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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Becanic Contract Not Renewed

John Becanic will not be with the Seattle Thunderbirds for the 2010-11 season. The team announcing today that his contract will not be renewed.

This really isn't much of a shock and with all apologies to John Becanic I thought the hiring was a bit strange in the first place with Seattle already having a pretty full coaching staff.

Having said that, I did like the hire and I think by most accounts the hire was a pretty good one with Seattle's PP looking pretty improved before the trading of Acolatse, Warg and Parker at the deadline.

Seattle also started the season sporting a pretty good Penalty Kill but slumped as the season wore on and finished in 14th place for the season.

Team release can be found HERE.


Rai Signs and Summer Notes

Vancouver announced this morning that they have signed Prab Rai to a contract this morning. My best guess is that Rai might be headed to Manitoba to finish the season with the Moose of the AHL.

Press Release from the Canucks can be found here.

Quick note for this blog for the rest of the Summer. Per usual, I'm pretty burned out from another season of articles and I just don't have the desire to throw up crappy posts just for the sake of throwing something up. I am working on a few things, but quite honestly I'm just going to save them for next season. It has been a pretty long and difficult season and an especially difficult final 2 months of the season. It really isn't that much fun to be the target of hecklers when you're just trying to provide content for fans. I'd love to sit here and tell you that it doesn't really bother me... but it does. Quite frankly I don't "need" this blog... I do it because for the past three years I have enjoyed it and when it stops being fun I will just quit. The last few months of the season, it just hasn't been very much fun for a variety of reasons.

My hope is that I will regain the "fire" after another peaceful summer and come back rejuvenated.

I will have a few updates here and there when appropriate... but I want to just wish everyone a good summer. Rookie camp is about 5 months away!


Western Conference All-Stars

The Western Conference has announced their All-Stars this morning and as expected Calvin Pickard was named Goaltender of the Year for the West.

Pickard will now go up against Martin Jones of the Calgary Hitmen for the WHL award. Quite honestly I would expect Jones to win even though I think Pickard probably should win the award. Jones is a quality goaltender who has been around longer.

Prab Rai was also named to the 2nd team All-Star team.

Other awards in the West.

Rookie of the Year - Shane McColgan, Kelowna
Defenceman of the Year - Tyson Barrie, Kelowna
Most Sportsmanlike - Jared Spurgeon, Spokane
Coach of the Year - Craig Hartsburg, Everett
Exec of the Year - Bob Tory, Tri-City
Humanitarian of the Year - Zach Dailey, Everett
Marketing/Public Relations - Everett Silvertips, Zoran Rajcic

All-Star Teams

1st Team:

G - Pickard, Seattle
D - Barrie, Kelowna
D - Kevin Connauton, Vancouver
F - Kyle Beach, Spokane
F - Mitch Wahl, Spokane
F - Craig Cunningham, Vancouver

2nd Team:

G - Drew Owsley, Tri-City
D - Jared Cowen, Spokane
D - Radko Gudas, Everett
F - Shane Harper, Everett
F - Nino Niederreiter, Portland
F - Prab Rai, Seattle


Ping Pong

Just a reminder that the WHL will hold their draft lottery this morning. Seattle will have 3 ping pong balls in the hopper but they can only move up by two spots should their ball come up.

After this morning, we'll find out whether the Tbirds will select anywhere from 2nd to 5th.

UPDATE: Prince George won the lottery, so Seattle will select 4th.


Another season in the books

(I couldn't quite get this finished yesterday so the context is a little out of sorts)

Another Seattle Thunderbirds season has come to a close with a 4-3 overtime win over the Vancouver Giants.

Seattle played well at times but gave up far too many scoring chances and shots on goal as Calvin Pickard made 51 more saves to pick up the win. Seattle led 3-1 with just 1:30 to play in the game before goals by Neil Manning and J.T. Barnett tied the score. Barnett's goal was his 21st of the season and came with just over 6 seconds left in the game. Tbirds had too many chances to clear the puck, including one play by Ryan Aasman behind the net where he should have just pounded a hard rim that might have cleared the zone and ended the game. Oh well... all's well that end's well right?

