Moncton Wildcats’ speculation begins following first-round flameout

The Moncton Wildcats' decision to load up in January read like something that made more sense from a pleasing-ownership perspective than a hockey one.

It was a finals-or-bust move, but it's understandable that the Wildcats organization, under owner Robert Irving, would have a yen to go for a deep playoff run. Moncton has seen its New Brunswick rival Saint John Sea Dogs win the past two President's Cup and a Memorial Cup while the Maritimes' other flagship major junior team, the Halifax Mooseheads, are this season's front-runner. So the finals-or-bust move for Phillip Danault was made, and it busted big time. Falling in five games to Danault's former team, the Victoriaville Tigres, raises the question of what's going to be done about it.

Moncton's veteran coach, Danny Flynn, has been through this stress before, and it's started again. It's vague, but there's a proven championship-winning coach in the province who's been connected to the 'Cats in the University of New Brunswick's Gardiner MacDougall.

It seems best to keep it to the bare bones speculation. Flynn has spent six seasons behind the bench in Moncton, winning the league title in 2010, so his tenure there could be viewed as having hit the stage of diminishing returns. The Wildcats are going to lose several of their top scorers; twins Alex and Allain Saulnier are graduating overages and 19-year-olds Danault, Dmitrij Jaskin and Yannick Veilleux are in line to turn pro as 20-year-olds. Seventeen-year-old Ivan Barbashev (18 goals, 62 points, plus-9 in 68 games) is also rumoured to be headed to Victoriaville in one of those classic off-season even-up trades peculiar to the Q. You can see where this going; it's might be at the get-while-the-getting's-good stage.

On Gardiner MacDougall's end, it would seem like there's no reason for him to leave his kingdom in university hockey. He was overseen something truly special at UNB. There's more stability in coaching a relatively well-funded university men's hockey team than there is in major junior, with the possible exception of Lakehead. Yet it is a step up in profile, a step up in salary and in the calibre of players, if not their maturity level.

And so it begins.

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

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