Thursday, May 22, 2014

Oil Kings fighting a curse? Some WHL coaching rumours . . .

EIHL-UKF Ned Lukacevic (Spokane, Swift Current, 2001-06) has signed a one-year extension with the Fife Flyers (Scotland, UK Elite). Lukacevic started this season with Tohoku Free Blades Hachinohe (Japan, Asia HL), putting up seven points, two of them goals, in 10 games. . . . He signed with the Bakersfield Condors (ECHL) on Oct. 22 and was pointless in one game. He was claimed on waivers on Oct. 28 by the Reading Royals (ECHL) and scored twice in nine games. He signed with Fife on Dec. 14 and had 44 points, 15 of them goals in 34 games. . . . The Fife head coach is Todd Dutiaume (Brandon, 1991-94), who has been at Fife as a player, player-coach, or coach since 1998-99.

1. Ken Campbell of The Hockey News has seen enough of the present Memorial Cup tournament format that includes a sometimes undeserving host team. It’s time, he writes right here, for the Canadian Hockey League to come up with something different. . . . Campbell doesn’t seem to have a problem with the round-robin format, but I do. It just isn’t right to take teams that, for the most part, have just played and won four best-of-seven series and stick them into a championship that uses a round-robin format. Throw in a host team that perhaps didn’t get out of the first or second round of its league playoffs and you have a recipe for disaster. . . . Unfortunately, the host team format presents the CHL with a license to print money, so we never will see the major junior championship decided in a best-of-seven series. And that’s too bad. . . . (If you are wondering, I would have the champions of two leagues play off to see which one would meet the third league for the Memorial Cup. I would rotate the bye to the final each season.)

2. Bud Selig is to step down as the commissioner of Major League Baseball in January. Yes, there is a move afoot to find a successor. It appears that Selig knows who he wants to take over. But is there agreement among the owners? Michael S. Schmidt of The New York Times has an intriguing story right here.

3. F Jake Virtanen of the Calgary Hitmen has undergone shoulder surgery to repair damage suffered this season. Virtanen will be sidelined for up to six months. He will attend the NHL combine later this month but won’t be able to take part in any of the fitness tests. . . . Virtanen, the No. 1 pick in the 2011 bantam draft, had 71 points, 45 of them goals, in 71 games this season, his second in the WHL. He will turn 18 on Aug. 17.

4. The Royal Bank of Canada and the Toronto-Dominion Bank showed profits of more than $2 billion for the second straight quarter. . . . RBC was at $2.2 billion; while TD showed up at $2.1 billion. . . . Meanwhile, Canada Post lost $28 million in its first quarter. . . . Dear Canada Post: Perhaps you should go into the banking business.

5. G Dustin Tokarski is the flavour of the day, having backstopped the Montreal Canadiens to a 3-2 OT victory over the host New York Rangers on Thursday night. . . . If you aren’t aware, he was cut by six or seven midget AAA teams in Saskatchewan before the Prince Albert Mintos gave him a chance. Later, two WHL teams dropped him before he caught on with the Spokane Chiefs. . . . In fact, his mother, Darlene, emailed Mike Mazurak, the Mintos’ GM, to see if he needed a goaltender and the rest, including a national midget AAA championship, is history. As Mazurak told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix six years ago: “She sends me that email every year just to remind me.” . . . If you would like to read more about the legend of Dustin Tokarski, which includes Memorial Cup and World Junior titles, the StarPhoenix story, written by Darren Zary, is right here.

