Hunter sought trades to win

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

Call it the day after the London Knights did all they could to bring a winner to this hockey-crazed city.

The dissecting began in a big way.

At the trade deadline, general manager Mark Hunter brought goaltender Adam Dennis from the Guelph Storm and Sarnia Sting forward Danny Fritsche into the fold.

Days earlier, he went to the Storm and obtained defenceman Dan Girardi.

It's what he needed to do. He needed a goaltender, forward and defenceman. He got all three and they were good players to boot. No one would have begrudged him a moment of satisfaction on the day after he kept at least two steps ahead of his competition.

But satisfaction will only come if his team wins. Hunter is first and foremost a hockey person, and while he knows the deals he made are good ones, he also understands there is nothing certain in hockey. There are times when good deals don't work out.

"Who knows when you can get back here again (a chance to win a Memorial Cup,)" Hunter said yesterday. "It may be a while. But we want to give ourselves the best chance to win and that's all we can do.

"(The trades) give us a chance to win games in the playoffs, the OHL title and the Memorial Cup."

It's never been about backing into the Memorial Cup tournament for the Hunters.

"We want to win," he said. "That's been the plan all along for this year. Now it comes down to how badly the players want it."

As expected, his wheeling and dealing created a stir around the OHL. Hockey people love to be complimentary in public while sniping away in private. The most popular whine often comes from sour grapes.

There is a suggestion the team didn't need to make any moves, that at 35-2-2-0 it had enough to win and anything else was overkill.

Overkill? If you can make your team better, why wouldn't you?

Some general managers will be critical of how the Knights mortgaged their future in their deal-making.

There isn't one GM in the OHL who wouldn't do the same thing within sniffing distance of a Memorial Cup.

"You always worry about giving up draft choices," said Hunter. "But it's my job to replace them. I don't want to be bragging about our scouting staff, but they've done a good job of finding players."

And finally, there are questions about Dennis. While he has stood on his head against the Knights, some hockey people aren't sold on him over the long haul.

He's a major upgrade in net and he has the capability of stealing hockey games. With Gerald Coleman's improvement this year, it gives the Knights improved goaltending.

"Dennis has been a big factor," said coach Dale Hunter. "We've had a hard time beating him and we've got good shooters, so he got our attention.

"It's not like one guy has to have all the pressure of taking the long run right to the Memorial Cup, so definitely it's a positive that way for us.

"We'll let them feel their way through it and see what happens."

Enough said.

The only real question is how quickly the players will assimilate into the team. Chemistry becomes a key factor in all of this.

Dennis is a goaltender, so there isn't much he needs to do to assimilate.

Girardi has already fit in, performing strongly in his first few games.

That leaves Fritsche.

"He's coming to a team where we have a lot of good players and he'll fit right in perfectly," said Dale Hunter.

Hunter intends playing Fritsche on the No. 1 line with Corey Perry and Dylan Hunter. Brandon Prust will play with Rob Schremp and Dave Bolland, while the checking line will consist of Drew Larman, Josh Beaulieu and Trevor Kell. Kelly Thomson will play with Rob Drummond and Jordan Foreman on the fourth line.

"You do what you can and just let the chips fall where they may," said Mark Hunter. But what he did at the trade deadline increased the odds that the chips will fall in the right direction.


Videos

Photos