October 28, 2015

Should The 67's Ever Consider Trading Travis Konecny?

Contending windows can make junior hockey teams do crazy things.

If nothing else, the OHL has prohibited teams from giving away future first round picks to save them from themselves, but the league has too much turnover to fully avoid an aggressive buyer market.

Where teams can't trade their top pick, the going currency becomes second-rounders, and recently-drafted first rounders the following January from their draft year, the second they're eligible to be dealt.

Or they trade draft picks in 2019, to be used on future prospects who are currently 11 years old.

Or they sell the farm for a rental goalie, only to get eliminated by the team they mortgaged their future to.

Or, as 67's fans will remember, they give away second-round picks for diminutive players like Mike Cazzola to replace big-body playmakers like Ryan Martindale, selling valuable assets just to put a square peg in a round hole.

The prospect of hosting a Memorial Cup puts teams on the pressure cooker to build a powerhouse overnight, as though not to embarrass themselves on home ice with national exposure.

The Shawinigan Cataractes bought heavy in 2012, knowing it would be the best chance to claim their first championship in their 43-year history.

The Saskatoon Blades of 2013, despite seeing the warning signs of giving away the future as the defending champion Cataractes stumbled to a 37-point season, traded three first round picks at the trade deadline to load up.

They got swept in the WHL playoffs and only won one game in the Memorial Cup.

The Ottawa 67's of 2016 have an equally tough question facing a possible national championship on home ice, although their decision involves going the other way.

Would they have the inclination to trade their most marketable player, the OHL's current points leader, their prize from a last place 2013 campaign, the most exciting player to don the Barberpoles during this decade, for the chance to help load up for a Memorial Cup?


Jeff Brown won't openly discuss any big deals that may be brewing.

No general manager would tip their hat at a blockbuster, but Brown has gone a step further to go out of his way to deny it.

"Certainly, if that was to come to Ottawa in a couple years, we'd tweak a little bit.  But I'm not going to sell the farm and I'm not going to buy the farm." said Brown on Friday after defeating the defending national champion Oshawa Generals, still a playoff team this year.

"I looked up to Killer as a kid, we talk all the time, and he wanted to be successful every year."

He's right, Brian Kilrea never bought heavy at the deadline.

He made petty buy deals, like acquiring Brad Staubitz to shore up the blueline before a lengthy 2005 playoff run, but he never went all out.

Going the other way, however, Kilrea was more than willing to take a big step back to take two forward.  In 2002-03, he dealt Miguel Delisle, a former 55-goal scorer, to Owen Sound, and still went to the OHL finals that year without their enigmatic star.

If following the Killer model really is the old-is-new blueprint, trading a dominant forward for future gain isn't out of the question.


To make a blockbuster deal even considerable, Ottawa would both have to have some insight that they would be in the mix for a Memorial Cup in 2017 or 2018, and have some fear that Travis Konecny would stick in the pro ranks before then.

Although it was under a different regime, the 67's front office will be very weary of re-creating a Joseph Blandisi situation.

The team traded Blandisi to Barrie at the 2014 deadline, assuming he wouldn't return to the OHL as an overager when they were ready to contend, and he came back to be one of the league's top scorers in 2015.

Early in the 2015-16 season, Konecny leads the OHL in scoring, and the 67's are a contender in a weak Eastern Conference.

Brown has the Barberpoles playing a cycle-heavy game, although Konecny has an uncanny ability to sidestep defenders down low, able to break the cycle and drive the puck to the net.

The problem is that Konecny is one of the few players who can turn the cycle into instant offence.

If they did decide to move on, scoring would dry up in a hurry.

Dante Salituro would be smothered by  other team's top pairings every night.  The team would cycle until the cows get home, they'd continue doing an admirable job playing keepaway, but they wouldn't create nearly as much offence.

As a result, any hopes of going to the OHL finals this spring would essentially be thrown away.


"I'm not looking to do anything right now, and we're not just giving guys away."

The 67's brass won't be considering a deal just for the sake of a deal because Konecny's trade value is at an all-time high, they'd do it to take advantage of another team's desperation and stockpile assets.

Kingston is first place in the East, and Konecny grew up playing with Lawson Crouse, but trading your best player to your archrival would be fully conceding the division and conference.

Kitchener is the top team in the league, but they're still holding out hope that Jeremy Bracco will leave college to join them in their stretch run.

London seems like the obvious team to bring up when discussing deadline buying, they've mastered asset management and would have more than enough to bring Konecny to his hometown, but they've also spent October trading away depth forwards, who knows if they'd be in the market to add to their offence.

The perfect fit is in Windsor.

Windsor looks like the real deal this year, although experience helps win championships, and the Spitfires continually trot two 17-year olds into huge top-six roles, rotating the youngsters in and out of their first line.

Those two 17-year olds also happen to be Ottawa-born rookie Cole Carter and sophomore center Logan Brown, the son of the 67's GM and coach.

Carter continues to be plugged in as the team's top line right winger.  He would make a perfect trade chip, although with the promise he shows, it could be beneficial for Windsor to keep him to play him behind Konecny, driving down his quality of competition as he develops.

There's no doubt Brown is a tremendous player and will soon join the OHL's elite, if he hasn't already.  But how safe does Windsor feel using him to shadow Mitch Marner in a seven-game series, assuming the Spitfires and Knights meet in the playoffs?

Either player, if the 67's were able to acquire them, would be perfect pieces to build a Memorial Cup host and contender around.

Both have ties to either the city or the franchise that are impossible to overlook.

At his introductory press conference, the elder Brown stated adamantly that his son was not holding out of Niagara to come and play for him in the Nation's Capital.

But then-GM Pat Higgins, still with the organization, offered up a seemingly-innocent quote that now lingers.

"If (Logan) can help us win a Memorial Cup someday down the road, and he's the best player available, we'll go get him."

Jeff Brown doesn't want to trade his franchise player just for the sake of making a splash.

But pulling at heart strings and dealing with the possibility of bringing his own son home might be enough to make him pull the trigger.

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