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Belleville Bulls bet on Malcolm Subban spurring OHL final run, based on their deadline moves

Malcolm Subban is 2nd in the OHL statistically (The Canadian Press)

There might be some popular notion about a goalie being gutted psychologically by being part of a Team Canada letdown at the world junior championship. It doesn't jibe with the reality, though. At least that is part of why the Belleville Bulls, now that Malcolm Subban has returned, made one of the bigger splashes before the OHL trade deadline.

The way the final minutes ticked down toward Thursday's deadline vis-à-vis the division leaders in the junior varsity league Eastern Conference was rather curious. The Barrie Colts, who have led the pack but are losing ace centre Mark Scheifele to the Winnipeg Jets training camp, probably did not do enough to sate a fanbase that wants a championship. The Bulls, already reaping an early harvest by adding Minnesota Wild pick Tyler Graovac, also added another dangerous 19-year-old forward. Much should be made of how coach-GM George Burnett sent three second-round choices within his division to the Peterborough Petes in order to bring Detroit Red Wings-drafted centre Alan Quine (who was born in Belleville) to the Bulls.

A move like that will be long remembered if it does not work out for the Bulls. (As an aside, since OHL teams are always trading second-round picks four or five years into the future, does it not all cancel out? Plus the value of picks being traded away depends on how the team, Peterborough in this case, drafts and develops.)

The Bulls (.628 point percentage) have had chronic problems scoring, dating back to 2009-10. Their crowd sizes have also been in the 2,500 range for a while, although that's probably part of a larger economic trend that goes beyond the grasp of one blog post.

While Barrie is a consistently well-supported franchise, Belleville might have had a greater need to make a statement. Having been able to eke out a strong record despite the paucity of offensive production shows there is growth. Graovac and Quine also tend to two-way types rather than pure offence, meaning they might be able to produce within Burnett's system. Plus there is less pressure on 18-year-old Vancouver Canucks first-rounder Brendan Gaunce, now that he has a better supporting cast.

Then it all rests on Subban's second half. The Boston Bruins first-rounder has the second-best average and save percentage in the league. Also, keep in mind that while the world junior experience was deflating and devastating among Canadians, oftentimes it's a great learning experience for a goalie. Subban, who wasn't the reason for Canada coming up short to begin with, might have a better second half as a result of it. If that happens, Subban could take Belleville on a ride that shows his mettle between those metal posts. It just won't happen before near as many eyeballs, that's all.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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