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An Island Perspective with Dan Marshall


Friday, September 5th – Lots to Like on the Island

The Island Division is shaping up to be highly competitive this season. Nanaimo comes in as the defending regular season champions, Victoria is gearing up to host the RBC Royal Bank Cup, Cowichan has a largely veteran line up and Alberni Valley should be on the rise.

With 36 games within the division these teams will see a ton of each other and they all have some strengths and weaknesses.

In goal, the known commodities are Matthew Wong and Chris Rawlings. Both are 20 year olds that were clear number ones last season, even though Wong has moved from Victoria to Port Alberni and Rawlings has gone from Powell River to Cowichan. Evan Smith was the backup in Nanaimo last year and it’s too early to tell if he can takeover the pressure of being a number one man in Nanaimo. Anthony Grieco is a wild card with the Grizzlies but he does have Major Junior and college experience with both the St. Mike’s Majors and the University of North Dakota.

If you believe that knowing the league and having BCHL experience are important then Rawlings and Wong have the edge, if you think having the continuity of playing for the same team means something Smith might do well and if you believe that Major Junior guys are superior talents then it’s Grieco. my thoughts are Rawlings and Wong are the top guys at this point.

Back on the blueline Cowichan has a bluechipper heading in with Zack Currie, Nanaimo has highly touted newcomer Anders Franzon, Victoria has acquired Forsythe and Baldwin and Alberni is expecting a big jump from Ross, Pineiro and Raibl. Depth wise Victoria may lead the way with five rearguards with BCHL experience and Nanaimo will be close with four returning from last year’s trip to the league final. Cowichan has a solid top three but then question marks after that.

Up front, Derek Lee will be tough to stop and getting him is a huge coup for Victoria. Cowichan has sniper Mickey Spencer and is expecting a lot from ex-Warriors Chris Zaires and Kevin Walrod. The Clippers lost a lot of dynamic scoring and the return to form of Russell Goodman is vital after a knee injury. Rookie Kurtis Bartliff is a wild card for Nanaimo. In Alberni Valley Witt, Kerr and Patzer will have to increase production and watch newcomer Jackson Garrett who turned a lot of heads in the VIJHL.

It’s hard to imagine Victoria not shooting the lights offensively, I don’t know that the Clippers can score at last season’s pace and I don’t have a good read on the mix in Cowichan. I expect the Bulldogs to be better up front but I don’t think they have the elements for a first line that will scare people – they’ll need to do it by committee.

It’s difficult to remove bias because I see one team day in and day out, that’s the Clippers. That being said, with Bill Bestwick’s track record I think they have a great shot to win the division. The team with the best shot to dethrone the reigning Coastal Conference Champs is Victoria, if they find chemistry they have all the elements to be the first team in five seasons to finish ahead of Nanaimo. Cowichan will be in the mix as well with a veteran laden squad and Alberni Valley should be improved and take a giant step forward but I believe will be a year or two away from competing for a divisions title.

Dan Marshall, the radio voice of the Nanaimo Clippers, will be blogging the BCHL's Island Division during the 2008/09 season. Check back often for Dan's insights and the latest news from Vancouver Island.