Blazers’ deal with Hitmen in 2010 bearing fruit two years later
By Marty Hastings - Kamloops This Week
Published: March 23, 2012 11:00 AM
Updated: March 23, 2012 11:55 AM
It might not have been the most popular trade Craig Bonner has ever made, but it’s sure paying off now.
The Kamloops Blazers’ general manager traded forwards Tyler Shattock, 19, and Jimmy Bubnick, 18, and defenceman Zak Stebner, 19, to the Calgary Hitmen in January 2010.
Shattock, the Blazers’ captain, and Bubnick were second and third in team scoring — and the playoffs were just around the corner.
In return, the Blazers received centre Chase Schaber, 18, and defenceman Austin Madaisky, 17, both of whom had tremendous upside, but were unknown to the Kamloops fan base.
“When you trade two of your better players, initially people are wondering if you’re packing it in for that season and what you’re doing,” Bonner said.
“But, you have to make a decision at some point, if you’re going to build around younger players and character people.”
Kamloops made another first-round exit from the playoffs in 2010, while the Hitmen won the WHL championship before being eliminated in a Memorial Cup semifinal.
Last season, neither the Hitmen nor the Blazers qualified for the post-season.
This season, it’s a different story.
Kamloops is having one of its best seasons since the glory days of the mid-1990s, and the team likely wouldn’t be where it is without Schaber and Madaisky.
“We have Schaber, who’s now our captain, and Madaisky is our most valuable defenceman and an assistant captain,” Bonner said.
“We’re reaping the benefits of that deal.”
The deal was made, in large part, to change the culture in a dressing room that had become accustomed to losing.
Bonner knew Schaber had been pegged as a leader at a young age.
The Red Deer product was named captain last season, but the transition into a leadership role was not smooth.
There were rumblings on Mark Recchi Way that Schaber might be stripped of the C for the 2011-2012 campaign, with forward Dylan Willick, 19, rumoured to be a likely replacement.
“What got him in trouble in the past is he was almost too competitive at times and he wears his heart on his sleeve,” Bonner said of Schaber.
“But he’s grown and tapered that down a little bit.
“There is a saying there are born leaders, but I think people have characteristics of leadership and they also need to be taught how to lead and our staff has done a good job doing that with him.”
He might have tapered his aggression down, but that does not mean the 6-foot, 200-pound centre lost his belief in tough love.
Just ask 19-year-old defenceman Tyler Hansen, who ended up on the seat of his pants after an altercation with Schaber at practise earlier this season.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound blue-liner has not looked back since returning from neck surgery this season.
He led all Blazer defencemen in scoring, registering 50 points, 13 of them goals, in what marked the most productive season of his WHL career.
The rangy defenceman finished the season plus-20, and he is making the Blue Jackets’ brass look smart for picking him 124th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
Madaisky remembers what was being said about the trade when it happened two years ago.
“I wasn’t here before the trade, obviously, but, coming in and talking to the guys, it seemed like the dressing room definitely changed a bit for the positive,” he said.
“This is probably the closest team I’ve ever played on in my life.”