Monday, 29 January 2018

#TradeTree - Getting The Hall Twins

In a piece of relatively-quiet news over the last couple of weeks, the Lethbridge Hurricanes signed twin brothers Adam and Justin Hall. The two Edmonton prospects were both taken by the Hurricanes in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft and come highly-regarded.

Justin had ten goals and eight assists for the CAC Edmonton Canadians Midget AAA team, while Adam collected seven goals and 13 helpers. Both have been consistent players in their careers thus far and having signed their standard player agreements, they'll be vying for spots on the team next season.

In part, the twins can thank the combination of Jayden Sittler, Adam Henry and Griffin Foulk for getting them to sign on the dotted line in Lethbridge. Why, you ask?

Well, neither of the two were selected by the Hurricanes with picks that the team initially owned.

Let's start with Sittler. The Hurricanes acquired him from Victoria back in 2015 for a seventh round pick, which the Royals used to grab Mason Krause, who is still playing high school hockey. Later on, the Canes flipped Sittler to Spokane for two draft picks. They used the third round pick to grab Kirby Proctor, while they chose Justin Hall with the seven rounder they acquired.

The more interesting tree has to do with the eighth round pick, being Adam Hall.

We'll start that discussion with the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft, where the Hurricanes picked defenseman Adam Henry. In 2013, the club swapped blueliners with Seattle, getting Griffin Foulk. In Foulk, the Canes would turn him around to Swift Current for a conditional draft pick. The conditions played out and the Canes were able to select Hall.

READ MORE: Whatever Happened To... Griffin Foulk

As it turns out, the Swift Current Broncos could potentially have a hand in another big deal, if the future turns out bright for a couple of newly-signed pieces to Peter Anholt's puzzle.

Monday, 22 January 2018

The Everlasting Impact of Giorgio and Stuart

It's never easy to say goodbye to junior hockey players. It's an unfortunate reality of the game: they are only able to stick around for three or four years, at most. You cheer them on as young rookies just working their way onto your team, then your fondness grows as the weeks turn into years. Unlike the pro game, where you might be able to cheer on your favourite player on your favourite team for their whole career, you're watching these kids grow up right in front of your eyes.

Before you know it, they are off to their next adventure. And sometimes, it feels like you're not given the chance to say goodbye.

It's now been a couple of week since the Lethbridge Hurricanes shocked the WHL world with the blockbuster deal, sending Giorgio Estephan, Stuart Skinner and Tanner Nagel to Swift Current. Many Hurricanes fans were equal parts shocked, saddened and outraged. It quickly overshadowed the reality of the business side of the game.

READ MORE: Analysis of Hurricanes-Broncos Blockbuster

And while many have talked about the trade and what it meant to the organization going forward, sometimes it's important to talk about the legacy that will be left behind by the departing young men. For two, their names will forever be synonymous with the Hurricanes thanks to the record books. And both will be in the conversation as two of the best to have ever played for the organization.

For Giorgio Estephan, his name will be all over the top ten in offensive categories. His 297 games played with the Hurricanes ranks him 5th all-time. His 119 goals places him 9th. His 178 assists puts him in 4th spot. His 297 points ties him with the great Byron Ritchie for 7th on the all-time list.

READ MORE: Whatever Happened To... Byron Ritchie

For Stuart Skinner, the numbers are just as impressive. The starter since he was just 16, he will easily be amongst the leaders in most categories. Earlier this month, he compiled his 10th career shutout to take the all-time team lead in the category, previously held by Logan Koopmans. His 5,318 career saves and 182 career games are also easily tops in Canes history. The Edmonton Oilers draft pick might have also supplied one of the most memorable moments in franchise history when he scored a goal.

