January Déjà Vu
April all an ocean away
Is this the better way to spend the day?
Keeping the winter at bay – January Hymn – The Decemberists
The Decemberists are one of the few bands to include January in the title of a song, and it’s filled with hypothetical questions. Pretty confident that there is no “better way to spend the day” in the middle of a frozen winter is to be watching hockey. January was a roller coaster of emotions for fans of the Hamilton Bulldogs, beginning with a 7 game loosing streak, trades that sent away significant team leaders, and the beginnings of a tense playoff push narrative.
January in a nutshell
The best writer I’ve come across throughout the “Blogosphere” is by Alan “Lowetide” Mitchell. Lowetide has been writing about the Edmonton Oilers for the past decade, helping the fan base maintain sanity. I had a friend who didn’t know I was a frequent reader recently try to sell me on his site, calling his writing “the caviar of hockey blogs”. Trust me, his work is very worth of the praise. Lowetide has been breaking down the team’s record month-by-month, comparing it to the previous season’s record. I’m going to take a leaf out of his blog and take a look at the first four months of the Hamilton Bulldogs’ season compared to the final season of the Belleville Bulls:
- Bulls in October 2014: 8-3-0
- Bulldogs in October 2015: 5-6-0
- Bulls in November 2014: 3-9-2
- Bulldogs in November 2015: 3-9-0
- Bulls in December 2014: 4-3-1
- Bulldogs in December 2014: 5-3-1
- Bulls in January 2014: 3-7-3
- Bulldogs in January 2015: 4-6-1
- Bulls after 48 in 2014-15: 20-22-6, 46 points (-32 goal differential)
- Bulldogs after 48 in 2015-16: 18-26-4, 40 points (-44 goal differential)
It’s a bit scary to see how stagnant the records are back to back. At the end of January one year ago, the Bulls had a very similar narrative running as Burnett’s hand was forced into trading the Bulls’ team captain, Jake Marchment, and first line forward Remi Elie for great future players in Trent Fox and Jesse Saban. The city of Belleville was sold a narrative of building for the future, at the expensive of veteran leadership.
Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?
Hamilton shipped out the team’s two leading scorers and their starting goalie from the past four seasons. Veteran leadership out the door, promising youth inserted into the lineup. On paper, this sounds frightening for anyone in Steeltown hoping to see their first action of OHL playoff hockey since the Fincups. Maybe a bit shocking for some observers is what we’ve seen transpire since January 15th, a young team growing with confidence thanks to far more ice-time. January provided fans with some entertaining introductions, as the new-look team was able to string together 7 of 8 points during two back-to-back home game weekends.
Bulldogs sent out:
- Stephen Harper
- Mason Marchment
- Charlie Graham
- Maurizio Colella
- Christian Mieritz
New additions to the line up:
- Jack Hidi
- Kaden Fulcher
- Luke Kutkevicius
- Evan Krassey
The Hamilton Bulldogs management has made an effort to add youth that plays with a obvious amount of grit. Krassey and Kutkevicius don’t shy away from playing the body, and will be in town for several years. The physical influx to the bottom six end of the forward core helps give more offensive freedom to the future scorers, who had a very productive month. The line of Petti, Luff and Strome have been on fire, and Trent Fox maintained consistency putting the puck in the net. The person who had the most to gain from the Harper trade was Brandon Saigeon, who had started to turn on the jets. Sadly, Saigeon will be out for most likely the remainder of the season after breaking both bones in his left forearm. Saigeon looked to have turn his slow start to the season around on it’s head, and the team is definitely going to miss his vision on the power play.
At the end of the month, the Bulldogs have really shifted to a position in the standings where they have to evaluate every effort on a game-by-game basis. The players and the coaching staff have been indicating that they’re trying not to watch the league scoreboards every night. The team is trying to keep their divisional opponent’s performances out of their mind, and focus only on what they can control. You have to admit, it’s a decent mindset for the players to stay in. Leave it to the fans to count the points.