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Moose GM Russell mulls blueprint for championship team

Cam Russell is hesitant to follow the Moncton Wildcats’ aggressive approach to building a QMJHL champion.

Cam Russell is hesitant to follow the Moncton Wildcats’ aggressive approach to building a QMJHL champion.

The Wildcats, who loaded up for the playoffs with a series of mid-season trades, were rewarded earlier this week when they triumphed over the Saint John Sea Dogs in a six-game Presidents Cup final.

After goalie Nicola Riopel returned from the professional ranks in December, the Wildcats made a half-dozen deals, dealing off top prospects and high draft picks to bring in high-powered talents such as Kelsey Tessier, Gabriel Bourque and Nicolas Deschamps.

Russell, the Halifax Mooseheads’ head coach and general manager, called the Wildcats an “amazing team that only comes along every so often” and said the mid-season trades were “a gamble that paid off.”

But he stopped short of saying he’d do it.

“It’s a high-risk play when you unload a lot of your youth and outright go for it,” Russell said.
“It paid off for Moncton ... But if it doesn’t pay off, you know you’re looking at a long rebuilding process.”

The Mooseheads know the risks all too well. Under former GM Marcel Patenaude, they made a similar high-risk play in 2007-08 when they paid a king’s ransom to acquire Brad Marchand.

They ultimately lost in the QMJHL semifinals and are still digging their way out.

Russell is quicker to endorse the Sea Dogs’ more conservative approach to assembling a championship-calibre roster. The Sea Dogs made a number of moves in 2008-09 that set the table for 2009-10, but made very few trades after the season started.

“We’re trying to acquire draft picks and build a team that’s going to compete every year like Saint John,” Russell said.

“You’re going to see them be good next year and be good again the year after that.”

The Mooseheads, coming off back-to-back last-place finishes, have the second overall pick in June’s draft and five selections in the top 37.

Russell wants to replenish the system and hopes to make big strides forward this coming season.

 
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