Despite finishing fourth in the Ontario Hockey League’s Eastern Conference last season, the Brampton Battalion were far from perfect.
The Battalion were dreadful offensively, finishing 16th in the league in goals for, and managed a meager six in the second round of the playoffs when they got swept by the Niagara IceDogs.
“Last year we were offensively challenged so we’ve got to try and turn the corner and not let that happen this year,” said general manager and head coach Stan Butler on Monday.
Making the turn even more daunting for the Battalion is the loss of their leading scorer, plus four of the team’s top six forwards.
For Brampton to improve it’s offensive output Butler is hoping that second-year players Brandon Robinson, Patrick Machac, and Jamie Lewis will all be able to build on their productive rookie campaign to fill the void left by the departing veterans.
One of the keys to doing that according to Butler is improving on last year’s 18th-ranked power play.
“We got to try to move up and if we can try to get into the top 10 in the league that would certainly help.”
While offence is clearly the Battalion’s greatest weakness, they will be fielding one of the league’s strongest defensive units.
Brampton has one of the league’s better goalies, Matej Machovsky, returning for his third season, and he’ll be joined by six defencemen from last year’s squad.
This unit allowed the third lowest amount of goals in the league in 2011-12 and will continue to be one of the best in the upcoming season with another year of experience.
And Butler will be relying on his defence to help generate offence by keeping the other team out of its defensive zone.
“Being a strong defensive team will help create more offence for us because we’ll be in the other team’s end more.”
No matter how good the defence is this season, Butler realizes that the mission is simple for Battalion to succeed: “we need to score.”
“I think we’ll still be a good defensive team and I think we can play good defensive hockey but obviously we really have to step up our game from an offensive standpoint.”
Because the forwards are young and haven’t shown a consistent scoring touch in the OHL, most pundits have the Battalion finishing somewhere in the middle of the Eastern Conference.
Although Butler was unwilling to make his own prediction, he did have the final word on the subject.
“It will all come down to how much our offence improves.”
If only it were that simple. But with a strong, experienced defensive unit returning the problem for the Battalion isn’t keeping the puck out of its net, but rather scoring enough goals to support the defence.
“If I had a crystal ball I would probably go to the race track or something. But we just got to wait and see.”
The waiting is almost over. With training camp underway, the OHL’s regular season begins on Sept. 21 for the Battalion.