6. In 2008, G Dustin Tokarski was part of the Spokane Chiefs team that won the Memorial Cup, beating the host Kitchener Rangers 4-1 in the final. . . . You may recall that it was following that game when the Memorial Cup, as it was being cuddled by Chiefs captain Chris Bruton, broke into two pieces. . . . The WHL hasn’t held the Memorial Cup since that incident. . . . Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun, who wonders if the Oil Kings aren’t up against a curse at this Memorial Cup in London, Ont., has more right here.
Suddenly, there are more names mentioned for the Vancouver Giants’ head-coaching vacancy than minority owner Michael Buble has songs in his repertoire. . . . News 1130 Sports tweeted early Thursday that Perry Pearn is “very high” on the list. “Coaching search not done,” the tweet read, “but Pearn emerging as leader.” . . . Earlier, News 1130 Sports had tweeted that Pearn, Marc Habscheid and Tim Hunter are “just some of the names who have applied” for the job. . . . Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province reports that the Giants “apparently” talked with former Portland Winterhawks head coach Travis Green, who is the head coach of the Utica Comets, the Vancouver Canucks’ AHL affiliate. According to Ewen, Green “told them that he wants to stay in the pro ranks.” . . . Ewen also reports that former Saskatoon Blades F Jason Christie, now the head coach with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign, “is said to be on the Giants’ radar,” as is Edmonton Oil Kings’ assistant coach Steve Hamilton. . . . I was told Thursday that the Saskatoon Blades, who are in need of a general manager and head coach, also are wanting to chat with Hamilton, who is kind of busy at the Memorial Cup these days. Hamilton is wrapping up his fourth season as an assistant with the Oil Kings. Of course, should Edmonton head coach Derek Laxdal move on after what has been another successful season, perhaps Hamilton would be in line for a promotion. When former GM Bob Green moved to the parent Edmonton Oilers, it was his assistant, Randy Hansch, who moved up, so there is at least some history in the organization of promoting from within.
Matt Hughes is the new general manager and head coach of the junior B Nelson Leafs of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Hughes, who was born in Fort St. John, B.C., and raised in Kamloops, was fired earlier this month after one season as general manager and head coach of the AJHL’s Grande Prairie Storm. He has previous head-coaching experience in the KIJHL with the Columbia Valley Rockies. . . . Larry Martel, the interim president of the society that operates the Leafs, told the Nelson Daily that “there were 28 very good candidates from all over North America who applied. We interviewed eight the committee felt were the very best.” . . . Hughes takes over from Frank Maida, who resigned in April.
OHLJay Wells has joined the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit as an assistant coach. Wells, a veteran of 18 seasons as an NHL defenceman, spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach with the OHL’s Barrie Colts. . . . Wells and Spirit head coach Greg Gilbert played together on the 1993-94 New York Rangers, who won the Stanley Cup. . . . The Spirit, which earlier added former NHLer Phil Myre as its goaltending coach, also announced that associate coach John Kisil is returning.
ECHLHead coach Brad Ralph and the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads have reached agreement on a two-year contract extension that will take him through 2016-17. The 33-year-old Ralph, who also is director of hockey operations, has been with Idaho for two seasons, reaching the playoffs in both. The Steelheads got into the second round this season, after losing out in the Western Conference final a year ago.
Luke Strand is the new general manager and head coach of the Madison Capitols, who are preparing for their first season in the USHL. . . . Strand spent this season as general manager of the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers. From 2009-11, he was Sioux City’s head coach. He also has coach in the AHL, as an assistant coach with the Houston Aeros (2007-09) and Abbotsford Heat (2011-13). . . . With the Capitols, he replaces Steve Miller, who resigned last weekend.

(at London, Ont., all times Eastern)
(all games televised by Sportsnet)
Friday: Val-d’Or 1, London 0 (8,863)
Saturday: Guelph 5, Edmonton 2 (8,842)
Sunday: Edmonton 5, London 2 (8,863)
Monday: Guelph 6, Val-d’Or 3 (8,796)
Tuesday: Val-d’Or 4, Edmonton 3 (2OT) (8,745)
Wednesday: Guelph 7, London 2 (8,863)
Thursday: No game scheduled.
Friday: Semifinal, 7 p.m.
Saturday: No game scheduled.
Sunday: Final, 4 p.m.

No game scheduled.

 From Vancouver Giants F Cain Franson (@frannyy12): “I asked my dad if he wanted something from the ice cream shop, he replied with ‘do they sell six packs there?’ #carl #whatabeauty #role model”
From Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) of The Hockey News: “I'm sorry, but if you sit in public just chewing on a cigar, I reserve the right to imagine you talking like The Penguin from Batman.”

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