Thursday, January 22, 2015

Moving Up

The news of the past week is that the Plymouth Whalers will be changing hands, meaning Peter Karmanos, who also owns the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes, is selling to Rolf Nilsen, owner of IMS Hockey Corporation.  The deal is pending approval of the OHL Board of Governors, and once approved, it will not only end the 30-year ownership run of Karmanos, but will also signal the end of the Plymouth Whalers franchise.  The team is moving to Flint, MI next season, meaning the team will be moving an hour north to start play in Perani Arena.  Whether the team will be still known as the Whalers is not known at this time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New Life in a Different Sport

Yesterday, the Edmonton Oilers were the subject of a piece on how failure can spread.  It just so happens that the gentleman you see in the picture was one of the coaches during the Oilers' current run of failure, and believe it or not, he's actually had the most success of any coach since the 2009-10 season.  Why does Ralph Krueger's name come up you ask?  In a piece on the English football club Southampton on television last night, his name came up, so in an effort to figure out what his connection to Southampton is, some research had to be done.

In February 2014, Krueger switched from hockey to football and became the director of Southampton, a club that had as recently as five years ago, been playing in the country's third tier league.  In March of the same year, he would be named chairman of the club.  The documentary, called "The Southampton Way," was aired on NBC Sports and for viewing purposes, can be located here.  Krueger's part is included in this piece, and it is an insightful look into a club that wants to be the best while on a relatively modest budget.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Getting to the Root of the Oilers' Problems

The incompetence that is the Edmonton Oilers is well documented, and while it has been an ongoing problem, there are certainly ways to fix this problem.  Today, I look at one issue that has been plaguing the Oilers since before their first Stanley Cup championship: drafting and scouting.

Before you say anything about the recent picks and the failure of them panning out, remember that this is not an entirely new phenomenon, as the Oilers have drafted poorly for much of their existence in the first round, it just showed real signs when the Oilers started dismantling their championship team of the mid-80's with the Wayne Gretzky trade in 1988.

Beginning with the 1984 Draft (the first five drafts produced players that would be instrumental to the team's dynastic run on some level), the Oilers have had 38 total first round picks, which includes the 2014 Draft, and while it is too soon to tell whether Darnell Nurse or Leon Draisaitl will pan out, it is clear that the Oilers don't exactly know what to do with them once they are in the system.  In fact, from 1984 until 2001, the only players to have even had a significant impact with the Oilers were Jason Arnott (1993), Ryan Smyth (1994), and Ales Hemsky (2001) while players like Boyd Devereaux (1996), Tyler Wright, and Martin Rucinsky (both 1991) made an impact elsewhere in the NHL.  That means the Oilers got almost nothing out of their picks from 1984 to 1990.  No wonder the Oilers were in dire straits when the likes of Gretzky, Messier, Fuhr, and Coffey were sent out.

While on the surface the Oilers should be past the rebuilding stage at this point, remember that the Oilers have been in such since 2006, when they traded Chris Pronger after he wanted out.  Despite having had three first overall picks from 2010-12, the Oilers have had, at best, uneven effort from the trio (Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov), while at worst, Yakupov plays absolutely no defense (-18 this season).

What the last bit says is that the Oilers are wanting to accelerate the rebuilding process while forgetting to actually build a solid foundation for the players to succeed.  Translation: their blue line is still minor-league level and they haven't been able to identify a number one goaltender since Curtis Joseph in the late 90's.

The Oilers have a multitude of problems, with their inability to figure out what to do with their prospects most of the time being one of them.  It's going to be major digging out for a team that hasn't found much success this century.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Back from Holiday Break

It's been a while since the last update, and yes, I realize that I've missed weekly updates for both the Erie Otters and the Portland Winterhawks. To that end, here is what has been missed since the last update:

