The Colonials: A True Underdog Storyby Gary Graves | March 20, 2017, 3:00 PM ET
The quest for World Domination begins?
World domination??? It was all doom and gloom in Boston to start the season as the Colonials started off with a 2-7-1 record in its first 10 games. The skeptics were wondering when GM Graves was going to hit the panic button and rebuild the entire team. Perhaps past history suggested he would do this?
The biggest move made at that point was firing head coach Gerard Gallant after the team suffered its 7th loss in only 9 games played to the Denver Rapids. GM Graves took over the coaching duties as an interim measure and has recently stated that he will begin the search for a new head coach this summer "The intent was never to take over this coaching gig longterm, but the players have responded and I don't want to break that momentum, kinda likebreaking in a new pair of skates. It really is too much to do both roles. I feel exhausted but now that the trade deadline is past I can focus on coaching."
Things gotta turnaround, right?
Things started to turn around in early December when Pete Mrazek posted back to back shutouts, and since then the team has gone 41-16-0 and now sits atop the World Conference by a couple of points and appears to be playoff bound barring a meltdown of epic proportions.
Mrazek has been nothing short of spectacular in his rookie season currently posting a 1.79 GAA, 13 SO and a .924 SV % and now has 40 wins on the season as well.
Will he make any moves?
It is now mid-January and still no trades! What is going on? The team is playing better hockey and are now in a playoff hunt, but wait the Slammers come knocking at the door. Unconvinced that the Colonials were a serious playoff contender, Graves deals off Zuccarello, Hjalmarsson and Chiasson to Ottawa for its 1st round pick in 2017 and also brings back Tanner Pearson. Basically moving UFA Zuccarello in a package for some futures but also adds veterans Jay Beagle and Tobias Enstrom to the mix back to Boston.
Then Graves pulls a head scratcher the next day by acquiring a UFA in Shane Doan who at the time was the SICHL leading scorer playing on a weak Dublin team. The team also picked up a solid backup in Al Montoya who is also a UFA. Montoya has posted a 3-1-0 record in that capacity with a 1.77 GAA.
Doan came to Boston to inject scoring into the lineup, and as advertised, he has averaged more than a PPG with 17G and 16A for 33PTS in 31 GP.
A couple of days later Graves was at it again, contacting the much despised GM of the Acadia Golden Bears for what seemed like numerous times. This time to seal the deal to acquire a prospect which was more of a fan favorite move and not necessarily a move using the brain! It was a deal that would be consummated after numerous talks over a period of weeks. Nicolas Meloche was on his way to Boston! The price…to high! Conditional 1 and 2 round picks (based on the SICHL Summit attendance) and prospect Austin Poganski.
“We do like Meloche and feel that he is the complete package. He is 6 foot 3 and 205 pounds, and plays both ends of the ice well.” said GM Graves. The scouting report from his draft year:
‘A smooth skating defenceman who can put up points, utilizing his strength behind his shot, and plays with an edge. Has very good awareness on the ice, and notices possible scoring chances before they happen. Very intelligent defensively and makes high percentage decisions in his own end. When at the top of his game, Nicolas Meloche can be a game-changing, physical two-way defenceman.’
They call it the streak!
So between late January/early February, the Colonials went on a 9 game win streak, which started to beg the following questions: “is this team a legit contender?”, “should they be buyers at the trade deadline?”, and “how much tinkering be done with a winning lineup?”.
Pre-deadline moving and shaking!
Never one to be called “afraid to make a deal”, GM Graves took a call from the Krunch GM MacRae who was shopping hulking all-star defenseman Zdeno Chara. A few offers were thrown around and after a few weeks a deal was struck sending prospect John Quenneville and a 2nd round pick the other way.
In a day that was supposed to be a quiet one for New England’s favorite team, the Colonials squeezed in a deal that strengthened the blueline by adding Johnny Boychuk from the Brno Barons sending the previously acquiried Weber and a couple of prospects which included Ryan MacInnis.
In addition to that, the Colonials added UFA winger Jason Chimera from the Shamrocks for another UFA winger in Thomas Vanek and quickly flipped him to Havana from veteran winger Tommy Wingels, prospect Logan Shaw and a late round pick.
From worst to first!
For a team that started out at the bottom of the standings, things certainly turned around! The team, following an 8-0 spanking of the Vancouver Vipers, is now sitting atop of the World Conference. Things look great from a statistical perspective with a top five goalie and two top 10 scoring leaders in Shane Doan and Nathan MacKinnon. In addition to that, the team has a +62 goal differential which shows the team is clicking on all cylinders right now.
To make things more impressive, the Colonials have not lost a game to the Canadian Conference best teams in the Slammers, Norsemen and Huskies.
Is this the year of the Colonials or will they fizzle out in the first round like past years? Don’t matter right now as we are enjoying the ride!