Three Strikes, Now What?
Let’s play a round of Front Page Challenge. It is sometime in early June 2002, the phone in your office rings, your receptionist tells you it’s Toronto Maple Leaf GM/Coach Pat Quinn and covering your eyes with one hand, you pick up the receiver with the other? Who are you? Kudos if you answered Ottawa 67’s GM/Coach Brian Kilrea who has got to be wondering what to do now that Leaf 6th rounder Jaroslav Sklenar has decided to return home to the Czech Republic only a few games into the season. This marks the third year in a row where ‘Killer’ has taken a Leaf product in the import draft and come away less than satisfied. First there was Luca Cereda in 1999. He had a great rookie camp in 2000/2001 once he came over to North America and was touted as a possible OHL Player of the Year candidate. Heart surgery cost him the year and he was assigned to St. John’s this time out. Vadim Sozinov was selected in 2000, and although he got off to a slow start, by the end of the year he was an integral part of the 67’s offense. Alas, he returned to Russia in the off-season. Some say it was his idea, others say it was Kilrea’s, still others mutual agreement. Bottom line: No European player. Enter Jaroslav Sklenar. Whereas both Cereda and Sozinov were both 1st round selections in the Import Draft, Kilrea waited until the 2nd round this time out before grabbing the Czech. And as stated, again, the dice have come up craps. How much longer is Kilrea going to keep answering that phone when Quinn calls? Who knows. As far as the Leafs GM is concerned though, he’s lucky that he’s invested in a CHL team himself in the Vancouver Giants. There may come a time he’s going to have to use their import slots for his draft picks.