One thing I can't stand... are hockey fans that constantly yell "shoot!!" from the stands every time a player has some open space to work with. Having said that... all the "shooooooot!" people have some pretty legitimate frustrations with this team. For whatever reason, this team just doesn't take nearly enough shots and that is something that must change if they are to score more than the 172 goals that they scored this season. It isn't just the number of shots that needs to change, but the type of shots as well. Anyone watch basketball? Anyone ever play basketball? Anyone ever heard on television the concept that coaches don't mind players taking shots if they have rebounders under the hoop? The concept is somewhat similar in hockey... especially on the PP. Shots don't always have to be snipers or rockets, sometimes they just need to hit the net with traffic in front or around the net and this is something the Birds really need to improve upon.

Calvin Pickard obviously had a pretty incredible season, but not quite record breaking.

WHL Goaltending Records:

Minutes Played -

4,228 - Steve Passmore, Victoria Cougars, 1991-92 (71 games).
4,069 - Ed Dyck, Calgary Centennials, 1970-71 (66 games).
4,069 - Kevin Nastiuk, Medicine Hat Tigers, 2003-04 (68 games).
4,003 - Shane Bendera, Red Deer Rebels, 1999-00 (72 games).
- Danny Lorenz, Seattle Thunderbirds, 1988-89 (72 games).

3,688 - Calvin Pickard, Tbirds, 2009-10 (62 games).

Calvin's nearly 3700 minutes is impressive but not quite enough to get him on this list. Playing in all 72 games would get him pretty close to #2 on that list but I doubt we see him do that next season.

Most Saves -

2,562 - Passmore, Victoria, 91-92 (71 games).
2,469 - Jack Cummings, Vancouver Nats, 1971-72 (64 games).

2,017 - Pickard (62 games).

Let's hope he doesn't need to threaten this record anytime soon.

One thing Pickard might have a shot at is some of these career records.

Games Played -

245 - Kurtis Mucha, Kamloops/Portland, 2004-10
233 - Kyle Moir, Swift Current Broncos, 2002-07

In two seasons, Pickard has played in 109 games. Let's assume he only plays two more seasons (because let's be honest here, there is about as much chance of me getting signed to a pro contract as Pickard has of playing his 20 year old season in the WHL).

If Pickard played two more seasons and logs 60 games in each he would wind up with 229 games played. He's right in the ballpark. If we really push it and he plays in 65 games each season he winds up with 239. Going to be pretty tough for him to catch Mucha unless for some reason he plays as a 20.

Minutes Played -

13,708 - Mucha, Kamloops/Portland, 2004-10
12,774 - Moir, SC Broncos, 2002-07

Pickard has 6,382 minutes through two seasons. Playing at around 3700 minutes per season the next two seasons would leave him at 13,782. This might be a number he could actually get to. Even if we assume his minutes lighten a little bit to 3600 per season he would end up at 13,582 which would be good for 2nd all-time.

Most Saves -

6,958 - Danny Lorenz, Seattle, 1986-90 (224 games)
6,908 - Mucha, Kamloops/Portland, 2004-10 (245 games)

Pickard has 3199 saves in two seasons. One would have to hope this number will go down with a decrease in shots (we can hope right?). This season he made 2017 saves, let's give him 1800 the next two seasons. That would leave Pickard with 6,799 saves, good for 3rd all-time.

This of course would all be accomplished in just 4 seasons where Mucha has played in 5 seasons.


Great Seattle effort comes up short...

Seattle played a heck of a game last night and just couldn't get the finish around the net needed to win the game. The Tbirds dominated the first period, out shooting Portland 16-3 but gave up the only goal of the period on the first shot of the game by Portland when Brad Ross snuck in a breakaway attempt past Calvin Pickard.

I know a lot of fans were upset about the play but I thought Referee Pat Smith actually made the correct call on the play. A Prab Rai turnover lead to the breakaway for Ross with Ramsay giving chase. Ramsay slashed Ross just enough to throw him off and Smith had his hand in the air as Ross and the puck went crashing into Pickard. At this point... I lost sight of the puck but I have to believe that Smith saw it over the line and the video replay must have confirmed it up in the booth. Some fans wanted a Goaltender Interference call but the league rulebook is pretty darn clear about the rule and I can't see how you could defend that position.

