The winds of change have blown through the Sudbury Wolves roster in a big way.
Rumours have been swirling around the team for weeks, but rumours became reality Tuesday morning with the news that Sudbury’s top two players had been traded to the Kitchener Rangers. Captain Frank Corrado and Assistant Josh Leivo were packaged up and sent off to the Western Conference along with overage goalie Joel Vienneau.
The deal with the Kitchener Rangers sees goalie Franky Palazzese, Matt Schmalz and defenceman Cody Genovese make their way north.
The trade raises some eyebrows as it comes at a time when the Wolves find themselves one of the hottest teams in the OHL, having won four in a row while recording points in ten straight games with a record of 7-0-2-1.
It’s safe to say that Corrado, Leivo and Vienneau are three of the reasons for the team’s recent success.
Corrado has been a rock on the Wolves blue-line, providing his usual steady defensive play as well as contributing more and more to the offence. He also came extremely close to cracking the line-up for Team Canada’s entry at the World Junior Hockey Championship ... ironically, a team led behind the bench by his new head coach in Kitchener, Steve Spott.
Leivo has been one of those feel good stories with the Wolves. An 11th round draft pick in 2009, Leivo quickly became a can’t miss prospect that saw the Toronto Maple Leafs take him in the 3rd round of the NHL draft.
Last season, Leivo had an impressive 73 points and was poised to top those numbers this year. He is currently riding an 11-game point streak that has seen him put up seven goals, 14 assists, good for 21 points.
Vienneau started the season by going public with a brash statement that his goal was to be the best goalie in the Ontario Hockey League. That certainly seemed to backfire early on in the season, but he has turned his game around.
Vienneau started the Wolves last ten games posting a 7-0-2-1 record, while seeing all his personal numbers improve.
The scope of the trade may lead to speculation management is throwing in the towel on this season and is instead looking towards next year. First off, nobody will say that publicly and second, that is not necessarily the case.
The Wolves still have the majority of their team intact and they are adding some key pieces. Palazzese has been one of the best goalies in the OHL this season, sporting a 2.10 goals against average and a .934 save percentage, and is eligible to return next season. As for Schmalz and Genovese, at 16 and 18 years old respectively, they should play a big part of the Wolves future.
It’s almost impossible to rate a trade just a few days after it happens, but it is true that Corrado, Leivo and Vienneau weren’t going to be back with the Wolves next season, so getting some quality pieces for the future has to be considered a good move — management didn’t mortgage the future.
The Wolves organization doesn’t have a history of trading away top talent, even when it seemed in the team’s best interest, so maybe this is a sign a change of philosophy is being made.
The trade won’t be an easy sell to fans though. That will only be accomplished with a winning product on the ice.
The question is, will this trade bring that winner the fans have been waiting for? Only time will tell.
Stew Kernan is the radio and television voice of the Sudbury Wolves, and the news director at EZ Rock and Q92. This column appears every other week in Northern Life.