67's might be better off losing sweepstakes

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:20 PM ET

The Steve Downie sweepstakes are over. And Brian Kilrea, coach and GM of the 67's, is kind of feeling like on the day after a big lottery, checking his ticket only to find his numbers were just a few off.

Perhaps it's best in the long run that Ottawa didn't end up landing the feisty and talented 18-year-old Downie, who ended up in Peterborough.

This year, the only way to the Memorial Cup for OHL teams is by winning the league outright, so there'll be none of that getting into the big show the way the 67's did last season.

Even if Kilrea had managed to outbid Peterborough counterpart Jeff Twohey for Downie's services, you'd have to wonder if the 67's would have had the personnel to go all the way.

With the up-and-down start to the year (win one, lose two, win two, lose the next three, etc., etc.,), the 67's look like they're on the way to a repeat of last year, when some of the veterans showed up some nights, but were present only in body -- and not in spirit -- the next. Then again, with Danny Battochio in net, there's always a chance, and that's probably what Kilrea had in the back of his mind when he tried to get Downie from Windsor.

The least Downie would have done is shake up a lineup that is once again becoming famous for looking like world beaters one night, then going complacent the next and dropping a stinker.

In the end, Downie will wear Peterborough maroon and white, and it looks like the Petes have what it takes to reach their first OHL final in 10 years.

It's hard to figure anybody will be able to catch them. Already with a healthy lead on the rest of the Eastern Conference, the Petes have a stacked lineup and are strong at every position, especially now at right wing, where Downie joins the likes of Jamie Tardif, Patrick Kaleta and Fredrik Naslund.

The bonus for the Petes is they didn't need to give away the franchise to get what they wanted. Defenceman Peter Aston went to Windsor, but the Petes could afford to lose a blueliner of his calibre with Aaron Dawson, Trevor Hendrikx and Kyle Raftis still in town.

They also didn't need to part with the future, dealing second and fifth-round picks at next year's draft and a second-rounder in '07 to the Spitfires.

For the 67's, the best thing now is to give it a shot and try to stay as close to the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference and try to finish fourth of higher to get home ice advantage during the playoffs.

This season's trade deadline in early January will be interesting, when Kilrea decides between making a playoff run, or building for the future.

And doesn't that look bright, given the performances by youngsters like Logan Couture, Pat Daley, Matt Lahey and Shea Kewin in the early going?

UP NEXT: The 67's will try to break a two-game slide in Kingston this afternoon for a game against the Frontenacs. Czech import Radek Smolenak won't be in the Kingston lineup, serving the second game of a two-game suspension for a hit from behind during a game Thursday against the St. Michael's Majors.

THAT HURTS: The Olympiques broke a three-game losing skid Friday night with a 4-2 win in Val-d'Or, but did it without captain Keven Petit, out for the season with an injured right knee. Petit had missed six weeks after hurting the knee in September and returned to action last weekend, only to aggravate the injury during Wednesday's loss in Rouyn-Noranda. The 19-year-old right winger will have surgery to repair damaged ligaments in the knee, and will require at least five months of healing for a complete recovery. Gatineau is also without injured import sniper David Krejci, centre Cam Fergus and defenceman Pierre-Luc Lessard.

MASS APPEAL: Suspended Brockville Braves coach Mike McCourt might get a hearing with the ODHA in the upcoming days. The ODHA suspended McCourt 45 games earlier this month after a confrontation with referee Dave Ross following a game Oct. 28 in Brockville. Several witnesses claim McCourt made no contact with the referee.

IN THE CREASE: Big game in the CJHL on Tuesday at the Steve Yzerman Arena between Nepean and Pembroke. The teams are battling again for the divisional title ... The Kings were ranked seventh on the most recent CJAHL list.

barre.campbell@ott.sunpub.com


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