Monday, October 27, 2014

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

Wheat Kings GM/Head Coach Kelly McCrimmon 
  • Let’s be real here. As great as Saturday’s game was between the Kelowna Rockets and Brandon Wheat Kings, it was a one off. Sadly, this just doesn’t happen where a team, specifically from the Eastern Division, trots into Kelowna with a high powered squad. The division, which is often weaker than its Central Division counterparts, usually come into Kelowna with no fan fare at all. No one really cares.The statistics don’t lie. The last Eastern Division team to win the league title was Brandon in 1996. That was 18 years ago! While some are calling for more than one game between an Eastern Division team and a Western Conference foe after what we witnessed Saturday, one game a season is about right. It’s always better for the paying public to be wanting more than force feeding them with a handful of games against Moose Jaw and Prince Albert. I am sure the feeling is mutual.
  • I am not making this up. One soccer mom, while I was attending my my son's soccer tryouts Saturday morning, asked me where Brandon was located. Really?  
  • Just think, the Brandon Wheat Kings are still a year away of being where they want to be as a power house, not only within the Eastern Conference, but the entire league. The Wheat Kings are younger than the Rockets with a good contingent of its players, including its top goaltender just 18 years of age. Typically, a team loaded with 19 year old's eat at the banquet table in the championship series in May.
  • Without a doubt Saturday's game was Jackson Whistle’s best in a Rockets uniform. The 19 year-old was lights out good. If you couldn't see it, you can now, on why NHL scouts like to draft big goalies. Whistle’s size does matter. Not as technically sound as someone smaller, when Whistle comes out of his net to challenge the shooter there just isn’t a lot to shoot at outside of his chest or pads.   
  • Why do the Wheat Kings have so much success in making trades? My belief is because Kelly McCrimmon holds both the general manager and head coaching role. McCrimmon has an advantage over those teams that choose to split the duties. For my money McCrimmon can make calculated trades because he knows his and the opponents players better. "I think the advantage is you know your own players better if you are coaching and managing rather than just coaching. You also have a better feel at ice level of the players on the opposition you like and the impact they make in a game when you are standing on the bench,” McCrimmon told me Saturday. Bingo!!    
  • Being politically correct is applauded these days but that didn’t stop Kamloops Blazers head coach Don Hay from naming names after a home ice loss Friday night to the Wheat Kings. Hay said two players had to be better for his team to compete against a juggernaut like Brandon. I liked it. I thought it was refreshingly honest. Do we as a fan base want to be lied too by the coach? All I know is the next night the Blazers bused to Tri City and beat the Americans 2-0. One of the players Hay 'called out' scored a goal in the victory. Hmm.
  • I mentioned a few days ago how Rockets forward Tyrell Goulbourne pointed to the Canadian flag after scoring his first goal Tuesday night in a win over Tri City. After speaking to Goulbourne, he mentioned that he was pointing to the heavens in tribute to his brother, who died when Goulbourne was just 13. It was a nice expression by the Rockets forward, whose brothers’ memory will always be in his heart.   
  • Goulbourne is off to a nice start offensively, but the 20 year-old says he has to remember what makes him affective. “That’s what I am supposed to be doing on that line. Mid-lane driving. I have to use my speed through the middle. Honestly, he (Nick Merkley) deserves all the credit. He is finding me wherever I am”.
  • For those who thought Damon Severson would have 7 points in 8 games, please stand up. The Kelowna Rockets defenceman of the year last season has 4 goals already this season with the New Jersey Devils. Is Severson going to win the Calder trophy as the NHL’s best rookie? Tyler Myers did it with Buffalo in 2010.      
  • When the Rockets board the bus and head down to Portland on Wednesday, head coach Dan Lambert will be left behind. Lambert is off to Ontario where he will guide one of three Canadian teams at the World Hockey Challenge. That means assistants Kris Mallette and Travis Crickard will handle the coaching duties and the decisions behind the bench for the next six games. "It would probably be harder leaving the team if we weren't have success. It is great for Kris (Mallette) and Travis (Crickard) to have this experience so I am excited for them," Lambert told me before Saturday's game.    
  • To be honest, I was surprised at how flat the Tri City Americans looked Wednesday night in a 4-0 loss at Prospera Place. The Americans looked sharp five days earlier in handing the Rockets their first loss of the season. And that's the key here. The Americans, I assume, were so gunned up to be the first team to beat the high flying Rockets that they were mentally jacked to knock them off the pedestal and it translated into a solid physical effort. The mind controls the body. The Americans were full marks in the win. While the Rockets don't like to lose, suffering a setback after going ten games without a loss to start the season does take the target off the Rockets back. If it doesn't take the target totally off, it does make it smaller.      
  • The Kelowna Rockets and Brandon Wheat Kings haven't made a trade with one another since 2001. Why? "Bruce is pretty unreasonable", Wheat Kings GM/Head Coach Kelly McCrimmon said with a chuckle. "Kelowna, they draft and develop. I think Bruce is firm on what he will and won't do." 
  • The best opposing player I saw this week? While his point streak ended at 9 games, 18 year-old Rihards Bukarts is the man! The Latvian is as skilled as they come and he showed it Saturday night with a nice stick handling display in the second period when the Rockets couldn't get the puck off his stick. Bukarts greatest enemy during a brief stop in Kelowna was Jackson Whistle and the goal post.  
  • How good was the Rockets kids candy scramble on Saturday night? I have never seen that many sugar hungry kids on the ice at one time for the hugely popular event. 
  • What a great crowd Saturday night. With over 58 hundred fans in the seats, it was the largest crowd at a Rockets home this season.        
  • Why do other media types in the press box attempt to talk to me when I have my headphones on? I can't hear you!!!
  • Isn't it interesting how both of Kelowna's big sports teams had successful regular seasons but couldn't win the 'big game'? The Rockets won a franchise high 57 games but couldn't get past Portland in the Western Conference final. The Okanagan Sun, Kelowna's junior football team, won 9 of 10 games during the regular season and was riding an 8 game winning streak before losing a heart breaker Sunday in an effort to host the national championship. So, how important is regular season success? Discuss.

No comments: