If you were to put a label on the early season edition of the Sudbury Wolves, it would have to be streaky.
The team opened the season with two wins on home ice, went on the road and lost three in a row, went on another three-game roadie, this time winning all three. Then, heading into last night’s game in the Soo, the Wolves had lost two in a row.
If that isn’t streaky, I don’t know what is.
A lot of teams take a good month or six weeks to develop an identity and that can be done and still give a team time to put together a good season.
The only thing that really bothers me about the Wolves so far this year is that they’re either really, really good ... or really, really bad. During wins on opening weekend over Oshawa and Brampton, the team looked impressive, but a Western Conference road trip and then a home ice 6-1 loss to Saginaw last Friday night was another story. Quoting head coach Trent Cull, “The team was awful.”
This type of performance isn’t unusual from a young team, but the key is to find a way to become more consistent. The Wolves still have a decent record that has them within striking distance of the upper levels of the Eastern Conference standings, but a season-long string of streaky play could find this team in the struggle of its life just to make the playoffs.
The Wolves have an impressive leadership group, and it’s times like these when this leadership group has to step up.
Assistant captain Josh Leivo has already shown his teammates what it takes to contribute to success. Sure he had the six goals on the three-game winning road trip in Peterborough, Kingston and Ottawa leading to OHL Player of the Week honours, but he also plays in all situations, backchecks and talks about team success and not individual accomplishments. But he can’t do it all himself. It’s hoped the rest of the team will feed off their offensive leader.
The rest of the Wolves with letters on their sweaters patrol the blueline, led by Captain Frank Corrado. He was the consensus choice by most to wear the “C” with the other “A’s” going to Justin Sefton and Charlie Dodero — all good choices. They all lead by example on the ice, and need to work just as hard to keep the team together off the ice by showing the younger players day in and day out what it takes to win.
It may also be time for management to make a decision on what direction this team is heading. You’ve seen other teams take steps to get better by adding bits and pieces and there is no question that the Wolves lineup could use some tweaking. I’m not talking major shake-up — I like the core of the team and the potential that is there, but right now there just seems to be something missing.
General Manager Blaine Smith has shown the ability to make this kind of deal (Michael Kantor comes to mind). The challenge will be to make the move without robbing the team of its young talent.
The true identity of the 2012-13 Sudbury Wolves remains a work in progress. Let’s hope this Jeckyll and Hyde team we have seen so far gets that identity sooner rather than later.
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.