Hello to all of those who are remaining vigilant about checking the blog during the offseason. After a couple weeks off from the blog — during which I was reintroduced to the irony that covering a summer sport like softball is such a colder experience than covering a sport played on ice — I decided a week before the bantam draft was a good time to start back up.
I’ll start today’s casual observations with the Tips and the bantam draft. Everett picks ninth overall and in each round, the Tips’ best draft position since drafting as an expansion team in 2003. Word on the street is that this year’s draft class is pretty strong, and although there may not be one player who’s considered head and shoulders above the rest like Jared Cowen was two years ago, there are many players considered top quality. Therefore, the Tips should land a cornerstone-type player with their first-round pick. Looking at Everett’s 91s and 92s in the system, the one thing I don’t necessarily see is an offensive-minded defenseman, so perhaps the Tips will look in that direction. But other than goaltender (and the Tips will not be prioritizing that after taking Kent Simpson in the first round last year) I really don’t think teams focus on need in the bantam draft. I’m sure the Tips will take whoever they feel is the best player available.
Now, on to the playoffs. Good to see a pair of U.S. Division teams battling it out for the Western Conference title. That’s not really a surprise, considering Tri-City and Spokane finished with the two best records in the league, but good for the Americans and Chiefs in validating their regular season success. The series is 2-2 as I type this, and I haven’t seen any of the games, so I can’t really comment on who I think is going to win. But I’m sure the atmosphere is at a fever pitch in eastern Washington.
The winner takes on Lethbridge for the league title. I’m a little surprised to see the Hurricanes come out of the Eastern Conference. Lethbridge always had the offense, but the question was whether the Hurricanes had the defense and goaltending to win in the postseason. Reports are that Juha Metsola has answered the goaltending question, and you can’t argue with a sweep of Calgary in the conference finals. But Lethbridge has a tough task in the finals. I like both Tri-City’s and Spokane’s chances against the Hurricanes.
Two other big pieces of news this week. The first is the death of WHL giant Ed Chynoweth on Tuesday after a long battle with kidney cancer. Chynoweth was basically the big boss of the league, if not in title, then in actuality. Also, the Kamloops Blazers hired a general manager, poaching Craig Bonner from the Vancouver Giants. Bonner was both the assistant coach and assistant general manager in Vancouver. Check out Gregg Drinnan’s blog (link on the left) for good pieces on both stories.