A few weeks ago I wrote about the NSMMHL and the playoff system for the league. Looking at the standings there were five teams at the top separated from the three at the bottom by ten points, with the Weeks Major Midgets sitting in seventh, having to play the second place Halifax Titans in the first round of the playoffs.
I believed the bottom two teams wouldn’t get much out of the playoffs and wouldn’t put up much of a fight and that the league should look at a system similar to the AUS men’s hockey league.
I have to admit the Weeks Major Midgets showed another gear for five straight playoff games that they had only shown shades of throughout the regular season. In the playoffs they lost Mark Vokey, their leading scorer; Cole Livingstone, fourth on the team in scoring; and in the final game Lane Cormier, second on the team in scoring, all because of suspensions, but still were relentless in their effort against the Titans.
They lost 7-4, 2-1 (overtime), 4-1 and 4-2, while winning 5-3 in Game 4.
Like Dave MacIntyre said after his team was eliminated, they weren’t expected to win one game against Halifax, let alone be in the games like they were. The fact they did that without top players in the lineup speaks volumes to the passion they had towards showing that they deserved to be there and their desire to upset a top team in the league.
On top of that, captain, defenceman and the only graduating player, Darryl Wheadon asked to play up front to make up for missing forwards. That says a lot about Wheadon as a leader and a player, so props to him. He was in the lineup Sunday for the junior B Scotians for their final regular season game against the Glace Bay Miners, just a few days after being eliminated, which also shows the passion for hockey he possesses, never wanting to be away from the game.
When looking towards the coaching staff, as so many have done this year with comments on stories and the odd e-mail to me about them, I do have to say that I like what they were doing this season. I like dealing with people that tell me where I stand with them and they treat their players the same way.
If the staff weren’t happy with the teams performance or felt they weren’t taking the things from practice they should have they let the players know that. At the major midget level babying players and sugar coating criticism about their performance won’t make them better in my opinion; so I think their approach in that regard was great.
Continuing on that point, after making it clear what they wanted out of their players they did begin to focus more on the positives as the team improved after the Christmas break because the positives had become more frequent. Again I liked this approach to letting their team know they were improving, once they had shown improvement and that they bought into the systems being put in place.
Like multiple people have said both in comments online and in person, it’s funny how the “best” coaches seem to be in the stands. I agree with that because sometimes it isn’t as black and white as it looks in a game.
The one final thing I will say, in my defence, on my thoughts on cutting the seventh and eighth place teams from the NSMMHL playoffs is: 21-2.
That’s the score differential between the first place Valley Wildcats and last place South Shore Mustangs through the four games need in their quarter-final series. In their first game they only won 1-0, but after that they won by three, ten and five goals to finish out the series.
They also only allowed 74 shots in four games. In most series that was near the shot totals for each individual team, not just one team, through two games.
I still personally believe there’s some problems with the way the teams in the final two spots make the playoffs, especially when costs are associated with travelling for a playoff series that is mostly one-sided.
There are always two sides to the issue, but I’m glad that the Weeks Major Midgets showed that just cause they finished seventh that it didn’t mean they couldn’t compete with a top finisher.
Christopher Cameron is the sports reporter for The News and can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter: @NGNewsChris.