This is an anniversary of sorts today, being the 20th year I will have written a column on the Greyhounds’ season just past from a fan’s perspective.
Considering I turned 85 last month and I have been churning out copy for more than 60 years, time might very well dictate that this column will be my last on the Hounds.
If it is, it will end on a good note because the Hounds gave us another enjoyable season, picking up 100 points in the process.
Actually, I hadn’t seen the Greyhounds as a 100-point team when the season got under way but it may have come about, as Sault Star sports writer Peter Ruicci pointed out, because they were in the weaker of the two divisions in the Western Conference of the Ontario Hockey League.
Although they finished only two points behind the Owen Sound Attack, the Attack had to face the powerful Erie Otters and London Knights six times each while the Hounds played London only four times and Erie only twice.
However, as a fan, I will take it and although the Hounds went out in six games against the Attack, I thought they gave it, despite a letdown in game three in Owen Sound and giving up three first-period goals in game five at home, a good run.
I think anyone who actually thought the Greyhounds were going to win the series was dreaming, since the Attack had gone 39-8 over its last 47 games, but indeed they were in most games.
As coach Drew Bannister pointed out, a little more was needed from veterans Blake Speers, one goal and seven assists in the playoffs, and Zach Senyshyn, four goals and one assist, both playing in 11 games.
I think a lot of us expected more from Speers, as he had six goals in 12 games in the 2015-16 playoffs, but not so much from Senyshyn, who had only two goals in the 12 games, both coming in the same game.
Senyshyn scored 87 goals in 125 regular-season games over the past two years, an average of 69.6 percent. His six goals in 23 playoff games works out to an average of 26 percent.
But there were still a lot of positives to take away from this season and the short playoff run.
Wingers Boris Katchouk and Jack Kopacko and centre Morgan Frost continued their stellar play into the post-season and goalie Josephy Raaymakers seemed to really find his stride in the playoffs, coming off the bench to be the team’s best player and giving the Hounds a chance to win every game.
I don’t know what to expect from next year’s team.
Raaymakers couldn’t be counted on through much of this past season, which opened the door for rookie Matt Villalta, who played extremely well. But Raaymakers was sensation in the playoffs so if both continue to excel, the Hounds should be set in goal.
It could be another story on defence and on the forward lines.
On defence Colton White and Gustav Bouramman will be gone, leaving Conor Timmins, arguably the team’s top rearguard, overage Noah Carrol, Mac Hollowell and Anthony DeMeo as the only regulars returning.
Up front Senyshyn, Speers and overagers Bobby McIntyre, the team’s leader in regular-season points, and David Miller, a 22-goal scorer, will be gone.
Katchouk, Kopacka, Frost and Tim Gettinger undoubtedly will more than make that up, but I just can’t see who will take their places.
Barrett Hayton certainly shows promise and if Otto Makinen returns I believe he will be much improved. But there will still be holes to fill.
I think a lot more will be expected of Hayden Verbeek, if he returns as an overager as I hope he will.
Verbeek had only 11 goals and 31 points in the regular season but his value to the team extends well beyond those meagre figures. He is a superb penalty killer and I don’t think there is anything more thrilling than watching him burst down the ice in full flight.
It is just too bad that he usually ends up firing the puck at the end boards rather than into the net.
But you never know, next season might be when that changes, when a GPS within him zeroes in on the goal.
I love watching the Hounds but I guess I will never get over the changes in the game, the idea now that everyone just chase the puck, just like they did when they started playing the game at the age of four.
Coverage? What is that anyway? A player these days would have to ask.
However, the changes have to have made coaches’ jobs much easier, not really having to teach anything. If four players want to fight for a puck in the corner, so be it. If the other team’s points are uncovered, who cares?
Just the oldtimers like me, I suppose.
Anyway, no matter what next season brings, I will be there. As far as I am concerned, in watching the Hounds you can’t beat the bang for the buck.
Doug Millroy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.