As for Horcoff, it hasn't been the easiest season for him or any other Oiler for that matter. However, he has 7 points in his last 8 games and seems to be playing more comfortably on a veteran line with Ethan Moreau and Fernado Pisani. People are going to harp on Horcoff's production no matter what because of his price tag. However, they don't have another veteran centre on that club who can take draws and play a two-way game. He has been forced to carry that load all season (while battling a shoulder injury) and the weight has had a major impact on his offensive game. As has the huge injury troubles Edmonton has had to deal with.
Surround Horcoff with a healthier and more talented line-up next year and watch him become one of the NHL's come back stories. He didn't suddenly forget how to play, this season has just been a perfect storm for so many guys there. The Oilers are going to get a top 2 draft pick and a host of possible additions from their prospect bin like Jordan Eberle. They should also get their top forward (Hemsky), top defenceman (Souray) and #1 goaltender (Khabibulin) back. I remember a few years back when Philadelphia went through a disastrous year and then got a big boost by the return of some healthy players and the addition of Richards and Carter. I think the Oilers under the watchful eye of former Smoke Eater Steve Tambellini as GM and former Smokies Coach Tom Renney as associate coach... are primed to have a huge rebound. That may just be the optimist in me speaking.
WHL SECOND ROUND
Turning gears to the WHL, former Smoke Eater Lucas Bloodoff continues to score clutch goals for Kelowna. He scored the winner in game 7 of the first round against Everett and has since scored goals in games 1 and 2 of their second round series with Tri-Cities. Kelowna's Captain now has 4 goals and 3 assists in 7 playoff games. The Rockets earned a split on the road and now get to come back to Kelowna where they've yet to lose so far in the playoffs. The Rockets also feature Lucas' brother Evan and are Kyle St. Denis' club, although Kyle was shut down for the season due to concussions.
Another local product who is making a huge impact on the WHL playoffs is Trail's Craig Cunningham. He won his second Boston Pizza WHL player of the week award in the post season thanks to 3 goals and 3 assists in the first 2 games of Vancouver's series against Castlegar's Luke Walker and the Portland Winterhawks. Cunningham has an outstanding 16 points in 6 playoff games thus far... and his Giants have yet to lose. Don't count the Winterhawks out though. Portland also got down 2-0 against Spokane before winning that series in 7. Vancouver also features Grand Forks native Brett Lyon who once played in the BCHL for Westside.
FRED PAGE CUP
Staying with local products, Montrose's Connor Jones was named the BCHL player of the week for his role in the first 2 games of the BCHL finals. Both Jones twins were Vernon's best players as they split with Powell River over the weekend. However, the Kings have shut down the rest of the Vipers thus far. Powell River's vaunted defence and goaltending struck again tonight as they beat Vernon 4-0 to take a 2-1 series lead in the re-match for the Fred Page Cup. As previously noted, Nelson's Mitch Labreche is a member of the Powell River roster this time. Either way someone will be bringing a BCHL championship ring back to the West Kootenay.
JASON BAY DEBUT
On the diamond, Trail's Jason Bay had a successful debut with the New York Mets. He went 2 for 4 with a triple and a run scored in the 7-1 Mets victory over Florida. I think it's pretty clear based on the park in New York that Bay will not replicate his power numbers from his time in Boston. That's just not realistic. However, he should make a big difference to a club that didn't have a single 20 home run hitter last season. You can click here to take a look at Bay's first big hit with his new club.
Congrats to the Revelstoke Grizzlies for winning the Cyclone Taylor Cup this weekend over Midway's Brent Lucente and the Peninsula Panthers. I just got down watching Revelstoke beat Nelson in the KIJHL finals. They've a team that players the game the right way and did a fine job representing the league with that victory. Kudos to Troy Mick and company. Good luck to them at the Keystone Cup in Kamloops.
The Smoke Eaters spring camp wrapped up yesterday morning. I got a look at 3 of the 6 games they played and was really impressed by the young local talent especially. There are a lot of 1993s and 1994s in the West Kootenay area that are destined to play at least Junior B next season if that's what they want. A couple of them could even push for spots on the Trail roster if they work their butts off over the summer. There were also several very interesting 1992 and 1991 born players from BC and elsewhere that the coaching staff are going to have to take a long and hard look at. Overall I'd say it was a big success. We'll see what the joint camp in Fernie this week brings. Hopefully we'll get an update or two from our friends over there.
I'll have more on the camp with Jim Ingram this Tuesday night on Overtime as I come back from a nice Easter holiday. I hope you all had a good one as well. For the Smokies coaches and scouts instead of a holiday it was 12 hour days all weekend. You've got to love how dedicated they are.