|Colton Sissons - Shoot the Breeze Photo|
The loss of Jackson Whistle to hip surgery and Nick Merkley to a torn ACL significantly hurts the teams chances of going on a long WHL playoff run. Captain Obvious will tell you the defending champions are better served with those two in the line-up, not in the infirmary. That is true. But, the team has been in this position before. Let me refresh your memory.
In the 2002-2003 season, on the way to winning the team's first ever WHL championship, 20 year-old Kiel McLeod was lost for the season when he was saddled with mono late in the year. With an enlarged spleen, it was unsafe for McLeod to play, yet the team captured the crown with a six game series win over Red Deer.
Do you remember when starting goaltender Derek Yeomans was hurt in a collision with Wheat Kings defenceman Steven Later in game one of the WHL championship final in 2005? Yeomans season was over and the team had to rely on back up Kristopher Westblom to carry them the rest of the way. Westblom rose to the occasion in a five game series win over the Eastern Conference championships.
Let's fast forward to the 2009 WHL championship series where goaltender Mark Guggenberger was hampered by a sports hernia that almost prevented him from going down to stop a puck. Guggenberger, despite being less than 100% healthy, gutted it out and helped the team beat the Calgary Hitmen in six games.
Do you remember the final weekend of the 2012-2013 WHL regular season? The Kelowna Rockets were in Vancouver to face the Giants in a meaningless game. Captain Colton Sissons (pictured above) broke his collar bone and his season was over. Sissons showed up with his arm in a sling the next day at the team awards banquet as he accepted the MVP award.
In the 2013-2014 season, the Rockets leading scorer was Myles Bell. Bell had 42 goals and 35 assists in 69 games. Bell put up team MVP numbers that season. Four games into the first round of the playoffs with the Tri City Americans, Bell suffered a season ending knee injury. It was a massive loss.
See a trend here?
Even as early as last season, defenceman Josh Morrissey suffered a significant ankle injury after being acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders. At the time it was suggested that the 19 year-old's season may be over. After further consultation with the Winnipeg Jets, the team that drafted Morrissey in the 1st round, it was diagnosed that the ligaments were not torn and he could resume playing. Morrissey was never 100% though. The all-star defenceman missed the entire first round of the WHL playoffs against Tri City Americans and wasn't able to play until the third game of a second round series with the Victoria Royals.
And don't forget about Tyrell Goulbourne, who's season ended abruptly in the Western Conference championship series against Portland last season when his calf was cut from a skate in game five. Goulbourne underwent surgery a few days later.
I don't have to explain again what happened to Whistle and Merkley this season do I?
Unfortunately, like the weather turns from mild winter to sunny spring in the Okanagan, so does the loss of a marquee player(s) on the Kelowna Rockets roster.
Why would this season be any different?