Dayna Fjord

Portland Winterhawks notebook: the Mike Johnston executive tree

Since he joined the Portland Winterhawks in 2008, Mike Johnston has done a good job of recruiting players to come and play in the WHL with Portland. Along the way he has brought in a strong group of individuals to help him in scouting and recruiting. The success that he has had has not gone unnoticed.

Of those that have worked under Johnston with Portland, three are now general managers in the WHL in their own right with Matt Bardsley being named the GM of the Kamloops Blazers last week. There is another as well that is a head coach in the NHL.

Lets take a look at the executives who worked under Johnston and where they are now.

Matt Bardsley

Garry Davidson

Davidson followed Johnston to the Winterhawks after Johnston left the associate coach position with the L.A. Kings to go to the WHL. Davidson had been owner, general manager and head coach of the BCJHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks but left to be the director of player personnel for Portland from 2008-11. Then in February of 2012, after original general manager Doug Soetaert was let go, Davidson took over as general manager of the Everett Silvertips. In 2017-18, his sixth full year at the helm of the ‘Tips, he led them to a Western Conference title, eliminating Johnston and the Winterhawks on the way.

Travis Green

Green also joined Johnston’s staff in 2008, after playing his last year of professional hockey with EV Zug in Switzerland. He was assistant coach and assistant general manager for five seasons with Portland. After being at the helm for the 2012-13 Ed Chynoweth cup winning team, he went on to coach the AHL’s Utica Comets. He took the Comets to the Calder Cup final in 2015. In April of 2017, Green was promoted to head coach of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks.

Grant Armstrong

Armstrong spent four seasons as head scout for the Winterhawks, starting in 2008. He then left to join the Victoria Royals where he was director of player personnel for five years. After Kelly McCrimmon left his post with the Brandon Wheat Kings to be assistant general manager of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, Armstrong was hired as GM. He is still in that role with Brandon.

Matt Bardsley

He rose through the ranks for the Winterhawks after coming on as a scout in 1999. He was named head scout after Armstrong left and eventually director of hockey operations and assistant general manager. Just last week Bardsley was named the general manager of the Kamloops Blazers. He is a rare commodity in that he did not play in the league and had to work his way up over a period of 19 seasons with Portland. At one point, the scouting department had been cut back so much that it was just he and Ken Hodge going around scouting.

So as Johnston looks to replace Bardsley, he can bring up these names to anyone he is recruiting. If he decides to stay in the organization and promote from within, he could look at one of their head scouts, Darwin Bennett, who Johnston had a lot of praise for when I interviewed him a few weeks ago. Brad Davis and Mike Coflin are head scouts in their regions as well and could be options.

Other Winterhawks notes:

-Bardsley immediately has to look at filling the head coach position that Don Hay vacated after retiring. Just how he will go about finding someone to replace the guy who has the most wins in WHL history, is a good first test. Could he look at the two assistant coaches he worked with in Portland in Danny Flynn and associate coach Kyle Gustafson? Flynn has about as strong of a coaching resume as you can have in major junior hockey. He was assistant coach and GM for and a Memorial Cup championship with Sault Ste. Marie. He also was an assistant for a QMJHL title with Moncton, before winning in 2010 as both general manager and head coach of the Wildcats. He then went to Saint John where he won another QMJHL title in 2017.

Last summer he left Saint John to join his Dartmouth, Nova Scotia friend Johnston and get a taste of the WHL. I do not believe anyone with the Winterhawks expects Flynn to be back as an assistant next season as he will likely be offered one of the head coaching spots.

Here are the head coach and general manager jobs that were/are open this summer:

Saskatoon Blades

Head Coach: Mitch Love – came over from the Everett Silvertips where he was associate coach and assistant GM.

Prince George Cougars:

General Manager: ?

Kamloops Blazers

Head Coach: ?

General Manager: Matt Bardsley – came over from the Portland Winterhawks.

Seattle Thunderbirds:

General Manager: Russ Farwell has talked about stepping down but wants to find a replacement before doing so.

Edmonton Oil Kings:

Head Coach: ?

General Manager: ?

Swift Current Broncos:

Head Coach: ?

Manny Viveiros was also director of hockey operations as the Broncos did not have an official general manager but rather shared the duties.

Vancouver Giants:

General Manager: Barclay Parneta – came over from the Tri-City Americans where he was assistant GM.


Podloski passes:

-Ray Podloski, who played for the Winterhawks from 1983-86 died on May 29th of a heart attack. Podloski played two games for Portland in the 1982-83 season as a 16-year-old. He had one assist and got into a single playoff game that year as well along with a single game in the Memorial Cup tournament that Portland won. Podloski then joined the team full time in 1983-84 and notched 46 goals and 50 assists for 96 points in 66 games. That was good for third on the team in scoring behind Grant Sasser and Jeff Rohlicek. He then led the team in playoff scoring with 22 points in  14 games. Portland fell in a five-game sweep to the Kamloops Junior Oilers.

Podloski was drafted 40th overall by the Boston Bruins that summer then came back to Portland and led them with 138 points in 67 games. That was good for fifth in the WHL and nearly double that of the next highest scoring Winter Hawk. He then put up four points in Portland’s six-game loss to the Kamloops Blazers.

In 1985-86 Podloski again led Portland in scoring with 134 points in 66 games. He then piled up 10 points in seven playoff games as Portland again fell to Kamloops in the playoffs. Portland hosted the Memorial Cup that year and he had seven points in four games for the Hawks, who fell in the tie-breaker to – you guessed it – Kamloops.

Podloski finished with 369 points, good for fourth all-time in franchise scoring. He went on to play eight games for Boston before going to Europe and playing professionally there until 2005.

The 52-year-old Podloski is survived by a wife of 29 years and a daughter plus numerous other friends and family. Our thoughts are with the family. It is expected that Portland will do something to honor him at the start of the 2018-19 season.


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