Wednesday, May 24, 2017

BM's Muddled Mindtrip:May 24th,2017

Five random thoughts from this very random sports blog that  I will share weekly.

1)"PR over Performance"

From a very young age, Jordan Spieth was anointed as golf's "next one". Given the state of the PGA Tour, filled with parody, was this label a fair one? Not necessarily from my vantage point considering when you breakdown the game of Spieth, statistics will suggest that he doesn't excel in one particular category that knocks you out of your chair however it's the methodical, course management approach that has become his bread and butter but the reason this Texan came to the forefront was how he's been trending as of  late, of note in 2017 and whether buying his own press is affecting his own brand. Case in point his 2017 season where granted he's picked up a W at the historic Pebble Beach but has missed the cut three times, most recently missing consecutive cuts. In his hay day Tiger Woods wouldn't miss three cuts in three years let alone in two months. What I've been noticing is that when you tune in to a Spieth press conference, the common denominator is he continuously harps on patience and course management which as mentioned has become his calling card but to transition back into the Dustin Johnson and Jason Day category, he has to start to stop concerning himself with perception from media and fans alike and begin concentrating on the facets that will carry the twenty three year old to the winners circle more frequently.

2)"Mem Cup Dub Flub"

The Seattle Thunderbirds bowed out last night at the 2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup by going winless at 0-3. The early prognosis on the aforementioned outcome after perusing message boards was one of disgust. Here's the truth of the matter, if league commissioner Ron Robison had even the faintest hope of success for Western Hockey League champion Seattle Thunderbirds and for any future league winner then its about time he have a spirited conversation with CHL  head honcho David Branch about the trading practices in other leagues as with the way the Ontario and Quebec rosters construct the rosters comparatively to that of the WHL, it's next to impossible to compete in the modern day Memorial Cups. Take a  look at the Erie Otters and host Windsor Spitfires specifically and how in the year 2017 they were expending draft picks in 2025! It's re-assuring noting that some kid playing novice hockey just beginning to skate is being affected by these transactions. Expendng future assets to ensure not parting with anything or anyone in the immediate vicinity has zero consequence on these organizations and needs to be kiboshed immediately. By doing so, it'll put this great championship back on a level playing field.

3) "Maria Maria"

Controversy ensued this week as organizers of  tennis' Rogers Cup enabled Maria Sharapova with  a wildcard main draw entry  days after Roland Garros executives had just laid down the proverbial hammer by denying Maria an invitation to participate in the upcoming Grand Slam. The Roland Garros decision makers were lauded by fans and fellow players for determining that Sharapova should not be rewarded for her cheating behavior in which she tested positive for a banned substance that led to a year ban already so to throw this back on those who were adamantly opposed to Maria getting awarded main draw perks, has she not already served her time? In a long winded instagram post when the suspension was first announced,Maria illustrated repentance for her actions and admitted her mistake I can't help but feel she is unfairly being made the poster child and has become the victim of gender bias. Why is it that when greats such as Yankees pitcher Andy Pettite or Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun commit similar infractions are they not ostracized from the powers to be in the sport but when Maria had tested positive she was egergiously condemned. The very same critics in the media roasting her have to be held accountable when citing similar examples and need to self-assess how they treated past incident which I can assure you are nowhere near as severe as what I'll classify as "Sharapova-gate"

4) "What's fair is fair"

Let me qualify this below rant by stressing that you won't find a bigger fan of TSN's James Duthie than myself but his opposition to the shootout for this past Sunday's IIHF World Championship gold medal final is counter productive for his network desperately trying to increase it's rankings. Listen, Duthie is a hockey purist and understandably any hockey purist won't appreciate a hockey game decided by a glorified skills competition HOWEVER for a casual fan of hockey and sport, the finality of a shootout becomes extremely exciting and I guarantee there were a few nine year old kids, after Sweden had claimed the gold medal over Canada that scurried out to the streets to re-enact their favourite players move.I know my nine year old self would've done this.As someone pointed out on radio this week, the World Cup of Soccer has long been notorious for having the shootout decide instant classics and you won't find a more popular event globally then the World Cup. The  message I'm attempting to get across is no, the shootout isn't "fair" but fair doesn't necessarily  always breed ratings.Excitement does.

5) "Medicine Hat Pats"

Have the Medicine Hat Tigers and Regina Pats ever become recurrent trading partners! From the October 2013 acquistion that brought Regina overager Boston Leier to Medicine Hat shipping in stalwarts Dryden Hunt and Kyle Burroughs for their 2014-2015 playoff push, the two sides engaged in yet another deal this time with Matt Bradley coming over to Regina to aid their 2018 Memorial Cup hosting push. By doing so, the Pats had to unfortunately say goodbye to former first round pick goaltender Jordan Hollett. Nothing against the 2015 Montreal Canadien selection  Bradley but my hope was and would've been that our most appealing trade chip in the eighteen year old Hollett would've netted more then a twenty year old in return. Pulling away from my thoughts on how this deal effects the on ice product, this deal was spearheaded primarily by Coach and GM's John Paddock's loyalty. The Leaderpost did a feature on the acquisition and in a quote from Paddock he indicated that in his exit meeting with Jordan he told the youngster that he would be playing next year and that he just couldn't guarantee that would be in Regina. Again, you can rightfully argue if enough was extracted for Jordan but with him being a good soldier, a two year backup, he did him right by ensuring he'll go somewhere where he'll see the crease. This type of operation bodes well for the future as any parents who may have reservations with sending their kid to the Western Hockey League will now have seen that this ownership group looks after their players and optimizes their potential by ensuring they're in the proper environment.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

BM's Muddled Mindtrip:May 17th,2017

This blog has been guilty of inconsistent entries and the  onus for that falls squarely on my shoulders.  I used to pride myself on endeavouring on essay pieces and while that will happen from time to time again,it donned upon me that there was a certain randomness that differentiated this sports blog from many others so it's important(in my opinion) that I encapsulated on that and as opposed to sticking to singular themes, to drive the passion and to maintain consistency I'm hellbent on publishing a weekly segment focused on five musings from the World of sports in no particular order or reason that I deem worth ranting about. As the avid readers of the blog are well aware, the Western Hockey League remains an entrenched passion of mine thus comprehensive coverage will be attempted to be continued throughout the season but as the "off-season" has begun compounded by my willingness to reinvigorate this enterprise, I thoroughly hope you'll enjoy what I'm choosing to title,"BM's Muddled Mindtrip" 

1) "Si woo-ing major titles"

It's happened. Many in the golfing industry we're hesitant to acknowledge this obvious ascertation in the yester-year but similarly to that of the LPGA tour,, the PGA Tour is in the midst of it's own "Asian invasion" and debate is rampant whether this is a good or bad thing for the tour.  The standard argument is that the language barrier hurts marketability amongst the majority of the Asian stars but that's flawed when surmising that global growth has skyrocketed and just take a look at the winners list of the last two years to understand that it takes a very naive individual to believe that golf is singularily America's game for it is now. Hideki Matsuyama may be labelled as the modern men's game pioneer and his two 2016-2017 PGA tour wins,four altogether validate that hypothesis but there is a particular twenty one year old Korean star by the name o Si Woo Kim that broke through at the 2017 Players Championship and assuming he can circumvent his required military duty) an immediate major title is in his vicinity. 

2) "Low of Oil"

Peter Chiarelli and coach Todd McClellan have rejuvenated the City of Champions pertaining to their professional hockey team but after bowing out in the seventh game of round two against the Anaheim "should be mighty" Ducks, critics out of Northern Alberta have since begun to chime in over the futures of Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Reports went so far to suggest that Jordan could be exposed to the Vegas Golden Knights which I chalk up as a ridiculous notion. The bias is certainly beaming through being as Jordan once shone for my hometown Regina Pats and for the record I haven't been the biggest fan of his play over the last calendar year but shame on those trying to tell me that he has negative value and couldn't bring back  B level defensive stalwart,I refuse to believe it.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is a player who tallied fifty one points often times getting relegated to third line duty.If you accept the fact that he'll never be a first line winger, topping out as  a complimentary second liner then a team looking for an upgrade at wing will reap the benefit. I predict that the Oil will wrongfully elect to hold on to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins while packaging out Eberle.Prediction is that by July 1st, Jordan will find himself alongside Noah Hanifin and the Carolina Hurricanes.

3) "Unwarranted loyalty"

A fascinating topic worth discussing is what is the proper way of handling loyalty for organizations that reign victorious is balancing loyalty versus grading performance. Case in point,Cubs lead off hitter and left fielder Kyle Schwarber. This  is as unique of a case as ever because while manager Joe Maddon rigthfully looks to reward the escapades from a year ago, Schwarber up until the World Series against the pitching deprived Cleveland Indians wasn't part of the picture as he was rehabbing an earlier suffered 2016 injury. The cold hard truth is that Kyle is hacking at a measly .187 pace, in other words not the type of statistics that a very innovative manager in Maddon would condone or stroke the ego of.  SIx home runs in one hundred and thirty nine plate appearances is respectable but perplexing at the same time for why he isn't being dropped down to a more power position in favour of a Kris Bryant or Addison Russell, who's on base percentages have greatly exceeded that of Kyle.I could never question the tactics of Maddon but perhaps it's time to take a page out of the book from Ned Yost where the 2015 champions have demoted once leadoff staple Alex Gordon to the nine slot.

4) "Cosmo Kramer"

When news broke that the City of Regina in partisan with "Soccer day in Saskatchewan" was announcing that Spanish soccer giant Valencia FC would rival the New York Cosmos in a friendly my first thought was the Valencia had agreed to play a power from the MLS. The false original presumption was that the Cosmo's were New York's,MLS organization but further research proved that the New York City FC were property of the MLS and the Cosmos were a member of the previously unheard of North American Soccer League. Second observation related to this is what is a team that lays claim to international superheroes in Nani and Rodrigo doing in the same galaxy against what would be the equivalent of a ECHL hockey team locking horns with the New York Islanders. My fear is, not a big enough fear to not attend as the announcement intrigued me is Valencia will use the friendly for developmental  purposes and field their "C" team. The closest that Nani and Rodrigo may come to Regina is the iconic "Hotel Regina" located in Milan.

5) "Lonzo lottery"

The NBA draft lottery is complete.The lottery capitvated me so much so that I failed to tune in but it was the aftermath that lured me back in  Any astute basketball fan knows that the Boston Celtics engaged in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets, perhaps in what will go down as the worst basketball transaction in history where, courtesy sent Kevin Garnett,Paul Pierce,Jason Terry and D.J White to Brooklyn in exchange for Gerald Wallace,Kris Humphries,Marshon Brooks and Keith Bogans and Kris Joseph ALONG with three first round picks, the last of which in 2017 ended up being first overall. This deal was conssumated in 2013,essentially around the time where the prime of the great Garnett and Pierce began to wind down. If this very deal transpired in 2003 I wouldn't even wink an eye but given the state of the current franchises, the soundbite given by then Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is now legendary as at the time he stated" Today, the basketball gods smiled on the Nets". No Mikhal, that day you aided a now young juggernaut Celtics franchise. The embarrassment of riches the Celtics now have in the stable is borderline unfair. From Kelly Olynyk to Jae Crowder to Isiah Thomas, the proud Celtics project to be dominant for many years. The only caveat is it has created an interesting dillema for Celts management with what to do with the selection. Do they trade the pick to enhance the 2017-2018 regime? Do they pick Washington alum Point Guard Markelle Fultz pairing him up with another Huskie alum in Thomas OR do they do the inconceivable and welcome in Lonzo Ball and his nutcase father Lavar. The latter is very unlikely as knowing Lavar he'll probably demand they replace the statue in front of the Boston Gardens of Bobby Orr with one of his son.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

BM's notoriously unreputable Annual Major League Baseball Prognostications:2017 edition

Reviewing my predictions from a year ago I was overall satisfied with how my read on the 2016 campaign turned out to be. The Red Sox-Cardinals was my World Series predictions and when I break down the teams respectively,Boston was exactly who I thought they had the potential to be with Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley coming into their own with the former a legitimate MVP candidate.Pertaining to the St.Louis Cardinals, after an admitted dismal start they nearly clawed their way back into wildcard contention. What went wrong in St.Louis...well the sudden freefall of once unhittable Trevor Rosenthal didn't do the bullpen any favors and it wasn't until manager Mike Matheny demoted Trevor from the closing role that things calmed down in Missouri.