Rule 69.1 - Interference on the Goalkeeper

If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.

I'll go even further. If you want to say that perhaps the puck was loose and/or should have been considered a rebound.

Section 69.6 - Rebounds and Loose Pucks

In a rebound situation, or where a goalkeeper and attacking player(s) are simultaneously attempting to play a loose puck, whether inside or outside the crease, incidental contact with the goalkeeper will be permitted, and any goal that is scored as a result thereof will be allowed.

The next paragraph goes into the attacking player making contact with the goalie after he has made the stop. Pay particularly close attention to the last part.

In the event that the goalkeeper has been pushed into the net together with the puck by an attacking player after making a stop, the goal will be disallowed. If applicable, appropriate penalties will be assessed. If, however, in the opinion of the Referee, the attacking player was pushed or otherwise fouled by a defending player causing the goalkeeper to be pushed into the net together with the puck, the goal can be permitted.

I really wish I could have come up with a different answer, but if Pat Smith saw the puck over the line and he had already called a penalty on Ramsay, he must allow the goal... pretty clear cut there.

Anyways... it was a bummer ending to an otherwise incredible period by the Tbirds.

The second period wasn't quite as good by Seattle, managing 11 more shots but still couldn't get one past Mac Carruth.

The goal by Johansen gave Portland a 2-0 lead and it seemed as though every one of the nearly 5800 in attendance knew that the 2 goal lead would probably hold up.

Seattle managed a PP goal by Rouse with just over 7 minutes left in the game that gave Seattle hope but they just never really threatened again and the open net goal by Niederreiter sealed the game with 35 seconds to play.

The Charles Wells (-3), Prab Rai (-2) and Lindsay Nielsen (-2) did not have a great night while Portland's big guns, Ross/Niederreiter/Aronson/Johansen were all +3.

Another brave effort by Pickard, visibly upset by the first goal, recovered to stop 33 of 25 Portland shots.

As for the Tbirds... well... 1 last game tonight in this miserable season. I will have a recap up tomorrow and I will be working on some end of the season stuff that isn't quite finalized for next week.


Austin Frank debuts

Just announced by the Tbirds, Austin Frank is in uniform tonight making his Seattle debut.

The big left handed defenseman from Calgary, AB checks in at 6'3", 190 lbs. Frank will wear #21 for the Birds.

Expect a little early fireworks from Dillon and Schneider.

Press release is here.


3 games left...

Just 3 games left in this miserable season. Seattle drops another one in Tri-City last night.

Tyler Alos scored again. It is going to be really excited to see Alos and Jacobs grow up together with this team.

Pickard was solid again making 42 stops. I have no idea where this team would be without him.

Really nice to see Dillon back out there and even got into a tilt with Messier for a hit that Messier didn't care for very much.

It wouldn't surprise me to see Dillon and Stefan Schneider have a little "meeting" when the Tbirds take on Portland for the last time on Saturday night.


The "letter" post...

I wanted to post a few thoughts on the Russ Farwell letter to season ticket holders. I get my Tbirds mail here at my office, so I didn't actually receive the letter until yesterday and quite frankly I was too busy with my real job to post anything. I have a few moments here this morning so I suppose I will opine.

I honestly wouldn't have even bothered to write about this, but it seems to be a hot button issue... so here we go.

From a business point of view I think they may have made some mistakes. I know that some fans are really unhappy and upset about this May deadline and the $10 processing fee if you are planning to make payments towards your invoice. I think people have a right to be upset about that. In the past, I have always paid in full early and received an "early bird" discount for doing that. If that is happening this year, it certainly isn't mentioned. The Tbirds should be doing everything in their power to keep people from cancelling their season tickets and I don't think this is a very proper way of doing that.

In a down year with a bad economy the team should be doing everything it can to keep people and not every has the ability to pay in full early like I do. I'm honestly not sure what the answer is... but it misses the mark in two ways.

First off... the goal is obviously to get people to pay in full early right? A $10 processing fee isn't really much of a "threat" to get people to pay. Most people I have talked to have said that the fee isn't really the problem. The problem is the perception that we are being nickle and dimed by the organization. So the whole purpose of the $10 fee isn't really working, all you're doing is making angry fans more angry.

