Imagine the Anaheim Mighty Ducks without Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya-or can you? What do you do when half your goals are taken away?
The University of Calgary Dinosaurs men's hockey team faces just such a situation as the season comes closer to its beginning, the only difference being the expectations of a sounder defence than the Ducks.
"We lost quite a few key guys from last year," said Tim Bothwell, entering his fifth year as Dinos head coach. "Jason Krywulak, our all-time leading scorer, centreman Todd Johnson, number six on that list, and our left-winger [captain] Trevor Couldwell. They're a huge loss for us offensively.
"We have just three [forwards] remaining from last year," continued the coach. "We have two guys who have tranferred in from Mount Allison University who will give us some experience. Aside from that, we're gonna have a whole new slate of forwards, we're going to be very young and inexperienced up-front."
Wingers Don Clipperton and Gavin Hodgson and defenceman Brandon Bagnell land here as a direct result of the dismantled hockey program at Mt. Allison. The three fourth-year transfers will bring experience and toughness to the club.
Besides all of their experience and skills, leadership roles could be expected from them to fill some of the holes on offence and help out the up-and-coming youngsters. On defence, Bagnell, an Atlantic University Athletic Association all-star, will strengthen perhaps the strongest blueline in the west.
Two words make the defence corps so formidable--Shane Zulyniak.
The fourth-year veteran is cornerstone, and with our last line of defence, the goaltending tandem of sophomore Scott Rideout and backup Paul Klemke looking better than ever, things seem to be shaping up well.
"We'll be good in goal and good on the blueline too," said Bothwell. "I think that's a good place to start when we're so young up-front. It'll give our forwards a good backing and allow our forwards to develop."
As part of pre-season preparation, the Dinos played against the Southern Alberta Institue of Technology on Friday, winning a sloppy game 75, and losing a heartbreaker to Mount Royal College on Sunday.
"We actually played a better, sounder game on Sunday," said Bothwell. "We just made a few too many mistakes that we can't afford to make. We gave up a breakaway with 1:20 left and they scored, which was the difference."
The mixed results on the weekend produced mixed feelings from Bothwell regarding the progress.
"The effort was good from all the guys in terms of the intensity and energy level," said Bothwell. "We would have obviously liked to win two but [it was] not a bad start."
So, in the overall scheme, exactly how does this new squad shape up against, say, last year's starting lineup? Could it repeat the Canada West semi-final appearance, or maybe even better it?
"We definitely don't have the experience and the pure offensive talent that we've had the past few years at the forward positions," said Bothwell. "But, in the end, we will be a better team than last year. I'm confident of that."
"Where we end up fitting in will partly be determined by how much effort we are willing to put in, how quickly we learn and how much commitment we have," said Bothwell cautiously.
The season opens at Father David Bauer Arena Thanksgiving weekend against the University of Manitoba Bisons. Until then, they get another shot at Mount Royal this Thursday, 7 p.m. at Centennial Arena.