Tuesday, April 30, 2013

2013 WHL Finals preview

We are going to keep this simple.

Seems like you are always hearing about how you need secondary scoring to win in the playoffs.  While that's a fairly obvious statement, it mostly stems from the idea that your top line is going to see a lot of the other teams best defense paring, and often their checking line.  Depending on what degree of success defensively they have against you, that makes you dependent on your second line (and beyond) scoring - but they also will have a more favorable match up.

The 2012 WHL Finals featured a red hot Sven Baertschi - who put up 34 points in 22 games.  His partner in crime, Ty Rattie was credited for 33.  You couldn't ask for more from that line - they played really well.  Almost well enough to make you forget the heavy price they paid for their center, Marcel Noebels.

How 'bout that second line?

That series was pretty much Brendan Leipsic's coming out party - he drew lots of praise from Edmonton media, and it was well deserved.  One could argue that he rode that momentum into a WHL scoring title this year.

Cam Reid? Well, that 2nd round pick that Edmonton ended up with sure would have been nice, except who the hell knows if the 'Hawks would have been allowed to use it anyway.  I wonder if he wishes he stuck around St Cloud State for one more year - as they made the Frozen Four.

I distinctly remember the spring of 2007, when the 'Hawks had that 1st overall bantam pick.  There was a buzz all over town about the Trailblazers also holding the 1st overall pick - and we know how that turned out.

There was some concern with top bantam picks not reporting - and going the NCAA route.  Portland had that problem with Patrick Wiercioch, for example.  That same 2007 draft had the 2nd overall pick not report to Kelowna - which sucks for them.  The 'Hawks were looking at that same player, and traded down to the #5 slot to avoid that mess - and took Brad Ross.

I was really excited about that line of a 16 year old Ross, with Killian Hutt & Colin Reddin.  I thought they were gonna win us some games.

Ross is full of truculence - which explains why then-Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke traded up to get him.  I'm cool with that: I really liked when he beat up Mitch Wahl in back to back games.

However, that's not all you need out of a guy like that - you need scoring.  Toughness is a nice touch, but you have to put the puck in the net.  Ross did that, for the most part, but the WHL Finals is an entirely different story.

I predicted before the last Oil Kings series, "As Brad Ross goes, that's how the series goes."  Well, dude went out and put up 0 goals, 2 assists, was a (-1), an put up 31PIM.  When you have the #5 overall bantam pick, who is a 2nd round NHL pick, you need more than that.  You know, like a goal - maybe even two.

Throw in both Finals appearances and you are looking at 10 games played, 0 goals, 2 assists, (-4), and 47 PIM.  He missed a couple games in the Kootenay series, which only adds to the frustration.  Of course, he had a good run in 2012 - 22 points in 22 games - but zilch on the biggest stage.

I'm prepared to make the same prediction for the 2013 WHL Finals as the last 2:  as Portland's 2nd line goes, the series will go.  I think we all know how the Rattie line is clicking - pushing all time goal scoring numbers.  While I'm not sure its possible to stop them, you can't be completely dependent on them either. 

I am 100% confident in the De Leo - Bjorkstrand - Leier line will be good in this series.  They total 16 goals in 15 games played between them & and have a cumulative +28 rating.  Serving as the 2nd unit on the power play, they look to get favorable match ups.  You have to figure Edmonton will spend their best defensive resources in an attempt to slow down the top line (good luck with that) - leaving opportunities even strength for this line.  I'm optimistic.

Throw in some contributions from guys like Iverson, Taylor Peters, or Paul Bittner - and you're in there.

Bring on the Oil Kings - revenge is a dish served cold (on ice)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Rock the Red! (WHL Final Game 1)

So that escalated quickly....

I felt Game 5 was a successful white-out - considering one days notice, and being entirely player generated - but it appears that fans want to try red this time.  Seams reasonable to me.  It looks like some key fans are already on board - including influential booster club members, so I'm sold.

We had ore fans in white than Kamloops had fans, period.  Lets see if we can get "Rocking the Red" to take off for this round.

You in?



Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ron Robison is a coward

According to Gregg Drinnan's sources,

“for the first time in WHL history,” at least to his knowledge, the news conference that has in past seasons preceded the WHL’s championship final “has been cancelled.”

