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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Tbirds win, Hockey Challenge, Thunder Truck...

Lots of news today let's just get this out in one big news dump...

- Tbirds win last night in Prince George and by my calculation they should be pulling back into the ShoWare Center sometime in the next hour or two. You only have to go back to the 2007-08 season to find the last time Seattle swept the two game series up in Prince George. Noteworthy last night was Prab Rai getting his 39th and 40th goals of the season. Rai now stands in 5th place for goal scoring in the WHL and trails scoring leader Kyle Beach by 7 goals. Rai needs one point to tie and two points to eclipse his career high of 65 points, done twice last season and the season before. Rai has a chance to pass Bud Holloway who had 43 goals in 07-08 and become the highest goal scoring Thunderbird since Bret DeCecco who had 57 in 1998-99. Safe to assume that Glen Goodall's club record of 76 goals in a season is pretty secure. Also nice to see Colin Jacobs get another 2 goals. Jacobs probably won't get to the 20 goals I thought he might but he now has 5 points in his last 5 games and had 4 points and a +4 rating up in Prince George.

- Pretty fun news from yesterday. I guess I raised enough money for the Hockey Challenge that I am being placed in the Celebrity All-Star game on Saturday night. Should be pretty fun and the game will be played around 8:45 after the completion of the Tbirds game against the Winterhawks. If anyone cares I will be wearing #33 for the Blue team. Of course my name will be on the back of the jersey so it will be pretty tough to miss me.

- Got alerted to a cool event that is happening before the Tbirds game on SUNDAY that hasn't really gotten a lot of press. The Thunderbirds and Allied Waste are going to be unveiling their new "Thunder Truck". The event will start at 3:30 and will include bounce houses, face painting and mascot competitions for the kids before the revealing of the new "Thunder Truck". In addition, I was told that Allied Waste will be offering tickets for "half price" to the Sunday game against the Americans. Not sure if that means $11 or $10 but it should be a pretty good deal.

Update - Tickets for the game Sunday are being offered for $10 and the link to the Allied website that talks about the event can be found HERE. They are also listing the event as being from 3-5 so let's go with that.


Hockey Challenge 2010

Tbirds play their first of two games in Prince George tonight. I think if this team can get 1 out of 2 up there I would be pretty happy.

The real purpose of this post is to pump the Hockey Challenge on Saturday.

I am playing in the 2:30 game at ShoWare (and perhaps the game before that) on Saturday and I need the help of Tbirds fans to raise a little bit more money. I'm really close to my goal of $1000 but I don't want to stop there.

Don't do it for me... do it for the kids. NO AMOUNT is too small. Chip in $5, chip in $10... anything would be fantastic.

To donate visit the website HERE.

UPDATE - I think the link was broken earlier I believe I fixed it. If you have trouble here is the spelled out link

When you donate. Please note that the "program selection" should be the Hockey Challenge and in the Comment Section reference the following:

E and D Hockey Team for Hockey Challenge 2010 (Tyler Hunnex)


Seattle Wins

The title tonight really doesn't need any extra words. For the first time since January 9th the Seattle Thunderbirds have won a hockey game.

And like I said it might happen, it came on a night where they probably did not deserve to win but found a way to get the job done. Many highlights and notes from this game... so here we go.

- Branden Troock dressed tonight and boy did he have an impact. Proper credit should be given to Prab Rai and Charles Wells because it seems as though lately, anyone playing with those two are having good games... but Troock was excellent. His first WHL goal gave the Tbirds the 1-0 lead just 2:07 into the 3rd period and was exactly the kind of goal this team has been missing for most of the season. Troock got to the net and tipped home an Erik Fleming shot past Mark Guggenberger. Credit also to Fleming for getting a decent shot to the net... something Seattle also hasn't been very good at lately.

Troock also looked skilled on a number of occasions putting players clear on goal for a couple of great chances. One of those such chances was a nice saucer pass to the backside of the goal where only a tremendous effort by Guggenberger robbed Wells of the games first goal. His pass to Rai led to the eventual 2nd goal, though he was not credited with an assist as Rai momentarily lost the puck to the Rockets defender before stealing it back and beating Guggenberger under the right pad.

- Speaking of Rai, another 3 point night for the winger from Surrey, BC. His steal/goal gave Seattle the 2 goal lead with just under 9 minutes to play and his empty net goal set the nervous crowd into the biggest roar in weeks ending the 17 game losing streak. Wells also finished the night +3 despite not getting a point.

- Lost in the excitement of Troock, Rai and the end of the 17 game losing streak... I found that I had to remind myself just how big Calvin Pickard was again tonight. Pickard stopped 30 shots in the first two periods and only lost the shutout with 3 minutes left on a disputed goal. A goal that Calvin was knocked to the ground only moments before Tyson Barrie shoveled home a backhand through a scrambling Pickard. I will be honest, I saw Pickard get knocked to the ice but I didn't get a good look at how it happened. Pickard was very animated and upset but could not get the call in a game that was generally poorly officiated.

