Social Icons

twitterfacebookgoogle pluslinkedinrss feedemail


Hockey Challenge 2014

Recent Articles


Tbirds fall 5-2 to Kelowna as Trade Deadline approaches

Seattle falls in Kelowna in front of over 6000 fans at Prospera Place 5-2.

After falling behind 1-0... Seattle tied the game on an unassisted goal from Devon LeBlanc.
After falling behind 2-1... Seattle tied the game on a goal by Jon Parker, his 8th of the season, on an assist from Greg Scott.

After that, it was all Kelowna who showed once again that they are solidly ahead of Seattle at this point in the season. Seattle was still without Thomas Hickey and Jim O'Brien, as the team allowed them to spend some extra time with their families after playing at the WJC during the normal holiday season.

While I think this is a really nice touch by the organization... the Kelowna WJC players were back and the team certainly needs the boost that O'Brien and Hickey would provide. I have no idea if they will be back for the two weekend games at the ShoWare Center.

The good news is... its January 8th and the Tbirds amazingly only have to travel to Canada once more the rest of the season. Yeah... I had to double check that a few times.

The bad news is this...

I was the final piece of evidence to me... that this team needs to be a seller in the next two days before the January 10th trade deadline. If that means Seattle has to part with Thomas Hickey, Jim O'Brien and/or Greg Scott... I think they need to do it and here is why.

This team isn't going anywhere this season. Vancouver looks extremely strong, Tri-City looks better, Spokane looks better, Kelowna looks better and while Everett doesn't look better, Seattle is no sure bet to even catch them in the standings for 5th place in the conference. In addition... Calgary looks just as tough as Vancouver and pretty much handled Seattle at Key Arena earlier in the season. The bottom line is... this team is going to have a tough enough time getting past even Kelowna in the first round if they were to get to the 5th place spot, much less getting anywhere beyond the second round against the other teams in the conference.

I know the franchise and the team are concerned about building a fan base in Kent and getting people to come to their new arena... but here is why they shouldn't be concerned with that.

In sports in general... and I think the WHL is no different... teams will always have their hardcore fans regardless of how the team does and currently the Tbirds are boasting around 2000 season tickets and that number is slowly growing everyday. So their "core" group of fans has already grown beyond what it was while playing at Key Arena.

While playing at Key Arena the team had very important reasons for making sure the team made the playoffs, ensuring them at least two playoff games at Key Arena. This was vitally important to the health of the franchise for reasons I'm not at liberty to disclose publicly. Part of the reason the Tbirds and their fans have constantly been subjected to mediocrity over the past 13 years is because of the situation they were in at Key Arena and the constant need to do whatever was necessary to make the playoffs. Seattle has been extremely successful doing this, missing the playoffs only once during their time at Key Arena (granted... missing the playoffs is a little bit tough to do when most teams make it... nonetheless). What this does NOT allow you to do is be a seller of your better players in seasons where you might not be very good but still have the ability to make the playoffs. Many seasons the Tbirds have been forced to continue fighting for their playoff lives for the sake of at least earning those extremely important home playoff games.....

This is no longer the case... Seattle doesn't NEED those home playoff games. Sure... how much fun would it be to see the Tbirds go on a long playoff run in the first year of the ShoWare Center and feel the noise and energy that most of us have been hoping to see and hear for many years. The probability of this happening with the current team or even with a team that acquires a player or two at the deadline is highly unlikely.

Fans will come and the fan base will grow when the team is really good. Fans don't flock to teams that are kind of good or just not terrible... they flock to teams that WIN and win a lot. This has always been true with sports and it always will be.

Seattle's goal should be to build a REAL winner... a team that can make a run at a league title and possibly a Mem Cup title and it is much more difficult to do that without building and stockpiling assets.

This team does themselves and their fans nothing if they simply stand pat with a team that likely isn't going anywhere past the end of March and they have some very valuable trade pieces that they could move to teams looking for help.

As an added bonus... they might STILL make the playoffs. This team without Hickey, O'Brien and possibly others is still capable of holding on and earning the 7th or 8th spot in the playoffs and giving their fans a little taste of playoff hockey in the new arena.

