Monday, November 12, 2012

Things that make me go hmm...

  • Are you having fun watching this team? Isn't it nice heading to the rink on game night knowing that the Kelowna Rockets are, a) going to put in a solid effort, b) have a chance to beat any team in the WHL? The first 20 games have been enjoyable and the vibe around the team, the rink and the city is very positive. Funny thing is, this team still hasn't hit their stride. 
  • How much better will they be when J.T Barnett returns next week? The 20 year-old  has been skating without contact, something that will change this week with the hopes the Arizona product will be in the line up next weekend against Tri City. The doubters out there will say Barnett will have little impact, but how can an older, established player not be just another added piece of an all ready solid team? He will be as rusty as a farm nail that has been sitting in a stack of wooden posts in the back forty, but he will find his game for a good push towards the Christmas break. 
  • It will be interesting to see how the Rockets look with three overage forwards. With Mitchell Chapman still a month away from returning to the line up, management can see how three 20 year-old's look up front. This young yet slowing emerging defensive core is making significant strides and the goaltending has been solid, so having another older forward up front is of greater value? Barnett won't turn the power play around in a hurry, but his presence there can't but help.
  • Chapman is a stay at home d-man and is a big body that loves to block shots. Those players are invaluable. The championship teams need big, shutdown defenceman. Chapman fits that role perfectly.  
  • Speaking of Barnett. Here he is (picture in upper right corner) with Kale Van de Sype during a Kelowna Rockets game this week. Kale was born in Arizona before moving to Kelowna last year, while Barnett too is a Arizona resident. Kale Van-de Sype is the nephew of my good friend Al Bristowe of Prince George. Kale was an honorary stick boy at the Rockets game last Wednesday, and from all accounts was treated like gold. 
  • It was nice running into Rockets alumnus Spencer Main at Friday's game. The 20 year-old is enjoying life away from the game. Hampered by concussions, Main is back in Vancouver getting his education and doing some officiating at the minor hockey level. I asked him if he would consider being a referee or linesman at the WHL level.. He quickly responded, "no".    
  • This week I asked Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton about the attendance at home games. He did mention he was "disappointed" with the 53 hundred that show up, some 700 shy of a sell out. Hamilton did mention he is encouraged by the new clientele at home games though. The patrons are younger. One of the complaints often sighted by older fans is someone in their  section  is being too loud. Younger faces in the building is also good news for the long term stability of the franchise. Heck, down the road in Abbotsford, they were finally playing to sell out crowds this weekend when the Oilers AHL affiliate came to town to play the Heat. Unfortunately those sell outs in 'Abby' are few and far between. 
  • Tyson Ballie's hands.Why would I mention that? Do you ever notice that when he picks up an assist it is usually the result from a perfect pass? Known as a shooter, Baillie is a much better passer than we/I give him credit for. I'm giving him credit now. Baillie has been required to play a bit more of a grinding role this season, but it looks good on him. Frankly, three of the teams best players as of late have been Baillie, Colton Heffley and Filip Vasko. I honestly thought Baillie was enjoying himself Friday night against Red Deer winning board battles. I know I was watching it!     
  • I finally saw it Friday night against Red Deer. Defenceman Madison Bowey rushing with the puck, but instead of typically cutting to the outside he took an inside lane towards the net and fired a good shot on goal. Often times Bowey takes the puck to the outside, is close to the net before blindly passing it out front where it is quickly cleared by an opposing player. All that good work is often for not. Moving to the middle of the ice with a quick cutback to the high slot makes him deadly. Hello, Tyson Barrie.
  • It isn't fair, but lets compare. Kelowna Rockets Ryan Olsen has 9 goals so far this season, four more than Shane McColgan, the player the Rockets traded to the Saskatoon Blades along with Jessey Astles. While Olsen has more goals, McColgan has 8 more points thanks to 15 assists. Olsen has just three, but is playing more of a grinding role where McColgan is playing with Josh Nichols, a 20 year-old who is having a great season with 17 goals. Would the Rockets make that trade again? No question. 
  • I would like to see Olsen play more of a power game down low, but with the puck. How tough would he be to defend if he held onto the puck, circled the net for wrap around chance? Olsen is a powerful guy with good hands. He isn't just a hitter.    
  • Only five players on the Rockets roster have a chance to play in all 72 regular season games this season. Henrik Nyberg, Myles Bell, Colton Sissons, Dylen McKinlay and rookie Rourke Chartier have dressed in all 20 games this season. The coaches sent a clear message early in the season that they wouldn't tolerate sub par play. Making health scratches of even veteran players early on in the season has provided positive results on the teams overall play.
  • Is that why the work ethic of the tam is far superior than one season ago? Are players concerned about sitting out and having someone else replace them? I don't think I've ever seen a player not benefit from sitting in the press box for sluggish play or undisciplined antics on the ice. Tyson Baillie and Colton Heffley may be the two best examples. Both are making HUGE contributions to the team right now.
  • If I feel sorry for one player for being a health scratch, it is former Kelowna Rockets forward Austin Ferguson. Ferguson was a health scratch for the 10th straight game when the Rebels arrived at Prospera Place Friday night. Hate to say it, but that is a clear message that Ferguson is not in the teams short term plans.     
  • If things go well, Ryan Huska will earn his 200th career coaching victory this month. Huska has 198 career - regular season wins. In case you are wondering, he is the winningest coach in franchise history.
  • Jesse Lees is an impressive +15 this season. That is the best +/- of any player on the team. Tyler Wotherspoon of Portland leads the league with a +24 rating.
  • Last week I went for coffee with Rockets alumnus Brady Leavold. Nice to catch up and be considered a friend, not the 'radio guy' when he played with the team in 2008-2009.  

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