The WHL mid-term report cards are in and the Calgary Hitmen don't find themselves at the top of the class. But hearken back to the start of the season, when The Hockey News ranked them No. 1 in the league and No. 3 in the CHL.
At the time, Hitmen GM-head coach Kelly Kisio downplayed the rankings, saying it's not how you start but how you finish.
With his club sitting at 15-12-5-1 heading into tonight's game (Saddledome, 7 p.m., FAN 960) against the Kelowna Rockets, Kisio gives his team a passing grade.
"If we were in any other division, we'd be a B. In ours, I think we're a B-minus," said Kisio.
"Early on, there were a lot of nights where we weren't good when we should have been good. But I think our guys are starting to understand what we want from them as far as the work ethic and the systems go but it's a work in progress."
It's an honest evaluation from an honest coach who has seen his players fall like dominoes when it comes to injuries this season, which is a bonus for the club when next year rolls around.
"We're a project right now and I think we've never really had our full lineup playing every night. It's probably good at the end of the day that we're having the young kids play so much," said Kisio. "I always thought we were a solid hockey team and whether we're good enough to make a run or not was always a question in the back of my mind."
Lately, goaltending has been an issue and Kisio isn't happy about it.
"You need solid goaltending every night and the saves they're supposed to make, you need those saves. In the last three weeks, and I think the guys will tell you that also, it's been a struggle," said Kisio.
Scott Bowles, the Hitmen's starting goaltender, ranks 13th in the league with 2.57 GAA and a .902 save percentage.
Offensively, it's no surprise captain Ryan Getzlaf leads the team in scoring with 35 points (19g, 16a) in 33 games. But many figure Getzlaf should be more productive.
One thing the club could use is some secondary scoring. Next to Getzlaf, Andrew Ladd has the most goals -- just 11 in 33 games.
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MOST IMPROVED: Hard to argue with the resurgence of the Saskatoon Blades. After winning just seven games last season, the Blades have turned it around with an 18-7-5-1 record, putting them atop the East Division.
Sure they have a great, new head coach in Lorne Molleken but it's also a credit to the players, most of whom played through that disastrous campaign last year.
And they're getting help from a couple of Calgarians in forward Wacey Rabbit (32 points) and blueliner Mike Green (plus-26), who is at the national junior team selection camp this week in Winnipeg.
Also, the surprising Lethbridge Hurricanes deserve a shout out. The 'Canes (19-8-7-1) are the best team in the WHL with 46 points.
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HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN: Anytime a club wins just five games at the midway point of a season, it's tough to take.
That's where the 5-23-5-1 Moose Jaw Warriors find themselves after winning the East Division last season and they're clearly the most disappointing team so far.
Don't look now but the Warriors are riding a three-game win streak.
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MIDWAY MVP: He probably doesn't get as much attention as he deserves playing in Seattle but goaltender Bryan Bridges is getting it done. The 19-year-old from Victoria is tied for the WHL lead in shutouts (7), leads in GAA (1.54), is third in save percentage (.935) and has a tidy 17-5 record.