The past is the past and I intend to nail my 2017 predictions. This entry is simply laid out in the sense that I rank division by division and then post-season using my regular season standing ranks. After that is complete, I will hand out some individual honours to those projected to have standout years.


American League:


1.Boston Red Sox(2)
2.New York Yankees(W1)
3.Baltimore Orioles
4.Toronto Blue Jays
5.Tampa Bay Rays


1.Cleveland Indians(1)
2.Detroit Tigers
3.Minnesota Twins
4.Kansas City Royals
5.Chicago White Sox


1,Seattle Mariners(3)
2.Texas Rangers(W2)
3.Houston Astros
4.Oakland Athletics
5.Los Angeles of Anaheim Angels

National League:


1.Washington Nationals(1)
2.Philadelphia Phillies(W2)
3.New York Mets
4.Miami Marlins
5.Atlanta Braves


1.Chicago Cubs(2)
2.St.Louis Cardinals
3.Milwaukee Brewers
4.Pittsburgh Pirates
5.Cincinnati Reds


1.The Angeles Dodgers(3)
2.Colorado Rockies(W1)
3.Arizona Diamondbacks
4.San Francisco Giants
5.San Diego Padres


Wildcard Round

Texas Rangers over New York Yankees
Philadelphia Phillies over Colorado Rockies

Divisional Round

Cleveland Indians over Texas Rangers in four
Seattle Mariners over Boston Red Sox in four

Washington Nationals over Philadelphia Phillies in three
Chicago Cubs over Los Angeles Dodgers in four

Championship Round

Cleveland Indians over Seattle Mariners in five
Chicago Cubs over Washington Nationals in six

World Series

The Cleveland Indians exact revenge against last year's foe Chicago Cubs by winning in six games.

Individual and Miscellaneous:

AL MVP:Jose Altuve(Houston)
NL MVP:Javier Baez(Chicago Cubs)

AL Cy Young:Danny Salazar(Cleveland)
NL Cy Young:Stephen Strasburg(Washington)

AL Rookie of the Year:Yoan Moncada(Chicago White Sox)
NL Rookie of the Year:Alex Reyes(St.Louis)

AL Manager of the Year:Joe Girard(New York Yankees)
NL Manager of the Year:Bud Black(Colorado)

First Manager fired:Kevin Cash(Tampa Bay)

Home run King:Rougned Odor(Texas)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts Preview

After humming and hawing for  a little while I've decided to continue what I debuted last curling season, and that was previews for both  the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and the Tim Hortons's Brier. The 2017 Scotties kicks off this week in St.Catharines,Ontario. As I usually note in these previews, I most certainly encourage feedback and as has become tradition, I will rank the teams in descending order whilst creating a separate list for the four teams involved in the pre-qualifier/relegation portion. Am I crazy that next year Curling Canada is adopting a pool format? Not at all but it trumps this ridiculously conceived relegation event. Enjoy!

11.Team Nova Scotia(Mary Mattatall)

This one is a difficult prognosis for me. I was under the belief, in many aspects still am that the state of Nova Scotian women's curling was headed in a positive direction. As much as their are still some noteworthy achievements from the women in the province, particularly the run that now "retired?" Mary Fay went on last season all the way to a Canadian Junior title, the provincials taught me, and kudos to a regional network for providing a webcast that until the now led Kristin Clarke team becomes fully fledged in women's play, Nova Scotia curling is in for a bumpy ride nationally the next  couple of seasons. Not to sound too harsh but in the select webcasts I was privy to, I can difinitively say that Matatall's foursome looked to be the weakest of the bunch and am still shocked that one of Jill Brothers or Mary-Anne Arsenault didn't reign victorious. As the ranking of number eleven will clearly illustrate, I project tough sledding for the Mattatall and they should be thanking the heavens that a pouros showing at this year's event won't decimate their province into the following year's relegation.

Skip:Mary Mattatall
Third:Margaret Cutcliffe
Second:Jill Alcoe-Holland
Lead:Andrea Saulnier

10.Team Newfoundland and Labrador(Stacie Curtis)

Curtis is back at the Scotties after repeating as provincial champion.  No questioning Stacie is an unique talent,winning a Canadian Junior title but what I harped on in last year's preview remains prevalent and that is the lack of competition they receive in the province. For years, Heather Strong boasted a formidable foursome that would give Curtis fits at a provincial level and sporadically would hold her own on the national stage but with Heather's commitment and passion to the sport seemingly dwindling, the games that she probably plays with any true meaning are likely slim to none prior to provincials. Not knowing much pertaining to team third Erin Porter, I felt as if she more then held her own and was the unheralded M.V.P for a rink that compiled three wins in Grande Prairie. The ceiling here is four wins and I may be being generous but in order to slightly improve on that benchmark they will require an equal to career performance out of Porter.

Skip:Stacie Curtis
Third:Erin Porter
Second:Julie Devereaux
Lead:Erica Trickett

9.Team Quebec(Eve Belisle)

Only seven teams entered the Quebec women's playdowns. For what it's worth I find it puzzling because for years Marie-France Larouche was not only consistently representing the province of Quebec but was contending, battling her way en route to the 2004 Scotties final before bowing out to Colleen Jones From my vantage point, that should've captured the imaginations of the Quebecois female junior curlers to one day strive to reach the pinnacle of the sport but for whatever reason it hasn't happened and as we sit in 2016, the women's game in this wonderful province is becoming extinct.No slight intended towards Eve Belisle however as Marie-France slowly but surely scales back her commitment, reminiscent to that in Newfoundland and Labrador with Heather Strong, we're growing closer to a Belisle auto berth. She is entering her third Scotties appearance, last qualifying in 2010 and along the way has picked up some remnants from the now dissolved Lauren Mann rink. I will preface this synopsis by acknowledging the ranking may end up being too low but ultimately a lack of spieling on the World Curling tour combined with the fact in previous appearances Eve has failed to rise to the occasion I think can safely justify the ranking of nine.

Skip:Eve Belisle
Third:Lauren Mann
Second:Trish Hill
Lead:Brittany O'Rourke

8.Team Prince Edward Island(Robyn MacPhee)

The MacPhee/Birt/Rebecca Jean MacDonald  teams always seem to enter the national spotlight each year with small iterations. This time it's former skipper Suzanne Birt taking an unknown leave of absence from the sport thus fully fledging McPhee into the skipping position once again. Although primarily an useless tidbit, I doubt you'll find a curler in the field that throws with more rotation than robyn and coming from someone such as myself that historically throws with little handle, I'm left fascinated by the contrast. Basically here's the dilemma, it's extremely difficult to assess the plight of this team because like many other teams behind them in these rankings they're drawn the misfortune of playing in very small provincial fields. In the case of P..E.I, the real only adversarie that stood in her way was 2015 National Travellers Champion Lisa Jackson. Now, if the only real threat standing in your way is a club curler champion, either those assigned to grow the game on the Island are failing or , in an area that I feel strongly about maybe it's time to examine the eligibility for those that are allowed in a Club Curler championship. My tangent aside, the thing I appreciate with the way they've assembled this team is that they're committed to bringing on board some of the former top juniors to acquire them experience. Look no further then Sarah Fullerton,  who skipped her Prince Edward Island foursome to three Canadian junior experience and the hope is that with that national experience in her back pocket she won't falter under increased pressure.

Skip:Robyn MacPhee
Third:Sarah Fullerton
Second:Meaghan Hughes
Lead:Michelle McQuaid

7.Team Saskatchewan(Penny Barker)

The seventh seed in her provincial entering the event, Penny defied the odds and conquered a very tough Saskatchewan field and achieved a berth to her team's first ever Scotties Tournament of Hearts. The amazing thing when analyzing this squad was that the provincial bonspiel was only their third even together as a team. An anomaly it would seem from the exterior but not when you take into account unless I have my facts incorrect this is the second consecutive champion that won Saskatchewan that played less than four events together as a team before commencing play at provincials. Moral of this story you ask? In 2018, look for a team that comes in very green to represent the Prairie province. Getting back to the chances of Barker, unfortunately as a Saskatchewanian I don't consider them great as a lack of national seasoning could prove to be their demise. Also, and keep in mind that I'm aware that this applies to nearly every team is that once the upper echelon scour the tapes of Penny's provincial triumphs they'll be taken a back for how much she favours the hit game so I expect nothing less to the opposition make a concerted effort to junk it up more than usual as an effective game plan.

Skip:Penny Barker
Third:Deanna Doig
Second:Lorraine Schneider
Lead: Danielle Sicinski

6.Team Alberta(Shannon Kleibrink)

Thanks to Rogers Sportsnet, I was able to tune into the Alberta Provincial semi-final and final and as it so turned out, Shannon along with super spare Heather Nedohin who spared Shannon who sustained an injury earlier in that week went undefeated in the modified triple knockout event. When I was casually scouring linescores early on in the proceedings, I was surprised that Shannon was having so much success only to come to find out that half of it could be thanked to the 2012 Scotties champion Nedohin. As well as Shannon and her entire played throughout the week and into the final, I can't help but feel she was the benefactor of capitalizing on some of finalists Val Sweeting mistakes rather then be the aggressor and win the game on her terms. The prototypical opportunist if  there ever was one!. After careful consideration, the reason for the middle of the pack ranking is because the likes of Rachel Homan and Chelsea Carey won't settle for safe, open play and the jury is out on whether the repetition is there to put it together over an eleven game stretch.

Skip:Shannon Kleibrink
Third:Lisa Eyamie
Second:Sarah Wilkes
Lead:Allison Thiessen

5.Team Northern Ontario(Krista McCarville)

Beating Tracy Fleury at the 2016 Northern Ontario Scotties is an achievement not to be taken lightly, Fleury was surely going to get her revenge in 2017, correct? Not so fast as McCarville once slayed the proverbial giants and is headed back to another Scotties. Often times when conducting these previews  I like to point out some of the curlers who I perceive to be some of the better individual curlers in this field and I don't think anybody especially after clamouring over her 2016 Cinderella run to the final will take issue when I classify Krista as  a top five curler in the field.  I was guilty myself last year when prior to the event when I mistakenly gave her the team ranking of seven and have to continually remind myself that before her lengthy absence she was nearly our Olympic representative in Vancouver. So you're asking yourself why after hefty praise is she only ranked fifth? Well, it was a difficult decision no doubt but when I break down her comrades with her, they're a very excitable bunch, maybe not as excitable as Darren Moulding  was when he captured his elusive tankard this past weekend but concentration is something that could be a hinderance for a team that because of reaching the final in '16 will be looking to match that feat this year. Can Ashley Sippala who I thought was just so so in my viewings be a better version of herself? If not, I foresee a slight dip from this entry.

