If the sign on the door clearly says ‘not for sale’, then the fence around the place is always in need of some fixin’.
That, in a nutshell, is the prevalent attitude emitting from the offices of the Kootenay ICE as the club heeds the WHL’s trading deadline January 14. Like a child drawing up his letter to St. Nick, ICE G.M. has a list of players that could help his hockey club that he’s checked twice. But then again, so does every other G.M. in the WHL.
“If I had a wish list like everyone else in this league I’d like to get another defensemen,” said Chynoweth before he and his club left on a weekend road trip to the Prairies. “But we’re not alone. You can ask anyone in our league, they’re always looking for a defensemen but that would be our first choice.” Chynoweth also added that possibly a forward would be a nice addition but then again, so would most clubs.
Save for a one or two weaker members of the league and the expansion Vancouver Giants, the theme of parity among almost all WHL clubs is paramount this season. With parity comes hope, hope that any of the playoff bound clubs can make some noise in the post-season.
It also makes for a somewhat dull trading deadline segue way with transactions between teams kept at a premium.
“I think there’s a lot of parity in this league,” said Chynoweth. “That’s the word – parity – and that means there’s a lot of good hockey teams.”
“I don’t think that there’s any one good hockey team like last year where Red Deer was the best team and stuck out so far ahead of everybody. This year there’s ten or eleven teams that have a legitimate chance at it.”
“And what it’s going to be is getting good goaltending, staying injury-free, getting all the breaks – the intangibles it takes to win a championship.”
But if ICE fans or rival G.M.’s for that matter think that the club is going to forego its immediate or long-term future to make a run for the hardware, they should think again. Taking out a mortgage on the future is not on Chynoweth’s agenda. “We’ll always look at the right deal,” said Chynoweth. “We made a big deal with the Milroy-Boxma deal. We gave up a first round pick which is the first time we’ve ever done that. We did that because we have two second round picks in the (2002) Bantam Draft.
“Do we give up a second? I don’t know. You don’t want to mortgage too much of your future.”
Ah, yes, the Milroy-Boxma deal. The club’s record since then has been a less-than-desirable 3-7-1 and the questions are arising. Was the deal enough? Were the right players traded for? Questions that could be unfair or at least premature. After all, the club hasn’t had a full line-up, new players or otherwise, since the first game against the Spokane Chiefs December 5 immediately following the trade. Judge the deal with everybody on the bench, if they’re still floundering in late February then the criticism could be on target. “The problem is that we’ve only had our team together for one night,” said Chynoweth. “The day after the trade, that’s the only time we’ve had our full lineup intact. Marek got hurt that night, he hurt his wrist and didn’t play on the weekend and after that he and Jarrett left to play at the World Junior Championships.”
All Chynoweth wants is a chance for the whole club to play together, healthy and in the lineup. Then a getter gauge on the club might develop. “I like our team. From what I saw that night in Spokane, I really like our hockey club.”
If it sounds like he has an exact method to his madness of the inexact science of running a major junior hockey team, you’d be right. Chynoweth will make the big trade if he feels he has too, witness the blockbuster last month as evidence of that. But if at all possible, pulling out the gold card and maxing it to the hilt on a trade for the Bouwmeester’s and Sutherby’s of the league is something he would rather avoid. It’s just not his blueprint for a successful franchise.
“I would think that we’d want to be like Swift Current,” offered Chynoweth. “Swift Current is competitive every year. You look at their organization, and they win. They’ve been above .500 for fourteen straight years.
“I guess if you’re looking for a model, that’s kind of where we would like to be.” Still, Chynoweth doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the expectations of this year’s squad.
“I do say that, and I honestly believe that this is our last legitimate chance at taking a run at a WHL Championship.”
“I think we owe it to the players in that room, especially to the players that were with us the year we won, to make a run for it.”
That being said, it looks as though the road to the Memorial Cup will be made with what thoroughbreds are currently in the stable. “So what can we do to make our team better without mortgaging the future? ,” pondered Chynoweth. “That’s the problem, I don’t think that there’s enough depth to go around and even though the values of some of these players are being driven higher and higher, I don’t know if enough teams have enough depth to make too many big trades.”
Quick Hits – If it was defensemen the ICE G.M. wanted, the amount available just went down. A major deal involving three clubs, the Vancouver Giants, the Medicine Hat Tigers and the Tri-City Americans was completed today with nine players involved. Going to the Tigers, D- Phil Cole (19), F – Warren McCutcheon (19) and RW Andrew Davidson (18). Going to the Giants, F- Eric Clark (19), D – Rory Rawlyk (18) and F- Adam Courchaine (17) and future considerations. Going to the Americans, F – Rory McDade, (20) D – Josh Morrow (18) and a second round pick in the 2002 Bantam Draft . . . After captaining the Canadian World Junior entry, ICE management surprised no one and named Jarrett Stoll captain. Stoll will rejoin the club on Friday in Saskatchewan before their date with the league-leading Swift Current Broncos.