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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Fire in the Engine Room

Right now... this team just doesn't compel me to write. Tuesday night the effort was good for 2 periods but after falling behind the Tbirds showed little in the decisive 3rd period leading to a 2-0 loss in front of a sellout crowd at ShoWare.

Last night was obviously a lot worse with the Birds dropping an 8-2 decision to Chiefs in Spokane.

I want to be careful not to freak out too much about just two losses but the product that I'm seeing on the ice would suggest that this team might be in trouble.

Former "Bird Brain" blogger Mike Caccioppoli who now "blogs" for ESPN 710 believes that Russ Farwell "...needs to find a way to make the team better at both ends of the ice. A sniper, a solid defenseman, whatever it takes. If it means out bidding other teams, so be it. If it means giving future draft picks, then do it."

Really? This is the season? This is the team you want to sell the future for? Sorry... I'm voting against doing that. This would be a very poor year to try selling the farm to make a deep run in the playoffs when it appears likely that you are no better than 4th in the ultra-competitive U.S. Division.

This team lacks skill. While improved from last season this team is still not a team that I could envision making a run at a WHL Championship even WITH a top notch sniper and another defensemen.

Did anyone see the price that Portland just paid for Craig Cunningham?

Do you want to see the Thunderbirds trade Lockhart, Rouse, TWO 1st round bantam selections and a 2nd rounder AT LEAST for a guy like Jordan Weal? and pay a similar price for a top defensemen just to "take a shot" with a team that just got outscored 10-2 by Spokane in the last two games? Who knows if that would even be enough to land those players. With the price being paid by Tri-City and Portland in the last two big deals... it's a seller's market.

"Going for it" is always going to be a calculated risk and unfortunately for Seattle fans we haven't had too many seasons where it really truly felt like the Tbirds should go for it. This isn't the season to do it. The season to "go for it" has always been Pickard's 19 year old season.

Mortgaging your future for a playoff run has a time and place... but it's a gamble you better be pretty sure about or you're going to pretty quickly find yourself in a Portland type of situation where you are going to be bad for 2-3 straight seasons and you risk destroying your fan base.


Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone....

Just a quick update this morning thanks to our friend Gregg Drinnan who reports that Thunderbird Dave Sutter will not be a part of team Switzerland at the World Junior Championships. Sutter will presumably head back to Seattle with the rest of the team at some point this weekend and be ready to play on Tuesday.


Holiday Break

Quick update...

Seattle wrapped up the unofficial midpoint of the season with a well deserved 4-2 victory over Portland last Saturday at ShoWare Center. The action was impressive for Seattle who consistently showed the most energy in the game and came away with the deserved 2 points.

Calvin Pickard made 50 saves on 52 shots and while I would never say that 50 saves is easy... it was as easy as you are going to get for 52 shots. The Tbirds were able to keep a majority of the shots to the outside and Pickard seemed to have little trouble locating shooters and maintaining vision.

Brenden Dillon registered 4 assists, a career high in both assists and points to lead the Seattle offense. Dillon has now already doubled his career high in points and it is becoming harder each day to imagine how he won't get signed to a free agent professional contract.

Burke Gallimore had a goal and an assist, which included a beautifully threaded wrist shot to the upper corner on the Power Play that essentially sealed the game by giving Seattle the 4-1 lead with 16 minutes to play in the game.

Colin Jacobs also continued his recent strong play by notching a goal and an assist. Jacobs has now surpassed his career highs in goals and points from last season and is on pace for 32 goals and 61 points.

Jacobs was also named to the CHL Top Prospects game and will represent Team Orr on January 18th and 19th at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Seattle is back in action next Tuesday at home against Spokane.

I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Enjoy a few more days without hockey and get ready for what should be an interesting and exciting 3.5 months to the end of the season and the start of the playoffs.


Great bounceback win...

A wonderful bounce back win for the Birds last night coming from 3-0 down to force overtime before Travis Toomey potted the big GWG with under a minute left.

This type of win proves to me that this team has some character. Having been blown up the night before and falling behind 3-0 on the road to the same team would have given most teams plenty of reason to fold up the tent for the night.

A lot of frustrated comments in the previous game thread and that is totally understandable and to be expected. I share in the frustration of the fans even if I don't always agree with each opinion 100%.

Things aren't perfect, they aren't really even very good... but no matter how poorly the team has played lately the victory last night was an impressive bounce back win. Now the trick is to see if Seattle can actually use Tuesday as the low point of the season and try to build some momentum.

For those of you wanting to see Baecker and/or Frank... well I imagine you'll get to see at least one of them Saturday with Sutter away at the Swiss WJC camp.


Pickard Cut

In what I would consider a slight upset, Calvin Pickard was cut this morning from the Team Canada Camp. This is of course glorious news for the Tbirds and obviously disappointing news for Pickard.

Pickard will be eligible again next year as a 19 year old and you would have to think he would be a near lock to make it next year unless something weird happens in the next 11.5 months.

This development is especially surprising considering this quote from the Canadian Press from the last camp game last night... "None of the four goaltenders has leapt up and grabbed the starting job in camp. The favourites going in were Calvin Pickard, who has been perhaps the best in camp, and Mark Visintin, who has struggled. Olivier Roy and J.P. Anderson are also in the running."

I don't want to hear any crying from my buddies in Canada if they lose the Gold Medal this year and the cause is goaltending.

Final roster can be found here.


Absolute Garbage - Open Thread

Long story short... I stayed home tonight to take care of my wife, who is recovering from surgery (she's doing great, thanks for asking) so I had to watch this one from the comfort of my recliner.

What a stinker... I have no idea what is wrong with this team but if Rob Sumner doesn't figure it out pretty quickly this season is going to slip away.

