Total Pageviews

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Round Two Predictions and Other Notes

Just took a look at my first round predictions.   Not bad... not too bad I must say.  In the Eastern Conference, I nailed 3/4 series and the correct number of games, failing only in the Mississauga/Barrie series as I had Barrie in 5.  Full credit to the Steelheads for stretching the Colts, and exposing some flaws and inconsistency.  Barrie coughed up a 3-0 lead, losing 6-3 and then got thumped 7-0 in Game 6.  You can't have games like that in the playoffs going forward if you expect to have a deep run.   Game 6 was a real red flag as Barrie completely lost their collective minds and formed a steady parade to the penalty box with some horribly undisciplined play.   In the West, I, like many misfired on Sarnia and Sault Ste Marie as I had Sarnia in 6.  The rest I got right, though I only correctly picked Erie to sweep  Saginaw.   

I will say it was a great first round of hockey for the OHL. Normally with the selling off of assets by lower ranked teams, you get the ice tilted a fair bit, but to have three game 7's made for one heck of a night of channel flipping, and who would have thought that Sportsnet would grab a Tuesday night game for their network? Gotta give RJ Broadhead and Sam Consentino a lot of props for the work they do.  Even though the travel can be taxing and they are not covering a regular team, these guys are always prepared and call a very good game.   

Enough preamble- On to the second round!   

Here's the thing.  My choices in this were Kingston in 5 or the IceDogs in 6.  Weird split right?   Even though the IceDogs played some of their best hockey at times versus Ottawa, there is always that inconsistent green monster that can rear its ugly head with the IceDogs.    To me, it all comes down to goaltending.  This is the series that the IceDogs got Alex Nedelkjovic for and I think he will be the difference maker in this series.    That said for Kingston Hevig and Peressini are a pretty formidable duo in net too.  Add in Lawson Crouse, Michael DalColle, Warren Foegle and Spencer Watson, you can see why Nedelkjovic will have to be at his best.   I haven't been called a homer in a while, so if you want to call it a homer pick be my guest! (But you'd be wrong)

Another one in which no one would begrudge me if I said Barrie in 6.   Barrie's inconsistency was unnerving to watch.  They were terrible at times vs Mississauga.  Plus, Dylan Sadowy missed Game 7 , and who knows if MacKenzie Blackwood is 100%?  North Bay fought hard to win a seven game series over Peterborough, who were a lot of people's sleeper pick for good reason. Stan Butler normally has his teams prepared and disciplined and have in my opinion one of the top 3 or four players in the league in Mike Amadio.   He will have plans for Justin Scott, who potted 10 goals in the series versus Mississauga

I was surprised that Kitchener only needed five games to beat Windsor, but many of those games were close and Windsor blew many a lead during the series.  Plus, Windsor lost Brendan Lemieux for a couple of games in the series.  In short, Kitchener got a break or two in the series and took full advantage of it.  London lost Max Jones for what could the be rest of the playoff run, but can roll out a plethora of offensive talent with the likes of Dvorak, Tkachuck, Marner. Tyler Parsons played well, and he needed to be at his best against an Owen Sound team that was relentless.  I like London's talent level, if they can stay somewhat disciplined.  

You have to give the Soo tons of credit.   Sarnia had a sold out building and a crowd waiting to bust out as the Sting were on the brink of the second round.   The Sting even opened the scoring, but the Soo remained composed and used the talents of Zack Senyshyn Gustav Bouramman among others and outstanding goaltending by Brandon Halverson to win Game seven on the road, not small feat.     Erie had Devin Williams a little banged up but are well rested, and whatever uneven play they demonstrated late in the season they seemed to avoid in sweeping Saginaw.   Give this one to Erie in five hard fought games, and it would not surprise me to see a couple of these go to OT. 

The schedule for Kingston/ Niagara calls for the series to start Thursday and Friday evening with the good folks in Kingston handling the call for Cogeco.    Our crew will cover Sunday's game (start time 2pm) and Wednesday's game.

