MONTHLY MUSINGS – “The Hurricanes Don’t Suck”

  • Brock Boot

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It’s been a wild stretch for the Hurricanes. They lost a close game to the Rockets, earned a big win over the Warriors, got shutout by the leagues worst, the Kootenay Ice, and have since rebounded with a huge week against Saskatoon, Tri-City, Edmonton and Calgary. Lethbridge took 7 of a possible 8 points from a near impossible stretch of hockey – four games in five nights – two of which were early in the afternoon. It wasn’t always the prettiest hockey, but boy was it impressive.

With an off day today (Tuesday), we are excited to introduce a brand new regular segment to the site, “Monthly Musings”. Every few weeks we’ll be asking a small pool of local hockey gurus a couple questions about the team, the league, and everything in between. Today’s “experts” include Paul Kingsmith, Vince from Rock 106, Dylan Purcell of the Lethbridge Herald, and of course, the Canes Domain crew.

In the future, I’m hoping most questions will come from you, the reader, via email or Twitter. To get us started though, I’ve asked a few broad questions to give an idea of what we’re looking for in the future.

We hope you enjoy and remember to think of questions for future editions you can submit via Twitter.

 

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(Photo courtesy of: Tyler Mikla)

1) Last Wednesday’s game against the Blades marked the 3/4 point of the season. In your opinion, what (or who) has been the biggest surprise either with the Hurricanes or around the WHL?

Paul Kingsmith:

1. Do the Hurricanes as a whole count as the biggest surprise? Because I still can’t get my head around the turnaround of this team. From six years of hockey which ranged from bad to truly terrible, the flip has been incredible. Around the entire WHL I don’t believe anyone would have seen this coming. The offense has been lights-out fantastic, the two-headed goalie monster has been devouring opponents offenses and the coaching and management have made the right move at every turn. Truly a surprise all around.

 

Vince:

The Hurricanes home ice domination is astounding.  In the 3 loses on home ice, opposing goalies have been the #1 star; that’s what it takes to beat the Canes at home.  The Hurricanes are on pace to finish with a 32-4 home record. Even when Lethbridge struggles on the road, they pop back home and light the lamp (4.67 goals/game).

 

Dylan Purcell:

The Hurricanes don’t suck.

 

Jeremy Sakamoto:

I vote Jon Martin of the Swift Current Broncos as the biggest surprise this season in the WHL. His previous career high for points was 24 last season with the Kootenay Ice. This year he has easily surpassed that total with goals alone. He currently sits second overall in goals and 14th in points (as of 8 Feb 2016). He has found another level or three to his game in his final WHL season. Perhaps most impressive is that he’s continued to produce after the Broncos revamped their roster leading up to the trade deadline including moving linemate, and Boston Bruins 1st rounder, Jake DeBrusk.

 

Brock Boot:

I’ll stick with the Hurricanes and say the defence has been the most surprising to me. Heading into the season I didn’t have a ton of confidence in the blue line. I figured they would be serviceable but might be the weak link. While the defence still isn’t always Denver Bronco’s calibre in the team’s own zone, the impressive puck movement and offensive awareness of the blueliners has made Lethbridge the league’s premier offense. Nielsen, Atwal and Pankewicz sit top 20 as point getters among league defencemen, Nick Watson and Merezhko are progressing as rookies, and Darian Skeoch has turned into one of the best darkhorse stories of the season. Collectively, a giant surprise.

 


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(Photo courtesy of: Tyler Mikla)

2) Looking exclusively at the Hurricanes, if you could hand out an MVP award today, who does it go to and why? Any honorable mentions?

Paul Kingsmith:

Burke has been incredible, Skinner might be the top goalie in the league or at least trending in that direction, Nielsen has been driving offense from the blueline and Estephan might have been my winner if not for a slow start and a devastating injury. But, I think the captain steers this team. Tyler Wong is having yet another career season, scoring large and timely goals, playing a physical gam well beyond his size and creating magic alongside Estephan and Burke. He slogged three seasons with the worst franchise in major junior over that span, never wavered and emerged a leader.

 

Vince:

Seven Canes have 20+ goals so singling out one seems to slight other worthy candidates.  However, let’s give it to the guy who so many times this season has quietly put up 4 points a game:  #19 Brayden Burke.  When Brayden joined the team in the Riley Sheen trade from Red Deer, you could see the Canes acquired a strong talent but did you see this coming?  On pace for over 100pts, Burke is competing for the WHL scoring title and will be drafted to the NHL this summer.  Plus, Brayden has done it playing on multiple lines.

