An old WHL General Manager once said "you can fill Giants stadium with good kids."
Translation: There's lots of good kids out there but doesn't necessarily translate into wins on the ice.
That may be true but I think this team provides both skill and character. That's a great combination to throw on the ice.
Still relatively new on the scene, I'm able to take a fresh look at the scenario without being jaded on past failures and results.
Here's five things I think Blazer fans should get excited about in no particular order:
1) Skill up front, punishment on the back-end.
This team will throw three skilled scoring lines at you and an energy line that will create some havoc. The Blazers also boast the biggest, most physical blueline in the Conference. Add to the mix 20 year-old Corey Fienhage and you solidify a group that will be tough to play against. Averaging 6'2" and 198lbs as a group, the Blazers defense will wear down opposing forwards.
2) Colin Smith
This sophomore has shown me he could be in store for a break-out season. The speedy forward will get noticed this year. I'm excited to see him develop into a premiere player in the league.
Here's a promo video from last year:
3) Jordan DePape
What a deal the Blazers made to get Depape out of Brandon last year. While the Wheat Kings added Shayne Wiebe to the mix, the Blazers get a top-notch player who has captain potential down the road. A skilled guy. I'm surprised he didn't get an FA invite to an NHL camp this season.
4) Corey Fienhage
The player his teammates call "Moose"... he's already a favorite amongst the group and he hasn't even played a game yet.
Named an assistant captain today, the over-age defenseman adds an element of experience and leadership. He's going to be hard to play against. He adds what I call the "Aaron Rome" factor. Rome was 20 going on 30. I see the same in Fienhage. A veteran presence the rest of the team can lean on when the going gets tough.
5) Euro Power
It looks like Dalibor Bortnak and Bernhard Keil will start the season on the same line. The Slovakian veteran and the German rookie have shown flashes in the pre-season of what they're capable of. It will be an adjustment for Keil in his first year and may take some time to get going. Bortnak on the other hand came into camp ready to go. He's been one of the stand-outs during the pre-season and has drawn plenty of praise from Head Coach Guy Charron for his all-around play.
Besides these five points there's more to consider.
Although I haven't seen Chase Schaber and Austin Madaisky play since they were with the Calgary Hitmen, I remember them as two solid skaters and contributors. Madaisky will work into the Blazers top four D, while Schaber will captain the team and play on the top two lines.
Brendan Ranford will be a point a game player this year at least be an offensive spark-plug.
Rick "The Bear" Wile will host a Fan-Fair pre-game show live from Interior Savings Center beginning at 5:30pm Friday.
Guests will include myself, Kirk Fraser, Assistant Coach Scott Ferguson, General Manager Craig Bonner and Owner/Governor Tom Gaglardi.
You can listen online at www.radionl.com
Some thoughts on my old team quickly....
- Swift Current Broncos F Cody Eakin recorded an exhibition goal last night for the Washington Capitals in a 6-2 win over Columbus. Although this was his NHL exhibition debut it's by far not his biggest pro game.
Here's a guy who was playing in the AHL playoffs last season for the Hershey Bears - the Caps affiliate. I'm sure tonight's game would have featured many of those same teammates.
- I like the trade the Broncos made with Seattle. Although they surrender their most experienced defenseman in Travis Bobbee, they get two roster players in return and by way of the trade get to hold on to over-age import F Stepan Novotny.
Adding Novotny to Justin Dowling, Cody Eakin, Brad Hoban, Taylor Vause, Adam Lowry and Dillon Wagner gives the Broncos some options up front.
They are putting a lot of stock in their group of 17 year-old defenseman Reece Scarlett, Graeme Craig, and Richard Nedomlel.
- I received a nice letter from the Broncos bus company today at work. Cliff, the owner of Sun West Coach Lines wrote to tell me he enjoyed the broadcasts and being around myself and the team on the road. That was nice, and unexpected.
-------A final thought...
Is Saskatchewan taking over the WHL airwaves?
With the addition of Andy Neal and myself to the BC division, four of the five broadcasters in the division are from Saskatchewan. The lone exception being Dan Elliot in Vancouver.
In fact, among the 17 Canadian WHL teams, 10 of the broadcasters are from Sask.