St. Marys Lincolns have a plan!
And that plan is to rebuild with young players, and hopefully soon get the proud Western Conference franchise back to its winning ways.
With two losses this past week, Lincs have officially been eliminated from the playoffs. The team has eight games left in the regular schedule.
Records will show that the 2014-15 season will be one of the worst in the Lincolns’ 59-year history. Waterloo Siskins are the only Jr. ‘B’ team in Ontario that has operated longer than the Lincolns.
Going into the weekend, Lincs are 2-34-4. They are 0-21-2 in their last 23 games dating back to early November. They have the worst record in the entire 26-team Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, and have also scored just 68 goals in 40 games (another league low).
But Malinowski and the Lincolns’ management staff plan to change all that.
“I knew it was going to be a tough year, but I didn’t expect to lose this much,” the long-time coach said in an interview with the Journal Argus.
“I feel bad for the fans because I don’t know if they know what we’re trying to do here. When you go through the top four teams in the (Western) conference, you have teams with 12 to 17 players who are either 19 or 20 years old. Those are the (age) numbers that win.”
‘Building base’ for the future
At the present time, Lincs have nine 17-year-olds. Malinowski says they are the “building base” for the future.
“Hopefully, we can keep a good percentage of them until they are 20 years old, which other teams have done . . . like Chatham and Sarnia,” he explained.
“This season, we’ve been playing with a Midget team. Our top six forwards are Midget-age, and three of our top five defencemen are also Midgets. We’ve been playing in a Jr. ‘B’ League with Midgets and it makes it very difficult.
“But we’re trying to groom these kids and keep them here, and augument them next year with some 17 and 18-year-olds. In two years, we want to have a hockey team with 19-year-olds that will make a lot of noise. But it takes time.”
Two ways to rebuild
Malinowski says there are two ways to rebuild a Junior hockey team.
“You can buy 19 and 20-year-olds, but you have to make it worth their while to come here. And sometimes you don’t get ones who are too committed. So that way is a crap-shoot.
“Instead, you can groom your own, like a New York Islanders team. You start with young players and they grow with the team and they have a vested interested in the team.
“They’ve gone through the hard times and the good times are going to be sweeter for them. They take a bit of an ownership in it, and they want to be there for the good times. They are real Lincolns.”
Malinowski says it’s similar to building a team with draft picks rather than signing free agents.
Scouting prospects for next season has already started, the coach said emphatically.
“We’ve already targeted who we want--a couple of forwards and a couple of defencemen. We’re working hard on them.
“We’ve already been out there identifying who we want and who we want to keep. We know where we want to upgrade and we know the players who can fill those holes.
“But you still have to run camps. Somebody might come along who really surprises you. So that’s where we’re at right now.
“I want to re-assure the fans that we do have a plan. Hopefully, they can be patient and we hope to have a strong Lincolns hockey team again.
“You know, it’s a strong reflection on the town of St. Marys. I feel bad about that, too. I want to put their name back on the top, and I feel this is the best way to go. Be patient, there’s good times down the road,” Malinowski said.
--On Thursday, Sarnia Sting announced that owners and brother Rob and Larry Ciccarelli sold the Ontario Hockey League club to Derian Hatcher and David Legwand.
The sale is subject to the approval of the OHL Board of Governors.
“It is a bittersweet day for both Larry and myself,” Rob Ciccarelli stated in a press release.
“This hockey club has been a major part of our life for 20 years and we have so many fond memories of being the owners of it. We are very happy though to have been able to put a deal in place with Derian and David as they are both local and are committed to keeping the club in Sarnia.”
--Last Friday night at Budweiser Gardens, the London Knights (OHL) Hockey Club honoured the London Nationals teams from 1965-1968 in a pre-game ceremony as a part of the Knights’ 50th anniversary season celebrations.
Past players and coaches from those years were honoured on ice, following a video presentation.