Monday, July 6, 2015

2015-2016 Western Hockey League Preview: Teams 13 and 14

13.Edmonton Oil Kings-After last year which saw the Edmonton Oil Kings allow a youth movement to take place, more will be expected in the 2015-2016 campaign.  The 2014 Memorial Cup champions don't have a lot of leftover puzzle pieces from the championship team but that doesn't mean to say the team doesn't have the required piece to re-do the puzzle with the exact same outcome. Can Lane Bauer and Brett Pollock lead the Oil Kings to the playoffs? It's possible but just squeaking into the playoffs is the most ideal outcome for this squad.

With six potential twenty year olds in place for next season, questions aplenty will be hovering around GM Randy Hansch. Difficult decisions will be ahead as not withstanding the two defenceman that are slated to be overagers, the Oil Kings also have three twenty year olds upfront. All three killer B's including Bertolucci, Benson and Brandon Baddock are fringe second liners, realistic third liners at best and the issue that  Hansch and coach Steve Hamilton will face is discerning between loyalty and productivity. In an ideal world he would find alterior homes for the two that aren't chosen as the three remaining but the problem there is it could be argued the other two that won't be selected aren't necessarily upgrades for the other teams in the dub and may have to resort to Junior A. The savvy predictor in me says Bertolucci and Benson are retained with the d-man Ben Carroll. So that's the dilemma facing management but the hockey gurus want to know who's actually going to provide sustainable offence? The answer to this riddle are the two names referenced in the opening paragraph with Lane Bauer and Brett Pollock taking charge. Pollock is a player that because he hid in the shadow of Henrik Samuelsson, Michael St.Croix and Edgars Kulda the last couple years, a lot of people outside of Edmonton just don't appreciate how good he really is. His propensity is to plow through defenders with a simple north-south game. One facet of his game that needs corralling is his discipline. Eighty eight penalty minutes for someone considered as the top dog is far too high and Hamilton will need to reel in Pollock to keep him on the ice and play him in all key situations.  One of the more unheralded Oil Kings is Lloydminster product Andrew Koep as he put up a respectable forty points in his rookie season and because of this will likely see action on the first line.

Because the offense doesn't exactly have a 2005 World Junior Hockey Championship Team Canada scoring touch to it, their defense will have to be an overbearing strength for this group to fulfill their playoff aspirations. The loss of graduating players Blake Orban and last years' captain Ashton Sautner will be felt significantly but it'll be up to the likes of Aaron Irving and Ben Carroll. As referenced once before in this league preview, I consider Irving to be one of the league's best shutdown defenders. His point totals will never stick out but at the end of the day, and this term is probably overused, he is a "defensive defenceman". These kind of players have limitations and the limitations are not how I like to describe Irving, because put him in a one on one situation with any forward in the league and I'll take my chances with Irving.  Ben Carroll on the other hand, can distribute the puck masterfully and will be counted on more then ever to start odd man rushes because the offense projects to be anemic as a whole for Edmonton. In a small twist of irony, you have the parent club Edmonton Oilers who can score at will but can't play a whimper of defence and then you have the Oil Kings who have an intriguing d-core one through six but won't be able to score a lick. As a disclaimer, about at this spot is where I feel the league really drops off and although the Oil Kings should take solace with their # 13 ranking, my fear is with the lack of overall aptitude, they might be in for a few roasts from the top twelve teams.

In a huge coup for the Oil Kings, in what was going to be a massive downgrade in net after losing stud Tristan Jarry all of a sudden doesn't seem as daunting as previous RPI commit Alec Dillon stunned the hockey community by choosing to come to Edmonton for his nineteen year old season. For starters, this does wonders for those who stay involved in the ever controversial CHL-NCAA debate as we now have a goaltender who was already in the car heading to RPI but due to a construction detour(common place in Canada) turned around and re-routed to Edmonton. The Oil Kings now may possess the best nineteen year old goalie in the league although Garrett Hughson may have something to say about that. This provides this organization another shot of instant credibility and will be the catalyst when prognosticating their chances.

