Tomorrow night, the Sudbury Wolves play their 17th game, marking the quarter point of the season. They go into that game with a record of 7-8-0-1, good for 15 points, and one point below the .500 mark. I think if you asked head coach Trent Cull, general manger Blaine Smith or anyone with the organization, they won’t be happy with the way the season has started.
Expectations were high at the start of the year, but the team has been plagued with inconsistent play, to say the least. Cull has already stated that while the team has been playing better as of late, there is still a sense of frustration with losing. There is no question that frustration is felt by the coaches, management, the players and the fans.
Since a three-game road-winning streak in early October, the Wolves have played eight games with 16 points up for grabs. The team has been competitive in seven of those games, but has come away with only five points. Yes, they deserved a better fate in many of them, but what they deserved and what they actually came away with is another story.
Those who know me will tell you that I am an eternal optimist — I like to try to find the positives in most situations. This is no different, as I see a number of positives in the start of the Wolves 2012-13 season.
Josh Leivo has come as advertised. After a somewhat slow start, Leivo has picked up his offense and is producing at a pace that would see him at least match his point production of a year ago. After being in the shadow of Michael Sgarbossa last season, Leivo has emerged as the offensive face of the team — a tag he seems to enjoy.
Things really seemed to take off for Leivo on that road trip to Peterborough, Kingston and Ottawa, when he scored six goals and was named OHL Player of the Week. He also seems to be a good fit as one of the leaders, making it a good decision to put that A on his jersey.
Speaking of leaders, Frank Corrado has settled in nicely as team captain. He has taken control both on and off the ice, putting his stamp on the team.
Corrado was disappointed he missed out on the Vancouver Canucks training camp because of the NHL lock-out, but he has channeled his energy into having the best season possible for both himself and the team.
He has also started to up his offensive production from the blueline. That was very evident by his seven points last weekend highlighted by his career best five assists in Friday night’s 7-2 win over the Niagara Ice Dogs. Like Leivo, that led to OHL Player of the Week honours.
For both Leivo and Corrado, the way they’ve started the season has also earned them a spot on team OHL during the upcoming Subway Super Series versus the Russians.
The third bright spot on the team so far this season has been the play of Dominik Kahun. The Czech Republic native is tied for third place in OHL rookie scoring with 14 points in 16 games, which is just four points back of the highly touted Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters. Kahun also leads the Wolves in plus-minus ratings at a +6.
The Wolves are still very much in the thick of the Eastern Conference. A bit of a run could see the team get back up into the hunt for a coveted Top 4 spot in the standings.
So there are some positives that can be taken out of the team’s slow start. That said, inconsistency won’t do it. To be a good team you have to be more than just competitive, you have to win and you have to get points in those games you were good enough to win.
A .500 record is just not good enough.
Stew Kernan is the radio and television voice of the Sudbury Wolves, and the news director at EZ Rock and Q92. This column appears every other week in Northern Life.