Thursday, January 25, 2007

Roy Stays With Remparts; Charges Dropped

In a move that was not really a surprise, Patrick Roy announced today that he would stay with the Remparts, both as a coach and part owner. This after Pierre Cardinal, a "representative" of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, decided to drop any legal proceedings against the Hall-of-Famer. It would have been an enormous blow to the Q to lose a figure as public as Roy. Glad this part of the issue has been resolved. Now if the league could only do something about the way Sagueneens' ownership runs the franchise, we would all be better off.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New Article on Scouting and the Top Prospects Game

I want to draw your attention to an article I wrote today that is posted on Hockey's Future. It contains the results of my interviews/discussions with the Head Scouts of International Scouting Services about the scouting of the 2007 draft eligibles and reviews some of their thoughts on the recent Top Prospects Game.

The link to it is:

Q Takes Steps to Improve Security

CHL News is very glad that yesterday the QMJHL publicly announced that it will require each of its teams to provide a plan for increased security "in the coming days." Not sure how long each team will have to present such a plan to Raymond Bolduc, the Director of Hockey Operations, but hopefully its within 30 days. Also hopefully, further action was taken privately against the Chicoutimi ownership group and warnings given, because no matter how much security is provided, the atmosphere in the barn has to be family friendly for the league to continue to prosper. Good security and good ownership attitude is good business for the league. Lets keep our fingers crossed that the Sagueneens ownership group quickly learns the difference between competitiveness and ugly ruffianism.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

WHL Weekend Top Performers--Western Conference

After a silent Monday night, there were 3 games tonight in the WHL, including a great battle between the leaders in the East and Central Divisions of the Eastern Conference (where Medicine Hat defeated Brandon), but I want to finish my review of the weekend performers before going on to any game reviews.

B.C. Division

Vancouver--The Giants had a very disappointing weekend, losing 2 of 3 games during the three-day period (one in a shootout). With 2 games against the Everett Silvertips, the leader in the US Division leader, this weekend was an opportunity to show that the Giants were ready for the coming Memorial Cup and had made the right moves at the trade deadline. But this was not to be and one has to wonder whether the team has made some bad decisions of late giving up so much future talent to make a good showing in May. One of the recent acquisitions did have an excellent weekend. Centre Wacey Rabbit (BOS, 5th round, 154 overall, 2005) had points in each of the Giants' 3 games this weekend and was dominant on the ice. With 2 goals and 4 assists (and +1 plus/minus) for the weekend, Rabbit was Vancouver's best player. Another player who is performing well is J.D. Watt (CAL, 4th rd, 111th overall, 2005) who had a really good Saturday and Sunday, scoring 4 goals in 2 games. Although the big, tough winger had no fights over the weekend, he sure did throw his weight around, adding to his already high PIM. Finally, long-time Giants' blueliner Cody Franson (NAS, 3rd round, 79 overall, 2005) just keeps putting up the points, as he continues to take care of his own net no matter what is going on around him. He had an assist in each of the weekend games, and was +4 in the 3 games.

Kamloops--Just 2 points behind the Giants in the standings, the Blazers also lost 2 of 3 on the weekend. Three players deserve mention in the Blazers' efforts this weekend, 2 forwards and a netminder. Overager Reid Jorgenson continues to put up points in this league. This weekend, he recorded 4 goals and 2 assists. Hopefully, Jorgenson will get another look by an NHL team this coming summer. If not, he should have no trouble signing with an AHL team and try to make it to the big time from there. A player already well on his way to the NHL is winger Juuso Puustinen (CAL, 5th round, 149 overall, 2006). Second in total points among rookies in the league, Puustinen had 2 goals and 2 assists this weekend. Finally, the Blazers younger goaltender, Dalyn Flette, did an excellent job cleaning up the messes on Friday and Saturday, earning himself an opportunity to start on Sunday. He promptly won that game. In all, Flette faced 40 shots over the weekend, and stopped 36 of them. The young netminder is eligible for the 2008 NHL draft and if he continues to perform the way he did this weekend, he will be a top prospect in the draft.

