Regular season over, bring on the post season.
The Western Hockey League held a press conference on Wednesday morning to announce the awards for the regular season and to welcome the playoffs starting March 22nd.
The playoff matchups in the first round look great with many rivalries set to be stirred.
“One of the objectives we had in establishing four new divisions within the Western Hockey League was to create a greater level of rivalry and interest delivering what the fans are looking for. That is more intense games, more meaningful games with their closest rivals and I think when you look at the matchups in the playoffs this year these playoff rounds are going to be just outstanding,” said Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison.
The matchups in the B.C. divison are quite possibly the most heated with Kelowna taking on archrivals the Kamloops Blazers. Blazers have home ice advantage first.
Prince George is also on the road to face Kootenay in the B.C. division.
Brian Maxwell discussed next the Lethbridge Hurricanes series with Red Deer now that Calgary has taken over third in the division.
“Obviously taking on Red Deer again this year, we had real good success against them last year,” said Maxwell sarcastically. “We won the first one, all we did was delay it longer we had to play them five times.”
Head coach for the Hitmen, Richard Kromm, strictly stated at the conference he feels his team is ready for their matchup with Swift Current.
“Our guys have basically been in playoff mode for two to three months now, reall Read more»
The defenseman who was coveted by both Glen Sather and Ron Low as well as the Islanders and Bruins was finally landed at the cost of hard working Mike York. Poti a monster of a young man at 6-3 215(liberally given) has a smooth skating style, strong work ethic and laser guided passing ability. His one downside is that he is not as physical as his size would otherwise indicate. But then again for those of you who remember… he is not Willie Huber either.
Poti will be counted on to anchor the Rangers 2nd defense and power play units. Now with Brian Leetch and Vladimir Malakhov in tow the Rangers have three legit powerplay defenders. If Bryan Berard continues to RE-develop then that would mean four. The problem however with the Rangers is guys that can “stay at home” and play defense. While Poti will never be confused with a pure stay at home defenseman or again Willie “the whale” Huber the Rangers are still in need for a physical stay at homer but the move to acquire Poti fixed a couple problems, one the rival Islanders and their persuit and the Rangers quest for Brian Leetch`s successor.
Now that the regular season has wound up and the playoff match-ups set, from a Kootenay ICE perspective of the chase for the division pennant, you’d wonder what all the fuss was about.
Almost conceding the B.C. Division regular season crown to the Kamloops Blazers with only two weeks to go, the ICE decided to make a race out of it by clawing back from a nine-point deficit to a mere point differential with one game to go. Alas, it was not meant to be.
Then again, did it really matter whether the club finished first or second?
Yes, no and maybe. The club did secure home-ice advantage for at least the first round of the WHL playoffs and the second seed in the Western Conference. However, Kootenay G.M. Jeff Chynoweth wasn’t overly disappointed that the ICE didn’t catch Kamloops for pennant. “No disappointment at all,” said Chynoweth on the eve of the playoffs. “We had the second best record in the WHL from the trade deadline on (17-6-2), only Red Deer was better. We’re second in the league in goals-for during that time-frame and third-best in goals against average, so when you’re talking about rounding your game into shape, just like in the past two years when we finished the year strong, it’s a good thing heading into the post-season.
“Getting first or second really didn’t matter. We would’ve played Prince George or Kelowna anyway.”
The Prince George Cougars or Kelowna Rockets, two teams not exactly synonymous with the ICE in terms of rivalry. In fact, Prince George and Kootenay have never even met in the post-season. Historically in Cranbrook, Read more»
Jackets Deadline Deals
Columbus Blue Jacket General Manager Doug MacLean was a somewhat busy man Tuesday, trying to better his team for the 2002/2003 season. Although the deals he made were no Pavel Bure-New York Ranger type blockbusters, the Jackets made some payroll available by sending two players packing.
As expected and predicted, the Columbus Blue Jackets dealt the franchises first and only captain, Lyle Odelein. However, Odelein did not go to one of the teams I had predicted he would go. I counted on a trip to either Detroit or Colorado. Odelein, as we all know now, went to the Windy City, Chicago.
Odelein certainly brings a lot of characteristics to the Hawks, who were obviously happy to bring him in. Odelein has been to the big show before, winning the cup with the Montreal Canadiens. He’s obviously a strong role-model and leader in the dressing room, otherwise he wouldn’t have been named captain in Columbus. He’s a character player who plays solid defense and can play a rough game.
In exchange for Odelein, I feel the Jackets did rather well. They picked up Jaroslav Spacek, a defenseman with a lot more upside. Despite being 28, Spacek is only in his fourth NHL season. He has struggled this season, registering only 3 goals and 13 points in 60 games this season. He has a career high 10 goals and 36 points while with the Florida Panthers in his rookie season. Along with Spacek, the Jackets also picked up a 2nd Round Pick in 2003, a draft hat is said to be deeper than that o Read more»