Second off... If there was ever a year where you might have waived the early deadline, or provided some additional incentives to pay early, I certainly would have thought this would have been the year. Instead, they install a hard deadline with what appears to be no incentive. Quite honestly, it's something I don't really understand. Why now? Didn't anyone think that this might be the wrong year to make a move like this? I already hear about dozens of people threatening to cancel their tickets for a laundry list of reasons and you just gave them one more.

Simple math here: My two season tickets cost $1,116. If you lose even one client who has two season tickets. You'll need at least 112 "processed payments" just to break even on the whole deal! So just for the sake of argument, let's just say that the team winds up having 500 processed payments... and let's say you only lose those same two people. Is the extra $3884 really worth it?? Is it really worth making your fans feel like they are being nickle and dimed to get a few extra thousand bucks?

I often say that the people who are angry (such as the Anonymous who wants to just pick a fight with me for some reason) are just going to be angry no matter what the front office does. However, in this case they have actually given people another reason to be angry and that's just a bad business move right now.

Let's skip back to the beginning of the letter. I actually think most of the letter isn't that bad and quite honestly my reaction was a collective "yawn". I don't share in the opinion of some that buying season tickets entitles me to anything other than a ticket to a game.

I don't really understand this point of view that the franchise or the team owes anybody anything. When I buy my tickets, I buy them because I have been following this team for over 20 years and I like watching hockey (also the reason I started this blog 3 years ago). I am under no illusion that the team owes me anything. When you purchase a ticket it gives you the right to enter the arena (and even that isn't a complete right because they have the right to throw you out for bad behavior). I don't feel as though the team "owes" me championships or division titles or even competitive teams. Would it be nice... well of course it would! I've dreamed of the Tbirds winning a WHL title for those same 20 years, but does the team "owe" it to me to win one just because I buy tickets?? Hell no...

Everyone has their own reasons for buying tickets, whether it be season tickets or individual game tickets.

Just for "Anonymous"... here... I will say something that not one person in the organization would want me to say (oh right... but they are in my back pocket right?).

If you don't like what you see, just don't buy tickets. I'm serious... and I'm not mad about it either. If you don't like the $10 processing fee, don't renew. If you are upset that Russ will still be around, don't renew. If you're mad that Sumner will likely be the coach next year, don't renew.

Seriously people. The only real power you have is to vote with your wallet and you should feel free to exercise that right as you see fit. I'm not going to begrudge or blame any fan who says "I was upset by (fill in the blank) so I didn't renew my tickets."

As for myself... maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment. I'll be sitting in the same seat, watching the same team next season and the season after.


Reasons for optimism...

Seattle gets a tough 4-3 win over Tri-City last night at the ShoWare Center behind two power play goals from Burke Gallimore.

In a difficult season, we have all been looking for signs to either be pessimistic about the future or optimistic about the next couple of years. We've had plenty of reasons to be frustrated but last night was the game we have been looking for as a sign of this team turning the corner. With only two players older than the 18 the Tbirds knocked off the top team in the Western Conference (for now).

Look at these contributions.

Prab Rai, 20 yo - 3 assists, +2
Linsday Nielsen, 20 yo - 1 assist, +1

Charles Wells, 18 yo - 1 goal, 1 assist, +1
Burke Gallimore, 18 yo - 2 goals
Brenden Silvester, 18 yo - 0 points, -1 but was the sparkplug all night. Probably had at least 7 or 8 hits.
Robbie Ciolfi, 18 yo - 1 assist, +1

Brendan Rouse, 17 yo - 1 assist, +1
Calvin Pickard, 17 yo - 39 saves

Tyler Alos, 16 yo - 1 goal, +1
Colin Jacobs, 16 yo - 1 assist, +1
Mitch Elliot, 16 yo - +1

That is a lot of contribution from players who will still be here next season and if you want to pick 3/4 players from that 18 group a lot of players who will be here two seasons from now.

Give these kids time to develop and I think we are all going to like what we see.

Also... keep in mind that this team will be adding at least two 20 year old players next season, at least one high Import selection and any trades that Farwell might make either before next season or during the season.

