True leaders on sports teams can mean the difference between winning and losing.
The Sudbury Wolves enter the 2014015 season with plenty of questions to answer throughout the line-up after the loss of numerous veterans.
One of those questions, though, isn’t about the leadership group in the dressing room. The Wolves will be young and lean in some positions early on in the season, barring any trades for more established players.
Having leaders in key positions on a roster is vital in the early going when teams are trying to find their legs and get an identity.
The Wolves have the luxury of seven players who could easily wear letters for the team.
Defenceman Jeff Corbett and forwards Nick Baptiste, Nathan Pancel, Brody Silk, Jacob Harris, Danny Desrochers and Ray Huether all make solid cases for having letters sewn on their jerseys for 2014-15. Of course, of overagers Pancel, Silk, Corbett and Huether, one will not be with the team as each OHL squad can only dress three overage players during the season for games — the question becomes, which one will the team decide it can do without.
Corbett makes an easy case to wear a letter and, perhaps, even the captaincy. He is a fifth-year player who has poise both on and off the ice and wore an assistant’s letter last season. He might be the ideal leader for a team that will be green on the defence and in net, and young up front.
Corbett’s calm demeanour — but don’t mistake him for a pushover because he is far from it — might be the right brand of leadership to keep a young and eager club on even keel.
Baptiste is a slam-dunk to wear a letter like he did last season. He's a fiery and emotional, and plays with an edge. This will be his fourth season with Sudbury, if he is sent back from the Buffalo Sabres training camp.
Baptiste can impact a game like no other on the team. He's also a strong candidate to wear the captain’s letter due to his passion for the game and his will to make a difference each time he steps on the ice.
Pancel broke out last season, while also wearing an assistant’s letter. Pancel is a straight-shooter on and off the ice. He showed he was more than just a goal-scorer last season. He’s isn’t going to wow you with words of inspiration, but Pancel plays determined hockey each game and puts his body on the line. He is a guy you want young players looking up to.
Silk is a warrior and these types of players are valued and respected by all. He came back from shoulder surgery late last season and bravely went into the rough-and-tough areas of the rink despite having to play catch up to the rest of the league.
Silk doesn’t complain; he just goes out and grinds and does whatever he can for the team. This will be Silk’s fifth campaign in the OHL. The team wouldn’t being doing a wrong if a letter was put on Silk’s jersey.
Harris is going into his fourth season with the team and knows what it takes to compete at this level. Harris is going into a bigger role this season and should centre the second line from wire-to-wire. He is a player who accepts any challenge and meets it head on. Harris brings a lot of tangibles to the table.
Desrochers is going into his third season, but has earned respect courtesy of his gritty and unforgiving style. He is bound to see more ice this season and play a bigger role. His style suits a letter.
Huether has shown he is capable and responsible and always gives an honest effort regardless of score. He is a classic lead-by-example type. Huether comes to play each game and can be found dishing out a hard hit or being relentless on the fore check and back check. Huether is a soldier, but all generals start somewhere and he is due to rise up the ranks thanks to his diligent approach to the game.
The Sudbury coaching staff will have the final word on who wears what letters this season, but not before one or two or all of these guys make their case loud and clear to be the main leaders.
Nonetheless, given their choices, the Wolves look like they will be in good hands.
Scott Haddow is a freelance sports writer in Greater Sudbury. He covers the Sudbury Wolves for Northern Life and Northernlife.ca.