Going with Plan B to succeed

SCOTT FISHER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

It's tough to be a WHL GM these days.

Every team in the league is eager to get off to a quick start, but that's hard to do with a 'B' lineup.

Many teams have been forced to go with rookie-laden rosters for the first couple of weeks due to star players being away at NHL camps throughout North America.

The Regina Pats managed to take a point out of a two-game set in Brandon over the weekend, despite a fresh-faced lineup that was nearly half comprised of rookies.

Pats GM Brent Parker said yesterday he has no inkling as to when he might see his top five players -- sniper Jordan Eberle (Edmonton), goaltender Linden Rowat and d-man Colton Teubert (Los Angeles), blueliner Matt Delahey (New Jersey) and right winger Brett Leffler (Washington) back in the fold.

"Hopefully in the next couple days we'll get a couple kids back," Parker told a Regina newspaper.

"We haven't been given any dates or any indication at all.

"We'll just approach it as we have. When they're back, they're back. There's no sense worrying about it.

"In the meantime, we think we've got enough pieces that we're capable of winning."

Instead of wringing his hands and pacing the hallways, Parker has decided to look at his club's predicament as a glass-half-full situation.

"It was a great opportunity for our young guys to play some good minutes in more meaningful situations," Parker said.

"You approach it that it's a win-win situation. Those young guys will be better because of this and we'll be better as a team when those other guys are back, too."

Parker's Pats aren't in a unique position.

The Calgary Hitmen also have five stragglers, if you include disgruntled d-man Alex Plante (Edmonton), who has requested a trade.

The Hitmen, who host the Edmonton Oil Kings tonight, are also missing 'tender Marty Jones (Los Angeles), defencemen Paul Postma (Atlanta) and Michael Stone (Phoenix), and winger Carson McMillan (Minnesota).

Calgary coach Dave Lowry got four other players back just in time for last Friday's season-opener against Red Deer.

"This is a nice problem for an organization to have," said Lowry, who also found the silver lining. "When guys are getting invited from (NHL) rookie camp to main camp, it means their play has been at a high level."

Red Deer Rebels rookie bench boss Jesse Wallin doesn't have the same problem in terms of quantity. But he certainly does when it comes to quality.

The Rebels are missing 19-year-old captain Brandon Sutter.

And Wallin is resigned to the fact the only time he sees the world junior standout this season will be on TV, and he'll be wearing a Carolina Hurricanes jersey.

"From Day 1 of training camp, we've approached it as though Brandon won't be back," Wallin said.

"From everything Carolina has told us over the summer, they have every intention of (Sutter) playing on their hockey team this year. So, barring some unforseen circumstance, he's likely going to end up there."

Sutter would have had a major impact on a young, rebuilding Rebels roster.

"It's tough," Wallin said.

"Obviously, it leaves a huge hole in our lineup.

"He's the captain of our team and would be a fourth-year guy. He'd certainly be our best player if he was back here."

Nonetheless, Wallin said the franchise's top priority is to put players in the big leagues.

"At the end of the day, our No. 1 goal is to develop players for the next level," he said.

"A player of Brandon's calibre, to see him move on at 19, it's tough for your team, but you feel good about doing your job.

"We're helping these young men move on and chase their dream.

"So, as hard as it is for us, we're very proud of him. We hope that he can stick up there and we wish him all the best."

WEEK'S TOP PERFORMERS

1. F Jordan Weal, Pats -- Impressive rookie potted five points in two games.

2. G, Kevin Armstrong, Cougars -- Posted a 2-0 record, 1.00 GAA, .962 SV% and one shutout.

3. G, Jamie Tucker, Giants -- The 17-year-old posted a 30-save shutout over Everett.

GO FIGURE

Playin' the numbers game

4

It was Michael Stickland 4, Spokane Chiefs 2 as the Kootenay Ice forward accounted for all of his team's offence in their season-opener against the defending Memorial Cup champs. In two games since, the Red Deer County product hasn't scored as his team has been shutout in a pair of losses to Lethbridge.

RANKINGS

(Voted on WHL Writers' Association)

(First-place votes in brackets)

1. Spokane Chiefs (14) 371

2. Kelowna Rockets (1) 343

3. Leth. Hurricanes (1) 335

4. Brandon Wheat Kings 325

5. Tri-City Americans (1) 316

6. Vancouver Giants 278

7. Medicine Hat Tigers 266

8. Seattle Thunderbirds 251

9. Calgary Hitmen 233

10. Regina Pats 223

11. Swift Current Broncos 221

12. Saskatoon Blades 150

13. Kamloops Blazers 149

14. Moose Jaw Warriors 143

15. Prince G. Cougars 129

16. Kootenay Ice 125

17. Prince Albert Raiders 114

18. Everett Silvertips 91

19. Chilliwack Bruins 88

20. Edmonton Oil Kings 77

21. Red Deer Rebels 54

22. Portland Winter Hawks 19

A first-place vote is worth 22 points, a second-place vote is worth 21 points, on down to one point for a last-place vote.


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