Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Well, we are now just hours away from the Burnaby Express opening up their 09-10 season. It feels like it has been a really long time since the 08-09 campaign came to an end in late February with the Express missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Since that time there has been plenty of change. And nothing less should have been expected after last season. The Express had a number of future considerations to use from trades made last season that are expected to re-build the team and get them back into the playoffs.

One of the biggest acquisitions both literally and figuratively was the acquisition of Harrison May. He came to the Express from Merritt via Vernon in the Cam Brodie, Mike Leidl trade. May instantly gives the Express plenty of experience in the BCHL and an all star between the pipes. He represented Merritt at last years all star game. His 1536 shots faced were the third highest total in the BCHL last season.

May stands 6'3 and uses his large frame to his advantage to give the shooters little room to look at. The Express haven't had a goaltender with such a large net presence since Bryce Luker in 05-06.

The Express brass last year went with 2 rookie goaltenders last season, and admitted it didn't work out as expected. Heading into this season, they made sure they had an experienced guy in between the pipes.

The Express did lose their other asset they acquired in the trade with Vernon, John Digness didn't return to the team this season. He has moved on with his life enrolling in school back home in Alberta.

Now following the players that came to the Express from the Brodie Reid trade last November is a little complicated. The Express did pick up Brent Vandenberg in the deal along with future considerations. Vandenberg ended up being dealt to Salmon Arm at the deadline for more futures. The Express eventually got futures that were owed to Salmon Arm in a trade they completed with Victoria in the summer of 08. The Express used the futures from Victoria via Salmon Arm to acquire Cody Bremner.

However, Bremner is enrolled in school on the island to help prepare him for his college days when he heads to Cornell on a lacrosse scholarship. So Bremner wanted to stay on the Island, so he was dealt along with Greg Bay to Nanaimo. Coming the other way is Dan Correale and Konrad Sandor who the Clippers had acquired from Prince George. It doesn't stop there, Correale was sent down to Major Midget last season by the Spruce Kings, and during the off-season Grande Prairie took a run at Correale. That set off a battle for who had Correale's rights. As it turned out, Burnaby had his rights. Grande Prairie still wanted Correale, so they picked up former Nanaimo Clipper Zac Ashdown from La Ronge of the SJHL. Grande Prairie then flipped Ashdown to Burnaby in exchange for Correale. Hope you can follow that.

To continue the completion of the Brodie Reid trade, the Express added some size on the backend with the acquisition of Matt Ridley. He is the son of former Vancouver Canuck Mike Ridley. The towering blue liner stands 6'3 and weighs in at 220 lbs.

The Brodie Reid trade doesn't stop there, Brad Reid also came to the Express as part of the deal. Brad Reid is entering his 3rd season in the BCHL, the Express expect him to contribute to the top 6 this season. Last season in Penticton, Reid had 18 points in 49 games.

The final piece of the Brodie Reid trade is Jimmy Geerin. He was acquired late this off-season. Geerin split last season with Cowichan Valley and Penticton. Geerin had 16 points in 31 games with the Capitals. But didn't register a point in 6 regular season games with the Vees in 08-09. Geerin should provide the blueline another player who's a good skater with strong puck moving ability.

Geerin is just part of the Express defence that is completely revamped from last season. Only 2 players return from last years team on the blueline. Simon Denis, and Todd Fletcher. Those two will team up with the twin towers on the blue line, Matt Ridley, and Chris Van Dyn Hoven.

The Express are thrilled to have Van Dyn Hoven on the blueline. He spent time in the WHL with Chilliwack and Prince George. And spent part of last season with Grandview of the PIJHL. Van Dyn Hoven is a monster at 6'5, 230lbs.

A pair of rookies will debut on the blueline. Stefan Gonzales who impressed at prospects camp in the spring, and Kai Ohs has been added as well.

Upfront looks promising. Garrick Perry returns for his second season in the BCHL. He's coming off a 19 goal and 41 point rookie season. He was a candidate for the Coastal Conference rookie of the year award. Perry should be the prime candidate to be the player that never flourished for the Express last season, and that's a player taking his game to a level where he's ready to lead the team offensively. Last season, one issue the Express had was they didn't have a returning player fill the void offensively left behind by graduating players.

Perry is supported by Brad Reid and newcomer Jon Puskar. The Canton Michigan native is expected to be one of the Express top recruits this year. I am looking forward to seeing his skill on display in this league.

Dylan Herold will serve as team captain this season. There will be no questions this year when it comes to leadership. Herold is looking to build off a strong performance that saw his offensive game emerge after arriving in Burnaby from Merritt where he scored 13 goals in 36 games to match his offensive output from his first 2 1/2 seasons in the league. Herold's 28 points with Burnaby last season nearly matches his career output before putting on Express colors. Look for Herold to build on his strong performance from last season.

The Express brought a familiar face back as well. Rich Manley is back after spending last season with the Lincoln Stars of the USHL, Manley had 5 goals and 15 points in 28 games last season.

In 07-08 with the Express as an 18 year old, Manley put up 16 goals and 51 points in 58 games. If he plays to his size at 6'5, 225lbs, Manley is capable of providing a size presence and offensive depth.

Continuing down the depth chart upfront, Luke Challier returns after a strong second half of last season. He along with a healthy Jared Chernoff and the acquisition of Konrad Sandor will provide plenty of grit and some offence to the Express forward group.

Rookie forward Brodie Jaimeson is a player i'm looking forward to watch his development throughout the course of his first season in the BCHL. He played last season with the Vancouver Northwest Giants of the Major Midget League. If his offensive skills blossom the way the Express brass expect, they could have another offensive weapon.

Now, as long as the team doesn't go through another season of 270 plus manned games lost due to injury, a return to the playoffs for the Express shouldn't be a problem.

The Express brass worked hard in the off-season to completely revamp the roster so a repeat of last season doesn't happen. Looking at the team on paper, it appears the 09-10 edition of the Express, doesn't appear to be a reason to indicate that they aren't ready to compete this season.

However, are 15 other teams in this league that remember this team as one that won just 18 games and missed the playoffs by 20 points last season. The work that the Express brass did in the off-season raised the expectations for the team this season.

But the last time I checked, expectations don't win you hockey games, the written or the spoken word doesn't win hockey games. The only way to prove to people that things are different is to hit the ice and prove it.

We will find out for sure starting Friday night in Cowichan.

I just have to say, it's about time. It's been a long long wait.

1 comment:

Mikey said...

Great preview,