Friday, March 21, 2003
Give it up for your goals-against-average league leader, Jeff Scharf (you'll notice he was deleted from the goalie stats, not unreasonably).
So where were we? Oh yeah, the merits of Lubbock vs. Corpus as the Bats' first-round opponent. In my defense, I noted the Scorps were playing the best hockey several times over the last few weeks. That particular entry just happened to be in response to specific posts by Rayz and C-Kings fans.
Or as I said on December 14: "what if McDonald puts New Mexico in the playoffs at Lubbock's expense?"
Anyway, without further ado...
Memphis in five over Oklahoma City
Strength against strength. Blazers are hungrier, and possibly don't get enough credit, but I have a hunch the defending champs will flip the switch now that they've gotten to the good part. Both teams are dangerous, both teams can be scored on. Could Mark Richards be the difference? (And how would the Maple Leafs feel about that?)
A series this close is bound to come down to those venerable playoff bugaboos, special teams and lucky bounces.
Laredo in four over Odessa
'Cause if it goes to five, Jacks win. Hard to pick against sentimental favorite Don McKee, the playoff experience of Greg Gatto and Scott Green and the Jacks' hunger to erase last season's upset. But if Laredo has its full line-up they're the better team, and much more than a defense-challenged flash-in-the-pan a la Tupelo or Abilene (to name two WPHL examples). Question: when the Jacks decided they would add more offensive flair to their good old trapping style, was having just three plus players part of the plan?
On the other hand, the Bucks are invincible at home, and anything but on the road. Two games in Odessa without Michel Periard (or Schneider for that matter) could kill them.
Austin in four over New Mexico
If last year's El Paso series didn't teach Brent Hughes' club not to cruise against a playoff underdog, they don't deserve to win. But I believe they learned their lesson, and will prepare for this one as seriously as they did against the Iguanas last year, with much the same result. New Mexico's coach has an embarassment of postseason experience, but its players don't -- at least, not collectively. Whereas 11 players out of 18 have been on a Hughes-run Austin team two years or more.
This series isn't getting a lot of attention, but I love it for its history. In '96-'97, these were the biggest rivals and top two teams in the WPHL, and they both lost in the first round. In '97-'98, Bill McDonald's Brahmas dashed the Ice Bats' playoff hopes. In '98-'99, current Scorps assistant Travis Van Tighem was part of a salary cap violation that cost the otherwise clueless and undeserving Austin franchise eight standings points. And in '99-'00, New Mexico beat Hughes' first squad in the "Wiffle" semi-finals -- a series that, coincidentally, began with two games in a New Mexico practice rink.
And did I mention I'm biased?
Indy in five over Amarillo
The series record means nothing -- neither team had rounded into form back when the three games were played. Look for one of the Gorillas goalies to outplay Shawn Silver at least part of the time -- but which one? Bottom line, both teams are built on "D," and Indy's will be better -- including two-way forward play.
OFFSEASON WISHES FOR EIGHT COACHES
A sleeping bag for next year's Albuquerque road trip and a portable MRI machine. Also, the unretirement of Frank Bialowas and Doug Smith, since being a good coach won't be enough for some portions of the Thunder fan base.
12 playoff teams. Which I do think will happen with 18 clubs. Call him a whiner if you want, but the schedule is wildly unbalanced. I like the purity of the CHL format, but there's precedent for crossovers, where the fifth team from one side replaces the fourth team from the other if it has more points.
(One further note on that article: I know the main point is conference games should have the most influence on conference playoff berths, but you still have to give Amarillo credit for playing 14 Southern playoff teams to Tulsa's 7. That makes the schedule-strength disparity somewhat less dramatic (30 to 24).
An honest chance at a winning season, with a good owner, a sold-out building, a full roster of players and a year's worth of O'Douls.
A time machine, to take his players back to 6:30pm on March 15. Otherwise, he's got Doug Frank in his corner and Dean Lombardi's unemployed -- what more could the guy want?
A new job in the American Hockey League -- as a referee.
Contract renewal or quiet evenings with his family, whichever he prefers.
Nothing for him -- he already has the satisfaction of three rings and the knowledge that he still owns Austin's ass (oops, there's that bias thing again).
A Spanish-English dictionary and a free plate of cabrito from the best joint in Reynosa.
(And speaking of this issue -- which, btw, I don't believe reflects badly on Egeland and I'll say as much when rumor becomes fact -- did anyone else think this post from former Waco/Amarillo coach Kevin Abrams translated to, "I may have a job interview in Texas?"