Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Fronts: Erik The Greatbranson pegged as Top-10 pick

Note the time and place: OHL Prospects says the Kingston Frontenacs defenceman Erik Gudbranson is "going to need to take a huge step back next year in order to NOT be a top 10 selection (in the NHL draft)." The World of Junior Hockey, meantime, rates him as a top-10 pick.

There is a rationale to writing a junior hockey post in the first full week of July, beyond unseasonably mild temps in the low 20s making it feel like mid-September. It is part of trying to help the diehards get primed for what the season has in store for the Fronts in the 12th year under owner Doug Springer, whose regime is still awaiting its first playoff series win.

Brock Otten's and Nathan Fournier's learned opinions are a good baseline with respect to the Erik The Greatbranson (you like it, feel free to steal it). Two learned hockey minds reckon that Gudbranson stands a rather good chance of becoming a high draft pick. It will be a reflection on the Fronts if he slips out of the first round, like his blueline brethren, Taylor Doherty, did in the past season before being taken by the San Jose Sharks at the bottom the second round 10 days ago in Montreal.

This might also serve as a passionate plea to the people paid to cover the major junior hockey team in the Limestone City. Please do not punt on addressing fans intelligently by towing the HMCS Royal Mavesty's party line. This is 2009. The "write what he said" approach to reportage does not work anymore. It flies about as well Springer infamous calling GM-for-life Larry Mavety "an astute hockey man" when the pair of them are well into their second decade without a playoff series win, with not a hint of change in sight in the organization's structure.

Point being, there have to be some standards beyond Springer and Mav's 11 levels of Fail. Kingston ratepayers have gifted Springer with a $43-million arena for a team which has been at the bottom of the standings and was called in front of city council last February over its poor play and subpar attendance figures (sorry, it was over their "marketing plan").

That is why it is good to get it down on record with Gudbranson. Please commit it to memory that a learned hockey mind feels that the Orleans native, who was captain of the gold medal-winning Team Ontario at the World Under-17 Challenge in January and did not look out of place as an underaged player at the world under-18 tournament in North Dakota this spring, could be a top 10 pick.

There should be no repeat of the self-back patting the Frontenacs organization indulged in after another Doherty was taken by San Jose. Similarly, the big d-man came into last season touted as a potential first-rounder ("Frontenacs defenceman Taylor Doherty, by the way, is being touted a first-rounder in at least one mock draft," this site, Nov. 7, 2008). His draft stock fell off the side of the cliff in the first half of the season, since playing for a gong-show franchise with poor coaching clearly slowed his development.

In Kingston, where going along to get along means having the memory of a fruit fly when it comes to the franchise's false promises and myriad stupidities, Tim Cunningham of TVCogeco and K-Rock 105.7 was about the only person in the traditional media who was honest about Doherty.

Everyone else, and no one is judging, was only to happy to write something along the lines of, "Interest in Messrs. Werek and Doherty rose smartly during the second half of the 2008-09 OHL season as both players honed individual skills and rounded out their games." (That is just generic, not specific; there is tremendous respect on this end for the veteran journo.) If Mavety said of Doherty and Ethan Werek prior to the draft that "those two guys are much better players today than they were a year ago," then it must be true. Never mind that Mavety, a losing GM whose propensity toward self-serving statements is surpassed only by his knack for self-preservation, is homogeneously unqualified to offer an informed assessment of a player's progress.

Saying that interest Doherty rose sharply in the second half of the season is true, at face value. It is just that first interest in the big rearguard had to drop drastically before it rose, marginally. He was touted as a first-round pick. That did not happen. Yet the Frontenacs were not held accountable. Meantime, some of the diehards at Fronts Talk believe Doherty will need a ticket out of Kingston to realize his potential.
"Doherty's game has so many holes in it that it'll take a top-notch organization with a track record of developing raw potential in order to fix it. I just don't see Kingston being that club. Especially with how high San Jose took Doherty (2nd round), I think that by about mid-season, if Doherty is still struggling here, you might see San Jose ask that he be dealt elsewhere. To be completely honest, I'm surprised Doherty's camp didn't ask for a trade last year, when it was obvious his game needed a lot of refining and he wasn't getting it here."
There is also speculation, idle mind you, whether NHL teams are cool with having their prospects develop, such as it were, in the Kingston organization. It is pretty evident, based on the moves Mavengil has made (Doug Gilmour says he's responsible for player personnel moves, but they look an awful lot like Mavety's), that the hope is just try to eke out a playoff berth.

People should not be satisfied by second-best, or seeing first-round talent slide to the second. K-town deserves better, honest.

1 comment:

Dennis Prouse said...

Low 20s? Where are you? It's 13 freaking degrees outside my office this morning.

/laughs bitterly at Al Gore and David Suzuki