Friday, 18 May 2012

Montreal would benefit from a second CWHL franchise

Although the biggest objective for the CWHL is to be financially sound, a new problem is slowly emanating. Montreal and its surrounding areas have developed a large number of talented players that cannot be accommodated on one single team.
Similar to the Montreal Canadiens in the days of the Original 6, the Montreal Stars have so much talent in their area to choose from, that not everyone will earn the opportunity to compete with them. Tragically, many talented male hockey players in Quebec between the end of the World War II and the NHL expansion of 1967 did not get the opportunity to compete in the NHL due to the issue of territorial rights (players not being allowed to compete for teams outside of their territory).
History cannot repeat itself again. As CWHL players are not compensated, territorial rights are a privilege for many players, as they get to select the area in which they choose to play. This should not mean that some players in those areas are not given an opportunity to play due to a lack of available positions. The Greater Toronto Area has always had multiple CWHL teams. For over 20 years, Ontario and Quebec have constituted the majority of the national team roster, and with the NCAA producing talent, either the league will need to expand to accommodate the growing talent, or implement a developmental league as a stop gap measure.
While the debate of being good enough to make the Stars is one that could easily be brought up, the reality is that the Montreal area has enough talent to stock two teams. In the former National Women’s Hockey League, there were teams in other areas of Quebec (Ste. Julie, Laval, Quebec City). Compared to the NWHL, the game has grown, and many womens players have become household names.
Nancy Drolet was very effective in her role as a player and manager when she competed in competitive women's hockey in Quebec. The work that France St. Louis and Danielle Sauvageau have done in managing the Montreal Carabins has been nothing short of superlative. Any of these three Quebec hockey legends as consultants would ensure that a second team in the Montreal area would be able to succeed.
The Stars had four goaltenders on its roster during the 2011-12 campaign. If Kim St. Pierre decides to come back from maternity leave, and if Charline Labonte enters the CWHL Draft, a very difficult decision needs to be made regarding Jenny Lavigne. Her performance in the 2012 Clarkson Cup has proven that she is a prime time player and someone worthy of a starting role in the league. After the season that she had, can she truly return to a backup role, let alone the possibility of third string? If there was a second team in Montreal, she could be traded, and given an opportunity to fulfill a deserving starting role. If she is placed in a third string situation behind St. Pierre and Labonte, her only opportunity to play full time again would come in the 2013-14 season, when Labonte and St. Pierre would take a leave of absence to attend training camp for the 2014 Canadian Winter Games squad.
This is a situation that the league must monitor very carefully. With the talent that is continuing to be developed in Montreal, if the Stars remain the only team in Montreal, they could have a roster that is impossible to make. This could discourage many women from pursuing a playing career past university, let alone registering for the CWHL Draft. It would be a huge setback for the CWHL if the Stars had such a reputation.
The league could easily take a defunct team like the Burlington Barracudas (that managed only one win during the 2011-12 CWHL season) and relocate them to Montreal. A franchise relocation would be essential in the long term as teams need to be where the talent is high.
In the 2012 CIS National Women’s Tournament, the Montreal Carabins and McGill Martlets placed second and third, respectively. The Carabins head coach was a former coach with the Montreal Stars, and many of her players are primed for an opportunity to compete at the CWHL level.Considering that the McGill Martlets just had one of their greatest graduating classes (including All-World goaltender Charline Labonte, Jordana Peroff, CIS MVP Ann-Sophie Bettez, and Team Canada alumni Cathy Chartrand), all of these players could easily make the Stars lineup.
Once Melodie Daoust graduates from McGill, and current NCAA players (and Montreal residents) Marie-Philip Poulin (Boston Univeristy) and Lauriane Rougeau (Cornell) graduate as well, Montreal will have an embarrassment of riches in terms of talent. It will lead to a huge competitive imbalance in the league. Although some Stars players may have retired by then, the level of talent would indicate that many prospects will have to wait until a more established player retires to have a chance at making their roster. Therefore, a second team in Montreal would help ensure that the league is able to accommodate other talented players from Quebec, while establishing a more level playing field throughout the league.

1 comment:

  1. The CWHL franchise provides solutions for necessity. After read this article I also think that Montreal would benefit from a second CWHL franchise.

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