My best guess is that Roy will make the team and Picard will need to beat out Visentin for the other spot.
As far as the impact on the Tbirds... the impact might be huge. Pickard will be off to tryout camp from the 10th of December to the 16th and will miss 4 games during that time. If Pickard makes the team and doesn't return before the end of the tournament he will miss 10 games. For those that want to see Michael Salmon, get ready to see a bunch of him.
Also invited to tryout camps were Dave Sutter (Switzerland) and Marcel Noebels (Germany). I'm honestly not very familiar with the teams for either of those countries, so I don't know whether either will make it. My guess is that Noebels probably has a very good chance and Sutter has a decent chance. Camp Germany begins on the 18th. Both Sutter and Noebels will miss between 4-9 games and that will all depend on whether they make their teams and how far they go in the tournament.
- Friday night in Everett they won because I didn't go to the game (of course). I still haven't seen a win in Everett and as long as the Tbirds keep winning up there while I'm not at the game I will happily stay away and pay the $7 for the crappy online video feed.
- Friday night was also a pretty solid effort in all phases of the game. They were able to get the puck on net, get some timely goals to open each one of the periods and they were solid defensively, only allowing a pretty backdoor Power Play goal by Ryan Murray.
- Last night was a bit of the complete opposite. Seattle lost the battles in front of the net and allowed the once league worst Ice Power Play to win battles in front of Calvin Pickard and convert on 3 of 3 chances. In terms of technique, Seattle was getting caught behind the Ice forwards instead of getting in front to block or on the side to lift sticks, etc.
- Quick word on fan behavior. I have a fan that sits near me, I know him... he plays hockey against me occasionally. I don't have a problem with this guy, we're friendly, etc. So I hope he doesn't read this and become offended. This particular fan has made it quite obvious over the years that he hates Coach Rob Sumner. He obviously thinks Sumner is a bad coach and from time to time attempts to let Sumner know about his displeasure during games. Last night after Calvin Pickard was pulled in favor of Michael Salmon this fan proceeded to yell at Sumner sarcastically for pulling Pickard "Yeah Sumner, it's Pickards fault, pull Pickard, that's the answer!" This yelling proceeded to continue for a good couple of minutes until a few fans started telling this fan to shut up. Angry fan didn't like this and proceeded to tell said fans that "if they played hockey they could tell him what to do". Fine... not a problem. Quite frankly I don't really care what fans do... yell all you want, you paid for your ticket. But.... if you're going to yell and tell everyone how smart your hockey knowledge is... you had BETTER be right. And in this case, angry fan is completely wrong. Sumner didn't pull Pickard last night because it was "his fault" that Seattle was down 5-1... you pull your starting goaltender out of there so that he doesn't have to keep getting punished when the team in front of him isn't playing well. You hate Sumner... I get it... but if you're going to yell and scream and tell everyone how smart your hockey knowledge is, you should try to be correct.
- Speaking of Pickard. Obviously a tough night for him and it's really too bad that it had to come on his Bobblehead night. The 5th and final goal was a bit of a soft one but the others were certainly not his fault. What you have to love and appreciate about Pickard is how much he cares. You could see the anger and disappointment on his face as he sat on the bench. Part of what makes Calvin so great is that you know how much he cares, you know how much he loves to compete, you know how much it burns at him to have a game like that. It doesn't matter if it happened on Bobblehead night, he probably doesn't care about that. He's mad because he cares deeply about winning and about his team and that's exactly why you don't see him have very many nights like last night. It's exactly why I would expect him to bounce back strong on Tuesday.
- I was absolutely utterly shocked we didn't see multiple fights last night. I could easily be wrong but it just didn't seem like Kootenay wanted to drop the gloves. They were chippy... there was multiple "chat rooms" but no fights. Doty tried to get into a few scraps and wound up getting a double minor for roughing that led to two Ice goals. You take the good with the bad with Doty. We can't all hope for Doty to fight all the time and then be upset when he picks up the occasional penalty that hurts the team... it comes with the territory and for the most part Doty has been excellent.