Skip:Krista McCarville
Third:Kendra Lilly
Second: Ashley Sippala
Lead:Sarah Potts

4.Team Canada(Chelsea Carey)

After reading the first seven previews of teams I've completed the essence I took out of it was that I've been largely positive however I may buck the trend with the Carey team. Something just feels off with the chemistry every time I watch this team. And if my premonition is correct can we really be surprised as remember that Heather Nedohin decided to step back from the sport prior to the 2015-2016 and the only reason why Carey was made available because she herself was booted from the now Kelsey Rocque rink. I honestly believe that had this team not beat McCarville in the final last year that it would've been a one year experiment. For a lot of the teams that frequent the Grand Slam series, winning provincial championships isn't good enough as the carat of the Olympic trials is all anyone builds towards now a days. Their season on the grand slam circuit hasn't been great in 2016-2-17 and for those astute curling fans you'll already know that the 2015-2016 campaign was a mitigated disaster  prior to getting hot at the right time. This team wreaks the smell that was all over the Pat Simmons a rink ago and would be genuinely surprised if they come up big in the biggest moments again.

Skip:Chelsea Carey
Third:Amy Nixon
Second:Jocelyn Peterman
Lead:Laine Peters

3.Team British Columbia(Marla Mallett)

Am I off base when I call Marla the Henrik Stenson of curling?. You'll understand the comparison to Henrik shortly after I finish describing Marla but with this Mallett rink as a whole, you won't find a more bland style of curling, uber defensive that will make even the  stoutest of curling fans turn away from the television when they're the featured game. Unfortunately for myself and curling fans a far, I'm predicting big things for Marla over the next week so prepare to turn off your television sets accordingly. Marla's approach to the game of curling is dangerously mundane, as when she wins a game 3-2 the storyline will be that she had too many rocks in play. And before i go any further,I'll just go on record that Henrik is the blandest gentlemen in the game of golf thus I felt the comparison was appropriate. Marla has teamed up with Shannon Aleksic who you may remember teamed up with Kelly Scott a year go and recruited the front end from the former Jill Thurston team out of Manitoba. I talked momentarily about how some of the elite skips won't settle for defensive first approaches however when it comes to Marla, frustration will set in for her opponents and impatience which will lead to strategical endeavours that are unnecessary. Marla is the master of the car and mouse game and that approach I maintain will book her a spot on Semi-final Saturday.

Skip:Marla Mallett
Third:Shannon Aleksic
Second:Brette Richards
Lead:Blaine de Jager

2.Team Manitoba(Michelle Englot)

Before I critique the chances of Englot,I'd be remiss if I, continuing on the theme of sharpshooters if I didn't chronicle third Kate Cameron.. Every Scotties and Brier possesses the quintessential breakout star with arguably it being Jocelyn Peterman last year and this year I'm confident when I say that I expect Cameron to take the crown from Jocelyn. Englot has been on national airwaves at select times this winter and every time I see them play the one recycled thought is how impressed I am towards the game of Cameron. Now this team, formerly the Kristy MacDonald skipped foursome is frantically attempting to acquire enough points to earn direct entrance into the 2017 Canadian Olympic trials and a stellar showing at the Scotties would go  a long way.  Michelle, who's making her ninth Hearts appearance is a cagey veteran of the sport and although she's achieved countless individual accolades, she's never had this kind of team that realistically is expected to be playoff bound. From my readings the majority of curling fans aren't as optimistic as I am with her chances and if I've correctly prognosticated the field we'll be seeing Michelle in her first final but with  Manitoba colors, a stark contrast from her usual green and white. We just had a Saskatchewan transplant win gold for Alberta at the Canadian juniors, so why couldn't it happen twice?

Skip:Michelle Englot
Third:Kate Cameron
Second:Leslie Wilson
Lead:Raunora  Westcott

1.Team Ontario(Rachel Homan)

The game of curling needs role models. The way the Homan rink conducts themselves on the ice encompasses everything that is right about the sport.  The men's game took notice to substantive fitness regimes probably earlier then most elite lady teams did but the Homan four revolutionized the way their gender needs to prepare both in the gym and mentality. The Olympics have altered the path of the sport, no secret being revealed there and Homan has pushed the envelope perhaps more than anyone else has ever done and results show. Devastation ensued during the 2016 provincials when they succumbed to the upset of the century when Jenn Hanna took them down. Three victories on tour, five finals appearances in total have them revved up as the hometown Ontario favourites in St.Catharines so surely we will be privy to increased motivation from Rachel and company.

Skip:Rachel Homan
Third:Emma Miskew
Second:Joanne Courtney
Lead:Lisa Weagle


4.Team Nunavut(Geneva Chislett)

If cohesion correlated to victories, this carry over from last year's pre qualification event would be in great shape.Unfortunately there surprise win last year against the British Columbians I fear was an aberration and honestly expect a leisurely 0-3 showing. Listen it's imperative for the growth of this championship that a team like Nunavut does show steady growth but the curling community has to be realists by knowing that up north they don't have access to the same resources other provinces do which is why, albeit one of a million reasons why not allowing a team like Chislett's to compete in the full week schedule will inevitably stunt their growth. They've made the trek down to St.Catharines, at least allow them to have  a fulfilling experience.

Skip:Geneva Chislett
Third:Denise Hutchings
Second:Robyn Mackey
Lead:Jenine Bodner

3.Team Northwest Territories(Kerry Galusha)

Kerry was quoted in an TSN article this week as saying that she was borderline embarrassed that they received a free path to the Scotties as no other team entered the NWT women's playdowns. As embarrassing as that conceivably is, if you're Kerry you have to know the reason the numbers have grew extinct in the territory because anybody in their right mind knows they're not beating you. And I'm not insinuating that it's a prudent excuse but the full credit goes out to Galusha because along with brother Jamie Koe an empire has been built up north so much so that in all probability you will see the Koe's represent the N.W.T for the next ten years. Regarding the plight of this year's team, it's been widely publicized that they struggle to accumulate enough coin to entertain joining the bonspiel circuit and in order to recieve tutelage from second year coach John Epping, they must do it through Skype. Disadvantages aplenty!

Skip:Kerry Galusha
Third:Meagan Koehler
Second;Danielle Derry
Lead:Sharon Cotmier

2.Team Yukon(Sarah Koltun)

Before this preview began, in my head I had the Koltun coming out of this relegation event but throughout the course of penning this piece I've had a change of opinion.For starters, they took last year off as a team so you question their readiness for an event such as this IF they're the "chosen ones" and advance to the main field. I could talk more about my thoughts regarding their chances but I won't. Instead, I'd like to raise up a pet peeve as to why Team Koltun is even eligible to represent the Yukon when reportedly three of the four team members are attending school n British Columbia.It was explained to me that being a full time student allows the option to either play for the province you're currently living in for post secondary reasons or can play out of the province that you reside in away from studies which is bogus. Curling Canada needs to do a better job of enforcing residency requirements especially when this new age of importing one player has become so prevalent.. If you're going to school somewhere and are living there during the winter, ala when curling season consummates then inmy humble opinion that's the province must declare into for playdown purposes. Given the choice between the Yukon and British Columbia, it's a no brainer where to declare.

Skip:Sarah Koltun
Third:Chelsea Duncan
Second:Patty Wallingham
Lead:Jenna Duncan

1.Team New Brunswick(Melissa Adams)

The Sylvie Robichaud-Rebecca Atkinson partnership which was quickly becoming an unstoppable powerhouse parted ways opening the door for some new blood which was welcome news for  Adams. Adams is bringing with her an extremely young front end and the one that sticks out is second Cathlia Ward who in 2013 was chosen as an alternate for the World Junior Curling Championships being selected by Corryn Brown. The team will enter the main event(according to my predictions anyway) with relative inexperience but it might be the youngest on the team in Ward that could be the calming influence for the veteran skip as she's dealt with pressure packed situations in the past. Officially they're my choice to get out of this montrosity otherwise known as relegation and for the record had I seeded them in the main field I would've sandwiched them in between Saskatchewan and P.E.I.

Skip:Melissa Adams
Third:Jennifer Armstrong
Second:Cathlia Ward
Lead:Katie Forward

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The 2016-2017 Western Hockey League Power Rankings(Volume 8)

Keep in mind when perusing through these rankings that the objective of this  article isn't to rank the teams based off of current position which would skew the rankings, it's a ranking where enlies my thoughts on where teams currently situate when assessing the likelihood or lack thereof of said team hoisting the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

1.Seattle Thunderbirds(Last time # 1)

Remember when some(most) scoffed at the notion of labelling the Seattle Thunderbirds pre-season favourites? Perhaps I'm having a difficult time deciphering but aside from the Lethbridge Hurricanes who's the hottest team in the league and fastly nipping on the heels of the Everett Silvertips? That's right, indeed the T-Birds. Injuries have been a common denominator through the U.S divison so the excuse that Everett isn't as well oiled with Noah Juulsen is a noted one but we shouldn't discount the loss of Jarrett Tyszka. Keeping in mind that Matt Barzal has only played twenty three games to date and has accumulated thirty eight points but the narrative of this campaign has very much been scoring by committee. The current leading scorer is defenceman Ethan Bear and at last check(Feb 2), they have twelve players over twenty points. Depth is where they'll flourish come playoff time. 

2.Regina Pats(Last time # 6)

In the last volume, I was prematurely critical of the direction John Paddock and company took at the January trade deadline. Although you'll never and I don't care with what kind of approach you take will convince me that some of the trades were necessary for this season, not currently worrying about the 2018 Memorial Cup hosting potential. I frequent a lot of games and the consensus that's been slowly building is former Kamloops Blazer Dawson Davidson is failing to live up to the billing bestowed upon him prior to heading to the prairies. The thing that understandably gets on a cynic's nerve is his penchant for taking risks. The Moosomin,Saskatchewan native is a smallish defenceman who possesses Pavel Datsyuk-esque puck skill and puts it to good use 80% of the time. I fully get the undertone of the messsages most Pat fans attempt to convey when they look at the offence they've been privy so they automatically presume our defenceman should just sit back and make the "safe" play. Don't be fooled by the fact that a gargantuan reason for the success of some of the forwards such as Adam Brooks and midway M.V.P favourite Sam Steel are due to the defenceman, like Dawson pushing the pace.

3.Lethbridge Hurricanes(Last time # 8)

When you're 10-0-1 in your past eleven a spike in the rankings is inevitable. When constructing these entries I try(however difficult it is) to be impartial when seeding and discussing the respective teams but I'll be frank, as a supporter of the Regina Pats the 'Canes worry me. The big ticket items such as Tyler Wong,Giorgio  Estephan and newly acquired Zak Zborosky are the ones stirring the drink in the Windy City but  lest we not overlook the contributions of Russian nineteen year old Egor Babenko. When the Hurricanes were pitted against the aformentioned Pats in last years first round I was  left disenchanted by Babenko. Part of the problem when I now think back, and I stress only part of the problem was that Babenko and current Warrior Brayden Burke brought too much of the same repertoire to the table and their wasn't near enough versatility in the Canes lineup. With Burke a distant memory it's becoming apparent that Babenko is playing with more comfort and creativity. I suppose it doesn't hurt any getting slotted with Zborosky who is one of the more renowned snipers in the Dub. The other reason the Hurricanes will present a plethora of problems to playoff opposition is their style of play. The Pats play up tempo sure but it pales in comparison to the game plan implemented by Brent Kisio. Activating defenceman into the rush in all situations aren't doing any favours to the statistics of Stuart Skinner but if a statistic was kept tracking offensive odd man rushes then Lethbridge would be leaps and bounds above everybody else. I wasn't sold on the Hurricanes going into the season but I'm a vocal believer now I'm already preparing to view an epic conference final between Regina and Lethbridge.