- What a fight and a spark by Mitch Elliot.... THAT is how you get your team going when they aren't playing very well and the game decidedly changed after Elliot beat up Mitchell Chapman. Seattle might have a couple of future tough guys on their hands with Lund and Elliot.

- Something is wrong with Scott Ramsay. It pains me to say this but Ramsay did NOT look right tonight. I couldn't help but think that something has got to be wrong. I didn't think I was watching a player who was tired or didn't care... I felt like I was watching a player who wasn't 100%. Flu perhaps? Injury?

- Overall I actually thought the defense didn't have a very good night... but the difference was the hunger for getting pucks cleared in front of Pickard. In most games, Pickard will stop the first and perhaps even the second shot by the opposition. It is the intensity to clear those rebounds that often separate the winners from the losers and tonight the defense made that happen. I still think the biggest issue the defenders have is making better decisions with the puck and that is actually good news. That is something, in theory, they should be able to learn. Expecting a player to suddenly get faster, a harder shot, stronger or taller is something that isn't easily obtained... but getting a player to improve his mental game is something that can more easily be acquired. Not sure if I stated that very well.

- I will say for the 43rd time (and certainly not the last). I think Silvester is going to have a monster season next year if he can stay healthy. I'd actually love to see what he could do playing in that Wells-Rai line. An intelligent poke-check from Guggenberger denied Silvester of a penalty shot goal in the 2nd.

Even with the victory, Seattle is still tied with Lethbridge for 2nd to last in the WHL and they remain in the "hunt" for that 2nd overall bantam selection. Kind of the best of both worlds? Haha.

Something else to keep in mind. If Seattle does wind up with the 2nd overall pick in the Bantam draft, they will also end up with the 4th overall selection in the CHL Import Draft because the WHL is set to receive the first pick this season which will most certainly go to Prince George.


Another tough loss...

Birds drop another tough one tonight 5-4 in overtime to the Blazers up in Kamloops.

This team has a handful of reasons why they should be getting their doors blown off in most of these games but that doesn't seem to be happening. The tough thing about losing streaks is that tend to have a snowball effect where things just keep getting worst until at some point you bust out of things, normally by dumb luck.

Give these kids credit, they have every reason to fold up the tent on this season and start shining up their golf clubs and they're still fighting most nights trying to end this thing. It should be really close to a sellout tomorrow night... Let's hope the fans can give the Birds just a little extra juice to pick up a win.

How many times have you seen a baseball player mired in a 0-15 slump and he busts out of it by dropping in a "Texas Leaguer" over the 2nd base bag. I kind of feel like that's what it will take to put this losing streak to rest.

The "good" news is that they were able to "gain" ground on Edmonton tonight as the Oil Kings defeated Lethbridge at home tonight to pick up a whole 2 points.

Seattle now has 39 points to the 38 for Edmonton. Lethbridge however is the other team in this "race" and they of course missed on a chance at getting any points. Prince George still refuses to give up any ground in the race for the #1 pick, losing their 4th straight tonight in Red Deer.

Tbirds have begun their absolutely brutal stretch of games to end the season. Starting with the Moose Jaw home game last Friday the Tbirds finish the season with 17 games in 31 days. I didn't even realize until looking at the schedule tonight that Seattle finishes the final 4 weekends of the season with home games on Saturday and Sunday each and every weekend. As my wife so simply put it "I hope they win at least one of those games...." Yes I think we all do.


For my visual learners... Graphs!

I know that the numbers from yesterday/today get a little bit swampy at times. So for my visual learners, here are the graphs that go with the data.


Youth Matters, but how much?

There has been a lot of heated discussion going on in Tbird land these days and none may be more heated than the argument that this team is losing "because they are the youngest team in the league" or because of other factors.

I think we can all agree, at least a certain extent, that younger teams tend to be at the bottom of the league and older teams tend to be near the top of the league. This isn't to say that there aren't exceptions to that generalization. Prince Albert is the 3rd oldest team in the league and they currently sit in 9th place in the Eastern Conference and may miss the playoffs. On the other side of the equation we have Kamloops as the 2nd youngest team with 60 points, Vancouver, Portland and Kootenay with the 5th, 6th and 7th youngest teams in the league and 76, 77 and 79 points respectively.

The question is... how large is the impact of age? How much can we predict the success of a team based on the average age of the roster?

What I've attempted to do here is look at these numbers as objectively as possible. I've made no secret of the fact that I think Sumner is a decent coach and that Farwell is a decent General Manager. I've also never said I thought either was great, only that I thought neither should be fired (yes I know Farwell can't really be fired).

I've tried here to let the numbers tell me the story, rather than trying to mold the numbers around what I hope or want them to say. I think you can make some conclusions that support arguments on both sides of the fence (believe it or not).

So without further delay... here we go.

The first thing I did was to take the average age of each team as calculated by Alan Caldwell over at Small Things At Large. Caldwell is a numbers master and provides some of the best WHL content out there. If you're reading this and you actually haven't given his place a visit, do so.

