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October 24, 2011
Pucks From The Past
Saskatoon Westerns, 1985-86

by Iain Fyffe

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Ardal Ekrub, fictional General Manager of the fictional Saskatoon Westerns, is a patient man. After two seasons of mediocre results on the ice, he's not the least bit worried about his team's future prospects. Indeed, it's because of the team's prospects that he's happy with his club. His plan to rebuid the ex-Blues is centered on the draft, using his Project-a-Tron draft rankings to hopefully gain an advantage over his competitors. In 1984, he was able to nab both Doug Bodger and Jeff Brown, for example, while he has a very large number of Europeans and college players on his hit list, since these are the players that other teams systematically undervalue at this time. He doesn't pursue Europeans in order to get Europeans, for example; he pursues them because they're the best players left after other teams have drafted.

It's a bit unusual at the 1985 NHL Entry Draft, however, since it's not only the other teams' drafting habits that would result in Ekrub looking outside of major junior hockey for his draft picks. This season, the Project-a-Tron tells him that most of the best draft-eligible players played outside of Canada in 1984-85. Among the 10 top-rated players (see table below), only two major junior players appear, at numbers six and nine. The most outstanding performance was recorded by Craig Simpson, who although playing against much older players, scored 84 points in 42 games for Michigan State, which led the CCHA by a good margin. The system sees this season as basically off the charts, but of course having only the ninth overall pick, the Westerns have no chance to get him as he goes second overall to Pittsburgh.

Top 30 Players Available at 1985 Entry Draft

Rank	Player			Pos	League	PGVT+	Drafted
1	Craig Simpson		F	CCHA	30.0	2
2	Joe Nieuwendyk		F	ECAC	14.0	27
3	Mikko Laaksonen		F	Fin	13.0	-
4	Ulf Dahlen		F	Swe	12.3	7
5	Lane MacDonald		F	ECAC	8.9	59
6	Dana Murzyn		D	WHL	8.0	5
7	Kari-Pekka Friman	D	Fin	7.6	-
8	Robert Kron		F	Cze	7.0	88
9	Len Nielsen		F	WHL	6.8	-
10	Calle Johansson		D	Swe	6.7	14
11	Kay Whitmore		G	OHL	6.7	26
12	Ryan Stewart		F	WHL	6.5	18
13	Craig Duncanson		F	OHL	6.2	9
14	Fredrik Olausson	D	Swe	6.2	81
15	Sean Whitham		D	HE	6.2	-
16	Tomas Kapusta		F	Cze	6.0	104
17	Sean Burke		G	OHL	6.0	24
18	David Latta		F	OHL	5.8	18
19	Ladislav Lubina		F	Cze	5.8	-
20	Brent Gilchrist		F	WHL	5.7	79
21	Brent Fedyk		F	WHL	5.6	8
22	Jiri Latal		D	Cze	5.6	106
23	Drago Adam		G	WHL	5.6	-
24	Randy Taylor		D	ECAC	5.5	-
25	Dan Gratton		F	OHL	5.4	10
26	Sean Evoy		G	OHL	5.4	-
27	Darryl Gilmour		G	WHL	5.1	48
28	Scott Metcalfe		F	OHL	4.8	20
29	Jose Charbonneau	F	QMJHL	4.8	12
30	Mario Brunetta		G	QMJHL	4.8	162

Ekrub is well-pleased, of course, when his turn comes and Cornell's Joe Nieuwendyk is still available. His system pegged the lanky young center as the second-best player available in the draft. As we know now, this will end up being an outstanding pick for the Westerns. Their second pick, Mikko Laaksonen, is projected as the third-best player available but will have a very mediocre career. These are the ups and downs of the Entry Draft. Even if you have an advantage over the other teams, there's no way to be right every time.

