- Saskatchewan Shockers owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz after his team was eliminated from the playoffs on Saturday
- On Wednesday, the Saskatchewan Shockers activated D Chris Oflyng from the injured list. Oflyng, the Shockers’ top-scoring blueliner, had been out for more than a month with a lower-body injury suffered just before the All-Star break. In order to make room for Oflyng on the roster, the Shockers reassigned D Valeri Nistrumov to their CHL affiliate in Halifax. Nistrumov as appeared in 20 games for Saskatchewan this season, recording 5 assists and a -7 rating.
- On Friday, the Shockers activated C Cyril Perignon from the injured list. Perignon was injured during the last game of the first half, and after a setback in rehab, is now returning to action. To allow Perignon’s return, the Shockers returned C Trent Harlow to Virginia, and released D Kjell Hanson.
- On Saturday, the Michigan Gray Wolves‘ affiliate in Cleveland activated D Gil Calvert from the injured list. Calvert missed two and a half weeks with a lower-body injury. To make room for Calvert on the roster, the Gray Wolves released D Davis McNeely. McNeely appeared in four games with Cleveland, and did not record a point.
- Also on Saturday, the Hershey Bliss recalled F Anton Lapointe from their affiliate in Milwaukee, and demoted RW James Clay to Milwaukee. Clay appeared in 4 games with Hershey, recording an assist and a +1 rating.
This week’s interview is with Saskatchewan Shockers D Wyatt Barnes.
SHL Digest: We’re here this week with one of the league’s most underrated defensemen, Wyatt Barnes. Wyatt, thanks for speaking with us.
Wyatt Barnes: I feel like if I were really that underrated, you wouldn’t be interviewing me. But thanks!
SHLD: Let’s consider the facts. You’re a four-time All-Star and a Defenseman of the Year finalist. You’re also one consistently one of the league’s best and most consistent offensive defensemen. And yet, ask the average SHL fan to name the best blueliners in the league, and your name probably doesn’t come up. Why do you think that is?
WB: A couple reasons, probably. One, I play in Saskatchewan, which isn’t one of the glamor markets in the league. We’re not a big city, we’re not in the playoffs every year, so it’s easy to forget about us. Second, I’m not one for self-promotion. I go out and do my job, but I’m not active on social media or trying to make sure everyone knows my name. I’m not wired that way.
SHLD: So you’re not interested in being a big star?
WB: I’m not looking to get a big endorsement deal or have my face all over the place, no. What I am interested in is having the respect of my teammates and fellow players, and I believe I’ve got that.
SHLD: Your outlook reflects the values you grew up with. You come from a small town, is that right?
WB: That’s right. I’m from Kaycee, Wyoming, population around 250.
SHLD: Wow! There aren’t a lot of hockey players from Wyoming.
WB: There’s not a lot of anybody from Wyoming.
SHLD: Fair point. But how did you get into hockey?
WB: Being from a small town, there weren’t a lot of other kids around. And those of us who were there wound up working on our family’s farms and ranches a lot of the time. So my best friend was the radio. And I started listening to Colorado Avalanche games on the radio. The Avalanche moved to Denver around the time I was born, and they were the cool new thing.
SHLD: Did you ever go to any Avalanche games in person?
WB: A couple. My dad took me for my birthday when I was 9. And he said I just walked around with my eyes bugged out of my head, because I thought it was so cool. I was hooked for life.
SHLD: How did you wind up playing?
WB: My dad found a league in Casper, which was about an hour south of us. It seemed like all the kids on the team wanted to be forwards, and they all wanted to wear #19 so they could be like [Joe] Sakic. So I said, “I’ll be a defenseman.” It meant I got more ice time, and it was what the team needed.
SHLD: And that’s clearly the mindset you still have today. Of course, if you keep playing as well as you have, you might not be able to avoid being famous.
WB: I’ve managed it so far.
SHLD: Good point. So, do you see yourself staying with the Shockers over the long term?
WB: Works for me. It’s a small town as sports cities go, which suits me fine. And ownership is clearly willing to spend the money to put together a contending team, which counts. If they want me around, I’m good with that.
SHLD: One last question: How do you feel about those eye-catching third uniforms that the Shockers wear this year?
WB: (pause) Let’s just say they’re not really my style.
SHLD: Definitely not the kind of uniforms that blend into the background.
WB: You can say that again. We don’t wear them much, and that’s okay by me.
SHLD: All right, Wyatt, thanks for an interesting interview and a glimpse behind the curtain. Good luck the rest of the season!
One of the major questions around the SHL this season is whether the East, long considered the weaker of the league’s two divisions, had finally caught up to – or even surpassed – the West. There have been several points in favor of this argument so far. During the first round of interdivision games, held in the West’s arenas, the East came within a couple games of breaking even. In the second set of East-west clashes, hosted by the Eastern teams at the end of the first half, Eastern clubs posted a winning percentage above the .600 mark. Then in the All-Star Game, the East won for the first time. Has the balance of power finally shifted?
Well, the West struck back during the latest round of interdivision clashes, which took place over the last week and a half. With the action shifting back West, the home teams posted their best record yet, posting a record of 21-12-3.
“Everybody’s been rushing to crown the East as the best,” said Anchorage Igloos coach Sam Castor, whose team went 4-1-1 during this round. “But they might have been just a bit premature.”
The West’s domination was complete. None of the East’s teams – not even the division-leading Hamilton Pistols – had a winning record in this round of games. On the other side of the ledger, every Western team except the Saskatchewan Shockers had a winning record. The West’s best team, surprisingly, was the Kansas City Smoke; they went 5-1-0 and moved within four points of the third-place Shockers.
For the East, embarrassments abounded. Last Saturday, the Pistols faced off against the West’s leader, the Portland Bluebacks, in a clash that reporters called a potential Finals preview. The result was an embarrassment for the defending champs; Portland broke open the game with a four-goal second period and rolled to a 7-3 blowout. The East’s second-place club, the Hershey Bliss, stumbled to a 1-4-1 record, punctuated by a humiliating 8-2 rout at the hands of the Dakota Jackalopes, the West’s fifth-place squad.
“Yeah, we basically got our heads handed to us,” said Bliss C Justin Valentine. “There’s no putting a pretty face on that. We’d better get ourselves straightened out and playing better quick,”
In spite of the West’s recent run of dominance, the East still has a chance to stake its claim to supremacy. Starting next week, the Western clubs will take one last swing through the East. So far, the West leads the season series 52-47-9, but that could change in a hurry.
“I think we’ve made it clear that we can play with anybody,” said Pistols LW Steven Alexander, whose team has gone 11-6-1 against the West this season. “It used to be taken for granted that whoever came out of the West would automatically win the Vandy. But we’re not afraid of anybody, I tell you that.”
Bluebacks coach Harold Engellund, meanwhile, disputes the premise of the question. Asked about the strength of the two divisions, replied: “What difference does it make? It’s team vs. team out there, not division vs. division. If we make it to the Finals, I guarantee nobody in our locker room is going to worry about how the East did this year. We’ll be focused on the team we’re actually playing against. The East as a whole is better this year, sure. But as long as my guys keep winning, that’s what I care about.”