While it's not hard to debate the merits of their value on the ice based on their numbers, one other attribute should stick in the minds of Hurricanes fans for years to come. Yes, both players were first-round draft picks. But they were also first-round draft picks for a team that was in turmoil. The on- and off-ice issues were well-documented. Players were demanding trades, outright leaving the team, or refusing to report if they were acquired here. Yet Estephan and Skinner became the centrepieces for a team that transitioned from the relocation rumour mill to a winning organization. They put the team on their backs, bringing the team back to respectability, and in the process, captured the imaginations of Windy City hockey fans for two major playoff runs. Players and fans alike are once again excited to head down to the Enmax Centre.

Not only did Giorgio Estephan and Stuart Skinner set the bar with their performance, but it was their contributions to the rebuild of the organization that can't be understated. The proof is in the number of butts in the seats, watching Hurricanes hockey once again.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Klinkhammer's Journey from Lethbridge to Pyeongchang

Lethbridge's Rob Klinkhammer will be adding a few more Frequent Flyer Miles to his cards.

His path to the NHL has been well-documented, with tales of digging ditches and over-eating. He wasn't drafted, but made his way through the hockey world from the Lethbridge Bantam AAA Golden Hawks to the Midget AAA Y's Men and eventually to the WHL, where he would suit up for the hometown Hurricanes, as well as Seattle, Portland and Brandon.

Klinkhammer's road eventually took him to the NHL, with stops in Chicago, Ottawa, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Edmonton, not to mention a few stints in the AHL. Ahead of the 2016-2017 season, he headed overseas to play in the KHL. Little did he know, it would inadvertently open a major door. With the NHL not taking part in the 2018 Olympics, Hockey Canada would be looking to other leagues to put together a men's hockey team. The 31-year-old forward's phone rang.

"It was actually just after a game in Riga," Klinkhammer told Canes This Week in a call from his home in Russia. "I had a message on my phone from one of the media guys from Team Canada that said to call him."

"I went right into a conference call with Sean Burke and the head guys at Team Canada and they told me I was on the team," he laughed.

Klinkhammer was officially named to the team last week, something he's still in awe about, as it will be his first time donning the maple leaf.

"I was kind of speechless, I didn't know what to say," Klinkhammer said about the conversations. "I was just like 'thank you', I was kind of stuttering, you're almost in tears you're so happy. It's a pretty intense moment having something like that, it's kind of the pinnacle of my career."

His first phone call after receiving word he had made the team was to his wife, who was "pretty thrilled" with the announcement.

"It still doesn't seem real to be honest," he continued. "The closer we get to it, the more real it will seem."

Even though he was shocked, Klinkhammer knew he was in the running following the 2016 Spengler Cup, where he had some conversations about what could potentially happen if the NHL decided not to send players to Korea.

Klinkhammer also isn't shy about talking about the "elephant in the room." He says that while some might be upset about how it won't be the world's best facing off in Pyeongchang, he knows the hockey will still be good without names like Crosby, Ovechkin and McDavid.

BELOW: Listen to Joe McFarland's full conversation with Rob Klinkhammer in the Week #17 episode of Canes This Week.

"Guys like me, we have an opportunity of a lifetime to be honest," Klinkhammer said. "I still think the games will be very exciting and in this style of tournament, there's only three round robin games and then every game after that is elimination. Anything can happen."

Playing in the KHL has also given him an idea of what to expect in the Olympic tournament. It's still big and fast hockey on a bigger ice surface, which is something he admits took some time to adjust to. But now that he's embedded in it, he can now focus on the task at hand.

"There'll be a lot of butterflies," Klinkhammer admits. "It'll be kind of hard to stay within yourself and play your game. You almost have to calm yourself down because it'll be pretty wild. I haven't really thought it yet though, so it's kinda funny."

On the flipside, he also can't ignore the enormity of representing his country and his city.

"It kind of means everything," Klinkhammer said. "It's the greatest honour. Playing in the NHL was a dream come true, but if you compare the number of players who played in the NHL versus how many played in the Olympics, it's not even comparable."

"I'm very proud of being from Lethbridge, it's where I got my start," he continued. "I love the city, love the people and I'm glad to be from there."