Saskatoon Westerns 1985 Entry Draft Picks

Pick	Player			Pos	League	PGVT+
9	Joe Nieuwendyk		C	ECAC	14.0
30	Mikko Laaksonen		C	Fin	13.0
51	Lane MacDonald		LW	ECAC	8.9
57	Kari-Pekka Friman	D	Fin	7.6
72	Robert Kron		C	Cze	7.0
93	Len Nielsen		C	WHL	6.8
114	Sean Whitham		D	HE	6.2
135	Ladislav Lubina		LW	Cze	5.8
156	Drago Adam		G	WHL	5.6
177	Randy Taylor		D	ECAC	5.5
197	Sean Evoy		G	OHL	5.4
218	Jiri Kucera		C	Cze	4.5
238	Brian Verbeek		C	OHL	2.6

The Westerns' roster moves over the offseason are minimal. In desperate need of a backup goaltender, GM Ekrub ships two Bobs, Brooke, and Crawford, to Minnesota in exchange for Mike Sands and a second round pick in 1986. Brooke has a penchant for penalties that doesn't sit well with his GM, while Crawford is aging a bit and coming off of an injury, limiting his playing time last season. Sands is young and had a very good season in the AHL in 1984-85; all Saskatoon needs him to do is to not bleed goals when starter Don Beaupre is resting, which is what Rick Heinz did. Spare parts Richard Zemlak and Roger Hagglund are then traded to Quebec for a third round draft pick. Ekrub would much rather have such a pick than two players he sees as having no future on the major league roster. Goaltenders Dave Parro and Paul Skidmore are released, and former draft pick Peter Abric is not signed, since the team has enough goaltenders already. Skaters Jack Brownschidle, Rob Tudor, and Pat Rabbitt are also let go, no longer being needed.

Saskatoon Westerns 1985-86 Reserve List

Pos	Name			Age (1985-86)
G	Adam, Drago		18
G	Beaupre, Don (k)	23
G	Bishop, Mike (k)	20
G	Evoy, Sean		19
G	Heinz, Rick (k)		30
G	Riendeau, Vincent (k)	19
G	Sands, Mike (k)		22
D	Albelin, Tommy		21
D	Andersson, Peter	20
D	Bodger, Doug (k)	19
D	Brown, Jeff (k)		19
D	Delorme, Gilbert (k)	22
D	Dore, Andre (k)		27
D	Friman, Kari-Pekka	18
D	Giles, Curt (k)		26
D	Julien, Claude (k)	25
D	Maciver, Norm		22
D	McCrimmon, Brad (k)	26
D	McKay, Darren (k)	23
D	Norwood, Lee (k)	25
D	Posavad, Mike (k)	21
D	Stewart, Bill (k)	27
D	Taylor, Randy		20
D	Whitham, Sean		18
D	Wilson, Rik (k)		23
C	Bradley, Brian (k)	20
C	Callander, Jock (k)	23
C	Conroy, Al (k)		19
C	Derkatch, Dale (k)	20
C	Federko, Bernie (k)	29
C	Gilmour, Doug (k)	22
C	Groulx, Wayne (k)	20
C	Helminen, Raimo (k)	21
C	Johansson, Mikael	19
C	Jooris, Mark		21
C	Kames, Vladimir		20
C	Keskinen, Esa		20
C	Kron, Robert		18
C	Kucera, Jiri		19
C	Laaksonen, Mikko	18
C	Lemieux, Alain (k)	24
C	Lomow, Byron (k)	19
C	McMillan, John		20
C	Nielsen, Len		18
C	Nieuwendyk, Joe		19
C	Pepin, Steve (k)	20
C	Tookey, Tim (k)		24
C	Wickenheiser, Doug (k)	24
C	Verbeek, Brian		18
LW	Fenton, Paul (k)	24
LW	Gosselin, Claude (k)	20
LW	Kastak, Kamil		19
LW	Lubina, Ladislav	18
LW	MacDonald, Lane		19
LW	Pehrsson, Joakim	19
LW	Pettersson, Jorgen (k)	29
LW	Propp, Brian (k)	26
LW	Tikkanen, Esa (k)	20
LW	Torkki, Jari		20
RW	Chernomaz, Rich (k)	22
RW	Ganchar, Perry (k)	21
RW	Graham, Dirk (k)	25
RW	Klima, Petr (k)		20
RW	Markell, John (k)	29
RW	Michayluk, Dave (k)	23
RW	Mullen, Joe (k)		28
RW	Paslawski, Greg (k)	24
RW	Reeds, Mark (k)		25
RW	Rosol, Petr		21

