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Let's talk predictions...

I didn't get a chance to really get this up last week because I have been out of town so much in the past couple of weeks but I'm back and it is time to really dig into the season here and start kicking the tires on the 2009-10 version of the TBirds.

Disclaimer: This article is too long to proof so... excuse any mistakes.

Shall we start with the hot button issue?


Seattle boasts a strong coaching staff led by Rob Sumner who has put together a record of 192-131-3-34 in 5 seasons as the Head Coach of the Thunderbirds for .585 winning percentage. Despite starting last season 0-5 and 2-8 in their first 10 games, Sumner guided the Tbirds through a difficult schedule to finished above .500 for the 5th straight season. If you're looking for someone to blame for your various frustrations about the team, you're going to have a very difficult time pointing the finger at Sumner.

John Becanic was added to the staff this off-season after being let go by the Everett Silvertips, where he served as their Head Coach for two seasons after serving as an Assistant Coach before that. Despite finishing under .500 last season, Becanic guided the Silvertips to 11th in Power Play in 08-09 and 7th in 07-08. He will be looked upon to help improve a Seattle Power Play that finished 12th and 16th the past two seasons.

Turner Stevenson returns to the bench for his 3rd season and brings an atmosphere of toughness to the team to go along with a fat Stanley Cup championship ring to the table to speak for his credibility.

Jim McTaggart also returns to the Tbirds to work with defensemen. McTaggart also creates an atmosphere of toughness to the coaching staff having averaged 171 PIMs in 4 seasons in the WHL before also playing 71 games in the NHL and accumulating 205 PIM's in just those 71 games.

Coaching is a strong spot for this team. The coaching staff is filled with experienced coaches who have had various levels of success in Major Junior hockey and the NHL. While a few other Head Coaches can boast of better post season success not many WHL benches are as complete as the one that Seattle has.


This group lacks in top end experience but does contain some potential future stars who will spend this season getting much needed experience.

Prab Rai and Lindsay Nielsen lead the group and will both need to have big seasons to keep Seattle from struggling to score. Rai is a gifted skater who is among the fastest, if not the, fastest in the league. A fantastic passer who had 45 assists in 07-08 added a scoring touch to his resume last season chipping in 25 goals to go with his 45 assists in just 61 games. His 72 game projection would have nearly made him a 30 goal scorer to go with nearly 50 assists. The supporting cast isn't quite the same this season but so it might be unreasonable to expect Rai to make another statistical jump past last season but you can safely pencil him in for 40 assists and 20 goals as the absolute basement for his production.

Nielsen is the ultimate character guy. Already named the Captain of the 09-10 Thunderbirds he is said to have an unmatched work ethic in practice while being a excellent 2 way player on the ice who can win a lot of face-offs and is one of the bets penalty killers in the league. Limited last season by injury his 72 game projection would have put him over 20 goals and 20 assists and given the same reasons as Prab Rai probably shouldn't be expected to surpass 20 goals and maybe 30 assists.

The rest of the group is led by mostly young players and question marks with a few players looking for breakout seasons.

Colin Jacobs is the uber talented 16 year old who needs to take care not to fall into the hype machine that surrounds him. His talent level makes it extremely difficult to project his season numbers but it wouldn't surprise me to see him score 25 goals and add 25 assists (and this was what I thought before he had 4 points in games over the weekend). Current projections of 48 goals and 48 assists likely cannot be maintained but the sky is the limit. Let's put him at 30 and 30 and hope for the high end.

Jon Parker, Brenden Silvester, Charles Wells and Luke Lockhart make up the list of players looking to breakout. Parker enjoyed a solid rookie season getting to 17 goals and 22 assists and should be expected to push 20 goals and maybe 30 assists this season. Silvester and Wells possess big time speed and will also be looking for a breakout campaign. In the new hockey world these players should excel at the more wide open game. Silvester should have little trouble doubling his totals from last season and might be able to push 15 and 15. Wells was hampered by injuries again last season and I truly believe needed another full year to recover from his previous knee injury. In only 56 games he totaled 5 goals and 10 assists and would have projected to nearly 20 points. A double up of those points might be too much to ask but 10 goals and 25 assists would not be out of the question and his 3 assists over the weekend get him off to a good start. Lockhart made himself a fan favorite last season with his complete disregard for his body by crashing repeatedly into defenders on the forecheck. Lockhart had 5 and 10 last season on a line that wasn't exactly known for their scoring (LeBlanc and Cloud) and I fully expect to see him double those totals this season to 10 and 20.

