20 years ago George Burnett returned to the Ontario Hockey League after several seasons coaching in the AHL. He took over the Guelph Storm for the 1997-98 season, and led the team to a first place finish in the regular season, the J. Ross Robertson Cup as OHL Champions, and as runners-up in the 1998 Memorial Cup tournament.
Now, he’s built the Guelph Storm from basement dweller to favourite for the OHL title and strong contender for the Memorial Cup this year. The Storm were a strong team, but he used his decades of experience to find the right players to add to his team without sacrificing any team chemistry.
I spoke with Coach Burnett when the Storm were in Niagara to face the IceDogs just after the trade deadline passed.
First we discussed his history with Fedor Gordeev, and why he was brought to the Storm organization.
I drafted him in Hamilton, then I brought him to Flint when I was GM there, so I know him very well. A guy with his size, his reach, he understands the game at both ends. I think only because of circumstances in Flint, with their massive amounts of injuries they had to deal with, he was playing a ton of minutes in the first part of the year, so some of his numbers may be misleading. He’s a gifted offensive guy, he can be very hard to play against. He hits, plays the physical game. It’s not so much a hitting game anymore, it’s a take out, angle it, and shut down game, but he’s big and strong. He’s a good kid.
Bottom line is he’s playing for an NHL contract, he’s motivated, and we’re excited to have him. He can play both sides, he fits in well with our group, and we’re excited to have him.
As a person, Gordeev has the drive that Burnett wants to see on the Storm.
I think I know [Gordeev] well enough to know that he’s pretty determined. He wants to be a hockey player. He and his family have been here for a considerable length of time now, with that in mind. He’s following his dream, and is excited about the new opportunity. As a young man, he puts in the hard work and he’s ready to do that and be a good team mate, and he wants to be challenged and take his game to a new level.
The Storm added nine players without giving up anyone crucial to the roster, while moving some that the team felt didn’t fit into the championship calibre team that was being assembled.
Yeah, we had some teams in Belleville over the years that saw a lot of changes. It wasn’t our plan to make the changes as big as they’ve come, sometimes it’s a matter of circumstance. Most of what we’ve done has been done with draft picks, and we’ve been compiling draft picks for years. There’s not a lot of guys that moved out, but there was a tough move we made to move three guys out, our overage guys, they were a big part of our team, our future, but when you have a chance to make something happen for Sean Durzi, Zach Roberts, and Nick Suzuki - he might be amongst the elite players for sure - you have to think that out. At the end of the day we thought it was the right thing to do for the organization, so we’re hopeful we can have ourselves an exciting finish and go deep into the playoffs.
The OHL trade deadline comes by, and a lot of players get moved. Is it a harder trade deadline to work with than other levels of hockey?
Trades are made for lots of right reasons. A lot of the time it’s initiated by the family or the players representative, but a lot about what you see is kids getting opportunities. Our young kids we moved out were disappointed, but they’re great kids and if we had made a move and they’re still here they wouldn’t have the opportunity to play, which they deserve. They think about it, talk about it with their family and representative, and everybody has the right if they’re high school students to not go. A lot of thought goes into it, and it’s an emotional time. It’s part of the game, and if they’re going to be in the game, it’s probably something they’ll be involved with again in their future.
The biggest names moved at the OHL trade deadline were Sean Durzi and Nick Suzuki, they were the stars of rumours all week. Guelph entered the talks later in the game after rumoured deals with Niagara and London fell apart. Did you seek out this deal intentionally or was this more of an approach from Owen Sound because deals fell through with other teams?
I don’t know if that was necessarily the case. I don’t want to speak for Mr. DeGray [Owen Sound Attack GM], that’s his business. We’ve had discussions about lots of different things, since the Marcus Phillips trade, and things he may eventually do. They made the decision to move their top four players, and they’ve been nicely compensated, young players, draft picks. Every situation is a little bit different. We talked about everybody, but it came together a little bit later. Ultimately we were looking for another forward, with Pavel Gogolev out until the playoffs, so to see players like these come in, it’s just going to help our group.