4.Ptince George Cougars(Last time # 3)

Admittedly before Radovan Bondra was shipped out of Vancouver to Prince George I had only seen him play a few times. I do recall however reading reports after the Giants selected him in the import draft and everything that I read was that he projected out to be a top end European in the Canadian Hockey League and until very recently I wasn't sure I was ready to believe the hype. There's a certain calmness that he plays with, Prince George, particularly with the forward group are an eccentric group so the arrival of Bondra welcome because he's an asset in all three zones and what it does is it allows forwards like Jesse Gabrielle or Brad Morrison who crave gaining a step int he odd man rushes to take a chance or two because they know more often that not Bondra will be their to bail me out. I'm not implying that Bondra was the most important acquisition made at the trade deadline, I'm indicating that it may be the most logical transaction given what this club needed as we enter their playoff push.

5.Kamloops Blazers(Last time #5)

Ken Hitchcock's name has been in the news over the past while after having his contract terminated by the St.Louis Blues. I bring up Hitch's name because after closely examining the mid nineties dynasty that the Blazers were privy to I couldn't help but think Don Hay stepped in the first go around and put the finishing touches Hitchcock's masterpiece. No such controversy this go around as this team has Don Hay written all over it. This team's identity is a defensive first mentality  They leave no stone unturned, finish their checks and even some of their more skilled forwards have an exlempary commitment to the defensive side.  Case in point Saskatoon native Collin Shirley. the 2013 blockbuster featuring Tim Bozon being sent to the Kootenay Ice sent Shirley Kamloops' way and surely enough the twenty year old is the focal point of the attack. I'm not here suggesting that Collin possesses the teams best set of mits but it's the all around tool box that allows the likes of Devin Sideroff and newly acquired Lane Bauer to work their magic. The unsung hero generally rises come playoff time and expect nothing less out of Collin.

6.Swift Current Broncos(Last time # 4)

Despite skating to a 4-5-0-1 mark in their past ten games, I'm still willing to buy what the young lads out of Speedy Creek are trying to sell me. As touched on in the last rankings, this is a new regime and I tend to theorize that if the Broncos administration didn't believe what was in the dressing room their is no chance that they would've expended the assets to acquire netminder Jordan Papirny, just wouldn't have. Earlier in the campaign most that monitor the Western Hockey League would have unequiovcally said that the offence catalyst was Alexi Heponiemi but all of a sudden at least perceptively, the reigns have been handed over to Tyler Steenbergen  and quite frankly he's suddenly reached stardom status.  There has been an outcry from hockey loyalists to potentially raise the draft age to eighteen because I think it's becoming abundantly that their are more frequent cases of players who begin to blossom after endeavouring through leisurely seventeen year old seasons.  If his first crack at draft eligibility was 2017 I assure you at thirty nine goals currently he's a top three round pick. Whoever takes the waiver on Tyler late in the draft has themselves a keeper.

7. Tri-City Americans(Last time # 12)

I'm not one to ever avoid tooting my own horn especially when an opinion not shared by many becomes fruitul but in the pre-season I was very complimentary of Dylan Coghlan and while most perceived my admiration to be a tad premature he's lived up to the billing and them some.In fact I would go as far to say that the defensive exploits are the strength of this team when taking into account the graduation of Brandon Carlo last season. Sure Parker Wotherspoon  possesses the coveted foot speed and Juuso Valimaki has a Shea Weber-esque shot but the most complete defenceman from this bloggers vantage point has been Coghlan. I was internally brainstorming which WHL alum does Coghlan compare best to and after careful consideration that would be former Prince George Cougar and Moose jaw Warrior Ty Wishart. Lanky defenceman that are deceptively punishing but are no slouch with the puck. Already a darkhorse for 2017 defenceman of the year for an Americans team that if the cards align could enter as the pre-season favourite.

8.Everett Silvertips(Last time # 2)

Only with teenagers can somebody(Carter Hart) look like Martin Brodeur and a minute later begin to channel his inner Andrew Raycroft.  I pulled his game by game stats and since returning from the World Junior Hockey Championship on January 13th, Carter has compiled a .892 save percentage. That's very un-Carter Hart like and in order to restore the momentum that the Silvertips accumulated in the first half of the season, it's imperative that Carter re-discovers his swagger. Hart's struggles have been most noticeable but, and once again my pre-season preview is proof in the pudding but I had and still have some doubts that Everett has compiled enough goal scoring acumen to compete in the playoffs. As nice of a story that Patrick Bajkov has been, is it enough to lift Everett to a Ed Chynoweth Cup? Time will tell but another forward needed to be added at the deadline and that precisely where upper management missed the boat.

9.Moose Jaw Warriors(last time # 13)

Unless the Warriors do end up enjoying an extended playoff run which judging from the rank of #9 I don't necessarily foresee I venture to say the narrative of the campaign will be missed opportunities. I likely say this everytime with the Warriors but where was and where is the direction of this team headed? This is a good hockey club but it's almost like for every step forward they take that two steps back are taken.  I usually touch on the positives but unfortunately I have to spend  a New York minute detailing some concerns I've had and that starts and for the time being ends with defenceman Josh Brook. This defensive core is a mess, would make the Colorado Avalanche's backend look elite for someone in Brook who at seventeen was the fourth overall pick in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft I've failed to see a lot of growth. A lot of this gets pinned on General Manager Alan Millar for not surrounding Josh with enough Western Hockey league calibre defenceman instead he's been bestowed the responsbility of mentoring sixteen year old Jet Woo which isn't healthy for all parties. At some point,especially if next year is the campaign they target to make bold and aggressive moves, a veteran defenceman is a absolute requirement. No more fillers like Matt Sozanski and Josh Thrower.

10.Victoria Royals(Last time # 9)

I have no doubt in my head that I'll look back on this in a couple weeks and accept the fact that I rated the Royals too low but part of the reason why is due to the conference imbalance that exists in today's league. If they belonged in the Eastern conference they along Regina and Lethbridge are perennial final contenders but are a victim of circumstance because they reside in the B.C division.  Matthew Phillips is a heck of a player, I don't need to blog about the obvious factoid but Dante Hannoun is fastly reaching Phillips levels and the fact that he's only eighteen and will be back in the league next year makes him a viable 2017-2018 M.V.P candidate. With Hannoun I'm going to pose why he's not receving more time on the penalty kill and you're naturally going to retort with that he's not a shot blocker but let me point out that some of the league's best penalty killers such as Austin Wagner and Jayden Halbgewachs don't get by blocking shots and Coach Dave Lowry should be looking to utilize his extreme speed and puck take away skills. Dante is a special talent so the onus is on the coaching staff to find ways to maximize the production.

11.Medicine Hat Tigers(Last time # 11)

The Tigers have dropped in these rankings for the simple, well maybe not so simple that this team has been ravaged by injuries,perhaps only the Saskatoon Blades can lay claim to the devastation of key injuries which has greatly effected the potential for a prolonged playoff run. Losing mainstays defence such as David Quenneville and Ty Schultz is crippling to the backend but in fairness the reason the Tigers have been staying afloat is on the laurels of Brad Forrest and Dylan MacPherson. IF either Quenneville or Schultz are back for the playoffs and reports indicate that the latter is expected back that will eventually diminish the role of someone like Dylan but from where we currently MacPherson is fulfilling a top four role and flourishing. The most pleasant observation  when breaking down the game of his is that he's always positionally sound.  Even backtracking statistics archiving his days in Medicine Hat'a Midget AAA program the essence I get out of it is that he's never been one to provide many points but on a run and gun style that the Tigers encourage, defenceman like this are required commodities.

12.Saskatoon Blades(Last time # 14)

The theme of the last couple synopsises has been injuries. As aforementioned in the Tigers snip it, no one has been more injury ridden then the Saskatoon Blades. From Cameron Hebig who's had hover over him conflicting reports on his actual status all season long to October/November star Mason McCarty to now Jesse Shynkaruk(not believed to be serious) and Braylon Shymr who's reportedly dealing with concussion like symptoms. With Shmyr, and as per the nature of this blog never choosing away to shy away from bold proclamations, I consider Shmyr to be a top ten, arguably top five talent in the Western Hockey League. I've been a fan of Shmyr going back to his Brandon days and I have difficulty wrapping my head around the notion that he remains undrafted/unsigned in the National Hockey League. Adam Brooks who broke out last season was drafted after his nineteen year old season and because Braylon has singledhandely carried the Blades on his back since the new year, I fully expect to hear his name called in June 2017. Prediction:5th round.

13.Kelowna Rockets(Last time # 10)

A model franchise in thanks to the sheer genius of General Manager and governor Bruce Hamilton. After battling their way to the league championshp series two years ago, Hamilton had to enlist in a retool of sorts but unlike  a lot of fellow General Managers, the retool was swift and successful. Even more amazing when fantasizing over the quick turn around was that the player who was supposed to be the foundation of this year's team in Nik Merkley has thusfar skated to a meager forty one point campaign. In the absence of Nick setting the world of fire, Jason Smith and company have relied on draft eligible Kole Lind and World Junior breakout star Dillon Dube. The thought I had here is whether the cohesion in the locker room would stay strong when you bring into the equation that you have a first rounder like Merkley who's now been cut twice by Team Canada with someone like Dube who rose to Hockey Canada prominence and as some would say, surprisingly made the squad. Whether Merkley was able to check his ego at the door at the betterment of team morale could be an interesting storyline as the season progresses. I can't imagine the frustration Nick must be feeling this year.

14.Brandon Wheat Kings(Last time # 7)

In an earlier blog posting I implied that the Brandon Wheat Kings would be a team I'd like to avoid in the first round of the playoffs. Well......I'm slowly but surely backing off that stance evidenced by the dip in my Power Rankings. I'm having trouble pin-pointing what, but something is off about this team. And in saying all of that, I've done a complete 180 on my thoughts pertaining to Kale Clague. Do I think a lack of size will make it difficult for him to adapt to them professional level, I do however I'm taken a back with the hockey I.Q he plays with and his propensity to always get pucks on net. Not meaning to clamour over his shot but if a stat was kept for players who get pucks through from the point, Clague would have to be near or at the top. Unfortunately there's nothing beyond Clague that will strike any fear into the opposition. James Shearer is playing higher in the lineup then I'm sure the Wheaties desire and when clumping together both the forward and defence group, a lack of foot speed defines Manitoba's lone team.

15.Portland Winterhawks(Last time # 16)

With all the sanctions set in place by the Western Hockey League during the tail end of the first Mike Johuston era, questions were aplenty for how long it would take to restake the legacy that they worked so hard to configure. Well, Mike Johnston is back fully entrenched in the Western Hockey League and thus expectations have been raised. I knew the Hawks had a special one on their hands with Skyler McKenzie but the rocketing development of Cody Glass has left me speechless. I fully appreciate the fact that he was a former first round Bantam pick but that's not to say  I entered this season thinking Cody was going to be the focal  point  of the attack.It's Glass along with the likes of rookie Henri Jokiharju that have instatenously allowed the city of Portland to once again view a competitve hockey game. So much so that it's kind of crept up on me that they could conceivaly earn enough points to secure the Western Conference's first wildcard berth, an insurmountable feat from a few months back.

