The first half of the OHL season produced some surprises and changes but for the most part it gave fans an idea that anything can happen in the OHL. Here’s a team-by-team review of the first half of the OHL season. (Note: Teams are listed in order of the standings)
1. Barrie Colts (35 Games Played, 21-10-4-0 record, 46 points)
The Colts are rebounding from an off-season and have been playing well this year. The Colts have played well enough to put themselves in a position to bid for the Memorial Cup. Goaltender David Chant has the lowest Goals Against Average in the OHL with a 2.09 mark. He has come on in the latter part of the first half and could be a threat in the Colts goal come playoff time.
2. Peterborough Petes (37 Games Played, 16-12-5-4 record, 41 points)
The Petes entered the break having gone 2-6-2 in their last 10 games but suffered an overtime loss in North Bay to move 1 point ahead of Ottawa the East Division. Greg Chambers and Eric Staal have been key to the Petes success and have put up solid numbers in the first half. They will need to continue their solid play through the rest of the season.
3. Toronto St. Michael’s Majors (36 Games Played, 19-11-6-0 record, 44 points)
Goaltenders Peter Budaj and Andy Chiodo, despite being involved in trade talks almost all season, have put up solid numbers as the Majors continue to play good hockey. With Budaj holding the 2nd best GAA in the OHL at 2.37, goaltending will be the key to any second half success.
4. Ottawa 67’s (35 Games Played, 17-11-6-0 record, 40 points)
In a strong East Division where 5 points separates the top 4 teams in the division, the 67’s are in tough. They were as low as 4th in their division at one point during the season, but have been playing some strong hockey in the latter part of the first half and find themselves back near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Beating division rivals will be the key if the 67’s wish to remain atop the East Division.
5. Belleville Bulls (37 Games Played, 18-16-2-1 record, 39 points)
The Bulls have scored 145 goals in the first half of the season, which is the most of any OHL team. Nathan Robinson and Mike Renzi sit 1-2 in the OHL scoring race. The only problem is the Bulls have given up 134 goals, which is 5th most in the league. If the Bulls tighten up defensively a division title, and maybe even a conference title, is not out of the question.
6. Oshawa Generals (35 Games Played, 16-16-1-2 record, 35 points)
2nd overall pick Nathan Horton started the season slowly but didn’t take long to adjust to the OHL game and has played well ever since. The return of overage goaltender Derek Dolson allowed the Generals to deal veteran T.J. Aceti to Erie. Dolson has played well since returning and will need to come up big if the Generals want to move up in the standings.
7. Kingston Frontenacs (37 Games Played, 10-18-5-4 record, 29 points)
If the Frontenacs were in the Western Conference they would be in last spot but currently find themselves holding down a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With Sudbury and North Bay both within 2 points of them they are not assured of a playoff spot by any means as they could easily find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time. They need to play like a desperate hockey club.
8. North Bay Centennials (36 Games Played, 11-18-6-1 record, 29 points)
Despite having an up and down season the Centennials find themselves stillt in the playoff hunt, being 2 points out of 7th and 1 point ahead of the now 9th Sudbury Wolves after opening the second half with a win last night. They need to do something quick though before their playoff hopes fade away.
9. Sudbury Wolves (33 Games Played, 11-16-3-3 record, 28 points)
The Wolves have benefited from playing just 33 games in the first half. This allows the Wolves to control their own destiny in the second half. With 2 games in hand on the North Bay Centennials they need those games as North Bay opened the second half last night with an overtime win against Peterborough, provided they start winning more consistently in the second half they could pass the Centennials.
10. Mississauga IceDogs (35 Games Played, 7-24-3-1 record, 18 points)
The IceDogs have won more games than in any other season in the club’s history, but still find themselves at the bottom of the league. Former 1st overall pick Patrick Jarrett left the team to await a trade after a dispute with management, but could see himself sitting out the entire season, which will hurt his draft status as well as the IceDogs chances of improving on this seasons totals.
