The Erie Otters are down to their final seven games of the 2022-23 regular season. Although the OHL playoffs aren’t in the cards for them, there is still plenty on the line in these last games.
Namely, the Otters want to finish this season strong in order to position themselves for next season. After all, the team is still in the midst of adjusting to a new head coach in Stan Butler.
Learning on the Fly
The second half of the Otters’ season can be described as a bunch of moving parts. Everything from coaching changes to injuries to new players joining have made this season full of changes on the fly.
Butler’s arrival signaled a fresh start for everyone. Although the Otters are 4-11-1 in the 16 games under Butler, they have shown some flashes. This includes wins against North Bay and Peterborough, two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Otters were never going to learn everything in the last couple of months of the season. But they would be given an opportunity to learn Butler’s style so they can be ready to go for next training camp.
Of the final seven games, five of them are at home including Saturday night’s game against the Flint Firebirds. It’s another opportunity for the team to grow and develop together in front of the home crowd.
Next Season Has Promise
Good teams have a core that is easily identifiable. Thanks to a key move at this past trade deadline, the Otters have not only a good core of players returning, it’s the best core they’ve had in the last few years.
This explains why GM Dave Brown elected to acquire Pano Fimis from the Niagara Icedogs. As one of the best 2004 skaters out there, this was a chance to address center ice while getting someone who could have up to two years left after this one.
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With Fimis and Carey Terrance projected to be the Otters’ 1-2 punch at center, that’s a good start. Then add a more experienced Malcolm Spence along with a top-four pick in the 2023 OHL Priority Selection, the Otters will have talent at all age ranges.
The hope now is that the team is able to get the best from the group they have. This is where Butler’s experience will come in.
Butler’s Big Role
Many think of Butler as a defensive minded coach. While that’s true, he has coached a former 60-goal scorer too in Justin Brazeau.
Part of the reason the Otters hired Butler was to get someone in who can get the most out of the players. This comes with being honest about everything and not holding back.
These last seven games are important for Butler too. He and the Otters want to end the season on a high note. It’s his chance to set forth the tone of the offseason. While wins and losses have their place, the Otters want to make sure the process is heading in the right direction.
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That means their effort is there on and off the ice. That means their preparation is on point. This is the Otters’ chance to start perfecting the little things so they’re ready to put it into practice next season.
Some guys are preparing for next season. Some guys are preparing for their next phase in life. Others are playing to show they can have a role next season either with the Otters or with someone else. No matter the situation, they have a lot to play for in these last seven games.
The Otters have set their sights on finishing the 2022-23 season strong. It could be the springboard to a much better 2023-24.