So the study isn't perfect because we don't have the exact age of each team on the last day of the season, but it still gives us a pretty good idea of what each team looked like when we get their ages after the trade deadline. Keeping in mind the fact that if a team has a bad start to the season they are more likely to trade veteran players and if they have a good start they are likly to trade youth for veterans and that will affect the numbers.

We then chart each team's average age against the number of points they had at the end of the season (or currently for the 2009-2010 season). We then calculate a Linear Regression trendline.

Quick sidebar... Linear Regression is way to model the relationship between two variables. If "Age" is our "x" data point and "Points" are the "y" data point, the Linear Regression is a way of modeling how "y" is affected by "x" or... exactly what we are looking for... how is a team's performance affected by the age of the team.

Once we chart this Linear Regression, the "line" can be described by a formula and something called an R squared.

(Stay with me... I'm trying not to make this TOO complicated... I will explain what it all means in a minute)

R Squared is a number from 0 to 1 that represents the "strength" of the correlation between the "x" variable and the "y" variable OR how strong the connection is between "Age" and "Points". Everyone good with this?

Ok let's pound the numbers.

I did 4 charts (I will provide charts later, too hard to format in this post). First chart is Age against Points from two seasons ago (2007-2008).

Oldest team: Edmonton - 18.227 years old, points 55*
Youngest team: Prince George - 17.682 years old, points 44

Best team (regular season): Tri-City - 17.913 years old, 108 points
Worst team: Red Deer - 17.783 years old, 43 points

*Important to note here that Edmonton was an expansion team and was allowed to carry 5 O/A players and was a pretty big reason why they finished with 55 points. I could make a case that they should be taken out of the data but I will leave them in to keep things simple.

R Squared = 18.49%
Slope = 61.009

18.49% doesn't seem very high and if you take out Edmonton it gives you 28.72% with a slope of 77.584.

At this point... I'm sure I've either completely lost you or you're asking "ok Tyler, what the heck does all this mean".

Here goes.

I enlisted the help of a friend who is a math teacher and asked him where and when does our R Squared become statistically relevant. Or said a more simple way, at what level of R Squared can we say with some confidence that the relationship between Age and Points is significant. Allowing for a 5% level of significance (meaning we are ok with being wrong 5% of the time) the answer is 16.3%. Anything less than that and the result really isn't strong enough, anything over that and we are "on to something".

Even if we leave Edmonton in the data, the conclusion is that Age and Points are statistically related to a meaningful extent and if we take Edmonton out and the R Squared jumps to 28.72%, suddenly Age becomes a huge factor.

Now let's tackle the Slope. The slope of the line is 61.009. What does this mean?? A slope of 61 means that for every 1 unit of "x" variable you will increase "y" by 61. Whoa... wait a second.

This means that if a WHL team increased their age by 1 year in the 2007-08 season they could have reasonably and predictably expected an increase of 61 points in performance. Wow... really? Yes... really. If Prince George increased the average age of their players from 17.682 to 18.682 the next season they could expect to jump from a 44 point team to a 105 point team.

"That doesn't seem right..." is I'm sure what some or most of you are saying and you would be kind of right. The problem with that is that the oldest team in the league was Edmonton at 18.227. It's pretty unreasonable for us to think that in one season P.G. is going to go from the youngest team in the league to suddenly being .4 years older than the oldest team from the year before.

So let's look more practically at 6 months (or .5 years). If a team gains just 6 months in average age they can still expect a boost in performance of 30.5 points. That's still pretty large! Saskatoon, with the 2nd youngest team that season at 17.783 would go up in age by 6 months to 18.283 and improve somewhere around 30.5 points... going from a 67 point club to a 97.5 point club.

A 6 month jump in age is still significant, but much more reasonable. Medicine Hat went from 18.00 in 2007-2008 to 18.38 the next year. Brandon went from 18.08 last season to 18.50 this season with the hosting of the Memorial Cup. Even with the more reasonable expectation that a team could get older by 6 months, the results are the same. A team that gets older, gets better. Even without considering skill increases, coaching or player movement.

Is one season enough to prove anything? No... so let's look at the last two seasons.

R Squared:

2008-2009 - 36.85%
2009-2010 - 37.87%

Cumulative (all 3 seasons) - 23.96%

Again... Anything above 16.3% is statistically significant. So the correlation between Age and Points is extremely strong and significant. Now let's look at things in real terms.


2008-2009 - 71.525!
2009-2010 - 47.386

Cumulative - 55.34

Over a 3 year period, if a team got older by 6 months (in terms of average) they gained over 27.67 points in the standings. That blows me away.

The other nice part about getting a slope and a formula is that we can "predict" how many points a team of a certain age "should" have had. This allows us to examine whether this Seattle team (or any team) is playing above or below their age... or said another way... whether they are overachieving or underachieving and by how much.

I won't run through each team in the WHL (but you could and I might eventually). Let's just focus on Seattle.

