This column will endeavour to keep you informed about happenings going on with the Windsor Spitfires and Plymouth Whalers over the course of the 1999-2000 OHL season. Emphasis will be placed on the progress of the teams, of course, but particular emphasis will be placed on the rookies and selected sophomores on each team. You will be able to check out how these youngsters are doing offensively, along with some comments on how they’re handling themselves as the season goes on.
For now, some jots and thoughts as the teams get ready to open the season.
For some, the pre-season is a lot like the TV game show “Whose Line is it Anyway.” (Everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.)
However, coaches and GMs spend long hours going over each player’s performance.
In Windsor, the feeling is one of rebirth. Things are looking up with the hiring of Tom Webster as coach and Mike Kelly as GM.
Together, they’ve brought an air of knowledge and professionalism, the likes of which Windsor Arena hasn’t seen in a good, long while.
It started in early July, a few weeks after the draft. The players were sent a conditioning program to follow, and while it’s a work in progress, things seem better this time than they did a year ago.
Webster told the Windsor Star the biggest challenge is getting players to do the program.
“What they have to realize eventually is that the game becomes so much easier when they’re in shape.”
It’s that time of year again. Finally, after waiting about 6 months, the new season is about to start again. The Guelph Storm once again look like they are going to be contenders. After seeing the Storm play through the preseason with a record of 3 wins, 1 loss and 2 ties, they look to be a well rounded team.
With an overager problem, Storm have been rotating the four O.A.’s. The two who are most likely to stay with the team are forwards Joe Gerbe and Bob Crummmer. The other two are Chris Madden and Darryl Knight. If Madden stays then the Storm will have three goalies and will have to send one somewhere else. Mind you, Millar did say he was going to keep three goalies. But will one become trade bait or will he just rotate the three of them and give them all an even chance? Darryl Knight would provide a problem, on the front line with the Storm already having a problem fitting everyone into the line up. Plus the Storm are still waiting for Charlie Stephens to come back from his N.H.L. team. It will be interesting to see what Millar does with this situation.
In goal, as stated before, there is a problem. With three goalies and one of them an overager, I wouldn’t be surprised if they trade either Madden or Mike D’Alessandro and keep Craig Andersson. All three of them had O.K. preseason games, but nothing spectacular. I guess with time, they will get back into the “groove” of things.
Two players supposedly ticketed for Hartford, goalie Jean-Francois Labbe and center Mike York, may remain with the Rangers longer than anticipated. “Labbe has been terrific. He’s playing the way we thought he would all last season,” Maloney said. “[Kirk] McLean is on a big ticket [two years, $1.7 million plus incentives], but Labbe is really pushing for that No. 2 spot behind [Mike] Richter.” York, who played three games with the Wolf Pack last season after being runner-up for the Hobey Baker Award at Michigan State, could stay as a third or fourth center. “He’s making it really hard for the Rangers to keep him off the roster,” Don Maloney stated after the Baby Rangers played in South Windsor, CT before a standing room only crowd of 1,100 at South Windsor Arena.
Tough defender Dale Purinton received a five minute major and a game misconduct for high sticking. Although slight on skills Purinon may return to New York this season as the Rangers and Coach Muckler are searching for a tough player. The 6-2 220lb defenseman recorded 1 goal and 3 assists and 401 penalty minutes in the last 61 games covering 2 seasons. The Wolf Pack went on to defeat the Worcester Ice Cats and former Yale Goalie Alex Westlund 5-4 on a goal from Brad Smyth. David Oliver (6-2 205) (one goal) and Richard Scott were noted as the best players. Goalie Jason Labarbera made 17 saves and back up Jeff Heil kicked out 15 of 18.
The Hamilton Bulldogs, of the American Hockey League, assigned four players to the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks today. Kyle Schultz, Tiger Sharks Media Relations Director confirmed that four players had been assigned but had no further information.
The players that were sent to Tallahassee are Derek Paget, Craig Morgan, Brandon LaFrance and Paul Buczkowski.
No information was available on Morgan.
Padget is a Left Wing, 6’0 183 lbs., from Kamloops, BC. He played for The Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League. During the 1998-1999 season he scored 26 goals added 45 assists and 115 penalty minutes in 72 games.
Lafrance is a Right Wing, 6’1″ 190lbs., from Navan , Ontario. He played for the Ohio State University Buckeyes beginning in the 1995-1996 season. In the four years at Ohio State LaFrance played in 125 games, scored thirty- three goals, added twenty-one assists to go with 138 penalty minutes. His most productive season was the 1998-99 season where he scored Ten goals and had seven assists.
Buczkowski played six year for the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League. During his six-season tenure with the Blades, Buczkowski netted 126 goals, and was credited with 224 assists to go along with 313 minutes in the penalty box over the course of 313 games. Buczkowski played in the German Second league during the 1997-1998 and 1998-1999 seasons, with Peissenberg.
At the halfway point of the preseason, the Kings have to be feeling pretty good about their team, but a bit shaken concerning their prospects. There were only a few young players expected to even challenge, but as the preseason presses on, they are beginning to take their one way plane flights out of LA. Donald MacLean was sent out Sunday, and one has to wonder if he has a future in the NHL. MacLean seemed to have the best chance of any prospect to make the team, but his play was unspectacular at best. Players like Justin Papineau, Kip Brennan, and Sean Blanchard were not expected to make the team and were consequently sent to the minors. The resulting players still hanging around include a couple of surprises. Jason Podollan has scrapped his past mold as a scorer and is challenging to be a wing on the checking line. He has shown the grit that he always has possessed but has also added an increased emphasis on the defensive side of the ice. Another potential surprise is Fran Kaberle, who with the continued Visa problems of Jere Karalahti, seems poised to sneak on the roster. New coach Andy Murray has publicly recognized Podollan and Kaberle as two of the more impressive youngsters in camp.
Notes: The Kings preseason game Monday night will be the final game ever at the forum. I will personally miss the Forum, but from all indications, the Staples Center will be one of the premiere buildings in the NHL.
Tidbits: Donald MacLean and Jan Nemecek are the only surprise cuts so far. Look for one shocker on the final cutdown.