One thing was clear about the Moncton Wildcats heading into the 2017-18 season – the only way they could go was up. One year removed from setting a team record for futility with only 14 wins and 31 points, the Wildcats have exploded out of the gate so far this season, sitting atop the overall league standings with an 8-1-2 mark to open the campaign.
All too used to being among the League’s top teams, the Wildcats have quickly circled the wagons after a single rebuilding season in 2015-16. Full marks go to Director of Hockey Operations Roger Shannon for making his flurry of offseason moves and for remaining loyal to head coach Darren Rumble in light of the club hitting rock bottom last year.
While the Wildcats still have a long way to go with just under 60 games to go in the regular season, they will be looking to make some history of far more positive kind in 2017-18. Should the Wildcats manage to go from worst-to-first and come away with a regular season crown and the Jean Rougeau Trophy, they will have managed a feat only twice achieved in the almost 50-year history of the QMJHL.
The most recent team to manage such an incredible reversal of fortune was the 2008-09 Drummondville Voltigeurs. Coached by current Senators bench boss Guy Boucher, the Voltigeurs were coming off a tough season the year prior that saw them scratch together a mere 14 wins and 33 points, and finish dead last in the QMJHL. The turnaround that would await them would, however, prove to be historic.
Led by their potent top line of Yannick Riendeau, Danny Masse and current Senators forward Mike Hoffman, as well as future NHLers Sean Couturier and Dmitri Kulikov, the Voltigeurs racked up a franchise record and league-best 112 points. That 79-point turnaround was only the beginning for Boucher’s team as it went on to win the President’s Cup that spring.
The first team to ever go from the League’s cellar to the penthouse was the, now defunct, Cornwall Royals. After stumbling through a 44-point season in 1970-71 to finish last of 10 teams, the Royals buckled down and put together an amazing season the following year. Head coach Orval Tessier pushed all the right buttons as his troops went on to post a 96-point season, led by future NHL star goalie Richard Brodeur between the pipes. Like the Voltigeurs, the Royals also won the President’s Trophy that year.
Now back to the Wildcats. Again, it’s far too early to tell whether they will become the third team in QMJHL history to finish first overall after ending up last, but if they do manage it they may want to free up their calendar this spring. A President’s Cup run could also be in their future…