So... what would I do?

It pains me to say this... but I think the market has been set where you could fetch at least a 1st round talent for Thomas Hickey and possibly a player and a 1st rounder for him. I think the team could add a player or a pick for O'Brien and I think that something useful could also be obtained for David Richard and/or Jacob DeSerres. Hickey will not be back next season, neither will O'Brien and the team will have to make some tough choices on the current 19 year old's where at least one other player would not be able to return.

The team however likely will not do this... I think the franchise believes their best shot at building a fan base in Kent is to do whatever it takes to be successful this season while the "Arena iron" is still hot and I think this would be a big mistake. I have always understood and agreed with the reasons why the team constantly held on each season to their playoff hopes... but doing so now might severely hamper the potential success of the team down the line.

It is a very exciting time to be a Thunderbirds fan... but the time is right to trade some players to prepare for future seasons.

On a separate note....

I want to quickly defend one of the players. Someone posted a message on the WHL message board claiming that during the Chris Cloud - Brandon Underwood fight... that Cloud 'jumped" Underwood as he was taking his helmet off and was also the cause of the cut that Underwood sustained during the fight.

This is horribly inaccurate and is the reason why you should always take the opinions of people on message boards with a grain of salt... in the same way you should take MY opinions with a grain of salt. Cloud, in my opinion, did not jump Underwood in any way shape or form and the fight did not commence until at least a good couple of seconds after Underwood finally remembered to rip his helmet off. In addition to this... to claim that Chris Cloud had anything to do with the cut that Underwood suffered is completely irresponsible when Kamloops beat writer Gregg Drinnan reported that they believed Underwood had been accidentally stepped on by one of the linesmen while trying to pull the two apart. Make no mistake... I never like to see anyone get hurt and the injury to Underwood is a real shame... but neither Cloud nor Underwood did anything that would violate the unwritten rules of "combat". Just my two cents....


Mr Tell13 said...

your analysis of the situation is very sound, even if I don't agree with your conclusions. If they go on a selling spree to build up for a dominating team in 2-3 years I am afraid to see things getting a lot worse next season. In that sense, I am not sure it would be beneficial to the young players on the team right now. In the same line of thinking, I am not sure that putting the team on Calvin's shoulder is such a good idea for is development. I do think he has a great futur ahead of him, but what would be the impact of a last place season on the 17 y/o (something that could definatly happen if the front office decide to go on a fire sale)

then again...i'm just a guy in the blue seats at the Show

Thunnex said...

well technically... so am I!! so your opinion is just as meaningful as mine is.

Well for one thing... I think Seattle has enough talent that they wouldn't just immediately fall to last place next season... plus... they are going to lose Hickey and O'Brien regardless, so moving them along with perhaps DeSerres and/or Richard wouldn't severely hamper next season.

In addition... I think Pickard is talented enough to handle it. I don't think he could carry a bad team to a League Title next season, but good enough to carry the team for short periods of time. Plus... if you look at say a guy like Mucha in Portland who has played the last couple of seasons on terrible teams... his stats have remained remarkably consistent and I would even go out on a limb and say that Pickard is better as a 16 than Mucha was as a 16...

So while its just a hunch... I think Pickard could handle it.

Kodi said...

This is what I wrote on the main forum a few minutes ago and I think it fits here as well:

What is truly more important to you, being competitive (mediocrity) or being Good (which turns in to being bad)

Every year we as sports fan get in to the notion of it's trade time and are we buyers, sellers, or are we just gonna stand pat. It seams that for this team we end up making some smaller moves that won't sacrifice our competitiveness in the future but we don't make moves to have an honest run in the playoffs either.

This year is not a great example as I don't think we are 1, 2, or even 3 pieces away from making a run but we will likely get ourselves in the playoffs and maybe make it through a round depending where we end up in the standings (having to face Vancouver in round one would be brutal).

Here in lies the question though. Are you as a Thunderbirds fan (or if you are another fan the same thing goes for you as well) willing to risk a couple of bad years of hockey in order to try and build a team to make a legitimate run in the future or would you rather have a team that sits in the middle of the pack.

