Thursday, June 30, 2016

This And That---The Thursday Edition

The usual Friday thoughts running through my muddled mind come to you 24 hours early seeing we are A) on the verge of the holiday weekend and B) it is our first look at the Riders in regular season action as the Argos are in town tonight. Without further adieu, here goes. 

--What do I expect on the Taylor Field turf tonight? The answer is I don't know! The Argos really disappointed me in Week 1. Ricky Ray did not look crisp, the Argos defence did not look good. The Riders come off an 0-2 pre-season where Darian Durant didn't play a lot and we aren't sure what the defence is going to look like. It's a completely different set of starters from what left the field last year.  I think the Riders can win this game, and I think Durant can have a big game as he was on the verge of having one last year in the season opener before getting hurt after being away for a long time. It comes natural for DD.  Whatever team plays smarter football will likely come out with the win. I give Toronto the slight advantage simply for the fact they have a game under their belt. Remember though, that prediction comes from a guy who went 0-4 in opening week play.  Let's just say it should be more entertaining tonight than it was much of last year.

--If the Bombers put in a less than stellar effort against Calgary, will they start pushing the panic button in Winnipeg? If Calgary loses the home opener to the Bombers and falls to 0-2, will they start pushing the panic button in Cowtown? 

--TSN's Chris Cuthbert sent out a tremendous tweet this week after word came down who would be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Cuthbert said it is time to start recognizing teams like Team Canada 72, the 1980 U-S Olympic Hockey Team and the 77 Habs. I couldn't agree more. I still think its a joke Paul Henderson isn't in the Hall when he scored the biggest goal in Canadian hockey history, but now the whole team can be (and should be) recognized. 

--After a quiet draft when it came to trades, the NHL world exploded Wednesday afternoon with three big announcements in a short time. Taylor Hall going to New Jersey for Adam Larsson is definitely a deal that short-term goes to the Devils as New Jersey gets a forward who can be top 15-20 in scoring, but who does he have to play with? Edmonton clears out cap space to presumably get Milan Lucic on Friday. There was no room on the left side and it became evident when word came out Lucic to Edmonton was apparently going to happen. A big salary had to be moved and this was the one. If Lucic was a right winger, Jordan Eberle was likely gone. I like the deal and will like it more after the Lucic deal is done. If Lucic doesn't come, this is bad, very, very bad! In the end, GM Peter Chiarelli knew he had to give up value to get what he needed and he has done so. This isn't a trade that can be judged immediately, but it is one that will be remembered by Edmonton hockey fans when they see if he sinks or swims. By the way, Chiarelli is now responsible for trading the top two picks of the 2010 draft as he also sent Tyler Seguin away, albeit for different reasons. 

--The PK Subban trade is a great one----for the Montreal Canadiens. It is no secret I have no time for Subban, I find him to be extremely over-rated.  Montreal is giving up a liability on defense for one of the top blueliners in the game. He is a guy who will make it tough to cross the Montreal blueline and he will give up his body to block shot after shot after shot.  Look at the resumes of these guys and its no contest.  As for Steve Stamkos, is anyone really surprised by this? Give some props to Steve Yzerman for keeping Stamkos and not giving in to the trade demands of Jonathan Drouin. He has some cap-work to do though. Yakupov and a 3rd for Hedman?  Yes, I'm joking!

--The announcement Ron MacLean is back as host of Hockey Night in Canada has been met with a resounding yes by many including myself. The question now is where did George Stromboulopoulos go wrong? Was it just a bad fit right from the start? Was it a case of whoever replaced MacLean was doomed for failure because of the respect and admiration Canadians have for Ron or was it something else.  The move to get MacLean back in the host's chair is a smart one, and while some have wondered about Glenn Healy getting the hook, I applaud that move too as he was just too grating for me. Don't be surprised to see Healy with another job very soon whether it be with TSN or MSNBC. I don't think the changes are over yet either.  What happens now may be minor, but Rogers has to do something and they have started in that process.

--Back to football, and it would appear as if Josiah St. John will be making his way to Riderville soon.  Rod Pedersen was the first to inform Rider Nation and the CFL universe that the number one draft pick in this year's draft and the team had come to an agreement. I believe it was Rod in training camp who said chances are this will drag on until the start of the season and then he will be here. Technically, he is a week late in that assessment, but it does come on the eve of the season opener.  How long will it take for St. John to get up to speed with the offence? Don't expect him on the field for a few weeks. 

--Hasn't been a good week for England. First it was Brexit and then it was leaving the European Championships getting beat by Iceland. C'mon, did you even know Iceland had a soccer program? I am guessing many of you would say no! Seeing that defeat and the words of extreme angst that followed from the Brits was priceless.  There were several classic lines. I've said it once and I'll say it again. I would love to see North American football and hockey announcers steal some lines from their British counterparts. It would be outstanding! 

--Has there been any buzz about the upcoming Olympics? All I am hearing is this athlete isn't going and that athlete isn't going, but there has been no publicity about these games and those who are going.  Shouldn't the hype machine be going?

--That's all I got. Have a great Canada Day weekend! Don't let the Riders spoil it for you if they lose. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Lightning Got Some "Point"ers When Drafting Brett Howden

In this presidential election year, we’re reminded on an almost daily basis the importance of the right political endorsements.

Turns out, endorsements can be pretty beneficial in hockey too.