- I always listen to the post-game show to hear what Sumner and the Seattle "star of the game" has to say. Most of the time you don't really get anything of substance but occasionally you get some gems. What I love most is when players are honest. Last night Charles Wells was honest. Paraphrasing... he said the team played like crap and he wasn't really sure why he even deserved a "star". Good on him... I need more players being honest and less "canned" answers.
- The lone bright spots... nice snipes out of Lockhart and Bobbee to bookend the scoring.
- Seattle has slipped to 2nd on the PP and 13th on the PK. Seattle's goal differential would suggest that this team might regress back towards .500. Let's hope that isn't the case.
As mad, upset and frustrated as I was last night my cooler head has prevailed and realized that it IS only one game. It was a tough loss but hockey, like most sports, is a marathon and not a sprint. One game does not define a team, but it might tell us something about them.
What does it tell me? It tells me that this team is still pretty young and quite frankly hasn't enjoyed a lot of success in the last two seasons and they are probably still trying to learn how to win. Remember last season when Portland took the "league by storm" and surprised the league after 3 horrible seasons? They wound up with 91 points and a winning percentage of .632. With a winning percentage of .614 Seattle isn't very far behind what that "surprise" Portland team did last season.
My point isn't to argue that Seattle is "just as good" as last year's Portland team... but merely to illustrate that teams on the rise typically don't rocket straight to the top. This team is still learning how to win and they just aren't there yet. Teams that are "winners" don't lose games like last night... they find a way to hold on down the stretch and they get the job done. This team hasn't learned how to do that yet. They have to go through games like this in order to figure out what NOT to do. Call it... growing pains.
- Burke Gallimore missed in the shootout going high glove side and just missing over the bar and off the glass. Gallimore has a tremendous shot and has converted on a couple of those... but I've seen way too many misses. Time to mix in a deke somewhere or start cashing in on 3 out of 4 of those shots.
- Way too many shots against. Seattle just can't give up 59 shots and expect to win. I always feel like the shot clock at ShoWare center favors our superstar goaltender, so I'm not certain that 59 shots is accurate... but either way there was a lot of shots. Way too many shots. The Americans are the same team that put 58 shots on Pickard in his epic 58 save shutout last season so the 50+ total isn't a fluke.
- The bright spot? Colin Jacobs. For most of last season and this season I have felt like Jacobs has tried way too hard to be the star that everyone thinks he can be. At times his forced play was detrimental to himself and the team. He forced the action, tried to dangle around multiple defenders and has been pushed into being a Quarterback of the PP despite looking uncomfortable doing it. I'm hoping that last night was a turning point for Colin and his career. He picked up two "garbage" goals by hanging around the net in good places and played a solid team game to go along with his usual hustle. I was very impressed with his game last night. Hopefully, this is one of those games where a player "clicks" with what it takes to be successful.
- The nightly chants of... "Doooooty, Doooooty..." keep getting louder each game.
- Quick note on the Checking From Behind penalty that Dillon got last night with 30 seconds to play in Overtime. I know the league is trying to crack down on these "types" of hits and I think that is absolutely the right thing to do. Players have been taking too many liberties with defenseless players and one of these days a player is going to get seriously hurt and we can't have that. Dillon's check was not one of those hits. From my vantage it looked like the offensive player saw Dillon coming and turned his back at the last minute to protect the puck. Referee Steve Papp even appeared to see the hit, think about it, remember that the league is trying to crack down and then raised his arm. It's a tough call and I'm not saying this to criticize Papp. I'm just not sure we should be allowing players to turn their back on the check knowing that they will either protect the puck or draw a penalty.
- Noebels was back with Lockhart last night. I kind of called that one didn't I?