In 2007-2008, the Tbirds had an average age of 17.905. Using the formula, Seattle should have expected roughly 72.466 points. They earned 91. You can reasonably say that Seattle out played their age by nearly 20 points.

In 2008-2009, the Tbirds had an average age of 18.04. Using the formula from that season, Seattle should have expected roughly 82.911 points. They earned 75. Seattle under played their age by almost 8 points.

This season, the Tbirds have an average age of 17.57. Using the formula from this season, Seattle should currently have 43.672 points. They have earned 38. Seattle has under played their age by around 5.5 points.


I'm hoping everyone made it through that.

Here is the point: Some Seattle fans have taken to the argument that "Youth is not an excuse for this team to lose this many games." The fact is that this team is performing close to what we all should have expected for a team of this age.

Age is a pretty strong way of predicting the success of a WHL team. Are there exceptions? Yes. Each season there are teams that overachieve and teams that underachieve their age. In the midst of a 15 game losing streak it's easy to feel like this team is playing way below the level with which they "should" be playing. The facts just don't point to that being the case. Are they underachieving? Yes.. but only by about 5.5 points or roughly 3 wins. For the people that think Sumner should have done more with the talent we had last year? You might have a point. Seattle should have had 8 more points (4 more wins) last season. They still would have finished with 83 points and Spokane still would have had home-ice advantage. They also managed to overachieve their age the season before, finishing with 91 points on a team that should be "expected" to only finish with around 72.

Later this week... we'll take a look at the franchises that have over and underachieved their ages the most over the last 3 seasons.

Exciting Stats...

I'm really excited about some statistical analysis I have been working on for the past couple of days so I want to preview it before I actually post it.

I've heard from a lot of fans lately that youth and age are "no excuse for losing". So the question is... do the facts support that? Does the Age of a team have a strong correlation to the number of points a team gets? a weak correlation? no significant correlation?

Perhaps age is important... it just isn't that important.

The answer comes later today.



Anyone else notice that Pickard is listed as an Alternate Captain tonight?

I can't say that I've ever seen that before.

Best of the West Poll

I will have several articles/posts going up here in the next few days. I'm going to space them out so that we don't lost anything on the front page. You'll also notice I've changed the font and made the text larger. Someone (my wife) gave me a tip that I probably should make things easier to read.

First note of the week goes to the Annual Best of the West Poll conducted by Annie Fowler of the Tri-City Herald. Link to the article can be found here.

The Best in the West is a neat poll done each year, sending ballots out to players, coaches and management from the 10 teams in the Western Conference. I don't think I need to re-post each one of the poll results, you all can go over and take a look at them for yourself... but let's hammer the highlights (and low lights).

Best Fans: Everett - 82.9% (Seattle 0%)

This comes as no surprise as Everett has now won this poll 5 years in a row. As much as "we" dislike Everett fans, I can't really objectively argue with this. Everett averages over 5,100* fans this season (which is down 9.38% from last) which is good for 4th best in the Western Conference, but their fans are always loud and support the team very well. Everett may not have the highest "hockey smart" fans in the league but lately I have begun to question how "hockey smart" Seattle fans are, so I can't really complain as much about that as I may have in the past.

Probably most surprising to me is that Spokane ranks only 5th. Spokane averages nearly 6,000* fans per game and their attendance is only off 2.61% this season.

Seattle comes in tied for last with Chilliwack and quite frankly this doesn't surprise me either. Our Tbirds average only 3,456* and I've seen too many people threaten to "cancel their season tickets"/"not pay for this anymore" to really call Tbird fans a loyal bunch.

*Attendance figures are only through the end of 2009 so they are by no means 100% accurate.

Top Coach: Don Hay, Vancouver 63.9%

Pretty tough to argue with a guy who is about to win his 5th straight B.C. Division title and has 3 Memorial Cup rings.

Marc Habscheid is second and that probably has more to do with track record than current record, but I can't really argue with that either.

For the "axe grinders" Sumner did not receive a vote and

Top Executive: Scott Bonner, Vancouver 62.2%

Another obvious choice in a Conference that is filled with good top Execs. Bonner reloads every season and finds a way (maybe it isn't very tough in Van?) to recruit college kids to come over to Vancouver (like Kevin Connauton, who came over from Western Michigan).

Mike Johnston was the 2nd choice and while this might surprise some, it's hard to argue with his early success. Johnston has presided over an incredible turnaround in Portland and was able to bring in players like Taylor Aronson, Spencer Bennett, Ryan Johansen and Mac Carruth.

Russ Farwell received no votes and quite frankly with the Tbirds in full rebuilding mode that really isn't a shock. Seattle is arguably in this position because Farwell rolled the dice last season by not trading his best assets at the deadline and as a result Seattle lost a ton of talent in the offseason and got only a first round playoff exit in return.

