October 01, 2015

Exceeding the overage limit; a recipe for disaster

It wouldn’t be far off to suggest that the Erie Otters were put on the map by Connor McDavid, a generational talent who could put a franchise’ rocky past in the rearview.

What people tend to forget is the embarrassing 10-win season that landed Erie the top pick, a team that shuffled through seven different goalies and five overagers, thinking they were a team that could squeak into the playoffs.

One of their biggest mistakes might be replicated this year in two Eastern Conference cities.


Jeff Brown tore a strip off of just about everyone this past Sunday after the 67’s dropped their home opener and fell to 0-3-0 on the season.

An Ottawa team that was supposed to be stacked offensively, according to many who follow the OHL, had just been shut out in back-to-back games, losing on an aggregate of 11-0 to Barrie and Mississauga.

He gave his team no slack, until the topic of overagers came up.

“You're talking about your two best defencemen and you're talking about your two best centremen, and somebody's gotta sit every night,” Brown said, after Sam Studnicka was forced out of the lineup.

Nathan Todd will be next in line, followed eventually by Nevin Guy and/or Evan deHaan.

“We haven't come up with a better strategy than just to shuffle them.”

If there isn’t a strategy to find value on the market for one of them, it’s a situation that could get ugly.


Then-Otters GM Sherry Bassin carried five overagers early in the 2012 season, meaning he and head coach Robbie Ftorek had to decide between goaltender Ramis Sadikov, future 67 Mike Cazzola, former 25-goal man Brett Thompson and two of their top defencemen in Derek Holden and Brett Cook.

As a result, they won one of their first nine games and had to trade Thompson to Sarnia, still leaving them over the limit.

Come trade deadline, only Sadikov remained of the five, but the damage had been done.  They had some interesting pieces, but the OA situation helped sink them. 

Greg McKegg was one of the OHL’s elite at the time, similar to what Travis Konecny is for Ottawa right now, but he played with different linemates every night, before his trade to London, because of the forced lineup shuffling.

The Otters probably wouldn’t have been a great team that year anyways, but they had some pieces that, if handled better, could’ve put together a more respectable season.

This season, the North Bay Battalion and 67’s combine for eight overagers and an 0-5-0 record. 

Ottawa has forward depth and some star power, North Bay has plenty of playoff experience; all hope isn’t lost just yet.

But to this point, it doesn’t look like the four-overager system is a winning strategy for anybody.

Do the numbers see what we don't?

If nothing else, the 67’s have seen this act before under Brown.  They started 0-4-0 last season, outscored by a total of 22-6.

Brown alluded to it in his critical media scrum Sunday, discussing the soft team mentality that’s crept back in, and was prevalent early in the 2015 season.

If there was anyone defending them at that point, it was the analytics community.  Their PDO (sv% + sh%) was a league-low 89.3, so deflated that it was almost impossible for them to be any more unlucky.

Sure enough, once their shooting percentage improved, they became a team that not only made the playoffs, but got home ice advantage in round one.

Where Brown was willing to give his group some leeway with the overage situation, he isn’t willing to do the same when it comes to the light that analytics shines on them.

“You can’t play perimeter hockey and expect to score, I don’t care if we had 40 shots or not.” (via Sophie Desrosiers)

The 67’s will try to stop the bleeding where they did last year -- in their first Friday home game -- when they take on Hamilton on Friday.

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