It’s finally here! The day when we join the world a few dozen people across Western Canada for the cliched tradition of making snap judgments on who won and lost at the WHL Trade Deadline. Oh happy day!
Additions: 1992 F Michael Ferland, 1993 F Erik Benoit, 1993 F Collin Valcourt
Subtractions: 1992 F Adam Kambeitz, 2013 Bantam Draft – 1st, 4th, 5th round picks, 2015 Bantam Draft – 1st round pick
About time we say something positive about the Blades this year. Fact of the matter was they needed to make some plus-sized moves (they’ve got a great personality too!) to at least try and start playing like a true contender, and they did just that. They may have not have cured all that ails them, but on paper they have a much better chance today than they did when they woke up Thursday.
See what we did there? Yesterday’s deals are very much a double-edged sword – it’s now or never for the Blades. The future is bleaker than an Estevan Bruins power play. They already mortgaged their future once recently (Brayden Schenn, anyone?) and after yesterday, no longer hold first-round picks in the next three Bantam Drafts. And as Alan Caldwell pointed out yesterday, they not only lose a minimum of 14 players from this year’s roster next year, they also don’t have any first or second-round picks from any of the previous three Bantam Drafts in their system either.
Swift Current Broncos
Additions: 1995 F Jay Merkely
Subtractions: 1993 F Josh Derko, 2014 Bantam Draft – 3rd round pick
As predicted here and in the Prairie Post, the Broncos did not necessarily set out to buy or sell but still ended up making one of the biggest splashes in the pre-deadline pool. Merkley fills virtually all of the Broncos’ needs up front in one shot, and all in exchange for a guy who wasn’t going to be in Swift next year anyway. He made a good first impression too, tapping in a power-play marker in Wednesday’s win over Red Deer.
If you didn’t resolve this year to give thanks every day for minor pro hockey, you probably should have because they’ve got the market cornered on this whole ugly jersey thing and making the world a better place. The latest and greatest: The Mississippi River Kings of the Southern Professional Hockey League and their Hawaiian-Elvis-themed jerseys for tonight’s game against Louisiana.
Proudly (is there any other way?) sporting these beauties for Mississippi tonight will be former Estevan Bruins/Notre Dame Hounds/Flin Flon Bombers defenceman Kyle Lundale, and one-game Saskatoon Blades goalie Matt Krahn. That’s one hell of a way to upstage your cross-state rivals.
Weekend wrapup: Pats on a roll, Adam Lowry’s once-in-13-years streak, and Millionaires embarass Bruins
Are the Regina Pats ready for some real competition? The Patricias got healthy over the Christmas break (Dyson Stevenson, Chandler Stephenson, Luke Fenske and Colton Jobke all returned from lengthy absences between Dec. 27 and 29) and have now won five in a row, including three games in three nights over the weekend. They’ve moved up to eighth in the Eastern Conference, just one point back of Swift Current for seventh. Next up: Two games in three nights against the East’s No. 2-ranked Prince Albert Raiders and No. 3-ranked Calgary Hitmen.
The other big question in the East is who will be the one to stop Adam Lowry? The Broncos captain scored twice Saturday against Lethbridge to extend his points streak to 17 games and pass Layne Ulmer’s career-best of 16 games. Lowry now has the second longest points streak for a Bronco since Jeremy Reich hit the scoresheet in 23 straight games to kick off the 1999-2000 season (something Reich credits Ulmer almost entirely for – read more later this week here and in this coming Friday’s Prairie Post.)
Elsewhere in the East Division, Saskatoon continued its Jekkyl and Hyde act with two convincing wins over Medicine Hat and P.A., the Moose Jaw Warriors lost three games in three nights to extend their losing streak to four, and the Raiders are also on a three-game skid.