16.Red Deer Rebels(Last time # 17)

No question that the Rebels are seizing the opportunity of residing in the league's weakest division, thath being the Central but I have to give full credit to Brent Sutter because after hosting the 2016 Memorial Cup wholesale changes were inevitable but the carryover pieces from last year have transitioned to leadership roles but by saying that the main reason they are firmly supplanted in the playoffs can be thanked to some of the unheralded stars and that begins with Austin Pratt. I remember reverting back to the January 2015 trade deadline when Red Deer began to make moves in preparation for hosting said Memorial Cup and it was the decision to trade former fifth overall pick Jake Leschyshyn to Regina because it was important to Brent pertaining to the recruting pitch to assure Austin enough allocated ice time. It was a decision that looking back upon it might be met with some regrets as Austin struggled and fought through his sixteen year old campaign however a year's maturity has paid dividends as the Lakeville, Minnesota product is now a bonafide top nine forward with the makings of a first line player. I've said on a few occasions that my "kryptonite" if you will when assessing draft eligible talent is I jump to conclusions too fast and probably rushed to judgments with Austin. Sutter's patience has noticeably paid off.

17.Calgary Hitmen(Last time # 18)

I haven't heard much in the way of the news regarding the attempted recruitment of former Saskatoon Blade pick Johnny Tychonick but let me tell you, and I fully assume the most stingent Hitmen supporter share my line of thinking when I say the hopeful arrival of Tychonick and the imminent arrival of 2016 first rounder Jackson Van De Leest can't come soon enough. This entire season and arguably last year as well has produced  a bland style of hockey, giving little reason for the residents of Calgary to justify expending their recreational  dollar on Hitmen hockey.They currently go to the rink expecting the Hitmen won't tally more then a couple a game, presumptions that they'll lose 2-1,3-2 but even that's not happening anymore as their goaltending has tanked in lieu of the Cody Porter season ending injury. Back to De Leest for a moment, fans can grab some solace that he's prospering at the Okanagan hockey academy and reports suggest he'll be able to step in immediately next year and lock down a top four assignment

18.Spokane Chiefs(Last time # 15)

Envisions of going toe to toe with the Winterhawks for the final playoff spot have begun to fade as unfortunately this proud organization has resigned themselves to a non playoff year. I started asking myself, where has it gone wrong in Chief land this year and the answer that I stumbled upon and everyone is entitled to their own opinion is that the defence constructed is too diminutive.  I've spoken glowingly of Nolan Reid and super rookie Ty Smith previously however aside from the giant himself Tyson Helgesen there's virtually no grit on the back end. I raise this up as a point of contention because it was Chief management that chose to make the controversial trade that ended  blowing back up in their face by shipping Evan Fiala off to Saskatoon for a player in Wyatt Sloboshan who had no intention of ever dawning the uniform. Frankly, I chalk this blunder up to the Chief hockey operations department not putting in their due diligence and results on the ice have suffered because of it. I feel bad for the players as I'm sure they're working hard out on the ice but those in senior positions have failed them in allowing the players to succeed.

19.Prince Albert Raiders(Last time # 21)

In November throughout December, it wasn't uncommon for the Raiders to find themselves in extreme blowouts on the losing end and General Manager Curtis Hunt knew something had to change. They needed another veteran body who could mentor some of the future core on what it takes to be consummate athlete at this level. Nineteen year old Jordy Stallard was brought in and when the acqusition took place, sixteen year old budding phenom and possible 2018 NHL first rounder Spencer Moe has blossomed to a  point where on most nights he exudes tendencies as the most dangerous Raider. Stallard had taken Moe under his wing and a more complete player was born, not just the player who would consistently cheat in the D-zone to gain a break. As good as things were going in Hockey town North, as they say all good things must come to an end as Stallard has now officially been ruled out for the season with and injury. A forgettable season can't finish soon enough for all parties.

20.Vancouver Giants(Last time # 19)

Strong suspicion that they will regret not trading Tyler Benson at a juncture when he had premium value. Apologies for essentially copying what I was implying in the last edition but the fact that this club is nowhere close to contending  makes it unforgivable that they chose to hold onto a widely sought after asset. What I was hearing was by trading Benson that it would affect ticket sales and while that holds some merit, if I've learned anything from being a longtime loyal supporter of the Regina Pats is that winning ultimately puts butts in the seats. What could've been a couple more years of painful hockey will likely amount to a 4-5 year rebuild because they elected to hang on to Benson and Ty Ronning.

21.Kootenay Ice(Last time # 20)

It may sound like I'm contradicting myself from the Giants snip-it however  full credit goes out to the Ice regime for identifying they had a couple assets in Zak Zborosky and Matt Alfaro that would bring back a monstrous package and they delivered.  Reports are out there that the WHL schedule makers have issued out two separate schedules, one involving if the Ice remain in Cranbrook, the other one involves a scenario where the Ice make the rumoured move out to Nanaimo. Either way, and I think fans out on the Island would be appreciative that they have a lot of young blood to work with going forward but my concern, and the primary reason why I chose to rank them below the Giants is just because you stockpile the farm doesn't always equate to holding on to blue chippers. I correlate the situation of the Ice to the Chicago White Sox of the MLB where they went through a overhaul trading away almost all contributing veterans and while fans in Chicago are currently pleased with the returns, prospects are often times crapshoots and the Ice better hope that the Peyton Krebs of the world materialize.

22.Edmonton Oil Kings(Last time # 22)

You lose fourteen in  a row, is there any justification needed for the basement ranking?  The team was stripped down of all capable veterans the coaching staff is grasping at straws for who can step up and save this sinking ship. Relating to the plight of first half anomaly Trey Fix-Wolansky, I don't have the answers aside from the obvious lack of relevant line mates for why his production level has bottomed out.  I was clamouring over Prince Albert Raiders Spencer Moe and I think a similar issue has stunted point production. Both due to being small in stature need linemates that can properly engage in the cycle and allow the uber talented Fix-Wolansky time to work his magic. Being as how Moe is  a year younger, his draft stock is not yet ruined, for Trey's sake let's hope Randy Hansch is committed to finding a veteran for him to play with next year.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

2017 Tankard Thoughts

It's that time of the season again. For curling fans, anxiously awaiting your provinces representative for the Scotties/Tim Horton's Brier is usually an exciting time as usually in some way or another you become invested in a particular team that peaks our interest in following the event. In Saskatchewan most will suggest that the provincial Tankard is a coronation of sorts for one Steve Laycock and while most years I'd agree, I even went so far to say that he might as well have booked his flight tickets prior to the event last year, an inconsistent slam season has  planted  a seed of doubt when assessing the 2017 Tankard field. As with most of my ranking entries, I will begin in descending order and provide a brief synopsis below each team. Enjoy!

16.Ryan Armstrong- Generally when compiling these previews I pride myself on being knowledgeable when it comes to analyzing each combatant in the field but unfortunately my background regarding the Armstrong foursome is sparse to put it mildly. Doing the best I could, I discovered they had a pouros showing at  a Regina Saskatchewan Curling Tour stop back last November where they were pushed aside quicker then Sacramento King DeMarcus Cousins is when he engages in his almost daily self serving rants. I would presume for a team like this, who boasts a very short curling resume, they're just happy to make a Tankard appearance and after they inevitably get easily pushed aside by the top seed Laycock perhaps they'll gain a comfort level and give their second opponent at least a partial test.

15.Dale Craig- Their tankard ticket was booked with an improbable win at the Moose Jaw Heritage Inn classic. Perusing the field, it's my opinion that this event possessed one of the  tour's deeper fields so full credit goes out to Craig for conquering the friendly city and sincerest apologies go out to the Armstrong rink(if you couldn't tell already this is very much a on-the-go preview) for reaching the finals of this aforementioned event. I vividly remember a couple years back when Craig brought in the recently out of Junior Brady Scharback who I'll touch on later which I thought was an excellent move as it morphed in some youthful exuberance for the veteran Craig rink. With the Sharback courtship a distant memory, I'll be interested to find out whether third Cory Fleming, a past skip in his own right can replace the lofty void left by Scharback. Similarly to Armstrong, I can't visualize a scenario where they leave Tisdale with a win under their belts.

14.Scott Bitz-Bitz and longtime teammate Aryn Schmidt ventured out North to touch base with brand new teammates Warren Jackson and Dean Kleiter. It's a unique lineup with Dean Kleiter, notoriously known for his time throwing third stones for Bruce Korte throwing lead bricks for this first year  unit. When I was first privy to this roster complexion my first thought was are there too many cooks in the kitchen? Someone like Scott Bitz who's attended two Briers and being how this years championship isn't in Calgary we can all but eliminate his chances who' has his type of pedigree, will a renowned strategist like Kleiter who's recently dipped his feet into Junior National coaching circles be willing to accept skips orders when a disagreement is brought to the forefront? I suspect communication to be the teams greatest detriment.

13.Brad Heidt-One of the greater mysteries in this Saskatchewan fall season was how the Brad Heidt was able to sustain the level of success they carried out on the Saskatchewan Curling Tour. Not intending to disparage on age but facts don't lie, the game of Curling is transitioning into a younger persons game at the elite level and yet here we are and every event you pull up Brad finds himself in contention. How do I see this weekend playing out for the events elder statesmen? Ascertaining from the lowly ranking of 13, I don't think too highly of his chances but if this year is any evidence, he'll end up surprising and leave the Tankard causing fits for the majority of the opposition. If the louder you yell corellates to how you'll play, then he enters every event as the decisive favourite.

12.Drew Heidt-I can't speak to the commitment level of the Drew Heidt  rink heading into the season but what I can difintively speak to is the talent of Drew's personal ability as a last rock thrower. In juniors I was never one that formed this opinion based on visual evidence but hearsay made it abundantly clear that it was his brother Mitch who inherited the bulk of the Heidt curling gene but from Tankards that I've witnessed in the last number of years it's been Drew that's been on top of the mountain figuratively as when played with his Dad a couple years back and even when he skipped a different team(not the one he formulated this year) the best player always came back to Drew. They sprinted through Northern playdowns which admittedly included a plethora of filler teams but we shouldn't take this team lightly because furthering my point from earlier from a pure shotmakers perspective I'd have no qualms ranking Drew inside the top five.

11.Jason Ackerman-An opinion not shared by many but as is a staple of this blog, I have no issue advocating for a contrarian stance. I just finished theorizing that Drew Heidt was a top five shot maker in the event but where Ackerman particularly struggles once again in my estimation in pressure packed situations. In a fourth end of an opening preliminary game I'd expect Jason to make a runback double look routine but as the game develops more meaning he doesn't seem to be able to withstand the moment. The team behind him, Curtis Horwath, Brent Goeres and Scott Deck are three technically sound throwers but aside from Ackerman who's won a Canadian mixed championship, the others haven't gotten past the provincial pastures and judging from the depth of this field, I think fighting through the prairies will have to wait at least another year.

10.Brent Gedak-Before commencing on this preview, I went back into the archives to read my synopsises from last year and through doing so, it became apparant that I didn't provide Brent and the boys enough respect. A seeding of twelve was too low because what most competitors from the Kindersley Tankard would have you know is that Brent consistently bailed out his team with heroic,hail mary shots time and time again. You're probably asking, why when I just finished explaining that "lucky" shots were behind Gedak's triumphs would I choose to elevate the ranking. Allow me to point out, especially the games that were webcast that it was my observation that the rest of this roster played poorly, much below their own calibre and a bounce back is a formality. The 2016 version of Brent along with the others shooting up to snuff equals a difficult out.

9.Carl DeConinck Smith-After stepping away from the game for a couple seasons, DeConinck Smith is back and arguably better then ever. When Scott Manners lost third Tyler Lang from his 2012 provincial winning rink he brought in DeConinck Smith and the perception was Manners team was strengthened but as is the case from time to time, seemingly the chemistry wasn't there. Was I surprised that the wins weren't more frequent why yes but now that is a thing of the past he's recharged with former Brier representative Jeff Sharp. Sharp, as  I eluded to last year is well known for his antics and high pitched screams but you can't deny his superior skillset. Sharp can fall under the group I've created as continuation of this preview lives on, "top five shotmakers". To attempt to provide something constructive which no doubt is few and far between I'll vocalize my curiosity asto why Sharp wasn't more highly sought after from a team with National aspirations. His past Brier performances were exemplary and would be an asset for a fringe team that frequents the Grand Slam circuit. Carl has assembled a "fringe" team for purposes of contending status at a Saskatchewan provincial Tankard but I'm adamant Jeff is selling himself short.

