The one ingredient of the Guelph Storm's big trade with the Windsor Spitfires that might not digest well is the timing.
It's understandable that the Spitfires did "what was right for the franchise" by moving captain Kerby Rychel to the contending Guelph Storm on Tuesday. It is evident that Windsor wasn't going to be in three-team arms race in the Western Conference, so cashing out was prudent.
One can quibble with the timing of pulling this off on Dec. 3 instead of waiting a month to see what plays out
— a winning streak or Rychel having a big world junior championship that could have led to increasing his trade value even further. A team punting on the season while only seven points out of the division draws some suspense out of the next three months. That's not entirely a consequence of rules the OHL adopted after Steve Mason's trade from London to 2008 Memorial Cup champion Kitchener was announced while the goalie was away at the world junior. No one's being forced to trade a Team Canada player before Christmas Day, as the Oshawa Generals showed by waiting until after the WJC to move John Tavares the first year after the rule came into effect.
In the big picture, having a team that is fifth in its conference do its fact-facing this early doesn't speak well for the competitive structure of the OHL, not that anyone will listen to this editorializing. That's a good segue into the new Double D, where Erie, London and Guelph are high up while one has to tunnel down pretty deep to find the next mention of an OHL team.
1. Erie Otters, OHL (.599 RPI, +2.2 SRS, +1) — Guelph adding Kerby Rychel to create a lineup loaded with three scoring lines puts the onus on the OHL-leading Otters to fortify their defence. Erie, even after its recent deal for Vancouver Canucks first-rounder Brendan Gaunce, is still in a position of strength since it boasts a dozen players in the 1995 and '96 birth-year cohorts. That ought to give managing partner Sherry Bassin the flexibility to talk with teams that are more enamoured with getting immediate help instead of adding OHL priority selection draft choices.
Erie might still have needs on the blueline, where Team Canada selection Adam Pelech is its only NHL draft pick. After this happened last weekend, it would be hilarious if Erie got in on the bidding to add Carolina Hurricanes prospect Trevor Carrick from Mississauga.
2. London Knights, OHL (.597 RPI, +2.0 SRS, -1) — The obvious Knights narrative will be seeing how much Max Domi produces over the next in the wake of his non-vite to Team Canada's final selection camp. It wasn't a total stunner, what with the smaller selection camp and a surfeit of high-end forwards who have posted more than Domi's 25 points through 21 games.
In general terms, London still has yet to run on all eight cylinders, showing an ability to beat anybody (Erie, twice) and stumble against anybody (rebuilding Niagara last week). As GM Mark Hunter put it, "It’s not like we’re terrible, but we have to be more consistent." By the way, one shouldn't read too much into how the Domi disappointment was handled "through a team statement" when other players spoke to the media. That reflects more on the Knights having a heart for their star.
3. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.593 RPI, +2.1 SRS, —) — Portland will need to reinforce its defence at some point in the next five weeks. Its 93 goals against in 29 games is just 12th in the 22-team Western league, which indirectly points out how crazy stupid dominant an attack with four players who could wear their country's colours during world junior play has been. (Don't forget Oliver Bjorkstrand!) The big question is whether Portland coach-GM Mike Johnston, who's set to lose Derrick Pouliot to Team Canada next week, has the wherewithal to mortgage some of the future to add another D-man following last season's sanctions from the WHL. Johnston has also taken to deploying sophomore Dominic Turgeon on a shutdown line, meaning the 17-year-old has taken a 180-degree turn from his pops' Pierre's rep as a player.
4. Guelph Storm, OHL (.580 RPI, +2.2 SRS, —) — What more does Guelph need now that "the premier power forward in the league," Kerby Rychel, has come over in the OHL's latest Memorial Cup year mega-trade?
The obvious one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other with Guelph, Erie, London and the leaders of the other OHL divisions is that the Storm count on 18-year-old goalie Justin Nichols, whereas everyone else is graced by a veteran 'tender. Nichols has had two very steady months (3.06 avg./.916 save pct. in October, 3.12/.912 in November) as Guelph's starter, but what happens if a mid-table team decides to cut bait and dangle a more seasoned stopper?
5. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (.568 RPI, +1.3 SRS, +2) — The Armada took the big grudge match with Baie-Comeau last weekend, although coach Jean-François Houle expressed discomfort with his players being engaged in so many extra-curricular activities after whistles. That statement win featured a big night from 18-year-old Swedish newcomer Emil Aronsson, who wasn't around when B-C and B-B had a massive post-buzzer brawl during the 2013 playoffs.
6. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.559 RPI, +1.2 SRS, -1) — The sagging Spokanes' RPI did not take a big hit from an 0-3 weekend, because U.S. Division. Overage forward Mike Aviani, one of the two Chiefs who generally score all of their goals (well, not really, but really), comes into the week on a four-game outage.
