The smell of Ice is oh so Close
Who will win the Stanley Cup?
Who will win the Alberta Junior Hockey League Championship?
How will Obie Won, or Evan Oberg as you Duluthian Bulldog Fans would know him, fair in his initial season in the Div I NCAA hockey ranks? Or for that matter the other AJHL alumni recruit Justin Fontaine?
On the Alberta Front
As the training camps begin in Alberta this next week i am sure alot more "hockeytalk" will be hitting the numerous boards that are available in this internet netherland. In the Alberta ranks there has been some shuffling in the coaching ranks. Fran Gow, former head coach of the Grande Prairie Storm (and prior to that the Fort McMurray Oil Barons) has after 6 years in the Peace Country chosen to come back to Oil Sands capital of the world (Fort McMurray). His association with the Oil Barons this season will not be in a coaching capacity however, but rather as Director of Player Personnel. This could turn out to be a huge coup for this hockey club who lost their chief scout at the beginning of last season. What may be more interesting however, is what may happen if the Barons dont make leaps and bounds ahead of last years "average" performance. If this squad falters early, dont be surprised to see mr. Gow usurp current head coach Gord Thibodeau. The Board of Directors is always looking for a contender and with Gow the only coach in their history to bring them a national championship, one would have to wonder how patient this board will be if the Barons dont jump out of the gate from day one.
Another interesting development is the appointment of Mike Vanderkamp as Mr. Gow's replacement in Grande Prairie. Vanderkamp used to be the head coach of the Vernon Vipers in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League and had quite the reputation of being quite the hot head. It will be interesting to see if a cooler head prevails in the cooler climbs of Grande Prairie.
AND, what about the Bulldogs?????
With Evan Oberg making the jump to the college ranks a year earlier than anticipated, one would have to assume that Scott Sandelin is hoping that this offensive minded defenceman will be able to fill the void left by Niskanens departure to the professional ranks. Obie Won may be able to bolster the powerplay on the back end but I would not want the bulldog bretheren to feel that he will be able to fill Matt's skates in their entirety. And as an observation, there will have to be a huge step up in offensive prowess from the returning forwards in the lineup. Me thinks that the departure of Raymond will take a while for this years squad to adjust to. Once they realize they dont have that marquee threat to bail them out, and start working as units on the ice they should be fine. The question is whether they will figure that out in time to take a good run into the playoffs. Time will tell.
This fan is looking forward to the addition of Mike Connolly a year down the road. With the addition of Fontaine this year and Connolly the next, the bulldogs will have a couple of recruits who both see the ice real well and should develop into some excellent playmakers, if the right systems are used. Think of the Flames Conroy to Iginla in their Stanley Cup run a couple of years ago. Chow for now.