  • The Erie Otters will be getting Connor McDavid back after he missed time due to injury and the World Junior Championships.  McDavid had a slow start to his WJC tournament, but he got better as the tournament went on, helping Team Canada to gold in a tournament where the true stars of the team included the likes of Max Domi, Sam Reinhart, and Curtis Lazar.
  • McDavid will be rejoining the team and will have to get familiar with a couple of new faces, as the Otters acquired Jake Marchment and Remi Elie from Belleville.
  • The Portland Winterhawks get Nic Petan back this week from the WJCs, where he tallied a hat trick in the semi-final game against Slovakia.  He too, will have to get familiar with a couple of new faces, as Adam Henry was acquired from Saskatoon while Evan Johnson was acquired from Calgary in a deal that saw Brendan Burke go the other way.
  • The soap opera that is the Toronto Maple Leafs took another turn, as Randy Carlyle was fired this week and Peter Horachek was named interim coach.  No need to rehash the many issues that the Leafs have faced here, as it's ongoing.
  • Over the holiday break, the New Jersey Devils did a little house cleaning of their own, relieving Peter DeBoer of the coaching duties, and taking over in the interim is Lou Lamoriello, with Scott Stevens and Adam Oates handling assistant coach duties on defense and offense, respectively.  Yes, you've heard this story before, as Lamoriello is coming down from the press box to take over as coach again...while still being employed as General Manager.
  • The Edmonton Oilers fired Dallas Eakins and Todd Nelson is now the interim coach.  Oh, and the Oilers are still stinking up the joint while the front office group is somehow still employed.
  • The WHL trade deadline is this Saturday, and some big names are getting moved, with Morgan Klimchuk jumping from Regina to rival Brandon, Brycen Martin going from Swift Current to Saskatoon, Tyler Sandhu heading to Tri-City from Red Deer, and Kelowna loading up for a deep playoff run, acquiring Josh Morrissey and Leon Draisaitl from Prince Albert.
There is plenty of hockey movement going about, and with the All-Star game in Columbus looming, it's just getting started.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Erie Examiner: Stumbling to the Finish

In the weeks before holiday break, the Erie Otters are not playing their best hockey right now.  The week began with a 7-4 loss Tuesday at Kitchener in which the Otters couldn't do much on defense.  That would be the theme of the week, even in a 6-4 win at home against Saginaw on Friday.  Saturday, they had no answer for Oshawa in a 5-1 defeat.

In the last games before break, the Otters will at home Friday against Niagara before heading to Guelph on Saturday in the first meeting since the Western Conference Finals last year.  After that, the Otters won't play until December 28, and they are likely to be missing Connor McDavid due to World Junior Championship duty, which should provide the Otters an idea of where he is in his recovery.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Another Oil Change

At this point, it seems that the best way to describe the Edmonton Oilers in the last nine seasons or so is best captured by a cat sticking out its tongue.

The big news coming out of Edmonton is that Dallas Eakins has taken the fall for the Edmonton Oilers' dreadful season and is out as head coach.  The plan, according to Oilers' brass is that Craig MacTavish will fill in as head coach with Todd Nelson expected to eventually take over during the season.  If any of that doesn't make sense to you, you're not alone, as while Eakins didn't do his job of getting the Oilers moving forward in terms of progress, now, there's going to be no less than three coaches within a season.  In case you're wondering what will become of the upper management (read: MacTavish and Kevin Lowe), they're still sticking around for now, as nothing else was announced.

Just another day in Edmonton, as nothing really changes here except for the coach.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Well, That Didn't Work...

The experiment that was the Brad Robson/Drake Berehowsky era drew to a close yesterday.  Both men were given their walking papers by the Lethbridge Hurricanes after another season of dreadful hockey.  The Hurricanes have not seen postseason hockey since the conclusion of the 2008-09 season, and have not finished higher than fourth since that time.  Robson was hired to be the General Manager prior to last season while Berehowsky was tabbed head coach in that time, and both replaced Rich Preston, who had both roles the previous four years.

Both men are out of a job after a 6-19-3-2 record this season that followed a 2013-14 season that saw the Hurricanes become the only team in the league to finish under the 30 point mark.  Peter Anholt was named both General Manager and head coach, effective immediately, and while he has only been with the team since June (as assistant General Manager), he does bring head coaching experience from his time with Prince Albert, Red Deer, Kelowna, and Seattle.  Prior to coming to Lethbridge, he was a scout for the Thunderbirds.