Competing in the U.S. Division…

Back home after a three-day business trip to Calgary…in the comments section, James asked:

At this point, what do you think it will take for the Hawks to contend in the US Division?

Well, at this point, anything is just speculation, but I’ll give it a shot.

First off, there are two major concerns when you discuss the possibilities of success in the U.S. Division for the Portland Winter Hawks:

1 – Reducing the man games lost to injury from 2007-08.

2 – Increasing the offensive production from 2007-08.

Number 1 comes down to conditioning and the hard work that the players put in over the summer as many of them were rehabbing from surgeries.  We will know more about that after the fitness testing is done at the start of training camp on August 24th. 

Number 2 is the big question mark for me.  Can the returning players dramatically increase their offensive production from last year.  One thing is for certain, the Hawks can simply not spend as much time in their own zone as they did last year.  I do like the skating ability of the Hawks defense with Travis Ehrhardt, Travis Bobbee and Brock Cornish – that should help the break-out.  But, the Hawks will need more forechecking pressure and puck retention in the offensive zone.

It is hard to expect a huge offensive explosion from rookies, but if they can get a surprise offensive lift from an older rookie candidate like Alex Gaustad, Dustin Johnson, Ryan Andersen or Oliver Gabriel, that would be a tremendous plus.

On the defense, everyone is eligible to return and there are a lot of players battlng for spots.  Competition is a good thing.  The Hawks need players to battle for not only spots on the roster, but for spots on the ice. 

In goal, it will be interesting to see if Keith Hamilton is ready to step up and play the understudy role as a 16 year old this year.  Kurtis Mucha is back and Jordan White is a definite possibility depending on what happens in camp with Hamilton and also what happens with the Hawks overage situation.

The other part of this is – how will the other teams in the U.S. Division fare in comparison to last year?

Spokane won it all last year, and they return a vast majority of their roster.  The big question there is, who replaces Bill Peters behind the bench as Head Coach?  (Sidebar – I wonder if former Portland bench boss Mike Williamson was on Tim Speltz’s phone list as a possible candidate in Spokane.  Just speculation on my part, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was.)  Also, if Drayson Bowman sticks as a 19 year old in Carolina of the NHL (he signed a contract a bit ago), that would have an effect on their roster as well.  But, as of right now, they look like the class of the division.

Tri City loses three key players in Colton Yellow Horn, T.J. Fast and Shaun Vey, but they return 1st Round NHL Draft Pick Chet Pickard in goal, and they have good offense returning in Jason Reese and Kruise Reddick.  I don’t think they will be as good as last year, but they will be a tough team.

Seattle is the sleeper here, IMO.  Bud Holloway is most likely gone (finally!) and Riku Helenius won’t be back in goal.  Jacob DeSerres is a quality goalkeeper and they are returning some guys who stepped up big time last year in Prab Rai, David Richard, Jim O’Brien and it is also most likely that Thomas Hickey will be back.  I like them a bit more than Tri City.

Everett appears set for a drop – losing Zach Hamill, Leland Irving, Dan Gendur, Dane Crowley, Clayton Bauer, Jonathan Harty and possibly Taylor Ellington and Kyle Beach (if he sticks with Chicago as an 18 year old).  I’m not sold on Shayne Barrie as a #1 goalkeeper, but Kent Simpson might be the real deal as a 16 year old.   I just don’t see a lot of offense on their roster and I’m not sure their defense is good enough to make up for it like they did in their inaugeral season.

It is too early to make any sort of predictions, but I think the Hawks will fare better in the U.S. Division battles than they did in 2007-08.

We’ll find out soon enough…

I’m off this weekend to Bend for my daughters swim meet…next update will be early next week.

Have a good one…

Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. I doubt Gabriel will make the team. The only real shot at surprise offensive output will be Killian Hutt – and even that is a bit of a long shot. Although he has always produced, it is going to be huge jump for him. He requires a set up man – and if Ross does what he does best and plays alongside Hutt I can see some chemistry there. One thing about Ross that strikes me is his determination and competitiveness. Tack on his quick learning curve and he will do just fine.

  2. Its interesting that you say the Hawks can’t spend as much time in their own zone as they did last year. And Ehrhardt and Bobbee will help this out. OK, didn’t they play for the hawks last year, or am I missing something??? And Cornish is a very unproven player – some scouts say tier 2 calibur.


Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Questions?

    Got a question for the broadcast crew? You can email questions to hawksradio@gmail.com and if you include your name and city, we just may answer them on the air!