January 06, 2016

Breaking down the blockbuster with Sarnia

It wasn't going to pan out like this.  Jeff Brown told his captain, one who he held to a higher standard at both ends of the ice, that he was a 67 for his entire junior career.  He wasn't going to gear up for a possible 2018 Memorial Cup.  He wouldn't be a buy-heavy or sell-heavy coach & general manager.

He was going to follow the Brian Kilrea model and just tinker.  But the times have changed and the 67's haven't had the same success rate as the Kilrea days when it comes to asset management, and as such, Brown had to oblige to a deal that knocked the team's socks off, pulling the trigger on a franchise history-altering trade.

To Sarnia:  Travis Konecny, Sam Studnicka, 3rd round pick
To Ottawa:  Sasha Chmelevski, Chase Campbell, three guaranteed 2nd-round picks, two conditional 2nd-round picks, three 3rd-round picks, two 5th-round picks

For context, when the Oshawa Generals traded John Tavares and Michael Del Zotto to London in 2009, they picked up three players, four 2nds and two 3rds.

That trade, once considered as possibly the biggest trade in OHL history, might have company with this one.

When the 67's last traded a dynamic offensive superstar, Miguel Delisle, they only received one 2nd and a 4th from Owen Sound.

Although attitude problems played into the Delisle deal -- they went to the OHL finals without him which speaks to the addition by subtraction -- the 67's got a larger return for a rugged overager in 2016 than they did for a top sniper in 2003.

It wasn't long ago that the 67's traded Cody Ceci and Tyler Graovac, but by picking up Joseph Blandisi and Sergey Kuptsov, they went about their rebuild in a more on-the-fly fashion, and it simply didn't work.

Today's maneuvering opens their contending window for a future day, in a year where it simply wasn't going to happen for them.

Denial & Error

Brown, like any good general manger, never tipped his hat about dealing his captain, although Saturday night's kerfuffle brought it to a head.

When The Hockey Writers' Otters beat reporter 'broke' that Konecny had been dealt to Kitchener, it set off a firestorm.

Brown and the 67's franchise as a whole went into denial mode, although the bench boss and GM left the possibility of a trade open.
Sending Studnicka out was a no-brainer -- with the lack of leverage they had by painting themselves into a corner with their overagers, it's amazing they got what they did for him.

But sending away Konecny is clearly the main attraction.

The Future Impact

Life without Studnicka is something the Barberpoles are somewhat used to, he's had to be part of the revolving door of OA's with one sitting every night.

But life without Konecny, at least not during the World Juniors when every team is missing their stars more or less, is going to take some getting used to.

Under Brown's cycle-heavy system, Konecny was dominant not only cycling, using his low center of gravity to shield the puck, but also at breaking the cycle and taking the puck to the net when it looked as though they were going to hug the puck along the boards.

The offence ran throrugh Konecny so much of the time, and in the interim, while Ottawa tries to get Chmelevski and Campbell accustomed to the cycle- and defence-heavy system, their former captain's two-way game will be sorely missed.

His presence will be missed on the scoresheet, not just in the goals, assists and +/- columns, but the attendance one as well, where his recent performance for Team Canada almost certainly would have brought the fairweather and casual fans streaming in.

But for the future of a franchise spinning its wheels this year, it was the right move.
 If that tidbit into the 10th overall pick from the most OHL draft isn't enough to get excited for the future -- Chmelevski has 17 points in 29 career games -- they get Campbell, a diminutive speedster fighting for ice time in Sarnia, as well as the slew of picks scattered over the next six years.

If the season ended today, Ottawa would be drafting 8th, 28th and 30th in the OHL draft, a solid trio of picks that should help define a franchise.

But that's on the 67's to start hitting on their second round picks, a discussion for another day, but one that has seen several other teams with higher success rates.

They didn't want to risk a Sean Monahan situation, where the star and jumps to the NHL earlier than expected and costs the team assets.

They also didn't want to risk a Blandisi situation, where the player unexpectedly stays in the OHL for an extra year and is one of the top-five players in the league, as he was last year.

To avoid the sting (no pun intended) of the latter, Ottawa has built it in that they receive Sarnia's second-round picks in 2021 and 2022 -- not a typo -- if Konecny comes back next year.

Regardless of the outcome, for either team or any of the players involved, junior hockey fans in the capital will never forget this trade.

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