How is there not a didreidgowscoreyet Tumblr page? The defenceman now has 33 assists without a single goal.
7. Kelowna Rockets, WHL (.558 RPI, +1.6 SRS, -1) — Kelowna narrowly escaped in its 4-3 OT win over the Vancouver Giants on Tuesday. It gave up a goal with 37 seconds left before Winnipeg Jets pick Ryan Olsen tied it with a mere 17 ticks left, setting the stage for Team Canada candidate Damon Severson to backhand in the winner. That contest might have pointed up a potential pratfall of being in the relatively weak B.C. Division, since Kelowna took time finding a response to some pushback from a Giants team that is starting to forecheck and finish bodychecks in the old-school Don Hay way. Fortunately for the Rockets, between Severson and Madison Bowey, they can initiate a lot of offence from the defence.
8. Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL (.544 RPI, +0.5 SRS, +8) — When Seattle GM Russ Farwell swung the trade with Lethbridge for Sam McKechnie and Jaimen Yakubowski, was it with the expectation that the two 25-goal scorers would be checkers? As Andy Eide detailed, the Scott Eansor-McKechnie-Yakubowski have been a trio of defensive-minded Dobermans for a team that is tightening up defensively. Seattle is averaging 3½ goals per night against a high strength-of-schedule, so it's not like it's hurting for scoring.
9. Drummondville Voltigeurs, QMJHL (.539 RPI, +0.6 SRS, +9) — Overage centre Frédérick Gaudreau accounted for one of the strange stats of the last seven days. The former Shawinigan Cataractes captain scored thrice in his first two games for the Volts before being shut out in a return visit to Centre Bionest last Sunday. Gaudreau has also been winning faceoffs at a near 60 per cent clip, but was credited with going 2-for-13 during his homecoming game. Maybe that was some hometown scoring, but talk about your anomalies. Drummondville's three busiest centres have each won fewer than 50% of their draws, so adding Gaudreau's acumen addresses that area.
10. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.538 RPI, +1.2 SRS, +2) — Facing B-B and the Gatineau Olympiques on the road gives the Drakkar a nudge up the rankings even though it was doubled in each game. The upshot is that a less seasoned team might have choked by those successive losses and got caught looking past the finale game of its trip against Telus West expansion baby Sherbrooke, but coach Éric Veilleux's team peppered the Phoenix net and got a hard-fought win. Two of the Drakkar's primary scorers, Frédéric Gamelin (one goal in 12 games) and Montreal Canadiens pick Jérémy Grégoire (one in eight), are due for big weeks.
11. Val-d'Or Foreurs, QMJHL (.538 RPI, +1.0 SRS, +8) — When the Foreurs were struggling, their attendance was a non-story, but their winning ways have put it on the front burner. The club is averaging 1,654 fans in a community of 32,000 so the size of the market is neither nor a valid explanation for the numbers. Club president Daniel Massé recently emphasized the need to develop better ties to area minor hockey teams, which was a stumbling block for the last CHL team to relocate, the Brampton-turned-North Bay Battalion.
12. Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, QMJHL (.538 RPI, +0.3 SRS, +2) — Last but not least among the newcomers are the Huskies, who are on the cusp of breaking into the Q's upper crust. Overage Marcus Power, with 46 points in 29 games, has come into his own during his final season as the setup guy for Pittsburgh Penguins free-agent signing Jean-Sébastien Dea (24 goals, four assists). The Huskies have a home-and-home next week against Blainville that will be a good gauge of where they stand.
The not as dynamic but still very distinguished dozen — 13. Gatineau Olympiques, QMJHL (.536, -5); 14. Everett Silvertips, WHL (.536, -3); 15. Windsor Spitfires, OHL (.534, -5); 16. Tri-City Americans, WHL (.531, -7); 17. Oshawa Generals, OHL (.530, +3); 18. Swift Current Broncos, WHL (.526, -1); 19. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL (.523, -4); 20. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.521, +2); 21. Victoria Royals, WHL (.521, +4); 22. Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (.519, -9); 23. Québec Remparts, QMJHL (.517, —); 24. Rimouski Océanic, QMJHL (.514, -3).
Hot team — Chicoutimi Saguenéens, up 10 (40th to 30th).
Cold team — Charlottetown Islanders, down 11 (35th to 46th).
Nowhere to go but up — Lethbridge Hurricanes (.410).
An explanation on rankings — Buzzing The Net uses Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) with a recency factor. RPI combines a team's record with the strength of its opponents to produce an overall rating. Our method also gives more weight to recently played games. Shootout wins and losses are classified as ties, for philosophical and practical reasons. Simple Ranking System (SRS), a ranking which combines goal differential and strength of schedule, is used as a complement. All three CHL leagues are considered equivalent in quality.
(All rankings through play on Dec. 1.)
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.