Moose Jaw center Brayden Point recommended his Warriors teammate Brett Howden to the Tampa Bay Lightning before the 2016 NHL Draft.

A few weeks later in Buffalo, the Lightning selected Howden with the 27th overall pick, becoming the second first round NHL pick in his family (older brother Quinton was taken 25th overall in the 2010 draft by the Florida Panthers).

“(The Lightning) are getting a good two-way guy,” Point said during the first day of the Bolts’ development camp at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum on Tuesday, reiterating the same points he made to Lightning management during Howden’s evaluation process. “He plays good D, was on the power play and penalty kill for us this year. He did it all. He’s good on faceoffs, a good centerman, a big body obviously. He was a real leader in our room this year, even at 17 (years old). Just pretty much an all-around player.”

Point was a third round draft choice (79th overall) of the Lightning in 2014 following his third season in Moose Jaw. The year after being drafted, Point put up 87 points (38 goals, 49 assists), tops on the Warriors and tied for eighth best in the Western Hockey League.

This past season, despite missing almost two months of the season with a shoulder injury, Point averaged nearly two points a game, with 88 (35 goals, 53 assists) in 48 contests, tied for 11th-most points in the WHL.

Point helped lead Team Canada to the gold medal at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships. He captained Canada’s national junior team a year later.

Certainly, his recommendation carries some weight.

So, when Lightning scouts, during their evaluation of Point’s progression, noticed a young forward with good size, skating ability and a responsible two-way game making an impact for Moose Jaw, they solicited Point’s opinion.

He was all-too happy to give it.

“They asked me about him for sure a few times, and I just gave them my honest opinion,” Point said.

“Obviously, it was all good things because of the way he plays and the kind of guy he is. I never talked about the possibility about drafting him, but I gave them what I saw or what I felt playing with him.”

Lightning director of player development Stacy Roest said Point’s endorsement of Howden played a factor in the Bolts selecting him with their first pick at last weekend’s draft.

“It helps because we feel we know Brayden as well as we do and he knows Brett really well,” Roest said. “They sat beside each other in Moose Jaw in the locker room, and they spoke very highly of each other actually. That helps, of course, having Brayden there, we were in there maybe more than some other junior teams and watching Brett. Then you watch, it was fun over the last couple years watching Brett become a complete player and watching his progression as well as watching (Brayden’s).”

Howden said he’s learned a lot from Point during their two years together at Moose Jaw. Point’s competitiveness has rubbed off on Howden. The two often stick around after practice to work on the finer nuances of the game. He’s also developed some of the same leadership traits Point possesses.
“My first year (in Moose Jaw) when I was 16, we obviously knew each other, but I think as the year went on and definitely into my second year, we got a lot closer and started hanging out a lot more,” Howden said. “Once I found out I was drafted (to Tampa Bay), I got a text from him, and he was pretty excited. I was real excited to know someone where I’m going and to have a guy like him there.”

Howden scored 24 goals and notched 40 assists in his second season with Moose Jaw in 2015-16. The 18-year-old center added four goals and 11 assists in the playoffs.

He called being picked by the Lightning in the first round a “surreal” moment.

“I looked in the mirror and saw my jersey on and just started smiling,” Howden said of his opening day at development camp and first time seeing his name on the back of a Lightning jersey. “It’s a pretty cool feeling.”

In his post-draft press conference, Howden noted Point’s positive recommendation to the Lightning and said he’d have to think of a way to repay his teammate.

Point chuckled when told of Howden’s plan to repay.

“We’ll have to discuss that and figure it out,” Point said. “We’ve got the Moose Jaw golf tournament coming up here. Maybe that weekend he can get me back.”

(Bryan Burns/TB Lightning) 

Taylor Hall Traded, PK Subban Traded, Steve Stamkos Staying

The Edmonton Oilers have acquired defenceman Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils, in exchange for winger Taylor Hall.

Larsson, 23, appeared in 82 games with New Jersey last season averaging over 22 minutes per game, while posting 18 points (3G, 15A), 77 penalty minutes and a plus 15 rating. He led the Devils in plus/minus rating (+15), ranked third on the team among defenceman in assists (15) and fourth in points (18).

The 6’3”, 205-pound blueliner has spent the past five seasons with the Devils, since being selected fourth overall in the 2011 NHL Draft. In 274 career NHL games, Larsson has accumulated 69 points (9G, 60A) and 155 penalty minutes. He has also played in five career playoff games, recording one goal and four penalty minutes.

The Skelleftea, Sweden native has represented his country several times internationally, most recently at the 2016 World Hockey Championship, posting four points (1G, 3A) and four penalty minutes in eight games, leading Sweden’s defence in scoring. He has also represented Sweden twice (2011, 2010) at the World Junior Hockey Championship and two times (2010, 2009) at the Under-18 World Junior Hockey Championship.

Hall, 24, has spent his entire six-year career with the Oilers’ organization. In 381 career NHL games, he has recorded 132g-196a-328pts and 234 penalty minutes. He has led Edmonton in scoring three of the last four seasons, and finished at least top three on the squad in each of his six seasons. This past year, Hall posted 26g-39a- 65pts and 54 penalty minutes while skating in all 82 games. He also represented the Oilers at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in Nashville.


Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Wednesday that the club has acquired Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban from the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman Shea Weber.

