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October 10, 2011
Pucks From The Past
Saskatoon Westerns, 1984-85

by Iain Fyffe

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When we left the Saskatoon Westerns last time, they had participated in their first NHL Entry Draft, using General Manager Ardal Ekrub's objective Project-a-Tron rankings, and finished their first NHL season with a decent 73 points before losing to the mighty Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the playoffs.

While the regular season results are interesting enough, it's really the draft picks that Ekrub is interested in. He's counting on using the draft to select players that are undervalued by other clubs. For now, this typically means small players and Europeans, both of which other teams shy away from much more than they should. As such, the 1983 Entry Draft yielded Petr Klima, Raimo Helminen, Peter Andersson, Esa Keskinen, and Tommy Albelin, as well as some guy called Esa Tikkanen. It will be several years before these players pay full dividends in terms of NHL performance, but with the benefit of hindsight we already know there are some very good players in that group.

The player selected by the Westerns in 1983, though, was diminutive center Dale Derkatch. Listed at 5'5", it's no surprise that NHL teams passed on him despite his gaudy junior scoring numbers. He would finish his Regina Pats career with 222 goals and 269 assists for 491 points in 204 regular season games, and add another 103 points in 54 playoff games. In the real world, Edmonton drafted him in the seventh round, number 140 overall. In our little fantasy, Saskatoon grabbed him with the 33rd selection of the draft, which was the highest they had. And they were glad to get him, since the Project-a-Tron indicated he was the best prospect available in the 1983 Entry Draft, edging Pat LaFontaine by 0.4 projected GVT per peak season.

Again in the real world, Derkatch never played a game of professional hockey in North America. After leaving the WHL, he played a couple of games for the University of Manitoba before turning professional in Europe, signing with Asiago of the Italian league. In his first season, he recorded 100 points, good enough for 11th in league scoring; but he would have been fourth had he played every scheduled game at that pace. He then spent three seasons with a very good Ilves Tampere team in Finland, finishing seventh, ninth, and fifth in league scoring. Several years in Germany followed, with sixth-, third- and second-place finishes in the scoring race. He continued to play effectively until 1997-98, mostly in Germany.

Now, we'll never know whether he could have made it in North America, if his size would really have been an impediment too great to overcome, or if it was simply the perception that forced him across the pond. For our purposes here, we'll be quite conservative with players that play in leagues other than the NHL. Leagues equivalencies are good, but they're not perfect. We know that Derkatch will never be a star at the NHL level; but the Westerns will have to wait to find that out.

The 1984 Entry Draft is all about Mario Lemieux, of course. His projected future peak GVT of 30.0 is arbitrarily cut off at that level, just like anyone above that level. The Project-a-Tron uses some exponents in its factors, and as such, certain players who are extremely productive can break the system; thus, the cutoff at 30 PGVT.

Top 30 Players Available at 1984 Entry Draft

Rank	Player			Pos	League	PGVT+	Drafted
1	Mario Lemieux		F	QMJHL	30.0	1
2	Doug Bodger		D	WHL	17.5	9
3	Jeff Brown		D	OHL	10.3	36
4	Kirk Muller		F	OHL	10.0	4
5	Vladimir Kames		F	Cze	9.0	149
6	Kamil Kastak		F	Cze	8.6	-
7	Patrick Roy		G	QMJHL	8.5	51
8	Dave Pasin		F	WHL	8.2	19
9	Joakim Pehrsson		F	Swe	7.7	194
10	Peter Abric		G	OHL	7.6	234
11	John McMillan		F	WCHA	7.4	-
12	Mikael Johansson	F	Swe	7.3	-
13	Byron Lomow		F	WHL	7.1	-
14	Emanuel Viveiros	D	WHL	6.9	106
15	Norm Maciver		D	WCHA	6.9	-
16	Craig Billington	G	OHL	6.5	23
17	Al Conroy		F	WHL	6.5	-
18	Petr Svoboda		D	Cze	6.4	5
19	Doug Houda		D	WHL	5.9	28
20	Brian Benning		D	WHL	5.9	26
21	David Saunders		F	ECAC	5.9	52
22	Shawn Burr		F	OHL	5.8	7
23	Randy Hansh		G	WHL	5.8	112
24	Ray Podloski		F	WHL	5.7	40
25	Ray Sheppard		F	OHL	5.5	60
26	Fabian Joseph		F	WHL	5.5	109
27	Kevin Hatcher		D	OHL	5.5	17
28	Chris Clifford		G	OHL	5.4	111
29	Vincent Riendeau	G	QMJHL	5.4	-
30	Gary Roberts		F	OHL	5.3	12
31	Selmar Odelein		D	WHL	5.3	21

