More than 100 fans filed into Centre 200 Wednesday night for a unique look at the Screaming Eagles organisation. General manager and coach Marc-Andre Dumont hosted a meet and greet, giving his thoughts on the state of the team and providing the opportunity for fans to ask questions. Meeting with fans was something he had done in Val’dor and he brought the idea to Cape Breton. The event lasted two hours and Dumont likely would have kept answering questions from the audience if not for the weather developing outside. His candour seemed to impress the Eagles faithful.
“Rebuilding” is a term Eagles fans can expect to hear less of in the future as Dumont stated if you are rebuilding, it means that someone went wrong that had to be torn down. He hinted that he would like to build a program that competes every year, but is not unwilling to make some trades if there is a chance to win a championship. Lineup consistency is important to him as Dumont mentioned he had prior teams in Val’dor that were led by overagers who were drafted by the Foreurs and played their whole QMJHL careers there. He noted the importance of having a core of players to bring back each year and added that if you overpay in a series of deals it will hurt the team long term. Dumont really stressed the concept of “adding value” in whatever type of deal he makes.
Youth is a prominent theme on this Eagles team and Dumont seems happy with the group of 16 year olds assembled, although disappointed with the lack of 17 year olds and would like to add to that group. Given the lack of depth among 1995 born players, a question was asked as to why Cape Breton dealt one away in Charles Guevremont. Dumont said he liked the return the Eagles received in Nick Marios, a player he feels is similar in many respects but is one year younger. Guevremont was originally dealt for a pick which was returned to Chioutimi for Marios. Dumont explained the reasoning behind that move was
to not distract Marios with the news of the trade while he was playing at the World Under 17 challenge.
In addition to those playing with the team now, midget AAA prospect Julien Pelletier was referenced as a player with a bright future. Cape Breton dressed seven 16 year olds last weekend- Dumont stated that he had a conversation with RDS reporter Stephane Leroux and Leroux said it was the most young players he’d seen in the lineup at one time. Dumont said it isn’t difficult to get approval from the league to play the extra 16 year olds (league rules only permit 4) if they are all getting adequate playing time. He did note that the grueling schedule can take its toll on the younger players, and that by the time they played Sherbrooke last Sunday some players were on their 6th game in 10 days which is likely too much for a youngster. Dumont described how he recently employed the 1-3-1 style of play for the Eagles and observed that it does conserve energy to play that way. He enjoyed coaching that style and says his players have responded well to it.
One fan quizzed Dumont as to why 16 year old goaltender Alex Bureau has not received more playing time. Dumont said a young goaltender’s confidence is important and that Bureau’s playing time is in line with what 16 year old goalie usually receives. He recognised it is important to develop Bureau as veteran goaltender David Honzik is unlikely to return next year as a 20 year old. According to Dumont, Honzik has been like a big brother to Bureau in the dressing room. Francis Leonard-Mayer, Jacob Fancy and Chase Marchand were discussed as goaltending depth that the Eagles have in their organisation.
Goaltending is not likely to be a high priority in the upcoming entry draft as Dumont said there is a lack of high end goalies available. He is impressed by the amount of young defensemen ranked but said in the higher rounds it is important to draft the best player available regardless of position. Dumont feels the team is in good shape in regards to draft choices, with additional picks having already been acquired for both 2013 & 2014.
Multiple spectators noted the trend of draft prospects choosing where to play and not reporting if they were picked by certain teams. This is of even greater concern for Cape Breton fans after multiple players have left the team in the last few years. If a player is not willing to report to Cape Breton, Dumont says management makes an effort to discuss issues with him to clear up misconceptions but that sometimes a player’s concerns are a bit irrational. Dumont noted that there is protection in the QMJHL’s rules in this situation- a club can notify the league if a player has not reported and be awarded an additional pick in the following year’s draft, one rank later than selection who did not report. They also retain the ability to trade the original player for additional assets.
Dumont stressed getting to know the prospects before making decisions. While still with Val’dor, he met with current Eagle Timothe Simard at his high school and met his family as well. He cited various factors, including watching how a person interacts with his father, that have to be factored into how a player will fit with a hockey club. Dumont says the team’s scouting staff plans to meet with all players ranked in the top 4 rounds and that he will be present for a majority of those interviews.
The European draft is also a concern for Eagles fans and this was addressed by Dumont. Last fall Cape Breton was disappointed when highly touted European selection Adam Veliky was cut out of training camp. Dumont assured the fans that this year the organisation will choose a player they have seen first hand. He cited a variety of contacts he and other members of the Eagles organisation, including former NHLer Marc Bureau, have in Europe. Dumont says the goal of the European draft will not be to “hit a grand slam” but rather a single- hinting the team will stay away from players at large risk not to report and perhaps that the team would opt to go with a younger player. He noted that the release fees for a player can depend on the country he is drafted from.
