Back in November, the Oshawa Generals had transformed from a championship team to a bottom feeder that would be looking towards the future. Thanks to the ridiculousness of major junior hockey, 16 of the OHL’s 20 teams make the playoffs and so, Oshawa won the right to get pummeled by the Kingston Frontenacs in the first round.
Kingston is one of the frontrunners to represent the OHL in this year’s Memorial Cup, and there was little doubt that they would easily take care of the Generals. The Frontenacs spent several future assets to load up this season, including bringing in two members of last year’s Championship Generals team (Stephen Desrocher and Michael Dal Colle) in separate trades.
Kingston is where the Generals were a season ago, a juggernaut in the weaker Eastern Conference who will likely have an easier road to the OHL finals than whoever comes out of the West. Seeing the Generals right now should be a lesson to Kingston fans; they need to relish this year’s playoff ride, because the drop off is fierce and there’s no telling how long the rebuild will take.
The Generals never had a shot in the series. While the two home playoff games were fun for the fans, the franchise would have probably been better off finishing lower in the hopes of rebuilding though a top-three pick in the OHL Priority Selection draft next week.
What makes this loss harder for Oshawa is seeing their 2014 first-round selection Cliff Pu’s performance with the London Knights. Pu would’ve looked great in a Generals jersey, serving as a focal point of the offense, but he was dealt last season in a trade that saw Oshawa acquire Canadiens prospect Mike McCarron.
With so many of the Knights representing their countries at the World Juniors in December, Pu was relied upon heavily to run their depleted offense. He took off, and has been incredible over the second half of the season and into the playoffs.
On the bright side, Generals fans are likely to see a long playoff run from a couple of former fan favorites in Desrocher and Dal Colle. Plus, this playoff series was likely five more games than anyone expected this year.
After being outscored 27-11 in the five-game series with Kingston, the Generals now turn their sights to the OHL Priority Selection draft that takes place next weekend. Holding a top-five pick, Oshawa is eagerly awaiting the decision of a number of top prospects as seven of the top 10 are American and could end up committing to the USNDT to maintain their NCAA eligibility.
If enough of them commit to the OHL, the Generals will have the opportunity to select a high-end talent this week that could step right into the lineup next season. Plus, the Generals will still have this season’s breakout star Anthony Cirelli, as well as two very good 2016 NHL draft eligible players in Dominic Commisso and Riley Stillman.
Oshawa has spent most of the past 10 months tearing the team down, and the rebuild promises to be a long one, as in typical OHL fashion, the return on their big assets (Michael Dal Colle in particular) are for future draft picks more than a couple years down the road.
Waiting five to six years to cash in on draft picks seems absurd, but it’s the way business is done in the CHL. This is a large reason why you see so many teams go all out each year for a shot at the Memorial Cup. When a team sees the window open, they take every opportunity possible because it could be shut for a long time.
Fortunately for the fans in Oshawa, even as they watched their team be dominated through this year’s playoffs, there was a banner in the rafters to remind them that this pain was definitely worth it.