“P.K. Subban is an elite offensive defenseman with tremendous skill and contagious energy that makes the Nashville Predators a better team now and into the future,” Poile said. “Superstar defensemen of his caliber are a rare commodity, and we are thrilled to add him to the organization.”

Subban, 27, is among the most decorated defensemen in the game today. Individually, he won the 2013 Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman, was a finalist for the award in 2015, is a two-time First-Team NHL All-Star (2013 and 2015) and a 2011 All-Rookie Team selection. He has helped teams win a gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics and a pair of World Junior Championships (2008 and 2009). Over the past four seasons – dating back to 2012-13 – the 6-foot, 210-pound blueliner has amassed 203 points (42g-160a) in 274 regular-season games, third most among all NHL defensemen. He has surpassed the 50-point mark in each of the past three seasons, highlighted by a career-high 60 points (15g-45a) in 2014-15. He has advanced past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of his last two appearances in the postseason, ranking fourth among NHL blueliners in points (5g-9a-14pts) in 2014, helping Montreal reach the Eastern Conference Final.

Shea Weber, 30, played in 78 of the Nashville Predators’ 82 games in 2015-16, recording 51 points (20 goals, 31 assists). He led all NHL defensemen in powerplay goals (14), and ranked tied for third in powerplay points (26).

The Nashville Predators’ captain for the past six seasons (2010 to 2016), Weber has played a total of 763 career NHL regular season games. He registered 443 points (166 goals, 277 assists), displayed a +48 differential, served 568 penalty minutes, and amassed 187 powerplay points, including 80 goals with the man advantage. The 6’4’’ and 236 lbs defenseman added 28 points in 59 career playoff games (13 goals, 15 assists) and served 57 penalty minutes.

“We completed today an important transaction which I am convinced will make the Canadiens a better team. It was also one of the most difficult decisions I had to make as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens. In Shea Weber, we get a top rated NHL defenseman with tremendous leadership, and a player who will improve our defensive group as well as our powerplay for many years to come. Shea Weber led all NHL defensemen last season with 14 powerplay goals. He is a complete rearguard with impressive size and a powerful shot. P.K. Subban is a special and very talented player. He provided the Canadiens organization with strong performances on the ice and generous commitment in the community. I wish him the best of luck with the Predators,” said Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.

Steve Stamkos has ended the speculation. The Tampa Bay Lightning captain will not be changing addresses as he has signed a new contract with the team meaning he won't be a free agent come July 1 as many had thought.

The reported figures are that it’s an eight-year deal worth a total of $68 million, which translates to an $8.5-million annual salary cap hit. It also comes with a full no-movement clause.

The first-overall pick from the 2008 NHL Draft has spent his entire career in Tampa Bay where he has 312 goals and 250 assists in 569 career games. He also has 15 goals and 20 assists in 49 career playoff games.

CFL Draftkings Picks For Week 2

How did Week 1 go for you? If Weston Dressler doesn't get hurt in the first quarter of the game against the Alouettes, I probably land in the money, but injuries are a part of the game so no coin for yours truly in Week 1.

Here's who I suggest for Week 2:


Harris is the top-ranked QB on the board that is healthy behind both Henry Burris and Zach Collaros. Harris was amazing in Week 1 throwing for three touchdowns in less than a half of play. One has to think he may be able to carry on that roll as the REDBLACKS move into Montreal.  It is tempting to take Darian Durant to see what he can do after being off for a year against a Toronto D that gave up a lot of yards to Jeremiah Masoli. Durant goes in at an even 9-grand, so if you want to put some money elsewhere and save 800 dollars from Harris to Durant, go for it.


Unlike the NFL version of the game, special teams points are awarded for not only the Defence/Special Teams Category, but they also go to the player picking up those return yards and touchdowns. As a result, Chris Rainey is someone to look at every week as is Brandon Banks as they are not only return guys, but offensive starters. Rainey scored once on offence and once on a punt return in the Week 1 win vs Calgary. One has to think he is a part of that BC offence, even though he isn't the starting RB.


As I said in Week 1, stacking is big when it comes to daily fantasy sports. If you are in a fantasy hockey draft, and you have linemates on your team, its nice when they combine for a goal. The same in Draftkings when it comes to a passing TD.  Harris to Williams worked against the Eskimos, and I can see these two hooking up again for a touchdown if not more against Montreal.


I can't be the only thinking Roosevelt has the potential for a huge year after a breakout 2nd half where it was Brett Smith getting him the football, and not Darian Durant.  At 7100, Roosevelt seems like a bargain to me.


The Ti-Cats come home for their home opener as they play a BC team that is flying across the country on a short week. While Jon Jennings and the Lions eked out a win in Week 1 over Calgary, I don't see them starting 2-0 as Simoni Lawrence and crew shut them down.  



Depth Chart for Argos-Riders

Kickoff at Mosaic Stadium for the last home opener in the building goes at 8 o'clock with 620 CKRM's game-day coverage starting at 5.

Media preview 


Monday, June 27, 2016

Pats Schedule Is Released

The Regina Pats Hockey Club, in conjunction with the Western Hockey League, announced its 2016-17 Regular Season schedule today.  The Pats open the new campaign on home ice Friday, September 23 against the Prince Albert Raiders.  The season wraps up in Brandon against the Wheat Kings Saturday, March 18, 2017.

