Thursday, November 29, 2012

Shooting Upwards at Home

Remember the team that handed the Kamloops Blazers their first regulation loss this season?  That would be the Kelowna Rockets, who are in the midst of a nine-game winning streak at home.  They are still well behind Kamloops in the B.C. Division, but the Rockets are comparable in the Western Conference with Tri-City and Spokane, two teams that will have a say in who represents the Western Conference in this year's Ed Chynoweth playoffs.  Kelowna will have a chance to make it 10 at home against Moose Jaw tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Trouble in Hawkey Land

Today, the Western Hockey League has handed down some serious sanctions to the Portland Winterhawks that will greatly affect their ability to acquire new talent for the next five years.  In a statement released by the WHL, the following will happen:

As a result of a series of player benefit violations which have occurred over the past four seasons, WHL Commissioner Ron Robison has suspended the Portland Winterhawks from participating in the first five rounds of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft and the forfeiture of their first round selections in the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 WHL Bantam Drafts. Should the first round selection in 2014 not be available due to a conditional trade, Portland will surrender their second and third round picks in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft. The WHL also announced the Portland Winterhawks have been fined $200,000 and Winterhawks General Manager and Head Coach Mike Johnston has been suspended for the balance of the 2012-13 season, including the 2013 WHL Playoffs.
Now, while none of the sanctions will affect the Winterhawks' ability to participate in the 2013 WHL playoffs, which seems almost like a foregone conclusion, even after only two and a half months into the season, their ability to make the playoffs in the following seasons will be affected.  The Bantam Draft is a team's chance to stock up on incoming talent, particularly the 16 year olds and imports.  Since the Winterhawks will be without a pick in the first five rounds of next year's draft, that means the Winterhawks will have a harder time replacing the likes of Troy Rutkowski, Taylor Leier, and Mac Carruth, all of whom are over-aged players.  Also an issue is how to replace the likes of Derrick Pouliot and Brendan Leipsic, both of whom will likely make the jump to the pros next year.  As for what effects this decision will have right now, the Winterhawks will be without the head coach for the rest of the season, and either Travis Green or Kyle Gustafson, both of whom are assistant coaches, will likely fill in for the rest of the season.  Leadership is important, and it will be interesting to see how the players will react to a different voice behind the bench.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Winterhawks Weekly: Back to Winning

A week after their 12-game winning streak came to a halt against Kamloops, they started a new winning streak the next game.  As of today, that streak is now four, thanks to a 3-0 whitewashing of Vancouver on Wednesday, a 4-2 win in the Daylight Classic (curtains of Memorial Coliseum were down) against Kootenay, and an 8-2 crushing of Seattle on Saturday in Kent, WA.  Brendan Burke got the shutout on Wendesday, and Nic Petan scored two goals against the Ice on Friday.  Brendan Leipsic scored four points in the rout on Saturday.  This Friday, the Winterhawks take on the Thunderbirds at home and will travel to Everett, WA for a game against the Silvertips on Saturday.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Winterhawks Weekly: Time to Start Over

On Friday, the Winterhawks saw their 12 game winning streak come to end in Kamloops 6-4.  Mac Carruth took the loss, his first since his return, and Brendan Leipsic scored three points.  Kamloops had been struggling after opening the season with a point in every game for the first five weeks, but there was a reason why Kamloops is the class of the B.C. Division: timely scoring, and lots of it, and goaltending that can get them through when it counts.

Losing to Kamloops is nothing bad, as they are the favorite to repeat as B.C. Division champions this year, but it is how you respond after a loss.  The Winterhawks responded with a home victory against Medicine Hat 5-2.  Cam Lanigan did not play in this game, as Marek Langhamer got the call.  Taylor Leier and Ty Rattie scored two goals each and Brendan Burke picked up the win.  The Winterhawks will be at home on Wednesday against Vancouver and Friday against Kootenay in the Daylight Game, which will see the Memorial Coliseum open its curtains for the afternoon tilt.  Saturday, they travel to Kent, WA for a game against division rival Seattle.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Going for More

The Portland Winterhawks will look to extend their winning streak this weekend with a game at Kamloops tonight and at home against Medicine Hat tomorrow.  Kamloops will be looking for revenge from a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Winterhawks last Sunday while Medicine Hat will feature Cam Lanigan in net.  Lanigan, as you will remember, started the season in Portland and won all his games with the team.  However, when Mac Carruth came back, that meant someone had to go, and that someone was Lanigan.  Currently, Lanigan has a 9-3-0-0 record and has a 2.22 GAA at both stops this season.  There is no question Lanigan will want to play well against his former team, and having top players in Curtis Valk and Hunter Shinkaruk will make Medicine Hat a tough team to beat.  The Winterhawks will definitely have their hands full this weekend, and one would think both games will be close.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Worst Franchise Ever?

