The trade today for 20-year-old forward Zach Harnden along with Monday's move for fellow overage forward Kaine Geldart makes it pretty obvious how the season will set up for the Frontenacs. Getting Geldart and Harnden, two forwards with only a year left in the league, is right off page 125 of Larry Mavety's Big Book of Bad Hockey.
The subtext is that OHL would really like to see a turnaround in Kingston. It will be embarrassing for owner Doug "Whatever It Takes" Springer if the Frontenacs do not improve in Year 13 of Mav's five-year plan. The novelty of Doug Gilmour coaching in the OHL will soon wear off. The issue of a sweetheart arena deal for a subpar team could become hot-button during the municipal election in 2010, so it would help if they get in the playoffs.
The hope is they will. I am nothing if not a diehard fan. However, please try to see what goes along with Mavety falling back on what he knows, a reflex often peculiar to none-too-bright people. Mavety trades for "players we know," as The Royal Mavesty his ownself put it to the Kingston Whig-Standard. That means you get anyone whom another team believed had promise at age 16, since it's well-known how Mavety ranks as a talent evaluator (not very good) and how much he can impart to Gilmour (not very much). True to form, Mavety, who leads the world in trading for former first-rounders (and trading his own) is adding a player who as Loose Pucks noted, "was was Peterborough's first-round pick in the 2005 OHL Priority Selection. But his OHL numbers have topped out at 40 points during the 2007-08 season."
This is not aimed at Harnden and Geldart. They just work there, presumably (the Loose Pucks post, by the way, noted only that Harnden "could be back in the OHL for an overage year." Each could help the Frontenacs get back to the playoffs, probably more so the gritty Geldart. That is always, repeat always the hope.
However, you can see where this is headed, since it was predicted here 30 days ago:
"One can hear the spin-doctoring from nine months away. It will be framed as a great triumph if Kingston merely makes the playoffs next season. This means ignoring that 80% of the teams in the OHL get in and owner Doug Springer said at the start of last season their goal was "top four" in the Eastern Conference." — May 30, 2009And as stated even earlier, this goes back to ...
"... a previous point that the Frontenacs are, in Andrew Bucholtz's phrasing, 'Unimaginative talent evaluators (who) tend to go with guys who are generally thought to be good by the scouting community.' They're slave to orthodoxy when it comes who to take and don't do enough to help them get better once they're there."Nothing against the two players the Frontenacs have added, but people have seen this movie before from Mavety and it's about as fresh as a Michael Bay summer blockbuster. There is no rebuilding, just the same ol' same ol': Trade for veterans, trade for forwards, ignore that you win by drafting smart and building out from the back end, goalies and defence (it did not take that much smarts to draft Erik Gudbranson).
One can reconcile the Frontenacs being unwilling to utilize the CHL Import Draft. It is understandable that Springer does not want to spend and Mavety will not go outside of his "players we know" comfort zone. (One would point out that no OHL team has turned up its nose at drafting high-end Europeans since Don Cherry's Mississauga IceDogs when it won like 16 games across three seasons about a decade ago, but it's not a requirement for OHL success.) The organization also has other fish to fry, like trying to shut up any local media who dare to cast a critical eye toward the team instead of towing the party line.
Anyway, there is a feeling people want to get behind the Frontenacs in Gilmour's first full season behind the bench. The point in writing this is in hope people do not get the wool pulled over their eyes during the season ahead. Setting a goal of simply making the playoffs is the absolute nadir of low-bar setting. Knowing that hockey tends to be a chummy old boys club, it would not come as a shock if a few teams were open to helping Mavety patch together a playoff team, quote-unquote. They owe him after him taking advantage of him so many teams over the years by fleecing him (get it?) in trades. (By the way, who gets the other overage spot now that two of the three are presumably accounted for by the new guys? Defencemen Corbin Crawford and/or Zack Fenwick must not be coming back.
It is certainly in OHL commissioner's David Branch's interest to have Gilmour be a success in Kingston instead of being part of a long-running gong show. Meantime, Kingston's city council and Mayor Harvey Rosen, probably needs the team to start showing real progress to keep the sweetheart arena deal with Springer from becoming an election issue.
In other words, there is a lot more to this than the Frontenacs picking up a little veteran experience. Welcome aboard, Zack Harnden. It has been 616 days since Doug Springer promised to do "whatever it takes" to bring a winner to Kingston.
(Here are Harnden's stats juxtaposed against Luke Pither, the first-rounder from that same 2005 draft whom Mavety gave up on way too soon. It is apples to pears, but Pither had twice as many points last season as the great player Mavety just acquired, 72-34. A Petes fan on the New OHL Open Forum described him as a, "Slow, under-achieving guy with average hands. Thanks for the 3rd!)