Top Rookie: Nino Niederreiter, Portland 77.8%

Nino gets the nod as the top rookie beating out Shane McColgan, Connauton and Ryan Johansen. I hate forming opinions based only on stats... but I think Johansen is probably the top "rookie" on the Portland team and thus probably should have gotten the nod here. Nino has more goals but Johansen has more assists and a +/- twice as good.

McColgan is the real deal and should be another NHL'er in the factory line they have going on up in Kelowna. Connauton has been really good for Vancouver and Murray has been an early success for Everett. Quite frankly I'm surprised to see Radko Gudas make this list.

Most Valuable to Team: Calvin Pickard, Seattle 65.6%

I have to admit I was surprised by this. Not because Calvin doesn't deserve it (because he does) but kudos for the pollsters for recognizing that Calvin really has been the most valuable to his team. Calvin easily beats out Howse from Chilliwack and Connolly from Prince George. I find it interesting to see Connolly on this list because I don't know that Prince George is really that much better if he was playing more this season. A little better... sure but I guess I would argue that Harper or Barrie are more important to their teams than Connolly.

Best Stay-At-Home D-Man: Jared Cowen, Spokane 67.8%

Cowen gets the nod here and I think I agree with this. Cowen is definitely the center piece to what is a generally stingy Chief defense.

Same goes for Tyler Schmidt and Gudas who both are probably the best defenders on teams that have been very stingy giving up goals.

David Musil getting a mention here at age 16 tells you just how advanced he is already.

Hardest Shot: Connauton, Vancouver 41.5%

We didn't really get to see a lot of Connauton's slapper last night but his wrister was wicked and beat Pickard once through a bit of a screen and once to an open net with everyone down in the crease.

I'm starting to feel like I need to watch Radko Gudas a lot more closely because I thought his game was pretty much just hitting/physical but he is mentioned here as the 3rd choice for hardest shot. Maybe he is a lot better than I thought.

Top Faceoff Man: Tyler Johnson, Spokane 80.8%

Johnson is the runaway choice here and is followed by Dailey, Shinnimin, Wahl, Johansen and Sundher.

Most Accurate Shot: Ryah Howse, Chilliwack 81.0%

Howse is the selection here. The 18 year old has 38 goals this season after notching 31 in his 17 year old season.

Kyle Beach is a distant 2nd but leads the league in goals with a career high 42 goals. We have all seen in person how accurate the Shane Harper shot is and we got to see last night how good the Connauton shot is.

Toughest Player: Tayler Jordan, Portland 51.3%

Not sure I agree with this one. At 6'6", 200 lbs Jordan isn't afraid to fight with anyone and let's be honest, his sole purpose on the Winterhawks is to fight people. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that, I have respect for any player willing to put their knuckles and face on the line for the good of the team.

Personally I'd have to go with Mitchell Callahan. Every guy on the list is at least 6'1 and 200 lbs and Callahan runs around at 5'11" and 175. Obviously I love Ramsay so I'm glad he made this list too... but any players under 6' willing to take on anyone gets my vote.

Most Improved Player: Brendan Shinnimin, Tri-City 73.8%

Hard to argue with this one. Shinnimin had 25 points last season and already has 67 in 56 games this season. This would be like if Brendan Rouse became a 1.2 point per game player next season. Simply a huge leap forward for the 18 year old. Also making this list is Craig Cunningham who had 50 points last season and currently leads the league in scoring with 86. Not quite as big of a jump but still impressive. Think of Cunningham like what Charles Wells would be if next season he doubled his point totals and went from .72 points per game to 1.42.

Best Overage Player: Shane Harper, Everett 60.4%

I guess... I'm probably a little biased but I think Prab is better than Harper and Prab has had to earn his points on a team that isn't as good. It's hard to argue with the numbers though. Harper leads him in points 66 to 54 and has a much better Plus/Minus at +30 to Rai's -4 (which is darn good on this team).

Johnny Lazo, Jared Spurgeon, Chris Francis and Dallas Jackson also with votes. I would say this is a bit of a down year for Overage players.

Top Defensive Forward: Tyler Johnson, Spokane 85.2%

Tyler Johnson is a pretty good player... scratch that... a really good player. Show me a player who dominates faceoffs, plays defense and scores at a point per game pace and I'll show you the true MVP of the Western Conference. Did I mention he also only has 24 PIM's? Of course he's good... he has a good hockey name.

Best 16-Year-Old: Shane McColgan, Kelowna 94.7%

No typo there, 94.7% listed McColgan on their ballot and this was a pretty easy choice. McColgan has 62 points in 59 games as a true rookie, his only blemish being a -17 rating.

Ryan Murray, David Musil, Jesse Forsberg, Colin Smith and Ty Rattie also received votes. A little surprised that Colin Jacobs got no votes but I also think that accurately reflects that Jacobs still has room for improvement. I have zero doubt that Jacobs will eventually be a star and this poll doesn't change my opinion one bit.