There was also discussion about a new draft for American players the QMJHL will introduce this spring. Last season, the league expanded the draft by 2 rounds and ruled each team had to select two Americans. This year the league will instead have a separate draft to select those two players. Dumont prefers this arrangement, as in the prior setup a bigger market team like Quebec could pick an American in a later round knowing other teams would shy away from him. Under the new rules, a team like Cape Breton could draft a high end American and recoup assets by dealing away his rights.
Even with the financial discrepancy between some teams, Dumont feels smaller markets can compete. He said that it was a big positive for Shawinigan to win the Memorial Cup in 2012 to prove this. He also noted that a wealthier team like Quebec can and has gone quite some time without winning a league title. Dumont did say that even the richer teams in the league have a difficult time landing American players because the QMJHL only has rights to players to New England, and players in that region traditionally dream of playing for high end NCAA schools.
Along with players leaving the team, injuries have hurt the Eagles this season. Dumont didn’t have any positive news on this front. Kyle Farrell’s time of return is uncertain because of his concussion. Loic Leduc is still rehabbing from
injury and would only return if the team makes the playoffs which Dumont says is still the club’s goal. Jakub Culek may not return at all this season. Both Stephen Midensky and Cole Murphy have upper body injuries and will not be
available this weekend. Dumont also confirmed some very sad news that the team received regarding Charles-Eric Legare. Legare’s father passed away after being in a car accident. Legare has left the team for the time being and Dumont has advised him to take as much time as he needs.
William Carrier has been absent from the Eagles lineup since December and there were plenty of questions about the big winger. Dumont stated that Carrier’s injury is similar to the ankle injury Sidney Crosby suffered, so there is a similar three month timetable for a return. Dumont denied any notion that Carrier was unhappy in Cape Breton, saying Carrier is an Eagle at heart. Carrier made the trek to watch the Eagles on the road this past weekend and celebrated their victory in Drummondville. Dumont did say that Carrier is such a competitor that he is a bit impatient for team success but that he told Dumont earlier this season he would be willing to play on a line with anyone, including rookie Clark Bishop. When asked if he would deal Carrier, or another veteran like Justin Hache that may be AHL bound after next season, Dumont said it would have to be the right deal for the team. He doesn’t want to deal Carrier at the draft and any deal for him at Christmas would have to include both players and picks coming back to Cape Breton.
The Eagles general manager was more candid in his comments regarding 20 year old Alex Lavoie, who asked to be traded this past Christmas. Dumont drew a cheer from those at the meet & greet when he said he felt Lavoie disrespected the organisation by choosing not to return when the team was missing so many players. Dumont felt he could not put his pride above the team and gave in to the trade request because he felt the draft picks that were obtained for Lavoie could help the Eagles in the future.
A tough approach as a general manager is one thing, and another is having a tough club on the ice which Dumont favours. He does not like having a team that can be pushed around. Dumont recounted experiences from his time in
Val’dor, saying he gave star defenseman Marco Scandella the green light to fight. He also believes the QMJHL’s rule against “staged” fights, when two players fight immediately following the faceoff, can be traced back to a game his Foreurs squad had against Drummondville last February.
In Cape Breton, Dumont is thankful to have veteran rugged defenseman Jonathan Oligny on his roster although he noted he often has time finding a willing opponent to scrap. He also praised Raphael Corriveau’s willingness to get involved. Dumont said that the team in Cape Breton is too young to be a truly tough club, and is likely 2 years away from being so, but he will look to bring in some players to fit that mold.
Dumont does enjoy coaching young players though. He described today’s players as being part of the “why” generation, saying the present day teenage hockey player is always looking for more information and is driven to be the best they can be. He feels that with such great access to technology and social media, current junior players are very informed in health and training techniques. Dumont says it is not uncommon for players to contact him, even during the summer, with hockey questions or ask that he contact others in the hockey world to see if they are on the radar for elite teams like the World Under 18 team. The commitment level of the player is one reason Dumont gives for this being a great time to be involved in coaching hockey.
Cape Breton seems to have made a positive impression on the new coach as well, as he spoke highly of his short time in the area. Dumont, who comes across as well connected in hockey circles, made mention of speaking with former Eagles like Max Lesieur and Morgan Ellis who still have positive memories of their time spent on the island. Dumont praised the current organisation as well, from play by play man Kyle Moore to the promotions team to the club’s fans. He also said he’s been impressed with the board of governors and they compare nicely to other administrations he worked for during his time spent in Val’dor and Gatineau (as an assistant coach). Dumont noted that it would not just be himself, but rather the board, that would be involved in any decision to bid to host the Memorial Cup in 2015. Such a discussion has not taken place yet.
Marc-Andre Dumont’s club returns to action this Friday on home ice against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
Pat is a true Cape Breton sports fan who has been through a lot with his teams through his life. A displaced Expos fan, has a bet going with Sportstream’s Mavs Gillis going back to 1995 what will happen first a Dolphins Super Bowl or a Bengals playoff win. The bet continues!!!!!!!!!
Photo Credit: La Press