With the WHL season starting up this week, there is seemingly an overall consensus that the Brandon Wheat Kings will be the team hoisting the Ed Chynoweth Cup seeing they are the host team for the Memorial Cup this year. With that being the case, I asked two of the league's play-by-play men if they believe Brandon is the overwhelming favourite--one from each conference.
First up, former Moose Jaw Warrior, current Chilliwack Bruin play-by-play man(and good man he is) Randy Merkley...
Yes the Wheat Kings will have a great shot at winning the west, and I'm sure Kelly McCrimmon will make the necessary moves to bring in the right players at the deadline. Is Andrew Hayes going to lead them to the promise land in goal? Maybe Brandon will make a move to get a goaltender? I would say only time will tell if the Wheaties are going to stick with Hayes and an unproven back up, or they will make a move to bring in a big name guy. But as far as firepower up front, not many teams can go head to head with their cast of snipers.Brayden Schenn, Scott Glennie, Jay Fehr, Matt Calvert, Sanfred King, import Toni Rajala...this group is going to put the puck in the net. They always play well at home, and it has become a real hard rink for the opposition to play in. I think the West is going to have a number of solid teams, and as we saw last year, it's sometimes the team that get's hot at the right time that can walk away with a league Championship.Not a lot of people put money on the Kelowna Rockets to beat Vancouver, let alone Calgary in the League Final.It's too early to give the Wheat Kings the Division Title, or even League Crown, but they are going to win a lot of hockey games this season.
From the guy I consider to be the top play-by-play guy in the league(and there are many good ones out there)--Les Lazaruk of the Saskatoon Blades.
I think they are, so long as two things happen. 1) They improve their goaltending...Andrew Hayes won't win them anything. 2) They get their players back from NHL camps...specifically the line of Schenn, Glennie and Calvert. I agree they the first two shouldn't be kept in "The Show" by L-A and Dallas as 18s...but they come cheap against the salary cap and are probably as good, if not better, than some of the slugs those teams already missed the playoffs with. McCrimmon will work hard on those teams, using the, "But, we're hosting the Mem Cup this season and these guys will play meaningful games in May" reasoning. I still hear Al Murray tell me that he expects 12 to 15 players from Team Canada's summer camp here starting the season in the NHL...and I expect Schenn and Glennie to be among them. Plus, Calvert should ne no worse than AHL, if not in Columbus.After that, the Blades return 16 players and should be O-K, although not having Holtby in goal will be a concern. The Pats will be better under a coach the players respect...or will be frightened to death of. Swifty will be a playoff team. Moose Jaw will be the most improved team in the East and P-A is in for a lo-o-o-o-n-n-n-n-g year. Calgary and Lethbridge should drop off significantly from last year. Edmonton might make the playoffs. Kootenay might be the best team in the Central...just ahead of Medicine Hat and Red Deer. The Rebels might be the most improved team in the Eastern conference.
Thanks to both. If their time allows it, I will be asking them questions as the season goes on.