Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rockets' acquire stud d-man

If you are playing for a contending team, shouldn’t you expect trades by management in an effort to bolster your chances of winning? The answer is obviously yes, but that doesn’t make it any easier when a close knit team like the Kelowna Rockets is forced to say goodbye to two of its popular players. Jesse Lees and Austin Glover care greatly for their teammates and is reciprocated by the 23 they leave behind. When those two players were told after Wednesday night’s game that they had been traded, shock set in, not only for Lees and Glover but for their teammates too. It is truly the ugly side of junior hockey because we are dealing with such young men. These are not professionals. For many it’s the first time they have been traded, while for their teammates, it is the first time they have experienced the harsh reality of a buddy being dealt away. Tears are shed. Hugs were exchanged. I am sure the question of; why them or why us was utter many times. It is the part of sports that fans love, but when you see firsthand how it affects everyone involved, it isn’t much fun. It really isn’t. A trade like this is both cruel and exciting.
Without question the Rockets are a better team today than they were prior to the start of this road trip. The players, while hard to accept the loss of two friends, will realize that soon. Josh Morrissey is the key player in the deal. The Rockets get one of the best defenceman in the WHL who brings instant offense from the blue line. The first round pick of the Winnipeg Jets scored 28 goals last season with the PA Raiders and was a first team all-star in the Eastern Conference. The Calgary resident, the older brother of Kelowna Rockets rookie goaltender Jake Morrissey, will also play for a second straight year at Christmas for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
Can you imagine Josh Morrissey and Madison Bowey quarterbacking your power play? If hockey fans in the Okanagan aren’t already excited about their teams’ 25-4-3-0 start, they should be now.
For me, the acquisition of a premiere player by General Manager Bruce Hamilton is a bit of a surprise. Why? Over my 15 seasons with the organization, obtaining a big fish via the trade route hasn’t happened. Oh sure, picking up the rights to Chuck Kobasew from Prince George or persuading Duncan Keith to leave Michigan State after Christmas are solid calculated moves, but landing a marquee player while dealing away individuals on its current roster isn’t common place around these parts. In 2004, the team added two nice pieces with the acquisition of Simon Ferguson and D.J King from the Lethbridge Hurricanes. In 2009, the team again added depth with separate deals with Moose Jaw for Ian Duval and Riley Grantham. They also had the benefit of landing Michal Backlund after the Calgary Flames elected to move their prospect to major junior after the World Junior Hockey Championships were over.
The Morrissey deal is swinging for the fences and hitting it out of the park without giving up a highly coveted 1st round bantam pick in return. In my books, that is impressive trading. If Hamilton was asked to give a first round pick in return rather than the 2nd and 3rd round picks, maybe the deal would have been off the table?
While Morrissey is the star studded player acquired in this trade, it will be interesting to see what Gage Quinney brings to the team. Born in Las Vegas Nevada, Quinney can only add more depth to a 19 year-old age group which already consists of Jackson Whistle, Madison Bowey, Tyson Baillie, Cole Linaker and injured d-man Mitch Wheaton. Quinney's father is an ex-teammate of Kelowna Rockets head coach Dan Lambert.
So what kind of day was it for the Kelowna Rockets? On so many levels it was a sad day full of emotion. But in the end, the players on this year’s team will know that its GM is out there, fighting for them, in an effort to bring the type of success this organization has enjoyed only once in its 24 year history. 

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