8,Randy Bryden-Full disclosure that I originally had Bryden ranked MUCH lower(worse) but that faint voice in my head is telling me to NOT bet against "Big Game" Bryden. From what I've gathered they don't match wits in a lot of the big events that some of their fellow opposition in this field but when they do they perform admirably. One of those teams that could probably sit idle for three months, enter a B level World Curling Tour and find themselves in the winners circle by the end. Do I think Randy will be seeded eighth by his peers? No, but I do think they'll find themselves near a "C" qualifier by the end of the week. Rule of thumb, never rule out a Bryden.

7. Ryan Deis-The role reversal that now third Scott Manners undertook a year ago was noteworthy but also led to mixed results. In year two of this likely lengthy experiment the Deis-Manners battery led to a Saskatchewan tour win and an automatic berth in this championship. One could presume that a berth was inevitable with or without the Tour win but here's where I draw the line when assessing the chances. Let me preface this by saying it wouldn't surprise me to see them in the playoffs however a red flag is Ryan's ability or lack thereof to throw the big weight. In today's era of curling,you can be a master of the touch game, ala Glenn Howard but if you don't have the upweight repertoire in your arsenal then you're behind the eight ball. Even the great Howard has fallen victim to being one dimensional and the same fate for Deis and co is bound to transpire.

6.Jason Jacobson-When surmising the individuals beneath Jason Jacobson, what you may be surprised to learn is that Jason himself is the only member of this nucleus not privy to a National Championship.Dustin Kalthoff has most recently forged his niche in the Mixed Doubles game having paired up Marliese Kasner to a Worlds appearance, Nicholas Neufeld spent time with Jake Hersikorn at the 2016 Canadian Juniors and of course Rory Golanowski had his fun in the sun with the Bruce Korte going to a couple Briers. Although you may chalk this up to useless tidbits it's relevant in the sense that Jason has caved under pressure previously, and even with his Nationally experienced rink I'm not sure it's enough to justify ranking them any higher then six.

5.Brady Scharback-As a disclaimer, I tend to have a propensity to sometimes overrate the youth in the sport of curling. Those opposed to my line of thinking cite the lack of experience as a negative connotation but can you really blame me? Look at the way sport has evolutionized, straying away from curling for just a moment but in hockey, today's youth have taken the league by storm as Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine and Artem Panarin are arguable Hart trophy candidates and a nineteen year old in Connor McDavid is a sure bet to win the award. In baseball, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have captured the imaginations of even the stingiest traditionalists. So why in curling do some consider Brady's 2017 Brier aspirations an afterthought.Truth is they shouldn't because unless I'm mistaken which I never am, Braeden Moskowy was just two years removed from junior when he captured his first purple heart so I don't understand the reservations that the Brady bunch could follow suit. Additionally, don't understate the value of the experience gained from Brady and third Jake Hersikorn from reaching the 2016  Canadian Mixed final. Earlier I  stated I originally had Randy Bryden further down and with Scharback will be kicking myself if they make a run because my premonition was to rank them even higher.

4.Kody Hartung- For a second, I'd like to throw some shade at those operating Updating rosters and positonal alignment can be a tedious activity(detect the sarcasm). In all seriousness, if we want the sport of Curling to grow in this province, baby steps such as ensuring that we have correct roster alignments would make it easier on fans that want to keep tabs on the latest proceedings. That pet peeve aside, only recently was I informed from  a non tankard participant yet regular tour goer that Josh Heidt is indeed calling the game for the Hartung foursome. I notice on the Tankard information portion of the webpage,they've updated the Meachem team to read "Team Casey", why hasn't the same update been taken care of for Hartung. And just like that, I spent the entire synopsis on website complaining and not one second in discussion how I view this young rink. Such is life.

3.Bruce Korte-To be completely honest, the two and three positions were interchangeable but when the cookie crumbled I elected to slide Bruce in the three hole. To be blunt, it's been an extraordinary year for Bruce who's backed by the Marsh twins and Matt Lang. I haven't always been a believer in Korte's sustainability but what sealed it for me  was their aptitude in the Grand Slam hosted in North Battleford. They put the Sponsors exemption to great use giving the likes of Charley Thomas and Scot Kyle Smith all they could handle. As a side note and I'm fully aware I'm guilty of going on unrelated tangents but Korte's fortitude in North Battleford brings into question why one of Saskatchewan's top female teams weren't also granted said exemption but that's another conversation for another day. Until his 2010 win he was the Northern version of Scott Bitz as his first two Briers were hosted in the same city. His third Brier finally travelled him to the Atlantic and I'm sure he has ideas of going back to the Atlantic one more time.

2.Adam Casey-It's even weird for me to write that 2009 Canadian Junior champion Adam Casey could skip a team again to the a representative of the Green and White. As I indicated in the opening I pride myself on astute research prior to engaging in this pieces although after reading this their is zero to support this notion but Casey if successful would have to one of a small group of curlers who have represented three separate provinces at this prestigious championship. Third Catlin Schneider was recently interviewed by Twine time and gave a breakdown of the various lineup changes that now Team Casey, formerly Team Meachem have gone through. From Adam originally being brought on as second to eventually Meachem holding the broom with Adam throwing last stones to now Casey exclusively taking over skipping duties. This is my thought. Does an import like Casey who according to Schneider's interview had no relationship with anyone on the team prior to joining forces coming and eventually becoming the general create dissension? I'll say this, and for the millionth time probably way off base but anything less then a finals appearance I can see this short lived entity disbanding. You don't bring over an Islander, immerse in a bunch of changes and stay the course at the hands of defeat. Especially when you're nowhere close to securing a Trials or Pre-trials berth. What gives me room for optimism was their finalist at the just completed Ed Werenich Golden Wrench Classic held in Arizona. If the lessons learned on the desert can be translated to the cold confines of Tisdale, look out!

1.Steve Laycock- No idea how the Laycock rink has internally viewed their season but I'll go out on a limb and classify their season to date a mitigated disaster.  You don't have the type of 2015-2016 season they enjoyed, Slam final appearances, Canada Cup  successes only to follow that up by not qualifying in most event and more concerning the visible regression that has occurred, By saying all of that, their up against best on best each and every week on tour and not a lot of other comrades in this field have the luxury of saying that. Laycock v the provincial field is like comparing the Alabama Crimson Tide of the NCAA battling the giants of the SEC weekly, the Georgia's, the Auburn's etc etc and then all of  a sudden being afforded the opportunity of battling an inferior Washington program when the game really mattered.O wait, that happened? All joking aside, it's Laycock against the field and even though he hasn't been as dominant he should have enough in the tank to prevail.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The 2016-2017 Western Hockey League Power Rankings(Volume 7)

Keep in mind when perusing through these rankings that the objective of this  article isn't to rank the teams based off of current position which would skew the rankings, it's a ranking where enlies my thoughts on where teams currently situate when assessing the likelihood or lack thereof of said team hoisting the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

1.Seattle Thunderbirds(Last time #1)

There will naturally be plenty that will scoff at the laudy ranking when pointing out that the T-BIrds were inactive in the trade deadline proceedings unlike a lot of their Western Conference combatants. To that I'll remind those that back in their hay day in the mid to late nineties the Detroit Red Wings constantly preached  inactivity at respective trade deadlines and made out just fine. There is no other way to slice it, Ryan Gropp did not have the first half he envisioned only accumulating twenty six points through his first thirty three games played and Coach Konowalchuk will need to see a lot more down the stretch run.Gropp is a terrific compliment to Matt Barzal because at his core Gropp is a shooter where as from what we saw out of Barzal at the just completed World Junior Hockey Championship he's very much a pass first player so just like last season played out, a Barzal-Gropp partnership will wreak havoc on the Western Conference. Aside from the two that will receive the accolades in the aforementioned Barzal and Gropp, from this bloggers perspective the  X factor may very well be Alexander True. True showed exemplary abilities representing Denmark at the WJHC and I would imagine unless Konowalchuk has ideas of re jigging the line combinations will be called upon to anchor the second line. Alexander's a big,powerful skater who for his size(listed at 6'5 on has deceptive hands and when I examine True I unequivocally foresee  a future in the National Hockey League.  Defence isn't as much of a red flag as certain pendants will have you believe, the Seattle Thunderbirds.....Windsor,Ontario bound in May of 2017.

2.Everett Silvertips(Last time # 2)

The Everett Silvertips will not reach the Conference Finals. The Everett Silvertips are a top two team in the Western Hockey League. The 'Tips have no one to blame but the divisional playoff format for why a deep playoff run may not be in their cards this spring. Notwithstanding the number two ranking I've graced Everett with, I have a few concerns with the make up of this 2016-2017 squad. First off, the acquisition of Edmonton's Aaron Irving is a tremendous as an offensive defenceman(I guess he's one this year) is exactly what the doctor ordered. When assessing the rest of the Green and White's backend, the likes of Noah Juulsen and Lucas Skrumeda instill conservative tendencies where as now with Irving he'll be able to push the pace whilst keeping the aforementioned two in their comfort zone. The issue becomes however, when the games become pressure packed who's going to light the proverbial lamp?  I've been critical of the Silvertips Front Office regime throughout the years as I feel the mantra has always been to add players conducive to the coaches style as opposed to recruiting players that can succeed in the most tenuous moments however let's take a second singling out the players that the Silvertips could have in their stable but don't. Tyson Jost, Auston Matthews and Nick Henry were all identified as core pieces but none of which committed to the organization. The adverse argument is that when you swing for the home run you're more often to miss but for the fan base it would've been nice to land at least one. By saying all of that, considering how many home run swings have missed in the last couple years to still compile a 27-4-6-1 record is extraordinary.

3.Prince George Cougars(Last time # 6)

Unquestionably the out of left field(apologies for the plethora of baseball puns) came the Nikita Popaguev transaction.I'm still unsure if I understand the move from Moose Jaw's point of view but nonetheless the Cougar brass has their hands on the special draft eligible Russian. The aftermath of the trade has seen a lot of Warrior fans come out of the closet lamenting over Nikita's poor defensive work ethic however as a  point of reference to the criticism is that the Warriors the entire season have fielded a suspect D so naturally fans will look to scape goats attempting to excuse the defensive deficiencies. Moving away from Popaguev who no doubt will be a welcome addition for Jansen Harkins AKA a poor man's Matt Barzal, where I'm most excited for the Northern B.C constituents is on defence. Everybody clamours over Brendan Guhle and rightfully so but two names that are as important but don't receive near the same respect are Tate Olsen and Ryan Schoettler. I've touched on Olsen previously but with Schottler, I'll come right out and say Ryan was the steal of the 2014 Bantam Draft getting nabbed in the seventh round. The Lloydminster product continues to thrive under the tutelage  of former Dallas Star Richard Matvichuk. Because they've collected a veteran group he'll remain on the third pairing but from my viewings defintely has #1-2 potential as early as next season. I was reading somewhere that on average the Cougars boast the oldest lineup in the league, 18.48 or in and around there so the fact that the seventeen Schoettler is able to crack the lineup most nights is a testament to him.

