You might not agree with the stance Mike Kelly took at the OHL trade deadline, but you have to admire him for staying the course.
In the past week the Guelph Storm general manager saw the Western Conference landscape change dramatically, as several teams loaded up for a run at the conference title.
Rather than react to that changing landscape, Kelly maintained the course that the team has had since he took over, that this particular squad will peak in the 2012-13 season and that attempting to keep up with the Joneses this year would be detrimental to that plan.
While at one point the Storm might have been right there with any team in the conference, they now find themselves a couple of steps behind London, Plymouth and Owen Sound.
Trying to add the necessary players now to be a contender would be risky, given the quantity and quality of what the other teams were adding this week.
True, at one point this season it looked like Guelph only needed to add a couple of small pieces to the puzzle in order to be a serious contender this year. But after seeing how aggressive other teams were, it became apparent to Kelly that major moves would be needed just to keep up with London, Owen Sound and Plymouth.
Those moves would have involved trading good, young players who are being counted on to be a part the contending team next year.
Plymouth and Owen Sound both traded their first round draft pick from last year in order to try and rise to London’s level. Would the Storm fans that are upset Kelly didn’t make significant deals be happy if he had dealt Robby Fabbri?
Guelph could not have added the players it needed to keep up by throwing a few draft picks at teams or fringe players.
That’s not to say there shouldn’t be some questions asked as to why Guelph didn’t outbid teams for Slater Koekoek and Jake Dotchin, a couple of solid 18-year-old defencemen that were dealt.
Kelly said they didn’t have what Peterborough wanted in the Koekoek case. As for Dotchin, he felt the asking place was ridiculous.
Some will also ask why, if Guelph wasn’t going to load up, they didn’t sell off some players.
But their most desirable players would be imports Tanner Richard and Andrey Pedan, who won’t be back next season. They are imports, seriously narrowing the field of available buyers. And while both Richard and Pedan are good players, they are not star players and wouldn’t garner much more than draft picks in return.
I would have liked to have seen Guelph add some cheaper talent at the deadline and hope that a healthy Storm team, playing up to its potential, could go deep into the playoffs.
But with so many teams making such bold moves, Kelly felt that it wasn’t worth giving up what was being asked.
Storm fans are sick and tired of waiting for next year. It never seems to come for a team where first round playoff exits seem to be the norm.
Some argue that the team will have more holes next season than it does this season: that this was the year to “go for it” rather than next.
Instead he will hope this team can surprise some people in the playoffs, maybe win a round or two, and garner experience for next year.
In Stormland, there’s always next year.