I noted how well Sportsnet cover the game of junior hockey.   They really do a bang up job with their production from the studio to the game coverage.  I suppose if there is one criticism, they could be a little more representative of all three leagues, but I have a feeling that travel budget may play a role.  Their NHL coverage has come under a lot of fire, much of it being unfair.     In a cost cutting move, one of the key men in bringing you NHL coverage was let go.  His name is Gord Cutler. I know people do not normally sprinkle sunshine and rainbows over Rogers, and they surely could get along fine without the likes of me defending them, but I have to say that they were dealt a lousy hand for the first two years of the deal.   They've had a lousy areLeafs team who have admitted that the playoffs are not on the radar.  This year they had a lousy Leafs team, a lousy Montreal team, a Connor McDavid injury, all the Canadian teams missing the playoffs, and even strong American draws like Boston, Pittsburgh and Detroit all guilty of indifferent play at times, and two of those teams may not make the playoffs.  It does not matter what bells and whistles you come up with, that is tough to overcome and Rogers has paid for it in the ratings. In TV land, less ratings mean less ad revenue.  When you have $5.2B to make up, then you can imagine the hand wringing.   Next year the luck cannot be that bad for them, and they can get ratings to rebound.  That said, they do need strong teams from Montreal and Toronto to help drive the ratings bus, and I expect there to be some coverage streamlining.  Good luck to them and hopefully the playoffs can provide good story lines! 

Thursday, March 24, 2016


A rare "Ice Accretion Day" has given me a little more time to pontificate and ruminate on the OHL playoffs, which start tonight.  I'm normally lousy at predictions, as past records in NCAA Tournament pools would attest.   As I did not follow college basketball at all this year (Thank you mediocre Georgetown!),consequently I did not fill out a pool.  Upon hindsight, the usual trend is the more I know the worse I do, so maybe I should have filled one out this year.   

Predicting the OHL playoffs can be just as fraught with angst as trying to fill out an NCAA bracket.  You're dealing with roughly the same age range, though the NCAA's are a one off, and subject to upsets, while the OHL playoffs CAN be a little more predictable as over a long series the better team can usually prevail.  That said, making assumptions is when you start to get in trouble. 

Before the predictions, a little aside.  I took my 4 year old daughter to the Hershey Centre for the IceDogs season finale vs Mississauga.  Post-Game I was able to get pictures of my daughter with Josh Burnside, Sean Day, Alex Nylander and of course 'Sauga the mascot.   Many thanks to the players who were kind and gracious and helped make a little girl's day.  Apologies to all players though as Josh HoSang remains far away #1 in her heart.  She watches the game for the sole purpose of seeing HoSang either on the ice or on the bench.  Also, I am sure that those chatting with Alex Nylander were likely a little confused when I approached Alex for a picture as I was , at my daughters request, wearing a Hamilton Bulldogs cap, while she had on an IceDog cap and a Steelhead t-shirt, thanks to me leaping with a vertical beyond my years to snag a free t-shirt.   It may not have worked out quite that way, but it's my blog and I get to spin the narrative and stretch the truth when it suits me.   

On to the predictions, which I will keep brief. 

KINGSTON OVER OSHAWA IN 5.  Kingston will finally get to exercise their post-season demons that have seen them not win a playoff round since the late 90's.  Last year's Memorial Cup winners get credit for making the post-season after losing a good portion of their core due to graduation and trades 

BARRIE OVER MISSISSAUGA IN 5:  A month ago, I might have played this differently.  Barrie has been very good and is playoff savvy.  Mississauga, at times, has spun their wheels.  Next year is the Steelhead's time .  X factor could be Mississauga G Jack Flynn, who has been outstanding this year while maintaining a heavy workload.  He could steal a game or two. 

NORTH BAY OVER PETERBOROUGH IN 7.  I almost had this as an upset special until I realized that the past couple of years, I have shown no faith in North Bay in the post season and have been burned by it.   I like the Petes as they're a veteran laden team, but North Bay and their veteran G Jake Smith, outstanding all around player Mike Amadio, and super OHL rookie Cam Dineen will ultimately win out. 

NIAGARA OVER OTTAWA IN 5.  With the IceDogs inconsistency, I am surprised myself that I am picking this squad in 5, but I am heavily relying on the fact that Ottawa is not as good as a team as they were last year, and on paper the IceDogs are a better team. 

