What Now For The Wallaceburg Lakers?
This was a storied franchise. A winning franchise. This is a hardworking town, with hardworking fans, who have been faithful to the Lakers through years of mismanagement on and off the ice.
Needless to say, when new owners came in this season promising to stabilize the franchise…no, not just stabilize, but revitalize the franchise, hopes were high.
So the question begs, were the hopes too high? And is all hope lost? We’ll ask a few more questions that will hopefully help us, and you, answer those bigger questions.
The Lakers wave goodbye to leading scorer and captain Trevor Waller, goalie George Hill, capable scorer Justin Lindsay, and defenseman Wade Esselment. Looking at the teams struggles this season, and the remaining roster, this is a devastating graduating class, as the remaining roster isn’t rife with proven Junior players, or prospects for that matter. The returning 1996s won’t have the impact of the 1995 group. Colton Coates, the teams captain to start the season, and highlighted offseason acquisition Brayden Kettlewell were both 1996s, and neither remain with the team. The team’s best young prospect, Zach Lindley, a 1999 goalie recruited by multiple teams, and a borderline Junior B quality player, is no longer with the team, and neither are capable players such as Cory Lucier (Dresden Kings) and Drew Vandehogen (Blenheim Blades). With that out of the way, the better question is…
Who knows. He and they took their criticism, but coaching stability and ownership stability would help. If you were to compile a roster of ex-Lakers in the league (Lucier, Vandehogen, Brendan Ritchie, Matt Clark, George Wood, Kadin Ritchie, Mike Kindrachuk, Brock Daugherty, Joel Sowinski, Matt Badour), and throw in a few new players, who you’d have a good Junior C team. The team still needs to hold their players. Knowing Junior players and teens these days, the mentality is to be given a winning product, instead of suffering to build one as a group. Hard times aren’t welcomed times in hockey, but for the Lakers to develop and improve year by year, they need to hold their players. So who should they return? Every dedicated and local player who was a consistent presence on their roster. Hold them, age them, help them, and when a young player or two knock on the door, sign them and plug them in.
Time To Change
The Lakers need to pound the pavement. They need to make people believe. The people I’m talking about are the young prospects. Seeing the names of players APMing for other rosters, such as Colton Shoemaker, Chase Henry, Thomas Michaud, Nolan Ross, and Seth Henderson, it looks like most of last years Chatham-Kent ‘AAA’ roster is not coming to Wallaceburg. Until the Lakers can make these prospects come as a group, and stay, things will not change. Perhaps a use of their import cards on American players would be a move in the right direction, it’s worked in the past for the Lakers. This isn’t a management change, this isn’t an executive change (not completely at least), this is an all out marketing plan, an all out culture change, an all out sale of integrity, passion, and professionalism. I respect some of the Lakers staff and support, but this is a job for someone who holds significant trust of the young players in the area, and a display of change, not just a promise of change.
Thank Those Fans, and Thank That Town
It’s a shock that people are still in the building. But Wallaceburg is faithful. Wallaceburg doesn’t quit. The community itself is an embodiment of what the team needs to be. The team needs to become the town, because the town has always, and I believe, will always, be there for the Wallaceburg Lakers.