Youth Is Served
Griffins start season thirteen with fresh faces and high hopes...
By Jason Kasiorek
It was no surprise that the organization pulled the plug in a major way on last season¹s team, exorcising the head coach and more than half of the lineup over the off-season. It was time to start over, and with a budding base of young talent to build around the Wings set out to fill the roster. The team added a bumper crop of rookie North American Pro¹s, highlighted by super prospects Cory Emmerton, Justin Abdelkader, Jan Mursak and Daniel Larsson. Offensive blueliner Logan Pyett and the hulking Sergei Kolosov were also brought on board as well as Finish League MVP Ville Leino. Grand Rapids took a flyer on QMJHL MVP Francis Pare, inking him and defenseman PJ Atherton to AHL contracts. Another new face is defensive center Aaron Gagnon, assigned by the Dallas Stars as part of a new affiliation agreement.
The next area addressed was a locker room/leadership overhaul. This started at the top with Detroit relinquishing control over the coaching staff, leading to the dismissal of Head Coach Stothers. His replacement was the highly sought after Curt Fraser, who the Griffins had been after for a few years. The veterans in the room were jettisoned with the exception of Randall Gelech, who is on thin ice to start the campaign. AHL MVP Darren Haydar was brought in and assumed the captaincy, and was quickly joined by NHL vet Landon Wilson and former Griffin Garrett Stafford on loan from Dallas (NHL). Scrapper Aaron Downey was added just before the start of the season to solidify the locker room.
Returning from last years club, at least to start the season are budding stars Darren Helm, Mattias Ritola and Jonathan Ericsson, all of whom could be in the NHL in another organization. Blue-chipper Jakub Kindl hopes to rebound from a tough rookie season, while Evan McGrath is looking to build on his strong second half as he fights for his next contract. Also returning to the organization are Frankie Lemieux, Jamie Tardif, Ryan Oulahen, Tom Galvin and Jason Jozsa, all steady, unspectacular performers with a couple of seasons under their belts. The player who may have the most riding on this season is incumbent starter Jimmy Howard who is being pushed from behind, and watching his window narrow in Detroit.
This team has the possibility of being one of the most exciting in Griffins¹ history, as it is already one of the most skilled and deepest. With the fiery, passionate Fraser behind the bench motivating, teaching and cajoling them to the top of their game, this team is primed to overachieve.