4.Swift Current Broncos(Last time # 9)

Unlike a few teams in this league, everything that Director of Player personnel Jamie Porter has touched has turned to gold.  From the obvious in hauling in Ryan Graham, Ryley Lindgren and now netminder Jordan Papirny to the less obvious in Jake Hobson and Kole Gable, the holes that needed plugging have now been fulfilled and what has happened is Speedy Creek is now poised to make a memorable playoff run. I won't even get into how the Broncos may match up against some of the Western Conference powers in a finals scenario but surveying their chances against the beasts of the east, they're favourable to put it mildly.  Ryan Graham, the former Saskatoon Blade and Glenn Gawdin, the St.Louis Blues prospect are thorns in the side to play against as they excel in the cycle game and are nearly impossible to knock off the puck.  The Broncos are structured as such that they're polar opposites to much of the conference. The contrasting styles would make for an entertaining playoff series and a scary one because I can't think of one formidable East foe that has the defence to match wits with that style. It's for that reason that I can visualize a spot in the finals.

5.Kamloops Blazers(Last time # 4)

Rampant speculation on message boards existed that the Blazers were looking to unload World Junior goaltender Connor Ingram but the second Lane Bauer was brought in to the fold that vetoed any inkling anyone may have had about acquiring Connor. At 25-15-1-2, they stayed above water during his absence and that can be largely thanked to the play of  Dylan Ferguson. It was truly Ferguson's play that increased the volume on the Ingram rumours and what this means for the sustained longevity of the franchise going forward is that they have a valued off-season trade asset but in the immediate it won't cause panic if the unthinkable happens and Ingram suffers an injury.  Very much like how I attempted to explain the strategy of a team like Swift Current, Kamloops will look to pound you inside with a cerebral forecheck. Jermaine Loewen probably couldn't of landed with a better organization pertaining to how he looks to play the game. He's hard nosed, one could describe him by saying limited offensive potential but I fret to think what a line consisting of Loewen and newly acquired center Luc Smith could look like. A nuisance for opposing defenders to put it lightly. Additionally, I'd be remiss if I didn't follow up with something that was discussed in an earlier synopsis and that's the play of Nolan Kneen. Joe Gatenby and Ondrej Vala would continue to inherit the heavy minutes but the play of Kneen has instilled a trusted top four for Don Hay. A player that was probably on the fringe of getting drafted has firmly supplanted his draft status come June 2017.

6.Regina Pats(Last time # 3)

In a recent article courtesy of the Regina Leaderpost, Head Coach and General Manager John Paddock was quoted as saying that he owed it to the veterans on this team, most notably Adam Brooks and Connor Hobbs, to go "all-in". Judging from a spotty Trade Deadline performance I can unfortunately now assert that he flat out lied. No moves that were made yesterday, the day before yesterday and before that were made with this year in mind. Josh Mahura is an excellent addition but Paddock's verbage that he's already a top ten defenceman in the Western Hockey League is non-sensical. The question I've had for a long time and possbly why I'm so upset with how the Pats administration are approaching this stretch run is who's going to provide secondary scoring beyond the top two lines? Nothing against Jeff De Wit or Wyatt Sloboshan, but on an elite hockey team they're fourth line players. It infuriates me that someone with tenacity like a Adam Musil or Jakob Stukel weren't brought in. And don't understate the importance of the loss of Luc Smith. At the time I was indifferent about the transaction because I just assumed his big body would be later replaced but now that hole remains void it's highly probable the Patties are going to get pushed around.

7.Brandon Wheat Kings(Last time # 8)

Without a doubt the Brandon Wheat Kings enter the second half of the campaign as the league's most feared team solely from an unknown perspective. Consensus first overall pick Nolan Patrick is slated back next weekend and right there enough is strike fear into opposing coaches trying to game plan the Wheaties. The bigger question should probably be what we should expect out of Nolan in the second half. Over the last couple of days I was looking to conjure up the best comparable to Patrick and after careful consideration I've enlisted the name Joe Niewendyk. Nolan isn't going to wow you with exceptional foot speed but has a  long stride and can make up ground quickly. Everyone looks at Nolan and considers him a pure shooter which he is but the characteristic that doesn't get enough play is his playmaking abilities. Getting sparse time with in my opinion last year's best pure sniper in Jayce Hawruyluk he was able to showcase his pristine passing ability. The tell tale sign will be if he can admirably feed some of the lesser talented forwards on the roster because as good as they can be in this second half, the complexion is nowhere near the way it was last year.

8.Lethbridge Hurricanes(Last time # 13)

It was no secret that their were some premier overagers on the trade market this season. However, based on how rosters looked a week ago I didn't expect the Hurricanes to be one of those organizations in the market and even if they were, totally didn't expect them to chase more forwards as a lack of competence on the back-end is a clear defenciency. When all the dust settled, it was the Hurricanes that picked up not one but two overage forwards in Kootenay's Matt Alfaro and Zak Zborosky. Not that I had any idea before but I can officially opine that I have zero idea on the direction being forged by Peter Anholt. You already boasted Tyler Wong and Giorgio Estephan, two  of the league's elite players and yet you still feel the need to go out and bolster your lineup with more goal scoring while laying claim to arguably the league's worst defence? I'm sure you're utterly confused after all of the negative connotations that I've still ranked the Hurricanes this high. Well, it speaks to the fact that the Canes reside in this year's laughing stock division and I fully anticipate them to eventually surpass the Medicine Hat Tigers. I wish them luck though because if I were a fan heading into the playoffs I wouldn't be feeling very confident with a defence being led by Brennan Menell and Calen Addison. If a twenty year old was going to be acquired, Aaron Irving had to be who they needed to target. Time will tell if they can outscore their future playoff opposition out of the building.

9.Victoria Royals(Last time # 10)

Riding a ten game point streak heading into January 11th's tilt against the Kelowna Rockets, it's safe to say that defenceman Chaz Reddekopp used my analysis that he may be potential trade bait as motivation as he's been on a tear the  past while. Appraising the worth the Royals has been a difficult task because on one hand I really like the group of forwards spearheaded by Matthew Phillips but on the other hand the depth they possess on defence worries. The sudden Mike Green-esque offensive production of Reddekopp has subsidized those concerns but even with Chaz's hot streak  in play, the jury is still out if they can compete with some of the B.C division's dynamic offences. From my viewings and this  is presuming my premonitions on where these teams should situate is anywhere close then a potential first round playoff series against the Kamloops Blazers could spell trouble as where Kamloops flourishes, the down low game is where Victoria is constantly victimized. The Euro Ibragimov will have no qualms withstanding the physicality of the Collin Shirley's and Jermaine Loewen's but I have reservations if the suddenly turned dynamo Reddekopp can rise to the occasion over the course of a seven game series.

10.Kelowna Rockets(Last time # 11)

Jason Smith must walk into his office lately and sit down and refresh his memory on all the names of his kids because their has been a exodus of talent coming in and out of the Rockets dressing room over the last while to a point where the team is almost unrecognizable. I was not high on the outlook of the Rockets in the first quarter of the season evidenced by my near basement ranking in an earlier volume. To review the change of philosophy, at least for this season, out are Jonathan Smart,Riley Stadel, Jordan Borstmayer and Jake Kryski among others while James Hilsendager, the Gardiner brothers(Erik and Reid), and Carsen Twarnyski have arrived in Kelowna revamping the team's identity. Touching on Hilsendager and Twarnyski specifically, these two fit the mold of a Jason Smith type player. In your face, take no liberties out on the ice and look after their own end before having thought of jumping into the rush. Lastly, and I fully understand the WHL is a business and these types of decisions are made on a yearly basis but it's still unfortunate to see a twenty year old in Riley Stadel, a heart and soul player who's been a loyal soldier for the Rockets for a good five years get the raw deal and now forced to end his junior career with a team in Edmonton with little playoff aspirations. It's a difficult meeting for Bruce Hamilton to have surely but I suppose the point I wanted to make is it's too bad Hamilton couldn't of slotted Riley in a situation with even a faint hope of the post-season.

11.Medicine Hat Tigers(Last time # 5)

This season in Medicine Hat has been one unpredictable rollercoaster ride. As this blogger predicted in the pre-season draft eligible Mason Shaw is well on his way to garnering consideration for the Most Valuable Player award but maybe what this blogger couldn't foresee was the rash of issues this club would have protecting it's own net. These issues have now been substantiated with the purported season ending injury to New York Islander prospect David Quenneville.  A lot of Tiger supporters woke up this morning disappointed that they stood pat and didn't address a glaring weakness even before Quenneville went down..  I'll be blunt, a legitimate championship contender for which maybe at one point I thought the Tigers were CANNOT accept 150 goals against. It's hard to say whether Head Coach Shaun Clouston isn't voicing the message loud enough and don't let the thirty four points fool you but Clayton Kirichenko has been a hot mess in his own zone and doesn't seem to be held to any level of accountability.  I thought in the first fifteen or so games, Kirichenko's play was outstanding but in the last 2/3rds he seemingly has stopped caring about attention to detail  I'm befuddled at the lack of activity on several fronts but none more so then couldn't the Tigers upper manangement see the division they played in and realized picking up a defenceman or two would've assured them a conference final berth.. Now I eagerly wait for that hotly contested Lethbridge-Medicine Hat second round  playoff series where every game projects to be 12-11. Take the over!

12.Tri-City Americans(Last time # 7)

The Americans continually drop in these editions of Power Rankings and I'll enlighten you as to why. It's not as if they've fallen off a cliff however there is something missing with this group and until very recently I wasn't able to discover what. Michael Rasmussen is the second rated eligible draft prospect in the WHL but the issue I've began to notice is he's too individualistic and from my vantage point the reason why is because there's a lack of structure in how they operate. Tyler Sandhu, credit to him, is as unselfish as they come but the problem there is he's got players like Rasmussen running around wildly not adhering to any kind of breakout and that is stiffling puck movement from the other four players on the ice. Because Sandhu is willing to dish the puck at no end,  I do think it's wise to keep sending out Tyler and Michael together but what that line needs is a coveted puck retriever. After analyzing the roster a player who I think could comfortably line up alongside those two is Carson Focht. This in before the skeptics run over the idea by mentioning he's only sixteen and has no business being on the top line but where Carson would serve some benefit is he's willing to buy into the coaches system, would allow the aforementioned two to focus on what makes them star players in the league and I think at the end of the day would make the group a more cohesive unit. He's the future captain of the team and similaily to what Saskatoon did with Matt Revel when he first entered the 'Dub,, throwing him to the wolves early in his career will teach him the ropes,and hey....if Focht can forge a comparable career to that of Revel then nobody in Kennewick will be shedding tears.

13.Moose Jaw Warriors(Last time # 12)

The removal of Nikita Popaguev from the Warriors roster will be a tough pill to swallow for a lot of Warrior loyalists however when you break down the transaction you have to give full credit to General Manager Alan Millar for  identifying they'd be better served putting their best foot forward next season as opposed to this one. The Regina Pats appear to be the cream of the crop but judging from my rankings I choose not to take the Broncos and Wheat Kings lightly so props to a team that could've played the desperation card and tried to stay in the elite ball park. Prosperity is in the horizon. Until this past week it was confusing to understand the direction ie bringing in Brayden Burke when they did however after observing the roster again, presuming that Burke and Jayden Halbgewachs are returned to Junior Hockey similiarly to how Adam Brooks was for Regina then it's not out of the realm to suggest that if  Regina is fortunate enough to be awarded the 2018 Memorial Cup that  two Southern Saskatchewan teams could represent the WHL in the Pats and the Warriors. One can dream.

