Aliu shipped back to Wolves

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

The London Knights couldn't operate with Akim Aliu on board anymore.

At some point this season, the big and talented Chicago Blackhawks prospect stopped believing in what Mark and Dale Hunter were doing.

"At some point, whether it's a hockey club or a business in the corporate world or anything else, you need to have beliefs and structure," London assistant coach Pat Curcio said, "and you need everyone in the organization to share that same belief system or it won't work out."

The tie that bound together the Knights' top veteran forwards -- Aliu, Nazem Kadri, Justin Taylor and Phil McRae -- was an unwavering trust the Knights would ice a team that would challenge for an OHL title and Memorial Cup berth.

When a player believes in what he's hearing, he is more likely to make the necessary sacrifices on the ice, display the discipline off it and be a good teammate and example for the younger or less talented players on the team.

But the Knights didn't see that from Aliu and shipped him back where they found him a year-and-a-half ago -- to Sudbury for a fourth-round draft pick this year, a sixth-rounder next year and a flip of the teams' spots in the Canadian Hockey League's import selection this summer.

From a purely roster perspective, future draft picks don't back check or score big goals so unless London GM Mark Hunter packages those picks for immediate help this week, they aren't further along than they were when Aliu was here. But the Knights have become used to life without him as Aliu only appeared in 16 of the 38 games the team played this season.

"Players play and coaches coach and we just know him from the dressing room and the coaches came to the final decision things would be better off for him in the 'Bury," said Knights alternate captain Justin Taylor. "It gives the chance for some other guys to step up and play important minutes. Other guys are going to have to be part of the puzzle."

The Knights, currently second in the OHL's Western Conference, know they have to improve to compete in a seven-game series with the likes of the Windsor Spitfires. They have yet to beat the Spits in three meetings this season.

"We look at Windsor as the No. 1 team in the country and we know we're behind them and don't have the talent they do right now, but we feel we have the character in here to do it," said assistant coach Pat Curcio. "As coaches, we're trying to get this team ready for the playoffs, ready to compete with the best. We have a couple of months to do it so we'll work towards that and we'll use the pieces we have available to us."

Losing Aliu doesn't hurt one particular forward unit since the Knights usually juggle their lines from shift-to-shift.

"We've had injuries all year so we're ready and prepared when something like this happens," Taylor said.

With Aliu gone, the rest of the players have faith that Mark Hunter will do what's necessary to make the team a contender. They also know it's going to come at a big price.

"You hear about maybe a John Tavares coming here or a Logan Couture -- good players like that and it's exciting," Taylor said. "But then you look at the other side of it and what it might take to get those kind of guys here and it might be you, so you get a little nervous. But getting traded is all part of the game."


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