Do you remember when the Prince George Cougars captured their one and only banner?

Most, if not all, Cougars fans will recall the first-place finish in the BC Division occurred in the 2016-17 WHL season.

Prince George (96 points) held off a charge from the Kelowna Rockets (95 points).

While the Cougars faltered in the first round of the playoffs, losing in six games to the Portland Winterhawks, the Rockets went on to the Western Conference final.

That year, Kelowna beat the Kamloops Blazers in six and Portland in five before falling in six games to eventual WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds.

I bring this up because the Rockets, at that time, were coached by Jason Smith.

While Smith may be a common name, this is the same Jason Smith that has been hired as the Cougars associate coach to be the right-hand man to head coach/GM Mark Lamb.

In his first two seasons as the Kelowna head coach, Smith guided his team to records of 45-22-5  (2016-17) and 43-22-5-2 (17-18).

The Rockets finished first in the BC Division in Smith’s second season before losing four straight in the opening round of the playoffs to the Tri-City Americans.

Kelowna got off to surprisingly 4-10 slow start in 2018-19, but what was even more stunning was that the Rockets pulled the plug on Smith and replaced him with Adam Foote.

If you are curious, the Rockets compiled a 24-22-6-2 record under Foote, which was good enough to miss the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.

I know Smith was a well-respected NHL player in an exclusive club of over 1,000 games played.

(He is tied for 321st on the all-time list suiting up in 1,008 regular season contests)

Obviously, I do not have first-hand knowledge of how competent Smith is as a coach, but we can all see he has a record to be proud of.

He was an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators for two seasons prior to posting an overall regular-season record of 92-54-10-2 as head coach of the Rockets.

Lamb isn’t bringing in a stranger.

When Lamb was an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers, Smith was a defenceman on the team.

“Mark and I have known each other for quite some time, going back to when I was still playing, and I have a lot of confidence in our relationship. Knowing his work ethic and seeing his commitment to Prince George and the future this team has, it’s an exciting opportunity for myself,” said Smith.

Two weeks ago when Lamb named himself head coach I was surprised he went in that direction, but now knowing that he is bringing in Smith as an associate, the picture is much more clear.

Lamb turned down the Oilers as an NHL assistant in part because he likes control of a hockey team.

In Prince George, he has that, with only the owners to report to.

The hiring of Smith gives Lamb options.

When his GM duties call for him to be away from the team, Lamb should have a comfort level in leaving Smith to call the shots until he returns.

If Lamb and Smith have chemistry and are of the same mindset, Mark at some point may hand over the head coaching duties to Jason.

There is no substitute for experience, which often leads to success.

The Lamb-Smith combo comes with no guarantees, but based on both of their track-records, the long-term on-ice future of the Cougars appears to be in good hands.

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One of the really “good guys” in Prince George, Nick Drazenovic is a victim of the Lamb-Smith era.

Drazenovic was the Cougars director of player development after he was hired 2 1/2 years ago by former GM Todd Harkins.

The 32-year-old, who grew up in College Heights, before playing for his hometown team and going on to a lengthy pro career, won’t be back with the Cats.

While that disappointment is still fresh in his mind, Drazenovic has decided to stay in Prince George and spend the winter running Northern Elite Hockey.

When Drazenovic joined the Cougars he adamantly stated that he would not consider joining another WHL team should an opportunity arise.

While he may or may not still feel that way, Nick is too good a hockey man to permanently close the door on the junior ranks.

At the very least, he should keep that door ajar.

 

FROM THE QUOTE RACK:

Texas Rangers pitcher Jesse Chavez was frustrated with the strike zone last Friday, so he removed his glasses and offered them to plate umpire Rob Drake as he walked off the mound. Drake didn’t throw him out. Apparently, he didn’t see Chavez’s offer.

*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com

In light of the US Women’s Soccer Team’s success, there is a growing outcry for pay parity within the sport. But for now, USA Soccer head Carlos Cordeiro is taking a hands-off approach.

*Contributor Marc Ragovin of New York

Phil Mickelson lost 15 pounds before the British Open with a six-day fast. All he had to drink during that time was some water, coffee and a little tee.

*Comedy writer Jim Barach http://jokesbyjim.blogspot.ca/

Steph Curry heard that there was going to be a live reenactment of the first moon landing on the event’s upcoming 50th anniversary. He wanted to go, but Southwest Airlines told him they don’t fly to Fantasy Island.

*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

A Lithuanian couple won the 28th annual World Wife Carrying Championship in Sonkajarvi, Finland this month. Just think of it as the flip side of U.S. soccer, where the women carry the men.

*Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times http://www.seattletimes.com/author/dwight-perry/


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Researchers say profanity-laced language has an anaesthetic effect on injuries. They also report NHL players have an extremely high tolerance for pain.

*Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

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Hartley Miller is the news and sports supervisor and morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97.
He also is the 94.3 radio colour commentator for P.G. Cougars home games.
His column appears Fridays on myprincegeorgenow.com.
Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to hmiller@thegoatrocks.ca