Last week's trades look even better

Morris Dalla Costa -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:01 PM ET

No one questions the importance of obtaining players like Adam Dennis and Dan Fritsche at the trade deadline. But as the season grinds to its inexorable conclusion, the London Knights will look back on the trade they made a few days before the OHL deadline as the one they needed to make most.

The Knights managed to pry defenceman Dan Girardi away from the Guelph Storm. It cost them Ryan Pottruff, Rick Steadman and a high draft choice.

It will prove a bargain.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that a team that has won 36 games this year and has only lost two leads the league in goals scored. What's surprising is they only scored 168 goals before last night's game.

This team gets a lot of chances but doesn't have a slew of natural goal scorers. It doesn't score as often as it should.

If this team is going to win any championship, it'll have to win it with its blue-line.

A quick look at the last two games is an indication of how teams are going to play the Knights.

A 1-0 win over Kitchener and last night's 4-1 victory over the Brampton Battalion at the John Labatt Centre were both tough, slugging affairs.

Teams that hope to beat the Knights will have to play that way to win.

When the Knights lost Frank Rediker to another knee injury, they recognized the need for a veteran defenceman who could play well in his own zone, but also help out offensively and on the power play. If the guy happened to have experience in a big game, so be it.

Hello, Dan Girardi.

Over the first five games, Girardi has provided London with what it has needed. He rarely gets rattled. He moves the puck well, can be physical if necessary, and certainly knows how to play the game.

Come playoff time, the Knights will have a defenceman who last year played in pressure situations, helping to knock off London in the playoffs before moving on to a Memorial Cup.

"So far so good," said Girardi. "It's taking a little bit of time to get adjusted to new defensive systems and new players. There are a few small things that are different in your defensive zone and on the power play. Hopefully, by the end of the week, everything will be fine and I'll have everything down pat."

Against the Battalion, Girardi wasn't flashy but made plays whenever he needed to. Not much different from his days in Guelph.

"This team has a lot more talent," said Girardi of his new team. "I don't have to do as much as I did in Guelph. I still want to contribute offensively but I don't have to take as many chances.

"The teams are the same in some ways. The core group of guys here are old guys like in Guelph. But London has a lot more depth on the back end."

It's that depth that the Knights hope will carry them through to the playoffs and the Memorial Cup. It's something Girardi knows all about.

"There's so much more on the line, it's like a media circus. Adam and I will help because we've been through the pressure, but a lot of guys on this team have gone through it, playing in the world junior championship and having such a strong team.

"When you're an older guy, you don't think you'll get more than one crack at it. Getting another shot at the Memorial Cup is exciting."

To say nothing of winning an OHL championship.

It would be especially gratifying since Girardi would have had a big part in his team getting there.


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