Tribe release Doucette, re-assign Halbgewachs and Gardiner
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Jayden Halbgewachs, left, races for a loose puck against the Swift Current Broncos in pre-season action.
Every year the excitement for the start of a new season is tempered somewhat by some of the hard decisions that need to be made.
Monday was one of those days as the Moose Jaw Warriors released veteran defenceman Braiden Doucette. In addition to giving the 18-year-old his outright release, the Warriors also re-assigned 16 year olds Jayden Halbgewachs and Ryan Gardiner to their midget AAA clubs.
“It’s a difficult decision and it was a very difficult meeting this morning,” said Warriors general manager Alan Millar. “Braiden is a quality young man and he’s been around our team for three years. You get to a point at 18 where there’s no longer the right opportunity there for him.”
Doucette played two full seasons with the Warriors, but only managed two goals and 10 points in 109 regular season games. He was a minus-25 a year ago as the Warriors struggled.
“We didn’t see his game take that step in terms of where we needed to be with an 18-year-old. He needed to play in our top five and at the end of the day we thought he would be a depth guy and in-and-out of the line-up,” said Millar.
The Warriors tried to trade Doucette to another WHL team team, but with so much uncertainty on other team’s roster they weren’t able to get anything done.
“A lot of teams are still evaluating. A lot of teams are still carrying eight, nine or 10 defencemen. They’re waiting on 20- or 19-year-olds at NHL camps. There are still a lot of teams giving their 16 and 17 year olds a longer look,” said Millar. “We have given Braiden his outright release so that 21 other teams have a crack at him as a free agent. We’re hoping that that will help him get another opportunity in the league.”
The Warriors have seven defencemen remaining on their roster and are still waiting to see if and when Travis Brown and Morgan Rielly return to their blue line from NHL camps.
“We’re going to carry eight. It’s our expectation that we’ll get Brown back at some point and in the event that Rielly is back then we’re going to have to look at another move to get back to eight,” said Millar.
The situation on the blue line became clearer when Gardiner was returned to the Winnipeg Thrashers.
The 16-year-old defenceman was hoping to crack the WHL roster this season, but Millar tried to lift the spirits of the Winnipeg product by reassuring him that he was in pretty good company.
“I told Ryan to think about Joel Edmundson all day today,” said Millar referencing the former Warrior defenceman who was re-assigned at 16 and was an NHL second round draft pick after his first full season in the WHL.
“With defencemen it’s tough. Joel Edmundson, Kendall McFaull, Travis Brown, all of those guys didn’t play here at 16 and they all did very well.
“These are talented young men who aren’t used to getting cut or released. We tried to make it a positive as much as we could with Jayden and Ryan because they have a bright future with us.”
Millar said that they felt both Halbgewachs and Gardiner could play in the league this season, but are better off spending another year in midget.
“We think both of those kids will benefit at 17, 18 and 19 from another years of midget hockey,” he said. “Development is very important for us. Those are tough decisions and they’re very, very important ones. If you keep a guy you can set him back in his development.”
Halbgewachs was a first round pick of the Kamloops Blazers two years ago who was acquired by the Warriors in the Joel Edmundson trade.
Halbgewachs is still 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds. Millar felt given his skill set it made more sense for him to potentially be a first line centre with the Regina Pat Canadians, play on the power play and be a key offensive player, rather than play a fourth line role and not play every night in the WHL.
“He had an outstanding camp. He showed why we wanted him to be part of the Edmundson deal. He’s going to be a skilled player at 18 and 19 and I anticipate that he’ll put up numbers in the league,” said Millar. “He can play in the league now. The decision wasn’t based on his ability or if he could play in the league as a 16-year-old, the decision was based on if it is the right thing for him to play in the league as a 16-year-old.”
The Warriors are still carrying three goaltenders, but are down to 14 forwards seven defencemen in camp. Millar said there could be some more moves made before the season opens Friday.
“We are hoping to have our roster fairly solidified by Thursday evening,” he said. “There are still some things potentially in the mix in terms of some changes. It could be what it is or there could be some movement.”