Next up: The wins and losses start to count as the Lethbridge Hurricanes get set for the start of the 2015-16 WHL regular season.
The Canes had a pretty successful pre-season, going 3-3. They beat Swift Current, and Kootenay twice and lost to the Broncos, Medicine Hat and Calgary. Putting that .500 record aside, I think the main thing to take away from those six games was competitiveness. The Hurricanes were in every single one of those games and for a team that has been on the wrong side of several blowouts over the past 5 seasons, this to me is very promising.
The goal is to make the playoffs for the Canes. That hasn't happened since the 2008-09 season. Whether that happens this season remains to be seen. This is still a young hockey club, so making the post-season might be tough, but I do believe they will be in the mix for at least the final spot come next March.
The Hurricanes are finally on the right track. They have consistency in goaltending. Stuart Skinner is as good as it gets. Any team in the WHL would give a lot up to get a guy like him. He is the MVP of this team and likely will be again this season, even with a guy like Jordie Bellerive coming up the ranks. Speaking of Bellerive, he's a good as it gets for a rookie in this league. If he stays healthy, watch for him to be at or near the top for rookies in the Western Hockey League. He and Skinner are franchise players, guys teams build around. It's pieces to the puzzle like these two that go a long way.
Now I'm not saying what happens this season is only on the shoulders of these two players. It's a team game. You win and lose as a group. The Canes have a pretty good supporting cast. They will score more goals this season and they will be more competitive. The only concern for me is the defence. That I think is the one area that GM Peter Anholt is going to keep a close watch on this season. The forward group should be fine and the goaltending will be solid for the most part. This is the first season since the days of Juha Metsola and Michael Maniago that the Hurricanes have rolled over both goalies from the previous season. That says a lot right there. Also the performance of the Ukrainian and Russian imports they drafted will be fun to watch as well.
It's taken a lot longer than anyone would've hoped, but I truly feel fans are going to see better hockey at the ENMAX Centre this season from the Lethbridge Hurricanes. All fans want to see is their team work their asses off each game and not get hammered on the score board. That can be demoralizing for the players, coaches, and fans. But the good thing is Mr. Anholt seems to have seriously put his mark on the organization less than year from coming in to the GM's role.
The seasoon start Friday, when the Canes host rival Medicine Hat for their home opener. Game time is 7:00 pm MDT at the ENMAX Centre. The two clubs will play again Saturday, this time it'll be the first-ever game in the new Canalta Centre in the Hat. Surely both rinks will be rocking!