The Prince George Cougars will finish second in the BC Division and fourth in the Western Conference of the WHL.
This is not a Friday, the 13th prediction, it is a spoiler.
The Cougars are in a race with Everett Silvertips, Vancouver Giants, and Tri-City Americans, for fourth in the conference standings.
The four teams are separated by just two points.
Prince George is in a much better position today to beat out the other three teams than they were when I wrote my last column a week ago.
Just prior to the January 10th trade deadline, the Cougars upgraded their roster by acquiring 19-year-old sniper Zac Funk from the Calgary Hitmen in exchange for Carter MacAdams, a pair of second-round draft picks, and a fourth-round pick.
This move should give the Cats secondary scoring to a team that is already averaging nearly four goals per game (144 n 37).
TRADE: The Cougars have acquired F Zac Funk (03) from the Calgary Hitmen in exchange for F Carter MacAdams, a 2023 2nd round pick, a 2024 2nd round pick, and a 2024 4th round pick.
— Prince George Cougars (@PGCougars) January 10, 2023
Yes, P.G. was a buyer, not to the degree of the top three teams in the conference, Seattle, Portland, and Kamloops but its roster is considerably better than at the start of the season.
The Giants were a seller, dealing away their best player and captain (F) Zack Ostapchuk to Seattle while the Silvertips unloaded their top two players D Olen Zellweger, 19, and F Ryan Hofer, 20, to Kamloops.
The Americans made some minor moves to upgrade but they have a much more difficult schedule than the Cats the rest of the way.
It is unrealistic for P.G. to catch Kamloops, Portland, or Seattle so now the objective is to finish 4th, get home-ice advantage in the first round, and take its chances of at least winning a round (something the team has not done in 16 years).
Sure there is still a long way to go, but the Cougars have put themselves in the driver’s seat with 31 games remaining.
— My Prince George Now (@mypgnow) January 11, 2023
Of the 31 left, their next six are on the road against Central Division teams, including Edmonton (6-33-1), the worst team in the league.
After that, 19 of their next 23 are against teams below .500, including seven against lowly Victoria and five against slumping Kelowna.
(The Cougars beat the Rockets 3-0 on Tuesday, which was the trade deadline day).
Prince George will not win all 12 of those against the Royals and Rockets but on paper should score a victory in the vast majority of them.
Look at it this way, the Cougars only have five games remaining against the dominant teams in the west; zero against Seattle, two against Portland, and three against Kamloops.
How does that compare to the Americans’ schedule?
Glad you asked.
Tri-City has 32 games left, with 13 of them against Seattle (6), Portland (5), and Kamloops (2).
The Americans only have one game remaining against Victoria although they have seven left against last-place Spokane.
Either way one looks at it, the Cougars have eight fewer games than the Americans against the big three of Seattle, Portland, and Kamloops.
Spin it how one wants, that is a significant edge to Prince George.
(Note: Everett has 10 games remaining against either Seattle, Kamloops, or Portland with half of them against the first-place Thunderbirds. Vancouver only has three left vs. either the Thunderbirds, Blazers, or Winterhawks but they were in a selling mood dealing Ostapchuk to Seattle for three first-round picks. The Cougars are also 4-1 this season against a Giants team they match up very well with)
I realize just because Vancouver and especially Everett were sellers does not mean they will automatically lose most of their remaining games but realistically they are weaker today than last week so their expectations should be lowered.
There are no sure things but if the Cougars, with their current lineup, do not finish fourth, or at worst fifth (and avoid a first-round match-up against the Thunderbirds, Winterhawks, or Blazers) in the conference, then it has been another non-successful, under-delivering season for the Cats.
Playoffs will tell the story and the Cougars should be able to put themselves into a position to win a round, providing they play to the potential of their talent.
Sure, the big three teams are loaded, but at least Prince George is now in the thick of the battle and not just another team desperately trying to sneak into the playoffs.
Cat Scan podcast:
The U-18 @cariboocougars coach and @PGCougarsAlumni pres @tyler_brough is this week’s guest on the Cat Scan podcast. Tyler discusses the recent losing streak, Winter Classic outdoor game in FS James, Zdeno Chara, alumni golf tourney & recruiting against the academies for players. https://t.co/T1jchaqDag
— Hartley Miller (@Hartley_Miller) January 12, 2023
FROM THE QUOTE RACK:
The Georgia Bulldogs winning the College football championship with Stetson Bennett at QB is becoming old hat.
*Contributor Marc Ragovin of New York
Shortly after Houston’s win over the Indianapolis Colts in the season finale, the Texans fired head coach Lovie Smith. The front office was reportedly upset with Lovie for costing the team the first pick in the NFL draft.
*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California
Houston Texans fired first-year coach Lovie Smith Sunday night hours after the team beat the Indianapolis Colts to finish 3-13-1. Did Houston fire Smith because a loss would have given the Texans the #1 draft pick instead of #2 because the Chicago Bears also lost?
*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com
Tennessee’s NFL team set a league record for total lost man-hours due to injury over the last two seasons. Watch for the follow-up movie: Dismember the Titans.
*Western Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com
Hartley Miller is the news and sports director/supervisor plus morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97fm. He is in his 10th season as the radio colour commentator for Prince George Cougars’ home games. Hartley has been on the airwaves in PG since 1979 and is the author of You Don’t Say (sports quotes).