I understand that it's a balancing act in a major junior atmosphere since if you get numerous rock star type players you always risk losing one or more of them to a higher level like Schenn in Kelowna this year. I mean Kelowna was talked about being a favorite at the beginning of the year. I also understand we are trying to build a fan base as well in Kent.

Kodi said...

Now I want to add my comments about trades. While I personally believe that we should be moving Thomas and Jimmy and maybe Scott if we could get something decent for him I would say that depending on Richards injury he might not be able to go anywhere. As for Jacob I think we would be getting low market value for him at this point looking at his stats alone even though he has shown numerous signs of brilliance lately. I would hold on to him for now and take a look during the summer or next years deadline if we are still in the same type of situation.

Thunnex said...

and I think that's a pretty valid point too.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree and was always frustrated that the organization was never able to suffer through the down cycle required to put together a really good time. Perpetual mediocrity has been the Birds theme. However it really sucks to be in a new venue and have to consider this course now. Still I am all for it, the question is will the fans still support the move or understand it. I'd love to see Hickey finish his Career as a T Bird so it would be painful to trade him. We've also put in the time to allow OBrien to develop in the league and it would be painful to trade him. What I need to see is that if they do trade some of our best players that we really get something that actually helps us a bunch in the future. We should remember that a first round draft pick doesn't even guarantee we'll get a player that makes the team with this orgainization. I'm sorry but I'm no fan of Farwell and staff as scouts/drafters. Most organizations see some change in GM over time but we've had the same guy since he's part owner. He's not bad and he's likeable but what most don't realize is perhaps the most important determinate for success is a great GM and Russ just ain't a great GM period. We've had a lot of top 10 picks that haven't worked out anywhere near what they should, same for 2nd round picks. Still we should have some good young players coming in next year and maybe we'll get lucky and the pieces will fall in to place for a change.


Mr Tell13 said...

I don't know that I believe that cycle idea. Althought I am a new fan of the CHL (I'm a huge pro hockey fan from MTL ....don't hold it against me )I don't think you build a champ team as much as it makes itself thru the season.

I do really be lieve that the yong guys would really benefits from hickey, obrian and scott's presence til the end of the year

Anonymous said...

In the CHL the teams have a continuous turnover of players so the cycle thing definitely is a factor. Some teams manage to stay at or near the top without going to far the other way in between but that is very rare in the current league with the way the draft is set up. I agree on the need to develop players, and that a team develops over the course of a season but to really get good may require more than one season and to give young players the ice time to develop often means you pay the price in the standings to some degree while you do it. However even if the Birds acquire a high 1st round pick there is no guarantee that the player even makes the team or has any winning impact if they do. They have to be able to judge talent and granted that isn't easy at the age of 14 when they are drafted but that and some luck are what separate a very good GM from a so so GM.


myhoban said...

Thanks guys, for an interesting and though-provoking dialogue.

Here’s another observation for consideration with regards to the development of talent at the CHL level vs. the traditional professional ranks... Teams at the pro level succeed due to the identification and placement of specific roles, scoring; set up, defense, enforcer, etc. My sense is by the time a player reaches the age of traditional professional leagues they have basically figured out what their role is or will be... (I’m a third line grinder, or a set up guy or what ever). I suspect, however, that at the CHL age level, some of the players haven’t matured enough to recognize their role or how this process is evolutionary. Thus some very talented younger players end up falling short of their potential because they visualize a different role for themselves. Keep in mind many of these guys have enjoyed success at ever level of hockey, and at the CHL they arrive to face the best of the best. It’s a hard transition and I think it sets up less mature individuals for failure (and remembering the age range in this league, the term “less mature teenager” may be redundant).... Why is this an important point? Because the GM has to have an eye for talent, and an eye for self awareness (i.e. players who are mature enough to know their role, what it is now, what it may become, and what the course will take). I believe that the Birds have an opportunity to improve at that level; scouting and identifying talent is one thing, but so too is identifying maturity...

I welcome your thoughts everyone...

WHL Scoreboard