W.J.C. Snub a blessing in disguise

By Jeff Bromley
The candidates for Canada’s entry into this year’s World Junior Hockey Championships were announced this past week and if you look closely, you will notice that Kootenay ICE goaltender Dan Blackburn didn’t get an invitation. It is a surprise? In the eyes of many, no. Should last year’s CHL rookie of the year, WHL Playoff M.V.P. and the number four ranked North American player for the upcoming NHL Draft been named as a potential netminder to WJC team? An emphatic yes.

In spite of all aspects pointing toward the reasons that Blackburn was left off the WJC camp roster, his record dictates that Blackburn should have been given the invite, regardless of the circumstances. Critics who have sprang up stating that the super sophomore isn’t at the same level he was in his rookie year only need to look the winning record Blackburn has both this season and as a rookie (34-8-7, last season – 15-5-3 this season). Yes, his save percentage and goals against average are off this season from last year (.893, 3.01 GAA this season – .901, 2.70 GAA at this point last season) but a couple of factors can be attributed to that stat, namely an inexperienced Kootenay ICE defense corps compared to last season and a nagging groin injury that won’t seem to go away. The groin problem combined with the fact that this year there is a bumper crop of stellar goalies to pick from are the overwhelming reasons for Blackburn being left off the list. Blackburn isn’t alone in WHL notables that were kept off the tryout list. Justin Mapletoft, Kyle Wanvig, Ross Lupaschuck (R.D.), Brent Krahn, Jordan Krestanovich (Cal.), Jared Aulin (Kam.), Nathan Smith (S.C.), Tim Smith (Spok.) and Justin Cox (P.G.) were invited to the summer tryout camp but didn’t get an encore invitation. Those names in and of themselves make up a very good line-up.

That being said, the groin injury that has Blackburn listed as out one week and ultimately kept him off the WJC tryout roster could be a blessing in disguise for both Blackburn and the Kootenay ICE. As the Canmore Alta. native’s trouble with the groin this season has shown, the injury is notoriously slow to heal, especially more so for netminders. Give him the month off to let it heal. By doing so you accomplish two things. You let back up goaltender Jeff Harvey get much needed experience between the pipes that this club will ultimately need in the chase to defend its title, in the process giving him a much needed boost in his confidence and Blackburn gets the rest to point where he has completely recovered. As a bonus some of the teams that Harvey will be facing might also be missing some of their biggest guns. Notables include Pavel Brendl, Kris Beech of the Hitmen, Barret Jackman of the Pats and Jay Boumeester from the Tigers to name a few potentials. Of course the Kootenay ICE’ firepower will also be diminished greatly with Jarret Stoll as a possible WJC member and Zdenek Blatny to play for the Czech Republic entry. Former Kootenay ICE defense men Steve McCarthy is also expected to be released from the NHL Chicago Blackhawks to play for the national squad.

As it stands Dan Blackburn in all likelihood wouldn’t have attended the tryout due to the groin injury. But that’s no excuse for leaving the highly-touted netminder off the invite list. Blackburn should’ve been on the list. He’s earned it.