Why was one home not so sweet?
In an unusual twist, the 2017-18 Winterhawks were a very good team on the road but struggled for consistency at home — particularly in games played at Memorial Coliseum.
Including the playoffs, Portland won only nine of 25 games played in the coliseum this season.
Mike Johnston, the Hawks' VP/GM/coach, says the struggles at the coliseum will get a close look as part of the club's annual review of its entire program.
It can be challenging to make quality ice in the building that is pushing 60 years old. But the Winterhawks traditionally have been successful there.
"We'll take a close look at that and see what the reasons were, why we were so good on the road — which is great — but also why we weren't as good at home, especially at Memorial," Johnston says. "Was it routines? What was it? We've got to look at every area of what we do and how we do it."
Success with imports
The 60 Canadian Hockey League teams — consisting of the Western Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League — are each limited to two import players. The Winterhawks have a history of finding impact players from Europe.
With Joachim Blichfeld and Henri Jokiharju expected to turn pro, the Winterhawks will select two new players this summer. Based on their regular-season record this season, the Hawks will be drafting late in each round.
In his early years with the Winterhawks, Johnston focused on players from countries that draw less attention than, for example, Russia. Nino Niederreiter and Sven Baertschi (Switzerland) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (Denmark) were terrific finds.
The preparation for the import draft is multifaceted and year-round.
"We start our identification process almost a year ahead of the draft and compile our own list just by talking to agents, talking to scouts, talking to NHL people about Euros and trying to get a list of guys we think can help our program and a list of players who might come over," Johnston says.
One change this season: For the first time in four years, teams can select import goalies. Johnston expects that some teams will pick goalies, and teams with returning imports will pass, giving Portland a chance to land two talented skaters.
Johnston says having friend Danny Flynn on the coaching staff was a benefit for himself and for the club.
This was Flynn's first season in the WHL after extensive success coaching in the Ontario and Quebec junior leagues.
"It was really, really good to have a coach of that level come in and work with our program. I know he really enjoyed it here," Johnston says. "We're kind of seeing what options are available for him next year. Hopefully, he'll be back for another year. He's a good coach, and he's probably going to get some calls."