Last but not least. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. It certainly has been an interesting year in the life of this blog but we're still going strong and I want to thank all Tbird and WHL fans for sticking with me.
Seattle gets back to work tomorrow night in Everett before returning back home for Calvin Pickard Bobblehead Night on Saturday against Kootenay.
Seattle picked up 2 out of 4 possible points last weekend and they were probably lucky to have survived the weekend with any points at all.
I honestly didn't think their play on Friday night against Spokane was really that bad... but maybe that is a testament to how much this team has elevated their level of play and their expectations. What once might have been a "not so bad" effort last season is a poor effort this season. If that is true... then the action Saturday was horrible. Missed assignments and lack of defensive zone coverage led to three Everett goals in the first 13 minutes of the game and the Tbirds were never able to fully recover.
The Western Conference is unbelievably tight with just 2 points separating 3rd and 10th place and only 5 points between 2nd and 10th. Seattle still owns the 2nd best winning percentage in the Conference but they don't have any margin for error and that appears likely to be true throughout the entire season.
Some individual notes.
- How fun is Justin Hickman?? 3 bone crushing (and clean I might add) hits in the game on Saturday. When he plays the game the right way he sure is fun to watch. As he gets a little bit more playing time it will be interesting to see if he can add some scoring to his physical game.
- I thought the lines were all screwed up this past weekend. I wouldn't be surprised to see some new combinations tonight. I don't like Noebels with Jacobs and Alos.. that line just doesn't seem to work well. I like Noebels playing with Lockhart a lot more.
- The defense had a tough weekend and needs to improve the defensive zone coverage. The "big" mistakes have been kept to a minimum for most of the season but they are starting to creep in just a little bit in the last couple of weeks.
- To sound completely repetitive, Seattle needs to start doing some scoring on the 5 on 5. They can't really expect their PP to carry them for an entire season.
- Teams are appearing to be less and less willing to fight Jacob Doty. I'm going to bet that if he doesn't dance tonight or Friday that he'll find someone to tango with from Kootenay on Saturday.
- Erik Fleming got beat around the outside and then knocked off the puck during a sequence in Saturday's game... and I don't believe he saw the ice after that.
- I heard one fan Saturday yell at Sumner to "play all 4 lines/play the whole team". This isn't Squirts... its Major Junior hockey. When you play on the 4th line you don't always regularly get ice time. If you want to make the argument that some players aren't seeing the ice enough I suppose I will understand that.. but we're trying to win games and sometimes that means leaning more heavily on your top guys.
Overall - 9th
Power Rating - 5th
Offense - 16th
Defense - 3rd
Home Ice "Advantage" - 10th*
Strength of Schedule to date - 2nd
Strength of Schedule future - 1st
U.S. Division is still ranked as the toughest division.
*Home Ice Advantage is just a measure of the difference in the team's play between the home games and the road games. 10th basically means the Tbirds don't play very different on the road than they do at home.
Rankings can be found here.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels leads the list of "players to watch" in the WHL. Followed by Sven Baertschi and Ty Rattie of Portland.
Colin Jacobs checks in for Seattle at #10 and Luke Lockhart and Marcel Noebels follow him at #12 and #13.
Portland has 4 of the top 9 players on the list after having all of those drafted players last year. You can't really say enough about how well they have scouted and recruited to their team. High draft picks are obviously important and in theory make things easier... but it only matters if you cash in and draft the right players and clearly they have.
One final interesting note. The rankings for the USHL include Seattle listed player Seth Ambroz at #3. It will be interesting to see whether Ambroz will continue on his path to Minnesota or whether he might possibly join the Tbirds next season.
Seattle erased a 4-1 Regina lead by scoring the game's final 4 goals, capped by Charles Wells' 5th of the season with just over 5 minutes to play.
Ironman Calvin Pickard comes through once again with 38 big saves in the victory.
