What if the Phoenix did the same thing to us again
Samuel Poulin is once again the cornerstone of the Phœnix de Sherbrooke.
Share September 20, 2020 6:27 p.m. Share And if the Phoenix did the same thing to us again
Jérôme Gaudreau La Tribune SHERBROOKE – After his four victories in as many outings during the preparatory matches, the message launched by the Phoenix is clear. No, we must not be afraid and fall for too easy shortcuts: it was only exhibition games. On the other hand, everything indicates that the Sherbrooke team has every intention of picking up where it left off when the QMJHL's activities unexpectedly stopped last March due to COVID-19.
When the Phoenix saw its dream season put on hold, it had just recorded a 13th straight win. This means that Stéphane Julien's troop has not known defeat in its last 17 outings.
If the rookies did well in the first preparatory games, the leaders then took the lead more recently.
Will the Phoenix once again be able to finish first in its division? Of course! At the top of the QMJHL standings? Why not?
Like the 17 other teams on the Courteau circuit, Sherbrooke lost the services of its three 20-year-old players. Normal. The catch? Alex-Olivier Voyer and Félix Robert were much more useful to their team than the vast majority of other 20-year-old players in the QMJHL. Charles-Antoine Roy was also excellent. Three big pieces less for the Phoenix and four when considering the loss of Samuel Bolduc, who will undoubtedly make his professional debut at the age of 19.
But with the best goalie on the tour, Samuel Hlavaj, and one of the QMJHL's most dominant players, Samuel Poulin, the Phoenix is in an excellent position to repeat many of the exploits achieved last season. Of course, hoping that the Sherbrooke captain would return to Sherbrooke after his third camp with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Sherbrooke organization is still relying on three quality 20-year-old players in Benjamin Tardif, Xavier Bernard and Gregory Kreutzer. On the return of 20-year-old defender Olivier Crête-Belzile, the Phoenix will have a choice to make, which will give him an interesting bargaining chip to compromise by letting go one of these four veterans, in order to respect the limit of three final year team players.
Having plenty of first-round picks in 2017 will weigh heavily in the balance. Imagine: Stéphane Julien is counting on the number 2, 4, 11 and 16 selections of the very first round in 2017, Samuel Poulin, Xavier Parent, Bailey Peach and Jaxon Bellamy.
This famous core of players has finally reached maturity. It is around these veterans that the Phoenix hoped to see his team reach their peak in 2020-2021 during the construction of this squad achieved during the last three years.
Other 19-year-old players are also joining this select group, not to mention the presence of some good young veterans like Patrick Guay and quality rookies like Pavel Grishin, who is however still pending.
The base of the Phoenix is solid. But to reach the same level as last season, or almost, the Phoenix will have to add a little reinforcement by going for, among other things, a second line player, possibly a center in my opinion. Since it only takes one injury to an important player to see the Phoenix find itself in trouble on offense.
By adding a natural marker and improving the offensive punch of the Phoenix, the organization can hope to live a year that can be closer to that experienced in 2019-2020, when this last cohort had still not reached its full potential. And in any case, it will be difficult to come so close to the excellence known last season. Campaigns like this are very rarely seen.
We can only hope that Sherbrooke fans will be able to witness this ninth season of the Phoenix up close, the one where anything goes. Hoping that this pandemic does not come to play the spoiler once again.