Unbelievable.  If you are comfortable at all with the hammer you chose to swing, then you just simply go about your business.  Does he fear for his safety?  We are talking about a routine press conference, which no one attends anyway.  Perhaps a finals presser in Portland is unknown territory - something that's never been done before or something - although it seems like we've had pressers in the Rose Garden...

Is it possible for WHL officials to be in Portland and escape unscathed?  Seems plausible to me.

By my amateur math, there's a 50% chance that Portland wins the Ed Chynoweth trophy, as well as a 50% chance that its won on Portland ice - is that ceremony canceled as well?  

A writer in Portland that I read said: 
it wouldn't be that tough to say "We can't comment on the matter"

"...unless we're talking to Jon Keen or Team 1260 or someone else who'll kiss my ass"

I've touched on the 1260 matter before.

It seems to me that if the court of public opinion mattered at all, Robison has just submitted a guilty plea in the name of the WHL.  Fortunately for him, he's the sheriff around here - and it doesn't matter what his credibility looks like to anyone but himself.

Stay classy, Robison.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Ty Rattie's feelings

I was fortunate enough to get some circulation from my Game 5 / series recap post, and some fans seemed to gravitate to Ty Rattie's quote about the shorthanded goal which sealed the series:

Rattie is the No. 2 playoff goal-scorer in WHL history, so he’s seen those lights go on lots of times in the post-season. Still, he said, that goal was special. “That would be top goal of my career, with the crowd being so loud and how close a game it was. It was awesome to score. … an exciting game to play.’’
Rattie reflected on a major-junior career filled with playoff highlights. “Unbelievable,’’ he said. “I’ve been so lucky to be here for four deep playoff runs, three WHL Finals. Now the last thing to do is win this next series and go on to the Memorial Cup.’’


Rattie was featured in the postgame radio coverage - where he put some importance on his most recent goal:

"...that feeling - I wish everyone could feel what I felt after that goal, 'cause it was one of the best feelings I've ever had"
He doesn't exactly address where it ranks career wise,  but it does assign some value.  I like the idea of wanting everyone to know that feeling.  Its apples & oranges, and none of us will ever know what its like to score a huge goal on a stage like major junior, but we all know what it fells like to be in the barn to witness such a feet - and its a pretty nice feeling as well.

There's no fans in the goal shot, but take some time and look at the faces in the two celebration pictures - that was a special moment shared by 9,700+ of our closest friends (click on the pictures to blow them up):

Now, the other goal being discussed was pretty special as well:


That was a huge series for all sorts of reasons.  It was the return to the playoffs for the first time in 3 seasons, which happened to be the first full season for Mike Johnston behind the bench as well as Ty Rattie on the ice.  The Chiefs still had some of the members of their 2008 squad, which broke the Memorial Cup. This was to be the last run with that group - featuring a hot Kyle Beach.  The road team won all 7 games in the series, which is the only time in WHL history that has happened.  The 'Hawks went down 3-0 in the 2nd period of that Game 7, before finding a way to get to OT.

I think my personal favorite Rattie goal might be the Game 2 OT winner in Tri-City last Western Conference Finals - a series where I was fortunate enough to attend the entire thing:

I happened to be sitting in the other end of the rink, and saw that play develop all the way.  I think I was standing about when Rattie hit the redline - and I'm pretty sure the locals were upset with how that game ended.  I will say that for the whole weekend all the TC fans I interacted with were falling all over themselves to be nice, which has been my experience for WHL road games (for the most part).

Kamloops V Portland: Game 5 / series recap





video highlights

handshake photos

game photos from the O

post-game fan discussion:

I really like that the Hawks had their bus packed and ready to go. No cockiness, they respected the competition, made no assumptions, just put on their work boots and kicked ass and got to unload the bus for a well earned trip back to billets (after a bit of a partying I suspect)
 Winterhawks put away Kamloops.....

Rattie is the No. 2 playoff goal-scorer in WHL history, so he’s seen those lights go on lots of times in the post-season. Still, he said, that goal was special. “That would be top goal of my career, with the crowd being so loud and how close a game it was. It was awesome to score. … an exciting game to play.’’
Rattie reflected on a major-junior career filled with playoff highlights. “Unbelievable,’’ he said. “I’ve been so lucky to be here for four deep playoff runs, three WHL Finals. Now the last thing to do is win this next series and go on to the Memorial Cup.’’

 Guy Charron quotes:

They have so much firepower and transition, and they were very committed to playing two-way hockey and made it very difficult for us. So, they deserve their wins. 