In the SJHL, former WHLers Sean Aschim and Lucas Froese had a successful two-night stand with the Estevan Bruins, combining for five goals and eight assists in back-to-back wins for the Melville Millionaires this weekend. Aschim played 84 games for P.A., Kelowna, Moose Jaw and Seattle in WHL while Froese split eight games between the Pats and Broncos. No word on if Aschim and Froese cooked the Bruins breakfast Sunday morning or even gave them their real names.
Humboldt extended its winning streak to six games Sunday with a 5-1 win over the Weyburn Red Wings, who have now lost three in a row after winning their first two in the post-Dwight McMillan era.
And La Ronge Ice Wolves goalie/Swift Current product Myles Hovdebo stopped 40 shots Friday in a 1-0 win over the Flin Flon Bombers for the Swift Current product’s first shutout of the season.
In all fairness, it can’t be easy being the Saskatoon Blades this year – hosting the Memorial Cup, horrific early-season struggles, the public scrutiny that comes with employing a high-profile coach who’s won three playoff series since being rehired in 2004, and a web page my browser tells me is written in Latvian.
What we learned: Eric Tillman vs. everyone, Hockey Canada vs. the WHL, and the Saskatoon Blades vs. the haters
Two weeks in a row? That must be some kind of record. This week we learned …
That Eric Tillman should probably fire Eric Tillman as his own publicist. New Eskimos GM Ed Hervey lit into his predecessor at his introductory press conference: “The double E stands for Edmonton Eskimos, not the Ego Empire.” The incomparable Terry Jones then referred to Tillman as a “fired egomaniac” and quoted Hervey as saying his relationship with Tillman was non-existent. Esks head coach Kavis Reed hasn’t had much good to say either about the man who helped bring the 2007 Grey Cup to Saskatchewan. Then again getting fired twice in the month before Christmas is pretty harsh so he might just want to wait until the new year on that one.
That the WHL doesn’t produce goal scorers. Canada’s selection committee for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship named just two WHL forwards to the team’s roster, including Regina product JC Lipon of the Kamloops Blazers. Did Colin Smith, Adam Lowry, Michael St. Croix and Hunter Shinkaruk make urine in someone’s cereal this season? Or is this all payback for commissioner Ron Robison’s embarrassing handling of the Great Portland Winterhawks Debacle of 2012?
If we can be frank (because, let’s be honest, when is being Frank ever a bad idea?) the odds of this becoming a regular feature are pretty slim. Very occasional might be better description but, regardless, we’d encourage you to check back every week as we examine the latest droppings of wisdom the local sports scene hath left on our collective windshield.
This week, we learned …
Greg Marshall is no longer the most embarrassing head coaching hire in CFL history. That honour can now go to George Cortez, who was fired as head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. To be clear, it’s more embarrassing for the organizations involved than the coaches themselves, but Hamilton’s gaffe tops Saskatchewan’s for the simple fact of the dollars involved. When the Roughriders canned Marshall, he was reportedly owed a shade over $638,000 through 2014. Hamilton could end up paying Cortez $1.2 million for the next three years. Oskee-wee-wee, Oskee-ha-ha!
- Kelly Friesen of Yahoo! Sports wrote a column yesterday calling the Regina Pats deadline-day losers. We haven’t looked at the Pats through rose-coloured glasses in recent years, but have to respectfully disagree on this one. First, times were much different when the Pats foolishly chose not to trade Jordan Eberle and Colten Teubert. It’s a red herring to suggest those decisions should have informed the Pats this year. Second, it’s important to note the Pats did get three draft picks in return. Yes, the Pats gave up a first-round pick (and others) for Martin Marincin. Thing is, that first-rounder is not going to be a Top 10 pick anyway and, outside of the Top 10, the WHL’s Bantam Draft is little more than a glorified crapshoot. Third, keep in mind the Pats are 12-10 against the other Eastern Conference teams currently in a playoff position. It’s our unusually humble opinion that legitimate playoff experience and building a culture of competitiveness is far more beneficial to the cause than stockpiling draft picks and prospects who may or may not ever see the light of day in the Dub.
