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Hockey Challenge 2014

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A bag full of thoughts.

I have not posted lately, so here is a lot of thoughts that have been roaming through my head.

This weekends games

On Friday, I completely disagreed with coach.  He liked our play in the first two periods, I didn't.  I thought we had very little passing that was working.  We are especially afraid to take shots the were open.

On Saturday, I thought we played a very good game, just couldn't get that early goal.  And the bounces just didn't seem to go our way. 

Coach starting to get a little frustrated

In the past couple of game reports, Coach K has used some choice and carefully thought out wording to describe the officiating and the league's discipline.  I don't recall seeing or hearing him do this before.  Is this maybe his way of working the officials.  If so, it doesn't seem to be working.

2 things I think this team is missing

1) A 2nd line that can score consistently.
2) Confidence.

The power of one goal

What would one extra goal a game mean to this team.  Score one more goal turns the 1-0 Everett loss into a tie or win.  It turns a shootout loss to Spokane into a win.  It turns last nights OT loss to Kamloops into a win.  Well, that's anywhere from 4 to 5 points.  4 points would move them from a .455 winning percentage to a .636.

This is one reason why I am not worried about the team.  Youngest team in the league, in most games, only giving up 3 goals a game.  It is just like Coach K said at the beginning, this team will get better and better as the season goes on, and maybe a few of those one extra goal per game start going in.

What I am worried about

One thing I am worried about is the teams home record.  Granted, one OT loss, one SO loss, one very close loss to Kelowna, and a one goal loss to Everett.  What do all those games have in common, one goal (see above).

Of course the other thing that has to worry everyone is giving up the first goal in all but one game (I think that is the stat).  Always playing from behind is never a good thing.  But, also a positive can be taken out of it.  In most of those games, they have come back to tie or take the lead.  That is a great positive for a young inexperienced team.


This team love to pass.  I think this is one way you can tell the players are lacking some confidence.  How many times have players decided to make a risky pass when they have a great shooting chance of their own?  Of course, I would rather have this then a bunch of puck hogging "me-first" players.

I love how this team is starting to stick up for each other.  Quite a few times over the past week, players were having liberties taken against them, bad hits, scrums, and every player on the ice comes flying to to help out.  Even look at both of new defenders (can you call them new still, with all the playing time), right there in the middle of things.  Heck, even Barzal was starting to the get a little physical over this last weekend.

The new guys

Speaking of new defenders, how much locker room credit did Allan get. Get off airplane, meet with coaches, play 50% of a game.  I am sure when he heard he had been traded, that is what he predicted was going to happen.  I really like his passing.  Very hard, crisp, usually on the stick, and more times then not to the right player (making the best move).

Ottenbreit, I love the way he plays physical.  He is not afraid to step in any situation.  Another great pickup in a trade that Farwell has pulled off.

Irresponsible reporting

Take a read of this article.  Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the Wardley hit and suspension, how can anyone claim this is anything but a sensationalized piece of writing with a goal of getting a writers name out and more clicks on a webpage.

The choice of wording is questionable at best. Particularly, the last paragraph where it basically says the best thing for Petan to do is rest and make sure he is 100% fully recovered and there is no need to rush him coming back.  I guess a couple days on the bus fixes everything.

Hypothetical situation

We all know Ethan Bear is out with an upper body injury, and that he was held out of the game where it appeared he took a punch while on the ice.  He sure was bleeding heavily.  Let's just say that hypothetically, his injury actually started when he got checked from behind by Bjorkstrand the game against Portland.  I am by no way saying this is the case, as there is no way Seattle puts him back on the ice if he was hurt.  But lets say the check from behind started the injury process, then Wardley is sitting out 7 games, in part according to the WHL website as "The hit resulted in an injury to opponent".  But Bjorkstrand is playing while Bear is injured.

WHL Website

Everyone these days is ripping the new WHL website apart for having problems working, or even showing any information.  I for one am going to praise them.  In the computer development terminology, there is a term called "beta testing".  This is the process of finding bugs and issues while a product is in development. Normal companies might have 1 or 2 testers.  The WHL managed to get a few thousand of these people to work for free.  Cue the sarcasm.


During the game October 3, Seattle played in Portland, and I did not attend.  So as usually, I brought up the game on the net.  Since I dont appreciate listening to the play by play pair in Portland's side of the game, I tried to get the away audio.  But for me, there was no drop down selection ability.  I checked with three other fellow viewers, and it was all the same for them.  In the press release dated September 18th, it stated "Fans can still take advantage of the live support chat option, accessible directly from theWHL LIVE site, which instantly connects viewers to a customer support team member to resolve any issues."  So I decided to use this to find out why.  I tried 2 different times, and both times, no customer support person ever joined the chat window.  So I sent them a support email through their system, and got an email back with my ticket numebr, and a message saying would get back to me very shortly.  Funny thing happened Saturday night, October 18th.  I got the response.  It explained that they were sorry I missed the game "which I never said, and did not miss it", and that is was caused by an issue in the venue.  They have offered me a free live game.  So it took 15 days to offer me a free game, and not deal with the actual issue.  I guess nothing changes with the WHLLIVE.



