Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Another Sutter on the way . . . Giants looking for head coach . . . Shaw TV to open with Calgary-Kootenay

With apologies to Blackie Sherrod, we're scatter-shooting with another WHL regular season having come and gone:
1. The Brandon Wheat Kings were being built for the 2015-16 season, weren’t they? A trade here and a tweak there, and the Wheat Kings finished first overall this season. Which means Kelly McCrimmon should be the WHL’s executive of the year and the coach of the year. Right?
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2. McCrimmon was the WHL’s exec of the year for 1994-95 and 2009-10. He won CHL honours in 2009-10. He has never been the WHL’s coach of the year.
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3. Whoops! McCrimmon wasn’t even nominated as the Eastern Conference’s coach of the year. That honour went to John Paddock of the Regina Pats.
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4. Of course, Mike Johnston was never honoured as the coach of the year, despite his accomplishments with the Portland Winterhawks. . . . Of course, Johnston never won the executive-of-the-year award either. . . . And look where not winning either award got him.
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5. F Oliver Bjorkstrand of the Winterhawks is the most exciting talent this league has seen since . . . F Nino Niedereitter, who also played for Portland.
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6. Bjorkstrand led the WHL in goals (63) and points (118), all in 59 games. Wouldn’t it have been great if the WHL had decided prior to this season to track individual shot attempts and shots on goal? Had that happened, we would know just how much shooting Bjorkstrand did in what has been a truly remarkable season.
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7. How many WHL teams and observers are hoping that the Kelowna Rockets don’t go all the way? Why? Because those people are of the opinion that the deal in which the Rockets landed F Leon Draisaitl from the Prince Albert Raiders, by order of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, stunk to high heaven.
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8. Bruce Hamilton of the Rockets is the Western Conference’s nominee as executive of the year. Some people thought the honour might go to Craig MacTavish of the Edmonton Oilers.
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9. In hindsight, one of the best trades, in terms of helping both teams, at the WHL deadline involved Portland and Calgary Hitmen. The Winterhawks sent G Brendan Burke to Calgary, a move that freed up their starting job for Adin Hill, an 18-year-old freshman from Calgary. . . . With Calgary, Burke went 13-3-1, 2.38, .918. . . . Hill finished up 31-11-1, 2.81, .921.
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10. I have yet to figure out what the WHL gets out of having its games on TV, but what I really don’t understand is how the league ends up with games on Shaw TV and Sportsnet at the same time. For example, on Friday, March 20, Shaw was showing Everett at Victoria, while Sportsnet gave us Kelowna at Vancouver.
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Another Sutter has made his way into the WHL. F Riley Sutter is skating with the Everett Silvertips, who selected him in the sixth round of the WHL’s 2014 bantam draft. . . . Riley’s father, Ron, is one of the six Sutter brothers to have played in the NHL. Ron and his twin brother, Rich, both had NHL careers. . . . Riley, who won’t turn 16 until Oct. 25, played this season with the midget AAA Calgary Rangers, putting up 50 points, including 22 goals, in 36 games. . . . Should Riley play in a WHL game at some point, he will become at least the 11th member of the Sutter family to do so.
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WHL on Shaw
Shaw TV will show at least seven first-round WHL playoff games.
Shaw’s coverage will begin with Games 1 and 2 between the Calgary Hitmen and the Kootenay Ice. Those games are to be played in Calgary on Friday and Sunday.
Then it will be over to the series between the Regina Pats and Swift Current Broncos. Shaw will televise Games 3 and 4 from Swift Current on March 31 and April 1.
Shaw will return to the Calgary-Kootenay series for Game 5, if necessary, which is scheduled for Cranbrook on April 3.
If the series between the Red Deer Rebels and Medicine Hat Tigers goes six games, Shaw will show Game 6 from Red Deer on April 5.
And, finally, if the Hitmen and Ice need seven games to decide their series, Game 7 from Calgary on April 6 will be shown.
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Two games in the first-round series between the Brandon Wheat Kings and Edmonton Oil Kings have had their starting times changed. Games 4 and 5, the latter if necessary, are scheduled for Edmonton on March 31 and April 1. They now will begin at 8 p.m. Mountain, rather than 7 o’clock, as originally was scheduled. . . . That series opens tonight in Brandon.
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The Prince Albert Raiders have signed G Curtis Meger and D Ty Prefontaine. . . . Meger, a list player, is with the Regina Pat Canadians who are playing in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA League final. In 23 regular-season appearances, he was 16-5-0, 1.91, .934. . . . Prefontaine, from Saskatoon, was a fifth-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft. He had 36 points, including seven goals, in 36 games with the midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts.
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They’re working hard to raise money for a new arena in Assiniboia, Sask. With that in mind, they are holding their Sports Celebrity Supper and Auction on April 11, at 5:30 p.m. . . . Former New York Islanders star Clark Gillies, who is Moose Jaw’s favourite son, will be in attendance, as will Bob Bourne, who also is a former Islanders skater. Amber Holland, a world curling silver medallist, also is to be there. . . . Among the items available via silent auction: autographed Olympic Team Canada sweaters from the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber and Ryan Getzlaf; a diamond ring; a northern Saskatchewan fishing trip; a trailer for a golf cart or ATV; a whole lot of autographed memorabilia and a trip for two to New York to watch the Islanders play. The latter trek includes seats in the Islanders’ Alumni box alongside Gillies. . . . Tickets? Email springfever@sasktel.net.
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THE COACHING GAME:

The Vancouver Giants are looking for their fourth head coach in three seasons. The Giants announced yesterday that Claude Noel, who joined the team on Nov. 30, won’t return.
According to the team, the decision was mutual.
The Giants were one of 10 WHL teams to make a coaching change during the last offseason. They also were the last of the 10 to fill the vacancy when they hired Troy Ward.
However, management chose to dump Ward when the team was 9-16-0 and on a road trip into the Central Division. Assistant coach Matt Erhart stepped in and went 1-2-0 before Noel was hired.
Under Noel, the Giants went 17-23-4.
Overall, they finished 27-41-4 and missed the playoffs.
In a revealing conversation with Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province earlier in the week, Noel talked about the future of the Giants organization:
”They have some work to do. They need to decide where they’re going to go and how they’re going to get there. There are some things that the organization is probably going to reassess. You always wonder: you were here, how did you get there? There are reasons you get from one to the other, and how do you get back? They have some young players. Their young players all look bright, but they’re just part of it. That’s just part of the equation. Who are your overages? Where’s your goaltending? Where’s your defence? Who are your forwards? Who’s going to score?”
Ewen’s blog piece is right here.
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“Chalk up a win for former players in their battle with the NHL over hockey-related head trauma,” writes Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated. “A motion filed by the league to dismiss the master complaint brought by the players was dismissed today in United States District Court in Minnesota.” . . . Muir’s piece is right here.
The order denying the motion is right here.
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Adam Proteau of The Hockey News takes a look right here at the above-mentioned lawsuit, the decision and the direction in which this whole thing appears headed.
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Centre Jack Miller, the Michigan Wolverines’ best offensive lineman in 2015, won’t play his senior season and he tells ESPN.com it’s because of the risk of brain injuries.
“I know I've had a few, and it's nice walking away before things could've gotten worse,” Miller told ESPN.com. “And yes, multiple schools have reached out. But I'm ready to walk away from it. My health and happiness is more important than a game.
“I know it's pretty unorthodox for a 21-year-old to see past his own nose. This game requires such a passion to excel, and my flame is burned out. However, I'd be lying if I said that the concussion thing doesn't scare me a little.”
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