Thursday, November 19, 2015

Going All In for Hamonic?

With the news that the New York Islanders' Travis Hamonic has asked for a trade for family reasons, that means the Islanders are now at the very least exploring their options as far as trade partners.  Given that Hamonic has cited a desire to be closer to family, that means the market would be rather limited, since the Manitoba-born Hamonic would be likely looking to four or five teams.  So, let's look at the teams that would be on Hamonic's list and what they can offer to the Islanders.

WINNIPEG JETS: Given that the Jets are both closest to Hamonic's home and have a plethora of players they can trade to the Islanders, it would seem that they would be the favorites to land Hamonic.  Depth on the blue line is no concern, but the Jets would be more than happy to land one of the better stay-at-home defenders, with Tobias Enstrom being the most likely to be moved plus prospects, which could be any of Josh Morrissey, Joel Armia, and either Connor Helleybuck or Eric Comrie, with other names being possibilities.

EDMONTON OILERS: The Oilers still need blue line help, and at the very least, they can offer one of their forwards (think Jordan Eberle).  Because their blue line is rather thin, as they traded for Griffin Reinhart from the same Islanders this off-season, it could be a hang-up, particularly since the Islanders would love to fill the hole left by Hamonic if he is indeed traded.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS: Another team that needs defensemen, the Canucks are in even worse shape than the Oilers.  The best shot the Canucks have would be to offer Alex Edler, as his play has fallen off recently and a change in scenery would do him some good.  However, the lack of defensive prospects could kill their chances of landing Hamonic.

CALGARY FLAMES: On the surface, the Flames would love to figure out their chemistry on the blue line, as they've only played with their planned six for a month thanks to TJ Brodie being out to start the season.  However, the temptation to add a solid two-way player may be too great, and the Flames can offer someone like Dennis Wideman or Brodie, though the latter may be off-limits due to his chemistry with Mark Giordano.  Prospects such as Patrick Sieloff or Tyler Wotherspoon could help sweeten the deal for Calgary.

MINNESOTA WILD: It has been mentioned that Hamonic would love to end up in Western Canada, but Minnesota is fairly close to Hamonic's hometown.  The Wild would be an outside shot, particularly since salary cap issues would be their biggest hurdle, and the Wild don't have much to offer, either in terms of prospects or NHL-ready players.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Moving Closer to Home

It's been a rough start to the WHL season for Nick McBride, as he was squeezed out of the Prince Albert Raiders roster thanks to strong play by both Rylan Parenteau and Ian Scott (both of whom, are still playing well).  That forced McBride to ask for a trade prior to the season, and now, at the start of November, McBride is finally going to get a chance to resume his junior league career, as the Raiders traded him to Prince George for a second round pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft.

McBride was in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects game last season, but went undrafted in the 2015 NHL Draft.  McBride had a promising start to his time in Prince Albert in 2014, taking over the starting job late in the season from Cole Cheveldae en route to pushing the Raiders to a playoff berth in a tie-breaker game with Red Deer.  However, like many of the Raiders last season, McBride had his fair share of struggles, and in some cases, was outplayed by Parenteau.  The Cougars currently have a goal differential of +2, and now have three goalies who have starting experience in Ty Edmonds, Mack Shields, and McBride, though it remains to be seen if the Cougars carry three goalies for an extended period of time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The First Month of the WHL Season

The first full month of the WHL season is in the books, and to say there are a few surprises would be an understatement.  The most recent trades have involved a Calgary Hitmen team that has struggled to score and are currently sitting in the middle of the Eastern Conference pack.  Leaving the Hitmen are Chase Lang and Ben Thomas, and incoming from Vancouver are Jackson Houck, Cody Porter, and Jakob Stukel.  Houck's arrival also spells the end for Elliot Peterson, who was placed on waivers, since Houck is a 20-year old and the Hitmen had to get within the three overage players limit.  Also leaving is Terrell Darude, who is heading to Saskatoon.  As for who the Hitmen hope to overtake, there's the Prince Albert Raiders, who lead the conference this early in the season thanks to goaltending from Rylan Parenteau and Ian Scott.  The Raiders were widely expected to struggle this season, so this early season surge comes a bit of a surprise.  The Red Deer Rebels are next in line, and they figure to be in contention all season long, particularly since they are hosting the Memorial Cup tournament.  The Brandon Wheat Kings are fourth and were surprised by Portland on Sunday in a 5-0 loss.  Other surprises include Saskatoon doing fairly well and Medicine Hat stumbling out of the block.

On the Western Conference side, there are few surprises, though Vancouver getting Thomas and Lang indicates that they're going to give Tyler Benson some better players to work with, particularly since Houck wasn't likely to come back.  Portland's early struggles appear to be behind them after a strong weekend in which they won all three games, including the 5-0 game against Brandon on Sunday.  The Western Conference, as expected, is pretty much a bottleneck in the middle, with only Seattle, Victoria, and Kelowna pulling ahead of the pack.  With tournaments such as the Canada/Russia Subway Series and the World Junior Championship coming up, how the teams adapt will help clear the pictures.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Going Up in Lethbridge

As of today, the Lethbridge Hurricanes stand 6-2-0-0 and are riding a four-game winning streak after beating Swift Current this weekend.  That matches the team's best start in the 2001-02 season and for the first time in a few seasons, something truly positive for a team that has experienced nothing but pain.  So, what changed?  Besides the obvious, namely the coaching staff and the front office, player attitude, which was greatly helped by the changes in the first two, as Peter Anholt, who filled in as both head coach and General Manager, is now a full-time General Manager, giving the head coaching job to Brent Kisio.  Kisio is the son of ex-NHLer and current Calgary Hitmen president of hockey operations Kelly Kisio and prior to coming to Lethbridge, held various coaching roles in Calgary, gaining experience along the way in both how to run things and winning, as the Hitmen had won a WHL championship while the younger Kisio was there.  As for the core of the Hurricanes roster, it includes holdovers Tyler Wong and Giorgio Estephan, as well as youth such as Stuart Skinner and Jordy Bellerive.

