Some thoughts as the deadline hovers near:
1. Ice GM Jeff Chynoweth pulled trigger on a trade that acquired LW Zack Franko, 20, that wouldn't have been made possible had it not been for the Detroit Red Wings and Don Hay. First, the Red Wings had overage/import Marek Tvrdon playing in the ECHL, where he was wallowing with the Toledo Walleye, with 9 goals in 22 games. The Wings agreed to send him back to junior but with the Vancouver Giants - his former WHL team - in rebuild mode, only a team on a championship run would do. Enter the Kelowna Rockets. With the Giants liking their trio of overagers and the fact that head coach Don Hay questioned the talented Slovak's work ethic on a shift-by-shift basis, he wasn't going back to Vancouver, something you don't hear in the junior ranks everyday.
2. So the Kelowna Rockets acquire Tvrdon as they had room for an import but not a 20-year-old. The Ice quickly obliged the Rockets in acquiring Franko, to add to their much-needed offensive arsenal. Franko is a talented forward who can put the puck in the net, and the Ice acquired him for a 6th round pick in 2014 and a 3rd in 2016. If the goal was to acquire an impact player without giving up a lot, I'd say mission accomplished.
3. Franko, who will compliment the club's top two lines nicely, comes to the Ice at 5'11", 185lbs and at 252 games in the WHL - all with the Rockets - the Winnipeg product also has played 20 playoff games. With 12 goals and 23 assists in 39 games and a +15 this season, this deal screams all that was needed for the inconsistent Ice.
4. I'm wondering what the Rockets are thinking though. They gave up a long-time player that was a fixture with the club the last four seasons. And they did at a time that they are the top club in the WHL. Sure, acquiring Tvrdon - with 45 goals in 90 games in the WHL with Vancouver - helps the club in the offense department but the club is already the second-highest scoring team in the WHL, second to Portland, yes, who they likely will have to go through to get to the WHL finals but still, I'm stumped that the Rockets would mess with that chemistry to acquire Tvrdon. He's also injury-prone and who knows what his arrival will do to the locker room. I guess that's the Ice' gain.
5. So, where does he fit? Here's a possible scenario:
Descheneau - Reinhart - Bozon
Franko - Philp - Vetterl
Cable - McPhee - Martin
Chynoweth - O'Connor - Zborosky
Dirk - King
Valiev - Peel
Cross - Murray
That gives the Ice a 22-man roster with Faith on the 45 day DL (out for season). I have Chynoweth on the 4th unit right now but he's been playing on the 3rd unit for awhile now. Cable and him have switched spots and Cable has had less ice-time than Zborosky and Alfaro of late. I don't know how long that will last however.
6. I'm hesitant to comment on the Lethbridge game last night - a loss to the last-place Hurricanes 5-4 on a last minute goal - because I didn't see it. Heard the broadcast and it was bad enough. The amount of shots the club is surrendering has to be a great concern to recently returned head coach Ryan McGill. The club is surrendered an average of 40 shots per game over the last seven games. Well over their season average of 32/game.
7. More of a concern is the standings. It's not like this club is guaranteed a playoff spot. At 21-20-2-1 and 45 points in 7th place they're only 3 points clear of 9th and the also slumping Red Deer Rebels. Those points against teams like the Hurricanes, who are clearly in nextyearland, are crucial. You'd think Sam Reinhart's break following the World Junior's could be absorbed this week with a date against the lowly and last-place Hurricanes but to give up a 3-1 lead after one and lose in the final minute? If the Ice miss the playoffs by a point they'll be able to look squarely back at this one that got away from them last night. They should have been able to get the points without Reinhart. Or Franko for that matter.
8. The club should have it's first full line-up - minus D Tanner Faith - Friday when the Edmonton Oil Kings are here. They're here Sunday night too in a strange scheduling quirk that has them here Friday, Lethbridge Saturday and back here on Sunday.
9. The WHL Trade deadline is Noon Friday. I would expect the Ice to be done.
10. The Hitmen and Raiders have loaded up for a run along with many WHL clubs. Calgary convinced F Adam Tambelli to both North Dakota for the Hitmen. Clearly, on paper at least, it's the Hitmen, Rockets and Winterhawks this season as the front-runners and then everyone else. A Calgary-Kootenay first round match up is a real possibility, provided of course the Ice get there. You can track the WHL trades here.