Ants Off-Kilter Off-Seasonby Brother Lee Love | September 12, 2017, 12:07 PM ET
After the prolonged victory celebration had ended and the parades and parties had dwindled, Fire Ants GM Norm Donovan had to sit down and look at his championship team. Heading into the draft, a carefully considered plan needed to be in place in order to determine the future of the franchise at this critical moment in its history.
As usual, no such plan was formed.
“I spent most of the summer at my estates in the Caribbean,” noted Donovan, “and of course a brief trip to the south of France.”
By the time his private yacht had finally docked, he had to be reminded by his frantic staff that the upcoming draft in Edmonton was the following day.
“They were trying to reach me apparently,” recounts Donovan, “but why would I answer my phone to deal with those clueless peons? I was on vacation.”
The draft summit in Edmonton was abuzz with deal-making, but the Ants stayed predictably silent. With a number of high-profile contracts expiring, the direction of the team seemed unclear – as did Donovan’s plans for the squad.
“I considered moving some players headed to UFA next season and doing a rebuild, but I had very few tradeable assets, and no particularly enticing offers,” admitted Donovan, “so I just sat back and let the rabble chase each others tails all weekend.”
At the draft itself, Donovan again showed his characteristic nonchalance. With Assistant GM Geoff King unable to reach him over the summer to go over the draft list, Donovan was left to wing it – and wing it he did. With his first pick, he selected offensive defenceman Conor Timmins.
“I had thought about picking Nicolas Hague, but scoring defencemen are hard to come by. If I want some big dumb oaf to crunch heads on the blueline, I can sign any of a dozen similar pylons via free agency.”
In the second round, the Ants picked Morgan Geekie, who went undrafted in 2016. Donovan seemed unaware of that fact when asked about it, but did note that he felt that Geekie was a good all-around player with “a hilarious name”.
In the fourth round, Donovan selected rough-and-tumble agitator Zach Fischer. “Everyone hates him,” noted Donovan, “he’s the perfect Fire Ants player.”
Heading into free agency, the real question is: what will the Fire Ants do? Even GM Donovan doesn’t know.
“I’ll probably decide at some point in the free agency process,” he said, nonchalantly, “The team is still pretty good up front and Rask is still there as my number one. I may just do like last year and snag a few spare parts and then win the Cup. Or maybe I’ll finish watching Bojack Horseman on Netflix and skip it altogether. Tough to say.”
If he is looking to repeat his Season of Spite this year, however, the competition will be much tougher. A number of World Conference teams pushed hard this off-season to improve their squads, including perennial whipping-boys the Denver Rapids. Could a cobbled together Ants team make the same impact? Would he even make the playoffs? Would he care either way?
As always, the enigmatic GM has left his fans and the hockey world at large holding the bag – waiting to see where his whims carry the Fire Ants.