|Image Courtesy: D'Oliveira Photography|
Prior to the 2011-2012 season, the newly formed management team held a meeting. Having suffered a disappointing playoff first-round-loss, the team knew they were losing key players such as Eric Gudbranson, Nathan Moon, Ethan Werek, and starting goalie Philipp Grubauer. The team had loaded up on veteran and older players for a playoff run and it didn’t work. Now, knowing they would be looking at a massive roster turnover, the decision was made to begin a new era for the franchise.
The first decision was to remove long standing face of the franchise GM Larry Mavety, who was replaced by his good friend Doug Gilmour. President and Governor of the franchise Doug Springer approved Gilmour’s new vision setting the blueprint into motion. They knew the process would be hard, and at times painful, but it had to be done.
It had to happen because part of the vision is not accepting seasons of modest success. Simply making the playoffs and being quickly dismissed in the early rounds, would no longer be acceptable. While junior hockey is by nature and design a cyclical league, it is possible to achieve consistency. Kingston’s consistent seasons of failure are a testament to that. Through hard work, having a strategy that holds the interest of the present and the future in focus, it is possible to consistently produce a winning product as well.
“Pat Burns once told me don’t change your ways, because if you change for somebody and get fired you’ll be pissed off with yourself for not doing it your way. So I’ll continue to do it my way, and hopefully have success doing that.” Gill said.
As a rookie coach in the OHL, Gill is learning with his very young team. With the majority of his players under the age of 17, and coming from midget hockey knowing only offense, Gill says; “ You have to teach them defensive zone coverage, you have to teach them how to play in the Neutral zone, you have to teach them so much, I try to do it in segments. For them to learn the game of hockey there are three zones and you have to get to the point where the Coach trusts that you can play in every situation.”
|Image By John Duncan @FrontsFocus|
He uses terms such as respect, work ethic, commitment, and accountability to describe what the attributes of the players of the Frontenacs will learn, and demonstrate. For instance the Fronts players are active in the community as players volunteer to go to public schools and Libraries to help promote reading with young children, as well as many other community event appearances.
In the past the players of the Fronts have at times been less than professional. Former players such as Bryan Fogarty, had struggles with addiction. Fogarty’s drinking problems when he played with the Kingston Canadiens, were so well know in fact his nick name was “Tippy”, because he was always tipsy. There have been many players graduate from the ranks in Kingston. Kirk Muller, Chris and Anthony Stewart, Walt Poddubny, Chris Gratton and Bernie Nicholls are some of the more prominent names. Don Cherry is a proud “Good Kingston Guy”, and the Fronts are determined to groom future NHL players whom the city of Kingston can proudly say, “He comes from Kingston”. This past season, Keily proudly proclaimed that the team had no off-ice problems, and not a single complaint from any of the billets who house the players. No doubt this will become a trend in the future with the current regime in place.
Having a professional and experienced group lead this young team in the ways of both hockey, and life-lessons, is an important component in the blueprint. But, choosing the right players is equally important. The management group is selective in the players they are willing to draft and acquire through trade. In the past there have been situations where players had refused to report to Kingston. Wes O’Neill was selected second overall, but decided to play College hockey instead. Last year Max Domi, son of Tie Domi (Doug Gilmour’s friend and former teammate) also refused to report. Those days are a thing of the past now says Keily. His response to reports suggesting that top prospect Joshua Ho-Sang, would not report to Kingston “100 percent false!” The Domi decision to not report to Kingston had nothing to do with the team’s rebuilding, and absolutely nothing to do with the men running the team. It was a geographical preference to be closer to Toronto. Gilmour knew Domi only wanted to play for the London Knights, but by drafting Domi he was able to trade him to London for several second round draft picks. As part of league rules, if a first round pick refuses to report to a team, that team is awarded a compensatory first round pick the following year. As a result, the Kingston Frontenacs now own five picks (two firsts, and three seconds) in the first two rounds of the 2012 Priority Selection Draft.
The Draft will be held on April seventh, and the Fronts will be heading into this draft loaded with picks, and a strategy. The next edition of “Blueprint” will focus on the Frontenacs at the draft and the players they selected.
Local TV station Cogeco produced a series on the subject also titled The Blueprint with a brief appearance from yours truly!
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