There are expectations on North York, which is without question.
Last year in the playoffs a less heralded group of Rangers beat the league’s No. 1 seed and then gave the eventual OJHL champion St. Michael’s Buzzers all they could handle.
With that in mind, a coach could take a few approaches: he could temper those expectations or shrug them off, or even bold-faced lie and say that there are none.
Yet North York bench boss John Dean would rather focus on another goal, than where the team will finish when all is said and done.
“We’re trying to develop winning habits right now,” he said.
“We don’t want to wait for the playoffs, we don’t want to talk too big about our goals for the end of the season; I think our goal as a team is to develop the proper culture and habits that winners have.”
Talent certainly is not expected be an issue for the boys in blue, with depth at all positions from goaltender out.
The likes of former Team Canada East net minder Jason Pucciarelli in goal, a solid corps of defenders led by Patrick Piacentini and the newly acquired Alex Leader, and an enviable cadre of snipers including two of the league’s best in John Carpino and Corey Kalk mean that on paper, the team should be a serious league contender.
But as last season proved, paper is almost meaningless.
“We learned a lot of good lessons last year,” Dean said.
“We learned what it takes to win and we plan on working towards that every single game, every single practice because it is that work that makes success possible in this game.”
One year ago, then-assistant captain Scott Maguire emphasized how easy of a group it was to lead – that the maturity level of even the younger players was at an impressive level.
So it’s not hard to believe Dean when he says that the question of picking captains and leaders is not one keeping him up at night.
“I think this team is very heavy in ’93 and ’94 birth years,” he said, suggesting that his club is certainly on the veteran side of the spectrum.
“I think there will be a real team leadership component this year, where we lead as a group and I think everyone is going to hold everyone accountable and in the right mindset.”
So with leadership and corps in tact, the only goal Dean and general manager Claude Desjardins had in mind was a good pre-season; and by all accounts the hunger and competition level in camp has been off the charts.
For a compete-level junky like Dean, that is high praise.
“I could not have asked for more from these guys in practice,” Dean added.
“If we keep up competing like that, develop the culture and habits that we want and believe we can have, then the sky is truly the limit for this group.”