Adding in Sean Durzi, what can we expect to see of him on this well-built Guelph team?
He’s one of the most skilled defensemen in the league. He can take your power play to another level, he’s got great vision, the ability to get pucks through traffic to the net, he can lug it out [of the defensive zone]. He makes smart choices under pressure, he’s played all of his career in Owen Sound in the small confines of that rink, now he’s got more room here. He’s a very dynamic player and a very mature young man. He’s got a bright future ahead for him, and there’s no question he will make us better. He’s very determined, and when we talked yesterday the big thing he talked about was team. What we’ll do as a team, and what’s necessary. He may not have a letter on his shoulder, but we’ll see a ton of leadership out of him. He’ll support guys who have been going through this for the first time in our program.
It’s the first time in a long time Guelph is considered a contender.
Everybody wants to win, everyone wants to go deep in the playoffs, but there’s understanding the details of the process. We’re going to focus on the Niagara IceDogs tonight, and then the Kitchener Rangers tomorrow, and so on. We’re going to take it one day at a time and I think Sean will be a guy who will help us set that message and lead our team.
For the Leafs fans reading this, will we get to see Gordeev and Druzi paired up?
I’m sure they will be. Not right away, but we’re still playing with pairings, and we’ll try things out. They’ll end up together at some point in time over the next 30 games plus playoffs.
Ontario Hockey League
#11 - Mac Hollowell (D) - 1G, 5A, +11
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - 30-10-4-1 - 2nd Western Conference
Jan. 17th: @ North Bay Battalion
W 5-1 - 1G, 0A, +3
Jan. 19th: @ Barrie Colts
W 8-5 - 0G, 3A, +4
Jan. 20th: @ Sudbury Wolves
W 7-4 - 0G, 2A, +4
The Greyhounds are roughly the same team that went to the OHL finals last season, and are making a case to not be overlooked when it comes to the Western Conference winner. London and Guelph get most of the attention, but there’s a team from up north who will stake a claim for the Wayne Gretzky Trophy. Hollowell is doing his part for the team, adding six points from the back end last week.
#5 - Sean Durzi (D) / #29 - Fedor Gordeev (D)
2G, 1A, -2 / 0G, 2A, +2
Guelph Storm - 24-13-4-4 - 4th Western Conference
Jan. 17th: @ Peterborough Petes
W 5-3 - 0G, 1A / 0G, 1A, +2
Jan. 18th: vs Owen Sound Attack
W 5-2 - 1G, 0A, -1 / 0G, 1A, +1
Jan. 20th: vs Niagara IceDogs
L 4-3 - 1G, 0A, -1 / 0G, 0A, -1
The Guelph Storm got away with murder when they loaded up at the deadline, and only one team was able to stop them last week.
#19 - Semyon Der-Arguchintsev (C) - 1G, 3A, -1
Peterborough Petes - 23-19-1-1 - 5th Eastern Conference
Jan. 17th: vs Guelph Storm
L 5-3 - 1G, 0A
Jan. 18th: @ Ottawa 67’s
L 4-0 - 0G, 0A, -1
Jan. 19th: vs Sarnia Sting
W 6-3 - 0G, 2A
The Petes aren’t doing so well, but SDA is trying to stay on top of a proper post-draft season pace.
#19 - Ryan McGregor (F) - Injured
Sarnia Sting - 19-21-5-2 - 6th Western Conference
Jan. 18th: vs Erie Otters
W 3-2 - Did Not Play
Jan. 19th: @ Peterborough Petes
L 6-3 - Did Not Play
Jan. 20th: @ Mississauga Steelheads
L 3-2 - Did Not Play
Ryan McGregor is injured again, marked down was week to week with a lower body injury.