Best Goaltender: Pickard, Seattle 89.2%

Never a contest here. Owsley and Reid finish 2nd and 3rd and no offense to them but if they are #2 and #3 this isn't even close. I'm pretty comfortable in my opinion that Pickard is the best goaltender in the WHL right now. Put Pickard on a veteran team right now and I think you would be ready for some hockey in May.

Simpson and Heemskerk have had good seasons and also get mentions along with Kurtis Mucha.

If I were Portland.. I would be afraid... very afraid.

Best Skater: Prab Rai, Seattle 64.1%

I haven't seen anyone with more flash than Prab Rai this season, so this makes sense to me.

Brandon McMillan, Johnny Lazo, that Tyler Johnson kid (again), Tyson Barrie and Shane Harper also receive votes.

Most Underrated Player: Shane Harper, Everett 30.6%

This doesn't surprise me... only because I honestly didn't know how good Harper's numbers were until I looked them up. That pretty well defines being underrated.

Lazo, Cunningham (can you lead the league in scoring and be underrated? I suppose you can), Shinnimin, Francis and Prab Rai gets votes here as well.

Most Irritating Player: Kyle Beach, Spokane 49.7%

No surprise here, though Beach appears to be much more focused this season than seasons past.

Brad Ross, Callahan, Lance Bouma, Dailey and Brendan Gallagher get votes here as well.

Best Pro Prospect: Nino Niederreiter, Portland 58.4%

I probably would have voted for either him or Calvin Pickard. I think Pickard is a special talent and I'd have to see Niederreiter more often to know if he is on the same level but he seems to have earned that reputation.

Connolly finishes 2nd here and you'd have to hope his injury troubles will end soon. Howse is 3rd, Pickard 4th with Cowen and Sbisa bringing up the back end.

Top Referee: Andy Thiessen 52.6%

Being a referee is a difficult job. You're doing your job well when nobody notices you. I know some people think Thiessen sucks but I have to admit that I don't very often have a problem with the games he calls. I also have to admit that I haven't noticed Hanson or Papp that much so they must be doing a pretty good job as well. Hanson was the referee last night and I didn't have a problem with anything major last night.

Pat Smith on the other hand has no business being on this list. Yuck... I can't believe he finished 4th.


Race for #2

I know some fans are going to feel differently and that is just fine with me... but I'll do my best to convince you... Wins just don't matter right now.

I'll say it again, wins don't matter. Sure... it would be nice to break this streak and get a victory just to make ourselves and the players feel a little better. Fact is, losses actually mean more to the franchise than wins right now.

Seattle is locked in a "battle" for the #2 overall bantam selection in the 2010 draft. Unless Prince George catches fire and Seattle loses every game the rest of the way (I know it seems like it right now, but that won't happen) there is no way the Tbirds are going to "catch" PG for the 1st overall selection. They are however, locked in a tightly contested battle for the #2 pick. Current standings:

#2 - Edmonton Oil Kings, 57 games, 36 points
#3 - Lethbridge Hurricanes, 56 games, 36 points
#4 - Tbirds, 55 games, 36 points

So Seattle has a real shot at getting the #2 overall selection. Here's the kicker though. That might not matter either.

Prince George will almost certainly select Alex Forsberg from Saskatchewan (his brother is already playing for the Cougars).

The player who is possibly the next best player available is American Forward Brian Williams, currently playing for the L.A. Selects. A little highlight can be found here assuming that is actually Brian Williams (looks like it is).

Williams is considered a #1 overall type of talent, but the rumor is that he might only be willing to come to the WHL if he were playing for an American team...........

Well Seattle is going to have the first selection of all the American teams. Hmmm. So while wins don't really matter right now, losses may not matter that much either if Seattle is going to select, AND convince to come to Seattle, Brian Williams out of Los Angeles.

So while Seattle lost another tough one last night in Tri-City, 3-2, I'm having a really hard time caring about the results right now. The only thing that really matters right now is the effort that is being given on a night to night basis. I know some hate this opinion (again... fine) but I give this coaching staff an enormous amount of credit for keeping this team playing hard through the end of the season. This team could easily fold up the tents and mail it in the rest of the season and this writer wouldn't really care very much either way... but they aren't doing that, they are playing hard and tough each and every single game. They may not be playing "well" but they are playing hard and that is really the only thing I'm looking for over these final 17 games.


A first... and not a good one.

For the first time in as long a I can remember... I have to skip the game tonight. I'm still running a fever and this flu just doesn't seem to want to go away.

Sucks to miss a game but it just has to be this way.

You guys will have to tell me how the game goes.


Seattle at Portland on FSN Live Blog

So I'm still sick so I decided to skip Gators (not because I wanted to) to keep away from people to try to recover.

So I figure I should just live blog here from home.

- Seattle pretty good early, with Pickard making a few of his usual big saves. This game looks very similar to some of the recent games we've seen where the effort is good early and the ability to get a lead will be critical for Seattle. If Portland is able to get a lead and push their goals to 3 you might see things fall apart again like they did last week.

- Aasman and Ross with a short and quick little scrap. I think there was a case there for an instigator on Ross but the two get only matching majors.