The Pats’ annual western road swing runs November 16-26 and sees the team stay north of the border in the B.C. Division.  The trip also includes the Blue and White’s first visit to the new Rogers Place in Edmonton.  Regina breaks for Christmas from December 18-26 with their final game before the break coming against the Moose Jaw Warriors Saturday, December 17.  All Sunday home games continue to take place at 4 p.m. including a New Year’s Day matchup with Prince Albert.

A pair of fan-favourites return to Brandt Centre Concessions for the new season.  Taco Tuesday (two taco-in-a-bag for $10) and Wiener Wednesday (two-for-one hot dogs) will be available a combined total of nine times throughout the season.  Further off-ice promotions and special events will be revealed at a later date.

(Regina Pats)

Luca Congi Retires As A Rider


The Saskatchewan Roughriders announced today that national kicker Luca Congi has signed a one-day contract with the team and will subsequently retire as a Roughrider.

Congi spent six years with the Green and White after originally being selected by the team in the 2nd round (12th overall) in the 2006 CFL Draft. The Simon Fraser University product played 87 regular season games with the Riders, connecting on 166 of 210 field goals (79.1%) and all 235 convert attempts. He also added 167 punts for 6,367 yards for a 38-yard average.

He also added six career playoff games and played in two Grey Cup games with the Riders, winning in 2007.     

Congi rounded out his eight year CFL career in Hamilton where he played the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Tiger-Cats.

“I am very honoured to be able to retire today as a Roughrider,” stated Congi. “I have a lot of great memories of my time in Saskatchewan. The support received from the fans in Rider Nation is special and I will never forget it.”

Luca and his wife, Daniella, make Toronto their home.

(Saskatchewan Roughriders) 

Rams-Huskies To Play First Football Game at New Mosaic

The City of Regina announced Monday afternoon that the University of Regina Rams will play host to the Saskatchewan Huskies on Saturday, Oct. 1 in what will be the first football game at the new Mosaic Stadium.

Ticket sales will be limited to 16,500 as the game is designed to test the construction of the building. A capacity crowd would set a new attendance record for a Canada West regular season game, breaking the old mark of 10,199 set back in 2013 as Alberta and Manitoba played in the first game at Investors Group Field.

"We are thrilled to play our first game in our new home this season," said Chris Briltz, treasurer of the Rams. "This is a tremendous opportunity for our organization to showcase our product while making history alongside every other participant at new Mosaic Stadium."

Flex packages go on sale Tuesday at 10 a.m. Each flex package includes one ticket to the Oct. 1 game as well as an option to purchase up to three additional tickets during the pre-sale window. Flex packages are available through, the Rams administration office (306-585-5480),, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders box office (1-888-4-RIDERS).

Tickets for the general public will be available beginning Tuesday, July 26.

The Oct. 1 game will be the only Rams home game played at the new Mosaic Stadium this season. The other three home games – Sept. 8 (Manitoba), Sept. 23 (Calgary), and Oct. 21 (UBC) – will all be played at the old stadium.

(U of R Athletics)

Its Official! Ron MacLean Is Once Again Host Of HNIC

For more than 30 years, Ron MacLean has been a cornerstone of Hockey Night in Canada, and today Sportsnet announced he is returning to host hockey’s biggest night alongside David Amber.

 MacLean will host Game 1 on Saturday nights with Amber hosting Game 2, and together they will guide Canadians through all of Hockey Night in Canada’s memorable moments and greatest stories.
MacLean will continue to host Coach’s Corner with Don Cherry in the first intermission of Game 1.  Following his hosting duties on Saturday nights, MacLean will head out to 24 communities across the country to host Rogers Hometown Hockey with Tara Slone on Sundays throughout the season.

“The impact Ron has had on the game and in communities across the country is immeasurable.  Hockey fans, young and old, have a deep connection with him,” said Scott Moore, President of Sportsnet & NHL Properties, Rogers.  “David is one of the top sports broadcasters in North America, with a long and impressive resume from both sides of the border.  He’s earned this coveted role.  With Ron and David at the helm, it’s the perfect mix for hockey’s biggest night.”

Amber has been a reporter with Hockey Night in Canada for the past five years.  He has nearly 20 years of sports broadcast experience in both Canada and the U.S., including eight years as anchor and reporter with ESPN, as well as covering four Olympic Games and a two-year stint hosting NHL On The Fly.

“Hockey Night in Canada is a tradition unlike anything else in this country.  It’s part of our national DNA, and so is Ron.  It’s a balance of giving our fans what they want and evolving the broadcasts to keep them fresh,” said Moore.

After hosting Hockey Night in Canada for the past two seasons, George Stroumboulopoulos will depart the company to explore new creative opportunities.

“George is an extremely versatile and creative broadcaster and we value the contributions he made to Hockey Night in Canada.  We look forward to seeing what his next great project will be,” said Moore.

  “We are continually evaluating and evolving our broadcasts to deliver the best experience for fans.”
Panelists Elliotte Friedman, Kelly Hrudey, and Nick Kypreos join MacLean and Amber in-studio Saturday nights.  Daren Millard continues to host Scotiabank Wednesday Night Hockey, alongside panelists Friedman and Doug MacLean.

“As part of our evolution, we will deliver more consistency each night of the week for our national NHL broadcasts. When fans tune in, they will know who they are going to see,” said Moore.

(Sportsnet PR)

NOTE: Rogers has also let it be known Glenn Healy, PJ Stock, Corey Hirsch, Leah Hextall, Chantal Desjardins and Billy Jaffe have also been let go.