Sigh. I guess people can't behave while I'm on vacation. Comment moderation turned on.


Tbirds add a Defender and the Wardley Hit

Just released, Seattle has added Scott Allan from Medicine Hat for a 5th round bantam selection. I know very little about Allan other than he is listed as being 6'5" and 235 lbs (sounds like a Farwell guy to me) and is listed as being from Colorado.

I would have to imagine this is a response to the anticipation that Evan Wardley will be suspended, Ethan Bear is injured or perhaps both.

I saw the Wardley hit over the weekend and here is my take.

In 2014, the world has been successfully conditioned to believe that everything is seen as either black or white. People seem to believe that things are either one way completely or they are the other way completely. This is quite unfortunate because I think most, if not all, things are actually colored quite gray.

To me, this is another one of those situations.

I watched the replay late that night and saw the hit, I watched the replay in slow motion probably 25 times. Portland announcers, writers and even the team itself called it a "dirty hit" while some in the Seattle fan base feel strongly it was a clean hit.

This is what I believe:

- Petan puts himself in a vulnerable position in the neutral zone in a tight space where he has to know he's going to get hit and really does nothing to protect himself from potential contact. Does this make it his fault? No. Does this mean he shares a little bit of responsibility? I say yes. Petan is already a small target at 5'9" and lowers his body position even more to receive the puck and enter the zone. This isn't his fault, I'm just stating it as a point of fact.

- Wardley has good gap, doesn't take unnecessary strides, lowers his body, keeps his skates down and his elbows tucked. All consistent with a good clean hit. Where I can see Wardley went wrong is that a split second before contact, his body position goes from a low crouch to a higher and extended position. This, in combination with Petan already being a lower target means that point of contact is going to be high.

Seattle is saying the point of contact is shoulder to shoulder or shoulder to chest whereas Portland is going to say the point of contact is the head.  I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. It looked to me like Wardley got quite a bit of body but also probably made contact above the shoulders because of the nature of Petan's position.

Do I think he'll be suspended? Yes. He's a repeat offender and the responsibility is always going to be placed on the hitter not to make contact high. Do I think it was a "dirty hit" as the Winterhawks official press release stated? No, I absolutely do not.

Wardley is trying to make a hockey play. That's his game and that's what his game should be. Portland is a finesse team and as such they believe they are should be entitled to skate around the ice without so much as a tiny bit of contact here and there. Well, it doesn't work that way. Some hockey players and teams are tough and strong and physical and their game is to make sure Nic Petan thinks twice about receiving a blind pass over the center of the ice. That. Is. Hockey. 

The NFL has a defenseless receiver rule. Hockey has no such rule. You are allowed to hit a player cleanly and legally even if he has hit head down and doesn't see you coming. I cannot tell you how many times we were told as kids to "keep your head up" at all times and be aware of your surroundings.

Wardley's hit will receive discipline and I would probably agree that it will be justified. But Portland's announcers, writers and front office should probably take a really close look in the mirror before casting casting aspersions on him. 

They should look no further than the hit delivered by Oliver Bjorkstrand to end the overtime period. Bjorkstrand's hit came well after the horn (Wardley's was during play), was delivered to an opponents back (Wardley's was not) and used the boards to inflict added harm (Wardley's did not). Both hits were delivered to opponents who were unsuspecting but Petan probably should have expected contact in the neutral zone during the middle of a play where Ethan Bear can reasonably expect not to get checked well after the horn sounds.

Portland fans, announcers and team officials will most certainly disagree but in my opinion the intent of the Bjorkstrand hit was far worse than Wardley's.

Shades of gray...


Kevin Wolf update

A tweet went out last night from Danny Mumaugh indicating that Kevin Wolf is no longer with the team.

No official word from the Thunderbirds on how this decision came about but it would seem as though perhaps Wolf got caught up in the numbers game (as we suspected) and left either on his own or was released.

With the addition of Turner Ottenbreit and the return of Evan Wardley, Seattle has 7 healthy Defenders and would have had 8 once Shea Theodore returns from injury.

Wolf never could quite get his skating up to speed and that probably hurt him in the end. He seemed like a good kid and we wish him well.


A look at older experienced scorers for the team

Everywhere you look, Seattle fans seem to think this team needs a proven top end scorer.  So I decided to take a look at the league, and what might be out there.

