While the painful ending to the season is still fresh for many in the organization, the Sudbury Wolves have to start looking forward.
It’s a harsh word, but “collapse” is the only way to describe what happened: A slow start to the season, catching fire in mid-November and then self destructing down the stretch. It seemed like the team’s first division championship in years was all but assured and the anticipation of a long playoff run was at a fever pitch.
The only thing we have heard for the last couple of weeks is “what happened?”
It’s safe to say the only ones that really know the answer to that are the players, coaches and management that were in the dressing room on a daily basis.
Everyone was saying the right things after that 7-0 Game 5 blowout against the Barrie Colts that brought the season to a crashing halt.
Graduating goalie Franky Palazzese told Scott Haddow in Northern Life that it was way too early to be sitting at home instead of getting ready for another playoff game. He said they had the makeup of a championship team, but their chemistry was off.
Palazzese says the fans were putting the blame on ownership and management, but in the end he said the players have to take responsibility because they are the ones that were on the ice and didn’t get the job done.
These have been a tough couple of weeks for General Manger Blaine Smith. He has made some great trades over the years, but has always been reluctant to make that blockbuster deal that would require giving up some key pieces of the team’s future.
That wasn’t the case this year. Smith saw they had the lineup to take a legitimate run at a championship, but there was still room for improvement. So, the deals were made for Radek Faksa and Trevor Carrick with some talent and plenty of draft picks shipped out.
Smith admits the team didn’t gel as they expected and when you have a team as talented as the Wolves were and you lose in the first round, it was a failure.
It was a hard lesson learned and Smith says changes will be made.
Smith says they want team-oriented players to pull on that jersey every night — something that seemed to be lacking during the last six weeks of the regular season and in the playoffs.
All that said, the Wolves have already begun the preparations for the 2014-15 season.
Last week, they signed Chase Hawley, a 17-yea-rold defenceman and the team’s fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft.
That means the Wolves have all top-five draft picks from last year signed: Kyle Capobianco, Austin Clapam, goalie Troy Timpano and David Zeppieri all saw action this past season.
Last Saturday, the Wolves also stocked the shelves during the 2014 OHL Priority Selection.
With so many skilled forwards possibly not back next season, the Wolves used their first-round pick to take a big forward.
Michael Pezzetta is a 6-1 centre, tipping the scales at 201 pounds and fitting the mould Smith is looking for.
Many of the scouts say Pezzetta is the most competitive player in the draft with good speed and, probably most importantly, a strong work ethic.
So while the 2013-14 season will go down as one of the most disappointing in team history, the only thing to do is look forward and hope the Pack learns from what happened and makes sure the same pattern isn’t repeated.
Stew Kernan is the radio and television voice of the Sudbury Wolves, and the News Director at KiSS 105.3 and Q92. This column appears every other week in Northern Life.