Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Like Nicklaus, I'm On The Links

Originally, I didn't feel like writing tonight, so I made a passionate plea and/or a poor beg on Facebook for someone to pinch hit for me. Someone stepped up, so I'll be posting his work shortly, but there are a pile of other hockey stories I stumbled upon while not wanting to write anything. Sadly, I don't get to sit on my butt in my hotel room watching Tosh.0 while someone else does my dirty work because I feel I have a responsibility to bring the links forward. So let's leave this chalet of tranquility and head out to the links!

Just The Silvertips

I bring to you the excellent piece written by Peter S. as he looks at the two US WHL teams who are dominating the US Division thus far. If you haven't been keeping an eye on the overall standings in the WHL, the Everett Silvertips could certainly be the WHL representative at the Memorial Cup if they continue to play as they are. Here is Peter's report.
In the WHL, if you guessed that the Everett Silvertips are leading the league in the standings, then I would call you a liar. At 42 points, they not only lead the US Division, but also the league, with the Portland Winterhawks three points behind in second place. While the season is still relatively young, it is clear that the Winterhawks won't have an easy path to their fourth consecutive WHL Final, especially within their own division, and Everett has emerged as a legitimate threat. So, how did Everett turn it around from the last few years?

Even though the Silvertips have made the playoffs in every year of their existence, they only made it the last two years because the two teams below them were even worse. Stability became an issue when Kevin Constantine and Doug Soetart were no longer coach and general manager, respectively, and the team went through not only an identity crisis, but also some issues with its leadership at both spots. Despite all that, plus the loss of Ryan Murray to injury for much of last season, the Silvertips gave the Winterhawks all they could handle in the first round of the playoffs last year, and much of that was thanks to the play of goaltender Austin Lotz.

This offseason, the Silvertips decided to bring back Constantine in what some considered a desperate grab at regaining some of their former glory. Today, the Silvertips are at the top at this point in the season, and much of that is thanks to Constantine instilling a sense of discipline that had been absent in recent years. Lotz is playing even better than he did in the playoffs last year, and currently has a 2.19 GAA, a number that is sustainable in Constantine's system. Constantine's influence has also spread to the backup goaltender Daniel Cotton, who has a 2.89 GAA. For all of the talk about the Silvertips' inability to find offense, the third leading scorer in the league is Josh Winquist, who only trails Mitch Holmberg of Spokane and Nic Petan of Portland. Throw in the contributions of Tyler Sandhu, Manraj Hayer, and import rookie Ivan Nikolishin, as well as the aforementioned discipline (they've received the fewest penalty minutes in the league), and it adds up to the best record in the WHL.

The question of whether it is sustainable for the whole season will inevitably come up, as the Winterhawks are the best offensive team in the league, Spokane and Tri-City also want to have their say, not to mention Kelowna being the class of the B.C. Division. For now, the glory days of the Everett Silvertips are here again, and things are looking like they did when the Silvertips were breaking into the league.
Great report, Peter, and thanks for that! I was not aware of the Silvertips' climb up the standings, and they do seem to be contenders for the US Division title! It will be interesting to see who challenges Everett for the WHL championship. Medicine Hat and Swift Current are playing well in the Eastern Conference, and both Portland and Kelowna are coming on strong in the Western Conference. The race is on, and it looks like a good one!

Toivonen In Toledo

Remember former Bruins and Blues goaltender Hannu Toivonen? He never really got a lot of playing time in the NHL, but he bounced around the AHL for a while in compiling a 96-82-15, most recently with the Rockford IceHogs in 2010-11. Well, he's back in North America and will be tending the nets for the ECHL's Toledo Walleye! I'm not going to say that he's looking for NHL work like Ilya Bryzgalov was, but it's nice to see that Toivonen is doing well and still playing hockey.

Expanding Across America

The ECHL will grow by one team next season as the ECHL's Board of Governors approved an expansion franchise to the city of Indianapolis, Indiana that will be named the Indianapolis Fuel. Indianapolis will play its home games at the Fairgrounds Coliseum which is currently undergoing major renovations that includes a brand-new scoreboard, two-level seating, and an upgraded sound system. The team will be owned and run by Jim Hallett in Indianapolis, and will begin play in 2014-15. Hockey returns to Indy next season!

The Rich Get The NHL

I happen to be a big supporter of CBC's Hockey Night In Canada, so today's announcement that Rogers Communications has purchased the exclusive rights in Canada to broadcast the NHL for the next twelve years was, to say, shocking. Under the agreement, CBC retains the Hockey Night In Canada broadcast, but all of the editorial, creative, and reporting calls go back to the rights-holder, aka Rogers Communications. Rogers all gets to decide which games appear on HNIC, and they will broadcast all of the specialty games - playoffs, all-star games, drafts, and future Heritage and Winter Classics amongst other things.

TSN? They get nothing but the few regional games for which they have contracts in place. That means no more Dreger, Lebrun, Mackenzie, Ward, or Duthie between periods, and guys like Gord Miller and Chris Cuthbert may be reduced to nothing more than the World Junior Championships and the CFL, respectively.

One contract changed the hockey landscape in Canada. Forever.

There are the quick links for tonight. Thank you again, Peter, for that excellent piece on the Silvertips, and I'll be watching the WHL standings a little closer now! And as for hockey on TV in Canada, things will certainly be different come next September!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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