Last season went about as well as one could have hoped for the Estevan Bruins.
A young entertaining team gave fans reasons to be excited, in addition to the thrill of being inside Spectra Place for the first time. Granted, it would have been nice if the Bruins could have seized a top three spot in the conference, or advanced to the conference final, but as a whole, it was a very good year.
But a very good year has left fans, and those in the organization, with higher expectations for this season. And for good reason.
Last year's team was young, and relatively inexperienced. It's a different story this year. Twelve players are back from last year's team. Several new players have junior experience.
The bevy of junior-experienced players has made for some difficult decisions for the organization. And that's a good thing. It's better to be making decisions from a position of strength, than a position of weakness. It means you might have to make a heart-wrenching decision, and trade a local player you're fond of, to a team in Manitoba. But, from the perspective of building a contender, it's better to have tough decisions, than to be scouring the country for defencemen who can play Junior A hockey.
Not only do the Bruins have experience at all positions, but they have have brought in some talented rookies. Defencemen David Robertson and Brett Dumaine, and forwards Wyatt Garagan, Dayton Picard and Brandon Halbgewachs are hoping to make an impact this year. Forward Ben Williams might have been the biggest surprise in training camp and in the pre-season.
The top rookie this year might be forward Darcy DeRoose, who was a late cut by the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors. Another forward, Hudson Morrison, technically isn't a rookie, but he has three years of junior eligibility remaining, and has the ability to be an impact player immediately.
The one question mark might be in goal, due to the health of Steven Glass. Glass was terrific last season, and was a worthy selection as the club's playoff MVP in his first year of junior hockey. But a knee injury will sideline him for at least a few weeks.
If Glass is able to come back and play at the level he showed last year, then the Bruins should have their best season in several years. If he surpasses last year's play, then the Bruins are championship contenders. If he isn't able to play, or if he struggles, then the Bruins will have to hope they have the answer to their goaltending situation within the organization, or that they can acquire a top-notch goalie without surrendering a key piece of their team.
But there are still many reasons for hope this year, despite the uncertainty in goal. Estevan teams haven't always met expectations; now's the time to buck the trend and deliver a fantastic campaign.