ERIE OVER SAGINAW IN 4.  Saginaw may steal a game and Erie had some eyebrow raising curious results down the stretch (an 8-0 drubbing vs Owen Sound being one of them).  Too much talent, and firepower for the Spirit to overcome. 

SARNIA OVER SAULT STE MARIE IN 6.  Sarnia, like Kingston, has some playoff demons to exorcise.  To my recollection they have not advanced past the first round since 2007-2008 when Steven Stamkos led them to the second round, where they promptly got blown out by Kitchener.  They will get a scare from the Soo, and will be better for it the rest of the playoffs. 

LONDON OVER OWEN SOUND IN 5.  London lost out to Erie for 1st in the conference the last day of the season, and thus becomes a highly touted 3 seed.   If I base Owen Sound on the two games in which they owned the IceDogs, I might predict a longer series.  London has a wealth of talent, and depth though I could see their highly undisciplined play be a factor at some point in the playoffs

WINDSOR OVER KITCHENER IN 7.  Kitchener too owned the IceDogs sweeping them in the season series, while the IceDogs swept Windsor.  I am throwing that small sample size out the window.  This should be a whale of a series.  Though the Rangers have home ice advantage, I'm going with Windsor, led by mercurial Brendan Lemieux in a minor upset.   

Steve Clark

Monday, February 22, 2016


While the title of this particular missive is "The Week That Was", the focus will be kept to an area of experience of which I feel comfortable talking about and is more closely aligned with what I cover.   I've found that few people really give a snap ( my 4 year old daughter says we should replace all potential bad words with the word "Snap".  I will follow that decree! ) about my thoughts on the Leaf tear down which so for as seen three players off-loaded, three picks and a player returned, and an unwanted Raffi Torres, marooned somewhere on AHL island. 

Lets get to the local and relevant stuff.  


The natives are restless, the team cannot score and the coach is really, really snapped off (see earlier reference to snapped).  All this has resulted in a four game losing streak, two against opposition below them in the standings at the time in Mississauga and two versus the elite of the league in London and Kingston.    So the IceDogs cannot beat the teams below them, and really have no measuring stick games when it comes to stacking themselves up against the contenders in the league.  Purgatory is not a nice place to reside, and neither is the dog house.  Marty Williamson laid waste to his team after a listless 6-2 thumping at the hands of the Steelheads.   He had them running the stairs of the arena immediately after the game and then lambasted them in the newspapers, reserving some of his finest vitriol about the team for DJ Brooks and Matt Young of Niagara This Week.  If motivation by demotivation was the goal, it did not work as the IceDogs lost again on home ice to the Hamilton Bulldogs 4-2, and there were man-handled by the conference leading Kingston Frontenacs who used their back up Jeremy Helvig on route to a 4-0 shut-out.  The most positive thing that has happened was the cancellation of Saturday's game versus Ottawa was "rained out" . Apparently those who work in arena management could not control a leaky roof and after a couple of hours of thoughtful standing around and staring at the roof, it was ascertained that the roof was indeed leaking and subsequently the game was cancelled.  The IceDogs will get a chance to salvage something from the weekend tonight when the game is replayed tonight at 7pm in Ottawa.  Here's hoping the team can send the bill for their extra bus miles and hotel rooms to the 67's!   

Niagara This Week Article is : HERE

So what's wrong with the IceDogs, and can they right the ship in the last 12-13 games of the season ? 

While the acquisitions of the likes of Michael DalColle by Kingston, and Travis Konecny by Sarnia have paid immediate dividends the same cannot be said of the IceDogs.    It's a little unfair to compare as the IceDogs kind of went for the "sum of their parts" attitude, but it is clear that Tyler Boston, Stephen Harper and Pavel Jenys are all scoring below their average before being traded.   Josh Wesley and Alex Nedelkjovic are in a holding pattern, but it is clear that none of the trade acquisitions have made the splash that was hoped. 

