Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Wolves' Deals Paying Off

On Jan. 8, 2012, the Sudbury Wolves made one of the biggest trades in recent memory, and maybe in the franchises' history.
Aside from acquiring Micheal Sgarbossa a few seasons ago, this was a big, big deal.
The Wolves sent captain Frank Corrado, leading scorer Josh Leivo and starting overage goalie Joel Viennuea to the Kitchener Rangers for goalie Franky Palazzese, defenceman Cory Genovese and rookie Matt Schmalz.
On paper, the Wolves were the losers of the trade, giving up three key players from their team that was the hottest in the Ontario Hockey League.
They surrendered a total of 25 goals, 46 assists, not to mention their starting goalie.
In another deal, the Wolves sent defenceman Justin Sefton to the London Knights for defender Kevin Raine.
At the time, it was a bit of a surprise sending a veteran defenceman who had spent his entire career with the Wolves to the Knights.
The Wolves had been climbing the Eastern Conference standings steadily thanks to all four players they dealt away and it appeared that they were on a path to rebuild and look to the future.
But since the trade, the Wolves haven't missed a beat and have actually continued their hot play.
The team is currently 6-2-3 since the trade and find themselves in fourth place in the conference.
The additions the Wolves have made have been absolutely integral to the success of the team.
Palazzese has been nothing short of spectacular since arriving on the scene, rookie Schmalz has provided size and skill, producing five points in nine games with the Wolves.
He's also a plus-7, compared to scoring just once in 25 games with the Rangers and piling up a minus-3.
Genovese hasn't been flashy, but has been a steady force on the blueline, helping the Wolves in their own end.
Palazzese is 5-2-3 since becoming the Wolves starter, earning a 2.71 goals against average and a .922 save percentage, as the Mississauga native picked up a shutout win in his debut with Sudbury.
While his stats are impressive, he has provided the Wolves with such stability in between the pipes, that the team is playing maybe better than ever.
They seem to have the confidence to play any style of hockey, knowing they have a reliable goalie behind them.
At first glance, the trade wasn't what everyone thought the Wolves needed, but since the deal, the team hasn't missed a beat, nor have they slid down the standings.
It truly was a win-win for both teams.
On the other side, the Rangers picked up key players to help in their battle in the Western Conference with powerhouse teams like the Knights and Owen Sound Attack.
Leivo has 14 points in 12 games with the Rangers, including the winner in overtime against the Wolves, in the team's only visit to Sudbury.
Corrado has five assists in 11 games and is an impressive plus-12.
Vienneau, who was inconsistent with the Wolves, despite playing very well lately, has been very good since becoming a Ranger.
He's 6-1-1 with a 2.41 goals against average and a .956 save percentage in eight starts.
All six players in the deal have been key to their team's success in the past few weeks.
In the other deal the Wolves made, they sent Sefton to the Knights – a player who despite his size and toughness, sometimes lacked a little intensity and grit on the blueline.
Sefton has two points and six penalty minutes in nine games with the Knights.
As for Raine, he has been a huge addition to the Wolves' blueline, providing a tonne of big body checks, stability in the team's own end, as well as making it tough for the opposition to play in the front of either one of the Wolves goalies.
He also has five points in 11 games with Sudbury, along with 10 penalty minutes and is a plus-5.
The trades also gave opportunities to other players, especially the Wolves current top line made up of Mathew Campagna, Nathan Pancel and Nick Baptiste.
That trio has been a dangerous line for Sudbury and have assumed the role of top offensive threat.
But it's not just those three who have excelled.
Dominik Kubalik and Dominik Kahun both have caught fire with the added ice time and roles, Brody Silk continues his strong play and Mike Kantor has been a force after being named the team's new captain.
Despite losing a goalie, defender and forward, the Wolves have had every sing player step up, both offensively, defensively and physically.
Many jumped all over general manager Blaine Smith for making this trade, but now the fans and city are jumping up and down that the deal was made.
The East is very competitive, with basically the top six spots up for grabs.
With the way the Wolves are playing, and with the lineup they now have after the trade deadline and heading into the final 15 games of the season, they are as dangerous as any team in the conference, maybe the league.

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