Prince George--It is a big drop off in points from Kamloops to Prince George, but the Cougars gained some points this past weekend with 2 shutout wins against the hapless Chilliwack Bruins. Overage centre Eric Hunter (NYR, 6th round, 174 overall, 2006) had one of his better stretches, scoring 2 goals and an assist, while maintaining a +2 plus/minus in the 2 weekend games. Hunter has been somewhat of a disappointment this season, not putting up the numbers expected of him, but this weekend, he looked particularly good. Defenceman Ty Wishart also had a good 2 games. With a goal and an assist, Wishart continues to show why San Jose chose him in the first round of last summer's NHL draft.

Kelowna--Fighting for a spot in the cellar of the division, the Rockets have added some top prospects recently. With only one game this weekend (which the team lost), it was one of the youngsters that attracted my attention this weekend. The big winger Brett Breitkreuz is a rookie in the WHL this season, getting his feet wet, but he looks like he could be a force in the future for this team.

Chilliwack--On the losing end of 2 games with the Prince George Cougars,the Bruins are struggling through their freshman season in the league (as was expected). Conceding that this year has very few bright spots, the team traded Myles Stoesz for top prospect Brayden Metz. Metz, a big 1990 winger, is expected to play with the Bruins next season.

U.S. Division

Everett--The Silvertips have built an excellent team over the past few years, and unlike some other franchises have not sacrificed their future to build a great team this year. Everett won 2 of 3 this weekend, including 2 over cross-border rival Vancouver Giants. (The only loss was a shootout loss to the Tri-City Americans.) It is expected that the Giants and the Silvertips will meet in the Memorial Cup later this spring, and if the 2 games this weekend were any indication, it will be an exciting match-up. The best player for the team this weekend was netminder Leland Irving (CAL, 1st round, 26 overall, 2006). Irving is having a fantastic season, with a record of 21-4, a 1.72 GAA and .934 save percentage. Another player deserving of mention is overager Moises Gutierrez, a winger who has really improved his game this year. Not afraid to fight or push players around, Gutierrez was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2004 and then not signed. He has come back this season to show greater offensive punch and a little more discipline. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the last month, and especially this weekend, when he had 3 goals and an assist, while maintaining a +2 plus/minus.

Tri-City--The Americans are in second place, but in the scheme of things are not even in the same league with the Silvertips. that said, the Americans did beat Everett in a Saturday night shootout win. In fact, Tri-City won both of their weekend games. The best player for the team without question was the WHL player of the week, Colton Yellow Horn. The undrafted winger has put up some great numbers over the last 3 seasons (mostly with Lethbridge), but no NHL team will touch him because of his very short stature and light weight. His best year, 2004-05, Yellow Horn was one of the best players in the league, but was still passed over in a very deep draft. One has to wonder whether if it was a year with less available talent, that Yellow Horn would have been drafted in the later rounds. Over the last 2 pre-seasons, Yellow Horn has been invited to 2 NHL training camps, but was returned to his junior team without a contract. Hopefully this year, he will be signed. To earn his player of the week award, Yellow Horn had 3 goals and 2 assists in the 2 Tri-Cities weekend wins. Of course, the Americans netminder, Canadian hero Carey Price, had an outstanding 2 games, which when added to tonight's win, is 4 victories in a row.

Seattle--The Thunderbirds only played one game this weekend, on Saturday, beating the lowly Portland Winter Hawks by a score of 2-1. 2007 NHL Draft eligible Radek Meidl had a very good game. With the game winning goal Saturday, Meidl has been on a tear lately (2 goals and 3 assists in 3 games over the last week). Ranked 138 by ISS in January, it is expected that his ranking will rise next month. Also on the radar screen of all scouts is defenceman Thomas Hickey (ranked # 21 overall). A quick offensive defenceman, Hickey was invited to and played in the recent CHL Top Prospects Game. This past weekend, he had 2 assists in the one game that Seattle played.

Spokane--The Chiefs wish that they had not taken the ice this past weekend, as they lost 3 games in 3 days. To be honest, there were no players that stood out for the team this weekend. Hopefully, this week will bring a different result.

Portland--Currently the worst team in the league in total points (although with 4 games in hand over Chilliwack), the Winter Hawks have little chance of making the playoffs. This past weekend the team deepened their hole, losing both of their 2 games. This is not surprising, as the team sold off its remaining top players prior to the trade deadline. Hopefully, the prospects that were traded for will pan out over the next 2 years.