Normally, I don't do baseball stories in the middle of hockey season, but this bit of news from Miami is too much to not discuss.  In a trade that is expected to be finalized today, the Miami (ex-Florida) Marlins will send shortstop Jose Reyes, pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, utilityman Emilio Bonifacio, and catcher John Buck to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for shortstop Yuniel Escobar, catcher Jeff Mathis, pitchers Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani, infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, and outfielder Jake Marisnick.  Based on what you just read, if you are thinking salary dump by the Marlins, then you would be correct.  It was this time last year that the Marlins were actually trying to build a team that would contend for a playoff spot in their new home.  Today, that home, yes, the one with the abomination in center field, will now be fielding what amounts to a minor league team.  Marlins fans, if there are any left (and if you stopped rooting for them, I understand), you now have the worst owner in sports.  When you fall behind the NHL team in your city (one that isn't playing because of the lockout, mind you), it's time to pack it in.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Entering the Hall

As you know, there is a lockout going on that is affecting the NHL.  However, that lockout does not extend to the Hall of Fame ceremonies, which saw four new members join the ranks of the best to play the game.  Joe Sakic was the biggest name to enter, and with a resume that includes two Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe, a Hart Trophy, and an Olympic gold medal, not to mention a reputation for delivering when the games count the most, it's difficult to make a case against him being a Hall of Famer.  Further cementing his legacy was the fact that he spent his entire career with one franchise in Quebec/Colorado.  Mats Sundin was the other first ballot Hall of Famer in this group, having started his career in Quebec before ultimately becoming the face of the Maple Leafs for their last good years to this point.  He never reached a Stanley Cup Final, but does own a gold medal from the 2006 Olympics.  he was never as appreciated in Toronto as Doug Gilmour or Wendel Clark, but he was quietly efficient in his time there, as his being honored by the team last season shows.  Adam Oates was often the Robin to someone else's Batman, whether it was in St. Louis (Brett Hull), Boston (Cam Neely), Washington (Peter Bondra), or Anaheim (Paul Kariya).  He never won any awards, and like another under-appreciated center in Ron Francis, was often overshadowed by his teammates, yet he never complained about his role.  It's no surprise that the former college free agent from RPI found his way into a coaching job in the NHL with the Capitals, as his on-ice IQ was off the charts.  Pavel Bure was the most dynamic player in this foursome, scoring 60 goals in two seasons and coming close in two other seasons.  His career was curtailed by knee issues and a tumultuous falling out with Vancouver in the 1998-99 season.  He would bounce from Vancouver to Florida to the NY Rangers.  He is the "What could have been" of this group, as if knee problems didn't get in the way, he could have easily surpassed 600 goals for his career.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Winterhawks Weekly: the Wins Just Keep Coming

In lieu of a number, this week's Winterhawks report is all about winning, and no one seems to be able to stop the Winterhawks.  A 9-5 win over Vancouver on Friday was close until Brendan Burke was pulled for Mac Carruth.  A 9-1 win over Spokane made it eleven wins in a row, and on Sunday, they beat the best team in the WHL in Kamloops 3-1 for win number 12.  Carruth took the win in all three games this weekend, meaning he still has not lost since coming back to the team a month ago.  Ty Rattie saw his points streak end Sunday at 13 games, but that's all the bad news there was for the Winterhawks.  The Winterhawks travel to Kamloops, who will undoubtedly be seeking revenge on Friday.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Number Debate

With Pavel Bure being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this Monday (a report on this will be that day), there is a debate in Vancouver as to whether he will see his number 10 retired at some point in the future.  You know the pluses and minuses of this, ranging from his on-ice play that saw him net 60 goals in a season twice to his infamous trade demands of the 1998-99 season.  The case for this happening is most likely to include how much of an impact he made for the team, as in he was the first true superstar to wear a Canucks jersey, and when you have a superstar on your team, you tend to gain more fans along the way.  The case against?  Well, it's something of a coincidence that the three players who have had their numbers retired (Stan Smyl and 12, Trevor Linden and 16, and Markus Naslund and 19) all wore the C at one point in their respective careers and were good about giving back to the city.  Aside from the trade demand, the only people who would know about Bure's off-ice efforts would be the city of Vancouver (for the sake of this piece, I will only include Vancouver, since they are the ones talking about number retirement).  Ultimately, I think the number 10 he wore will be retired at some point, but I do not think it will be for another couple of years.  Then again, Patrick Roy smoothed things over with the Canadiens long enough to see his number retired there, so anything can happen.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Kansas Hockey Hall of Famer

Quick, name the only hockey player in the Hall of Fame to be born in Kansas?  *waits a minute* If you took the time to look at the picture above, then you know the answer.  Silas "Si" Griffis was born in 1883 in the town of Onaga, Kansas, which is northwest of the state capital of Topeka.  His playing career went from 1901 until 1919, he played for the Kenora Thistles and the Vancouver Millionaires.  In the time before the Stanley Cup would become an NHL trophy, Griffis would win the Stanley Cup with Kenora in January 1907 and again in the 1914-15 season as a member of the Millionaires.  He scored 84 goals in 154 games and would go on to excel in golf and bowling.  He would die in July 1950, the same month he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Militant Hurricanes

In last night's 4-2 victory over the Victoria Royals, the Lethbridge Hurricanes unveiled some special jerseys in the Salute to Service month, paying tribute to the men and women who serve and protect the United States and Canada.  These jerseys were worn for Military Appreciation Night, and as you can see, these jerseys are relatively simple and pay tribute in the best way possible.  The Hawker Hurricane is in the logo and the round circle is a subtle take on the RCAF.  There are five stars beneath the silhouette, with four being white (for Conference championships) and one gold star (the WHL champions in 1997).  When it comes to paying tribute to the servicemen and women, the minor and junior leagues don't miss a chance very often, and while many of them are great to look at, they are also a reminder that there are those who sacrifice their lives to keep their country and their people free.  The Hurricanes' military jersey is just another way to say thanks, and it looks good doing it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Nine in a Row!

