April 03, 2009

The Last Charge: 2008-2009 In Review

Well, another season has come and gone.

68 games, 40 wins, 21 losses, 5 overtime losses, 2 shoot-out losses, third place in the Eastern Conference.

It was a good year to be a fan. This young team often played over their heads and didn't put up too many duds.

Michael Latta brought some real excitement with his creative moves and I nearly drove off the road when I heard the news of his trade. But Travis Gibbons and Anthony Nigro were great additions. And both had career years here.

Logan Couture turned his disappointment from not being invited to the final Team Canada camp into new resolve. He was a much different, more confident, more aggressive player in the second half. He really matured as a player in the last few months and it was great to watch. When teamed up with Cowick and Nigro as his wingers, they were a formidable line.

Overager Thomas Kiriakou, who spent all 5 of his OHL years with the 67s was a great on-ice and off-ice leader and a perennial member of the coaches poll for his faceoff skills and penalty killing.

The trade for Corey Cowick was clearly one of Brian Kilrea's best trades. He thrived in Ottawa and we enjoyed the results.

Tyler Cuma did not have the year he expected to have - especially after going in the first round of the NHL draft here in Ottawa last June. His season ended in early December as he was vying for a spot on Team Canada. He ended up having knee surgery in February and spent a good amount of his rehab in Minnesota. He made it back for the last two home games of the playoffs and stood behind the bench.

Losing him on blue line made room for the young defensemen. The team ended up with a very young D-corps - 50% rookies. Zanetti, Birkhoff and Hartwick got a lot of ice time in all situations.

And speaking of rookies, Tyler Toffoli was a standout - 8th in scoring on the team and just three goals shy of a 20-goal rookie year. He had a regular gig on Kiriakou's right wing.

Chris Perugini had a great sophomore year. He played 49 games and won 27 of them. He also earned 4 points in assists.

Brian Kilrea and Bert O'Brien spent their last season behind the bench. After a long run for each of them they are giving up coaching and focusing on scouting. Brian will stay as GM.

So, where to from here?
Well, to start with, the coach's whistle has been handed off to Chris Byrne. He hasn't named his assistant yet.

Thomas Kiriakou is definitely not returning next season. According to the Ottawa 67s site and the Ottawa Citizen, he has gone to the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. This Oilers affiliate is playoff bound. I hope his agent is aware of the fragile status of the ECHL. Here's what James Mirtle has written up. (Thomas - don't risk your scholarship!!!)

As expected, Logan Couture is joining the Worcester Sharks. They still fighting for the final playoff spot in their AHL division. Conventional thinking is that he will not return to Ottawa as an overager. This top-10 first round pick will likely stay with the baby sharks for the foreseeable future.

Cowick's great news of joining the Ranger's AHL affiliate, Hartford Wolfpack turned to bad news. He didn't pass the medical (shoulder) and he's back in Ottawa. He can still be picked up in the draft in June. He could come back as an OA next year. Here's the link to the Ottawa Citizen article. Disappointment can't begin to describe it.

But I have not heard anything whether Anthony Nigro will be joining the St. Louis Blues AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen. They are looking pretty good for making the playoffs.

Adam Courchaine is headed to the Providence Bruins for the rest of their season. They too are playoff bound. Will he stick with the baby Bruins?

It's possible that Corey, Logan and Adam could find themselves on opposing sides.

Other possible OAs: Martin Paryzek, Julien Demers, and Stephen Blunden.

As for the rest of the team, well, the rookies had lots of opportunities this year. Those that made the best of these opportunities will be back on the roster next year. There are some holes to fill and I'm sure Brian is already planning.

And now it's the off-season for the rest of us. I'll be out of the country for the priority draft (vacationing in Austria - perhaps I can scout some players for Brian) but I will try to post every now and again when I get some news.

Here's video overview of the season in pictures. The song is "Let it Rock" by Kevin Rudolf and Lil Wayne. It was on the team's warm-up play list. Enjoy and see you next season.

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