Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Fronts: Sixth is something sweet? Barrie that notion

One would at least think that Kingston Frontenacs and Barrie Colts could at least colour-coordinate, since they trade so often.

It only cost Larry Mavety a fourth-round pick to add 215-pound grinder Andrew Clouthier, whom the Colts "just didn't have room for" in their deepish forward corps, quoth a Barrie sportswriter. Of course, part of the reason Clouthier was the odd man out is that Barrie's "nine guys with 20 goal potential" and "three legitimate scoring lines" (OHL Prospects) include two former Kingston first-round draft choices, Josh Brittain and Luke Pither.

That coveted sixth-place finish in the OHL's Eastern Conference can almost be tasted, keeping in mind that it will have a fair bit to do with randomness as well as skill.

This, of course, is not so much about Clouthier, who might add some jam and make sure teams don't take liberties with the skill players such as Ethan Werek, Nathan Moon, first-round draft pick Alan Quine and offensive defenceman Brian Lashoff, who came over in the Brittain trade.

The point is the obvious: It's a shopworn stratagem for Mavety to trade a potential three- to four-year asset, a draft choice, for a player who might be out of junior hockey next season. It's already happened a couple times this summer. Cynics and apologists alike might point out that last season Mavety twice acquired players who were already out of major junior, so this would represent an improvement.

One also needs to be clear-eyed about the Frontenacs ending up about sixth in the conference. The team should be better and much easier on the eyes (and nerves). However, the Killer B's, the Brampton Battalion (league runners-up last season) and Belleville Bulls ('08 runners-up) are in bona fide rebuilding mode. The tide seems to be out in Niagara and Oshawa.

Those random circumstances are going to influence whether the short-term thinking Mavety subscribes to will appear to have worked. People in Kingston need to take that into account rather than plan a celebration in Springer Market Square if they just happen to make the playoffs.

No one is down on Kingston making the playoffs and maybe winning a post-season series for the first time since 1998, especially if you pay municipal taxes in that city or happens to be a city councillor planning to run for re-election in November 2010. (It seems to have been forgotten the revenue projections the K-Rock Centre include four home playoff dates.)

One should be able to look at a franchise's track record and know whether it has a capacity for rebuilding. Finishing sixth is nice, for a moment. Since 1998-99, when the OHL expanded to 20 teams, no team has won the league championship after finishing lower than fourth in its conference. Only two, the 1999 London Knights and 2007 Sudbury Wolves, have reached the league championship.

Brampton and Belleville appear to be aware they are the bottom of a cycle. With Kingston, it's hockey as usual. There will be a playoff appearance this season, which is going to seem kind of unusual. And if that's not a sad commentary on the Frontenacs organization ...

Frontenacs acquire forward from Barrie (Sun Media)
So long, Clouthier, hello draft pick (Barrie Examiner)

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