From The Sidelines: Isles made necessary moves to build a winner

Jason Malloy
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Give the Charlottetown Islanders management team credit, they are not afraid to make changes.

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team overhauled their roster during the past two-and-a-half weeks.

The question is, are they better?

Right now? Likely not, but the team wasn’t lighting it up before the deals, either.

While it shot out of the gate with a 10-2-0-1 record, it only won six of the next 28 games and found itself in 14th place in the 18-team league.

Will they get better? Yes. Maturing young players who are motivated and want to improve are littered throughout this lineup.

Fans become attached to players. So do coaches and managers. Good organizations don’t let that get in the way of running a good business.

The players who were moved were fine young men from my dealings with them and good hockey players, but this team had holes.

Traditionally in junior hockey, you win with good 19- and 20-year-olds with impact import players. While the Islanders had a few nice players who fit that category, they didn’t have enough.

If you wanted to see the team add top talent to this roster expect opposing GMs would ask for high draft picks or the kids like Daniel Sprong and Alexandre Goulet — two of the most exciting players the Islanders have had this season.

There is risk in trading the likes of Yan-Pavel Laplante, Ryan Graves and Alexis Pépin.

That’s the trade business and while we all like to declare winners and losers, those discussions take years to conclude.

Among the Islanders’ haul were two attractive 16-year-old defencemen in Luc Deschenes and David Henley, as well as draft picks.

Henley was the eighth player taken in last year’s draft and is already listed at six-foot-four, 195 pounds. Does the last name sound familiar? It should. He is the third Henley brother to play for the hometown Foreurs. You think that was an easy deal to pull off?

Deschenes was taken 50th overall last year and recently captained Team Atlantic at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

The wildcards are the draft picks. They are assets whether used to select midget players or flipped in future deals.

General manager Grant Sonier and his staff have shown a good eye for evaluating talent.

Sprong and Goulet are second and fifth in rookie scoring with the other three in the top-five are import players. Twelve teams passed on Sprong while Goulet was the 19th player taken in the draft. Think other teams would like a do over?

I have not suffered through the lean years with this franchise and I understand the fan base wants a winning team. They deserve it and that is why these moves are made. No one in the second-floor offices at the Eastlink Centre and those who invested to keep this team here during the summer wants anything more than a winner.

Their goals are higher than getting out of the first round, but to do that you have to build around your top players.

I believe the team has a game plan and an architect to get the job done.

 

Jason Malloy is The Guardian’s sports editor.

He can be reached at 629-6000, ext. 6023,

or at jmalloy@theguardian.pe.ca.

 

 

Organizations: Islanders, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Eastlink Centre

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