It wasn't easy for (our top guys). Whoever played against them are great players. It made it tough to produce, we didn't have much room. Let's give credit to their defensive corps, their top four is as good as anybody I've ever seen in this league and all four might play in the NHL.

Drinnan's piece:
 And so ends a Kamloops season that included a lot of highlights, from an early-season franchise-record 14-game winning streak to the No. 1 position in the CHL’s weekly rankings, from a second-round sweep of the arch-rival Kelowna Rockets to an appearance in the Western Conference final for the first time since 1999.
“There’s a lot of good memories this season,” Charron said. “To start off with 14 wins in a row was a unique situation.
“I think this group of players has accomplished something tremendous in terms of consistency and winning over 40 games. Credit has to be given to these guys.

 Things got a little rough late:

Hard to tell what happened there, I didn't get a good angle - neither did the camera guy.  I will say I love what DeLeo did there - not generally that kind of guy, but he more than held his own.

How 'bout that Joel Edmundson?  Got kicked out of this game (twice) in that scrum,  took the penalty that set up the first 'Hawks goal, and went -1 on the night (-2 for the series overall, with their Game 3 win being the only plus night at +2).  He is a signed 2nd round NHL pick (STL).  Kamloops brought him in at deadline time, giving up a ton for him: 
The Blazers acquired St. Louis Blues second-rounder Joel Edmundson and a fifth-round bantam pick in 2015 from the Moose Jaw Warriors for 18-year-old blueliner Tyler Bell, 2012 first-round bantam pick Jayden Halbgewachs, and a first-round pick in 2015.
 I suppose the Blazers felt that they needed to go for it this year, after last playoffs winning their first series in a long, long time - including a run of 19 straight losses.  These playoffs featured their first home OT goal since Jarome Iginla had one in 1996.  Still, seems like a huge gamble to load up this year - when by trade deadline it was apparent what kind of year the 'Hawks were having.

When Rattie stole a puck for that shorthanded breakaway in Game 5, it immediately brought me back to the Tri-City series in last years WCF - when Shinnimin got loose for a breakaway - but Carruth beat him.  In both plays, our guys came out on top, and won the series.

Stay tuned for more from this page during the week - and I'll see you on Friday:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kamloops V Portland: Games 3 & 4



**** Game 3 ****

“It was a matter of, we weren’t generating what we thought we needed to generate,” Guy Charron, the Blazers’ head coach, explained. “You sometimes go back to what gave you success and early on they were the top line in the WHL. There was no reason to think they wouldn’t be able to put it together.”

“They’re a good line,” said Travis Green, Portland’s interim general manager and head coach, “one of the best lines in the league. But we made mistakes tonight that we don’t usually make.”

I was kind of worried all day leading up to Game 4, but then this happened:

**** Game 4 ****

The second period took on something of a different tone, with the Blazers pushing and the Winterhawks seeming to have lost the oomph from their game.
It started when Portland wasn’t able to muster even one shot on a power play that took up the first 1:44 of the period.
And it continued for the rest of the period, the result being a 16-5 edge in shots for the home boys, but they weren’t able to solve Carruth. On one occasion when Carruth was beaten, winger JC Lipon drilled a goalpost.
In the second half of period, Kamloops forwards Kale Kessy and Colin Smith both had Carruth dead to rights but couldn’t beat him.
“I thought our second period was very strong. We had 16 shots,” Charron said. “But, again, as we were having momentum we took another penalty in the offensive zone.”
Kessy was penalized for roughing at 13:21 after he separated Jones’ head from his helmet.
“It’s frustrating for everyone,” Charron continued, “because we’re a team that when things go well, yeah, we’re a happy group and we play well . . . we’re hard to play against. But adversity . . . all year we’ve had a difficult time dealing with it.”

I concur with Drinnan that the 'Hawks carried the play in the 1st, aided by an early 5-on-3 which they converted.  2-0 at the break.

However, that 2nd period was all Kamloops.  They didn't even need to run the zamboni in their end of the ice.  They threw the goddamned kitchen sink at Carruth, who was  named CHL goalie of the week,  and got nothing.  The 'Hawks fans in the chat room were just hoping to get to the break without giving up too many goals.

Starting out the 3rd with that early Petan goal just killed the Blazers - as it would anyone.  Took the life right out of the building.  Then, controversy:

Iverson was given a 5 min major + tossed from the game.