Something To "Mitch" About

AND AWAY WE DOHHHHH  ---- After Week 1 of the CFL season, I can rest assure the Rider Nation that on Thursday night when the Toronto Argonauts visit Mosaic Stadium to take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders, I will be firm and take the Argos to win the game in the 620 CKRM pick pool. Why wouldn't I take the Argos after an opening week which saw this camper go 0-4. Yes, I took the Argos, Bombers, Eskimos and Stampeders to win the opening week games and well, we know how that turned out. I just wonder what Mullinder's excuse is as he took the same combo as did Phil Andrews, but I'm guessing Phil just tried to look smart and copied Luc's picks.

I will also be honest about it when I say the only game I watched this weekend was the season opener on Thursday night between the Argos and Hamilton and the last quarter of the rain-delayed Bombers/Alouettes game. I had a pretty valid reason though as I served as the best man at the wedding of my best friend/brother who finally decided after almost a decade of being with his new bride that he should finally just do the deed and tie the knot.  So basically, while keeping tabs on the games, I saw very little if any action. From what I did see and read though, I came to the following thoughts

1. Trevor Harris showed he was the best free agent signing in the CFL during the off-season. How could Toronto let him get away? What an effort out of the bullpen that was!

2. Winnipeg is what I thought they were.

3. Those aren't Chris Jones' Eskimos anymore

4. Are the Lions better than what I thought or is Calgary worse than I thought

5. Football in Toronto just may be back

While I wasn't able to watch a lot of football, I did monitor what was going on, but instead of doing so through the Score app or the CFL app on my phone, I did so through Draftkings.  I am guessing there are many of us who were more invested in the games being played this weekend because of Draftkings. A game between Montreal and Winnipeg in the past would have meant zip to me and I would have had little interest, but I found myself on Friday checking my Draftkings app several times to see how Weston Dressler was doing. I didn't realize the game had a weather delay, and when the "Q" came up behind Dressler's name, I knew something was up which Twitter confirmed a short time later. If WD7 stays in the game for a full 60, I probably would have gotten my money back, but he didn't and that's the way the game is played. There is a risk-reward factor every week. I think a lot of people became more interested in the CFL this weekend after playing some Draftkings and I don't see that momentum slowing down until the NFL season starts if it even does.

CAN Y'ALL DO ME A FAVOUR? -- Chris Jones shouldn't have had to do it, but he did and good on him for doing so. The Riders HC/GM wandered into the stands during the first Riders practice of the year at Mosaic Stadium. He wanted to speak to those who were watching practice with the message being a simple one---that message being please keep what you see in house and don't let the league know what we are doing.

Jones told the gathering "In years past I’ve been able to go online and use what was written on the message boards as a scouting report. This is something that we just can’t have and I’m trying to educate our fans to let them know that this could be detrimental to our football team. I assume if they are here watching practice that they want us to win."

In this social media world, it is tough to keep secrets, but Jones is asking the fans to help him out and not divulge any secrets. He has every right to do that. He also has every right to lock the doors to the stadium and say practice is no longer a place for Rider fans to congregate and watch them get ready for a game. I don't know if he would go that far, but if some decide to not adhere to his wish, it could happen. If he did, I wouldn't blame him one bit.

BUFFALO BOOS BETTMAN -- Seeing Gary Bettman enter an NHL arena whether it be for a Stanley Cup presentation or to welcome people to the draft is always something that makes me chuckle. Friday night was no exception. As soon as Bettman took the stage at the First Niagara Center, he was "welcomed" with a cascading serenade of boos from all in attendance. Bettman took it all in stride like a WWE heel saying thank you for the rousing welcome. Give Gary credit, he knows he isn't liked and he doesn't shy away from it. He seems to revel in the hate. It isn't going away anytime soon.

YAWWWNNNN!!! -- What happened to all the wheeling and dealing that was supposed to be done at the draft. Marc Andre-Fleury, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, PK Subban and others who were thought to have new homes by the time teams left Buffalo were still with their respective teams. Yes, there were some deals made, but nothing huge. If you are a Detroit fan though, you have to love the fact Pavel Datsyuk's salary is off the board as you are now in prime position to sign possible free-agent to be Steve Stamkos.  There is still a lot of talk he will end up in Toronto, but Stamkos wants to win now and Toronto is not going to win immediately. Going to Detroit ( if he goes anywhere) would be a good move for Stamkos.

HEY PETE, YOU FORGOT SOMETHING -- Many left Buffalo grumbling under their breath that the Edmonton Oilers had arguably gotten the best player in the draft. While I think Auston Matthews fits in that category, there were several who were shaking their head after the Columbus Blue Jackets took center Pierre-Luc Dubois with the 3rd overall pick leaving Jesse Puliujarvi in the hands of the Oilers. It is said Puliujarvi and McDavid could be the next Gretzky-Kurri. I am OK with that. While Chiarelli went out and drafted some big defencemen, it still doesn't help the Oilers out now. I am guessing they will be aggressive in pursuing blueliners who are available in free agency July 1. Truth be told, I am glad rumoured PK Subban to Edmonton stories were once again not validated as I am not a Subban fan, but sooner or later Chiarelli has to pull the trigger on a deal. It will likely cost him at least Nugent-Hopkins, but with Puliujarvi on the roster, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall could come into play as well since the team has a winger who is ready to step in on opening night. Let's see what this week brings.