 

Dylan Purcell:

Peter Anholt. Honorable mention to Peter Anholt’s wife, for letting him take the job.

 

Jeremy Sakamoto:

While there are several worthy candidates for this award, my MVP at this point in the season would be Brayden Burke. His outstanding offensive totals speak for themselves. He’s been a consistent threat for the Hurricanes all season long, even when he’s switched lines. I’ve been particularly impressed that he has begun to shoot the puck more in recent weeks. Earlier in the season I spoke about him being too unselfish at points. He’s now finding a balance between shooting and passing. Burke has become a more complete player and he gives opposing teams fits in their own zone. In recent weeks he’s also seen more duty on the PK and has played well there. My honourable mentions would go to Estephan and Guiterrez. Estephan was playing outstanding hockey prior to getting hurt in Kelowna. Since December  Estephan had been the Canes’ best player on most nights. He has become the difference maker the Canes hoped he would be when the drafted him in the 1st round. Sometimes a player’s value is best demonstrated by his absence. That’s the case with Guiterrez. While the team has played reasonably well in his absence, they haven’t been as formidable. Guiterrez does so much for this team in all 3 zones that helps them win.

 

Brock Boot:

This ones tough. The Canes have proven to be so well balanced that it feels wrong to choose just one. That said, my vote would go to Tyler Wong. Wong was named captain, charged out of the gate offensively, has scored some of the most beautiful/timely goals of the season, and has brought his A-game virtually every night. Honorable mention to Brayden Burke who has absolutely exploded onto the scene.

 


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(Photo courtesy of: Tyler Mikla)

3) Looking at the Canes’ roster, is there an underrated or under appreciated player you believe deserves more love from the fans/media/etc? Who and why?

Paul Kingsmith:

I feel like a lot of guys have taken turns in the spotlight, but the defence has often been overlooked. I like the game of Kord Pankewicz. Last season he showed he could put up points (40 in 60 games with the Hurricanes) but was looked at as a liability on D, even taking a few turns as a forward. But, this season he is eating top-four minutes, playing strong at both ends (37pts, +21) and showing that the Hurricanes trades with Brandon weren’t completely one-sided.

 

Vince:

No-brainer: #4 Arvin Atwal has been our best defenseman.  This over-ager is smooth, confident and creative with the puck.  As the Canes deal with front-line injuries, Arvin’s newest contribution is stepping up to RW on the top line while still playing D on the PK. Honorable mention to #23 Justin Gutierrez.  His absence from second line centre has been noticed.  Babenko needs him back.

 

Dylan Purcell:

No. They’ve all received the credit they deserved.

 

Jeremy Sakamoto:

Is there another answer for this question besides Kord Pankewicz? He’s the Canes resident renaissance man, yet his play often goes unnoticed by many fans. Kord is a rock in the defensive zone and rarely makes mistakes. He’s arguably the best defender on the team when it comes to separating opposing players from the puck. Pankewicz has good offensive skills to compliment his defensive game. He’s quietly climbed to 18th overall in defenceman scoring in the league and ably helps to QB the 2nd (1B?) PP unit. Pankewicz has a physical edge when needed as well. Simply put, Pankewicz does a little bit of everything well, but without the notoriety of an Andrew Nielsen.

 

Brock Boot:

A couple of names come to mind including Brett Davis, Cory Millette, and Kord Pankewicz. I, however, am going to throw Brady Reagan’s name into the mix too. Brady had a few tough night’s earlier in the season. He was often paired up with Brandon Kennedy and the two had some issues in their own end. Since December, Reagan has really reigned things in. He’s been playing smart hockey, eliminating big mistakes, and always shows his dedication to the game and his teammates. He mixes things up, isn’t afraid to engage physically, and has dropped the gloves a few times as well. Overall I think he’s been a real positive force for the Hurricanes and deserves some attention.

 


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(Photo courtesy of: Matthew Gourlie)

4) Of all the teams you’ve seen come through town, is there one that sticks out as a potential playoff darkhorse, or perhaps a favorite that’s a lock for the conference finals and beyond? Why?

Paul Kingsmith:

A bit of a cop-out as it’s tough to pick a team which has been in the top-five of the Eastern Conference all season as a dark horse, but I like Prince Albert’s chances. They’ve played the ‘Canes tough in every outing, have a nice path coming through the weaker East Division, and have great coaching and a strong, big, mobile defence. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the East final.

