Column: Wolves go back to the future

By: Stew Kernan - Pack Mentality

 | Apr 25, 2014 - 10:45 AM |
The Sudbury Wolves' off-season is less than a month old, but there has already been plenty of talk of big changes coming. File photo.

The Sudbury Wolves' off-season is less than a month old, but there has already been plenty of talk of big changes coming. File photo.

The Sudbury Wolves' off-season is less than a month old, but there has already been plenty of talk of big changes coming.

The Wolves late season collapse and five-game, first-round playoff exit had everyone wondering what happened to the team that went 16-2 from mid-November to early January.

There was no question the offence dried up, injuries were a factor and the team’s compete level just wasn’t there on most nights.

But the consensus was the Wolves were just too easy a hockey team to play against. Teams just didn’t mind playing the Pack, knowing there was no one player they feared.

Nothing against guys like Kevin Raine, Craig Duininck and Connor Crisp, who were known to play a physical game, but they still aren’t players that really put a scare into the opposition.

General Manager Blaine Smith indicated they were going to take a long hard look at the lineup and get rid of those players who didn’t want to be in Sudbury, and those who weren’t willing to commit to doing the work that needs to be done for a team to be successful.

Too many players were happy to stay on the outside and weren't prepared to go into the so-called dirty areas.

You had to love players like Nick Baptiste and Nathan Pancel, who were willing to get their hands dirty, but I don't think you want your skilled guys to play that type of game all the time.

I wouldn't be surprised to see the Wolves go back to Mike Foligno-type hockey.

During Foligno’s seven years as head coach of the Wolves, he was famous for having big tough hockey teams. Opposing players were constantly looking over their shoulders knowing that big hit was coming.

Names like Devin DiDiomete, Gerome Giudice, Tyler Sheldrake, Ryan Hastings, Alex Eaton, Kyle Mussleman and, of course, Zach Stortini, were constants in the Wolves lineup when Foligno was behind the bench.

I’m not saying the Wolves have to have a bunch of guys who can fight, but they need guys in the who aren’t afraid to play physical and protect the players whose job it is to score goals.

What made me think of this was the recent OHL Priority Selection.
There was no question the Wolves went into the draft looking for players with size, as well as skill.

Head scout Andrew Shaw says they were looking for strong and competitive players with a good work ethic.

Of the 16 players picked by the Wolves, ten were 6-0 or taller with several either 200 pounds or close to it.

The team’s first-round pick, 11th overall, fits that mold perfectly.

Michael Pezzetta is a 6-1 centre, tipping the scales at 201 pounds — exactly what General Manager Blaine Smith was looking for. Many scouts say Pezzetta was the most competitive player in the draft with good speed and, probably most importantly, a high work ethic.

The Wolves also have to love the answers Pezzetta gave in a recent Q&A session.

Q: Which NHL player do you model yourself after and why?

A: I believe I play a similar game as Milan Lucic. He is a strong power forward who likes to throw his weight around. He also has an offensive upside.

I can’t say for sure if this will continue to be the Wolves' game plan, but don’t be surprised if the 2014-15 edition of the Sudbury Wolves is a bigger and more physical team then what we’ve seen the last few years.

Stay tuned. More to come during what is expected to be the continuation of a very eventful off-season.

Stew Kernan is the radio and television voice of the Sudbury Wolves, and the News Director at KiSS 105.3 and Q92.

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