I have a bet you can finally hang your hat on.
As sure as darkness creeping in around 4:30 p.m. during those short winter days in Alberta, so too is this conclusion.
Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter will most definitely make a trade in the next 14 days.
History, as they say, repeats itself and in my glorious gamble, I believe it shall come true again.
The veteran bench boss never likes to sit on his hands during this time of year and with the Rebels firmly entrenched in the WHL playoff conversation at the halfway mark, that won’t change this season.
As of Thursday, with a 20-10-2 record through 32 games, the Rebels sit tied for first in the Central Division at 42 points with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Edmonton Oil Kings. Red Deer has a game in hand on Lethbridge and four on the Oil Kings. Edmonton and the Rebels play each other twice in three nights this weekend.
The Rebels are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games and play seven times in the next 14 days. They kick off the second half Friday night against the B.C. Division-leading Vancouver Giants.
But, I digress from my big gamble.
Over the last four seasons, between the end of the Christmas trade freeze (Dec. 17-27) and the trade deadline, Sutter has had a habit of making big deals.
He has been very active with at least three trades each season over that span and was the most active in 2015-16 with four swaps.
That deadline is important because it centered around Red Deer hosting the Memorial Cup in 2016. What hosting did was force the Rebels to be competitive for that run and additionally create a need to reposition themselves in the following seasons.
When they traded draft picks and good players to acquire the services of Adam Helewka and Jake Debrusk in hopes on winning the Memorial Cup on home ice, they knew down the road they would have to require assets down the road.
— Regina Pats (@WHLPats) January 10, 2017
At both the 2017 and 2018 deadline, Sutter did that. He picked up five draft picks in those two seasons, while also adding a huge future piece in the blockbuster Josh Mahura deal when he nabbed Dawson Barteaux. Lane Zablocki, also acquired in the deal was a world-beater during his short stint in Red Deer, which pushed them into the playoffs.
Sutter is almost always able to accomplish a two-fold goal with trades.
Most, have positioned the Rebels to make a playoff push, either to get in or make a deep run. In the last two seasons, Sutter has also used the deadline to position his group for the future, acquiring draft picks and younger players that will have a longer WHL shelf life.
This season, Sutter already made a huge swap bringing in Cam Hausinger and Brett Davis, so some might doubt the ability to make another impact deal.
The deal to bring in two high-quality, top six forwards who are also eligible to play here next year in their overage season is a classic example of the two-pronged deal Sutter likes.
Where the Rebels can add at the 2018-19 deadline is up for debate.
In my opinion, finding a backup goalie with playoff experience should be a priority.
Many teams will be hunting for goaltending help at this time of year, but in Byron Fancy, Red Deer has a 17-year-old goalie on the bench with just seven WHL games under his belt. Sutter will need some more security behind starter Ethan Anders, who has played 27 of the Rebels first 32 games. Anders, 18 has also played only three career playoff games, one of which was in relief.
I think it’s unlikely they add to the blueline, but another centre might be in the cards.
Oleg Zaytsev has looked ordinary since being separated from Brandon Hagel, which could also be a 17-year-old learning his role and the game in North America. Davis and Reese Johnson are really solid down the middle, so it might just be a matter of striking the perfect balance in the top six.
Regardless, with WHL trade talk likely to heat up as the calendar flips next week, I have no doubt the Rebels will make an addition to their roster.