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

SPECIAL: Analysis of the Hurricanes-Broncos blockbuster

There's only one word that can describe the trade involving the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Swift Current Broncos on Tuesday: blockbuster.

Less than 12 hours after finishing our latest show, GM Peter Anholt called a news conference for 10am Tuesday. On cue, the club announced this behemoth of a deal.

A couple of coveted players, captain Giorgio Estephan and goaltender Stuart Skinner as well as forward Tanner Nagel, were on their way to Swift Current for four players and two (potentially three) draft picks.

The reaction on social media has been swift. Everything from "good trade" to threats of selling off season tickets. And while we don't have a show planned until next week, this trade was too important not to hear from us. So here are a few thoughts from our regular contributors:

Jordan Karst
What a day! As the host of Canes This Week, I'd like to thank Stuart Skinner, Giorgio Estephan and Tanner Nagel. The success of our podcast is directly related to the success of this team and these kids have done so much for not only the organization but also the community and the Broncos have 3 great kids heading their way and I wish them all the best. To the fans that are freaking out, don't worry. Just like these players were a huge part of the success, so too is Peter Anholt and we should have some faith in a man who has proven that he knows what he's doing! Want to hear more about the newest Canes? Check out our latest trade deadline show where Broncos play-by-play voice Shawn Mullin gives us the skinny on the incoming players.

Pat Siedlecki
Well, a lot of Hurricanes fans are surprised and upset by this blockbuster trade between Lethbridge and Swift Current. To be perfectly honest, I am not. This is the business side of hockey, but you have to look deep into things before you might understand why this deal was maybe done. Estephan is in his final season in the WHL while Skinner and Nagel are both 19. The Hurricanes have an abundance of 19-year-old players and next year they'd have some tough decisions to make to cut down to three overagers. Let's not forget: there is no guarantee Skinner will return to the WHL for his 20-year-old season. So in the end, the Hurricanes are better off getting a nice return for three players that very well might've not been in Lethbridge next season (one for sure being Estephan). As tough as this is for Hurricanes fans to swallow, this was the right move. Get what you can now and I think they got a very nice return. Four players and three picks back for three players. Getting a lot now is better than getting nothing before the start of next season. Peter Anholt is going to take some heat for this, but he made the right decision. Also, can the Hurricanes realistically compete with the likes of Swift Current, Moose Jaw or Regina if they happen to get to the Eastern Conference final again? Likely not. They still have a good shot at getting out of a not-so-strong Central Division. Even after this trade, they will stay competitive. There is light at the end of the tunnel Hurricanes fans! Peter Anholt is a smart guy. Until he gives me a reason to doubt a trade, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt every time. This team is where it is now because of the man at the helm.

Dylan Purcell
I think my tweet says it all... 

Joe McFarland
This one is going to sting fans for a while I'm sure. I've always tried to look at trades with no emotion involved. As such, my last blog post on the Kirby Law/Mike O'Grady/Mark Szoke trade weirdly turned into a bit of a precursor for what fans would see come to fruition today. Back then, the trade was emotional for many as guys like Szoke and Lee Sorochan were well-liked. But the team had an opportunity to make a move. The Hurricanes then were on the bubble while the Saskatoon Blades were in the thick of the race with a chance to go to the Memorial Cup thanks to another WHL team hosting. Same situation this year, with Regina hosting, the Eastern Conference is wide-open. As we've talked about on the show, the Broncos seemed like a one-line team early on. But they made a trade with Calgary to get Matteo Gennero and Beck Malenstyn and they wanted more to be put over the top. They had some assets to burn, so the Broncos are going all-in. The Hurricanes, meantime, are a bit on the bubble in a really-wobbily Central Division. They are still more than able to make a strong playoff push even without stars like Estephan and Skinner, but they also load up for the future with guys like Barlage and Blocker. Just like that deal in January 1995, we won't be able to judge this trade until a few years down the road.