Ekrub knows he has no shot at Lemieux, of course, since his team's first pick is at #9. He's quite pleased then, when Doug Bodger, the second-best player available according to the system, is still available to take with that pick. It gets even better when defenseman Jeff Brown, the third-ranked player, is available for Saskatoon's second pick at #30. Several European forwards follow, and a couple of U.S. college players are nabbed as well, including Norm Maciver. 1984 would turn out to be a good source of blueliners.

Saskatoon Westerns 1984 Entry Draft Picks

Pick	Player			Pos	League	PGVT+
9	Doug Bodger		D	WHL	17.5
30	Jeff Brown		D	OHL	10.3
51	Vladimir Kames		C	Cze	9.0
72	Kamil Kastak		LW	Cze	8.6
93	Joakim Pehrsson		LW	Swe	7.7
114	Peter Abric		G	OHL	7.6
135	John McMillan		C	WCHA	7.4
156	Mikael Johansson	C	Swe	7.3
177	Byron Lomow		C	WHL	7.1
197	Norm Maciver		D	WCHA	6.9
218	Al Conroy		C	WHL	6.5
238	Vincent Riendeau	G	QMJHL	5.4

In the offseason, the Saskatoon roster is trimmed with the usual rounds of retirements. Ralph Klassen, Jim McTaggart, Cary Eades, John Smyth, and Michel Galarneau all call it a career; none are anything more than spare parts, so the loss won't be felt at the NHL level. Ekrub releases Charlie Skjodt, and doesn't offer a contract to 1983 draftee Marc Damphousse, so the team loses his rights. The only trade made during the 1984 offseason is to ship often-penalized players Perry Anderson and Marty Ruff to New Jersey, in exchange for the talented but small Rich Cernomaz. Ekrub has no reason to revamp the roster at this point; it's more of a waiting game until the draft picks begin to mature and produce for the Westerns.

Saskatoon Westerns 1984-85 Reserve List

Pos	Name			Age (1984-85)
G	Abric, Peter		19
G	Beaupre, Don (k)	22
G	Bishop, Mike		19
G	Heinz, Rick (k)		29
G	Parro, Dave (k)		27
G	Riendeau, Vincent	18
G	Skidmore, Paul (k)	28
D	Albelin, Tommy		20
D	Andersson, Peter	19
D	Bodger, Doug (k)	18
D	Brown, Jeff		18
D	Brownschidle, Jack (k)	28
D	Delorme, Gilbert (k)	21
D	Dore, Andre (k)		26
D	Giles, Curt (k)		25
D	Hagglund, Roger (k)	22
D	Julien, Claude (k)	24
D	Maciver, Norm		21
D	McCrimmon, Brad (k)	25
D	McKay, Darren (k)	22
D	Norwood, Lee (k)	24
D	Posavad, Mike (k)	20
D	Stewart, Bill (k)	26
D	Wilson, Rik (k)		22
C	Bradley, Brian (k)	19
C	Brooke, Bob (k)		22
C	Callander, Jock (k)	22
C	Conroy, Al		18
C	Derkatch, Dale (k)	19
C	Federko, Bernie (k)	28
C	Gilmour, Doug (k)	21
C	Groulx, Wayne (k)	19
C	Helminen, Raimo		20
C	Johansson, Mikael	18
C	Jooris, Mark		20
C	Kames, Vladimir		19
C	Keskinen, Esa		19
C	Lemieux, Alain (k)	23
C	Lomow, Byron		18
C	McMillan, John		19
C	Pepin, Steve (k)	19
C	Tookey, Tim (k)		23
C	Tudor, Rob (k)		28
C	Wickenheiser, Doug (k)	23
LW	Fenton, Paul (k)	23
LW	Gosselin, Claude (k)	19
LW	Kastak, Kamil		18
LW	Pehrsson, Joakim	18
LW	Pettersson, Jorgen (k)	28
LW	Propp, Brian (k)	25
LW	Rabbitt, Pat (k)	22
LW	Tikkanen, Esa		19
LW	Torkki, Jari		19
RW	Chernomaz, Rich (k)	21
RW	Crawford, Bob (k)	24
RW	Ganchar, Perry (k)	20
RW	Graham, Dirk (k)	24
RW	Klima, Petr		19
RW	Markell, John (k)	28
RW	Michayluk, Dave (k)	22
RW	Mullen, Joe (k)		27
RW	Paslawski, Greg (k)	23
RW	Reeds, Mark (k)		24
RW	Rosol, Petr		20
RW	Zemlak, Richard (k)	21