I think we need to be careful to not get too excited about one victory... but getting a win against a quality opponent while being down 4 players is impressive.

Seattle appears to be playing themselves out of ping pong balls as they are now 3 points ahead of Edmonton and 2 points ahead of Lethbridge with a game in hand on each of them. The impact of this is much bigger for the Import Draft than it is for the Bantam Draft. With Seattle likely to finish 4th to last in the league, the Tbirds will be looking at the 10th selection in the Import Draft as opposed to potentially the 4th.


Just too short...

Tbirds are just too shorthanded right now. You take a team that already wasn't real good to begin with and you take out 3 defensemen and a winger and the net result is you get outscored 9-1 in your last two games. Seattle just doesn't have enough there right now to be very competitive with these solid WHL teams. When you have 3 forwards playing on defense because you are THAT shorthanded... I just don't know what to say.

I certainly understand why fans are frustrated right now... nobody really enjoys losing (and you can certainly include myself in that group) but I honestly don't understand all the constant whining and complaining I hear about in the stands right now. Look folks... if you're actually going to these games right now expecting the Tbirds to win, then shame on you for not having proper perspective of what is going on with this team right now. This just isn't a team that is built to win right now... it's built to allow guys like Tyler Alos, Colin Jacobs, Tanner Muth, Brendan Rouse... etc... to get as much playing time as possible while also "trying" to stay competitive and win games.

One of the players that gets (I think) the most venom thrown in his direction is captain Lindsay Nielsen. Yeah guys... that's the guy you want to point the finger at. The guy who in the last two nights has moved from his normal forward position to the blue line because of injuries and has only been your best defensemen on both nights going a combined -1 while the team was outscored 9-1. In two nights your team was a net -6 and your captain steps in and plays a position he doesn't normally play and if not for the first goal tonight would have been perfect. Honestly, I just don't understand it. Do Tbird fans really believe that a player who scores points is the only way to be a quality hockey player? In baseball, do we only like a player who hits 30 homeruns even if he plays first base and can't field at all? Winning comes from the combination of scoring and preventing the opposition from scoring. A player who does both is great... but a player that does one pretty well can still be a solid player, whether it is baseball or hockey. Is Lindsay Nielsen an elite player in this league? Probably not. Do you still need players like Nielsen who backcheck, play solid defense and have the versatility to play both forward and defense? I think most coaches would say yes. I know I'm not going to win this argument with the people who don't like Nielsen's game so we'll just agree to disagree. Just put me on record for being a guy who doesn't understand the venom that fans are throwing this guy's way.

One last night... I said this a few times but I think it is worth mentioning again. Tyler Johnson is a pretty awesome hockey player. He does a ton of things right and his snap-shot sniper goal over Pickard was a thing of beauty. I will say it here again, I think Johnson is the true MVP of the Western Conference.

One more game tomorrow and only 8 days left in this truly brutal season. Almost time to break out the golf clubs.


Gators Viewing Party TOMORROW

The Tbirds are throwing another viewing party at Gators tomorrow night as the team will take on the Kelowna Rockets and the game will be televised on FSN at 7pm.

There will be a beer special with 16 oz cans of Labatt's for $3 and they will also have a Tbirds jersey as a giveaway prize as well.

I had to miss the last viewing party when I was sick but I went to the first one and I can tell you it was a lot of fun. I'll be down there throwing back a couple of Canadian beers and hopefully the Tbirds will put together a road win for our troubles.



Word on the street is that his name is spelled Branden Trook... not Troock.

Just so we're clear... Trook... no c...

Carry on...

Update - Or... maybe it is spelled with a "c". I don't know.

A little weekend recap action

Let's just do this note style.