Monday, January 22, 2007

WHL Weekend Top Performers--Eastern Conference

All the WHL teams were in action this weekend, and I wanted just to give mention to some of the individual top performers over the Friday through Sunday span. Teams are listed in order of standings today.

East Divison

Brandon--The Wheaties played twice this weekend, Friday and Saturday, and won both games. The top player for the team was without question its netminder, Tyler Plante. With one shutout over Spokane and a 1 goal-game against Swift Current, Plante was spectacular. In fact, he is having the best month of his WHL career, in 5 games, he has a GAA of 1.18 and a save % of .957. The Florida Panthers are sure glad they chose him in the 2005 NHL Draft (second round) right about now. After a less than great season last year, Plante is showing what he can do now. With his size, lateral movement and good glove, Plante is a top prospect. As for other good players this weekend, one of the great things about Brandon is the fact that there are so many skaters that contribute to the team--both offensively and defensively. Any one of a half dozen other guys could be mentioned, but Plante was far and away the most important contributor.

Swift Current--The Broncos played all three weekend days, but lost 2 of 3 games. Brady Leavold sure made his presence known on the ice on Friday and Saturday. Whether it was getting into fights, assisting on 2 goals to putting one into the net himself, everyone knew that Leavold was playing his heart out this weekend. Kudos to him.

Prince Albert--The Raiders played both on Friday and Saturday, splitting the 2 games. After being shut out on Friday night, Prince Albert came back to score 5 goals against Regina on Saturday. Rookie Matt Robertson had a goal and an assists, and was +2 in the game. Robertson, an 18-year old, is having an good first season in the WHL. In 44 games, he has 33 points, while maintaining a +5 plus/minus. Although the best portion of his season thus far was the month of October, lets hope that Saturday's game was the start of some excellent production from the diminutive center. Goaltender Jesse Deckert is beginning to bounce back from a horrible star this month, and although he lost on Friday night, he only gave up 3 goals in the 2 games in which the Raiders were involved this weekend.

Regina--The Pats, in a tight race in the East Division, had a very good weekend, winning 2 of their 3 games. Although 2 of Regina's older players (Kyle Ross, Garrett Festerling) had some very productive games the last few days, it was the play of the younger Colten Teubert that caught my eye. The big defenceman (6'3", 181) is mostly a stay-at-home guy who likes to play rough. This weekend the 16-year old displayed some of that gritty, skill that caused the Pats to pick him first overall in the 2005 Bantam Draft. If Teubert keeps on playing this way, he will be a player that will be drafted within the top 10 in the 2008 NHL draft.

Saskatoon--The Blades lost their game on Friday night and then won on Saturday, hoping to stay out of the cellar of the division. The recently acquired Derek Hulak, formerly of the Regina Pats, deserves mention because the big winger has 5 points in the 5 games since January 10th's trade. This past Friday night, he had a goal and was +1 on the night.

Moose Jaw--Bringing up the rear of the East is the Warriors. This was an excellent weekend for the team, that may just yet climb back into the playoff race. The recent addition of Jordan Knackstedt is certainly helping matters. Acquired on December 14, from Red Deer, Knackstedt has 14 points in 13 games since the trade, and points in each of the last 4 games. Currently ranked #151 by ISS for the upcoming draft, Knackstedt should be moving up, as his game his improved significantly over the last month. Also playing well this weekend was the another forward acquired by trade over the last few months. Centre Jason Reese had a goal and 2 assists on Friday night, adn was +4 over the weekend. Blueliner Travis Ehrhardt (eligible for the 2007 NHL Draft) is on a streak of sorts. With assists in each of the last 3 games, he is +4 during that time. Last but not least, the play of Kurt Jory has been fantastic of late. This month, the 19-year old netminder has played in 5 games and given up only 8 goals against. His GAA has been 2.04 and save percentage .937. His game has certainly given the Warriors a shot at climbing out of the hole they got themselves into early on.

Central Division

Medicine Hat--Currently the best team in the Eastern Conference (by far), the Tigers won both of their Saturday and Sunday games. Three players stand out from the weekend. Overager Chris Stevens recorded 3 goals and 3 assists, +4 during the 2 contests. Darren Helm (DET, 5th round, 132 overall, 2005), who recently returned from the World Junior Championships, also had a fine 2 game weekend. Four goals, an assist and a +4 plus/minus is just part of this 19-year old's outstanding season. Another NHL prospect, netminder Matt Keetley (CAL, 5th round, 158 overall, 2005) also had a great weekend. Giving up only 16 goals in 7 games this month, Keetley is on a 4-game win streak.

