TPS has learned from multiple sources in the WHL that the Portland Winterhawks could be the next CHL club to face sanctions for player recruitment.
The first question we have is who is doing the investigation? Is it a WHL hired investigator? The OHL has a "Director of Security and Enforcement" who was the lead man on the Spitfires' case.
But not every powerhouse that is backed by big bucks should be cast in the same light. That would be discounting brilliant managerial work by some who simply make good hockey decisions, or have people who do that for them.
In the case of Portland, here is their latest big recruit and a few situations that some might be suspicious of, and reasons why there might not be anything wrong with it at all.
Seth Jones joined the Hawks this year after a trade with Everett during the 2012 post season.
- Did the team speak to Jones before the trade?
- Did he simply realize that the Winterhawks have developed some pretty good blueliners lately?
- Did they offer him more money to play in Portland after the trade?
Depending on who you talk to, Jones is a stud no matter where he plays. Some wonder why Everett wasn't his choice as it didn't seem to hurt Ryan Murray who went second overall. But a case can be made for the likes of Joe Morrow and Derrick Pouliot in Portland. As for his NCAA options, he had narrowed his choices down to the University of North Dakota. Formerly the Fighting Sioux. UND is an unreal program and playing there is never a wrong choice, but Portland isn't exactly second banana. They've been to the final, two straight years and some (like me) have them getting back there again this year. Maybe Jones just saw the writing on the wall that they were going to be good, especially with him and jumped on board.
You can bring up other players if you want, Nino Niederreiter, Sven Baertschi ... is Portland the new Swiss bank account? Or did their scouts do a great job tapping a rarely tapped market?
They were in the wrong by inviting "RED 23" otherwise known as Alesio Bertaggia, to a camp at one point and were dealt with according to the WHL. How they were dealt with is a mystery. Bertaggia for what it's worth is now in Brandon and has 72 points in 82 games with the Wheat Kings.
Trust me, bringing any of this up is not fun, I know some scouts with the organization and they do a terrific job, so I'm hoping this doesn't taint the job they've done. But if there is anything wrong it is surely well above them on the food chain.
It's long been a complaint from some south of the border that CHL teams offer more then just scholarship money which in the case of the Spitfires wasn't identified as the case of violation.
Hopefully if there is an unlevel playing field it's stopped and becomes a game of drafting and developing, rather then writing a cheque.
Emails to the WHL have yet to be returned.