THE SHANNAPLAN -  If Stamkos does not sign in Toronto, it throws a monkeywrench into the "Shannaplan", but the Toronto Maple Leafs appear to be on the right track---Stamkos or no Stamkos. Fredrik Andersen could be the answer, but Toronto fans thought Vesa Toskala was years ago. The addition of Auston Matthews is huge, and the fact the Leafs have added to their young forward crew by taking Pats forward Adam Brooks and a couple of young Russians. The times of laughing at the Leafs may be nearing an end.

VEGAS FRONT OFFICE - When is the new Las Vegas team allowed to start making front office hires. Would the fiery John Tortorella be a good candidate to be the first head coach in Vegas. He would certainly create some headlines. Would recently ousted Don Maloney make a good GM? Questions, questions, questions.

That's all I got. Have a great week! 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Riders Roster Moves

After adding quarterbacks GJ Kinne and Bryant Moniz to the roster on Saturday, the Saskatchewan Roughriders made the following moves on Sunday morning

The Saskatchewan Roughriders announced the following roster moves:

·       National offensive lineman Dillon Guy
·       National defensive back Raye Hartmann
·       National defensive back Shane Herbert
·       National defensive lineman Ese Mrabure-Ajufo

·       International receiver Armanti Edwards

·       International running back Lache Seastrunk

·       The Riders also announced they have added two territorial juniors to the practice roster. Defensive back Menedum Menegbo and wide receiver Kristopher Calcutt of the Regina Thunder will begin practicing with the team today. 

·       International defensive lineman Sammy Brown

-        Shortly after originally signing in April, Brown suffered an off-field injury while training and was unable to attend training camp. He has reported to the team in order to continue rehabilitation.  

·       International defensive lineman Tony Criswell

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Adam Brooks Headed To Toronto

Picture: Regina Pats 

The WHL's leading scorer last season could very well be playing with Auston Matthews in the future. 

With the first pick in the 4th round of the NHL Draft on Saturday,  the Toronto Maple Leafs took 19 year old Adam Brooks. 

Brooks, who is expected to be back with the Pats as a 20 year old, had 38 goals and 82 assists for 120 points as he won the Bob Clarke Trophy for leading the WHL in scoring. He then added 23 points in 12 playoff games. 

Brooks was one of two Pats to hear his name get called at the NHL Draft as teammate Sam Steel went to Anaheim with the 30th pick. 

Two members of the Moose Jaw Warriors also heard their name get called in Buffalo as forward Brett Howden went to Tampa Bay with the number 27 pick while teammate Noah Gregor went to San Jose in the 4th round with the 111th pick overall. 

For a look at how the NHL draft went down, click here

Friday, June 24, 2016

One Pat and One Warrior Taken In First Round of 2016 NHL Draft

The 2016 NHL Draft began with the first round on Friday evening from the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY. Four WHL players heard their names called within the first 30 picks.

Jake Bean (Calgary, AB / Calgary Hitmen), Brett Howden (Oakbank, MB / Moose Jaw Warriors), Lucas Johansen (Port Moody, BC / Kelowna Rockets) and Sam Steel (Sherwood Park, AB / Regina Pats) were all selected in the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday. The NHL Draft resumes Saturday morning with the second round beginning at 10:00 a.m. ET.

In total, 15 of the 30 selections made on Friday evening developed this year in the Canadian Hockey League. With the WHL’s 50th Season recently completed, a total of 1,937 players have now been selected in the NHL Draft out of the WHL.

Jake Bean (13th overall, Carolina Hurricanes)
A native of Calgary, AB, Bean had a breakout year with the Hitmen, leading all Western Hockey League defencemen with 24 goals and in the process setting the franchise record for most goals in single season by a blueliner. His long list of accolades this past campaign included his 12 power play goals, which tied for top spot among WHL blueliners, and his 64 points, sixth among rearguards. He was also named the WHL Eastern Conference Most Sportsmanlike Player in 2015-16.

Brett Howden (27th overall, Tampa Bay Lightning)
This season, Howden had 24 goals and 64 points in 68 games and finished fourth in team scoring.  During the 2016 WHL Playoffs he had four goals and 15 points in 10 games and was tied for third in team scoring. From Oakbank, MB, Howden was selected fifth overall by the Warriors in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. In 2014-2015 he finished with 22 goals and 46 points in 68 games and was fifth in WHL rookie scoring.

Lucas Johansen (28th overall, Washington Capitals)
Johansen played in 65 games for the Rockets in 2015-16, scoring 10 times and adding 39 assists, for a 49-point season, his second in the WHL. The Port Moody, BC native became the second Rocket chosen by the Capitals in the last three years on Friday after former Rocket Madison Bowey was drafted by Washington in the 2013 NHL Draft. Other Rockets defenceman to be drafted in the first round of the NHL Draft include Scott Hannan, Luke Schenn and Tyler Myers.

Sam Steel (30th overall, Anaheim Ducks)
The Sherwood Park, AB native had a strong year for the Regina Pats during the 2015-16 Season. He played in all 72 games and tallied 70 points (23g-47a). Steel added to his totals during a strong performance in the WHL Playoffs where he averaged over a point-per-game. Over 12 games in the WHL Playoffs, Steel managed 16 points (6g-10a). Steel also earned a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and received a spot on Team Cherry for the 2016 CHL Top Prospects game.