Sena Acolatse gets his own paragraph because I'm honestly not quite sure what to think about his season. Acolatse started the season as a defensemen and made the transition to forward after having trouble on the back line. He possesses a big heavy shot and has the toughness to be an excellent forechecker. I would also place him in the top 5 enforcers in the league and one of my wishes would be to see Doty and Acolatse get into a 2 on 2 with a couple other tough guys. Can Sena take a step forward with a full season up front? Can he get to 10 goals and 20 assists? better? I'm honestly not sure.

The rest of the crew are question marks. Alos has the hustle and determination to be the 09-10 version of Luke Lockhart and has previously scored in bunches in his junior career. Doty is a tough guy who has yet to fight in the first 3 games of the season and I fully expect that to change. Lund was highly regarded as a bantam, but quite frankly has yet to show much at the WHL level. Elliot is a 16 with big time size at 6'5", but this season will be a learning experience for him.

Last season the Tbirds scored 222 goals. Given what we know... that number has to come down in 09-10. I'm shooting for a range of about 175-195 goals scored for the Tbirds and no team made the playoffs last season with fewer than 188 goals. Tbirds scored 6 goals in 3 games over the weekend and puts them on pace for 144. That either needs to get a little bit better or this team is in serious scoring trouble.


This group is deep but also loaded with questions.

Jeremy Schappert returns (until traded to Brandon? ok just kidding) for his 20 year old season and will anchor the group with 19 year old Swede Stefan Warg. In my opinion, Schappert takes far to much heat from Tbird fans and has grown into a pretty solid stay at home defender. There is a reason why the coaching staff chose him as the team's most improved last season. Schappert is never going to score at 20 goal pace like a Thomas Hickey and won't even approach the nearly point per game that Hickey brought but he will not spend a lot of time in the penalty box (only 32, 14 and 15 PIMs over the last 3 seasons) and has been very aggressive in the preseason and into the first 3 games joining the rush and looking for opportunities to score.

Warg returns for his second season with the team. After a horrible first half of the season Warg improved so much that his final stat line of 1 goal, 16 assists and a +1 rating doesn't even give you an impression of the first half of the year. Warg is an intimidating defender who must rely on his size to punish opposing forwards looking to crash the net. With a pretty big shot I would definitely expect him to improve on his lone goal that game in the final regular season game.

The rest of the crew is one giant question mark. Steve Chaffin and Brenden Dillon have both shown improved aggression and confidence early in training camp and preseason but Chaffin is already on the shelf with an injury suffered in warm-ups. Dillon and Chaffin were -11 and -12 last year on a team where Thomas Hickey was +37. The most obvious sentence in this article is... that must get better.

Brad Haber, Erik Fleming and Mitch Berg all return this season looking for more playing time and success. I look for Fleming to hopefully emerge from that group but has not played yet due to injury.

Tanner Muth and Jared Crema are the newcomers. Muth has a very bright future but will struggle as a 16 year old until he gets things figured out. Muth already has taken a few penalties and I would expect that to continue on and off throughout the season. He has already shown the instincts that made him a 2nd round bantam selection and we might only need to wait a year before he becomes a solid part of the defensive rotation. Crema played in the BC Major Midget league last season and showed a scoring touch with 10 goals. He has also yet to play with an injury.

This group is deep... but already banged up and lacks top end offensive talent. Last year this team gave up 234 goals and as a Tbirds fan you had better hope that number comes down slightly. For the sake of illustration if the team scores 175 goals and gives up 235 their differential is obviously -60 goals. Everett made the playoffs as the 7th seed last season with a -60 differential.


