GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR — Only time will tell, but Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts GM Dave Canning believes this year’s squad will be better balanced and more committed than the Cats of last season.
Canning admits seeing star forward Keith Delaney decide to play out east this year is a loss for the team because the big centreman is his choice as the best Newfoundlander playing in the league. However, Canning feels the Cataracts have a young, fleet-footed roster who appear to be willing to buy into the team concept a lot more readily than some of last year’s players.
“I don’t think we had the team players that we got this year,” Canning said Thursday.
Balance is definitely something Canning feels is in favour of the Cats heading into the weekend series against the Deer Lake Red Wings Saturday (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.) at the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex. He believes the Cats have a solid defence corps and four balanced lines with all the key ingredients in place and everybody is eager to embrace their role on the team.
Nobody is expected to carry the load and management won’t be placing any burdens on individual players, according to Canning.
“I think we relied on some guys too much last year,” he said.
This year’s edition, which will also be without Delaney’s sidekick wingers Shawn Wadden and Ryan Delaney, is a younger, faster mix of players who haven’t proven themselves on the senior hockey circuit.
Regardless of experience or skill level, Canning expects his players to do one thing on a consistent basis to start the season — work hard from the drop of the puck to the final buzzer and never quit.
That’s the message being delivered to the team heading into the season opener against the Red Wings.
“This is the way I want it to be all year ... if we ever lose a game it’s not going to be because of effort it’s because the other team is better that night and they got a break here and there,” he said.
Like the other three franchises around the league, the Cats have some new faces in the line-up and among those are a couple of new imports hoping to make their mark on the senior hockey scene in this province.
Canning has seen his imports ply their trade at training camp and he was pleased with what he saw. Time will tell if the players brought in to lead the charge prove to be worthwhile acquisitions though, because Canning is quite aware that what’s on paper doesn’t really carry a lot of weight if it’s not backed up by a strong work ethic and commitment to a team concept.
One of the new faces in the line-up for the Cats this weekend is import defenceman James Sanford, who brings with him a wealth of pro experience including action in the American Hockey League. Sanford is the fifth import signed on a card by the Cats, but the league limit is four so the Cats will use Sanford for the time being to give him a good look while import Matt Quinn is unavailable for action in the early going.
“He can look after his own end, but he’s going to be more of an offensive-minded defenceman I think,” he said.
He is looking forward to seeing how the imports perform.
“Just looking forward to what these guys can bring. If they bring what was said and what the scouting told us, I think we’re going to have a great team,” he said.
For a look at the rosters of all four teams for opening weekend of the season see today’s Scoreboard on page 14.