 14.Medicine Hat Tigers-Very much like the Oil Kings, the flux of twenty year olds that creates uncertainty will be of the upmost importance for General Manager and Head Coach Shaun Clouston. With the eight twenty year olds possibly back, and unlike Edmonton these are the impact members for the Tigers, the curiosity from the Med Hat faithful on who stays and who goes will greatly affect the ranking as if the three top contributors come back, then this ranking was laughably low but then again if the impact players leave, then this ranking is about as overhyped as Tiger Woods current state of affairs in his golf game. In summary, aside from maybe Everett this was the most difficult to team to prognosticate but I'll give it a crack.

Trevor Cox, who I would give about a 70% chance of being returned back to junior was absolutely robbed of a Most Valuable Player award last year. What he did throughout the entire year was reincarnate Adam Oates and dish up a unprecedented eighty assists.  Eighty assists!!!! put that into context, unlike Portland's  MVP Olivier Bjorkstrand who had already established Nic Petan, Seth Jones, and Derek Pouliot to play alongside which definitively helped his point totals, it was Cox that made Cole  Sanford,  and Steven Owre the players they are recognized as today. Can Cox and co continue to rack up these godly numbers, analytics would say yes but a glaring criticism is the lack of size and apparently any off-season movement hasn't addressed these concerns. Heck, these guys make the historic Mugsy Bogues look like an NBA center. The penchant from last year will carry forward this year as they are a difficult matchup to keep up stride to stride with, but conversely their a anticipated Christmas gift when it comes to mauling these same forwards in the defensive zone. Based off of what they currently have aside from the aforementioned Cox, Sanford and Owre, who btw I give Sanford a 95% of returning, any tertiary offence will be found from Matt Bradley and Dryden Hunt, who at 80 % has a chance of coming back to the Tigers. Matt Bradley, who congratulations are in order for getting picked with the one hundred and thirty first selection by the Montreal Canadians will individually benefit if the likes of those players mentioned don't return but then again by them returning this Surrey sensation may be overlooked and could provide a lot of under the radar productivity.

I like this defence, I know a lot of people who are well enamored within the league and have respected contacts may imply that the Tigers defence makes the Edmonton Oilers defence look like world beaters. I don't share this notion and the main reason behind that is the ever reliable Ty Stanton. Now, the conundrum the Tigers face is if all of Cox, Sanford and Hunt get returned, an issue arises on where Stanton fits. From a pure team building perspective, you can have all the offence in the world but if you can't stop the opposition now and again, the offence is a moot point. Betting money on the assumption that they have the surplus of twenty year old scoring would be that Cole Sanford gets moved because I feel Clouston can't afford to lose what Stanton is selling, For every Adam Banks, a team needs a Guy Germaine now and again. The third Quenneville that came into the league, David will look to get the attention that his two older brothers received in Brandon.  The improvement that D. Quenneville needs to show is more strength as in two particular games being hosted by Regina  I vividly remember echoing the strong opinion that David was as soft as former Regina Pat defenceman Ivo Kratena, and any Pat fan during that era would know that Kratena would make you cringe any time a player came near him. Quenneville was sorting through his sixteen year old season last year so I give him a  pass in that sense but in order to redeerm my views on him which I know is so paramount, he'll have to show a much greater level of physicality for year two. Tiger fans would be through the moon for this as well.

Has there ever been a trade(I'm sure there has) that has benefitted both teams more than when the Medicine Hat Tigers dealt away Daniel Wapple to Regina while receiving Nick Schneider? After Marek Langhammer, the last of the European dinosaur goaltenders that were invading North America has left, it's from Schneider to start walking the walk. Schneider's questionable rebound control will need to be fixed so I'm sure assistant coaches Jerrod Sauer and Joe Frazer will be working with Nick looking to wrap around this perceived weakness into a strength. With a small defence, he won't be in line to have his defence block a lot of shot like a typical, bigger defence would so the pressure falls solely on the shoulders of Nick Schneider to play amicably and give the Tigers a chance to win on a nightly basis.

No comments:

Post a Comment