Watching that hit with my Rose Garden colored glasses on, it looks like clean shoulder-to-chest to me.  No charging, no leaving the feet, no targeting the head, not late.

That being said, I get it.  You and I have the benefit of watching it as many times as we like, and in slow motion.  In real time, at least on the webstream - this hit sounded gnarly.  Sounded like a shotgun blast, to be honest.  Then, you've got Ranford's cage flying - which is a terrible visual.

Now, you have heard a thunderous check, and there's a heart & soul 5 year Blazer laying there in a heap.  The natives are restless, booing with some empties littering the playing surface.  The Blazer trainer is on the ice.  The linesman made the call, which you almost have to do just to avoid a potential riot - Kamloops is known as "Little Montreal" after all.

**** Game 5 preview ****

Well, goddamned blogger won't load photos right now - which sucks.

Its a whiteout for game 5.  I'm pretty sure this was an organic thing between the players, and they just got behind it one by one.  I don't think I've ever seen that before:  generally the team handles the marketing.  These kids just got a wild hair, and we need to back them up.

Also cranking up the fun factor, Chase Souto said to Kamloops Weekly:

After the game, Blazer forward Chase Souto offered these words when asked about the daunting task of erasing the two-game deficit.
"We did it last year. I think we're going to go in their barn, cause a ruck and shut their fans up," he said. "Bunch of losers down there. Just gonna give it our all."

I love that kind of stuff.  Should be a party on Friday night.  The 'Hawks facebook page was all over that.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Kamloops V Portland - games 1 & 2

The layoff between series left room for lots of preview pieces, but this one from Drinnan is the must read out of the bunch:

"It all has served to turn the Winterhawks into the most despised - nay, most hated - organization in the history of the WHL, which has been around since the summer of 1966. Who's No. 2? No one. The Winterhawks are the only entrant. They rule. They own the category. Back in the day, the Flin Flon Bombers and the big, bad New Westminster Bruins were feared for what they might do to you on the ice. But the organizations weren't hated.

The Winterhawks are. Period."

**** Game 1 ****


video highlights

photo essay

fans postgame discussion 

In my opinion Bozon hurt his team by playing. I'll wager he begged Charon to play, totally ineffective. Smith was no better. They were better off without both vs. Kelowna, but what are you gonna do vs. a team that has you outnumbered.

Paul Buker / Scott Sepich piece
Maybe it was Carruth, a notorious trash talker, who got into the Blazers’ heads.
“They kind of left me alone there in the first, and I kind of brought it on myself in the second and third,’’ he said of the back-and-forth. “It’s something I’ll probably need to work on in Game 2. Keep my mouth shut and my stick down.’’
Carruth said Kessy – who amazingly has been suspended seven times in his career – nailed him a good one. “He elbowed me, stuck me in the head, whatever. It’s what they’re going to try and do all series,’’ said Carruth. “It’s just going to be the way it is.’’

Dylan Bumbarger, one of the best Winterhawks bloggers, had some thoughts:

But in the last five minutes, as the Blazers became less focused on winning and more focused on "sending a message", the Winterhawks took some ill-advised retaliations. Adam De Champlain took a really dumb obvious trip at the Kamloops blue line and then added a rough that originally was going to put Portland shorthanded four minutes, which would have given the Blazers a chance to get back in the game, before Tyler Hansen took a dumb retaliation of his own and cancelled two minutes of it.
 From another Dylan post:
Not remarked on in the scoring: The monster game Seth Jones had. I thought he was Portland's best player after Carruth. Nobody got by him.
So, a good performance, with a slight worry about the impact of the end of the game.

  **** Game 2 ****

question: is Portland playing at a higher level than they did on their double-digit winning streaks? I think they might be.
 Paul Buker / Scott Sepich piece:
Kamloops’ worst nightmare is unfolding in the Western Conference finals. The question is, can the Blazers do anything to stop it?

 Dylan's next day thoughts:
Following yesterday's events you'd have no idea which organization was out of favor with the league. Yes, I'm as shocked as anyone else.
Finally, the most obvious part, and the most satisfying: the Winterhawks didn't overreact. They learned from Friday, and did just enough to defend themselves, let the Blazers hang themselves with officials, and used the power plays to help gain momentum. That the league essentially backed them up helped--you see teams including the Winterhawks all the time taking matters into their own hands when they don't feel justice is being served--but kudos to the group for staying focused.

