The original five Saint John Sea Dogs from the 2018 QMJHL Entry Draft have ended their tenure with the organization on the highest of highs hoisting the Memorial Cup on home ice. It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows for this core group.
The trials and tribulations of junior hockey’s vicious cycle wreaked havoc on the organization and Charlie DesRoches, William Villeneuve, Jeremie Poirier, Josh Lawrence, and Brady Burns took the brunt of it.
Promises had to be made and many were kept, which is incredibly difficult to do in the game of hockey. It would have been easy for some within the organization to give up on a certain number of these players at any time throughout the process. It’s been an incredibly rocking and arduous journey to this point.
There’s no question promises and back channel overtures were definitely made on draft day.
Trevor Georgie and Anthony Stella’s picks that day sent shockwaves across the entire league. That day inevitably changed the landscape of the QMJHL draft. Promises to report or not report or take a different route seemed to all go by the way side.
One could argue the tension between the Sea Dogs organization and other teams within the circuit all started on that day in June of 2018.
The perceived tension amongst teams across the league was rooted in uncertainty especially with regards to two of the Sea Dogs first five picks.
Clearly whenever an organization has three first round picks they have to ensure the obvious, that all of their assets will report and are committed to the organization.
Whenever there’s uncertainty surrounding a player or families decision it creates tension or a lot of mixed messages. Let’s get one thing straight, every player and their family is entitled to their decision on which direction they want to go.
Decisions were made that day and the rest of the hockey world or in this case the rest of the QMJHL had to accept that.
The buzz surrounding Charlie Desroches’ intended route or path changed. It was clear that Desroches fell in the draft because of it.
There were also some question marks over the direction Brady Burns would take. Given his size, stature and a major injury suffered in his draft year a lot of people believed he might choose to take his time and go the NCAA route as well.
The shock and hush that came over the draft floor when the Dogs announced those two picks was something to be reckoned with.
Witnessing the draft in person for the second year in a row and studying picks as an TV analyst and scout within the QMJHL, I vividly remember Georgie and Stella sharing a massive hug after it was all said and done.
It was like they knew they had won the draft, or that’s how they felt anyway that day.
Landing Desroches and Burns were massive for the organization. Identifying Villeneuve, Poirier and Lawrence as 1st round selections wasn’t rocket science, but they did pass on some players that could have also had an impact on the organization, or did they?
You see we may never know the players that vetoed the idea of going to the Sea Dogs for an rebuild of epic proportion. Georgie and Stella built the foundation of their Memorial Cup Champion on that day.
Anyone and everyone that followed the league knew it was going to be ugly in the Port City.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
The good of course was the intended development and opportunity to play, the bad was the team and the supporting cast of players which resembled a revolving door and the ugly was the bad habits and the final product on the ice back then.
When you have a draft like the Sea Dogs did in 2018 and then you talk about it endlessly it definitely brings attention to the forefront.
Having three 16 yr defencemen in your lineup is an incredibly difficult especially when all three hadn’t found their identities at that level.
Then there was the special exemption granted by the league to allow a surplus of 16 year olds which only deepened the sheer undercurrent of resentment from across the league.
Teams didn’t take any mercy on the Sea Dogs. From 2017 President Cup Champions to the cellar, the fall from grace was swift.
You see these five players experienced it all. They were there for the good, the bad and the ugly.
In many cases that happened almost on a game by game basis.
How could any young player develop under those circumstances?
How could any young player have a chance to flourish and find their footing in the Q under those conditions?
Some would call it growing pains, others saw it as a complete and utter cluster f@&$.
The Sea Dogs young core group were at the forefront of criticism at every turn.
As the losses piled up, it was easy to see these five players were losing their confidence which was ugly.
One could talk about and dissect the character of the core group or one could look at how far they have come in all facets of the game.
One could talk or write about their talent as a group and the success they have had on a personal or individualist level, or you could talk about their resiliency.
Opinions are like noses everyone has one and this core group have no doubt heard them all.
The original five Sea Dogs from the 2018 QMJHL Draft have played their final game with the organization, the wild ride over
The impact and legacy they have had in the city of Saint John and the Sea Dogs organization is now part of history, everyone will have their own unique take or supposition on these five players and their legacy.
It’s easy to draw conclusions about the process or blueprint, these five young players and their families experienced it all first hand.
It was four years in the making, but the Saint John Sea Dogs and their original core group are on top of the mountain, they are champions and no one can ever take that away.
Watching their journey’s unfold and the impact each of them had throughout the Memorial Cup was quite something.
Five players, five personalities, but one common goal. They reached that goal together, which is quite something considering the journey they took to get to this point.