Two games into the Western Hockey League season the Spokane Chiefs rolled the dice.
Spokane gave up two defensemen to pick up one of the most talented – and controversial – forwards in the league.
The Chiefs sent veteran Michael Reddington, 19, and rookie Landon Oslanski, 17, to Lethbridge for Kyle Beach, 19.
“It’s necessary with the numbers we had on ‘D,’ ” Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz said. “We were going to be moving young guys to play at lower levels, which I don’t think is right if they’re ready to play, which they’ve proven they are. We had to open up some room. Any time when you’ve got young guys pushing old guys, it’s a great situation and yet it makes for an unhappy situation for some players.”
Beach, a former first-round bantam pick and the WHL Rookie of the Year with Everett in 2007, has 187 points (80 goals) in 179 career games and was taken 11th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2008 NHL draft. But the 6-foot-3, 210-pound left wing has also amassed 583 penalty minutes.
He was involved in an infamous incident in a January 2008 game when some pushing and shoving among several Everett and Spokane players ended with the Chiefs’ Chris Bruton flooring the SilverTips’ Beach with a punch. Bruton was suspended for two games and Beach ended up with a concussion.
“We view (Beach) as a competitor, as an intense individual and an energetic person,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “We’re hoping we can channel that at times a little differently. We don’t foresee any problems at all.”
The Chiefs return seven of their eight defensemen from last season when they led the league with fewest goals allowed but had several young players waiting in the wings. Meanwhile, one of their major concerns was scoring.
“When we decided we had to trade a ‘D,’ we looked at our needs and said we wanted a top-six forward and we also wanted to get bigger,” Spletz said. “We got a top-three forward who is as big and as physical a forward as we have in our league. … I don’t think we were tricking anybody with the players we gave up, but we knew to acquire a player of this stature, we were going to have to give up good players as well.”
Beach should arrive before practice today. Sauter said with two practices before Saturday’s home opener against Tri-City, Beach is going to get a look with both top centers, Mitch Wahl and Tyler Johnson.
“We’ll see how that jells on the ice,” Sauter said. “It probably won’t be perfect Saturday night, but any time you add a player that has that much hockey sense, he’s going to find his way around and make good plays. … We feel like we’ve made our team better right now. In the future, time will tell.”
More than goals will determine that.
“Kyle will start here with a clean slate,” Speltz said. “He’s older, he’s more mature. I think he wants to do the right things. We’re comfortable he wants to be a pro. I think he understands now after being at two camps with Chicago … I think he understands more and more what it takes to be a pro.
“I’m comfortable with the leadership in our room he’s going to know the expectations in Spokane and he’ll understand that.”
The Chiefs are celebrating their 25th season in the WHL with numerous promotions. It starts with the home opener, when fans receive a commemorative puck.
Beginning Oct. 10, fans can help select the Top 25 Chiefs in 25 Years. Voting can be on-line at the Chiefs’ Web site or at the Arena.
Any players who get into a fight better get down to business.
The WHL has adopted new rules about fights: no prefight “posturing” and “preening;” no removal of helmets; no fighting immediately after a faceoff; and no throwing an opponent to the ice during a fight.
The fallout is likely to be more bruised hands from hitting helmets but should have little effect on the game.
Tri-City is the first visitor to the Arena for the 18th time in 20 seasons. The Americans drew 4,812 for their home opener last weekend, a 7-1 win over defending WHL champion Kelowna. … The Saskatoon Blades have dealt forward Chris Langkow, 20, to the Everett Silvertips for two bantam draft picks. Langkow was acquired by the Blades from Spokane at the 2007-08 trade deadline. … Calgary’s Tyler Fiddler is the first WHL player of the week after scoring four goals in two games.