Give 67’s GM some credit for the team’s consistent success

By Jared Hall

Lost amidst the accolades honouring Brian Kilrea’s illustrious coaching
career is his brilliant record as the team’s general manager. Yes,
Kilrea’s coaching has inspired some pretty grand achievements but it’s
his knack for procuring and developing talented hockey players that
keeps the 67’s contending among the league’s elite. Consider these
achievements since 1995-96:

· 1999 Memorial Cup

· 2001 OHL Championship

· 3 trips to the OHL finals

· 5 consecutive Eastern division regular season crowns
  (95-96 through 99-00)

· Overall record:

· 16 players drafted to the NHL including 4 first-rounders.
  (Nick Boynton only counted once)
So how does he manage to keep the 67’s on top while most teams go
through cycles of peaking and rebuilding?

First of all, the foundation for Ottawa’s success starts at the draft
table. Kilrea realizes that defence wins championships and he drafts
accordingly. From 1994 to 2001, six of Ottawa’s eight first rounders
have been defencemen. And with credit to top-notch scouting led by Joe
Rowley, the 67’s have produced these blue-chip defenders:

Luke Sellars2nd round draft choice, Atlanta
Jeremy Van Hoof2nd round draft choice, Pittsburgh
Jonathan Zion4th round draft choice, Toronto
Nick Boynton1st round draft choice, Washington and Boston
                MVP 1999 Memorial Cup
Brian Campbell6th round draft choice, Buffalo
                1998-99 CHL Player of the Year and OHL 1st Team All-Star
Sean Blanchard4th round draft choice, Los Angeles
                1996-97 CHL Defenceman of the Year
                Twice named to OHL 1st Team All-Star
Brendan BellRated 15 among North American prospects by NHL Central Scouting
Seamus Kotyk5th round draft choice, Boston
                2001 OHL playoff MVP
Lavente Szuper4th round draft choice, Calgary
Craig Hillier1st round draft choice, Pittsburgh
                1995-96 OHL 1st Team All-Star
Secondly, Kilrea prefers to develop his own talent and rarely trades for
impact players. This proves to be less costly than filling gaps in the
roster via the trade route. He subscribes to the “rule of 6” that sees
an even balance of six 17, 18 and 19 yr olds on the roster each season –
give or take one; before you go reaching reach for the media guide.
Kilrea’s believes in keeping a balanced, stable roster that allows
rookies to develop gradually, freed from unrealistic expectations all
the while stoking their hunger for future starring roles. He also takes
a commendably firm stance against players and agents who demand to be
moved. Top four defenseman Luke Sellars was unable to force a trade
earlier this season.

Maintaining a balanced roster also provides three effective over-agers
for the following season without having to deal for help. In fact,
Kilrea has displayed quite a knack for developing OAs: quality players
that don’t quite fit the mould of a prototypical NHLer, therefore do not
graduate to minor-league or NHL assignments once eligeable. Players
such as Kotyk, Joe Talbot, Lance Galbraith, Dan Tessier, David Bell and
Troy Stonier and Dan Tudin are all home-grown talents who’ve played
prominent roles in their overage seasons.

These methods contradict a well-known OHL convention for success that
sees teams load up on veteran talent for a run at the J. Ross Robertson
Cup only to face the unenviable task of re-building with a depleted
talent base. Watch for Sudbury to struggle next season, having added
veterans Fedor Fedorov and Dan Jancevski to bolster this year’s
championship bid. So while the Wolves and other teams continue to ride
the metaphorical roller coaster, Ottawa fans can thank their general
manager for keeping the 67’s atop the OHL standings year after year.