 

Vince:

I haven’t seen enough of any team to boast confidence in this pick but, based on their couple games here (2-0 win & a 3-2 loss), I will say Prince Albert.  They don’t have intimidating talent but their work ethic and commitment to their system is impressive.  “Active sticks,” was my first impression; using their body position and active sticks to block passing lanes and quickly close gaps.  Toss in a solid goaltending performance (a 40-some save shut out victory December 4th) and I can see this team being a stubborn playoff exit.

 

Dylan Purcell:

Moose Jaw. Too much top-end talent, even if it’s delicate. Playoffs are a two-line proposition, they’ve got a line and a half.

 

Jeremy Sakamoto:

Moose Jaw would be my pick here. They are more than capable of beating any team in a best of 7. There’s the obvious benefit of having certified game breakers in Point and Hunt, especially in the inevitable close games of the playoffs. Zach Sawchenko has the ability to steal a series if he gets hot. The Warriors defence, led by McNulty, are big and physical while still able to skate, exactly what you need in the playoffs. My honourable mention here would do to Prince George.

 

Brock Boot:

Maybe it’s just how they matchup against Lethbridge, but Prince Albert is a team that I think could make a run. They might not have a ton of star power, but the Raiders play a structured game. They play the kind of hockey that wins games in the playoffs, and if one of their netminders gets hot in March, watch out.

 


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5)  The Hurricanes unveiled some pretty outrageous one-off Western themed jerseys the week before last. What’s your favorite Hurricanes jersey of all time. Do you have one? Any specific reason?

Paul Kingsmith:

My actual favourites are the old red, white and blue with the hockey stick, I think it’s the classic look and the one the team has had its most success in. Honourable mention to the Hawker Hurricanes jerseys, those were beautiful. But, I basically just want to remind people of the crazy grey sweaters that appeared for a couple seasons. A chinook arch, the high level bridge, the clock tower! So much Lethbridge assembled so randomly. Plus, they had nearly unreadable white numbers and letters. I wish I’d been a fly on the wall for the design process on those.

 

Vince:

The Hawker Hurricane logo emblazoned on that blue 3rd jersey a couple seasons back is one of the nicest uniforms.  Let’s call it a tie with the Lethbridge Maple Leaf replica jersey.  I own neither; I wish I owned both.

 

Dylan Purcell:

I still like the Silkworm logo.

 

Jeremy Sakamoto:

My all time fave jersey is the fan designed Hurricane Hawker 3rd jersey. Specifically, I love the ones with the navy blue trim. They exuded a classic style that I love in hockey jerseys. As for the western themed jerseys, I loved them. I think one-offs like that should be absurd and campy. The Canes belt buckle was awesome!

 

Brock Boot:

Maybe it’s just because they won back in ’08, but I liked the dark blue Boychuck era jersey’s with the silver Hurricane logo. Better yet, the throwback white third jerseys they had that year with the original “H stick” logo and the stars was probably my favorite of all time. It’s too bad it’s so similar to Washington because it really is a great look. Would have loved to see a red based “home” version. Special mention to the one-off Lethbridge Maple Leaf’s and Sugar King’s jersey’s the team wore in recent years too.

 


What do you think? Who got it right? Did anyone get it wrong? Comment below.

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7 thoughts on “MONTHLY MUSINGS – “The Hurricanes Don’t Suck””

  1. Brock Boot says:

    Remember to drop some questions for future episodes here in the comments or maybe even give us your answers to the questions we asked this time around.

    Maybe you’re super motivated and want to do both.

  2. Ben Rowley says:

    I would ask who is the best Hurricanes player of all time?

    1. Brock Boot says:

      Ooooo good one! I will file that question away for the next “episode”. First thought that comes to mind is he might still be an active NHLer. Hard to argue against Seabrook right?? Or should we qualify “best Hurricane based on his time in junior exclusively?”

      I think that might yield different answers…

  3. Dylan says:

    Best Cane of all time comes down to Peacock and Ritchie. Peacock did everything for this team, Ritchie led them in every respect during his time here.

    Although i could be swayed otherwise.

  4. kayakgibson says:

    That is a great question which leads to other questions….”Who is the best Hurricane of all time?” Hmmmmm, does that stir the forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders all into the same pot? Or what time period? The kind of game played in the WHL has gone from a free wheeling, high scoring league back in the late 80’s and 90’s; to a tougher game; leading into today’s game of systems, tight checking, and top-notch goaltending.

    1. Brock Boot says:

      That’s actually why I think this is a great question to ask next time around. There’s all sorts of different ways to interpret it. Should yield some pretty diverse answers.

  5. Another good one to tackle would be best Canes goalie of all time, or maybe top 5 goalies of all time.

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