Barrie Colts, London Knights pinning hopes on 2014 Memorial Cup has reshaped OHL turf: the lay of the land, one month after the trade deadline

One month out from the trade deadline, one firm conclusion is that the Barrie Colts' and London Knights' front offices deserve some very nice Valentine Day's gift baskets from fans who love to see parity in the OHL.

The Ontario Hockey League can justifiably play up its competitiveness, but four of the past five championship series have matched teams which, quelle surprise, also paced their conference in the regular season. The lone exception was in 2009 and it was a small one: the Matt Duchene/Cody Hodgson Brampton Battalion won the Eastern title over the P.K. Subban-led Belleville Bulls after coming second, by two points, in the final standings.

The fact one month has passed since the trade deadline is a prompt to chew over which teams have improved the most. People want to say whether a team's additions and subtractions have worked and they want to attribute it to something. Who is anyone to say that 13 games per team, less than one-fifth of the season, is not enough to make hard conclusions? It really isn't, speaking statistically. A one-month sample of games really doesn't provide any clearer a picture than a cameraphone shot of a post-bar plate of pancakes taken at about 3:45 a.m. on Saturday night. But a look at how all 20 teams have performed since the deadline suggests the season turned when both conference leaders, the London Knights and Barrie Colts, decided their emphasis was on bidding for the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup. The Colts demurred from adding a marquee player, while the Knights ruled out sacrificing maturing talent.

The landscape always changes in major junior hockey after the trade deadline. Please don't read to much into the figures, but the swings in the OHL across the past month might be a harbinger of an unpredictable spring.

RPI since Jan. 10

SRS since Jan. 10

Soo Greyhounds

W

0.595

Plymouth Whalers

W

1.4

Owen Sound Attack

W

0.577

Kitchener Rangers

W

1.3

Kitchener Rangers

W

0.565

Belleville Bulls

E

1.3

Saginaw Spirit

W

0.561

Saginaw Spirit

W

1.1

Belleville Bulls

E

0.546

Soo Greyhounds

W

1.1

Guelph Storm

W

0.544

Guelph Storm

W

1.0

Plymouth Whalers

W

0.544

Owen Sound Attack

W

0.7

Windsor Spitfires

W

0.535

Oshawa Generals

E

0.4

Barrie Colts

E

0.517

Barrie Colts

E

0.3

Oshawa Generals

E

0.509

Sudbury Wolves

E

0.3

Sarnia Sting

W

0.507

London Knights

W

0.0

Peterborough Petes

E

0.488

Windsor Spitfires

W

-0.1

London Knights

W

0.486

Peterborough Petes

E

-0.4

Brampton Battalion

E

0.472

Brampton Battalion

E

-0.5

Sudbury Wolves

E

0.461

Sarnia Sting

W

-0.6

Erie Otters

W

0.447

Mississauga Steelheads

E

-0.8

Ottawa 67's

E

0.434

Niagara IceDogs

E

-1.1

Mississauga Steelheads

E

0.432

Ottawa 67's

E

-1.5

Kingston Frontenacs

E

0.429

Erie Otters

W

-1.6

Niagara IceDogs

E

0.385

Kingston Frontenacs

E

-1.7

Some shallow, probably fairly obvious observations:

— London still has the highest RPI for the season in the OHL and Barrie is a hair higher than Belleville among Eastern Conference teams. And, please, please keep in mind the Colts' sample was taken while Mark Scheifele was mostly in Winnipeg and he's apparently good at hockey.

— The Knights' nearly 100-percentage-point decline in RPI (.578 at Jan. 10, .486 since) is by far the most fascinating, although it's not the largest in the league. The post-Dougie Hamilton Niagara IceDogs have dropped more than 100 — .494 before the deadline and .385 since.)

— The best RPI-derived improvements in this edition of Small Sample Size Theatre? The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, thanks to the magic of a Sheldon Keefe makeover, along with both teams involved in the Vincent Trocheck trade, the Saginaw Spirit and Plymouth Whalers. Saginaw ended up holding on to veteran performers Eric Locke (31 points in 15 games) Garret Ross (26 over that stretch) and stayed competitive.

— Saginaw has made the biggest improvement according to Simple Ranking System (-0.3 before the deadline, 1.1 since). The Whalers, with Trocheck as their primary pivot, have also improved by more than one goal per game, as have the Bulls and Greyhounds.

Perhaps the OHL ends up with another final between No. 1 seeds. The league is overdue to have that not occur, just sayin'.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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