I am not saying, or predicting for that matter, that the High Prairie Regals will end their 29-year Campbell Cup drought this season. It is hard to believe that an entire generation of Regals fans has grown up never watching the team win a title.
However, I will say they are a very dangerous team to play come the playoffs which begin Jan. 30.
I could point out they have the league’s worst defensive record, and how no team has ever won with that stat. Actually, I could produce several other stats that would deem the club has no chance.
What makes this club so dangerous is potential. They are loaded with skilled forwards and can run and gun with the best. If you get into a high-scoring game with this group you are in trouble. You are playing right into their hands.
It is difficult to gauge exactly what each team in the NPHL has this season. The fact is everyone is beating everyone. On any given night, it seems one team can beat another. Even the weaker East Division teams have scored wins over the powerhouse West.
What makes it so difficult to predict what will happen this year is the fault of the NPHL teams to make the regular season worth anything. Everyone makes the playoffs. All the regular season does in determine seeding.
A look at the win-loss records of home teams proves the point. The East is 15-14 at home but 9-23 on the road. The West is 17-3 at home and 8-9 on the road. How do you explain the fact that [barring a forfeit] Grande Prairie is the only team in the NPHL without a road win this season? Scheduling quirks aside, however, as they have not played in Manning, Grimshaw or High Prairie yet this season.
Teams are not competing at the level fans deserve when they go on the road. Too often, skeleton crews are attending games making it easy pickings for the home teams, especially in the West. The only teams who have iced decent lineups consistently on the road this season are Fort St. John and Manning.
Do you think for a minute these teams would be minus a few of their better players if a playoff spot was on the line?
It brings us full circle back to the Regals. With their best lineup on the ice, there is no way they should lose to Manning or Grimshaw, the latter being their likely playoff opponent. If they defeat Grimshaw, which I expect, they meet Falher.
It is where the fun will start.
Falher is more battle tested and have more players who have played a higher level of hockey. Their recent track record is superior to the Regals.
However, if the Regals can channel their potential into energy they have a chance. The Regals may not have as much firepower as Falher, but what they do have is a nasty streak. They can be tough, dirty [they lead the NPHL in stick fouls] and vicious to a point. They are not a fun team to play against.
Add to that the High Prairie players who play in Falher and you have the makings of a me-against-the-world mentality.
It may not be enough, but it could make things very interesting. I can’t wait.
Go, Regals, go!