- A really well played game by Seattle on Saturday resulted in a bit of a heartbreaking shootout defeat. It's no secret that the Tbirds have had trouble with Portland all season, being blown out in many of their meetings and failing to win a game. Saturday night it looked like that might change as Seattle played one of their best games against Portland all season. The first period was solid as an aggressive forecheck created some chances and helped keep Portland's offense off the baord. Despite giving up 2 goals and falling behind 2-0 the 2nd period was a lot of the same as the Tbirds generated many scoring chances and simply failed to cash in on their chances until young Branden Troock buried a pass from Lindsay Nielsen to get back to within 1. At this point I needed to head down to the locker rooms to get dressed for the "All-Star" game so I didn't see the third period... but as I understand it, Seattle played a solid 3rd period as well with Branden Troock feeding a pass through to a streaking Tyler Alos to tie the score just 5 minutes into the period. Seattle even got the first goal of the shootout as Burke Gallimore buried a shot past Curtis to give Seattle a 1-0 lead in the shootout but it just wasn't to be as Chris Francis and Luke Walker scored while Troock and Prab Rai missed and Portland skated away with the 3-2 win.

- The Dillon hit. Let's talk about this for a second. I have had a chance to review the video tape probably 10 different times and my opinion has probably changed slightly from what I initially thought. Initially at the game and the first couple of times I watched the tape I thought the hit was pretty bad and I could not believe how the "Smiths" found a way to call nothing on Schneider. The more I watched it the more my opinion began to change. If you really slow the tape down (which obviously isn't of the highest quality) it becomes pretty arguable that Schneider hit Dillon with an elbow on the play. So here is what I now "believe" happened. Schneider closes on Dillon and checks him "cleanly" with the shoulder but follows through with his arms and hands high into the upper body and head area of Dillon. The high follow through is... to a certain extent... the reason why Dillon falls awkwardly and lands on his head knocking him out. As a result... my opinion (for whatever that is worth) is that Schneider should have been hit with a 2 minute minor for roughing and probably nothing more. In fact... I initially assumed that Seattle would send the video to the league office asking for a suspension but I honestly don't believe that should be the case. A high hit is a high hit and should be penalized, but I have always preached that you don't dish out the punishment based on the result of the hit (in this case a concussion). You must punish the action, not the result and the action was a penalty but I just don't think it was worse than a minor penalty.

- Having said that... the fact that the Smith's didn't call anything just emphasizes how horrible they are/were. Both of those officials should be ashamed of themselves for how they called that game. I'm not being a homer here... It was horrible on both sides. How does Portland not end up with one PP the entire game. You're telling me that we didn't commit one penalty all game? You're telling me that a player is allowed to go hard to the net and hit the goalie and it's ok because he only knocked him over lightly instead of roughly? I can't vent about referees more than this... it's pointless.

- I had a blast skating in the "Celebrity All-Star Game". I was pretty nervous... I didn't want to embarrass myself and while I think I'm a decent hockey player I'm not even close to as good as guys like Ryan Gibbons/Blake Knox and the other Tbird alums. I just wanted to try to hold my own and not make any brutal mistakes. After a couple of really cupcake shots on net (muffins perhaps?) I finally settled down a little bit and had a clean faceoff win that Al Kinisky ended up putting into the net. I didn't get credit for it but that should have been an assist. Scoring the goal was clearly the highlight for me... I just wanted to make sure I didn't miss the net!! Not sure how many people stayed to watch... but if you did thank you for doing so. More importantly and MOST importantly thank you to everyone who donated to the Ronald McDonald House, whether you did it on my behalf or not. I have heard that the early number was over $40,000 that was raised for the house and I successfully achieved my goal of raising over $1,000 personally. I think I might have even touched $1,100 or $1,200.

- Quick note on the Gold Medal Olympic game. Ryan Miller was just outstanding all tournament long and in the final game. A real shame for him to have to lose like that but what an incredible performance. It would have been amazing if the USA had won the gold on Canadian soil but I'm just fine with Canadians taking home the gold in the sport they invented. It was an epic game that will not soon be forgotten.

- Sunday was a much different story for Seattle as they were without the services of Rai, Schappert, Dillon and Fleming before losing Troock early in the game. Seattle was just no match for Tri-City with that many players out. The Tbirds are already the youngest team in the league (and also not a very good team) and you take away their top scorer, another 20 year old, their only 19 year old and two other players and you just don't have enough firepower. Before leaving the game, Troock added another assist and now has 6 points in just 7 games with the Birds. Could this kid really be a point per game player as a 16 year old?? Wow.

- Needs to be noted... Pickard saw a lot of rubber this weekend.

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