Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Things that make me go hmm...


  • I thought it best to pay a quick visit to the blog after a few weeks of sitting idle. It was a time to decompress after an exhilarating, yet short Kelowna Rockets season that came and went in a flash. While taking a step back to evaluate what happened, more news came on changes behind the bench next season. Vernon Fiddler has stepped down wanting to spent more time with his family. I get it. Fiddler was hired in the summer of 2019 as an assistant to Adam Foote. While the lure of coaching the team that he played for was intriguing, the real attraction had to be the 2020 Memorial Cup. With that tournament cancelled due to the pandemic and a shortened season a year later, the former NHLer will look at other options - including coaching his son - who I understand is a chip off the old block. Putting food on the table isn't a problem. 'Fids' could spend the next 12 months in neutral and it won't hurt a bit. 
  • I am not sure if this is of any interest to him, but I could see Fiddler being a good analyst on an NHL broadcast. 
  • To be honest, while I wanted to get to know 'Fids' better, that really didn't materialize over his short - two year stint. It wasn't his fault, but the coaching structure at the time and maybe the circumstances with high expectations meant the play-by-play guy was like the bus driver - seen but not heard. Go about your job with little in the way of relationship building desired. That's cool with me, but again it feels odd that an assistant, who I typically gravitate towards and deal with on a consistent basis, it didn't come to fruition with the 41 year-old. Or at least, I felt it didn't. Maybe I've been spoiled? When it doubt, blame the pandemic, right? Fiddler is a great guy and story teller. I just wasn't afforded the luxury of being around him enough to see it. It was a far cry from my dealings with Dan Lambert as the head coach in 2015. I spent lots of time with him and his two assistants - Kris Mallette and Travis Crickard. Heck we spent New Years Eve in Everett together! I was not an outsider. That trio was very inclusive and it was led by Lambert, who made me feel like I was truly apart of the team. To be honest, I think the players saw that and it only added another layer on how they wanted to play for him. Hello - WHL championship.
  • With Fiddler leaving the helm, who is his replacement? The resumes will come pouring in without question. My hope is Kris Mallette, who is due for a new contract at the end of this month, will have some input. You need someone you can trust. You need someone who is qualified. You need someone who works as hard as Mallette does. There are a lot of retired NHL players that make Kelowna their off-season home, but something tells me that isn't the necessary criteria to land the job here. It's been often said that being a pro player doesn't make you a good coach. Not like former players don't become excellent mentors, but I'd say guys that have paid their dues by coming through the coaching ranks are just as good, if not better, than those that used to be a household name. Did Ryan Huska have a long NHL career? One game. Is he the winningest coach in franchise history? Yes. Mallette, too, may be a good example. No NHL games, but a terrific junior coach. 'Mally' is just getting started.     
  • The WHL held it's draft lottery on Wednesday. The Spokane Chiefs will select number one when the draft takes place in December. The Rockets do not have a pick in the opening round after trading it away to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Connor McDonald deal. It seems like a wasted trade now, but at the time the team needed a puck moving d-man who had a good shot and could quarterback the power play. The trade was necessitated when Lassi Thomson jumped ship and went back to Europe to play after being a first rounder of the Ottawa Senators.  
  • I won't lie. I am really intrigued to see where Lassi Thomson slots in with the Senators organization. Was it a wise choice to use the WHL to get exposure to the scouts before leaving the team to play pro back home? It was a bold move without question. In my humble opinion, Thomson owed the Rockets another season, especially under the circumstances with the team hosting the Memorial Cup. It wasn't like the team was in massive rebuild. It was hosting the biggest junior tournament in Canada. Is it sour grapes on my behalf? Maybe. Unless he was realllllly homesick, the decision to bolt was hard for me to digest.   
  • Just another example that the regular season means little. In the NHL, the Oilers are upset in round one by Winnipeg and heavily favoured Toronto blows a 3-1 series lead and gets kicked out of post season by the Montreal Canadiens. Face it, wins during the regular season and putting up huge offensive numbers will entice the fan base and will get the media talking, but an early exit from the playoffs leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It's like the season was meaningless. I experienced it first hand in 2018 when the Rockets won the BC Division title with 43 wins and 94 points, but despite having Dillon Dube, Kole Lind, Carsen Twarynski and a young Cal Foote, the team lost an opening round series to Tri City. The regular season, despite teasing us that a long playoff run was in the cards, meant little.  
  • A few shockers in the WHL. Gary Davidson is let go by Everett as the GM there and then Matt Bardsley steps down as the GM of the Kamloops Blazers. Davidson was dismissed for what appears to be a cost cutting measure. Bardsley wants to get back to the US where his extended family resides. I wish both men well. They treated me excellent in any conversations I had with them. If I'm guessing, Davidson gets a call from the Blazers to see if he is interested in the vacant job. His track record in Portland and then Everett shows he knows what he is doing. 
  • It sure is nice to see Shea Weber getting a shot at the Stanley Cup in a season where he celebrated a massive milestone by playing in his 1000th NHL game. To think, many thought the Canadiens lost the trade when they dealt P.K Subban to Nashville in a one-for-one deal. Boy, does Montreal GM Marc Bergevin look like a genius - again. 
  • Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme has a connection with two former members of the Kelowna Rockets. Ducharme was at the helm - twice - for Canada at the world juniors. Dillon Dube (twice) and Cal Foote played underneath him. 
  • I was asked the other day what the biggest challenge was doing games during the abbreviated season. The answer was simple. No training camp. No chance to meet the players face-to-face and getting to know them. I love interviewing them and getting to know their personalities. It also doesn't hurt watching them practice several times before actually calling a game. The learning curve was steep from not knowing the players to not having called a live game in over a year. Also not having a colour analyst for that many games was rough. I missed Gord McGarva and Kent Simpson, who make the on-air product significantly better.  
  • What will I take away from the abbreviated season that I would like to bring back when everyone is vaccinated and life is back to normal? I can see myself using my cellphone and calling head coach Kris Mallette for post game comments. It worked brilliantly in the COVID world, so why not try it when life is normal. Sure, the coach can come up physically to the broadcast booth, put on a headset and answer questions after a win or loss, but isn't it easier just to call him and his cellphone and have a conversation that way?           
  • I saw the Portland Winterhawks sent out a press release this week stating that all games will be at Veterans Coliseum next season. They also made it clear, that they plan to have full capacity at all home games next fall - and if you thought about getting a break in the price of tickets - think again!

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