This and That

Welcome to Friday!  Here are the weekly collection of thoughts running through my muddled mind, and as always, they come in no particular order!

They're off! The 2016 CFL season started in Toronto last night with another game tonight and two more on Saturday to close out Week 1 of the season. Yes, the Riders are left in the dust until Thursday's Week 2 opener against the Argos at home, but it will be nice to watch some regular-season CFL football as it will lead the way into CIS, NCAA and NFL. Ahhhhhhh----football is back! 

As is the case every year, the question is who hoists the Grey Cup high in November.  I see it being a two team race in the West with Calgary battling Edmonton and a two horse race in the East with Hamilton battling Toronto. I see the Stamps and Argos fighting it out at BMO Field in November with the Stampeders coming away with the trophy. As for the Riders, I know they will be better in Chris Jones' first year in charge. In fact, I think they will be the 3rd place team in the West beating out both the Bombers and Lions as they will make a 2nd half charge. Is it too much to ask for a nine win season. I don't think so. If you want predictions, go Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and BC in the West with the East standings having Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal from to top to bottom.

As the season starts, the focus in Riderville is squarely on this guy and why not?

It has become painfully evident over the last year and a half that the fortunes of the Saskatchewan Roughriders depend on this guy. They have a good chance when he is playing and virtually no chance when he isn't. While some have said "NO WAY", and I understand that, I still believe if Durant is healthy last year, the team would have been fighting for a playoff spot going into that last game in  Montreal. Of course if that were the case, Chris Jones might still be in Edmonton (or maybe Winnipeg) because I don't think he would have been here. That being said, Corey Chamblin would not have been here in 2016 barring some kind of huge playoff run.

Without Durant, the Riders are 5-26 in their last 31 games. In the 31 games before Durant suffered his season-ending elbow injury in 2014, they were 22-9.  It is as simple as the nose on your face that as Doubles goes, the fortunes of the Saskatchewan Roughriders go.  It may be even more magnified if Durant goes down in the wake of the Brett Smith cut as there is no experience behind Durant right now should he go down.

Offensively, I see Naaman Roosevelt having a monster season and I also see Rob Bagg having a great year. They may not make you go Weston Who?, but they'll try. I am also very intrigued to see what roles Kendial Lawrence and Nic Demski have as they will be asked to do many things. I've already said I see Lawrence having the same type of role here that Corey Holmes used to have.  The running game still is a concern to me as Curtis Steele didn't play a lot in the pre-season and when he did, he wasn;t that effective.

Defensively, this team will be much better than the team that left the field in 2015. Not having Marshay Green and Junior Mertile on the field makes that sentence accurate. Jeff Knox Junior is needed in the linebacking corps, but the additions of Justin Capiccotti, Shawn Lemon, Otha Foster and Greg Jones make that side of the ball much better. Once Jones gets them on the same page, and yes, it will take a couple of weeks, I see some defensive football that Rider Nation is used to seeing.  By the way, where are Marshay Green and Junior Mertile anyhow? Maybe that could be a segment for Ballsy's "Where are they now?" feature. Then again, maybe not.  By the way, has anyone mentioned Josiah St. John lately?

--The NHL draft goes tonight, and if all goes according to script, the excitement shouldn't start until the #4 pick as it is expected Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi go 1-2-3 to Toronto, Winnipeg and Columbus. The Oilers have the #4 pick and if they keep it, I think they take Matthew Tkachuk. However, I don't think they keep it as they use the pick to trade down and get a defenceman they so desperately need and then perhaps get an Olli Juolevi, Mikhail Sergachev or Jacob Chychrun to help them out on the blueline.

 Will the Calgary Flames offer up number 6 to get someone like Marc-Andre Fleury or Ben Bishop? I am guessing Tampa might be willing to move up to number 6 if they are going to lose Steve Stamkos.  Would the Arizona Coyotes offer Toronto a package including Max Domi, Dylan Strome, their first round pick this year and next to land Matthews and give the organization the marquee player it wants? Being from Arizona, you know Matthews would love nothing more than pull a Coyotes jersey over his head tonight. I don't think that happens, but you never know what Lou Lamioriello may do.  Will Jordan Eberle get traded, will Kevin Shattenkirk or PK Subban have a new team by the time Monday hits and will Tyler Bozak, Scott Hartnell or Rick Nash have new homes as some suggest. Draft weekend is always a treat to watch.

Around these parts, there is a lot of interest as the Pats and Warriors will be well represented in Buffalo. Where does Sam Steel go? Where will Adam Brooks end up? Is Brett Howden going to be a first rounder? Is either team holding a draft party tonight? If not, why not? Nothing wrong with talking junior hockey in late June is there? Find a spot, get some current players and alumni out there, do some giveaways and hopefully see one of your players get selected in Round 1. Bada boom, bada bing!  I sometimes think teams are too scared to try something new for fear it will fail. How do you know if you don't try?

--Two thumbs up to outgoing Swift Current Broncos head coach and general manager Mark Lamb. In his exit news conference, Lamb said the following:

 Social media is a huge problem. I don’t follow it a lot because it can drive a person crazy with the negativity that’s out there. And usually the negative people (who) are out there are the people (who) really don’t know what’s going on anyways. But I’ll tell you one thing — the players, they’re on social media and they read it and they follow it. And when they’re getting criticized on social media for going out and not doing their best and not performing up to the standards of some of the people, I think the fans really have to realize that you’re writing something about these kids — look back and go, ‘Maybe that could be my kid.’ And maybe you change your mind.”

