Been a while due to work commitments and minor hockey but at least I'll get to catch a game tonight....
1. Was out of town with the midget team last weekend but had my wife wait in line for one of the above! A very cool idea and I believe the first for the any player of the franchise having a 'bobblehead' night. Good on the East Kootenay Foundation for Health for being the driver behind this promotion. You would think the tear Reinhart's been on would affect his stature for the NHL Draft rankings. You'll remember NHL Central Scouting has him ranked 4th behind F Sam Bennett; F Leon Draitsaitl and D Aaron Eckblad. International Scouting Services has him 2nd behind Eckblad. Should be an interesting finish!
2. Since the WHL Trade Deadline January 10 the Ice are 8-1-0-1 with their only losses coming in regulation to Medicine Hat and then January 10 in a shootout to Edmonton.
3. To get a sense of how the club is clicking - at least offensively - since the deadline and the addition of Zach Franko; Reinhart has 10 goals, 13 assists and 23 points since returning, along with a 12 game point-streak going up to last night. Jaedon Descheneau has carried the mail for the Ice this season and is also on a relentless pace with 7 goals and 11 assists over the last 8 games (missed one game with an undisclosed injury/illness). Franko's notched 6 goals and 8 assists in the 10 games since joining the club from the Rockets while Tim Bozon - who's slow start after the deal in October was well talked-about - is now lighting it up and since the deadline has 10 goals and 4 helpers, including three last night (scroll down). Not lost in all this is Luke Philp, who is quietly putting up solid numbers with 8 goals and 8 assists over the last ten games.
4. The club has four 20 goal scorers and will have five with Franko two away at 18. Two solid lines that can score and teams no longer can just key on Reinhart to beat them.
5. If there was a Lady Byng award in the WHL - there probably is, I just can't recall it right now - Sam probably took him self out of the running when he got into a scrap with WJC teammate Josh Morrisey.
6. With Kootenay's 8-1 shellacking of the Hurricanes last night, the Canes are in Cranbrook tonight for the latter half of the home and home. There was some interesting news coming out of Lethbridge with the community-owned club this week. The club is in last place, again, will miss the playoffs for the 5th straight season and has lost $1 million over the last 5 years including being in the hole $100,000 this year. The club is now going three-to-a-room on road trips (norm in the WHL is 2) and high-end players have walked out on the team this season. Coupled with that, local product Brad Lukowich has left the club as an assistant coach and nobody seems to know why. At first he was sick and then he wasn't sick and now the team G.M. was expected to meet with Lukowich Thursday and have some sort of announcement but it never materialized. Dylan Purcell of the Lethbridge Herald has more here.
7. The situation in Lethbridge has renewed calls for the community-owned club (about 110 members of the community own shares in the club) to sell to private interests. The city, with a population of 90,000, saw a drop in attendance to Canes games go from 3650 last year to 3008 this year. Couple that with no playoff revenue and that means bleeding dollars.
8. Speaking of playoffs, with the recent run of the Ice the club has got into the meat of the Eastern Conference standings and are now 5th with a 29-21-2-2 record and 62 points. Still packed though with only four points separating 5th from 8th in the playoff chase with the Raiders dropping further back into 9th. Seven points out of a playoff spot with 19 games left to play will be a big spread to make up for Cory Clouston's Raiders. Pretty big fall for a club that was tops in the East Division just before Christmas. The Raiders demise should ensure the Ice get a post-season invitation for the 15th straight year.
9. Providing they keep up the hot play, what's your poison for the first round? Medicine Hat? Calgary? Edmonton? or the East Division winners (Brandon? Swift Current?). A real discrepancy in the divisions this year ensures that the 7th seed will likely get a weaker opponent in the first round. Brandon currently leads the division and sits second in the conference seedings but are tied with the Ice with 62 points, who are currently 5th.
10. Not to end on a downer but I see the 6-3 win over Saskatoon Tuesday night drew only 1911 to the game, the smallest crowd on record for the 13-year-old Rec Plex/WFP. Lots of rumours and innuendo around the league about the future of certain teams. I've already talked about Lethbridge, though I doubt you'd ever see the club leave the Windy City; Prince George, which averages 1697/game this year, now has rumors swirling about local ownership interested in purchasing the team from owner Rick Brodsky. True North Sports Entertainment, owners of the NHL's Jets, are still reportedly interested in a WHL team for the MTS Center in Winnipeg after reportedly sniffing around the availability of the Ice last season. The City of Nanaimo isn't interested in building a new arena anytime soon so I don't think they'll get a team until that commitment is made. And even locally, the rumor mill has a local group bartering back and forth with the Chynoweth family about purchasing the team, though again, nothing has materialized with any real substance. WHL attendance as a whole is down this year 9.3% so things aren't exactly rosy around the league either. The Ice are again down this year, 204 per game after attracting 2411/game last season and now 2207 this season, 20th in the league in attendance in front of Swift Current and PG. You'll see why the playoffs are so important to WHL teams - especially small market ones like the Ice - as even two home dates last year meant an estimated $90,000-$100,000 addition to the bottom line.