Western Hockey League
#18 - Riley Stotts (C) - 0G, 1A
Calgary Hitmen - 21-19-3-1 - 2nd Eastern Wild Card
Jan. 19th: @ Edmonton Oil Kings
L 3-2 - 0G, 1A, +1
Jan. 20th: vs Red Deer Rebels
L 4-1 - 0G, 0A, -1
A very low week for the Hitmen, who have a fight ahead of them to hold onto the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
#18 - Filip Kral (D) - 1G, 2A, -1
Spokane Chiefs - 24-14-2-3 - 3rd in US Division
Jan. 18th: vs Vancouver Giants
L 6-4 - 1G, 1A, -2
Jan. 19th: vs Tri-City Americans
L 2-1 SO - 0G, 1A, +1
Like the Hitmen, the Chiefs didn’t do so well, but Kral had a good two games, adding three points for Spokane.
#33 - Ian Scott (G) - 50sv, 55sh, 0.909sv%
Prince Albert Raiders - 39-5-0-2 - 1st in East Division
Jan. 16th: @ Prince George Cougars
W 6-2 - 23sv, 25sh, 0.920sv%
Jan. 18th: @ Kamloops Blazers
W 4-1 - Did Not Play
Jan. 19th: @ Kelowna Rockets
L 4-3 SO - 27sv, 30sh, 0.900
Oh no, has Ian Scott come back down to earth? No, it’s just a blip in an excellent season as the Saskatchewan team takes a long bus ride out to the west coast.
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
#33 - Zachary Bouthillier (G) - 105sv, 122sh - 0.861sv%
Saint John Sea Dogs - 11-32-2-1 - 9th in Eastern Conference
Jan. 17th: @ Drummondville Voltiguers
L 9-2 - 53sv, 62sh, 0.855sv%
Jan. 19th: @ Val d’Or Foureurs
L 4-2 - Did Not Play
Jan. 20th: @ Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
L 8-4 - 52sv, 60sh, 0.867sv%
Bouthillier has a long, long, two months ahead of him. 122 shots against in just two games.
#14 - JD Greenway (D) - 0G, 1A, -1
Dubuque Fighting Saints - 16-14-3-3 - 3rd in Eastern Conference
Jan. 18th: vs Waterloo Black Hawks
L 4-2 - 0G, 1A, +1
Jan. 19th: @ Waterloo Black Hawks
L 5-0 - 0G, 0A, -2
The Saints are leading a clump of teams in the middle of the conference. Too far from second, but essentially a lock for the playoffs. A very bad weekend for the team and Greenway happens, but it can’t be consistent.
#31 - Joseph Woll (G) - 24sv, 25sh, 0.960sv%
Boston College Eagles
Overall - 8-11-2 / Conference: 8-3-2
Jan. 16th: vs Maine
L 7-2 - Did Not Play
Jan. 19th: vs Providence
W 4-1 - 24sv, 25sh, 0.960sv%
Woll had a night off last Tuesday, and had an excellent game when he did play. Woll is having a good season, while the Eagles aren't at their best.
#8 - Dakota Joshua (F) / Ryan O’Connell (D)
2G, 0A, -1 / Did Not Play
Ohio State Buckeyes
Overall: 15-5-4 / Conference: 8-3-3
Jan. 18th: @ Penn State
W 4-1 - No Points / Did Not Play
Jan. 19th: @ Penn State
W 6-4 - 2G, 0A, -1 / Did Not Play
Joshua scored twice and O’Connell is still off the bench and in the box. Freshman hockey is hard to get into sometimes, but he’s been able to get into a lot of games. He’ll be fine.
|Mac Hollowell (D)||OHL||72||59||1.22||32.02|
|Ryan McGregor (F)||OHL||72||57||1.26||33.15|
|Riley Stotts (F)||WHL||56||58||0.97||20.58|
|Semyon Der-Arguchinstev (F)||OHL||40||56||0.71||17.57|
|Dakota Joshua (F)||Big 10||22||30||0.73||21.05|
|JD Greenway (D)||USHL||27||45||0.60||9.84|
|Filip Kral (D)||WHL||30||42||0.71||15.23|
|Fedor Gordeev (D)||OHL||27||57||0.47||12.43|
|Ryan O’Connell (D)||Big 10||2||29||0.07||1.98|