THE 2004-2005 Season Chances..
I think the Blades have shown glimpses of promise so far this season based on offensive talent alone. However, the defensive play has been very suspect and leaves Cyr and Ward out to hang dry on many occasions from what I've seen so far this season. The Defensive core is very young and still very raw and lacks a 2nd mobile defenseman needed to take the pressure off the bruisers back there. The Blades will likely win a round vs the very weak Regina Pats or Moose Jaw Warriors in round 1 but will face a very strong Central division team in the 2nd round next and that could be tough as the roster currently sits.
The offence is loaded with 2 very good scoring lines that can go head to head with any other team in the league. Ryan Keller is primed for a 50 goals season. Devon Setoguchi is coming into his own and is the best Blade on most nights at the young age of 17 and Joe Barnes has really turned his potential into the now and has shown to be a great skater and leader on and off the ice. The Blades in order to succeed this year will need to add another power forward to play on the top line in my opinion. Someone like Troy Brouwer comes to mind as an example not like he'd be traded here due to the divisional rivalry but a player like that would do wonders for the squad this year in their push for a conference title.
The Defense so far has been lead solely by Mike Green this season and he has proven to be one of the top players in the league in this his 4th season. Green leads the dub in plus/minus and hasn't even got it going the way he can offensively as of yet. After that, the Blades have serviceable defenseman in Evan Haw, Dalyn Flatt, Nick Knudsen and Tyler Boldt as the core 5 but all 4 of those mentioned are big and average and lack the talent YET to lead this team to the finals. The Defense really needs to add a 2nd puck moving defenseman ala Mike Card of Kelowna(as rumors persist his name in trade talks). This would do a world of difference for not only the 5 on 5 play but the PP as well giving the Blades the benifit of taking Svensson off PP1 and using him on PP2 where he likely belongs at this point.
The Goaltending has proven to good with Ryan Cyr in net and he is reminding many of Brett Jaeger leading the Blades to a 40 win season 2 years ago. Cyr's save percentage is near the top in the league but he faces many shots leading to a mediocre GAA so far this season. What are we going to do with Adam Ward? He plays the odd game but really hasn't shown too much and I think we'd be better off grooming a younger goalie during a winning season! Just a thought...Goaltending looks good and the starter need not change for a run this season.
In closing, the Blades are a puck moving dman and a power forward scorer away from making it past round 2. If we stay put, the likelyhood is still certain that we should gain good experience by winning atleast a round agains the aformentioned Pats or Warriors. Question is, do we trade some youth for an extra round and what is the cost in terms of youth? Or do we trade guys like keller and Green at the deadline and keep the young core and still likely win a round and load up for a championship run next season? These are tough questions but if you want me to express an answer, I will see trade a few prospects and go for it this year! God knows us fans have been waiting forever and in all reality we'd still look strong due ot our abundance of talent in the Midget and Junior B/A ranks.
2005-2006 Season Chances
Gone for next season are Ryan Keller and that is the only given that the Blades will miss. If for some reason Mike Green returns to the club, the chances for a run next year would be great. The club would have more offensive depth with Setoguchi, Rabbit, Barnes, Bahensky, Bader and Svensson given then perhaps the top 2 lines again next year. The defense would ALL, may I repeat ALL return except for Boldt who I believe we won't miss. The Goaltending may be question but I'm sure we have someone who can step in and play way whether it be Ward or a acquired player.
The offence next year will be dominant! The Blades will return ALL key players except for keller but guys like 19 yr olds Rabbit and Barnes and 18yr old Devon Setoguchi will be very dominant in this league and euro's Bahensky and Svensson will add good 2nd line depth with Bader. The Blades will likely tinker a touch and you add in Colton Gillies, Blair MaCauley and Mike McAngus who are tearing it up in their leagues the Blades are set offensively for a big run next season.
The Defense will all return if Mike Green comes back as a 20 yr old which many think he will due to the Capitals financial troubles and there organizational depth. Haw and Flatt will be 19 yr old bruisers, Knudsen, Edwards, Crowley will all be in their 3rd year in the league and ready to make a push. The defense will need someone to step up and take control if Green doesn't return but I'm thinking the Blades brass will prepare for this and acquire a puck moving 18 or 19 yr old this season just in case and for a run next year.
Goaltending is a question for next season but there are always a good number of reliable goalies to pick up from other teams who wish to start and I know we can fill this with either Ward or someone else. I really feel though in saying that that the Blades should deal off Ward this season for a younger 17 yr old prospect and groom him with the winning team this year for a run next year as well.
In Closing, on paper next years team looks very strong as does this years. The Blades will have to decide on if they want to deal a couple prospects for runs both this season and next which I think they may do. Fans really want us to go far this season and it would garner interest back in the team for another run next season. This season a round will be won as it stand but I think going to the conference finals where what I deem to be WIDE OPEN this year is a chance the Blades must take. No one team is really looking like they want it and are going to take control in the conference this season. I know the Canes are doing it now but the Tigers and Blades have both shown signs of dominance as well. We also can't forget the Hitmen who are very talented and the Wheaties who always load up near the end.
The Blades will be fine both years but if Lorne gets his 18 or 19 yr old dman that I mentioned and his power forward....we will be dominant this year and next and the solution is solved although easier said than done.