Monday, 8 January 2018

TRADE TREE: Deadline deal paves way to 'Canes '97 title run

The WHL trade deadline provides fans with a barometre of what's to come for a team. Are they buyers for a coming playoff run? Are they sellers with the future in mind? Or will the status quo allow for a future plan to continue?

Going into January 1995, the Lethbridge Hurricanes were on the bubble and they had some assets. Then the news...

"The deal is done," Trevor Kenney wrote in the Lethbridge Herald. "Rumoured for weeks and inevitable in the eyes of many, the Lethbridge Hurricanes completed what will amount to a nine-player trade with the Saskatoon Blades."

The Blades were a front-runner in the East Division, but were in a hotly-contested race with Brandon, Prince Alert and Moose Jaw. All knowing that Kamloops was hosting the Memorial Cup, so they had a good chance of joining the Blazers in the spring.

So GM Bob Bartlett dropped the bombshell. Gone were overage fan favourite Mark Szoke, bruising 19-year-old Lee Sorochan and fellow 19-year-old Dmitri Markovsky. The Hurricanes got six players back, including overager Steve Roberts, three 17-year-olds, and two players to be named at the end of the season.

Roberts put up nine points in ten games to round out the season. But the centrepieces of the deal were two of the three 17-year-olds. Forward Kirby Law and defenseman Mike O'Grady turned into major pieces to the puzzle for the Hurricanes' 1997 WHL Championship run. The other 17-year-old, Doyle McMorris, played at total of 43 games with the Hurricanes.

"All four players were regulars with the Blades this season, something the Hurricanes said was key to the deal," Kenney wrote in the January 31, 1995 edition of the Herald. "Mainly because they still feel a playoff spot is up for grabs in the East Division."

As history will indicate, the Hurricanes missed out on the playoffs. But they ended up winning in the long game, as the Blades would be ousted in the second round, while Lethbridge's return gave them a championship two short years later.

READ MORE: "The Trade" - Part 1
READ MORE: "The Trade" - Part 2
READ MORE: "The Trade" - Part 3

In case you're wondering about the two "players to be named later," they became overagers Chris McAllister and Trevor Hanas. McAllister went to Syracuse in 1995, while Hanas put up 35 points and 111 penalty minutes in his final year of junior hockey.

Now, where this turns into a trade tree is with Kirby Law. After a couple of solid years with the Hurricanes, he ended up being traded to Brandon for his overage year, right after the Memorial Cup run. The Hurricanes received Jason Boyd in return.

Boyd was later traded to Medicine Hat in one of those rare Highway 3 deals for Curtis Huppe. Huppe was sent to Tri-City with Andrew Guindon for Nathan Barrett and Ryan Jorde. And to finish things up, Jorde was packed up with Colin Johnston back to the Americans for Adam Johnson and Ryley Layden.

To put the footnote on the end of this one, ahead of the 2002 season, Layden faxed a letter to the Hurricanes saying for personal reasons, he was done with the Hurricanes. Layden ended up with Red Deer while the Canes grabbed Mike Wirll from Prince George for Tyrell Moulton to solidify their overager situation.

Could another major deal be in the cards in 2018? Will the Hurricanes be buyers, sellers or be content with the roster, sitting just five points up on 4th place Calgary? We'll see how all the ducks line up after Wednesday's deadline.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Roest reminisces about Lethbridge's last Mac's championship

It's been a long time since a Lethbridge-based team found itself in the final of the annual Mac's Midget Tournament in Calgary.

This year's edition of the Lethbridge Midget AAA Hurricanes seemed poised for a lengthy run, but ran into a brick wall known as the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs in the quarterfinals, falling 3-1 to the eventual tournament runners-up.

For many in Alberta's hockey world, the annual trip up to Calgary is a chance to see the future of the WHL and potentially the NHL in action. Plenty of names with Lethbridge ties have played in the Mac's, including Carter Ashton, Colton Sceviour and Luca Sbisa. But no team may have captured the attention of those in Southern Alberta like the Lethbridge Y's Men.

