On the Fringe

It’s load and go season in the QMJHL, but what about those teams on the fringe?

The much anticipation opening of the 2022-2023 QMJHL Trade Period as always is creating quite the stir. Obviously, we all know the contending teams vying for the President Cup and Memorial Cup, but it’s always interesting to see the moves from organizations on the fringe whether their window is one or two years away. There’s asset management and then there’s the roll of the dice. Teams that make the perceived “minor trades” for picks or to off load assets of their own are always trying to target “two year” players. There’s a strong sense that there will be ton of movement, but it’s the calculated or strategic movement of 19-year-old’s that should be of interest. Some trades or asset movement fly under the radar. “At the draft” always comes to mind when trades for picks are made in the QMJHL, but it’s the fringe teams that are always trying to make inroads during this time of year that are the most intriguing.

Who are the fringe teams?

Well, the Moncton Wildcats, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, the Drummondville Voltigeurs, the Baie-Comeau Drakkar and the Chicoutimi Sagueneens come to mind. The two exceptions to the rule are the Halifax Moosheads and Victoriaville Tigres. If they manage their assets carefully they could in fact be set to compete two years in a row which in the junior hockey world is pretty damn impressive.

At this point in their progression those “fringe teams” are no doubt fielding calls on some of their key assets, but they are also planning, building and adding to the the core of what they believe to be their best chance at a championship down the road.  Drafting and developing is key. How do you develop and play your young talent and still stay semi competitive? Well, that’s easy, give your young players some runway to make mistakes and an opportunity to get better by receiving tons of reps and experience in every situation and surround them by key 20-year-olds. Those five teams with the exception of the Mooseheads and Tigres have done a very good job of that but will obviously be looking to potentially add key 19’s or draft picks to the fold. Moving 20’s as discussed in yesterday’s article “The Epicentre of QMJHL Trade Activity” (https://firstdownsportspodcast.com/2022/12/15/the-epicentre-of-qmjhl-trade-activity/) is never easy, but here’s where the roll of the dice comes into effect. What are the chances that those key 19-year-old key additions won’t be making jumping to the pro ranks, especially if they’re already drafted into the NHL? Clearly that’s all part of the risk and reward. Countless teams have been burned before, which can set some teams back quite away. “Oh well it’s only one player.” Yes, it’s only one player, but its usually a monumental cornerstone piece of the puzzle, in which you invested a significant amount of time, money and assets in. Heading into the much-anticipated trade period, it’s always thrilling to see what moves those teams that go all in make, but in a lot of ways the most intriguing trades are those ones on the fringe.

Who will get moved? What’s going back the other way? What picks or players will go back at the draft?

Time will tell, but this is where the fringe moves pay dividends in a few short years down the road.

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