Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fronts: Leather pads, wooden heads (and one glimmer of hope)

Remember, it's not irresponsible to dignify a rumour on Fronts Talk if it involves something fans of the team would welcome unanimously.
Now this is just a rumour but who I heard it from would rate an 8.5 out of 10 on the reliability scale. There is a local purchase offer on the table for the club. It involves a lot of money and the banking was done on Friday. The ball is in (owner Doug) Springer's court but leaning towards selling. Like I said it is just a rumour and if it was from somebody like me, just a casual fan I wouldn't put it out on this forum but it is from someone I know and trust.
Believing this hinges on whether you accept there's someone in Kingston with about $10 mill in walking-around money.

Plaintive longing for a change in the Frontenacs' ownership is nothing new. Remember the passionate plea early in the new year that Kirk Muller would take a stab at major junior hockey moguldom? It's all in good fun -- hopefully Doug Springer's big enough to realize that, but don't count on it -- because it's nice to think of way out of the team's current pre-dilly-ict-a-ment.

Meantime, after the jump, a retrospective on one of Larry Mavety's worst days as Frontenacs GM-for-life.

It's rare that major junior hockey teams use valuable draft picks on a goaltenders, enough so that it warrants some kind of study to figure if such a plan of attack is even worthwhile. The costs seems to outweigh the benefits.

It's tough enough for NHL scouts to judge a goalie who's 18 or 19 years old eligible for the NHL draft, let alone two or three years earlier when they're drafted by junior teams. Kingston Frontenacs GM-for-life Larry Mavety's goalie gamble at the 2005 OHL draft serves as a wonderful example of how taking a 'tender early can blow up in an organization's face.

Kingston used the 24th overall pick on Daryl Borden, who'd played on a stacked Brantford midget team. Three years later, he will be the experienced 19-year-old goalie for some junior team, only it won't be the OHL. It will be with the St. Marys Lincolns Junior B team, two tiers below the OHL.

There's no intention here to slight Borden. All I know is that he's left-handed and his stats across three OHL seasons (3.61 goals-against average, .877 save percentage) paint a picture of a young man who never found his comfort zone in the OHL. A large part of that was that he was playing for the Frontenacs and Oshawa Generals, each of whom tend to be hell on goalies, the opposition's and otherwise. One can only assume Borden tried as hard as his confidence enabled him to during three tough seasons.

The problem wasn't the Frontenacs used a valuable pick on a goalie who didn't pan out. The problem was any goalie, unless on the off-chance he became the second coming of Dominik Hasek, came at a heavy cost.

The Frontenacs ended up being a two-way loser. They could have got a player on par with current standout Taylor Doherty, their 2007 second-rounder who's on Canada's under-18 team. A goalie of the future could have been selected later that day in May. After Borden, 38 picks passed before enough goalie's name was called.

Meanwhile, the Belleville Bulls, who were in some tournament called the Memorial Cup last May, bided their time before taking a goalie. (They had to play hockey in May? It sounds like they were being punished for some transgression.) In the fourth round, the Bulls selected Mike Murphy of Inverary, near Kingston.

Murphy, of course, became the OHL's goalie of the year. That fourth round was the motherlode for No. 1 netminders. The Plymouth Whalers took Jeremy Smith, who's matured into a second-round NHL draft pick and could end up starting for Team USA at the World Junior Championship this winter in Ottawa. Sudbury's Andrew Loverock and Peterborough's Trevor Cann were taken in the same round.

A lot of keystrokes have already been spent, here and otherwise, pointing out that the Fronts' 2005 draft might have been the worst in recent memory. Instead of a core group who have matured together. Just down the 401, the Belleville Bulls have a group of four 19-year-olds from that draft -- Murphy in goal, their No. 1 defenceman, P.K. Subban, and their top two returning centres, Bryan Cameron and Eric Tangradi. All four have drafted by the NHL.

From their '05 draft, the Frontenacs have exactly one player still on the roster, Peter Stevens, who's mostly a character guy. With Borden and third-rounder Andrew Wilson, who played for the London Nationals last winter, they'll have two selectios from that year paying in the same Junior B league. Take that, Belleville.

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