The Windsor Spitfires, hosts and winners of the 2017 Memorial Cup, were not your typical hosts. The format the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) uses for the Memorial Cup includes the winner from the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the winner from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), and the winner from the Western Hockey League (WHL), along with the host city regardless of their place in the standings at the end of the season.
We have seen teams in the past participate in the final that have no business being there and their level of play is usually indicative of that. On the other side of the equation, we’ve seen host teams take it easy throughout the year then get the to the Memorial Cup final and win it all in front of their home fans.
The Spitfires lost out in the first round this year in an extremely hard-fought series against the reigning Memorial Cup champions, the London Knights. Despite a first-round exit, the Spitfires actually looked better than London on paper and much of the time on the ice.
It was the Knights’ goalie and Calgary Flames prospect, Tyler Parsons who stole the show. Michael DiPietro owns the crease for Windsor and he is quite the star in his own right. The rest of Windsor’s roster is loaded, including the likes of Jeremy Bracco, Logan Brown and Gabriel Vilardi up front. In addition, no one can forget their solid back end with names like Sean Day, Mikhail Sergachev and Winnipeg Jets first-round pick, Logan Stanley.
It was a difficult campaign for Stanley due to a torn meniscus in his right knee which required surgery, limiting him to just 35 games in the regular season. Stanley was forced to miss the Spitfires’ first-round series against London, and I would make a strong argument that if he was in the lineup, they would have defeated the Knights. Stanley matched his statistical output from last season but in 29 fewer games. This shows that his offensive touch, which was an area of improvement for the 6-foot-7 monster, is ramping up.
Make no mistake about it, the Jets did not select Stanley 18th overall in last year’s draft due to his high offensive ceiling. Winnipeg wanted to solidify a back end that needs a left-handed, shutdown presence. Many including the Jets’ brass believe he can develop into that role at the NHL level. There are, however, the Stanley haters, many of whom dabble in analytics. The key here is that people need to take Stanley for what he is. He can clear the crease and shut down top opponents physically, and his puck handling is actually quite impressive for such a big player.
With how pathetic the depth on Winnipeg’s blue line looked at times this season, the importance of the Stanley selection increased. While it appears the 18th overall pick may have been a bit high for a player of Stanley’s caliber, he will still make an impact on the NHL stage. With names like Mark Stuart, Paul
With names like Mark Stuart, Paul Postma and Ben Chiarot among others departing in the coming years, there will be some openings for Stanley to earn. Will that year be next season? Likely not. A few years down the road, however, Stanley, sheltered by Josh Morrissey, Jacob Trouba, and Dustin Byfuglien, should be able to step into a bottom pairing and work his way up.
Press box close to the rafters in the WFCU Centre but Jets prospect Logan Stanley still looks like a small mountain from up here.
— Terry Koshan (@koshtorontosun) May 20, 2017
After getting drafted by the Jets in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Stanley said Shea Weber and Tyler Myers were the players he models his game after. It is realistic to assume a big player like the Spitfires defender would select another couple of units. It is much like how every goaltender going into the draft models their game after Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist.
They’re not all going to be superstars. I see Stanley projecting to be a steady defenceman with not as much offence as the Webers and Myers’ of the world but enough to get by. An extremely realistic comparable would be a guy like Hal Gill. Gill played over 1100 games in the NHL yet did not manage a season over 22 points. While I think Stanley could actually contribute a tad more, this is the kind of the player the Jets want. Not like the failed selections of big players in the past such as Jarred Tinordi, Keith Aulie or Boris Valabik.
After recovering from such a tough injury, Stanley was able to play the four games in the Memorial Cup and netted two points. He was able to lift that sacred hardware, and it is players like Stanley that help NHL teams win and eventually move on to play for a greater prize: the Cup that shares his name.