Players on Reserve List (Maximum 80): 69
Players Under Contract (Maximum 50): 44

For the first time, an Ekrub draft pick makes a significant contribution to the NHL team: Doug Bodger taking a regular turn on the blue line and showing as the team's third-most valuable defenseman, and Petr Klima breaking in on the second line and chipping in valuable goals. It's the same core of established players providing much of the team's value, though Jorgen Pettersson fades significantly as Klima and Dirk Graham take more and more playing time on the wing. Excellent seasons by Don Beaupre and especially Brad McCrimmon are the biggest reasons for the team's success.

The Westerns' 88 points are their best finish in three years, and finish third in the Smythe Division behind Edmonton and Calgary. The real-life Blues had 83 points this season, so the fictional Saskatoon team has no significant advantage over their real world brethren just yet.

Saskatoon Westerns 1985-86 NHL Season

GP	W	L	T	GF	GA	Pts	Finish
80	40	32	8	321	309	88	3rd place, Smythe; 7th overall

Player			Pos	GP	OGVT	DGVT	GVT
Beaupre, Don		G	53	0.0	23.7	23.7
McCrimmon, Brad		D	80	6.0	13.1	19.1
Propp, Brian		LW	80	9.2	4.5	13.6
Federko, Bernie		C	80	10.1	2.6	12.7
Mullen, Joe		RW	77	9.9	0.9	10.8
Giles, Curt		D	69	1.8	5.0	6.8
Bodger, Doug		D	79	1.6	5.0	6.6
Graham, Dirk		RW	80	3.5	2.7	6.2
Gilmour, Doug		C	74	2.7	2.8	5.5
Norwood, Lee		D	71	1.4	3.8	5.2
Klima, Petr		RW	74	3.8	0.8	4.6
Lemieux, Alain		LW	71	3.7	0.3	4.0
Reeds, Mark		RW	78	0.7	2.9	3.6
Wickenheiser, Doug	C	36	1.0	2.0	3.0
Paslawski, Greg		RW	56	2.0	0.9	2.9
Delorme, Gilbert	D	64	-0.5	2.9	2.4
Fenton, Paul		LW	76	2.1	0.3	2.4
Pettersson, Jorgen	LW	70	1.1	1.1	2.2
Helminen, Raimo		C	64	0.6	1.4	2.0
Brown, Jeff		D	8	0.8	0.8	1.6
Dore, Andre		D	65	0.4	0.9	1.3
Sands, Mike		G	27	0.0	1.1	1.1
Tikkanen, Esa		LW	36	0.9	0.1	1.0
Julien, Claude		D	13	-0.1	0.5	0.4
Wilson, Rik		D	31	0.1	0.3	0.4
Ganchar, Perry		RW	3	-0.1	0.0	0.1
Chernomaz, Rich		LW	8	0.0	0.0	0.0
Bradley, Brian		RW	5	-0.2	-0.1	-0.3
Total				80	62.7	80.3	143.0

Playoffs, First Round

For the first time in their existence, the Westerns do not draw Wayne Gretzky's Oilers in the first round of the playoffs, instead facing the Calgary Flames. Saskatoon is buoyed by not having to face the league's best team, and take the first game 3-1. A blowout loss (10-4) in the second game, however, dims their fans' spirit briefly, but the team responds with victories of 3-2 and 3-0 produce the Westerns' first playoff series victory, three games to one (even though the goals were even at 13-all).

Playoffs, Second Round

The Oilers couldn't be avoided forever, of course. Saskatoon wins their usual single game in the series (6-4 in game three), but losses of 2-0, 4-2, 6-2, and 4-2 once again result in the Westerns watching an Oilers celebration.

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