- Ramsay and Boychuk with a bit of a scrap... though I'd hardly call it that unless we missed most of the punches because of the camera. What started it was a penalty called on Schappert that will give Portland a PP.

- Tbirds have got to maintain possession. We just aren't good enough at holding onto the puck... which shows why the shots are 10-3 already.

- Whoa... a Tutt sighting.

- In order for Seattle to break this losing streak, their best players have to be just that, their best. Pickard has come to play tonight, but we need Prab Rai to be more of a force. Prab needs to dominate the puck more and set things up for Wells and Nielsen.

- Turnovers Turnovers Turnovers... this is driving me crazy.

- Rutkowsky gets called for interference and Seattle goes on the PP.

- This PP has been horrible for Seattle. No scoring chances, they've given up two golden chances at the other end and now take a penalty to wipe out the last 12 seconds. Just horrible.

- PRAB RAI!!!! Now THAT is what I'm looking for. Great defensive play in the doorstep by Muth leads to a 1 on 1 break for Prab Rai the other direction and he dangles around Eric Doyle and beats Carruth for shorthanded goal and the 1-0 Seattle lead.

- Dillon drops the gloves for the 3rd time in recent memory and goes to a draw with Gabriel at the end of the period. Gabriel got Dillon's helmet off but just as he did so Dillon caught him with a nice one. Overall not a convincing win for either. You gotta like seeing the Tbirds drop the gloves more and more lately. It may not really mean that much in the end, but I like feeling like the players are just as frustrated as we are. We all want to punch Portland players... so when they go out and do it, it makes us feel better.

- Shot on goal in the 1st period. 16-5 in favor of Portland. Thank god for Calvin Pickard.

- Silvester and Ross dance a little bit. Not much of a fight there either as neither one really landed much in the way of punches.

- Disputed call there as Portland thought they had a goal. Trying to be as objective as I can it looked like the puck "might" have gone in, but there definitely was no definitive camera angle that showed the puck over the line and Iverson ruled that he had blown the whistle before the puck would have had any chance to go in anyways.

- Cross check penalty to Eliot(t) gives Portland their 3rd PP of the night. Kind of obvious to say that each one of these penalty kills are huge for Seattle.

- Great set up and pass by Aronson to Nino and Portland ties the game at 1. Absolutely nothing that Pickard could do about that.

- 2-1 Portland and this is where it gets really tricky for Seattle. Yes, it's only a one goal game but I feel like it sits on the brink of disaster here. Wotherspoon with a blast from the point that was deflected by someone from either team and suddenly the Winterhawks have the lead.

- Nice play by Schappert to cut off Gabriel before Pickard simply robs Boychuk from point blank.

- Portland is dominating this game. Seattle is going to be very fortunate to stay in this thing.

- Bonsor takes a penalty and this is could be the games more critical 2 minutes. A goal here by Portland and this thing is likely over.

- 3-1 Portland as Sbisa drills home another one. Hate to say it but I think this one is over with 24 minutes to go.

- Little bit better PP from Seattle there as they had a few chances and another Portland penalty will give them a second straight PP.

- And Seattle has life!! Jeremy Schappert gets a shot to the net and Carruth was screened in front of the net by Chance Lund and Seattle cuts the deficit to 3-2. Well... can Seattle score 2 goals in the 3rd and keep Portland off the board?

- Hate to be a talking cliche here but the first goal of the period is the most important. Fall behind 4-2 and this thing is definitely over.

- 4-2 Portland and it's Johansen sneaks one past Pickard and now Seattle has a mountain to climb.

- Incredible backhand goal by Wells pulls Seattle to 4-3. So each time the Tbirds have looked like they were going to be dead they have come back to cut the lead to 1 goal.

- Yikes. Just when the Birds are back in it, Nino beats Ramsay around edge and beats Pickard on the short side. Ian Furness just said it before I could type it, but that isn't a goal Pickard usually gives up.

- Rai bangs one off the post here with 50 seconds left. This one is oooooover.

- Empty netter ices this thing 6-3. This was game Seattle never really deserved to win as they get 3 goals that were basically the product of individual efforts (the Schappert goal aided by a nice screen by Lund in front). This team just isn't playing with any kind of confidence and it shows, they throw bad passes all over the ice and they rush with the puck even when they have more time than they think they do.

Growing pains people. Growing pains. This is a young team and the older players just aren't good enough to carry them to wins. Rai was good at times tonight, Schappert was good at times tonight, but those two alone really can't win you games all by themselves. Pickard was great in the first and second period before giving up a couple of soft(er) goals (not really soft) in the 3rd period. You just can't give up the number of shots that they did without wearing out your goaltender and that is what it looked like happened tonight. 46 shots in a road game is just too many.

I'm not sure what else to say people... we just aren't very good right now. Better days are ahead.


Sick as a dog...

I've been laid up for the better part of two days now... which explains the lack of updates.

Tbirds viewing party at Gators, 7:30 on Friday. Let's pack the place.

