With the Christmas break upon us, let's take a look back at the first half of the season.
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News 88.9 reporter and Sea Dogs play-by-play man Tim Roszell recently said the biggest stories of the season thus far are injuries and rise of Danick Gauthier.
Let's start with the injuries.
It's not just the volume of injuries, but many have been to key contributors, particularly the forward group. The most significant injury is the foot of Jonathan Huberdeau. While the third-year Sea Dogs forward is currently on Team Canada for the World Junior tournament, how effective he will be remains to be seen.
Before going down, the Sea Dogs captain had 28 points in just 13 games. In addition to Huberdeau, Russian sniper Stanislav Galiev has also been sidelined and limited to just five games. The Washington Capitals prospect was averaging just above a point per game with six on the season.
Not only has the injury cost Galiev part of his 19-year-old season, but it eliminated his final opportunity to represent his country at the world junior tournament.
Next up on the parade of walking wounded is Ryan Tesink. After a great camp with the St. Louis Blues, the Port City native was off to a great start in his second season. In 20 games, Tesink has notched 25 points and tied his rookie output of eight goals.
Several other players have been sidelined at other points of the first half, but missing three of your top forwards is a huge blow for any team.
However, big injuries leave opportunities for other guys to step up and Gauthier, in this regard, is the ultimate opportunist.
Coming into the season, Gauthier had scored 29 goals in his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League career. He's eclipsed that career mark in 37 games this season by notching 31 goals thus far. At the holiday break, Gauthier is tied for the league goal-scoring lead with Zach O'Brien of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
While Gauthier has been a great surprise, Zack Phillips was expected to be a top point getter for Saint John. The Fredericton native lived up to the billing and then some by setting a team-record point streak by notching at least one point in 22-straight games.
His great season (19-35-54) should continue in the second half as his linemate Huberdeau is expected to return. In addition, fellow Minnesota Wild draft pick Charlie Coyle will join the team and could potentially play with Phillips.
It could be the signing of Coyle or the early season deal for top blueliner Charles-Olivier Roussel. However, for shock value, the biggest surprise has to be someone bothering to ask Leo-Guy Morisette a question.
Morisette was not happy with the Sea Dogs signing of Coyle and his loosely translated quote, which was tweeted by reporter Steve Turcotte, reads as, "A team that buys championships, it has no business in our league!"
Honestly, why Morisette's opinion on this issue matters is a mystery. He should be more concerned with the lack of attendance of the KC Irving Regional Centre as fans have stayed away in droves.
Only a couple of times has the Titan had more than 2,000 fans in the stands (a game against Saint John was one of the contests) and a recent home game against the Halifax Mooseheads saw a whopping 867 paying customers.
The Memorial Cup hosting Shawinigan Cataractes came to town for the first time since winning the 2012 Memorial Cup bid.
The Sea Dogs sent them packing with a 3-2 overtime win with Team Canada defenceman Nathan Beaulieu notching the game winner. With the trio of Huberdeau, Tesink and Galiev out of the lineup, Saint John stormed back from a 2-0 deficit for the win with Corbeil posting a 37-save performance.
If Shawinigan was wondering if it needed to make major upgrades at the trade deadline, this loss should have made it crystal clear.
With the injuries and so many guys missing time this season to attend pro camps and World Junior tryouts, Saint John has called on several of its recent draft picks from the past two years for support.
Mike Kelly and the scouting staff have made some fine picks who have filled in admirably when the big guns went down.
The major point getters in the group are rookies Oliver Cooper with 19 points and Stephen Anderson with 12. Other players who have stepped in include Devon Oliver-Dares, Benjamin Hade, Brock Morrison, Colin Campbell and McKenzie Brown.
The deal for Roussel was huge as one of the top D-men in the league joined the roster, but what could end up being an amazing pick up involved shipping 20-year-old forward Alexandre Beauregard and a second-round pick in 2012 to Chicoutimi in exchange for the Sagueneens first-round pick in 2012 and a third-round in 2012.
The Sea Dogs were criticized for giving up a first-round pick in 2011 to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in exchange for Beauregard.
However, that deal might end up going down as one of the best in team history as Beauregard scored the OT winner against the Gatineau Olympiques which resulted in the Sea Dogs first ever President's Cup championship and propelled the team into the Memorial Cup. Saint John went on to win the Memorial Cup becoming the first ever Maritimes-based squad to do so.
So not only does Beauregard score one of the biggest goals in team history, but his subsequent trade nets a first and third-round pick in 2012.
NOTE: As of the writing of this column, the Sea Dogs had made one deal during the holiday trade period acquiring forward and Edmundston native Danny Chiasson and a 12th-round pick in 2012 from the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in exchange for an 11th-round pick in 2011.
Photo Credits: Marc Henwood/Station Nation
Photo Credits: Marc Henwood/Station Nation