Calvin Pickard and Jacob DeSerres return this season as goaltenders 1A and 1B (if there is such a thing) but the situation is a bit different this year. Last year it was assumed that DeSerres was the starter and that Pickard would push him. This season it is pretty clear that Pickard is the starter and DeSerres will push him. When healthy DeSerres has the talent to be a #1 starter so having two guys with the quality that Seattle has is a big plus. Last season Jacob seemed to be hampered by injuries that never fully healed and he appears healthy once again this season.

Pickard is one of the most talented 17 year old goaltenders on the planet. His skills and instincts are excellent and his teammates love playing for him. It could be a long season for Seattle and if there is any goaltender who has the ability to shake it off and stay focused it is Pickard. One night after giving up 9 goals at home to a Portland team that won only 19 games he made 24 stops on the road in Portland to preserve a 4-3 overtime victory. If that doesn't tell you a little something about this kid's mental "make-up"... it should.


Ok... if you started the article here... well I can't really blame you but I would recommend going back to read the breakdown to see how I came to this.

I'm looking at Seattle having a scoring range that looks like this. I think Seattle is going to score somewhere around 165-195 goals. 195 is obviously optimistic and 165 would be worst case basis. I think we're looking at giving up anywhere from 225-275.

So let's look at the low, the high and the middle of those numbers.

If Seattle only scores 165 goals and gives up 275... you're looking at roughly 20 wins, 45 losses and about 7 games in the overtimes (obviously these are estimates here).

If Seattle scores 195 goals and gives up 225... you're looking at roughly 30 wins, 30 losses and 12 games in the overtime. Quick explanation... the closer you are to scoring as many as you give up... the more overtime games you are probably going to see.

Now for the middle point... 180 goals scored 250 goals against... we're looking at 26 wins, 38 losses and 8 overtime losses which is good for 60 points.

At 60 points the Tbirds are absolutely on the edge of the playoffs. 60 points was good for 8th in the West last season and was out of the playoffs in the East.

So I'm calling for Seattle to wind up anywhere from 6th to 9th in the Western Conference. Pay special attention to the games that go into overtime and shootouts. This could be the year where getting that extra point or not getting that extra point might make the difference between making the playoffs and being on the outside looking in.


Anonymous said...

Very well done! Especially on the coaches remarks. I feel Prab will hit your numbers. He has to be experiencing a let down right now- I hear that is very common once NHL prospects come back from NHL camps. It's human nature right?

I believe you are dead on with Jacobs- you can tell the kid can see the ice very well already. He could have already 4 goals from what I saw with not much power play minutes yet.

I would like to see Parker have a break-out. I really like Muth a ton
carefull now...he to me has some Hickey-esk looks 2-3 years down the road.

Calvin Pis NHL bound 100%...what a great all around package!

Anonymous said...

That's funny for you to write saying Muth is going to struggle as a 16 year old. These past 3 games Muth has been playing a regular shift, and often doubling shifting. He has shown that he belongs in this league, with the minutes he has been playing he must be doing something right. I don't see the struggle in his game, he has shown great promise in these opening few weeks.

Jacobs i couldn't agree more i look forward to watching him develop

Thunnex said...

I'll try to clarify a little bit on Muth... just in case you are his father!

I do think he has looked pretty good at times already and he has definitely impressed me... but... and this is a big but... very few 16 year old kids just step into the league and become solid players and I'm betting he will show flashes of really good play and flashes of "oh yeah that's right he is only 16 still" and that's just fine... nothing wrong with that. If he finishes the season with 15 points and +10 I will be the first person to eat crow and sing his praise.

NIkan said...

Top notch analysis! Thanks for the insights.

Anonymous said...

I am beginning to get the impression that most teams are going through transition. Some teams will start stronger than others but it will be very interesting to see the 16-18's players develop. I think this team
will end up in the 6th slot.

Look for Prab, Parker, Wells, Lockhart and a couple others to
increase their productivity. You could see it in the last game.

#26 get's better every game and for that matter I have noticed Dillon start to be more physical and make good plays in the back.

I can honestly say I am looking forward to watching this young team get better each week.

Anonymous said...

Want to know why Muth gets lots of ice time? Watch this kid block shots, it' suncanny how good he is at it. He's not afraid to get in front of a puck.

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