Open thread folks... you tell me what you thought about what you saw tonight?


Rough Weekend

Rough weekend for the Tbirds as they drop two games to the Tri-City Americans. Some notes on the weekend.

- I wasn't able to catch the game in Tri on Friday night, though I suspect it looked a lot like the game Saturday night at ShoWare. Seattle just looks tired and/or lazy right now. I'll try to relate this as best I can as someone who plays a little bit of hockey. Some nights you just can't get your feet moving. Your brain tells you to skate hard but your feet and energy level just don't seem to have the ability to get things moving. That is what Seattle looks like right now. A team full of guys who, for whatever reason, just can't get their feet moving right now. I'm not sure if they are tired, lazy or most likely a combination of both... they just simply look slow right now.

- This "tired" is showing most obviously in two aspects. Shots and penalties. Friday night they were out-shot 48-23 and 20-3 in the 3rd period. They also gave up 10 PP chances with the Americans cashing in on 2 of them. Saturday night the shot total was a little bit better, ending the game at 33-26 but that doesn't really tell the true story of the game as Seattle was out-shot 19-7 in the decisive 1st period that saw Tri-City jump out to the 4-0 lead. In addition... they took another 10 minor penalties that resulted in PP chances for the Americans (scoring twice again). The officiating in Saturday's game was not good, Matt Kirk is supposed to be one of the best in the WHL but Saturday was an off night for him to put it mildly. However, the problem is... Seattle isn't really giving officials very many chances to give them the benefit of the doubt when they aren't moving their feet. In summary... Officiating was bad but so was the Seattle effort and I'm far more concerned about the effort than the officiating.

- On paper it looks like Michael Salmon struggled on Saturday night in his first game filling in while Calvin Pickard is away at camp for Team Canada but that doesn't really tell the story. Of the 4 goals I saw (I bailed after the 2nd period, it was too gross to watch) I would only categorize the 4th goal as being "soft" and even that shot came through a partial screen and just squeezed through the 6 hole (between the arm) of Salmon. Salmon has improved so much since the first time I saw him play down in Portland last season that he should be commended. I think with some regular playing time here while Pickard is away and you're going to see some nice performances.

- It's official. Dave Sutter has become the new fan whipping boy... but in all honesty I don't really understand why. Sutter was terrible on Saturday night, there is no excusing that, but let's call a spade a spade. We knew all along that Sutter would likely be a project and overall he is still a +4 while logging some pretty significant ice time. Is he good yet? No. But the key word there is "yet". Did fans expect Sutter to come in and immediately become Scott Jackson... er... maybe that' a bad example since he is a former fan whipping boy himself. Fans probably need to adjust their expectations for the big Swiss defender. I'll make a deal with you guys. If he is still having trouble at this time next season, he'll deserve the wrath and I won't defend him. For now... let's give him time to develop before we start dumping on the kid.

- I was asked by a fan via email about the trade that Tri-City completed on Friday, picking up Carter Ashton from Lethbridge in exchange for Nils Moser, Tanner Olstad and 1st, 2nd and 5th round bantam selections. Every season I'm asked about whether Seattle will make a big splash in the trade market and most seasons the fans are disappointed with the "smaller" moves that are made by General Manager Russ Farwell. Well, if you are disappointed by "smaller" moves I think you're going to be disappointed again this season. Even though you would probably never get Farwell to admit this, they are likely playing for next season and any moves getting made this season will be made without having any large impact on next season's roster. The biggest move I could see them making might be a move of a 19 year old. So why would they move a 19 when I just said they wouldn't make a trade that would impact next season? Because with four 19 year old players on the roster they could trade a 19 year old and get back an 18 year old they like for next season and not completely disrupt the roster.

One thing is for sure though... they are most certainly NOT punting this season away. I think everyone in the organization believes that it is very important from a progress and morale standpoint to make the playoffs this season. If you fancy yourself a contender next season, you would prefer the first playoff game of the 2012 playoffs not be the first for most of the kids on your roster.

- Speaking of playoffs. Seattle currently sits in 7th position in the Western Conference but they are only 1 point out of the basement. The race for the playoffs in the West has likely never been tighter than it is this season.

- Quick Massey Ratings check again. Seattle sits in 13th overall. Offense 18th, Defense 6th. Home-Ice Advantage is 21st, which surprises no one with the way they have played at home vs. the road lately. Things should theoretically get a tad easier as they have played the #1 toughest schedule in the league. Massey Ratings


Mercer Arena

For those of you who don't go back to the days when Seattle played at Mercer Arena. I stumbled across this cool photo. This is a picture from when the Seattle Eskimos played in the PCHL. Full credit to the Seattle Times.


Another Home Loss

I'm not going to spend a thousand words writing about the game last night when Seattle has to turn around and play in Kelowna tonight and have two more games in Prince George over the weekend but I will add a few thoughts.

Seattle is playing horribly right now. Why? I don't really know why, but they are horrible. Medicine Hat made them look like a Junior A team at times last night skating circles around them. The Tbirds looked slow, tired and frustrated. Maybe they need a mental break? Or a physical break? I have no idea but something has to change. Seattle was once again lucky to head into the 3rd period down only 1-0.

I was going to list the individual players who I thought had particularly bad games but then realized that I was listing pretty much half the team. The bottom line is that Seattle after 25 games the Win-Loss record is better but the team doesn't look that much different from last season. Too many mistakes, too many shots given up and too many missed opportunities. With their goal differential at 71 GF and 71 GA this team looks no better than a .500 team going forward until they start playing better.

Seattle was 0-5 on the PP and 1-4 on the PK and strangely that was probably the least of their problems.

WHL Scoreboard