1. Plymouth Whalers (35 Games Played, 22-6-6-1 record, 51 points)
The Plymouth Whalers seem to be adapting the old Kamloops Blazers motto, “We don’t re-build, we re-load.” This is a team that has had 3 losing season’s in the club’s history and is on pace to have their 5th straight better than .500 season. The Whalers again find themselves atop the OHL standings and they are one of Canadian Junior Hockey’s best teams. Goaltenders Jason Bacashihua and Paul Drew are both having strong seasons and Stephen Weiss has played great hockey since returning from the Florida Panthers training camp.
2. Guelph Storm (35 Games Played, 19-11-5-0 record, 43 points)
The Storm have gotten strong play out of a number of different players. Fedor Tjutin, Kevin Dalman, Daniel Paille and Martin St. Pierre have all played well this year, but Dustin Bron has been the best of them all. Brown has given the Storm a ton of scoring as he leads the OHL in goals through the first half of the season.
3. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (38 Games Played, 21-11-6-0 record, 48 points)
New ownership and management have turned this team around. Ray Emery has given the Greyhounds solid goaltending all season long. Overage forward Brent Kelly has revived his career with the Greyhounds, while Rob Hisey, Jeff Carter and Pat Sutton give the Greyhounds something to look forward to in the future as well. The Greyhounds are one of only 3 teams (Plymouth and Barrie are the others) who have already hit 20 wins. (The Greyhounds only had 23 wins all of last season.) In the second half they will need to beat some of the OHL’s top teams on a more consistent basis.
4. Kitchener Rangers (36 Games Played, 18-12-6-0 record, 42 points)
With Peter Deboer taking over as coach and GM after coming over from Plymouth, the Rangers have become a league power. Goaltender Scott Dickie has been the key, stealing a number of games for the Rangers and will need to continue to do so if the Rangers are to be successful. The Rangers are also the hottest team heading into the second half having won 5 straight games.
5. Erie Otters (34 Games Played, 18-12-3-1 record, 40 points)
The addition of T.J. Aceti from Oshawa, the goaltending situation is strong with Aceti and Adam Munro. Brad Boyes and Cory Pecker give the offence a boost, but Carlo Colaiacovo and the rest of the Otter defence need to cut down on the goals against.
6. Sarnia Sting (38 Games Played, 17-17-1-3 record, 38 points)
The Sting’s offence is in good shape with Kris Newbury, Dusty Jamieson and Eric Himelfarb all in the top 20 OHL scorers. The Sting’s defence has suffered giving up 150 goals in 38 games. Defenseman Jeff Whitfield, who left the team in early October, is reportedly set to make his return to the team Friday night against Erie.
7. London Knights (36 Games Played, 13-13-4-6 record, 36 points)
The Knights have won 3 games in a row heading into the second half , without Rick Nash in the lineup. The Knights are back playing .500 hockey after going 5-5 in their last 10 games heading into the break but, like many other teams, need to cut down on their goals against which is at 141 right now.
8. Owen Sound Attack (34 Games Played, 13-13-6-2 record, 34 points)
The Attack simply are not scoring enough goals. They have given up just 113 goals, which is 8th in the league but they have only scored 104, which is the 3rd worst total in the entire league.
9. Windsor Spitfires (36 Games Played, 14-17-3-2 record, 33 points)
The Spitfires have been a disappointment after the first half. With the likes of Time Gleason, Jason Spezza and Steve Ott in their lineup, it’s very hard to believe that they are playing sub .500 hockey. Goals against has been a big problem with 128 goals against. If that’s cut down the Spitfires may find themselves back in the playoffs.
10. Brampton Battalion (35 Games Played, 12-17-5-1 record, 30 points)
With the Battalion being just 4 points out of a playoff spot they will need to cut down their goals against and increase their goals for in order to win more games (I know it sound obvious and easy, but it’s easier said than done). If they can win on a more consistent basis in the second half they just may squeak into a playoff spot.