Edmonton Supersonics 2013-2014 Season Primer

Poised for a rebuild, the three-time champs defy logic and go "all in".
by Kent Clark | December 21, 2013, 12:41 AM ET

It was just over one year ago, December 3, 2012, that Edmonton Supersonics GM Mike Franceschini traded franchise cornerstone Jarome Iginla to the London Monarchs, effectively signaling a rebuild phase for one of the most successful franchises in SICHL history. Over the next few months, Franceschini systematically traded older players on high priced contracts for mid-level skill and draft picks. Rumors persisted that all-star goaltender Ryan Miller, who played last season under the protection of a no-trade clause, would be dealt as soon as that clause expired at the beginning of the season, and that the club would ride career backup Cory Schneider for the 2013-2014 season, the playoffs nothing but a pipe dream for hockey fans in Edmonton who have come to expect a high quality on-ice product.

But then, a funny thing happened on the draft floor.

The 'Sonics used the Titans' first round pick, acquired two years ago for Simon Gagne, on centreman Bo Horvat, who was really the club's first and only target in round one. They still retained their own pick at 16 overall, however, and began shopping it around, feeling as though any other players they were eyeing would be overvalued at that position, and hoping to get two second rounders instead to shore up their depth chart in preparation for a rebuild. It was then that freshman GM Sam Myers of the Denver Rapids offered centreman David Backes, a player Franceschini had long coveted. It was quickly decided to pull the trigger on the deal.

With that, for the second time in as many seasons, the rebuild was put on hold, and Franceschini shifted to "buy now" mode, setting off a flurry of deals:

"We feel that we addressed every area of concern we had if we wanted to be a successful team this season," said Franceschini. "We're a bit older than we were when the season ended, but nevertheless I think we're well-positioned for the next few years."

Sure enough, in the pre-season power rankings, the 'Sonics were ranked #4 overall, behind only the powerhouse Winnipeg Falcons, the reigning champion Fredericton Express, and the offensive juggernaut London Monarchs.

As for Miller, the goaltender's Glenora-area home is no longer on the market, and he is now expected to be with the team for the foreseeable future, sharing duties with protege Schneider.

"[Schneider] has some experience playing behind olympic calibre starters," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "We're not worried about him at all, and I think the internal competition will push both goalies to be better."

Whether this shift in direction will impact the long-term viability of the club remains to be seen. The Sonics still have two first-rounders in the 2014 entry draft, but are missing their first in 2015. Normally an older team needs high draft picks to replace its aging stars, but Franceschini seems willing to gamble. "We have some grade A prospects in the system in Bo, Tomas Tatar, and Tom Wilson who we think will slot in nicely in the next few years. We're putting a lot of faith in our plan, but if it comes together, we have every reason to be optimistic for the next five years and beyond!"

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