(Courtesy of Rob Henderson, Brandon Sun) — Now that the Brandon Wheat Kings have passed the two-thirds mark of their campaign, it’s clear the Western Hockey League club is on the way to one of its best regular-season performances ever.
The question is, how high can they go?
One number is already out of reach — the Canadian Hockey League record 125 points put up by the legendary 1978-79 Wheat Kings. Beyond that, every other regular-season mark set by the team is still in play, with the franchise’s seventh 100-point campaign all but a certainty. With a 35-9-3-2 record after Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Swift Current Broncos, the Wheat Kings are on pace to finish with 110 points and only have to play roughly .500 hockey for the rest of the season to crack the century mark.
Given the steady diet of opponents with records of .500 or worse that Brandon will face the rest of the way — 14 of its final 23 games — the current squad seems destined to join this list of elite Wheat King teams (with points, records, goals for and goals against):
• 1976-77 — 116 points
(54-10-8), 447 GF, 242 GA
With the trio of Bill Derlago, Ray Allison and Brian Propp finishing 1-2-3 in Western Canada Hockey League scoring, all-star Glen Hanlon in net and the legendary Dunc McCallum behind the bench, the Wheat Kings set a then-record for points that is still the second-best mark in franchise history. Brandon rolled through the first two rounds of the playoffs with a 9-2 record before falling 4-1 to the New Westminster Bruins in the final.
• 1977-78 — 106 points
(46-12-14), 424 GF, 299 GA
While not quite as dominant as the season before, the Wheat Kings still finished first overall in the league, with Propp and Allison finishing 1-2 in scoring, while Brad McCrimmon was named the WCHL’s top defenceman. The playoffs turned out to be a disappointment as the East Division held a round robin, with the Wheat Kings, Flin Flon Bombers and Regina Pats all going 4-4 and Regina advancing on the tiebreaker.
• 1978-79 — 125 points
(58-5-9), 491 GF, 230 GA
The gold standard of Wheat King teams, the 1978-79 club produced four first-round National Hockey League draft picks (Propp, McCrimmon, Allison and Laurie Boschman) and dominated the regular season, with Propp, Allison and Boschman finishing 1-2-3 in league scoring. Brandon rolled through the WHL playoffs with an 18-4 record before losing a 2-1 overtime heartbreaker to the Peterborough Petes on a controversial goal.
• 1995-96 — 105 points
(52-19-1), 369 GF, 231 GA
After flirting with glory the year before by advancing to the WHL final and making a Memorial Cup appearance, the 1995-96 team returned Brandon to the top of the WHL. Coach of the year Bob Lowes relied on 100-point scorers Mike LeClerc and Peter Schaefer to help the Wheat Kings finish first overall in the regular season. Brandon was a remarkable 16-3 in the playoffs, topping the Spokane Chiefs in the final and making it to the Memorial Cup semifinal before falling 4-3 to Peterborough.
• 2008-09— 101 points
(48-19-3-2) 295 GF, 220 GA
Kelly McCrimmon coached the 2008-09 Wheat Kings to the first of back-to-back 100-point seasons, although it wasn’t enough for the East Division pennant as they finished two points behind the Saskatoon Blades. Brandon cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs with consecutive sweeps, before being swept themselves by the Calgary Hitmen in the conference final.
• 2009-10 — 104 points
(50-18-1-3) 321 GF, 201 GA
With the terrific trio of NHL draft picks Matt Calvert, Brayden Schenn and Scott Glennie leading the way, the Wheat Kings returned to the top of the East Division and won the first two rounds of the playoffs before again falling to the Hitmen in the conference final. The Wheat Kings got some revenge as the Memorial Cup hosts, ousting the Hitmen 5-4 in the semifinal on Jay Fehr’s overtime goal, before falling 9-1 to the Windsor Spitfires in the final.