Before I get started today, I would like to congratulate Brad Gushue's team on winning the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier on home soil. I used to golf with Brad back in the late 90's in the Bally Haly Junior golf program, and the guy had zen-like focus at age 17. You just knew that Gushue had something special about him - his ability to focus and execute on the golf course was pretty darn cool to watch 'back in the day'. Also of note - to any curlers who complained about the crowd being 'too loud' and 'disrespectful' at Mile One should get their heads out of their respective a*ses. As a fan in any sport, to quote Dwayne Johnson aka 'The Rock'...."know your role!" A fan's role in a sport like curling is to support the home team and make it tough on the road teams, as long as profanity isn't used and it is within the context of the sport. Cheering and boo'ing at a curling event is fair game, and anyone who says it isn't can call me, on my cellular, collect if you have to.
Back in October, I made some bold predictions that some people questioned. Well, here are the results of my predictions, 6 months later.
Bold Statement #1: Abby Newhook is the best 13 year old female hockey player in the world. This claim is hard to quantify, however, Newhook came up big in the Bantam AAA finals between the St. John's AAA Hitmen and the TriCom Thunder. Newhook scored with only 6 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game, only to see her team fall to the Thunder in overtime. To quote the award-winning actor Denzel Washington; "if you hang around the barber shop long enough, you might see yourself gettin' a haircut" and that's exactly what has happened with the TriCom Thunder. After losing to the Hitmen in just about every big game or series over the past couple of seasons, the Thunder finally got over the hump thanks to a nice OT goal set up by #xhockeyplayers Zach Dean. Good luck to the Thunder at the Bantam AAA Atlantics in Cornwall, PE April 6-9.
Bold Statement #2: The Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts will not win the Herder this season. Well, the series is far from over between the Cataracts and Caribou, however, GFW are up against it in the West Coast League finals. The green machine see themselves down 3 games to 1 in the best-of-7 matchup, while AJ Whiffen's CeeBee Stars are knotted at 2 games apiece with the Northeast Eagles. The winner of both series' move on to face one another in what I would assume will be a lopsided Herder final once again. From what I have seen, the East League teams can probably compete with the West teams in terms of offense and goaltending, but defensive depth out East is a major concern.
Bold Statement #3: Avalon Wins the Atom "A" Provincials in 2016-17. Well, this prediction is still in limbo but the Avalon Caps are still in the thick of the Atom "A" picture. Avalon defeated Mount Pearl in the Atom "A" league semi's 2 games to none, and are deadlocked with St. John's in the league finals (1 game apiece). Game 3 goes tonight, LIVE at the Bussey-Horwood Arena.
Some other predictions that I am, or probably will be, right on.....
- Auston Mathews winning the Calder Trophy. The kid can play folks; 31 goals and 55 points in 67 games adds validity to that claim. Show me a rookie that has made a bigger impact on his respective club, and I will show you absolutely no one. Give the man the trophy right now!
- Edmonton being in the playoff mix in 2016-17 after trading away Hall and Yakupov. How 'bout that folks..... Taylor Hall goes from a last place team, right over to another last place team! The Devils wanted to become more offensive, but guess what... hockey is about playing good defence, and Taylor Hall is allergic to doing that. Enjoy the next couple years, Devils fans! On another note - is Nail Yakupov even in the NHL any more?
- Montreal will bounce back in 2016-17 and make the playoffs. Well, unless the Habs have a monumental collapse down the stretch, they will be playing hockey instead of golfing in April.
Things that I was way off on...
Hey.... even the great ones make mistakes. Here are some of the predictions that I was way off on in October...!
- Mitch Marner not having NHL success right away. Whoops! Marner has 54 points in 62 games for the Buds, and is one of the major reasons why the Toronto Maple Leafs....yes, the Toronto Maple Leafs... MIGHT make the playoffs this season. The Leafs are currently clinging to a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, with teams such as my Tampa Bay Lightning nipping at their heels #gobolts
- A Lightning-Predators Stanley Cup final. Really, AP? There's a possibility that neither one of these teams even make the playoffs, let alone the finals. The Bolts lost some guy named Stamkos early in the season, and had a crease conundrum up until the trade deadline. Stevie Y wooled poor ol' Dean Lombardi in a trade that sent Ben Bishop to LA in exchange for wiley vet backup Peter Budaj. The Bolts crease now belongs to Vasilevsky, who is a lot cheaper (and probably better) than Bishop. For a Lightning team that was cap strapped, this was a great trade. The Preds have a playoff spot nailed down at the moment, but I'm not sure if they can beat the top dogs in the Western Conference.
- Montreal being the only Canadian playoff team in 2016-17. I guess I should have paid more attention to the Nation's Capital before writing my blog post back in October; the Sens seemingly came out of nowhere this season to a 39-22 win-loss record. The Sens have shown absolutely no signs of slowing down either, winning 8 of their past 10 matches. Ottawa have a sneaky mix of skill (Karlsson, Stone, Hoffman, et al), lunch pailers (Burrows, Wingels, Borowiecki) and goaltending (Craig Anderson has a .930 Sv Pct this season). I also like this kid Dzingel - any time you can get 30 points out of a 7th round draft choice, you have found a diamond in the rough and that is exactly what the speedy forward is.
- The Western AAA Bantam Kings fell victim to the Provincial AAA league format this season. After a 23-5 regular year and a league title, the Kings had to drive 8+ hours across the province to play in the 'Provincials'. In my opinion, it really sucks to be the best team from October until March, only to lose a few round robin games and not get the opportunity to go to the Atlantics (I am not saying that TriCom do not deserve to represent NL at the Atlantics - they have a very good team and I have said before that they would be in the mix to win it all this year). I just do not like the format, and will never like the format no matter how many people tell me why the format is in place. The team that wins the League trophy at the end of the playoffs should be the Atlantic rep, and there ain't no one who will convince me otherwise.
- Anna Barrington will be travelling with the PHD (Pro Hockey Development) group this summer, and has been a stud on the St. John's Peewee AAA Hitmen blue line this season. Anna is never going to be confused with Erik Karlsson as far as offensive flair is concerned, but she plays a rock solid defensive game and is certainly not shy to give someone a punch in the mouth if she feels it's necessary. Look for the oldest Barrington sibling to make a name for herself in the female collegiate hockey scene at some point down the road.
- '06 defenceman Cole 'Joe' Cooper is a mountain of a man on the blue line. Not only is 'Joe' a big lad, he is very coachable and poised with the biscuit on his one piece composite twig. Look for the Atom Major defenceman to have a strong Oyster Cup tournament at the end of April as part of the X Hockey travel program.
- On a non-hockey note, I hope that everyone reading this article stayed safe during the wind storm over the weekend and has minimal damage to their properties. I also have to give some love to people who had to get up in a cherry picker to get things back up and running over the weekend - I'll stick to coaching and blogging. You're welcome.
- Congrats to the former #xhockeyplayers on the BCS Bears; winners of the National Independent School U18 Ice Hockey Championship this past weekend at St. Andrew's College in Toronto, Ontario. Credit to a guy that I once played against Mike Couch on turning the BCS program into a winner.
- Congratulations to former #xhockeyplayers Liam Leonard on being called up to play in the QMJHL this past week! Getting the opportunity to play in the CHL is an honor; thank you to Liam's father Terry for giving X Hockey a shout out in the Clarenville newspaper! Full article right here http://www.thepacket.ca/sports/2017/3/3/liam-leona...
Until Next Time,