October 19, 2011
There probably aren't enough hours in the day if you're among the management and coaching staff of the Shawinigan Cataractes.
The Cataractes will host the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup next May with the goal of winning the CHL championship in the friendly confines of the Bionest Centre.
An 8-5-1-1 start, coupled with the usual trade scuttlebutt that follows the Cup host team, has raised the question: What will the roster of the Cataractes look like next May? For that matter, what will it look like next month as GM Martin Mondou has been busy recently working the phone lines in an attempt to improve his team?
Shawinigan head coach Éric Veilleux is the first to admit the Cats need to fill some holes and address several weaknesses that have become obvious over the first six weeks of the season.
"Everybody knows that we're still a couple of pieces away from being a team that could be there at the end but we have no choice but to grind it out every game and see what happens around the trade deadline," Veilleux said.
"We won't need to add too much because we have a strong foundation with talented forwards and solid goaltending. We need to look at improving our blueline, that's an area where we need to get better. We could use a talented, veteran presence on the back end, that's for sure."
No host team has won the Memorial Cup since the 2007 Vancouver Giants. In 2005, the London Knights, arguably the best major junior hockey team ever assembled, skated to glory, while the Kelowna Rockets also did so a season earlier.
The Cataractes have had good seasons in their history, winning the Jean Rougeau Trophy for most points in the regular season twice (in 1985 and 2001), but have never won a QMJHL championship.
Shawinigan has been wheeling and dealing as of late, bringing in the likes of Russian forward Kirill Kabanov in a trade with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Going in the Armada's direction was Latvian import, defenceman Nikita Kolesnikov.
The 6-foot-6, 216-pound blueliner's departure weakens the Cataractes defensive corps in the short term but the trade could help pay dividends in the long run.
If Kabanov, arrives in Shawinigan with a good attitude and is ready to work he could certainly become of the three best forwards on the club.
The New York Islanders prospect collected eight goals and 20 points in 15 post-season games last spring with the now-defunct Lewiston Maineiacs. The Armada added him in last summer's dispersal draft.
Now with his fourth team in the league, Kabanov is looking forward to skating with this season's Memorial Cup host. Cataractes management made the trade after captain and Montreal Canadiens prospect Michael Bournival went down with an injury earlier this month.
"I'm really excited to join the Cataractes and play in the Memorial Cup," Kabanov told Le Nouvelliste.
"I cannot wait to play for Éric Veilleux I hear he is tough but fair."
Kabanov will also get to suit up with countryman Anton Zlobin along with Michael Chaput and Pierre-Olivier Morin, with whom he played with last year in Lewiston.
The Cataractes are 4-4-1-1 in their last 10 games and suffered through a pair of losses to Val-d-Or and Rouyn-Noranda during a recent trip to the Abitibi region of Quebec. The Victoriaville Tigres lead the QMJHL with 20 points, so Shawinigan is right there among the league's leaders. For now Shawinigan will continue to plug away in the Telus East Division of the QMJHL with the goal of icing the best team possible come next May at the Memorial Cup.
"I really like the addition of Kabanov, we'll continue to tinker with our lineup and see what we have after Christmas," Veilleux says.
"From there it will be my job as the head coach to figure out a way to make things work."
Mike Beasley is the QMJHL correspondent for Buzzing The Net.