Colin Jacobs forged the tie getting his 7th and 8th goals of the season, both on the Power Play, knotting the game at 4 before the GWG by Wells. Brenden Dillon also added 3 assists and now has 16 points in 18 games.
Tbird fans... it's time to mark the occasion. With their 3/4 effort on the PP tonight, Seattle is now 23/77 with the man advantage... good for 29.9% and FIRST IN THE WHL. When is the last time we were able to say that?
Interesting that Seattle is also 1st in Power Play conversion while enjoying the fewest PP chances in the league (I didn't bother to calculate the per game rate).
With the victory, Seattle now sits in the 3rd position in the Western Conference and enjoys the 2nd best record in the West.
Seattle wraps up their very successful Eastern Swing tomorrow night in Swift Current against the 11-11 Broncos.
I will be playing for the IEB team this year (which is just the new name of the E&D Division at Microsoft).
I won't spend a ton of time begging right now... but as the Challenge gets closer I will be shamelessly asking for donations on my behalf.
If you didn't attend Seattle's 4-1 victory over a very good Red Deer Rebels team last night at the ShoWare Center you might have looked at the box score and believed that it was a pretty good, quality win for the Tbirds. However, that's why we must combine what we see with our own two eyes with what happens on the stat sheet. The victory last night probably won't go down as the blue print that coach Rob Sumner is looking for in a typical win but they won't argue with the results. The quality of the Tbirds play wasn't nearly as good as the final result would have indicated. Am I being too tough on this team? Maybe… but I don't think this is a crappy team that is just trying to hang on. I believe this team can be pretty good they just need to learn how to bring it each and every single night.
Notes from last night.
- Calvin Pickard was outstanding once again stopping 46 of 47 shots. His most important work came in the 1st 35 minutes of the game as he stopped all 18 shots he faced in the 1st period and another 15 in the 2nd period when Red Deer swarmed the Seattle net. Seattle found itself in early penalty trouble and thanks in large part to Pickard the Rebels weren't able to cash in on the PP until late in the 3rd period on their 6th and final opportunity. Seattle simply can't continue giving up 40+ shots per game and expect the wins to keep coming. Earlier in the season Seattle was able to keep a lot of the shots to the outside and less dangerous areas… but last night the shots were dangerous and Pickard managed to keep the puck out of the net. The Tbirds are doing a decent job of getting the puck cleared after initial shots but the chances are far too dangerous right now.
- I hate complaining about officiating… but wow that was a poorly officiated game. Simple horrible on so many levels. The worst of them being the last two calls. The USC diving call on Colin Jacobs was absolutely ridiculous and Dave Sutter getting an extra roughing penalty for the scrap with Daulton Siwak. The result of which was a Matt Dumba Power Play goal breaking the shutout bid at 13:17. I can't honestly come up with a reason why Sutter got the extra 2 minutes and it wound up costing Pickard the shutout.
- Speaking of Dumba. The 4th overall selection in the 2009 Bantam draft already looks very polished as a 16 year old. He quarterbacked one of the 2 Red Deer PP units and his goal was a well placed blast that beat Pickard on the PP. Kind of reminded me of a right handed Thomas Hickey.
- Nobody wants to fight Jacob Doty. I'm thinking he might have trouble getting to 50 fights.
- Gallimore with another solid night getting the PP goal that he neatly tucked into the corner with a wrist shot after receiving a nice feed from Marcel Noebels and adding a nice individual effort that barely caught 16 year old Rebels goaltender Bolton Pouliot leaning and beat him under the blocker.
- Give Rebels captain Colin Archer credit for continuing to get pummeled by Mitch Elliot but continuing to stand up and hang in there until finally the fight was called on fatigue. Elliot must have thrown a near 20 punches and did not take kindly to Archer getting in a couple of shots with the referee between them. The flying punches knocked Archer to the ice two different times… both times he got right back to his feet and continued to take what Elliot had for him.
