Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sea Dogs Shore-ing Up Their Top Spot

Many times in junior hockey, you get an organization that is special. That could go for what the Saint John Sea Dogs have been able to do in these past few seasons. Not only are they the defending Memorial Cup champions, but at the same time-- they are geared up for another run and back-to-back run, all due to the luck of the draw, it would seem.

It all starts from the top, as head coach Gerard Gallant has been amazing behind the bench of the young guys after a stint in the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets as head coach and assistant for the Islanders before moving to the QMJHL. He has guided his team to a third straight 100-point season, which has never been done before in the QMJHL. Plus, Gallant becomes the first QMJHL coach to have three straight 50 wins seasons. For a team that has only been around six seasons, the fact they're rolling like they have been is quite the feat, but one that seems to be common in the turnaround rosters of major junior hockey.

Speaking of the roster, they have plenty of top prospects-- especially guys who have gone in the first round-- Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida), Charlie Coyle (San Jose), Zack Phillips (Minnesota), and Nathan Beaulieu (Montreal)-- which you would think would be a clash of personalities, but Gallant has made this team function as a cohesive unit and the team has bought into that dynamic. Even with that roster, Danick Gauthier-- who was undrafted in the NHL (signed by Tampa Bay)-- is the leading scorer for the team with 47 goals and 86 points. The fact that only Gauthier and Phillips are in the top-20 in points (and Gauthier being the only Sea Dogs in the top-20 in goals); the team as a whole is well-rounded. The Sea Dogs have eight players in the top-10 in the plus/minus rating, including the top five players being there.

Not only that, but a guy is able to catch themselves and revitalize their young career. Point in case, goaltender Mathieu Corbeil-- who was 7-15-0 with the Halifax Mooseheads in the 2010-11 season, but when he got moved to the Sea Dogs, rattled off a 13-1-0 record to end the season, then this year posting a 37-10-0 record with six shutouts this year and really making the Blue Jackets picking him in the fourth-round a steal at this point, even though it could be the system that helped him out.

We have seen a lot of Major Junior clubs who have called a NHL organization with 16-20 year-olds. That has been said about the Red Deer Rebels in the Western League and London Knights of the Ontario League, so I think the Sea Dogs could be the team that make a name for themselves in the Quebec League. With a solid cast of players and solid coach-- the organization is flourishing. The real test is going to be that turnaround period. The odds of many of these players still being around next season are slim-- even Gallant could get some calls from the NHL about his services-- should really test the guile of the organization and what they can actually do when it's not as easy as it has been.

That said, there's not a reason to rain on the parade of the Sea Dogs. They have almost dominated the QMJHL again and will be gearing up to defend their QMJHL championship and Memorial Cup title, looking for nothing less than to go back-to-back, as they know that this team could be one of the best that the league has seen before.


bikesgonewild said... season - the echl comes to san francisco with the sf bulls...

...i suppose a lotta young guys who play in organizations like the qmjhl, western & ontario leagues but don't quite have the edge to go straight into the nhl & yet still have the dream, end up in the echl, vying for a chance...

...almost 500 guys in the last 20 years have worked their way up to the bigs after time spent in the echl, so i'm lookin' forward to some gritty, hard nose bangin' out of our new 'sf bulls'...

ScottyWazz said...

ECHL hockey is great. I was a stick-boy for a team in the late-90s and even though they didn't get the attendance, it was good quality hockey.

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