Yes, the season hasn't gotten out of October yet, but for the Hurricanes, this start is exactly what the team has needed after stumbling out of the blocks the last two seasons, both times including key players asking out of Lethbridge.  It's safe to say there won't be players asking out of Lethbridge this early in the season this time around, and given their recent problems, it's the little victories such as those, as well as those on the ice, that have Hurricanes fans filled with a hope they haven't had since 2010.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Straighten Up and Fly Right or Else...

When the Vancouver Canucks traded away Zack Kassian this Summer, I thought this was a now or never situation for him.  Unfortunately, given what happened to him last weekend, that potential that led him to being a first round pick out of Peterborough in 2009 may never be fully realized.

Rather than explain the entire situation, I'll let Canucks Army do the explaining.

The short of it is that Kassian was involved in an accident in a truck that he was a passenger of and suffered a fractured foot and broken nose.  Montreal General Manager Marc Bergevin was not exactly sympathetic of Kassian, as the accident happened around 6:30 AM, and one of the things Bergevin called out was the character.  Kassian entered in stage 2 of the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse program and will be out of action until cleared by doctors.

As for what to make of Kassian's latest mishap, here is a player that when he was drafted, was pegged to be a power forward in the vein of Milan Lucic, a player that can fight and score.  However, he never fulfilled his potential with Vancouver despite being given multiple chances, most notably on a line with both Sedins.  Last season, he was benched for a number of games and finally, was shipped out to Montreal in a move that can be best described as the Canucks "eating their hat" and admitting that the trade for him in 2012 didn't pan out.  As for Kassian's short time in Montreal, he didn't inspire confidence in the coaches, and now, he is facing a personal crossroads, as he could find himself out of the NHL if he doesn't get his off-ice problems sorted out.  Here's hoping he gets the help he needs and wherever he ends up playing next (for all we know, Montreal could cut their losses), he can find his way again.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ready to Fly


2014-15 record: 43-26-13 (99 points)
Lost to Anaheim in Conference quarterfinals
Captain: Andrew Ladd

The Winnipeg Jets made a furious push to make the playoffs for the first time since their days as the Atlanta Thrashers.  However, like the Thrashers team that made the playoffs in 2007, the Jets were promptly swept out of the playoffs.  Unlike that team though, the Jets look primed to build on their playoff appearance with largely the same cast as the one that ended the regular season, and they may be younger than they were with a couple of additions from within.  Offensively, they were middle of the pack, but the top line of Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd, and Bryan Little all scored more than 20 goals each. Secondary scoring wasn't a problem, either, as five of the nine players that are returning scored in double digits.  Only one of the departed, Michael Frolik, will have any impact on the team, as he was counted on for versatility and penalty kill, the latter more important, since the Jets were short-handed the most times last season.  Defensively, there is great depth, something that came in handy when injuries hit.  In addition, Dustin Byfuglien's ability to move between forward and defense gives the Jets greater flexibility when it comes to setting lineups.  In goal, Ondrej Pavelec finally started to play like the goalie the Jets envisioned...some of the time.  Yes, he struggled in the first half of the season, which opened the door for Michael Hutchinson to seize the starting job for a time before he too struggled.  More consistent play in goal will be needed, but at its best, it can propel the Jets to greater heights.

Prediction: 3rd in the Central Division

The Jets still have players like Nikolaj Ehlers and Josh Morrissey at the door waiting to make their NHL debuts, and with the current group finally knowing what it takes to become playoff contenders, it's time for them to take that next step and become Stanley Cup contenders.  They have the ability, but will the consistency come along for the ride?

The Road to the Memorial Cup: Red Deer, AB

This season, the Western Hockey League gets its turn at hosting the Memorial Cup, as it is rotated every three years between the WHL, the OHL, and the QMJHL.  This year, the WHL representative will be Red Deer, AB and their team the Rebels.  Since the Rebels are hosting, they get an automatic entry into the Memorial Cup tournament this season, and as hosts, like every other team that has hosted before them, they would love to put their best foot forward.  So many questions do have to be answered, such as do they mortgage the farm to try and win it all, being both the WHL and Memorial Cup championships, and what moves do they make in preparation for this event?  Throughout the season, this blog will be following the Rebels as they prepare for the Memorial Cup, a journey that began last night against division rival Edmonton Oil Kings. The Rebels would win both games by the scores of 4-1 and 3-2 in overtime. Though the Oil Kings are a team in transition, Rylan Toth looks to be a solid player, particularly in the Rebels defense first system that has helped players such as Patrik Bartosak and Darcy Kuemper win Goalie of the Year awards in the WHL.

It won't take long for the Rebels to find out how good they really are, as they'll be welcoming Swift Current on Friday and the defending Ed Chynoweth champion Kelowna Rockets on Saturday.