Rippin pro athletes is one thing, but rippin young kids is another. Yes, the story may change a little when a pro contract is signed, but when I see people ripping 15, 16 and 17 year old hockey players for their play, it becomes a little tiresome. There is a fine-line between criticizing someone for what they do or don't do on the ice and ripping someone just for the sake of ripping them because they have an axe to grind. I don't think there are many in the hockey world who disagree with what Lamb is saying.

--Congratulations to Dean Brockman. The former head coach of the Humboldt Broncos is the new coach of the Saskatoon Blades. I met many classy individuals during my time with the SJHL and Brockman was right up there. Considering his track record behind the bench, I have no doubt if he is allowed to do his job, he will have the Blades playing good hockey very soon.

--Congratulations to Regina's Dustin Molleken. As he toiled in the minor leagues, he must have wondered if he would ever get the call to the bigs. 13 years later, he got that call. Molleken is in the bullpen of the Detroit Tigers and while he didn't get a chance to pitch before being sent down Thursday, he still had that chance to wear a big league uniform.

--The annual "Sticks On Rose" street hockey tournament will go outside the 620 CKRM headquarters today. The work done by Mike Sillinger, Jamie Heward and others on this event is outstanding. I'm sure it will be another great day.

--That's all I got. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Changes in Saskatoon as HC Bob Woods Heads To Buffalo

Image result for saskatoon blades

The Saskatoon Blades have named Dean Brockman as their 21st head coach, with news Bob Woods is returning to the NHL.

Woods, who joined the Blades two years ago, has signed on to be the right hand man to Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma.

“This was too great of an offer to pass up,” says Woods. “It’s a chance to work alongside a Stanley Cup winning coach who also coached in the AHL. It’s an example I’d love to follow. I have mixed emotions leaving the Blades since the team is turning the corner but I know the players are in great hands.”

Brockman, 48, who was alongside Woods for the past two seasons, is thrilled with the opportunity.
“We’ve come through three difficult but necessary years but the time for talk is over. It’s time for results and we are committed to take a major step forward this season. We have a room full of great players who have outstanding character. They’ve taken great strides during our time together and I can’t wait to work with them to seize the opportunity we have in front of us.”

Brockman is well-suited to take the top job. Previous to his two years with Woods, Brockman coached the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League to incredible success over 17 years. He led the team to victory in the Royal Bank Cup on two occasions, 2003 and 2008. In two other appearances at the national championship, Humboldt was the runner-up in 2009 and lost the semi-final in 2012.

The product of St. Benedict, Saskatchewan, also guided the Broncos to four Anavet Cup Championship titles in five appearances at the event, which matches up SJHL champion against the winner of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. Brockman was named SJHL Coach of the Year four times.

Brockman also has a history of success with Hockey Canada. He coached Canada West to a silver medal at the World Junior A Championship in 2012, taking home a gold medal at that same event as an assistant coach one year earlier in 2011.

While Brockman has some strategic thoughts on adjusting the team’s play on the ice for more wins, he also sees opportunity on the mental side of the game. “I have great passion for our players and I want to help guide them through the obstacles that stand in their way so we can together find – and enjoy – success.”

“We believe Dean is a great fit to carry on to what we have been building for three years while adding a different perspective to our players,” says the new general manager, Colin Priestner. “Our fans are anxious for a return to the playoffs and so are we. It’s been a long wait and we have every intention of returning to the playoffs this coming season.”

Priestner assumes the GM position on a full time basis, a role he has largely carried out while Woods focused the bulk of his attention on rebuilding the team on the ice. Priestner, who becomes the 7th GM in Blades history, may be only 32 years of age but he guided the team through the previous three drafts, the results of which have been widely praised by independent observers. He has also crafted the restructuring of the Blades scouting system as well as rebuilding the 50-man list.
Priestner, who has a degree in Political Science from the University of Alberta and is currently enrolled at the Business of Hockey MBA program at Athabasca University, becomes the youngest GM in the WHL.

“Colin has brought tremendous talent to our organization. He was very insightful introducing critical structure and analysis to our recruitment process, and that is reflected in the quality of players who are joining our great group of veterans,” says president Steve Hogle. “The fact he’s the youngest GM in the league is similar to some hires of bright young minds in the NHL, such as the Phoenix Coyotes signing 26-year-old John Chayka as their GM.”

One of the men who has been at Priestner’s side every step of the way while rebuilding the team, Assistant General Manager Steve Hildebrand, is being promoted to Associate General Manager. The man commonly known as “Hilty” was also just named by Hockey Canada as one of the Directors of Operations for the U17 national team.

“Hilty is an incredible talent and we’ve worked very closely over the last three years. We plan on making all decisions together to do what’s best for the Blades,” adds Priestner. “This is a great day for the Blades. We are extremely excited to build upon what we have achieved so far. Our fans are anxious for a return to the playoffs and so are we. It’s been a long wait and we have every intention of returning to the playoffs this coming season.”

“Any time someone at our level, whether it’s a coach or a player, makes it to the NHL, it’s a great thing for the franchise and shows we are developing quality people,” adds Hogle. “Bob Woods helped poured a great foundation here. Now we have a dynamite person in Dean Brockman to build upon that and take the team to new success.”

(Saskatoon Blades)