For local hockey fans, here’s a few interesting questions that we’ll be following at CKSN this year.
1. Will the Wallaceburg Lakers be better? Even a bit, at all, in the slightest? We’re predicting they still finish last, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be all bad. They’ve got a few decent young prospects, and a core of players who could conceivably stay together for a few years, which is a key to building a better team.They do seem to have stability in their immediate management team, and a coach who has a winning background, and a connection to the town (for all of you negative readers out there, who cares he hasn’t coached Junior before. Would you rather have a coach who’s been fired a few times and coached losers, or a person coming off a Provincial championship?). We also hear the Lakers don’t plan to sell off, or give away their best players, like they’ve done year after year to stay at the bottom. We’re hoping for the best. Winning won’t be a common event, but in a true rebuild, it shouldn’t be.
2. How will the local Chatham Maroons look? They’ve got more local players on their roster than we’ve seen in a long time, and a ton of young prospects looking to carve out a reputation at the Junior B level. That is a recipe for a few pleasant surprises, a few more losses in the first half of the season, and a stronger core moving forward. Chatham has long relied on buying players from failing teams to remain competitive. This year, they look like they’ve got a legitimate group of young players, with a few veterans in the mix, who can develop and improve together. Coach Ron Horvat wanted a local group, and he’s got one. The second half of the year should be better than the first. We wouldn’t be surprised if a few of Chatham’s youngsters end up back in Junior C, but this will be an interesting group to watch night in and night out. With the departure of Brendan Johnston, likely to Junior C in the coming days, goaltending looked like a concern early, but should be fixed soon.
3. What’s next for Joseph Raaymakers? You don’t often see an OHLer ask for a trade days before the season, especially not one who has played legitimate minutes, and contributed to his team as Raaymakers did to end last season. He wants to be “the guy,” and wants to find a team where he can take on that role. He might need to wait for an injury, or perhaps head to the QMJHL for a new beginning. He’s got a few weeks to get this figured out, otherwise, Raaymakers could find himself stuck between a rock and a hard place as the OHL season begins. He’s burned a bridge, and needs a new island to call home.
4. Will Grayson Ladd live up to the hype? It’s a lot of pressure for a young player to skate in the OHL as a highly touted prospect. He’s the highest ever player drafted while wearing a Chatham-Kent Cyclones jersey, and a first rounder. He’s about to go from no fans, to thousands a night, and OHL scouts, to NHL scouts analyzing his game. Kitchener, and many other OHL teams believed in him, and they paired him with NHL first round pick Logan Stanley at times in the preseason. We expect he’ll do well, and we’re excited to see how high he climbs.
5. Will this be the year for a new arena? Don’t get us wrong, we love the ambience of Erickson and Memorial in Chatham. The barn in Wallaceburg has the best home ice advantage around. Dresden, Blenheim, and Tilbury are respectable rinks, and the people of Bothwell love, and will fight for their arena. And your voice is likely still echoing across the rink at Thames from a year ago, since the rink is so big you could park a 747 at centre ice. But drive anywhere, and we mean anywhere, and Chatham-Kent’s arenas are a mash up between Back to the Future, and Nightmare on Elm Street. Do we ‘need’ a new rink? No, that’s a first world problem. Would a new rink allow us to attract more events, and give youth something positive? You bet. Let’s do it CK Council? A nice twin pad. You don’t need to close other buildings. We’ll find a way to make it work. Just don’t hire those guys who did the Capitol Theatre…or the downtown condo…we’d like to see this done, before those kindergarteners are in university.
Have an opinion? Let’s hear your two cents.