Part two:
The Winterhawks were almost perfect in their own zone the whole game. Seth Jones had one mixup/bad pass that led to a Kamloops partial breakaway, the only real blemish.
I'd have still given him the number one star. If his draft stock even needed to rise, it did this weekend, he even gained some points in the "physical" and "standing up for teammates" categories.
  Next day Buker / Sepich piece full of great quotes:
Charron is waiting for Kamloops’ skilled forwards to show up. The likes of Colin Smith and Tim Bozon, Brendan Ranford and JC Lipon.  
“With all the experience I've had in hockey, when you look at the success of teams you have to look at your best players,’’ Charron told the Oregonian’s Scott Sepich after Saturday’s game. “Their best players are on the scoresheet every night. For us, our big guns haven't showed up on the scoresheet yet and it's going to be difficult until they get going.’’
Mac Carruth is killing it:
 Is there a hotter goaltender in hockey than Portland's Mac Carruth, the Chicago Blackhawks' draft pick?
Find me somebody - at any level - who has had a more sizzling month of April.

Samantha Meese made some observations:
 Better late than never: The Blazers start a three-ring circus late in Game 1, Joe Mahon returns to the lineup in Game 2. Coincidence? I think not. But no fireworks of the fighting kind were needed until late in the third period of Game 2, when Joe finally took care of business with JC Lipon to the delight of a packed house.

throw another draft pick on the fire

The events of the weekend's games have been covered pretty well, so I'm going a different direction.

I've been pushing this idea for a while now, but we are in the midst of something truly special right now.  Its in our best interest as fans to take all of this in, as a wave like the 'Hawks are riding doesn't come around very often.  Every game we are seeing records set - franchise playoff shutouts, all time WHL games played, the all time playoff goals number is in jeopardy, etc etc etc. 

Around town, at work, or whatever - more and more folks notice my 'Hawks gear (and playoff beard) and ask me "how are they doing?  We're thinking about getting to a game..." - and I always tell them that there's plenty of room on the bandwagon, but they better do it quick.  The next home game could very well be Game 1 of the final.  This train is rollin' along with a head of steam.

I've been backing the 'Hawks since the tail end of the 2005 season, and I've never seen the Glass Palace rocking like it was on Saturday night.  I was still on the concourse at the start of player intros and it sounded like they were scoring goals already.  The folks by me were all sorts of rowdy, which made for a pretty fun atmosphere - one guy was hellbent on getting a "KESSY SUCKS" chant going, with mixed results.

I missed the goddamned Boychuk jersey from the 2011 final by 3 tickets in the raffle.  I was joking about how it had to be in good shape, being how he missed time in that series.

Cherish this run - who knows when (if) we will see something like this again.  Spokane was a good team, with a nice season, and their best couldn't touch the 'Hawks best.  Blew 'em right out of the water.  This series is still young, but its shaping up much the same:  if the 'Hawks play their game, up to their potential, then the Blazers don't stand a chance.  No one does.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Open letter to Quentin Shore

Dear Quentin,

Like many Portland Winterhawks fans, my ears perked up when rumors came out this winter that you were thinking about joining the teamDean Millard, of The Pipeline Show stated that "that takes stones" - and he's right.

Hockey is like the rest of life, in which its best to keep your options open.  Coming into this year, I'm sure the DU option looked really good, with all the family ties to the school, as well as Pioneer hockey being a successful program, with its most recent championships in 2004 & 2005.  Guys like Matt Carle & Paul Stastny were on that team, demonstrating that you can achieve your NHL dreams via this route.

For most players in your position, coach George Gwozdecky & his successful track record would be a great selling point.  Playing with your brother Nick probably sounded pretty good as well.  I wonder if next season will feel different, with Gwozdecky fired and Nick Shore going pro.

I'm sure one of the potential draws to Portland was to play with Seth Jones, and he very well may be headed your way next year anyway.

Conventional wisdom shows that the advantages of major junior are more games (a pro-style schedule) as well as a NHL style playoff format.  If we look as your friend Seth Jones, for example, he played more regular season games this year than in the two years in the USNDP combined.  Throw in the WJCtwo Top Prospect Games, he's got sigifinantly more ice time than he would have at UND.  Then there's the playoffs.

