The Memorial Cup, which crowns the best in major junior hockey, starts on May 14th and as a (dis)service to you folks out there; I'll do my best to breakdown the teams you may or may not know. As a note-- I'm a hack and probably won't get all the facts or anything like that straight, so bear with me.
The last time a team has won back-to-back Memorial Cups was the Kamloops Blazers in 1994 and 1995. Now, it's time for the Windsor Spitfires to see if they can actually be able to pull off this feat. They have 12 guys back from last year's Memorial Cup team, which is great considering they know what it takes to win. Coach Bob Boughner has endured a lot of struggles in the OHL playoffs....well only being down three games to one, and has made it through. It should be perfect for him to steer this team to another Memorial Cup trophy after a big sweep in the OHL Finals over the Barrie Colts.
One of the main cogs in the team last year and this year is highly-touted prospect for the 2010 Draft Taylor Hall (Eligible 2010). Hall was tied for the league lead during the season with 104 points and in the playoffs with 35 points. While he has and will be keyed on, he still manages to get onto the score sheet. While there was a big discrepancy for the regular season for forwards-- it's a bit closer in the playoffs, with Adam Henrique (New Jersey, '08) coming up big with a team leading 20 goals in the playoffs and 3rd in points with 25. Scott Timmins (Florida, '09) has stepped up his game with 22 points in 19 games. They have been able to get a lot more out of their depth in the post-season, which is a mark of the winning squad.
Defensively, Ryan Ellis (Nashville, '09) continues to be solid in his own zone and in the offensive side of the chart, with 33 points in the playoffs, 3rd in the entire OHL. Alongside Ellis, Cam Fowler (Eligible 2010) hasn't been as solid in the playoffs as he was in the regular season; even though he has been another touted prospect for the 2010 Draft. Luckily for the Spitfires, Mark Cundari (St. Louis, free agent) has picked up the slack for Fowler and built off the regular season he had. The depth of the defense stem with Harry Young (New Jersey, '08) and Marc Cantin (UFA), who won't light it up points wise, but have been sturdy throughout the playoffs.
The goaltending of Philipp Grubauer (Eligible 2010) has been nothing short of spectacular since he moved over from Belleville at the deadline. Grubauer went 13-1-1 in the regular season and 16-2 in the post-season. Though, the German netminder has been a product of being behind a good team, as he got shelled in Belleville and the change did him a world of good. He should be able to continue as the hot hand, which could spell disaster for the rest of the participants.
While it is a tough road to get back to the Memorial Cup, the feat has been accomplished twice since 2003 (Kelowna and Vancouver). However, this is the first time since 1995 and 1996 that a team has gone back-to-back without being the host of an event, which was the host this year-- the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Spitfires have all the tools to get it done again this year and could very well be the favorites going into it. Considering the Spitfires have only lost three games in the playoffs and it was in one series alone. They are the team to beat, because like the great Ric Flair said, "To be the man, you've got to beat the man."