Will Early Exit Mean Major Moves?by Marcel Cormier | May 16, 2018, 12:46 AM ET
"We're a franchise that is used to winning...early exits are not going to be accepted by anyone around here."
Those were the words of Owner and GM of the Acadia Golden Bears Guy Flaming a couple of days after his club was eliminated from the SICHL playoffs. For the second consecutive season it was the Calgary Mustangs that sent the Bears to an early post season hibernation and the disappointing loss has many in Saint John asking big questions.
Is it time to shake up the core of the team? Should the Bears embrace a youth movement or stay the course? How will the expansion draft affect the club? What should Acadia's strategy be heading into the 2018 SICHL draft?
The answers to most of those questions will only be revealed with time as the off season will allow the Bears to consider various options and outcomes to that list of problems.
With only four players headed to unrestricted free agency and the certainty that one of them, Michal Grabner, will be kept as the team's Franchise Player in 2018-19, it seems highly unlikely that major roster changes are naturally on the horizon. That doesn't mean the team won't opt to execute trades though as there are a number of young players knocking on the door for SICHL playing time.
That said, upon reflection of their 6-game loss to Calgary, perhaps patience would be prudent. Afterall, the team was without two key contributors for the entire series in Chris Kreider and Adam Lowry. Would their presence have been enough to tame the 'Stangs? Unknown but a knee jerk reaction might do more harm than good.
What we know is that Chris Vande Velde will not return in 2018-19 and that the team will lose one other player in the expansion draft. So right now it would appear that only two SICHL roster spots are available for newcomers and one of those is at an unknown position depending on who team 29 chooses next fall.
- Braden Holtby finished the season with 50 wins. He has 145 wins over the last three seasons.
- Rasmus Ristolainen shared the team lead in points during the regular season but managed just a single assist in the 6 playoff games against Calgary.
- It's practically guaranteed that the roster spot currently held by Chris Vande Velde will go to scoring winger Brock Boeser next year, the only question is where in the top 12 the rookie will land. If Acadia loses another forward in the expansion draft, the list of candidates will include Danton Heinen, Sean Kuraly, Devin Shore, Stefan Noesen and Scott Laughton.
- If a defenceman is plucked in the expansion draft, expect Shayne Gostisbehere to claim that spot. Gostisbehere, who has already played 52 SICHL games, appears ready to lock down a permanent job as no less than the 7th guy in Saint John.
- Acadia holds just one 1st round pick, the #23 overall selection. When asked about his expectations for the 2018 draft, Flaming said 'Not much, to be honest. I think the top 10 or so is strong and after that it's a lot of guys who might not be first round picks in most years. Picking 23rd...yeah...it might be one of our weaker draft hauls unless something happens and we move up or get some more picks to play with."
- Acadia has just one player who will participate in the 2018 Memorial Cup; Giorgio Estephan of the Swift Current Broncos.