Kootenay--The Ice played in all 3 days this weekend, winning 2 of their 3 games. The diminutive Andrew Bailey, one of the best players on the team game in and game out, had another outstanding weekend. Undrafted due to his small stature, Bailey deserves a second look. With 2 goals an 2 assists on the weekend, the winger has 48 points in as many games and a +20 plus/minus. Also catching my eye was alternate captain Mike Busto (skating is not the best, but can finish). The overager registered 2 goals and 2 assists on the weekend.

Calgary–The Hitmen did not have a good weekend, losing 2 of the 3 games they played over the 3-day span, and slipping further away from Kootenay in the standings. Goalie Dan Spence has had a bad month thus far, but Friday night, he played well enough to shut out Prince Albert, in one of his only 2 wins in 8 games. Several other players had a decent weekend, but no one stands out above the others.

Red Deer–The Rebels dropped both of their games this weekend, as the team continues its slide. With only 3 wins thus far in 2007, Red Deer has for all intents and purposes given up on its season. No one looked particularly good in either game.

Lethbridge--At the bottom of the Central Division are the Hurricanes, who actually won one of their 2 weekend games. Playing over .500 hockey since the start of the 2007 calendar year, Lethbridge had several players who showed their stuff over this past weekend. The somewhat unlikely centre Jacob Dietrich had 2 goals, one in each game. Dwight King (currently ranked # 73 for the upcoming draft by ISS) played very well and attracted a lot of attention this past weekend. The big power forward had a goal and an assist. Finally, Columbus knew what they were doing selecting Ben Wright in last year's NHL draft (4th round, 113 overall). Wright is having the season of his young career (35 pts, 40 games, +11, 85 PIM). This weekend just confirmed what we already know about the aggressive young defenceman--that he can fight, and that he will be ready to make the jump to professional play next season.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Problems in Chicoutimi Again

After last year's debacle between Chicoutimi's fans and Ted Nolan, now there is problem having to do with the Sagueneens' fans and another high profile coach. Afer Friday night's game, Quebec Remparts coach Patrick Roy allegedly attacked a Sagueneen's owner, after some Chicoutimi fans tried to stop the Remparts players from boarding their team bus. Never considered particularly even-tempered, Roy took matters into his own hands. Now the police are involved and Roy may be involved in a criminal case.

How many times do problems have to happen before the QMJHL steps in and makes Chicoutimi clean up this situation? Racial epithets, physical intimidation, shouting obscenities, and now physical intimidation outside the arena. If this is to be a family sport, i.e, entertainment that is suitable for children too, the league needs to step up immediately and do something. That something should be a demand for a change in the atmosphere in the barn. Additional security should be required. At the same time there should be threats to require that the team be sold and take the team out of Chicoutimi if the ownership of the Sagueneens does not clean up their act. The ownership can stop all this, just by making it very clear that these type of incidents will not be tolerated. If this is not done, the league should stop advertising that the games are family entertainment. In Chicoutimi, it is not, it is just a place for troublemakers to run free and for the animal in all humans to come out for several hours. The word is out that this kind of stuff is tolerated, which to me spells a future lawsuit. How long before someone gets really hurt or dies. And the league will be liable too, if they take no action.

As for Patrick Roy, everyone knows that he has a hot temper. This has been tolerated over the years, but what does it say to the young guys that he is now coaching? Part of their game needs to be discipline. Hopefully, he does not wind in jail over this incident, but he needs to understand that his role in the game of hockey has changed and that he has different responsibilities.

As for the solution, there is no question that there should be some security when visiting teams are boarding their buses. However, frankly at any level below the NHL, I have rarely seen any. And even at the NHL level, it is sporadic and depends on where you are and whether it is during the regular (and post-) season or during an exhibition game. There should always be security. I don't care how much it costs, the players, at all levels, are public figures and should be protected. Its not up to Roy or any other coach to protect his players. It is an expense that every team should be charged with. Every CHL team in every city. Otherwise, it is just a matter of time before we have a tragedy.