- There’s a great poll up at Daniel Fink’s blog asking which team you would HATE to see win an SJHL championship. In my mind it’s a toss-up between the Minot Top Guns and the Lebret Eagles, but apparently you have to vote for teams that still exist.
- And just a quick note that Rider Prophet and Rod Pedersen are both representing Saskatchewan in the finals of the Best Canadian Sports Blog voting. We were apparently left off the ballot as the system is currently unable to handle the flood of votes we’d receive. Cast your vote here.
I hate to say ‘I told you so’ but, well, you know. The rumour mill’s credibility fell victim to a stack of delicious pancakes today when the Regina Pats’ leading scorer, Jordan Weal, was NOT dealt at the WHL’s trade deadline. Man I’m tired of being right. Now that our shameless backpatting is out of the way, let’s get to some real news.
The Moose Jaw Warriors are in beast mode. Over the past 36 hours the Warriors acquired over-age point-a-game sniper Cam Braes from Lethbridge, and over-age point-a-game playmaker James Henry from Vancouver. The moves address Moose Jaw’s main concern – scoring – in a big way. The Warriors’ offence has dropped from 3.56 goals per game to 3.08 goals per game since losing defenceman Morgan Rielly to a knee injury and they’ve been getting it done by committee ever since. With Quinton Howden back from World Juniors and two new elite forwards in the fold, the sky should be the limit for Moose Jaw.
Why the Pats should keep Jordan Weal, bad news for the Blades, and a Humboldt Broncos-Tim Tebow conspiracy theory
There’s no shortage of opinions on what the Pats should do with Jordan Weal, and whether they should be buyers or sellers, or just take him to SARCAN and collect the 10-cent refund. Rob Vanstone thinks the Pats should hang onto Weal and go into ‘buy’ mode. Rod Pedersen thinks the Pats should dump Weal and build for the future. The Magic 8 Ball in the Saskawhat office says the Pats will hang onto Weal, but be neither buyers nor sellers at Tuesday’s trade deadline.
This season was intended as a building year for the Pats, so the Pats won’t want to give up any part of their future to try and win now. It’s also true that, without Weal, the Pats would be relying on the ineptitude of the teams below them in the standings (and to be fair, there is lots of it) just to make the playoffs. With Weal, the Pats sit five points back of the division-leading Moose Jaw Warriors, and have knocked off the conference-leading Edmonton Oil Kings in all four games between them this season.
So the decision for GM Chad Lang to make is whether it’s more valuable to his team’s future to throw in the towel on this season in favour of a slew of prospects and draft picks that may or may not pan out, or to give his talented group of young players some invaluable experience by competing for a division title. Unless the offer for Weal includes another team’s first-round pick for the next 10 years, I’d be keeping him around.
- There’s been a lot of talk lately about the reasons Andy Fantuz “should” stay with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. One of the main arguments seems to be the fact that he can be at the centre of the community here – a local celebrity on par with the Premier or Theresa Sokyrka. (OK, maybe the last one was a bad example.) With all due respect to those who like the “fishbowl” atmosphere of our province (hell, I’m one of them), who’s to say this is something that appeals to Fantuz? Maybe Fantuz DOESN’T want to be a rock star. Maybe Fantuz wants nothing more than to catch for 150 yards and go home to eat a cereal with someone else’s face on the box. Saskatchewan’s a great place but it’s not for everybody, and if Fantuz left on those grounds it would be hard to fault him.
- Khari Jones doesn’t see his move from offensive coordinator in Hamilton to quarterbacks coach in Saskatchewan as a demotion. He sure seems sincere when he says it, and it’s not a stretch to believe him either. Management isn’t for everyone.
- If I were in charge of a local sports team and had a couple ounces of common sense, and my front office person had an affair with the coach and several players, everyone involved would be on the first bus out of town. It’s a no-brainer, right?
- Not Saskatchewan-related, but too deadly to ignore: How about Brendan Gallagher last night? Seven points for the Vancouver Giants in an 8-4 win. Holy shit.