With the Memorial Cup about to start to our North, we once again turn to Jamie Tozer of the Saint John Sea Dogs site Station Nation. With Cahrlie Coyle and Zack Phillips tearing up the Q playoffs, we thought it might be nice to know how they may fare in the Memorial Cup. Thank you to Jamie for the amazing work, once again!
- by Jamie Tozer
This year's Memorial Cup is looking like a good one.
You've got the Western Hockey League champion Edmonton Oil Kings who have only been around since the 2007-08 season. You've got the Ontario Hockey League champion London Knights who have been one of the most dominant franchises in the Canadian Hockey League over the last decade. You've got the host Shawinigan Cataractes who haven't played a legit game in a month. And, of course, you've got the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Saint John Sea Dogs who are the defending Memorial Cup champs.
Some are saying this year's tournament will be the best since 2005 when the dominant Knights edged Sidney Crosby and the Rimouski Oceanic in the Championship Final. The '05 tournament was one of the best because of the NHL lockout. It also got plenty of media attention with no NHL, something this year's tournament should get as well with no Canadian teams left in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.
For those who haven't followed this tournament, it's a bit bizarre, to be honest. I'd compare it somewhat to interleague play in baseball. You don't know a lot about the other teams because you're team never plays them (except for Saint John vs Shawinigan who played each either four teams this year). It's not like you can turn on the TV and see highlights of WHL games here in New Brunswick. You can't turn on the radio and listen to CHL discussion. These teams are a mystery to each other for the most part.
For more on the Memorial Cup, make the jump.
The Memorial Cup features a round-robin style format with each team playing each other once. Here's the full schedule (all times Eastern).
- Friday, May 18 at 7pm - Edmonton vs Shawinigan
- Saturday, May 19 at 7pm - Saint John vs London
- Sunday, May 20 at 7pm - Shawinigan vs London
- Monday, May 21 at 7pm - Saint John vs Edmonton
- Tuesday, May 22 at 7pm - London vs Edmonton
- Wednesday, May 23 at 7pm - Shawinigan vs Saint John
- Thursday, May 24 at 7pm - Tie Breaker (if necessary)
- Friday, May 25 at 7pm - Semi-Final
- Sunday, May 27 at 7pm - Championship Final
In a short tournament like this, every game matters. One mistake or one break could be the difference. Winning the first game can also be very important because momentum is huge in junior hockey.
The Sea Dogs - featuring Minnesota Wild prospects Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips - are the favourites to win the national tournament. Most of the roster that won last year's Memorial Cup has returned a year older and more experienced.
It's not a surprise to see Saint John back in this tournament considering their impressive roster. They have 11 players who are affiliated with an NHL team. They are: Mathieu Corbeil (Columbus), Nathan Beaulieu (Montreal), Charles-Olivier Roussel (Nashville), Coyle (Minnesota), Stanislav Galiev (Washington), Danick Gauthier (Tampa Bay), Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida), Tomas Jurco (Detroit), Stephen MacAulay (St. Louis), Phillips (Minnesota) and Ryan Tesink (St. Louis).
The Sea Dogs' top six is all NHL affiliated. Half of their top six are first round picks. They scored 103 goals in 17 playoff games. So yeah, it's probably safe to say Saint John will have the best offense in the tournament.
One of knocks on Saint John heading into last year's tournament was that they didn't face much adversity during the season and would struggle if they hit some at the Memorial Cup. This year though, they faced plenty. They were without most of their main roster to start the season due to NHL camps and were without the likes of Huberdeau, Galiev, and Tesink for half of the year due to injuries. Despite all that, they still won 50 games during the 68-game regular season.
One of the questions this year is if they will have the same motivation and drive to win it all. But, they will have plenty of motivation thanks to some stuff that happened off the ice. Saint John bid to host this tournament but, although appearing to have a better team, better accommodations, and a bigger arena, the city lost to Shawinigan. People in Saint John are still upset about it especially after the Cataractes got bounced in the second round and the Sea Dogs repeated as President's Cup champions. You can imagine how sweet it would be for many in this city to see the Dogs win the Memorial Cup on Shawinigan ice.
During the regular season, Saint John and Shawinigan met four times with each team winning two games. Even though the Cataractes are not predicted to do well in this tournament (they haven't played a real game since April 17, a Game 7 loss in the second round), I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Sea Dogs-Cataractes game on May 23 is one of the best of the tournament.
How Saint John will do against the other teams is something we'll just have to wait and see. Like I said, this tournament is full of mystery which is part of why it is so awesome.
Here's a brief breakdown of all four teams:
Saint John Sea Dogs - QMJHL Champions
Regular Season Record: 50-15-0-3 (finished first overall in QMJHL and ranked first nationally in BMO CHL MasterCard Top 10 Rankings)
Playoff Record: 16-1
Reg. Season Leading Scorer: Danick Gauthier (66GP-47G-39A-86Pts)
Playoff Leading Scorers: Stanislav Galiev (17GP-16G-18A-34Pts) and Charlie Coyle (17GP-15G-19A-34Pts)
Fun Fact: Over the last three seasons, the Sea Dogs have won three division titles, three regular season titles, two President's Cup titles and a Memorial Cup title.
Shawinigan Cataractes - Host Team
Regular Season Record: 45-16-3-4 (finished second overall in QMJHL and ranked fifth nationally in BMO CHL MasterCard Top 10 Rankings)
Playoff Record: 7-4
Reg. Season Leading Scorer: Anton Zlobin (66GP-40G-36A-76Pts)
Playoff Leading Scorer: Kirill Kabanov (11GP-4G-9A-13Pts)
Fun Fact: Went 2-1-1-0 against Saint John in the regular season. Their only loss was a one-goal game.
London Knights - OHL Champions
Regular Season Record: 49-18-0-1 (finished first overall in OHL and ranked third nationally in BMO CHL MasterCard Top 10 Rankings)
Playoff Record: 16-3
Reg. Season Leading Scorer: Seth Griffith (68GP-45G-40A-85Pts)
Playoff Leading Scorers: Seth Griffith (19G-10G-13A-23Pts) and Olli Maatta (19GP-6G-17A-23Pts)
Fun Fact: Dale Hunter, the Knights president and former Washington Capitals coach, says he will not be behind the London bench during the tournament.
Edmonton Oil Kings - WHL Champions
Regular Season Record: 50-15-3-4 (finished first overall in WHL and ranked fourth nationally in BMO CHL MasterCard Top 10 Rankings)
Playoff Record: 16-4-0-0
Reg. Season Leading Scorer: Michael St. Croix (72GP-45G-60A-105Pts)
Playoff Leading Scorers: Curtis Lazar (20GP-8G-11A-19Pts) and Michael St. Croix (20GP-7G-12A-19Pts)
Fun Fact: Entered the playoffs on an 11-game winning streak and did not lose until Game 4 of the third round.
The 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup begins tonight in Shawinigan with the host Cataractes taking on the Oil Kings. This tournament is often called "North America's toughest championship" and if it's not, it's right up there. The next 10 days will be a lot of fun.