The puck has dropped on the second half of the 2019-2020 QMJHL season. The second half of the Q season is a whole new world.
The second season of major junior hockey is always one filled with intrigue, drama, upsets, triumph and underachievement.
There’s five or six teams that legitimately have a chance at lifting the President Cup and perhaps even the Memorial Cup this season.
That’s what makes this time of year so unpredictable.
Trade Period Pressure
The jockeying will continue for the next few weeks while those top contenders finalize their rosters for their march to championship glory.
The Rimouski Oceanic, Moncton Wildcats, Chicoutimi Saguenéens and Sherbrooke Phoenix are definitely the front runners.
Nonetheless, those teams still have some tweaking to do to ensure they are ready for a run at Junior hockey supremacy.
There are no guarantees during this time of year, which definitely adds to the drama and intrigue.
Obviously the game isn’t played on paper. Chemistry, character, compete level and buy in will ultimately be what it takes to win a championship and we will see if the top contenders have what it takes to climb the mountain.
There are a few sleeper teams that are definitely built to upset.
The Charlottetown Islanders, and the Cape Breton Eagles have all the pieces in place to surprise and challenge the top contenders. Especially when it comes to the greatest intangible of them all goaltending!
Matthew Welsh and Kevin Mandolese can steal games and potentially an entire series.
The trades made over the final few weeks of the QMJHL Trade Period will undoubtedly swing the pendulum for many of those clubs.
Contenders or pretenders it will all play out in the second half.
Who’s Still Available?
There are many impact players still available, but these final roster moves in many cases make or break teams chances at the Cup.
Gabriel Fortier, Justin Bergeron and Anderson MacDonald and countless others are no doubt being targeted by many contending teams and even those fringe teams.
What about the teams that are building for next season?
Teams like the Val d’Or Foreurs, Victoriaville Tigres and the Shawinigan Cateractes are aiming at next season to be their year.
Moves made during this trade period may sometimes seem confusing, but they will undoubtedly have a trickle down effect at the draft in June.
The most intriguing aspect of the final few weeks of the QMJHL Trade Period will be the cost of doing business.
From asset management to high priced rental players?
Which team with championship aspirations will be willing to take a leap of faith and land some of the top players remaining?
Evaluating, projecting and advanced scouting. You can guarantee every single organization in the league heading into the second half of season have re-evaluated their process, plan, and formula.
The second half of the QMJHL season is where all the fun begins.
The second half is where championship aspirations turn into reality.
The second of half of the season will feature some of the best hockey of the season as teams separate themselves from the pack and gear up for the playoffs, but perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this time of year is how the top teams handle the pressure and cope with potential adversity.
In my opinion that’s the first indicator of future success or first chink in the armour of “all in” teams.
How do they handle adversity and do they play as a team or a bunch of individuals?
Supply and Demand
So what do the top teams still need to fill out their rosters and put them over the top?
The Moncton Wildcats need another top six forward and another left shooting defencemen.
The Charlottetown Islanders need a top six pure goal scorer and maybe a little bit more help on the backend.
As of last night a source told me that the Cape Breton Eagles are in “big time” on Fortier. If this is true that acquisition could very well change the complexion in the Maritimes Division.
Many believe the Eagles don’t have the same quality of skill as the Wildcats, but I still wouldn’t want to face them in the playoffs.
With the recent addition of Shawn Element and Xavier Bouchard the Eagles seem poised to push into the upper echelon of the league, they still may need a little more help on the backend and another depth veteran forward.
So what about the Oceanic?
Well they need some more help on the backend and of course a healthy Alexis Lafreniere.
The Sherbrooke Phoenix still seem to be fighting for credibility which is surprising given their national ranking. The Phoenix have done a terrific job identifying and addressing their minor deficiencies.
At the moment the Phoenix seem to be finished.
Nevertheless, the team that may make the most noise in the second half are the Chicoutimi Saguenéens. Yannick Jean’s squad will have to find some chemistry with so many new faces coming into the fold. The Sags have all the pieces to be a bonafide championship contender.
Things are just starting to heat up!
Sit back and enjoy the “wild” ride that is the second half of the QMJHL season.