It all started in December 1989, when the Cinderella squad made it all the way to the Mac's final, only to lose 6-3 to Czechloslovakia's Poldi Kladno in the final at the Saddledome. The Y's Men weren't even expected to make it out of their division, according to the Lethbridge Herald. But they went 3-1 in the round robin before a quarterfinal win over St. Albert and a semi-final victory over the Calgary Buffaloes propelled them into the final.

Lethbridge-area kid Stacy Roest was the team's MVP in a losing cause, picking up two unassisted markers plus a helper on the club's other goal.

"I thought that was the year to win it," Roest told Canes This Week. "You never think you're gonna go back and get a chance to go to the finals again."

Yet that's exactly what they did. It was a rematch of the previous year's quarterfinal between the Y's Men and the St. Albert Eagle Raiders. The stars aligned for the Y's Men, who beat the heavily-favoured Notre Dame Hounds 7-1 in the quarterfinals and then edged the Calgary North Stars 4-3 to advance to the championship at the 'Dome.

Once again, Roest walked away as the Y's Men MVP for the championship, scoring the second goal of the game in a 3-2 victory over the Raiders.

"Last year, we didn't have anybody who had been in a final but this year we had six or seven guys who came back who knew what it took to get to the final because we never lost until the final last year," Roest told the Lethbridge Herald after the nailbiter.

Looking back on it, Roest thinks a tournament like that, midway through the season, is a bit of a barometre for how a team is doing.

"At that time of year, we played great as a team with strong goaltending," Roest said. "It's unreal how everything just kept going and going and going."

"To win that tournament back then it was huge," he continued. "Still is."

Now the Director of Player Development for the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 43-year-old considers himself lucky to have gone to the finals at the Mac's twice, winning once.

"You go into a tournament like that and you're a little nervous because you don't know who you're playing," Roest remembered. "Which is a good thing because it keeps you honest, keeps you ready."

"I remember the coaching staff did a great job getting us ready for those tournaments," he continued. "Obviously, goaltending is huge and then just timely goals from guys and obviously your main guys have to get hot and then everybody just chips in and gets confidence."

The club benefitted from the return of Dan Faassen, who ended up as the tournament's top defenseman while goaltender Darryl Onofrychuk was named an all-star.

"Obviously you need a good start, you want a good start in those tournaments or it's over really quick," Roest concluded.

But believe it or not, Roest didn't really have high expectations going into the second Mac's tournament.

"We weren't having a very good year," he said, as the Y's Men were ranked fifth in their division heading in. "But after that tournament, we kept building and going."

As did Roest, who ended up playing five games for the Medicine Hat Tigers that season, chipping in with a goal and two assists. He would go onto spend four more seasons with the Tabbies, finishing his junior career with 141 goals and 268 assists for 409 points. Roest then went onto play 244 NHL games in Detroit and Minnesota, before heading overseas, where he would also star for and captain Team Canada at the Spengler Cup.

Now getting to work with the younger players in the Lightning system, Roest knows the learning curve from midget to junior can be big, and it's even more significant going from junior up the ranks to the NHL. Players who are used to getting big minutes are steadily seeing their playing time diminish, which can be a culture shock.

"Patience is probably a big thing," Roest said, also alluding to the hard work it takes to change mentality. "Now it's just believe in yourself, be patient and keep doing what you have to in order to be successful."

They're all lessons he learned in his time with the Y's Men at the Mac's. He believes preparation and playing as a team will help any team win the six-day hockey festival.

"I'm not sure if we were the best team, the most-skilled or had the most-dynamic players or anything," Roest recalled. "But we played as a team, we played together, got goals from everybody and it was just a good team effort."

Although the 2017 edition of the Mac's Midget Tournament is in the books, a valuable lesson for those looking to be a part of it next year and beyond.

Joe's "Interesting" Team 2019-2020

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