Several times mistakes have lead directly to goals.  Turnovers in their own zone from a player trying to do too much ended up in the back of the net.   It's a little bad luck as players do make mistakes and subsequently get bailed out, but some of these errors have been glaring and were committed by players who really should know better

Offensively, the IceDogs have not scored more than three goals since January 29th, a 6-1 W over Sudbury.   There is a ton of offensive talent on this team, but it is really under performing.  Goalies have played well versus Niagara, but there are guys who are blindly shooting rather than placing and a lack of the gritty, drive the net , get the rebounds goals.   Offensively they have become predictable and this league that can catch up to you awfully fast. 

Is there reason for concern?  Yes. Does this mean that should abandon the S.S. IceDog as if your hair is on fire? Snap no!   The IceDogs can get hot in the last 8-10 games and head into the post-season with momentum.  Plus, really things are so tight 3-7 in the conference, you could pick the teams out of a hat at this point.  

In a show of empathy towards their fellow Meridian Centre tenants, the RiverLions created a little news and controversy of their own by dismissing Head Coach/GM Ken Murray after coming out of the gate at 5-14.  A release by the team cited an "inability to close out games" as being a key factor.    While it is true, expansion teams are supposed to struggle, and there is no question that the RiverLions were highly competitive in most of their games.   Grace Lokole, the assistant and local product takes over for the balance of the year.  Also, what was curious was the timing of the release.  It was announced at 10pm on Saturday day night, hardily the optimal time to announce such a key change.   You could say the team was burying the lede, and trying not to call attention to the move but that is speculative on my part.    In another move, Windsor interim coach Tony Jones turned over the coaching reigns back to brother Bill who returns from exile/suspension after last year's Game 7 debacle.  Tony went out with a flourish by getting the boot for picking up two technicals in rapid succession.  If you were in the Meridian Centre on Friday, then you saw the last game coached by both Tony Jones and Ken Murray.  All teams qualify for the playoffs in the NBL, so the rest of the regular season will be used for positioning and momentum.  It is hoped that Niagara can derive some momentum for the rest of the year under the new coach. 

One of the recent trends in sports has been building up a schedule release as something that is vitally important to a fans life. It really is clever marketing as a game that might be considered to be a stop in the schedule, can be built up as a must attend/must watch game.  As a broadcaster, I always love the anticipation around the release of the OHL schedule, and schedule releases as a whole have become appointment viewing.  Fans love to plan road trips to various destinations, and just are plain curious to see how their teams schedules play out. The CFL rolled out is schedule in somewhat grand fashion, bookending the season around the Argos move to BMO Field. They will open the season in Toronto, and that is where the Grey Cup will be as well.  There is a sense that a move to an outdoor, grass facility will revitalize a fan base that was largely dormant at the too big and too impersonal Rogers Centre, and more along the lines of the revival in Montreal.   The hometown Hamilton Tiger Cats are the natural adversary for the first game at BMO, and their schedule was released with fanfare, player visits to radio stations.  The team is looking to build a little goodwill and continue the streak of sellouts at majestic Tim Horton's field.   

There is a group of hardcore and casual people who follow both TSN 1050 and the FAN 590 and love to comment on the various personnel.   As someone who is invested in growing their sports media role, I rarely comment on personalities, unless it's positive, but there are some who are hardcore listeners and have strong opinions about all personalities.  Both stations have changed up their on-air roster, in much the same way a team changes their roster to find the right chemistry.  The Fan , via cutbacks said good bye to two on air personalities in Greg Brady and Jeff Sammut and will debut the Andrew Walker Show weekdays 1-4pm. Brady had formerly co hosted that show.  TSN 1050 practically detonated key elements of their lineup moving Mike Richards from the key AM drive slot to 1-4.  Moving the Leafs Lunch crews to the drive home time of 4-7, and re branding the show Overdrive.  Andi Petrillo hosts a one hour version of Leafs Lunch from 12-1 and the new morning team is Dave Naylor and Michael Landsberg.   That' s a lot of changes, but when you are behind in the ratings, it does not hurt to change things up.  It will give the listeners new destination listening, and also something to talk about.  Good luck to all that are new, and have been moved, and best of luck to those who were let go.  Both guys are too talented not to land on their feet. 

Until next time.