Guelph Storm coach George Burnett was commenting recently on his team, and the fact that he hasn’t been able to get a grip on what his team truly is.
Burnett was referring to the fact that 22 games into the season, the Storm has yet to be able to ice the team it’s supposed to be.
Someone has always been injured or suspended.
“I still think we’re evaluating our team. I haven’t seen our team yet,” Burnett said.
Givani Smith is out for the first 19 games … Tag Bertuzzi has three different injuries, limiting him to nine games … Zach Poirier a 10 games suspension … Nate Schnarr out again… it’s been one thing after another.
“You take Zach and Schnarrzy and the impact they would have on our lineup,” Burnett said, “and Smitty is going to take some time to get the hands, feet and eyes working together 100 per cent.”
Bertuzzi would be still trying to figure out what day it is in the OHL even if he was in the lineup every night, never mind being out of it most of the season.
There ripples spread far and wide when you are missing a key player, never mind several key players.
One, it makes matchups much easier for other teams when several top nine forwards aren’t in the lineup. The team isn’t as skilled and the team isn’t as deep.
Then there’s the physicality aspect. Smith and Poirier are the team’s most physical players and you definitely see other teams reacting differently if they are out there.
Not that the Storm is getting pushed around every night, but they do have the second-lowest penalty minute total in the OHL (196). Physicality is an essential part of the sport and the team is definitely lacking in that department.
We are also seeing young players perhaps playing more minutes than is perhaps warranted at this stage of their development, and in roles they aren’t quite ready for.
And when you can’t sit a player out because you don’t have enough of them, the competition for playing time within the team isn’t there.
There are 10 new players on this year’s team who had not played together before. It’s hard to find chemistry and learn tendencies of your teammates when you can’t practice together, never mind play.
No doubt this team has holes, but just where and how serious they are really can’t be evaluated until you know exactly what you have.
And right now, until everyone is back in the lineup, much of that is speculation.