Record: 9-17-5 (23 points, .317%) 4th in Sherwood
On Pace: 18-35-10 (46 points)
The Stampeders started strong with a 3-1 record out of the gate, had some peaks and valleys since, but a month of November that saw them go 2-8-2 leaves them with a lot of ground to make up in the second half if they want to taste the post season for a third consecutive season under Head Coach Dwayne Kirkup. Although, with Wayway dropping their last couple, and the Stamps winning three of their last four (as of Dec/2), they're now 8 points back of the Wolverines for third, and it looks like third is likely where a Sherwood team will have to finish to make this year's playoffs. The Stamps are 11 points back of preventing the (now) 5th place Saints from taking crossover spot into the Sherwood. The struggles were highlighted by goaltender Jayson Argue getting injured at World Junior 'A' Challenge camp, and missing a month, and when backup Alcide Grenier was standing on his head, the Stamps had trouble scoring. GM Guy Vestby resigned in late Novmeber, after having a role with the team since their inaugural 1999-2000 campaign. The team didn't officially name replacement as "GM," but Jerry Mosiondz has taken on the title as Director of Player Personnel, and, while Coach Dwayne Kirkup's title remains Head Coach, I think it's safe to say there'll be more on his plate.
What they have left: 31 Games
(As I'm typing this, they're 3 hours away from playing in Winnipeg, and they play the Saints Sunday afternoon, so shortly, they'll have more home games than road)
Sherwood Division: 19 Games (8H, 11A)
Wayway: 7 (3H, 4A)
Neepawa: 4 (1H, 3A)
Dauphin: 4 (2H, 2A)
OCN: 4 (2G, 2A)
Addison Division: 12 Games (7H, 5A)
Wpg Blues: 3 (1H, 2A)
Steinbach: 2 (1H, 1A)
Wpg Saints: 2 (1H, 1A)
Winkler: 2 (1H, 1A)
Portage: 2 (2H)
Selkirk: 1 (1H)
What to expect:
If I was writing this in late November, when the Stamps were winless in 9 games in the calendar month, I'd be more or less saying "sell the farm." They're already partway there, after moving 20-year-olds Anthony Nobili and Jesse Enns, but back to back convincing road wins in OCN and Selkirk have me saying "wait and see." I'm interested to see how this young team responds, and how much a roll they can get on. I don't see them adding veterans to try to push for a playoff spot. I think they'll stick with what they have, see if it's enough to get them playoff bound, and if it's not, the three remaining 20-year-olds, Tony Partridge, Beau Taylor and Jeff Riddell could very well find new homes. And before anyone says "the Stamps are turning it around because Vestby's gone," keep in mind who traded for Kyle Smart, Derek Falloon, Ryan Elliot, Brett Charette, etc. Smart's torn it up since coming over from Dauphin, with increased minutes leading to 5g-5a-10p in 5 games. At this time last year, I think I more or less wrote off the Wayway Wolverines' chances of making the playoffs, and they went on to be the hottest team in the league the rest of the way, got a crossover spot, and almost upset Winkler. It worked so well, maybe I should say the same about Swan! All I'll predict is that five Addison teams WILL make the playoffs, so staying in 4th in the Sherwood won't be good enough for the Stampeders. They play Wayway a lot near the end of the season too. I think one safe bet is that BOTH of our local MJ teams won't be in the playoffs this year, like they were last year... and Wayway's got the scoring punch and experience that realistically they shouldn't be caught... but the Stamps' young guns are pickin' up steam. And, they've got a schedule that could allow them to make up ground. Their last 11 games- all against Sherwood opponents.
Most Valuable Player
Jayson Argue, G
In 13 games without Jayson Argue in net, the Stamps won once, and it was in overtime in Neepawa. When Argue's healthy, he's got the stamina to play almost every night, and be one of the best tenders in the MJHL. If the Stamps can close the gap on a playoff position, Jayson Argue will be a major reason why.
Runners-Up: Justin Valentino, F; TJ Fairall, F; Brendan Mitchell, D
Beau Taylor, F
13 goals in half a season, but no one really talks about Beau Taylor as being a top end scorer in the league. Taylor had a 7 game streak where he scored one goal in each game, and he provides a consistent, hard-work effort every night. The Auzzie product would be a great addition to a playoff-bound team, if the Stamps end up out of the race.
Runners-Up: Brendan Mitchell, D; Colton Magwood, D
Justin Valentino, F
Tied for the team-lead in points at the midway point, Valentino has 10g-19a-29p in 31 games. Valentino was second in Manitoba 'AAA' Midget League in scoring last season, and the Stamps knew they had a star in the making. He even had a goal and an assist in his first game as an AP last season. Eligible to play another two seasons after this one, Valentino will be a big part as the Stamps look to build their roster up to what it was two seasons ago in the Stevens, Marshall, Reimer, Gray days.
Runners-Up: Sam Briscoe, F; Riley Hiebert, D