Players on Reserve List (Maximum 80): 65
Players Under Contract (Maximum 50): 44

The NHL season is still something of a secondary concern for Ekrub. It's still too soon for the draft picks to contribute too much, so the same group of players provide the greatest contributions on the ice: Don Beaupre in goal, Brad McCrimmon on defense, and an excellent forward line in Bernie Federko, Brian Propp, and Joe Mullen. Doug Bodger is inserted into the lineup as a rookie, and his lack of experience shows, playing barely above the level of spare part Andre Dore. It's clear it will still be several years before the Westerns are a force to be reckoned with in the NHL.

It should be noted that the real-world Blues recorded 86 points in 1984-85, meaning that Saskatoon's 78-point effort is now behind reality. But the Westerns are being built for the future, while the Blues will tread water for several seasons in real life. Ardal Ekrub is looking five years down the road, so the team's lack of immediate success is no concern.

Saskatoon Westerns 1984-85 NHL Season

GP	W	L	T	GF	GA	Pts	Finish
80	34	36	10	311	313	78	4th place, Smythe; 13th overall

Player			Pos	GP	OGVT	DGVT	GVT
Propp, Brian		LW	76	12.1	5.1	17.2
Mullen, Joe		RW	79	10.2	2.7	12.9
Federko, Bernie		C	76	10.7	1.9	12.6
Beaupre, Don		G	45	0.0	11.9	11.9
McCrimmon, Brad		D	66	3.9	6.8	10.7
Gilmour, Doug		C	78	4.4	3.2	7.6
Wickenheiser, Doug	C	68	3.5	3.5	7.0
Pettersson, Jorgen	LW	75	3.7	2.3	6.0
Wilson, Rik		D	51	2.7	3.2	5.9
Giles, Curt		D	77	0.9	4.5	5.4
Crawford, Bob		RW	45	2.4	1.1	3.5
Delorme, Gilbert	D	74	-1.6	4.5	2.9
Paslawski, Greg		RW	72	1.8	1.0	2.8
Lemieux, Alain		LW	49	1.8	0.9	2.7
Fenton, Paul		RW	78	1.3	1.4	2.7
Reeds, Mark		LW	80	0.5	1.7	2.2
Bodger, Doug		D	65	1.4	0.7	2.1
Dore, Andre		D	64	1.2	0.8	2.0
Tookey, Tim		LW	38	1.4	0.4	1.8
Graham, Dirk		RW	37	0.6	0.4	1.0
Brownschidle, Jack	D	37	0.0	0.8	0.8
Chernomaz, Rich		LW	3	0.3	0.2	0.5
Stewart, Bill		D	39	-0.9	1.2	0.3
Markell, John		RW	5	0.2	0.0	0.2
Norwood, Lee		D	7	0.0	0.1	0.1
Tudor, Rob		C	2	0.0	0.0	0.0
Michayluk, Dave		RW	3	0.0	0.0	0.0
Ganchar, Perry		RW	7	-0.1	0.1	0.0
Callander, Jock		C	17	0.8	-0.8	0.0
Brooke, Bob		C	72	-2.9	1.1	-1.8
				80	60.3	54.5	114.8

Playoffs, First Round

Once again, the Westerns have the particular misfortune of encountering Wayne Gretzky's Oilers in the first round of the playoffs. Once again, Saskatoon manages a single one-goal victory, taking game three 3-2, but losses of 5-7, 3-7, and 1-3 end the Westerns' season. Ekrub is convinced that someday, Saskatoon will have the manpower to face such a strong foe. But today is not that day.

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In The Crease (10/10)
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