SIOUX CITY | Recent trades involving former Sioux City Musketeers who originally came in trades are designed with much more than the future in mind.
J.T. Stenglein and Riley Bourbonnais are the most notable of the Musketeers who have been traded within the last week. Stenglein, who originally came in a late-November trade for Cameron Brown, was dealt to Waterloo for rookie Kyle Schmidt along with the BlackHawks’ first- and second-round selections in the 2013 United States Hockey League Entry Draft.
Monday of this week, Bourbonnais was sent to Lincoln for a first- and second-round Entry Draft selection. The Musketeers received even more for Bourbonnais, who came in an early December trade from Cedar Rapids for David Goodwin.
Lincoln also gave the Musketeers affiliate defenseman Stuart Pomeroy. There’s also a conditional pick, which means if the Stars reach the playoffs, they’ll give a player to the Musketeers, but if not, the Musketeers will receive an additional draft pick.
“It’s thinking about the future, but it’s also thinking about our fans right now and wanting them to see good hockey the rest of the year,” said Musketeers head coach/general manager Brett Larson, who has also traded forward Tanner Pond to Green Bay, defenseman Michael Holland to Chicago and forward Eetu Karvinen to Brookings (S.D.) of the North American Hockey League over the last eight days.
“I feel like the best chance to give us good hockey are young, motivated kids who are hungry, excited and have something to prove,” Larson added. “They want to earn scholarships or they want to show their teams they’ve committed to that they are getting better.
“These aren’t the leftovers. The group we have kept is the group we want to move forward with as an organization now and in the future. I think fans could see the way we played during the weekend that we are going to play hard the rest of the year.”
Fans at the Tyson Events Center saw two of the recent acquisitions dump pucks into the net last weekend. Schmidt scored a second-period goal in last Friday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Lincoln and a night later, former Green Bay Gamblers rookie Trevor Olson scored 20 seconds into a 2-1 loss to Western Conference leader Sioux Falls.
With only four veterans on the 21-man roster, Sioux City is perhaps the USHL’s youngest team. Considering the level of play last weekend against veteran teams that have combined for 45 wins, Larson isn’t concerned his 6-20-8 team being overmatched.
After all, Sioux City, even in the prior without Bourbonnais (16 goals, 16 assists) and Stenglein (15, 18) has led (or tied) in all but four games this season. Four of the wins for a squad that has suffered 17 one-goal losses are against teams battling for playoff spots.
“We’re more than capable of winning 20 games in the second half, because we certainly have the work ethic and the attitude,” Schmidt said. “I feel we’re one of the hardest-working teams in this league. Certainly, when I played at Waterloo, I felt Sioux City outworked us every game.”
Second-year forward Josh Erickson, the Musketeers’ newly-named captain, was thrilled to see Schmidt and Olson score goals, calling it “a confidence booster” for the squad. Erickson missed parts of the last six games with concussion symptoms and is excited to play tonight’s game at Muskegon (19-13-5) for not only that reason.
“The long road trips are good for team bonding and it’s good to get some of the bugs out of the new guys,” said Erickson. “We’ve done some team bonding stuff with them. We watch them in the locker room, making sure they’re doing stuff with the guys, like going out to eat. We want to make sure they’re getting comfortable and to make sure they’re having a good time.”
Erickson said Larson explained the reasons behind the trades to the players. Schmidt saw for the first time the business side of the USHL and said one of the hardest things he saw was veteran Waterloo Coach P.K. O’Handley (346 wins in 11 seasons) set his glasses down on the desk while telling him about the deal from the highest-scoring team in the league (150 goals) to the second-lowest (84).
Schmidt said he “turned the page quickly." He felt when he scored the goal it was a “welcoming” part of being on his new team and is glad about Olson's new success as well.
“I still feel this gives us best chance to win,” Larson said. “It energizes the locker room. It gives young kids an opportunity to get more responsibility, which I think motivates them a lot. It’s been very hard to bounce back from all of the one-goal losses adding up. I feel the young kids, with their energy and excitement is what’s going to turn this thing around.”
Meanwhile, the value of Stenglein and Bourbonnais brought players who Larson feels can build the organization for now and the future (see separate story). Schmidt and Olson will return to the Musketeers next year and Larson will have three first-round and three second-round draft picks, which he feels will build up potential long-term success.
Musketeers ownership, Larson said, has been supportive throughout the trading process, sharing his views about long-term success.
“Hopefully with these trades, we’re going to get into the next draft and build those lists even more,” Larson said. “For us, it’s been a process. This year hasn’t gone like we had planned, but now we’re faced with a major, major opportunity to really do something to put this organization onto the track of what I think will be long-term success and not just short-term success.
“If we can keep developing this corps of guys right now, this should be one of the best returning corps in the league next year. So we’ll be starting next year way ahead of everyone else.”