Ryan Pilon (Lethbridge Hurricanes)
The exit of Ryan Pilon from the Lethbridge Hurricanes should raise a bunch of red flags for the Western Hockey League.
Pilon, a second year defenceman and a 2015 NHL draft prospect told the Hurricanes on Tuesday that he was leaving the team and returning home to Duck Lake to await a trade.
He is the third Hurricane to leave the team since the season began.
In mid-October, veteran forwards Sam McKechnie and Jaimen Yakubowski demanded a trade from the team. They were shipped to Seattle as a combo in a four-player deal shortly after their requests.
It is surprising that after scoring 26 and 32 goals, respectively last season that they had combined for two goals and two assists in 11 games with the Hurricanes this year.
Those aren’t the stats of happy and established WHL players. Clearly they saw the issues and wanted out. Did Pilon sense that as well? Are there more players to come that will want out?
The WHL might be hoping that it is just the dismal 2-13-1-2; seven-point season is the reasoning behind three alternate captains leaving the team, but are there other issues behind closed doors?
The Hurricanes are in serious financial trouble. They announced a loss of $602,000 from the 2011-12 season and a combined loss of $1.25 million in the last two seasons.
The team is community owned, just like the Moose Jaw Warriors, but they proved they could make a profit. Putting a successful and exciting product on the ice helps makes WHL teams profitable.
The Hurricanes haven’t been successful or competitive in years. They made it to the Eastern Conference semifinal in 2008-09, but have since missed the playoffs in the last four seasons.
After a 66-point season last year, the Hurricanes’ board decided to change up the coaching and leadership.
In the off-season, they fired coach-general manager Rich Preston and assigned his duties to Brad Robison, who was the assistant GM. He then hired former NHL defenceman Drake Berehowsky as the head coach.
That has proved unsuccessful. The team is dismal and has lost three top players only 17 games into the season.
If the team cannot successfully turn their fortunes around by putting together a better on-ice product quickly, maybe the board should realistically look at the offer that NHLer and Hurricanes alumni Kris Versteeg has put together.
Versteeg is a Lethbridge native and wrote an open letter to the Hurricanes’ fans and shareholders in the Lethbridge Herald on Oct. 25.
He passionately talks about wanting to keep the team in Lethbridge and making it a successful WHL franchise.
The majority of WHL teams are privately owned and are usually the most successful in the league. If the Hurricanes had Versteeg and his partners back them, they might rise from the ashes.
Although the Hurricanes president, Brian McNaughton told the Lethbridge Herald that the team isn’t for sale and they have no interest in entertaining the offer from Versteeg, maybe they should because it appears the board can’t right the ship.
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