As you will see from the lists below, there are really only 11 players that I can see being realistic trade targets.

This is based on a few factors but for the sake of argument we're going to mostly exclude players in the same conference and players on teams we think probably won't be looking at trading skilled veterans.


To trade now or later

I am curious why everyone assumes that a trade is coming this week.  Yes, Wardley was returned back to Seattle.  Yes, Seattle now has 4 20's.  But unless Hickman is ready to come back, why make a move?  You have until October 15th, so why rush things.

I have no knowledge of how close Hickman is to returning to the lineup and the WHL weekly update has him listed him as day to day.  Maybe when it gets updated today, it will say he is back.  But I will remind people that last year, it listed Honey as day to day for periods of time also.

So what if he is NOT back this week? Why force a trade if you don't have to?  Take the extra time to make sure you have your mind made up.  Maybe spend more time deciding on a goalie.  Maybe a better offer will come along if you wait a little while longer.

Lets say you have decided on your three 20's, and Kozun is one of them.  You wait another week, and a team comes along and offers two first round picks for him (AKA Marcel Noebels).  Does something like that change your mind?

Lets say you wait a week, and play both of them this weekend, and one gets hurt?

Of course, if Hickman is ready to come back this week, then maybe this post is all for not.

Editor's Note: Adam Henry has been traded to Saskatoon for 17 year old defensemen Turner Ottenbreit.


Opposites Attract

Everyone knows that in life, opposites somehow find each other.
The first two games for Seattle fit that almost perfectly.

Here were some opposites I noticed

A win.
A loss.

A road win.
A home loss.

This one goes a little below the belt, but a championship banner raised.
No banner raised.

A great drive (or ride in my case) home.
A grumpy and terrible drive home.

Shots on net.
Shots wide of net.

Shots attempted.
Looking for the perfect shot.

Shots picking corners.
Shots hitting the center of the goalie (give him lots of credit).

A powerplay that worked.
A powerplay that struggled.

Now to be fair, here are some thoughts on what didn't change between the two nights

A very bad slow start by Seattle.
Kolesar knows how to hit and fight.
Kozun looked good.
Seattle has an energy line, and when they come out, the hit, hit, and hit.
Coach K changed the lines up in the middle of the game.
Large loud crowds.
Big 50-50 pots.

My father pointed out after the game to me, just to try and cheer me up that Seattle's goals against average is 1.0 and Seattle's goals for average is 2.0.
If you continue that the entire season, you will win every game.


Tbirds shutout in home opener, zone entries

I'm running a little short on time today but I wanted to put up some quick thoughts about last night and give everyone the zone entries.

  • Seattle started a bit flat (shocking considering the pomp and circumstance surrounding team intros) and it cost them an early goal. It was a goal that wound up being the game winner for Everett as Silvertips goaltender Carter Hart was fantastic earning the 26 save shutout.
  • While Hart was very good for Everett but I also thought Seattle put way too many shots right into his chest and at the end of the game wound up putting way too many shots wide of the net.
  • Obviously, nobody scored last night for Seattle but this was precisely my concern going into the season. There are going to be nights when the top line doesn't score and you're going to need some other guys to step forward and last night that didn't happen.
  • Taran Kozun played well again and I see no reason why he won't be the guy going forward. Hard to imagine them not keeping him around.
Zone entries. Several disclaimers here. One, we cannot possibly make any conclusions from these numbers. It is one game. This was more for my enjoyment and for fun to see what it looked like within the context of one game. Two, I'm sure I missed things. So don't assume these are 100% accurate, they aren't. Three, tracking these numbers is very subjective. For instance, Jared Hauf and Ethan Bear both took shots from around center ice that resulted in shots on goal. I think I counted the Hauf one as a dump because we had players going towards the zone and I didn't count Bear's because everyone was going for a change. These kind of judgment calls happened all game and it's pretty tough. So what I might consider a carry-in and a dump is not going to be exactly the same as other people.

With all of that out of the way... here you go.

20 Dumps
8 Possessions Gained (40%)
4 Shots (20%)

32 Carry-ins
22 Possessions Gained (68.75%)
10 Shots (31.25%)

Seattle actually carried the puck a lot more than I thought they would. That's a really good sign. They started the game dump heavy and that is when they fell behind and had only 3 or 4 shots. As the carries went up, the shots went up. However, the 31.25% shot percentage on possessions gained is way too low. Gropp, just for example, had 5 carries that only resulted in 1 shot on goal. Seattle has to find a way to get the puck to the net more. As you can see, the way to do that... is NOT to dump the puck in more. As low as I thought the "Carry Shots" were they still outpaced the number of shots on goal gained with dumps.

