Saturday, January 03, 2009

Fronts: The Winter of 43 for those double-dipping Dougies

Fair is fair, so let the record show the Kingston Frontenacs are undefeated in 2009 AD (anno domini, not "after Doug Springer," but dare to dream).

The Fronts whupped the Oshawa Generals 5-0 for just their second win at Kingston Ratepayer Centre since Doug Gilmour became coach. Most kidding aside, it's always great to see that team on the right side of the scoreboard. Attention should be paid, especially when someone, or someones (Kinger and myself) spent 15 minutes on CFRC yesterday where the hope was expressed that Springer might have an epiphany, "or what alcoholics call a moment of clarity, to quote Pulp Fiction."

Speaking of double-digits ... what no one has written is that the Frontenacs, now on pace for 38 points after seasons of, in reverse order, 52, 69 and 81 points (that was under Jim Hulton in 2005-06, those were the days), are in danger of setting a precedent for decline.

It has never happened in the OHL's modern history. A friend last night said, "Cornwall must have done it," referring to the late and lamented Royals, but even they avoided that distinction.

This might be a good rebuttal to the argument that the Frontenacs are genuinely rebuilding under owner Springer and The Royal Mavesty, AKA general manager Larry Mavety. You can basically use the last good year as a baseline -- Year 1.

Eighteen teams have experienced a double-digit dip in points two seasons in a row since 1974-75. Fifteen of them improved in Year 4, two had the exact same total and only one -- the now-defunct Cornwall Royals -- declined. Many of the franchises in this sample later ended up being sold or relocated.
  • Sudbury Wolves, '75-76 to '78-79: 102, 80, 42, 81
    Year 4: +39

  • Ottawa 67's, 1990-91 to '93-94: 80, 68, 40, 77
    Year 4: +37
    (The 67's still changed ownership a few seasons later).

  • Cornwall/Newmarket Royals-Sarnia Sting, '91-92 to '94-95: 82, 67, 28, 53
    Year 4: +25
    (When you're in a comparison with a team which moved twice in three years, it's time to take a good hard look at your operation.)

  • Sudbury ( '01-02 to '04-05): 81, 60, 38, 61
    Year 4: +23
    (The Wolves went to the OHL championship series two seasons later, 2006-07.)

  • Barrie Colts (1998-99 to '01-02): 104, 93, 69, 87
    Year 4 : +18
    (Barrie won the OHL championship in 2000.)

  • Belleville Bulls ('90-91 to '93-94): 83, 53, 66, 70
    Year 4: +17
    (Larry Mavety, give the man credit, coached those teams.)

  • Brantford Alexanders ('76-77 to '79-80): 105, 76, 49, 64
    Year 4: +15
    (Franchise played in St. Catharines and Hamilton during the first two seasons; it moved back to Hamilton in 1984.)

  • Kitchener Rangers ('96-97 to '99-00): 78, 64, 52, 66
    Year 4: +14
    (Peter DeBoer, now coach of the NHL's Florida Panthers, arrived two seasons later, 2001-02, and Kitchener won the league title in his second season.)

  • Guelph Platers ('85-86 to '88-89): 84, 60, 47, 60
    Year 4: +13
    (Guess what? The Guelph team ended up moving to Owen Sound a couple years later.)

  • Windsor Spitfires ('90-91 to '93-94): 70, 58, 43, 55
    Year 4: +12
    (Some will tell you that the Spitfires had the worst ownership in the OHL before Springer came along.)

  • Oshawa Generals, '82-83 to '85-86: 93, 75, 66, 76
    Year 4: +10
    (It was only a nine-point drop that one season, but it's worth fudging a little since the Generals won the OHL championship in 1987.)

  • Kingston Frontenacs, '99-00 to '02-03: 84, 68, 49, 56
    Year 4: +7

  • London Knights, '97-98 through '00-01: 85, 72, 54, 60
    Year 4: +6
    (The Knights won an OHL record-low three games and won a league-record 59, within the span of a decade. They did not have the same general manager all that time.)

  • North Bay Centennials/Saginaw Spirit, '00-01 to '03-04: 72, 49, 34, 39
    Year 4: +5
    (The team moved!)

  • Ottawa 67's, '99-00 to '02-03: 103, 91, 80, 84
    Year 4: +4
    (Ottawa won the OHL championship in 2001 and reached the final in 2005 -- and they never declined that much.)

  • North Bay Centennials, '93-94 to '96-97: 97, 74, 35, 36
    Year 4: +1
    (And where are they now? Saginaw.)

  • Toronto Marlboros ('83-84 to '86-87): 91, 73, 47, 47
    Year 4: Zero
    (The Marlboros moved within a couple seasons.)

  • North Bay Centennials ('86-87 to '89-90): 94, 67, 54, 54
    Year 4: Zero

  • Cornwall Royals ('87-88 to '90-91): 77, 67, 52, 47
    Year 4: Minus-5

  • Kingston Frontenacs ('05-06 to '08-09): 81, 69, 52, ??
    Year 4: ??
The average improvement for these 18 double dippers was 12.8 points. The Frontenacs have already been on the low end of the curve once under Springer, who marked his 750th game as owner Friday.

At this rate, they will be the low end of the curve, barring a minor miracle over the final 29 games of this season that gets them up to 43 points and avoids a permanent place in stathead infamy.

Springer and his hockey people have their apologists, despite the fact the Frontenacs have won less than 40% of their games (296 of 750, counting playoffs) since he bought into the team in 1998. If the Frontenacs are rebuilding, a dubious proposition, then they're not doing so with the speed of other franchises who hit rock bottom and built themselves back up. All of them made a structural change -- new owner, new city, new front office. None of them tried to get a different result doing it the same way, which is a definition of insanity.

It's time for Springer to have his moment of clarity, in the small hope it might give the ol' hometown the hockey team it deserves. To the Kingston players, good job last night and good luck tonight in Belleville.


Anonymous said...

Different league, but take a look at the Portland Winter Hawks: 72, 37, 25. They're still terrible this year, but not as putrid as last year.

Andy said...

i went to the Krock centre last night. Sterile atmosphere, less than 1000 fans I would estimate. I miss the Mem centre.sesses

sager said...

At Anon.: And Portland has, guess what, a new owner this season.

At Andy: Did you get to the World Junior exhibition games? I heard the place was jumping for USA-Russia, a sellout.

Sam said...

I was at the USA-Russia game the K-Rock Centre was sold out, but not "jumping". The atmosphere was as dead as usual. I have stopped going to Frontenac games recently, because I can think of better ways to waste my money. The last game I went to see, I saw them get smoked by Barrie and I haven't been back since. I'm not going to throw my money at a crap team right now. I miss watching an exciting young team play good hockey. I don't need them to be winning, I just want to enjoy myself when I watch a game, for that I need good hockey.

sager said...

Thanks, Sam (and your blog is on the ol' Google Reader as of this moment) ... "jumping" is a relative measure with Eastern Ontario hockey crowds — just the fact there were people there, eh?

Sam said...

Hey I just saw in your profile you're writing a book - what about?

sager said...

It's called Backing The Wrong Horse: Why It's Good To Cheer For Bad Teams. Now the content tail just has to wag the title dog!

Big V said...

I heard a rumor the other day that Springer is purposely tanking the team so when the city can't afford to keep paying for the KRC. Then the city will put the building up for sale.... and the springer familly wil buy it at a discount rate.