2008-09: Season Six
This is the sixth season of MAINEiacs hockey now. Six. Seems like yesterday when then GM Norm Gosselin of the then Sherbrooke Castors unveiled the new team name and logo at a press conference in February of 2003. That day, which was officially day one of Lewiston QMJHL history, seems in some ways like yesterday, and an eternity at the same time. For a team some league fans dubbed the next Plattsburgh ( a Q team in NY that folded after 17 games), the MAINEiacs are doing quite well. Lewy’s dealt with the bumps and bruises quite well over the years.
It’s that time of the year where the media pundits around the league are scrambling around making their predicitions of where teams are going to end up. Looking around the league messageboards, most fans have their team at the top or in better positions than what will likely be the case. Coaches are going on record that they are going to be competitive, the games all have to be played, it’s not over ’til it’s over, and yadda, yadda, yadda… all the typical media shmooze that fans want to hear and read about. You won’t see or hear a GM or a coach get in front of the microphone and say, “Oh yeah, we’re going to suck this year and don’t bother to pay to see this crap,” although some fans are going to look at their clubs come December and wish there was truth in advertising. (see also: Maple Leafs, Toronto; perpetual rebuilding)
Here is some truth in advertising for the 2008-09 version of the Lewiston MAINEiacs: Just watch.
I know, some of you are thinking, ‘Just watch? What in the H-E-double hockey sticks are you talking about, just watch ?!?!” No, really…watch, and watch closely.
The cornerstones of the future run are here. D Garrett Clarke, C Michael Chaput & LW Etienne Brodeur are more knowns as first round picks, but keep an eye G Jonathan Connely. From more than a couple of sources outside of the team, Connely may prove to be the best goaltender taken in the 2008 draft, despite falling all the way to late in the 5th round. Watch C Steeven Jacques, who could prove to be the late round gem in the new class. While newly drafted Slovakian C Filip Janosik was a little slow out of the gate in camp, expect his comfort level to improve the more acclimated he gets with the country and the language.
The questions out of the gate are numerous. Here are my top 5:
- Danick Paquette: Will the 18 year-old captain be able to keep his composure and stay out of the penalty box?
- Peter Delmas: With Jonathan Bernier gone, will the second round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche emerge to be a bonafide top goalie in the league?
- Team toughness: With Brett Gallant saying thanks but no thanks, just how physically vulnerable are the MAINEiacs? Grit is certainly with this team, but is grit enough?
- Ed Harding: With only 5 players remaining from the 2007 championship club, this is essentially Harding’s team now. Does he have the right players in order to respond to his coaching style?
- Sean Stagles: With 19 year-old rookies a rarity in the league, will Stagles be able to get adjusted to the speed of the Q and make a solid contribution as a puck moving defenseman?
Make no bones about it, I love the way this club sets up for this year and beyond. While we’ll hear the typical ‘We compete to win it all every year’ line from Harding, reality is this is the year of the Rimouski Oceanic andn Quebec Remparts. Pending on where Lewiston finishes in March will dictate how far they go before running into one of those two buzzsaws in the postseason. The club in it’s present form is very capable of finishing second in the Telus Central. The Drummondville Voltigeurs may start fairly strong and be second come December, but after they sell off the newly acquired Yannick Riendeau among other older assets, I expect the traditional post-Christmas fade. The Victoriaville Tigres will be, well, not very good, and is a strong bet to finish last in the division. The Shawinigan Cataractes -should- finish at the top, but stranger things have happened in forty years of disappointment in the Saint Maurice river region.
Buckle your season belts and get ready… this is going to be a fun season.