Barzal, not surprisingly, lead the team in carries with 8. 7 of those resulted in possession and 4 resulted in shots on goal. Pretty good on a night where he can definitely play better.


Starting the Season with a W

Seattle got exactly what they needed with a season opening win last night. It won't go down as the most impressive victory in club history, with Portland missing somewhere around 57 NHL draft picks from their lineup (is that number right?). I also don't think we can make very many assessments about the team after a win over a shorthanded Winterhawks club but it certainly isn't a bad sign. After all, Seattle is also without Justin Hickman and Shea Theodore who are obviously impact players for Seattle. In case you didn't hear the news, Seattle will be without Theodore for a while now as he suffered an elbow injury at Anaheim Ducks camp on Sunday and will be out around 4-6 weeks. He should be back around November.

I had trouble completely analyzing the game because the WHL video feed was still so choppy I thought this was 2002. Maybe my internet is just bad... I don't know.  Here were a few observations that I came up with.

  • One of my biggest concerns going into the season was team defense and that concern was shared by Jon as well. I don't think we can declare this issue dead but the team defense last night was pretty excellent. Seattle had a few bad giveaways early in the game but generally kept things pretty buttoned up after that. Taran Kozun held quite a few shots to prevent rebounds (after a few shaky early moments as well) and did exactly what you would have expected from a 20 year old goaltender.
  • I thought Ethan Bear was particularly solid. What a good hockey player he is at only 17 years old. Even when he made minor mistakes it seemed like he quickly covered them up. The sky is the limit for him and someone is going to get a really good player in the NHL draft this year. He may not have the high upside of a guy like Theodore or Mathew Dumba but I'm going to be very surprised if he doesn't carve out a nice NHL career.
  • Keegan Kolesar nearly won a foot race to a puck with Keoni Texeira when he started the race behind him. We've heard (and seen) that Kolesar's fitness and skating had improved but it was one of those moments where I said to myself "whoa". He also scored earlier in the game on a nice deflection in front of the net. If Seattle is going to prove me wrong and make it to the #4 (or higher) seed for the playoffs, guys like Kolesar will have to play like this on most nights.
  • I liked what I saw from Alex True and Florian Baltram. Baltram even played with the Barzal/Gropp line for a while.
  • Nice to see Seattle mix it up a little bit with Portland. For several years now that has not been Portland's calling card and it seems like whenever Seattle can get Portland to mix it up a little bit the results favor Seattle. When Portland stays out of the scrums, they've generally won. Jared Hauf got things started early with Alex Schoenborn and kept things feisty through the "multiple fight situation" in the 2nd.
  • Ryan Gropp, 1 game, 2 goals. Maybe 35 goals was too conservative. I hope he pots 40.
  • Mathew Barzal, 1 game, 2 assists. Ho Hum.
Everett is not missing nearly as many players as Portland is, so I expect this game to give us a little better indication of where things stand. Preseason games really don't matter very much but Seattle has to be feeling a little bit stung by losing back to back games to Everett to end the preseason.

I will be attending a rare game without kids tonight so I'm actually going to try to track some entry stats. Don't expect that to be a regular thing (unfortunately) but we'll see what it looks like.


Jon and Tyler Predict The Future, Part 2


I really hope they don’t make a decision on someone like Kozun based on a few exhibition games and a small handful of regular season games. I will ask you, what seems more indicative of his talent level? The .934 he posted in 10 games in January last year? The .928 he posted in 24 games with Seattle? Or a few exhibition games in August/September? I’m hoping the bigger sample size wins out but you never know. In fairness, he did post a .897 in 29 games with Kamloops but he posted a .914 in in 20 games with Kamloops the year before.  

With that being said I think they keep Kozun to stabilize the defensive core, I think they keep Wardley (assuming he doesn't sign a contract) because his skill set is more difficult to replace and I think Hickman stays because he’s your Captain and forms a really good line with Barzal and Gropp when healthy.

You mentioned Coach K’s “system”… I think I’m generally a pretty knowledgeable hockey fan but I admit that I still have so much to learn. One thing I can’t quite figure out is what kind of style of play Coach K is really trying to establish with the players. That’s not to say that I think anything he is doing is wrong, it’s clear that he values hard work, get pucks to the net, etc. Those things are pretty obvious. To me, style goes well beyond the obvious things, it moves into more complex ideas such as, do they want to trap in the neutral zone? Do they want to chip and forecheck in the corners? Do they want to keep and carry the puck into the offensive zone? Do they hang back and take care of defense first or do they play a wide open style?  If you were to ask me to describe the Steve Konowalchuk Thunderbirds, I’m not sure I could describe any kind of calling card. So educate me Jon (I smirked writing that), tell me what the identity (playing style) of the Coach K Thunderbirds is?

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