It’s that time of year again. The kids have gone back to school, the sun sets seemingly right after dinner, shorts are being put away in favour of less comfortable, but warmer, pants, and most importantly, regular season hockey is almost here.
With the exhibition schedule almost over and the regular season quickly approaching, there are a number of questions that I eagerly look forward to getting answered.
First of all, with NHL training camp starting up last week, it remains to be seen which players will be kept by the big league squad, and who will be returned to the O. For OHL teams with older players, this can make a big difference in how they perform this season. Last year, Barrie was crippled when Alexander Burmistrov and Kyle Clifford were kept by their respective teams, forcing them to endure a tough season. Again, this season Barrie has seen a number of players leave to attend camps, but all of them should be returning for another year with the team. Will Barrie be able to bounce back from their worst season in franchise history?
If players are to leave, there are always the rookies to take their place. Last season wasn’t all bad for Barrie, as they managed to pick up defenseman Aaron Ekblad in the 2011 OHL priority selection. Ekblad was granted exceptional status to be eligible for the draft, the last player to do so being John Taveres, and looks to be a huge piece to the puzzle for the Colts this season. Another rookie I am interested in seeing is son of former Maple Leaf Tie Domi, Max Domi. After being selected 8th by the Kingston Frontenacs, Domi was traded to the London Knights, where he hopes to help a young Knights team improve on their 8th place finish from a year ago. Most of the talk this off season surrounded him and his playing situation, so it will be interesting to see if he is able to live up to the hype in his OHL debut.
Some of the biggest off ice news in the offseason was the introduction of mandatory soft cap shoulder and elbow pads, which is intended to help reduce the number of head injuries suffered by players. In a blog last week, “In the O” got the players options, which ended up being split between ‘it will help’ and ‘it won’t’. I believe something does need to be done to help protect the players, and this should help, but I am not sure that this will be the final piece of the puzzle for the league. What other measures are we going to see come into practice over the next year or two, in the battle to make the game safer?
Will early season favourites Niagara, Sarnia, or Plymouth hold the J. Ross Robertson Cup above their heads at year end? Or will an unexpected team climb the ranks and surprise us all?
So many questions, and so few answers, let’s get this season started already!