William Wrenn once faced the same decision you have.  He appears to have struggled for DU, before signing with Portland.  Wrenn went on to play more WHL playoff games than NCAA regular season games.  Of course, he had the luxury of knowing that an NHL team was invested in him, but one has to think that playoff experience really furthered his development - taking a team to a game 7 in the league final while wearing the "C" - and his pro career seems to be on track in year one.

If you decide to come over to the dark side, and sign with Portland, it would be a significant career risk.  Even for a forward of your caliber, who would be top 6 on almost any NCAA / CHL team, ice time will be tough to earn.   The 'Hawks are bringing back 5 of their top 6 forwards next season.  There should be plenty of NHL scouts following the team, with guys like Keegan Iverson, Dominic Turgeon in their draft years, and Paul Bittner being drafted the year after.  However, that further illustrates the competition for ice time.  Players like yourself are often motivated by the chance to shine on a team that looks to remain a contender, even after being favored to do serious damage in the playoffs for the 3rd straight year.

That NCAA education will no doubt prove valuable later in life, and I wouldn't walk away from it without a lot of consideration. There are many players who capitalize on the WHL scholarship program if pro hockey isn't in the cards - so leaving Denver isn't necessarily the end of hockey paying for school.  You can play CIS hockey while going to school in Canada, and sometimes guys get noticed by NHL teams that way.

My advice to you is to reach out to as many players as you can who have had to make this choice, especially Seth Jones & William Wrenn, as they are familiar with both sides of the coin.  If you make it up here to Portland, let me know - I'd love to show you around town.

Chad Balcom

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Kale Kessy - turned over a new leaf?

Kale Kessy is killing it right now.  This playoffs he's got loose for a hat trick, another hat trick,
in addition to an OT series clincher.  Dude's been a candidate for the Cy Young, with 11G / 2A in 10 games - while picking up only 8 penalty minutes.  Watching the video highlights of that Game 4 of the Kelowna series, it appears as though the Blazers put together a nice highlight package.  They even show most of the penalties, although that may be in part due to the heat created by the 11-to-1 powerplay ratio handed out in this game.

Kessy's had a pretty interesting year.  Started out in Medicine Hat, where he picked up his 7th WHL suspension - 12 games worth - which is how he caught my attention.  While suspended, he was traded to Vancouver, and that team struggled.  At the deadline, Kamloops picked him up for the stretch run.  Kessy put up 25 points in 31 games for the Blazers - against 44 PIM's.  He helped balance the top two lines for them, which can prove to be extremely valuable.

At the NHL trade deadline, he saw his rights go from Phoenix to Edmonton - and the Oilers turned around and signed him.

I'm a big second-chance guy.  That being said, I'm a little concerned that Kessy could start running around and really hurt someone - which is an issue being how my favorite team is about to see him over and over for the next week-and-a-half.  I'm hoping he's taken a page out of Matt Cooke's book and has turned over a new leaf.  If he hurts the 'Hawks playing hard and scoring goals - I can live with that.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Paul Bittner

I've been thinking about a Paul Bittner post lately.  So was Paul Buker, apparently.

There's some great stuff in there about Bittner's background.  Good quotes from his family, and stories of his hometown.

Jon Bittner describes Crookston as a town of about 8,000 "five or six hours'' from Minneapolis-St. Paul, 140 miles south of Winnipeg, and 22 miles east of Grand Forks, North Dakota. He said the polka music did get the boys in trouble once at school. "One of our teachers gave us a call,'' he said, and told us, 'could you tell the boys to stop singing some of the songs they're singing? They're not appropriate.' " "There is no Beer in Heaven'' not appropriate for grade school? Who knew?

… life at Sunset High? “No one really treats me special,’’ he said. “I kind of just keep my head down, do my schoolwork, get out of there and go to the rink.’’ … he laughs, noting, “I guess there’s a rumor going around that I make a million dollars a year.’’

Well, there goes another 5 first rounders - and we hear a $200,000 number floating around sometimes...

While I like the direction Buker went, I think he missed a few things.  There's more to the controversy in MN with the kids defecting to the WHL:  Chris Peters has a great post about this issue.

The StarTrib also detailed the somewhat recent resignation of Jon Bittner from an executive board position with the coaches association last spring after his son, Paul, signed with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.
“I still take pride in community-based programs,” Jon Bittner said to David LaVaque of the StarTrib. “The only problem is I had one of those kids who wanted to play in the WHL.”

