Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Five reasons for optimism

1) Coaching. Ryan Huska is now the longest serving head coach in Tacoma/Kelowna Rockets franchise history. Huska is entering his 6th season at the helm, surpassing Marcel Comeau's five seasons with the organization from 1991-1992 until the 1995-1996 season. Huska has 186 career Western Hockey League regular season wins, which makes him the winningest coach in franchise history.
2) Scoring goals for the Rockets didn't come easy last season. In fact, the Rockets scored the 17th most goals of the 22 teams in the WHL. That will need to change, especially considering they played in 37-one goal games in 2011-2012. In tight games the inability to score will come back and bite you every time. Colton Sissons (26) and Carter Rigby (21) are the top two returning scorers from last season when it comes to turning the red light on. Zach Franko needs to score more often this season and newcomer Ryan Olsen should improve significantly on the 15 he potted as a 17 year-old sophomore. If J.T Barnett and overager Dylen McKinlay can be +20 goal scorers, this team could be knocking on the door of a 40 win season.
3) You can't win without solid goaltending. Jordon Cooke is tired of playing second fiddle to Adam Brown and now gets his chance in the spotlight. Cooke is the first drafted goaltender since Kristofer Westblom that has shown significant promise. The workload the 19 year-old is about to face is immense, but he has the backing of management and the coaches that he can get the job done. More important than that, his teammates believe in him. Make no mistake, Cooke will have some rough patches along the way, but the Leduc Alberta produce will show, much like Cole Cheveldave of the Kamloops Blazers did last season, that he can be a starter and elite goaltender at the WHL level.
4) Bringing it from the blue line. This group may be the best skating defensive core this organization has seen in a long time. Manufacturing offense should take significant pressure off the forwards in 2012-2013. Last season the d-core accounted for 41 goals, with Myles Bell leading the way with 15 of them. Now in his 19 year-old season, is it out the realm of possibility that Bell could score 20 goals? Tyson Barrie scored 19 as a 18 year-old d-man during the 2009-2010 campaign so it is doable. The real concern with the d-core, which is now a year wiser but still a season away from being dynamite, is their ability to clean things up in their own zone. That is where the value of Mitchell Chapman, MacKenzie Johnston and rookie Mitch Wheaton come into play. Those three won't put many points up on the board, but need to focus on limiting the oppositions scoring chances by keeping the other teams top players from having a field day in the offensive zone.
5) Restoring home ice advantage. Regardless of how you play on the road, all good teams win at home. The defending league champion Edmonton Oil Kings won 29 times on home ice last season. Portland was the most dominant with 31 victories and Moose Jaw looked good in their new arena with a 30 win season. Even BC Division champion Kamloops had 25 home ice wins, which meant they lost only 11 times at the ISC. When was the last time the Rockets lost fewer than 11 games on home ice? It was 2008-2009, when the Rockets suffered just seven setbacks at Prospera Place and won the league title that year. 

(All photos used on this entry are courtesy of Marissa Baecker)  


g.k said...

I agree with you Regan, if the team can play well at home & win the majority of their home contests, their overall record at the end of the year will be significantly improved, it may also bring alot of the fans back that were bored with their play at Prospera the last couple of seasons, that & the concession prices is a good reason why there are so many less season ticket holders than in past years.

Regan Bartel said...

Do you honestly believe concession prices have something to do with season ticket holders not renewing? I would think a season ticket holder was there for one thing...the hockey.

PNWHockey said...

Love your Blog, Regan! Hope you had a great summer ... Now get to work, the real work starts noooowwww! (lol). John Fisher, PWHBC

MG said...

I think Rigby has a ton of potential. If he uses his size and plays hard around the opponents net he could really light it up this year.