Pre-Season Preview: Toronto Furies

Toronto Furies

Toronto won the Clarkson Cup last season as an upset– before the tournament, Elena and I had it pretty firmly down to either Boston or Montreal, as both teams had been pretty dominant all season. We were both proven wrong– the Toronto Furies won their first Clarkson Cup in a 1-0 final over the Boston Blades.

Toronto’s regular season, however, finished with 23 points on the season in 23 games– they actually had a perfect .500 season, with ten wins, ten losses, and three overtime losses. That’s clearly a regular season performance they can improve upon, and Toronto took the first step to improvement by drafting Megan Bozek, second overall, a defender most recently of the US Olympic team that took silver in Sochi.

2014 Olympic silver medalist, two-time NCAA champ.
Megan Bozek: 2014 Olympic silver medalist, two-time NCAA champ.

In her college career, Bozek played on the University of Minnesota Gophers, where she won two NCAA National Championships and was an All-American in 2012. At the Sochi Olympics, Bozek had 5 points, 1 goal and 4 assists, in 5 games.

Of the other six players that Toronto drafted, all but two were defenders as well.

 

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* I can’t actually find anything else out about Saar, except that she’s from Toronto, and she’s a D.

This is good, because Toronto has a problem keeping D for all their games. With 23 games in their season, Toronto only had three defenders dress for 20 or more games– Shannon Moulson, Lexie Hoffmeyer, and Michelle Bonello. Of the remaining five defenders on their roster, Toronto released Sasha Nanji to Brampton after three games, and lost Tessa Bonhomme for the beginning of the season to the Canadian National Team until she was released in November. Britni Smith, Kristen Marson, and Martine Garland all played 15 or fewer games. Smith was coaching last year with the University of Toronto, which caused her to miss games, and it looks like she’s coaching this next year with Clarkson. Marson and Garland may have had injuries or other conflicts– we’re not sure. In any case, having a more stable d-corp and adding another Olympic-level defender can only help that situation.

Particularly, we’re looking for Toronto to improve its penalty kill. Toronto had the second best power play in the league, with a 22.64% chance of converting a power-play into a goal, but they had the second worst penalty kill, at 83%.

In the second round, Toronto took their only forward of this year’s draft, Kelly Terry, a former assistant captain of the University of Minnesota. She was a teammate of Bozek’s at Minnesota, and also won two NCAA Championships. She was also a member of the 2010 Canada U18 team that won gold at Women Worlds U18.

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Toronto has had better luck with their forwards– Carolyne Prevost and Alyssa Baldin tied for 7th in league scoring, with 23 points in 23 games. Prevost in particular I remember as being outstanding in the Clarkson Cup. However, Toronto also had lost several forwards to the Canadian national team– Jenelle Kohanckuk, Rebecca Johnston, Jennifer Wakefield, and Natalie Spooner. While Spooner returned for the Clarkson Cup tournament, and Kohanckuk returned mid-season last year after being cut from the Olympic roster, I haven’t seen comments one way or another from Johnston, but it sounds like Wakefield is trying out for a men’s team in Sweden. In more recent days, Toronto released Jordanna Peroff, a forward with 3 points in 22 games last season, so that she could pursue other things (I’m told hockey) in Italy.

The final piece that Toronto picked up in the draft was Danielle Butters, a goaltender from Minnesota State University Mankato. Butters posted a .924 save percentage in 30 games her senior year at Minnesota State, with a career .909 SV% over 90 games.

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As Sami Jo Small has slowly been relinquishing more and more of the net to Christina Kessler, who actually started all of this year’s Clarkson Cup games, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Butter backing up Kessler on the regular, or even challenging for the starting position. Kessler had a .908 SV% on 15 games with the Furies this last season, although she put up a .957 over the Clarkson Cup tournament.

All in all, I’m VERY excited to see what the Toronto Furies look like next season. I think they picked up a bunch of depth and some solid top-end talent for their blue line, and with the pick up of Terry and the return of their Olympians, their forward group is going to be very strong indeed. I think they’ve given Kessler someone to compete against for the net, which can only improve their goal-tending. In short, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Furies repeat next season– at the very least, I expect to see them neck and neck with Montreal and Boston this season.

 

[Updated 8/28/2014 1:30PM CDT with some more info on where Furies players are going this next season]

3 thoughts on “Pre-Season Preview: Toronto Furies”

  1. I remember a game in February when they had so many defencemen available that they played Tessa Bonhomme up as a forward. Other games they had so many missing that they played one of the Zamora’s on the back-end. I’m very interested to see how the new draft pickups will do in the CWHL & how Coach West will fit them into the lineup. Adding Bozek will be great, especially on the power play. Certainly was tough watching the Furies struggle on the PP in the Clarkson Cup (so many 2-man advantages lost!!!!). I don’t know if Bonhomme will still be doing Leafs pre & post game shows on Saturday nights, but hopefully she’ll be in the lineup more often than not.

    As for up front, Terry is a solid addition to the team. I can see her challenging for a spot on the Canadian National team, so teaming her with Spooner & Kohanchuk in the top 6 is good. Not sure how much Tanis Lamoureux will play (since she too is coaching at Utica) so it’s tough to say where she’ll fit in the lineup. They do get solid contributions from Wilson, Vella, Carrie-Mattimoe & Aarts, and hopefully Allen will keep improving this season as well. It does suck that Peroff, Wakefield & (maybe) Johnston aren’t back for the Furies though. The Olympians will be tough to replace.

    I don’t forsee too many struggles in net. Kessler was amazing at the Clarkson Cup, Sami Jo was solid when called upon. So if plan A & B don’t work out…maybe call Alex Rigsby?

    1. Yeah, that was my real concern with the Toronto D– I don’t think they’ve had consistency, between one thing and another.

      I definitively don’t think goaltending is going to be a problem for Toronto– Kessler had things pretty well in hand most of the season, and as you said, she was *amazing* at the Clarkson Cup. My impression was that Small wasn’t playing as much because of scheduling conflicts (although I could be totally wrong there), she was quite solid when she did play, and she did play 8 games, which is still a pretty solid chunk of a 23 game season.

      What is Rigsby up to, now that she’s graduated? She was playing at the U22s, which I still need to watch, but I hadn’t seen anything else.

      Toronto’s PP in the Clarkson Cup was rough to watch, esp. when I remembered them being pretty good on it during the regular season– am I forgetting something there? Did something happen with Toronto, or was it just the other teams picking things up a notch, getting some Olympians back, etc?

  2. Not too sure Rigsby is doing this upcoming season. I’d assume she’d be like Vetter & play in the Four Nations/Worlds, and train on the side or with men’s semi-pro teams.

    As for the Furies PP in the Clarkson Cup, I’m not too sure what happened. Obviously working Spooner back changed some things for them, but they did have success with her included on the first unit PP vs Calgary & in the Boston series prior to the Cup. I know they seemed to be passing the puck a lot (maybe too much), and not getting off good shots on goal. The addition of Bozek will be huge on the point this year, hopefully she’ll have great chemistry with Spooner or Bonhomme on the back-end of the top PP line. And while Prevost can tip shots very well, I’m not entirely sold on the idea of putting a 5’3 forward in front of a 5’6-5’8 goalie to get a good screen.

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