14.Saskatoon Blades(Last time # 19)

I get it.Conventional wisdom would dictate that a team currently sitting at ninth in the conference sell off their valued assets in an attempt of looking towards the future but when you're a franchise like the Saskatoon Blades recognizing that the a playoff position is within grasp is enough reason to stand pact. This is an organization that has missed the playoffs the last three seasons and has not won a playoff round since 2011-2012 so in order to acquire that valuable experience for the likes of Josh Paterson and Jake Kustra it's imperative that Dean Brockman find a way to sneak Saskatoon into the playoffs even if it means a dismantling at the hands of Regina in the first round. Edmonton native and seventeen year old forward Paterson has been a revelation for the franchise as the 2014 second rounder is increasing his NHLdraft stock daily as before the year began it was questionable if his name would be called at all, fast forward to today where he could be summoned in the fourth round. Ironically player development I didn't correlate as one of his strong suits as with his past employer the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League he consistently was blessed with veteran laden lineups so an adjustment was needed as he walked into this Blades job as when he took over the job the roster was stripped down, something he never lost sleep over in Humboldt.Kudos to  Brockman for getting this  club back into playoff contention.

15.Spokane Chiefs(Last time # 14)

Coach Don Nachbaur is a long time veteran coach in the 'dub so generally when he speaks up you listen, but his latest public comments may have crossed a line when he criticized his own General Manager Scott Carter. His latest criticism was that the team was too 'young and small' but newsflash Don, that type of roster make up is the way hockey is evolutionized particularly in junior hockey where an intimidation style has gone by the way side. Some of Nachbaur's Tri-City teams in the mid two thousands were built around grit and tenacity but it's all about adjustments and I'm not seeing enough out of Don.Not to say that GM Carter has done an exceptional job as he's not without transgressions. Being a long time fan of this league there's a certain frustration when I see a superstar player for which Kailer Yamamoto is not being supported with enough comparable talent to flourish in his hometown. Yamamoto to be blunt should have the wherwithal to accumulate 100 + points yearly regardless of the fact that he's in the gauntlet,A.K.A the U.S Division but in order to achieve those lofty goals needs further contributiions from Jaret Anderson-Dolan. Anderson-Dolan is one of the leagues greater enigmas due  to being a world beater when he's engaged in the  play yet looking like a glorified fourth liner when he checks out. I think back to last season when he in his rookie season he jumped out a brazen start only to mellow out the rest of the way to a meager twenty six points. This year it's been mostly the same song and dance superb start only to be immersed in another puzzling two goals in eight games rut. Playing alongside Yamamoto is a privelege, Anderson-Dolan for a lack of a better description is testing fate.

16.Portland Winterhawks(Last time # 16)

Straying away from the Western Hockey League for a second, I can recollect a countless amount of players that were relative unknowns in their respective leagues prior to reaching a certain level of stardom at the World Junior Hockey Championships. The Danish delight Joachim Blichfield fits right into that category. The Danish entry was the cinderella story throughout the entire tournament upsetting the likes of Finland and reaching the quarterfinal and Blichfield was instrumental in leading the Danish charge. Not having seen a lot of Blichfield before the tournament commenced but he was more then impressive as his speed was ever noticeable. To the point of it's rather surprising that with his club team in Portland he's only put twenty eight points to date.As I referenced in my opening though, a European player takes a while to get acclimatized to the Canadian Hockey League as I can remember Lukas Kaspar who before he entered the World Junior Hockey Championships in 2005 was struggling to adapt to new surroundings with the Ottawa 67's, however it was like a new player was born when he got back as he mustered 75% of his points in the second half. Don't expect anything less with Blichfield.

17.Red Deer Rebels(Last time # 17)

At last count I had read that Brent Sutter had made something along the lines of twelve trades this season which for purposes of Junior Hockey is an astronomical number. It's astronomical from a sheer quantity perspective but when you account for the fact that it's becoming more difficult to recruit players into the league with the raging war against the NCAA fully in tact, welcoming that many kids into your "instiitution"only to part ways with them later is a dangerous precedent to set moving forward. Now when analyzing some of the trades made when it relates to this season, there's a lot to like for how Brent has reconfigured his group. The blockbuster that got everybody talking was the Josh Mahura to Regina deal that that brought in Lane Zablocki and Dawson Barteaux a long with two draft picks. Complete heist by the Rebels. You could call Zablocki for De Wit a wash although De Wit is an arguable downgrade but when assessing Barteaux + 2 firsts for Mahura, a player who at times was in Sutters dog house is unthinkable. The way the Rebels have transistioned from the 2016 Memorial Cup hosting year is noteworthy because in less than  a year they've rebuilt an aging defence into something they can genuinely look forward to for the next couple seasons. Picking up Brandon Schuldhaus was also an underrated addition. I tend to think unloading Adam Musil who surely is bound to play professional hockey next fall would've been a wise maneuver but overall am taken a back hoe well Sutter and the Rebels have positioned themselves beyond next season.

18.Calgary Hitmen(Last time # 15)

Devastating news out of Calgary this week losing goaltender Cody Porter to a season ending injury which forced the hand of Hitmen management to sign overage netminder and former Rebel and Blade Trevor Martin. Martin has certainly paved an interesting journey this year. Starting the year in Red Deer he was eventually dropped so Red Deer could dwindle their 20 surplus but from there Trevor ventured into the QMJHL with Baie-Comeau and reportedly had an offer to continue with the Val'dor Foreurs before trekking over to Calgary. Atypical journey aside it's a blow to the Hitmen whose identity revolved around Porter. My pre-season preview paints the picture that I expected much more out of Calgary coming and as I've griped a few times during the season the missing link was not having  a finisher up front. In this era where a literally a million goals are being scored a game, not having that reliable point producer isn't sustainable. By saying all of that underperformers have flooded the Calgary lineup none moreso than Vladislav Yeryomenko. Perhaps I'm not in line to the logic of the current day Junior Hockey administration.Yes these are primarily teeagers that you're mentoring but at the end of the day this is a cut throat business, at least it used to be and if you have an underperforming import which undoubtedly the Hitmen do than you are better served allocating that ice time to a sixteen year old North American. Brent Sutter once said it best when he quipped "if a European can't play in the top six D or the top  four D then he doesn't belong on your team".This is logic I can get behind and it befuddles me how Yeryomenko is still employed in Cow Town.

19.Vancouver Giants(Last time # 22)

Glenn Hanlon meet Brent Parker. Folklore will have you know that back in the 2009-2010 season the Brandon Wheat Kings who were preparing to host that May's Memorial Cup has offered the Regina Pats three first round picks along with current Ottawa Senator Mark Stone for Jordan Eberle and Colten Teubert. It's important to note that at this time the Regina Pats were on the outside looking in and ended up missing the playoffs.It was a rejected deal that set them back years, truthfully until John Paddock was hired on by new ownership. I bring this up because a similar circumstance arose with the Giants who had a dilemma on their hands not knowing what to do with Tyler Benson.In the end as reported by Steve Ewen of the Vancouver province it was decided to hold onto Tyler and only time will tell if the right decision was made.  The way I break it down, the prudent play was to trade Tyler because even though he's expected to return to the WHL next season, chances are the Giants will be in the way of being competitive.  The return could've been extraordinate at this deadline but now they move on and aspire to recuperate what's left of this troubling season. My hope is and I'd imagine that this the mandate being dropped down from ownership is to push the growth of future franchise stalwart Tyler Popowich. I'm having difficulty understanding how Popowich has tallied such elementary numbers, only skating to five goals thus far. In the two games I've had the pleasure of watching him in full on two occasions, once versus Regina and the other facing off against Calgary and on both occasions he's looked dominant. When he gets stick on the puck it's near impossible to remove and maybe Jason McKee needs to sit down with him and remind him why he was picked high in the first round. I clearly won't have followed him as closely as those in Langley will have but is it possible he's not being abrasive enough when he reaches the prime scoring areas? Just a thought.

20.Kootenay Ice(Last time # 21)

The Peyton Krebs era in Cranbrook has officially started......O wait,I suppose that'll have to wait until September 2017 however the removal of Zak Zborosky and Matt Alfaro, two loyal soldiers out of the Kootenay locker room has signalled a new page in this franchise's storied history and the curiousity from my end stems from how they'll manage to stay afloat the rest of the way which limited talent and WHL capable bodies. As cringe worthy as these decisions are for the Chynoweth family trying to bring this organization back to respectability, the trades of Zak and Matt were necessary evils. No one likes to see losing on a nightly basis. The question is, who's Luke Pierce going to count on to step up and eat those hard minutes that both Zborosky and Alfaro prided on consuming? Even though Colton Kroeker technically sits as the team leader in points, the realms in my mind have been firmly handed to Vince Loschavio.  The eighteen year old Winnipeg product probably didn't have any visualizations that by this January he'd be called upon to be their best player but when you're eighteen on a revamping team sometimes that comes with the territory.On multiple radio broadcasts, Regina Pats play by play man Phil Andrews was complimentary of Loschavio's performances.Maybe I'm a harder one to please because everytime I've witnessed the game of Vince I'm left underwhelmed which is why it's such a scary proposition that he is now Cranbrook's new crusader.

21.Prince Albert Raiders(Last time # 18)

Junior hockey has become a society enamored with entitlement. It's no secret that in all three leagues, coaches and general managers are forced to coddle players to keep them happy. Often times the resolution results in a trade which in large part is due to kid not receiving enough ice time, sick and tired of losing, wanting to be closer to home. I bring this up because it's refreshing that a future NHL'er,or at least who I suspect will be one recognized that Prince Albert is, to quote a constant quip of TSN's Jamie McLennan, "dumpster fire" and yet Simon Stransky set out to be the solution opposed to the problem. There are so many things wrong with the way this team built. Was their some bad luck along the way case in point Reid Gardiner spending unexpectedly the entire first half of the season before getting shipped away to Kelowna? No question about it but it doesn't excuse Curtis Hunt and Marc Habscheid making bettter hockey personnel decisions.  One particularly still has me scratching my head and that is the decision to trade Josh Maser to Prince George. Everything I've seen and the reports that I've read all pointed to Maser being a bonafide WHL'er and for PA to give up on the player so prematurely is unforgivable. Onto this year's version. one of the bright spots(and forget about the +/-) has been Sean Montgomery. Montgomery is relishing under a top six role and when I broke down the probably lineup down the stretch it donned upon me that Montgomery and newly acquired Jordy Stallard go together like bread and butter. Montgomery is more of a thinker then a doer and when you put him beside Stallard who has the propensity to drive the net hard, well all I'll say to that is that has the making of being a formidable second line next year. Who sees time on the first line next season I don't think is answerable yet.

22.Edmonton Oil Kings(Last time # 20)

Captain Aaron Irving has left has the City of Champions, as has Lane Bauer but where there is loss there is newfound opportunity. The player I want to profile this evening is someone I almost definitely provided a disservice to in earlier renditions and that is Will Warm. After all the trades have shook out in Edmonton, the four defenceman they will look to build around are Brayden Gorda, first rounder Ethan Cap, newly acquired Conner McDonald and the aforementioned Warm. Anytime you're a fifth rounder in the Bantam Draft for which Will was, any tangible contributions are considered a bonus and you can completely chalk this up to pristine scouting by Randy Hansch and company. Edmonton fans will be patient as evidenced by continually flocking Rexall while the Edmonton Oilers were the league's laughing stock and those same die hard fans  won't forget that before the Oil Kings plan ultimately led to the 2014 Memorial Cup they experienced similar if not worse growing pains. If the rebuild ends up fruitul players like Warm will be part of that core. Staying within WHL circles the player Will reminds me of most is former Kootenay Ice John Negrin. The way Negrin deceptively threw around his body while at the same time contributed admirably in the offensive zone is the way I foresee his career unravelling. Bright future ahead, sadly not too many sunny times the rest of this winter.