The Soo Greyhounds 1998-99 season was a very successful one. They won 10 straight games and improved their point total from 1997-98 by 23 points. The 1999-2000 season looks to be a good one as the Greyhounds have 16 returning players. At the draft the Greyhounds also added 19-year-old left-winger Brent Theobald. He was acquired in a trade with the Missisauga IceDogs at the draft.
The Greyhounds are in a good position because most of the teams in the division are losing a lot of players. The Plymouth Whalers for example are possibly losing the likes of Harold Druken, Adam Colagiacomo, Paul Mara and Robert Holsinger.
In goal the Greyhounds are in very good shape because Jake McCracken is definitely coming back and Jason Flick may be back as one of the Greyhounds three overages. McCracken will be looking to bounce back from an off-year where he didn’t play his best hockey. Flick, if he does come back will be looking to repeat his tremendous performance from last season. Remember though, it’s not a guarantee that he is coming back.
The defensemen on last season’s club were pretty good. The problem is two of last year’s defensemen (Dan Passero and Rob Mulick) are candidates for the three overage spots on this year’s team. However, they did have five other strong defensemen.
The Greyhounds are in a tough spot because if they bring back one of those players they will already have six defensemen and their 1st round draft pick this year (Trevor Daley), who is also a defenseman. This would give them seven defensemen and only six spots to fill. The other five defensemen on last year’s team (Derek Fox, Bill Browne, Jake Gibson, Darren Strilchuk and Paul Ballantyne) were all very solid defensemen, and Daley is just 16-years-old. Who knows what they would do if they brought back both Passero and Mulick. The rumor right now is that they are only bringing back Passero. If they really have to they could deal one or two of them for a goal-scorer.
Up front the Greyhounds are in great shape. They lost only three forwards from last year’s club in power forward Adam Nittel, European import Martin Galik and defensive-specialist turned goal-scorer Chad Cavanagh. Nittel and Cavanagh were in their last season of junior hockey anyway. Galik, on the other hand, was eligible for one of the three overage spots, but he would also take up a spot as one of the two import players each team is allowed to have. It has already been confirmed that he will not be back in the 1999-2000 season. Chad Spurr is the other player eligible for an overage spot and there are rumors floating around that he is going to be a member of the Greyhounds again next season. Spurr is a tremendous all-around player.
The Greyhounds are in very good shape heading into the season. At the OHL Entry draft the Greyhounds selected Trevor Daley with their 1st round pick (10th overall). Everyone that has seen him play has said that he is a puck-rushing defenseman with great potential. Some people have even went as far to compare him with NHL great Paul Coffey. Whether it’s true or not, that’s a lot of pressure to put on a 16-year-old player.
Theobald (acquired from the IceDogs) has been called a defensive-specialist. He is going to be re-united with his former coach from Erie, Paul Theriault. Theobald, 19, spent a season with Erie before being traded to the IceDogs along with Adam Nittel.
New Head Coach Paul Theriault has already stated that he will not stand for players being lazy. He stated that there will be none of that on his team. He will have this team working hard every night, which every coach says his team will do.
The Greyhounds are a team that is coming off a winless skid that saw them go winless in their last ten regular season games in 1998-99. Theriault has also stated that no team should go winless down the stretch. That winless skid really hurt them in the playoffs as they could have easily beaten Owen Sound in the 1st round, but instead lost out in five games.
The Greyhounds should beat out the London Knights and win the west division title based on the fact that every team in the division is going to lose some big players. London is losing Jason Doyle, Richard Pittiri and maybe even Rico Fata. Plymouth will lose Mark McMahon and at least 4 of the following: Harold Druken, Adam Colagiacomo, Paul Mara, Nikos Tselios, Jason Ward, Eric Gooldy, and Robert Holsinger. All seven of those players are eligible to come back as an overage player. Sarnia will lose Peter Cava, Matt Price, Jeff Zehr and possibly, Peter Sarno and Ivan Novoseltsev. Windsor never seems to have a team that you have to worry about and this season won’t likely be any different. Just looking at the players that the other teams in the division are losing, or may lose, there is no reason not to think that the Greyhounds will take the West Division crown this season. Also they will have the best returning cast of all of the teams in the division.
The Greyhounds will be looking to accomplish a couple of things this season, a) to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the 1st time since the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons (the 2 season’s that Joe Thornton spent in the Soo) and B) to win a playoff series for the 1st time since 1996-97.
The go-to-guys will definitely be the three overage players, whomever they may be. Other go-to-guys will be Jake McCracken, if Flick doesn’t come back, Cory Pecker and Ryan Jardine. Pecker and Jardine will be looked to lead this fairly young team with a fair amount of experience and goal-scoring. Bill Browne and Jake Gibson, on defense, will be expected to lead the young defensemen like Ballantyne, Fox and Strilchuk. Browne and Gibson will be looked to especially if Passero and Mulick don’t come back for the 1999-2000 campaign.
The key newcomer will definitely be Trevor Daley. He may not get a lot of playing time this season due to the amount of veteran defensemen that the Greyhounds have, but he will definitely be a key player in the Greyhounds drive towards their 5th division title in the 90’s.
Look for the Greyhounds to come out every game and work hard towards winning the division. There is no doubt in my mind that they will win this division. The returning players and the rookies that make up the team will share one goal in the 1999-2000 season — to get the Greyhounds back to the glory days of the early 90’s.