 As I mentioned earlier, I think the biggest part of the Bittner story is the success he's had when given the opportunity to get 1st line minutes with 1st line players.  In a 4 game span, he scored  2 goals & an assist  against Tri-City,  followed it up with a goal on New Years Eve,  had another 3 point night against Everett - capping off this stretch with the GWG against Prince George.  Game winning goals in 4 straight games, from the youngest player in the WHL.  I think that's a big story.  The last 2 games of the regular season saw #5 on the top line - and Paul potted goals in both of them.

Perhaps we should look at the video:





There was a really good Hockey Talk interview with Bittner from the 11/19/12 show -

 Bittner was also featured on the 3/25/13 edition - which was during the Everett series:

 (on a side note, that show is so much better with a hockey guy doing the interviews, but I suppose we are fortunate to have it in the first place.  should be interesting to see what next season brings).

The Winterhawks are bringing back 5 of their top 6 forwards next year, with Ty Rattie moving up to the AHL (or the Blues).  Seems like #5 fit in pretty well on the Petan / Leipsic line before - you'd think they will have a chance to shine.  Should be fun.

you better put two guys on #5 when he's out there

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spokane V Portland: Games 3 & 4 + series summary

Game 3:

Highlights here


Game 3 fan discussion

Paul Buker piece

Spokesman-Review story


****  Game 4 ****

Real time fan discussion

Paul Buker writeup

Spokesman-Review post-mortem

 It seems to me that we are witnessing some pretty special times here.  Mac Carruth is now the all time WHL playoff wins leader - passing Stanley Cup Champion Cam Ward 2 games ago.  There's potentially 10 wins that can be tacked onto that record.  Most records are broken by the smallest of increments - time will tell where this one ends up.

The last 4 of those wins included a total of 3 goals.  That's probably something we won't see again - holding a team to 3 goals in a playoff series.  I think Todd said on post-game that the previous record was 8 or 9 goals against for a series - 3 goals is just nuts.  Most fans would tell you that Carruth struggled in game 1 of the series - and still put up insane numbers.

Ty Rattie sits 6 goals away from the all-time WHL playoff goals record.  When you start throwing around numbers like that, you have to look at the history of this league.  Ray Ferraro played for the Winter Hawks: winning the 1983 Memorial Cup (wearing Cooperalls). Ferraro was only good enough for the 3rd line here in Portland, putting up 90 points in 50 games.  After being shipped off to Brandon, he got loose for 108 goals the next year.  Point is, when you look at all time goal scoring numbers - dudes used to put up a lot of goals.  Rattie is a special kid, on a special run.

As far as this series, I think its pretty simple.  Spokane was a good team this year: 44-26 is a really nice record.  Don Nachbaur always has his guys playing sound defense & a team game where the sum of the parts is better than the individuals.  Nachbaur is a tough dude. That being said, when the 'Hawks are playing the way they want to play, there's not a whole hell of a lot that the other team can do about it.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spokane V Portland: game 2

my Rose Garden seats are better than yours

show me a good player and I'll show you a supportive Mom

my seats in the Glass Palace aren't as good

post-game discussion

Paul Buker story

photo essay

Spokesman-Review story


Video highlights

You don't have to be hockey guys to do a decent interview - Ron Callan should be taking notes.

Coach Green postgame

Mac Carruth postgame

Seth Jones postgame

What do you say about a 3-0 game?  The Chiefs put a lot of shots on, many of them of good quality.  There were several posts / crossbars both ways, but the 'Hawks found a way to finish - and the Chiefs didn't.

I felt that the 'Hawks played well physically - Iverson played on the edge, without going over.  Peters threw his body around, as well as de Champlain.  Carruth did a nice job of establishing his crease, and he probably got away with that one in the 1st, catching Playfair up high with his paddle.

Todd made the point in postgame that these two games were vastly different, and the 'Hawks can play whatever style you wish.  I think they are correct.

The Chiefs have held the 'Hawks to 2-for-12 on the powerplay so far, after going 79.4% on the PK during the season.  They've improved to 85.3% in the playoffs.  As has been the case, the PP looks different than the numbers reflect.  Its a good powerplay.

Its going to be interesting to see what happens in Spokane - you figure the goal is to split, which would put the 'Hawks up 3-1 - which is pretty good.