- I can't really exaggerate how overwhelmed Seattle was for the first 35 minute of the game… but they were able to weather the storm and once they got the Power Play goal from Gallimore they appeared to get things going a little bit from that point forward.
Seattle hits the road for their next 6 games beginning with Brandon on Saturday. The good news for Seattle is that they will wind up spending less than 2 weeks on the road. The bad news is… that means they will wind up cramming 6 games into 8 days. Quite the stretch. Expect to see Michael Salmon get his first game action at some point during the trip. My best guess for the goalie rotation:
Saturday, Brandon – Pickard
Sunday, Moose Jaw – Pickard
Tuesday, Saskatoon – Pickard
Wednesday, Prince Albert – Salmon
Friday, Regina – Pickard
Saturday, Swift Current – Pickard
At least… that's how I would do it if I were coach… as usual… what the hell do I know.
A 2-0 loss Friday night to Prince George and a 3-2 overtime loss in Kamloops left the Tbirds with only 1 point out of 2 games this weekend. Seattle is falling back into some of the habits that got them into trouble last season and the results don't lie.
Last season, Seattle leaned heavily on Calvin Pickard and at different times struggled with effort and sharp focus.
Friday night was about lack of focus. The play was sloppy and though Seattle was able to generate some chances and hit two posts the breakdowns in the defensive end eventually led to their demise. While it is true that they ran into a beautiful goaltending performance by new Prince George goaltender Ty Rimmer (no wonder he's good, just check the name) they got the result they likely deserved in the 2-0 loss.
The game wasn't a complete loss as Travis Toomey had a nice shorthanded chance that clanged off the crossbar and over the goal and Seattle did manage 36 shots on goal. They just weren't able to finish the way they had been able to finish up to this point in the season.
Some other notes… Jacob Doty and Mitch Elliot each got themselves a scrap on Friday. Elliot gets the win over Brock Hirsche in short order landing about 3 or 4 hard punches before both went down to the ice. Hirsche went down awkwardly and had to be helped off the ice. I hope he isn't hurt too badly. Doty spent warm-ups and a lot of the game "talking" to Cougar players trying to get a dance partner and finally got one with Greg Fraser. The fight ended rather quickly when Doty dropped Fraser with a solid right hand. I'm still shocked that neither Sena Acolatse nor Charles Inglis stepped up to challenge Doty.
Anyone else remember Daniel Gibb? Gibb, if you recall, was a 8th round bantam choice of the Tbirds out of Prince George in 2007 and was released (I believe) after training camp last year before catching on with the Cougars. Did that kid grow or what?? I don't remember exactly how tall he was in training camp last year but he now stands 6'3" and 205 lbs according to the WHL website and it wouldn't shock me if he was actually taller than that now. Wow he grew.
Saturday night in Kamloops was substantially worse even though Seattle managed to "earn" a point, thanks almost entirely to another strong performance from Pickard. When Seattle tied the game at 1-1 late in the 2nd period on a PP goal by Travis Bobbee the shot totals were 35-8 in favor of Kamloops. The final total saw Pickard make 49 saves on 52 shots with the Blazers winning it just 32 seconds into overtime with a PP goal from Jordan DePape. Pickard battled his butt off to earn Seattle a point they really didn't deserve. Maybe the team was tired? Maybe they don't sleep well when they take the bus trip the night before? I don't know… but the effort wasn't very good.
Seattle did have another really pretty PP goal by Marcel Noebels who was on the receiving end of a tic-tac-toe setup courtesy of Burke Gallimore and Luke Lockhart. Lockhart added a 2nd assist on the Bobbee goal and now has 8 points in 12 games this season.
Doty had another scrap, his 9th in 12 games, against Brandon Underwood that was mostly a draw. It looked to me like Underwood might have landed one decent shot and got Doty's helmet off before both went tumbling to the ice. In case you were wondering… Doty is on pace for 54 fights. Seattle had a grand total of 51 fights last season.