Do the Saint John Sea Dogs have what it takes to repeat as President’s Cup champions and represent the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for a second-straight year at the MasterCard Memorial Cup?
The best comparison is with themselves, at the least 2010-11 version of the Sea Dogs.
Here’s a list of the differences in the roster from this year and last.
Then: Mike Thomas, Michael Kirkpatrick, Steven Anthony, Scott Oke, Alexandre Beauregard
Now: Charlie Coyle, Maxime Villemaire, Oliver Cooper, Grant West
Then: Simon Despres, Eric Gelinas, Gabriel Bourret
Now: Charles-Olivier Roussel, Spencer MacDonald, Ian Saab
Then: Jacob DeSerres
Now: Sebastien Auger
Let’s start in goal. The biggest difference is overall experience. DeSerres had Memorial Cup experience with the Brandon Wheat Kings and was in his 20-year-old season while Corbeil was 19 and had played a couple of season in the Q with Halifax.
Youth isn’t a knock on Auger, it’s just a fact. During last season’s playoff run, Corbeil stepped in and played well in a couple of games for DeSerres. I’m not sure the Sea Dogs want to see Auger do the same this season, but he may not have to as Corbeil has been one of the top goalies in the league and setting all sorts of Sea Dogs records.
On defence, it’s next to impossible to replace Despres, actually, it is impossible. However, the Sea Dogs did add an impact blueliner to the roster in Roussel who has been great for the club. Still, when it comes to defense, last season’s team was stronger, but not by much.
Forwards are an interesting comparison. While leadership was lost in the form of Thomas and Kirkpatrick, this year’s version boasts Charlie Coyle. An elite level talent with size, great hands and a nose for the net, Coyle adds a dimension last season’s squad never had. Villemaire’s abilities are similar to those of Beauregard.
Danick Gauthier’s breakout offensive performance has been a tremendous surprise and Cooper has shown that he belongs at this level.
A tough call, but the addition of Coyle along with Gauthier’s strong play and another year of experience for elite players Jonathan Huberdeau, Zack Phillips, Tomas Jurco and Stansilav Galiev (provided he returns from injury), the edge has to go to this year’s team.
So let’s recap. The goaltending edge goes to the 2010-11 squad by virtue of experience. The defence corps is close, but last season’s club gets the nod for boasting Despres. This year’s forward group gets the edge because of Coyle, Gauthier’s emergence and another year of seasoning for the big guns.
So on paper last season’s squad would get the edge in a head-to-head matchup, but that’s pretty good news for this year’s version of the Sea Dogs given they would be playing the Memorial Cup champs.