Kingston Frontenacs general manager Doug Gilmour knows he has a young team on his hands as he prepares for the 2012-2013 Ontario Hockey League season.
He’s also been around the game long enough to know that when you have a young, inexperienced team, one of the best ways to give the players confidence is to have a steady, cool, mature fella in goal.
With the signing of former Kitchener Rangers and Peterborough Petes netminder Mike Morrison, and pencilling him in as the number one guy between the pipes, Gilmour is hoping he has laid the rock-solid foundation for the Frontenacs’ successful future.
“We’ve seen him. We know him. We played against him. He was in our conference last year, and I think he is a great fit for our hockey club. And the kid is excited to get this last chance. I think he will be good for us,” Gilmour told Kingston This Week.
“He’s a quality kid, which is most important to me. When we spoke to him he told us he wants to prove himself all over again in this league. He struggled a bit last year, but not bad. But in his own mind, he struggled and he wants to come back and have a great year. And he is very excited to be a part of this time.”
After coming over from Kitchener early in the 2011-2012 campaign, Morrison played in 40 regular season games, winning 10, losing 19 in regulation, and another five in shootouts or overtime.
He had a .890 save percentage and a GAA of 3.87 for a weak Petes team.
“I don’t like to even express how many games I think Mike will play, because you don’t know with injuries or anything else. But he’s going to play the majority of games, and that number one spot is basically his to lose,” said Gilmour, who added that the consensus amongst the scouts, some of Morrison’s former coaches and other hockey insiders is that the Fronts got a steal.
Peterborough released Morrison a few weeks ago, meaning Kingston didn’t have to give anything up to acquire his services.
“When we were speaking to Peterborough [during the season] they initially wanted a fair amount of picks for him, but then all of a sudden they just deleted him from their roster,” he said.
The Hall of Fame NHL player jokingly admitted he “can’t figure out goalies,” adding it was a position he avoided unless it was for road hockey, but likes Morrison’s competitive spirit, and feels that working with goaltending coach Dave Franco, Morrison will achieve both his personal goal of having a rebound season, and the team goals of putting a good product on the ice.
“We need veteran players like him. We don’t have many. We have guys who have played a few games in the league before, but for Mike, coming in as an overager, he will be able to teach the other guys as we move forward, about what it’s like to play in this league,” he said.
The Hamilton native will report to camp along with all the other players on Aug. 30. Within 48 hours, cuts to the roster will be made, with most of the younger players sent down to get more experience at the Tier 2 or Junior C level.
Besides Morrison, Gilmour likes what he sees in the Frontenacs’ first pick in the recent Import Draft.
Mikko Vainonen played for HIFK Helsinki U20 where he was the team’s assistant captain, as well as the captain for Finland’s U18 team that competed in the World Junior U18 Championships in April in the Czech Republic.
“He’s 18 years old now, and he’s going to bring a lot of character to the team. He’s not a real flashy player, but he must be doing something right to be drafted by Nashville [Predators of the NHL] in the fourth round.”
With some high draft choices, an influx of experience in the persons of Morrison and the 6’ 3” 222-poundVainonen, Gilmour feels he has a competitive and entertaining team moving forward.