The Portland Winterhawks just keep winning.  Their winning streak reached nine after a 5-1 romp over visiting Red Deer, with Derrick Pouliot leading the way with three points.  Mac Carruth picked up the victory, stopping 21 shots and Ty Rattie continues to add to his scoring totals, now at 11 games with at least a point.  The Winterhawks hit the road on Friday and Saturday against Vancouver and Spokane, respectively, before coming home against the WHL leading Kamloops squad.  Vancouver should be a gimme, since they're one of the worst teams in the WHL along with Kootenay while Spokane and Kamloops should provide formidable challenges, with Spokane being a point behind the Winterhawks in the U.S. Division and Kamloops outdistancing everyone by eight points.  The next best team?  You guessed it, the Winterhawks.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Winterhawks Weekly #6

Last week, I did not do a Winterhawks Weekly, since they only played one game...and Kamloops was dominating headlines for their recently deceased streak of games without a regulation loss to begin the season.  This week, I can get back to some semblance of normal, which means the Winterhawks just keep on winning.  A 5-2 win over Everett on Halloween and 6-2 pastings of the Victoria Royals on Friday and Saturday now means the Winterhawks have won 8 in a row, and as it has been said (and will again before the streak is over), it's been no coincidence that the Winterhawks have been winning with Mac Carruth back with the team.  That confidence has spread through the team, and no player in my opinion has benefited more than backup Brendan Burke.  In the early going, Burke had struggled, perhaps feeling like he had to take on too much.  In his last game before Carruth came back, Burke played relatively well, and now with the team in front of him playing to their potential, Burke can focus on his game.  Carruth gets the majority of the time, but Burke has played well when his time comes, and he will only get better when he is finally handed the starting goaltender role when Carruth does move on, as Carruth is an over-ager.

As for the team in front of the goaltenders, any one can put together a big game, and in the back-to-back against Victoria, Tyler Wotherspoon and Troy Rutkowski put up three points on Friday and Saturday, respectively, and Seth Jones is becoming a more complete player that could very well be a top pick in next year's draft.  Nic Petan is picking up where Sven Baertschi left off, providing that second lethal weapon on offense to compliment Ty Rattie, who himself, is now finding that scoring touch once again.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Moose Streaks

The Halifax Mooseheads are the only other team in the CHL that can claim only one regulation loss, after the Kamloops Blazers lost in regulation on Thursday.  Today, the Mooseheads were aiming for their 15th straight victory, but would be denied in a shootout loss.  Still, 15 games with at least a point in the standings is nothing to sneeze at, and with a record of 16-1-0-1, they are only one win less than Kamloops.  Despite the loss, Halifax is still the class of the QMJHL, and having a potential first overall pick in next year's draft (Nathan McKinnon) has a profound effect on the team's chances of representing the QMJHL in this year's Memorial Cup.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Special Threads

Remember when the Portland Winterhawks debuted their third jerseys with the eyes on them?  For those that may not remember, here is what they look like:

As you can see from the opening picture, the Winterhawks have decided to pull a switch in logo placement, as their traditional logo is now the primary logo on the front and the eyes are now the shoulder logos.  It's an improvement on the jersey, and certainly, winning will only help, as 6-2 over the Victoria Royals last night shows.

Friday, November 2, 2012

It's Over!

On November 1, the Kamloops Blazers were handed their first regulation loss.  The team that gave it to them?  B.C. rivals in the Kelowna Rockets in rather convincing fashion, as 3-0 proves.  The Blazers were actually on a 14 game winning streak and had not lost a regulation game to start the season until last night.  Their only loss of the season happened in the shootout, and in the streak, the Blazers scored 81 goals and only gave up 38, both remarkable numbers when you consider that the only player on the team with any real name recognition is Tim Bozon, who is the son of fomrer NHL'er Phillipe Bozon.  The Rockets are now in second place in the BC Division with 20 points, 13 points behind the Blazers and have a 9-6-1-1 record.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Trade Winds Rock Halloween Night

In the midst of the Kamloops watch (which by the way, continues tonight at Kelowna) and Portland's own hot streak (now with more Mac Carruth), the Edmonton Oil Kings made a big trade with the Vancouver Giants.  Mason Geertsen and a first round pick in the 2013 Bantam Draft went to Vancouver and going the other way was David Musil.  The son of former NHL defenseman Frank Musil, David goes from the outhouse of Vancouver (the Giants have the worst record in the WHL) to the defending Ed Chynoweth champions in the Oil Kings.  Musil will also get a good feel for the city of Edmonton before making his NHL debut, as he was a 2011 second round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers.