Maybe time to admit this won't be Knights' year

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:49 PM ET

At some time or other every junior hockey franchise goes through lean years.

That means everyone needs to suck it up for a couple of years until the team rebuilds.

If hockey fans are lucky, their team will go through a cycle of five or six years of success and then a year of mediocrity before returning to the upper echelon of junior hockey.

The London Knights have come to that time in their hockey history.

They’ve had a number of competitive seasons, fighting off the inevitability of the downside of the junior hockey cycle for even longer than expected.

But this year time has caught up with them. They aren’t terrible, just mediocre.

They lack dynamic players and as a result, the quality and entertainment value of their game reflects it. They are like so many other teams in the Ontario Hockey League, good one day and not so good the next.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. For a number of years the Knights have been among the top teams in the league.

General manager Mark Hunter has tried to take them to the next level one more time, like he did in 2005 when they won the Memorial Cup. He’s done it by making trades that have cost his team outstanding prospects and draft picks.

There have also been a few less than abundant drafts.

You can only attract so many players with, ahem, scholarship packages.

There’s not much he can do with this team.

It’s time to enter the suck it up phase.

The initial part of the phase involves the Knights’ management. Hunter moves all the players he can move for some sort of future assets. Whether it’s young players or draft choices, they have to begin to look for the kind of talent that took them to the top of the league.

No one is suggesting Hunter give the players away. If there is a reasonable deal to be made, go ahead and make it.

No on is untouchable except for your own draft choices and the young players you feel will benefit you in the future.

The second part of the phase involves Knights’ fans. You folks out there have had it pretty good for a number of years and you have responded by filling the John Labatt Centre.

Now it’s time to be patient and realize that there may be a lean year or two before the Knights’ rebuilding works.

The problem is, this is not the way Hunter likes to operate.

He’ll be the first to admit he likes the idea of a capacity house every night. He recognizes that bailing out on a year might cost him numbers when it comes to attendance.

He also doesn’t like the idea of giving up any year in terms of being competitive.

The scenario of selling and being patient for a year brings a quick response from Hunter.

“No,” he said. “I don’t like the idea. It’s not how I like to operate.”

Hunter knows this team lacks the flashy, skilled players his team has had in the past.

But he does believe it is better than the record of performance has shown.

“We just have to play better,” he said. “I’m going to look at this team for the next three weeks and see what we have.”

Hunter still doesn’t know how much action there will be on his part or anyone else’s part either.

He received a couple of phone calls Monday but in general it was really quiet.

“There isn’t going to be anything going on until January,” he said. “And I don’t know how much will be happening then either.”

Hunter didn’t sound like there was much chance he was going to change his mind about what approach he was going to take come the trade deadline.

Then again if his club continues to play the way its been playing a lot of things may wind up changing.

morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca


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