Also... here is your first poke about the Hockey Challenge 2010.

This season will be my 2nd playing for the E&D Division of Microsoft and raising money for the Ronald McDonald House. In our first year of raising money we raised almost $21,000 and was the 3rd highest fundraising team. This year we have our sights set extremely high and we want to be the top fundraising team.

In addition to our fundraising, we dominated our game en route to a 6-0 win.

This year the Hockey Challenge will happen on February 27th when the Tbirds will take on the Portland Winterhawks.

For those that do not know. Ronald McDonald House provides a "home away from home" for families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals.

These are tough economic times and I know it can be hard to give up some of your hard earned dollars. Believe me when I say... no amount is too small. Help me in my goal to raise over $1000 personally for this cause.

You can help me in this cause by giving directly HERE

When giving... please reference my team and myself so that I can get credit for your generous donation by entering in the "Program Area" box the following:

E and D Hockey Team for Hockey Challenge 2010 (Tyler Hunnex)

On behalf of the team, myself and the Ronald McDonald House... I thank you in advance.


Seattle gets another Defenseman

Seattle acquires Austin Baecker from Lethbridge this morning in exchange for a conditional 6th round selection in the 2011 Bantam Draft.

This is pretty much a lottery ticket trade by Farwell. Baecker is 6'5" and 208. Not only have I wanted Seattle to get more depth on defense but I've been begging for our defensemen to get bigger and Farwell has done that.

The fact that it is a conditional pick, makes be wonder if he will ever make the team. This is another good trade because your worst case scenario isn't bad at all.

btw... my understanding is that players who are not on the active WHL roster can still be traded after the deadline. The deadline is really only meant to keep teams from adding active roster players for the rest of the season.

Which means... Baecker won't be coming here this season.


Honestly... I'm worn out...

I think we have reached the bottom Tbird fans. I think this is what rock bottom feels like. You can cross of, 2-0 shorthanded game loser from your list of ways to lose.

I honestly can't say I've ever seen a team lose in OT while on the PP on a 2-0 break the other direction.

The team played very well. Probably one of the better games I have seen out of them in several weeks and yet STILL couldn't breakthrough with a win. If these games actually mattered I would be really upset about it, but we all know they don't. I'd much rather lock in a higher draft pick while still seeing these kids play hard. Playing hard will eventually lead to wins and the hope is that this team doesn't get frustrated and give up. All losing streaks come to an end... I could think of no better time than a win over Portland this weekend to break the losing streak. One of these nights the puck will take a couple of fortunate bounces and Seattle will be back in the win column.

Some notes from last night:

- I'm not saying the two are related... but after I pointed out last week that Brenden Dillon was basically on an extended tryout for his spot last year he has responded. Last night Dillon was physical, carried the puck and even dropped the gloves with success without making very many poor decisions with the puck. This shouldn't be the end. He needs to play like he did this weekend each and every game AND get even better.... but I liked what I saw.

- Easy to say Luke Lockhart had a nice game because of the goal he scored but equally important and perhaps more important was his willingness to block shots. Lockhart took at least a few off his body and attempted to block a few more as well.

- Colin Jacobs was excellent again last night and contrary to other "reports" the shorthanded goal was not given up on the possession where he missed the net with a shot in overtime. The shorthanded goal was scored on a different trip into the zone where Prab Rai simply made a poor pass between Jacobs and Gallimore. Credit Kelowna's Dallas Jackson and Brandon McMillan for quickly recognizing the situation and taking off down the ice before Gallimore and Jacobs could get their momentum turns around to catch them going the other direction.

- Officiating was not good last night, I'm not going to waste any more words on the subject... it just wasn't good.

- Alos left the game after the first period and didn't return. No idea on his status but I'm going to guess it might have had something to do with the high hit he took in the neutral zone by a Kelowna player (of course... no call).

- Prab Rai also got tripped up... appeared to be hurt pretty bad, did eventually return only to skate pretty gingerly and finally finish the game looking like he was ok. Let's hope he is ok.

- Shane McColgan is the real deal... if you didn't already know that.

- Ramsay also had a pretty good tilt with Mitchell Callahan, who is no softy. EDIT: I also totally forgot that Callahan is about 6 inches shorter than Ramsay, so give credit to Callahan for being tough enough to take Ramsay on.

Two final notes not related to the game yesterday.

Another viewing party at Gators on Friday night to watch Seattle take on the Winterhawks at 7:30pm. Let's try to get more people into Gators to watch the game. Last week we had nearly every television in the place on the Tbirds game and it was a lot of fun when we scored.

and finally... I am again this year playing in the 2010 Ronald McDonald House Hockey Challenge with the E&D Division of Microsoft. No.... I'm still not playing in the celebrity game (bummer) but I will be raising money again this year for a very worthy cause.

Tomorrow will begin a 3.5 week stretch where I will shamelessly beg for donations for this worthy cause. I apologize in advance but I would love for my team to top our donation number from last season.

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