Well, to pretty much everyone’s surprise, the Kelowna Rockets are one home ice win away from sweeping the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL Final and moving on to the Memorial Cup in Quebec.
The final series, while I haven’t watched any of it, seems to be a bit of a let down after some tremendous earlier round series such as Vancouver/Spokane, Kelowna/Tri City or Kelowna/Vancouver. Calgary had a great run through the East, but maybe they had it “too” easy, sweeping their first three series.
Former Hawk Mark Guggenberger has been the man between the pipes for Kelowna and it’s easy to wonder why the Hawks dealt him away after only three starts as a Hawk. Well, it is safe to say he wasn’t dealt because of his play, but there were some concerns about off ice activities that hopefully are now a thing of the past. There was no questioning his talent, but, having been dealt twice in less than two full years in the WHL makes you think a bit. Normally, goaltenders with talent don’t get traded…especially not twice. As I said above, hopefully the off ice issues are a thing of the past.
Ironically, the 2008-09 Hawks finish with a winning record against Kelowna, going 2-1-0-1 in four games, sweeping both home games and falling in a shootout in one of the road games. Goaltending was in Portland’s favor in the series, posting a 90.1% save percentage in the series while Rocket goaltenders (Guggenberger, Adam Brown and Kris Lazaruk) posted 87.2%.
I think the Hitmen are done…Rockets should close out the series in Game 4.
The next important dates for the Hawks happen in June, when they hold their prospect camp in Calgary and then the NHL Draft and CHL Import Draft.
I would expect the Hawks to take two Euro’s even with the chance that Radim Valchar could return as an overage next season. A scoring forward should be on the wish list and hopefully the Hawks can capitalize on their NHL connections with Mike Johnston and Travis Green to get “their guy” in a Hawk sweater next year.
I have been asked a number of times in email by fans about the whole MLS/Memorial Coliseum situation and my response has been that it is hard to comment on a situation when there isn’t a definitive answer to what is going to happen.
With the LumberJax deciding to leave Portland, that should open a few more dates in the Rose Garden for the Hawks and it shouldn’t be any surprise that the Hawks were looking at having more games in the Garden in 2009-10 than in 2008-09. The management has said that since taking over in October.
I’m sure when the time is right and a final decision has been made as to the fate of the MC, the Hawks will make an official statement and I’ll leave it up to Bill Gallacher and Doug Piper to do that. My focus, as always, will be on the players and the on ice product…the rest is just business, and I leave that to the businessmen.
Lastly, kudo’s to Graham Kendrick for his work at the WHL Bantam Draft on the new “Hawks Nest” blog and on www.winterhawks.com. Graham makes my broadcasting job easier and will help raise the profile of the Hawks in the Portland media.
That’s it for now…