Who are the Moncton Wildcats? Do the Wildcats have an identity? Where are the Wildcats in their rebuild?
Right now there are more questions than answers when it comes to the Hub City’s QMJHL team. One would assume that’s not a good thing, especially given the pressure that this organization has to build a winner. Nevertheless, questions are a good thing, if you’re following a plan and that’s exactly what Ritchie Thibeau, Rick Melanson and the entire scouting staff have done so far.
Obviously, having a plan is great, executing the plan is completely different.
Executing the plan is on the players and coaching staff.
Right now it’s not about the wins and losses, right now the focus should be on the future and seeing what the Wildcats have in personnel moving forward.
Thibeau and the Cats scouting staff have really done a fantastic job drafting. They have hit on a number of players, but losing Ryan Hopkins and Jake Rozzi was undoubtedly an unexpected blow to the rebuild especially on the offensive side of things.
Whenever highly skilled offensively gifted players fail to report its incredibly difficult to recoup those types of draft losses.
Clearly the 2020 QMJHL draft was still a massive win for the Cats, but it could have been championship caliber draft if Hopkins and Rozzi would have reported.
The Cats have eight players from the 2020 Entry Draft in their current line up. That’s pretty damn impressive, actually that’s outstanding, but that still doesn’t answer all of the questions especially the one that matters most what are the Moncton Wildcats and what’s their identity?
What about the 2021 Draft was another homerun for the organization?
The Cats currently have Etienne Morin and Alex Mercier from that draft in their line up. Preston Lounsbury has already played some games for the Cats as well.
Morin is a top tier QMJHL caliber defencemen right now and has incredibly bright future ahead of him.
The foundation for the future is clearly set, but is it enough to take them where they want to go?
You see the Moncton Wildcats are finally finding their identity. They are a blue collar hard working team. They have some great skill sprinkled throughout their lineup with tons of potential, but that skill is incredibly young and are just finding their way and footing in the league now.
The Wildcats over achieved a season ago and they are overachieving again this season.
Their relentless work ethic and never quit attitude continues to serve them extremely well.
Again one shouldn’t be looking at the win column to see where the Cats are in their current rebuild.
At this time the main focus should be on player development and individual growth and progression.
Player evaluations revolving around character, compete level and the intangibles it takes to be successful is the true measuring stick.
This shouldn’t be about handing out player report card type marks, this is all about projection and looking at what players you can win with down the line. The 2021-2022 version of the Wildcats have found their identity, but the real question remains do they have the discipline and character it takes to see it through?
That brings us to the next question. How important are the playoffs for this group?
The “Jonathan Lemieux trade” answers that question almost instantly. You see the Lemieux trade isn’t about Vincent Filion like so many skeptics believe. The Lemieux trade was about winning down the stretch and trying to win a round in the playoffs.
The value of playoff experience for a young skilled hard working team is just that, invaluable.
To truly evaluate any roster you need to see how they react under playoff pressure. The Cats experienced that last season which was incredible for their growth and development, but the moves Thibeau made this season were highly calculated and planned based on trying to get in the playoffs and when there to make some unexpected noise.
Thibeau knew he needed more offence so he went out and acquired Brooklyn Kalmikov.
He knew right away he needed to sure up his backend, hence the Jaxon Bellamy deal and finally he knew if the Cats were to make the playoffs they needed to provide their future franchise goaltender some room to breathe by acquiring a veteran netminder with tons of playoff experience.
Losing a player like Jake Stewart was more than likely one of the most difficult decisions Thibeau has ever had to make.
That still doesn’t provide an answer to this one. So where are the Wildcats in their rebuild?
The verdict isn’t out on that one right now, but the scariest aspect of this could in fact be the regression of players or seeing players being put in situations where they can’t fully develop, grow or have success.
Some would say that’s on the coach, some would say that’s on the players. To each their own, but every game coming down the stretch is an audition for the future.
One can only hope every player gets a fair shake and opportunity to showcase their skill set, their value and place in the lineup.
What are the Moncton Wildcats?
They are hard working team, that needs to score by committee to have success because they don’t have a ton offensive players.
They are also a team with a very young blueline that need to transition the puck quicker. The Cats defence corps are still finding their identity within the league, but all the makings of an outstanding rearguard are in place.
The Cats net minding tandem will continue to have success and take them where they need to go. One trend that isn’t particularly good is that the team plays differently with Filion between the pipes than Lemieux. Ironically it was the same way when Thomas Couture was with the team.
Filion is the future of this hockey club and like any young goalie will have to continue to work hard and earn the trust of his teammates.
Vincent Filion is the real deal. He just needs time to grow.
Right now there are more questions than answers and that’s perfectly normal for any rebuild if a plan is being followed, which it is.
Will the Moncton Wildcats be a championship caliber team in two years?
That’s the question everyone wants the answer to and everyone will have to wait and see.
A plan is in place, now everyone within the organization will have to execute it, that’s the most challenging aspect of any rebuild. Time will tell!