petard. What almost rhymes with petard?

Former top pick Ices Fronts; Ethan Werek opts for American loop (Kingston Whig-Standard)