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Above the Glass

From the Dub: Careful What You Wish For

When I declared “Bring it, 2015” I thought I was ready for it.  It all started out so well: the Portland Winterhawks were making the push for the “drive for five,” I was training for the Shamrock Run and spring came early to Portland. Then came April; after finishing my first 5K, I promptly went onto injured reserve and the Winterhawks lost the Western Conference title to archrival the Kelowna Rockets, marking the first season the Hawks have gone without a championship since 2010. About a week before Winterhawks training camp, Keith McKittrick was arrested on domestic assault charges; he recently entered a domestic diversion program and subsequently resigned as assistant coach of the Winterhawks. On the same weekend the team hosted the annual holiday Teddy Bear Toss, Paul Bittner underwent hip surgery (out indefinitely) and Mike Johnston was fired by the Pens. The lesson learned:  in hockey and in life, wanting to win isn’t enough. In fact, if you want it too much, it can lead to total disaster. What’s a fan to do? I have the answer: reverse psychology. In 2016, I think the best game plan is no plan at all.

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is: The first few months of 2015 were a lot like Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreitter getting drafted fourth and fifth overall in the 2010 Entry Draft; seemingly easy, until their respective teams proceeded to squander their talent. Or take Derrick Pouliot, who was drafted with the greatest of ease in 2012 by the Penguins.  When Mike Johnston was hired as the Head Coach, Derrick was all but assured a chance at making the Penguins roster until he played himself back to Wilkes-Barre Scranton and got busted for public drunkenness. For what it’s worth, I’ve known Derrick since he was a rookie and he’s a good solid person underneath it all. On the other hand, if you pay more attention to late picks, you might hit the jackpot. Case in point: Chase De Leo was drafted 99th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Flash forward a year and he’s already racked up his first AHL goal, the first multi-point game of his AHL career and his first AHL career hat trick in just 29 games played with the Manitoba Moose.  Winnipeg, I’ve known Chase for five years; trust me when I say that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Take the road less traveled: As a hockey fan who grew up in pre-Coyotes Arizona, I’m all about Auston Matthews being drafted first overall in 2016.  I’d also suggest tuning into the frequency of the WHL talent currently being watched by NHL Central Scouting, including Ryan’s brother Lucas Johansen and Dillon Dube (both of the Kelowna Rockets), Rodrigo Abols, Nolan Volcan and Evan Sarthou.  The second half of the season has commenced here in the Dub. With players like Mathew Barzal and Rodrigo returning from their World Junior experience, the season is just getting started. When it comes to the 2016 Entry Draft, there’s plenty of talent to go around. Based on what I see here in the Dub, the NHL teams that choose later in the 2016 Entry Draft will be getting some of the best players in the bunch.

The things you don’t plan usually turn out better:  In 2012, as part of the WHL sanctions against them, the Portland Winterhawks lost the right to select from the first round of the WHL Bantam Draft through 2017. The pick in 2017 has been restored by the league in recognition of the team’s compliance with league rules. But in 2014, the Winterhawks were still exiled from the first round. That’s when Mike Johnston traded Adam Tambellini’s rights to the Calgary Hitmen in return for Calgary’s first round pick in the 2014 Bantam Draft. They used it to draft Cody Glass, my personal Winterhawk-to-watch. He will be draft eligible in 2017. Cody wasn’t the original plan, but we’ll take him, thank you very much Calgary. Cody Glass has really sharp hockey sense, he’s a great playmaker and he’s dangerous on the face-off. Stay tuned, because I think you’ll be hearing a lot more about him in his draft year. Speaking of the back-up plan being just as good:

It’s good to have back up: The Arizona Coyotes made a smart move when they drafted goalie Adin Hill in June. But I couldn’t remember the last time Jamie Kompon gave him a break, until two weeks ago when Michael Bullion went from warming the bench to first star honors. Adin is still the starter, but it’s good to have a good backup plan; you never know when you might need it. Or you could just forego the plan altogether:

The best plan is no plan:  Ask any hockey player why they lost a game and somewhere among the clichés you will get “we got away from our game plan.”  They will also tell you it’s better to be lucky than good, no matter how good they are. In life it’s even easier to get away from your game plan, because it’s full of unlucky bounces, teammates leaving their goalie out to dry and plain old bad luck.  For me, 2015 was a lot like saying “shutout” when your team is leading 2-0 and there’s just enough time left in the third period for the opponent to score a few goals. And we all know what happens when you do that. The Portland Winterhawks are playing some wildly inconsistent hockey, former Head Coach Mike Johnston is out of a job and don’t even start me on the Pittsburgh Penguins. On the bright side, former Portland Winterhawk Joe Morrow just played in the Winter Classic. On the other hand, the Bruins just lost the Winter Classic on their home turf. That’s why I think the best game plan in 2016 is no plan at all.  If there’s one thing I learned from 2015, it’s that sometimes in life, it’s better to just go with the game flow.

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com