The Flint Firebirds have a chance to make franchise history this year. They are likely to secure their second playoff spot and may even go to the second round for the first time in their franchise history.
For a team that joined the OHL in 2015 when they moved on from being the Plymouth Whalers, they have had a lot of issues. They have always been a bottom team in the Western Conference which has been due in part to ownership issues that caused draft picks. However, the team finally has a chance to win more than 20 games this season.
But if you look around and start analyzing the teams they are contending with, the Firebirds look like a much weaker team on paper. So why are they doing so well?
The first-round draft pick for the New York Rangers has been a points leader in the OHL and a crucial one for the Firebirds. Brennan Othmann currently has almost half of the points more than any other player on the team. With 21 goals and 19 assists, he has shown to be the best player on the ice. There were reports before the trade deadline that said that he wanted out of Flint this season but since it’s past the trade deadline they will keep him for what is probably going to be his last season in the league.
It has been a tough year for junior hockey with COVID-19 making the season just a few instances away from shutting down. With three teams in the U.S, it makes it even harder for governments to decide if they are allowed to cross the border or not.
Being in the U.S has an upside for Flint. The season started with American teams only playing other American teams. Erie Otters, Saginaw Spirit, and the Firebirds all played with each other for a while until crossing the border wouldn’t be a hassle.
The Otters and Spirit are much weaker this year and both teams are close to the bottom of the standings. Although Saginaw has been their kryptonite this season, they have rallied to beat Erie every chance they got.
If issues continue with Omicron and the season doesn’t cancel, having the Spirit and the Otters as their only options is way better than dominant teams such as the Knights or the Greyhounds.
Othman isn’t their only player, but he is a crucial leader on the team. He sets up goals, scores them, and helps out in the defensive zone. There isn’t any player on the Firebirds that can play like him, but there are other players in the league that can and have stronger teams on their backs to show for it.
While Flint’s goalie situation isn’t terrible, it isn’t as strong as other great teams. Luke Cavallin is the only goalie that isn’t a rookie on the team and is the main goalie of the team. With 11 wins and eight losses, he has a 3.42 goals average per game and a 0.898 save percentage.
With three more months of the season left in the OHL, the Firebirds look like to be a strong contender. They are a glass cannon and in hockey that has worked in the past. But their opponents in the West Conference include the London Knights, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, and many others. It will be their first serious run in their seven-year history. They have a lot more cards to pull when the playoffs start in April, but the Firebirds have a strong card that they hope will get them through.
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