Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Fronts: Dino Ciccarelli's ideas intrigue Doug Springer, who wishes to subscribe to his newsletter

Those at Kingston's august broadsheet deserve a round of beers for giving play to an out-of-conference OHL team firing its general manager in its Tuesday edition.

They should know that multiple readers e-mailed on Tuesday to pass on that the subtle dig was noticed, all saying some variation of, "I had to check to make sure it wasn't the Frontenacs." Well played. It was like an early April Fools' Day joke.
"The moves came less than 48 hours after the Sting were eliminated from the first round of the OHL playoffs. During the club's 15-year-history, it has won just three playoff rounds.

"(Owner Dino) Ciccarelli bluntly admitted the ownership must take the blame for the failure to produce a contender.

" 'I've got to tell you the frustration level is high and let's make no mistake about it, the buck stops with the owners,' Ciccarelli said.

"But he added the owners had only two options shake up the front office or sell the team.

"... He said Sarnia's record of drafting young players needs to get better. 'The only way to improve is through the draft. We have to draft a heck of a lot better than in the past.' " (Emphasis mine.)
Obviously, there's no reason why Kingston newsjunkies would see "fires GM" in a headline and get hopeful Frontenacs owner Doug Springer had given Larry Mavety his long-overdue Viking funeral.

Kingston has only won three playoff rounds in the 20 seasons since becoming the Frontenacs in 1989, granted. That is still no reason to be optimistic. His Royal Mavesty's contract extension has already inspired a lame Top 10 list.

Besides, as students of history know, the ones who were responsible for the collapse should get to keep calling the shots. It's much like how the Americans shouldn't have to change their screwed-up banking system just because it plunged the world into a global economic meltdown. Mavety isn't licked yet, he's going to figure a way out of this, really, honest. The last 12 years was just practice.

The Frontenacs, according to the paper, are going to draft a forward since Mavety believes the team needs some goal scorers. Far be it to point out that two players scored 30 goals this season for the Fronts, just as two players scored 30 while playing for the Belleville Bulls. Using Belleville as a benchmark might be unfair, but the Bulls are a rather successful franchise for a team which finished first in the OHL's Eastern Conference this season and made it to the Memorial Cup last season. Anyway, here's Mav in the morning's Whig-Standard:
" 'We’re still in the process (of deciding), I’d say it’s 70-30 (percentage wise) it will be a forward,' Mavety said. 'We’re looking at a team that only scored 200 goals last season. You don’t win in our league with 200 goals. We need some goal scorers.' "
Meantime, back on Planet Earth where the Internet is on computers now, some might have noticed that offensive juggernauts such as the Niagara IceDogs (213 goals), Mississauga St. Michaels Majors (229) and Saginaw Spirit (235) are among the eight teams left standing in the OHL playoffs.

Those eight teams left averaged 251.25 goals for, 207.5 against, compared to the Frontenacs' 200 for and 278 allowed.

In other words, Mavety's hockey machine was much farther below the curve defensively (71.5 goals worse) than offensively (51.25), yet his priority is goal scorers. What a schnorrer.

He's saying this after a season when the OHL only had two 50-goal men, which is the lowest in several seasons. Besides, the Fronts had a bona fide goal scorer, Josh Brittain, and traded him to Barrie, to say nothing of Cory Emmerton, Bobby Bolt, Bobby Hughes, Matt Kang and Chris Stewart, all of whom could snipe but never helped the team actually get anywhere.

An educated guess, going off the regular-season stats, is the biggest difference-maker on the ice for the top OHL clubs is a scoring defenceman. The biggest difference-maker, period full stop, is an owner who knows his assets from second base. Here are the top scorers off the blue line for each of the O's elite eight:
  • Windsor: Ryan Ellis, 89 points; Rob Kwiet, 67
  • Belleville: P.K. Subban, 76
  • London: John Carlson, 76
  • Mississauga: Cameron Gaunce, 64
  • Saginaw: T.J. Brodie, 50
  • Niagara: Drew Schiestel, 48; Alex Pietrangelo, 29 in 36 games after coming back from the NHL's St. Louis Blues
  • Plymouth: Michal Jordan, 42
  • Brampton: Ken Peroff, 31
It's a bit chicken-and-egg, but six of the eight teams still skating have a d-man among their top five point-getters. (Jordan was sixth on Plymouth despite missing 10 games; he also was a tema-high plus-28.) This might speak somewhat to having a team which can get out of its own end and move to the attack quickly, something that has rarely been said of any team Mavety has been involved during the past decade, except maybe when Jim Hulton was coaching in Kingston. (For anyone wondering, the Ottawa 67's top scoring defenceman, Julien Demers, was ninth on the team, and they're out of the playoffs, just saying.)

The Frontenacs should get the best player available. A franchise which has only won 43 of 136 games across the past two seasons needs help everywhere. When the GM doesn't really know what his team's big flaw is or what successful teams have that his team doesn't have, it really needs help.

It's not all bad. Kingston's new No. 1 junior hockey team, the Voyageurs, are set to face Oakville in the Ontario Junior Hockey League championship series. Fronts forward Ethan Werek, a gifted goal scorer by the way, will likely get named to the Canadian under-18 team today (Taylor Doherty is a maybe). Another local player, Jeremy Franklin, was recently nominated for Canadian Junior Hockey League player of the year honours.

Meantime, don't say Mavety cannot help build a contender. He still has the Mav-gic, so long as it's not for the team employing him. The Belleville Bulls, by unofficial count, have a half-dozen contributors who slipped by Kingston. Belleville got its goalie, Kingston minor hockey grad Mike Murphy, top two forwards Bryan Cameron and Eric Tangradi and shutdown defenceman Subban all in the 2005 draft, when Mavety had a higher draft slot.

Kingston's first-rounder from that season, Luke Pither, is now playing for the Bulls. Another Bellevegan, overage forward Brandon Mashinter, could have been picked up from Kitchener at the start of this season to complete an earlier deal, but Mavety instead opted for AHL and NHL-destined Yannick Weber. Meantime, the aforementioned Voyageurs are in the league final with three ex-Fronts in their lineup.

In other words, it was great to see a story about a team in another OHL market tying the can to its GM get big play. Meantime, big-time brownie points (in heaven, there are no brownie points on earth) to the hometown paper for working in digs of varying subtlety:
"En route to those four series triumphs, the Vees have seen their popularity and fan base mushroom dramatically, to the point, in fact, where dozens of ducat-seeking customers have been turned away. Interest is at an all-time high, thanks in large part to 15 post-season victories, generous media coverage and, of course, the sadly dependable early departure of the city's main puck-game tenant, the Frontenacs." (Emphasis mine.)
In the words of Stewie Griffin, "It feels right, Brian. It feels right." You can only take subtle stabs at Springer, whose skin is so thin — how thin is it? — that you could almost read a newspaper through it.

It has been 528 days since Doug Springer promised to do "whatever it takes" to bring a winning team to Kingston.

Sarnia fires GM (Dan McCaffery, Sun Media, March 31)


Big V said...

Sager, have you ever tried to get an interview with springer? or mavety for that matter?

sager said...

Ask Kinger how well that's gone for him, and he's actually based there.

kinger said...

I think I'm on my fourth or fifth attempt.