Evaluating the Western Royals

Updated: January 6, 2014
Western Royals NLSHL | Newfoundland Sports Talk

The Western Royals have struggled to perform to expectations in the Newfoundland and Labrador Senior Hockey League. They have been a team that has undergone many changes and this has left many scratching their heads as to what team will show up on the ice.

Formally the Corner Brook Royals, that saw a combined Corner Brook-Deer Lake squad take to the ice after the Deer Lake Red Wings collapse from the league, the Western Royals hoped that a change in venue would bring a change in fate. While the Royals played in the Pepsi Centre, they were plagued with poor attendance in the stands that left the team’s executive scratching its head as to what was going wrong.

Despite the support from Ross Coates as owner and general manager by signing big named talent such as Donnie Gosse and Terry Ryan, the Royals continued to struggle and the fans expressed their displeasure by staying away. The public dispute over game broadcasts which saw CFCB radio station being prevented from carrying the games on local radio did the team no favours. The change in venue 50 KM up the highway to Deer Lake and renaming them the Western Royals did the team no real favour.

The latest team has saw the Royals become bigger and stronger with players such as Nathan Saunders, former NHL toughman Darren Langdon and Ryan Penney. There’s no denying the team is sending a message to the rest of the teams that they better be prepared for some hard hitting games when the Royals are in town. They’ve also reached out and signed Colin Power who can play physically as well as brings a different skill mix to the team, the 2013-14 version of the Royals is much better than what fans have seen in the past.

On the offensive side, you have Darren Landgon, Justin Barbour and Michael Hynes. Barbour and Hynes lead the Royals with 19 points each, with Landon having 11 points. Not bad for their first line.

The addition of import Parker Deighan has seen the Royals improve on the offensive side. Deighan has racked up 16 points in just 8-games and is expected to be a force once he hits his full potential and gels with the remainder of the team. He also brings a solid game to his position as defenceman. Stephen Simms and Scott Doody are also showing consistent numbers that have made them fixtures in the Royals lineup.

The disappointment for this season so far has to be the performance of veteran Mark Robinson. Robinson has collected just 2 goals this season and has not played close the potential that saw him win the NLSHL scoring race just a few years back. If the Royals are to make a run for the playoffs and have any success, Robinson has to dig deep and start contributing on the score sheet.

A bright note in the Royals lineup has to be import goalie Bryan Gillis. He is definitely one of the top 3 goalies in the league and has the capacity to steal the big game when required. Unfortunately, there are times when the play before him leaves him with little opportunity to make the big safe when the Royals play breaks down defensively.

On the coaching side, Ed Kearsey brings years of experience with him to the bench. He is one of the sharpest hockey minds in the province and has a way of igniting teams he coaches to do great things. It’s been obvious so far this season that Kearsey has struggled with finding the right mixture in the Royals lineup but this is likely to change as the push for the playoffs start. Look for Kearsey to settle into a groove and use his vast knowledge to take the Royals through the remainder of the season and into the playoffs.

The age of the Royals players is higher on average than the other teams in the league. While this brings experience it also means that their opponents have younger and faster skaters. If the Royals are not able to play a physical game, it is possible their opponents can and will just run them down with speed. It has happened already this season.

Newfoundland Sports Talk prediction for Western Royals in the 2013-14 Newfoundland Senior Hockey League season: 4th place finish, elimination in the first round of the playoffs.

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