Social Icons

twitterfacebookgoogle pluslinkedinrss feedemail


Hockey Challenge 2014

Recent Articles


Game 33 Recap

I have very little time to write today so let's bang this out.
  • Much better effort from the Thunderbirds in Everett last night despite the fact that the outcome wound up being exactly the same. The passing was crisper and Seattle generated more scoring chances than they did on Tuesday night.
  • What a night for Luke Lockhart.  He has struggled all season in the point total department despite playing his usual gritty, defensive-minded, and hustling style of hockey. His shorthanded marker towards the end of the first period gave Seattle the lead and was one of the best individual performances of the season.  He followed that up with a rebound put-back goal in the 2nd period and finished the night with the only goal of the shootout to give the Tbirds the win.  It was a great night for Lockhart, and I just hope he has a few more of those before the end of the season.
  • Calvin Pickard was mostly solid in net again, but made a rare and costly mistake in the 3rd period that allowed Everett to tie the game with 5 minutes remaining.  I was sitting at the opposite end of the ice, so I still can't tell exactly what happened, but it appeared as though Pickard gloved the shot from Ryan Harrison, and then dropped it in his own net. A rare mistake for Pickard and he followed it up by stopping JT Barnett, Ryan Harrison and Kohl Bauml in the shootout.
  • Pickard is also closing in on some WHL history.  Finishing the night with 12,095 minutes played in his WHL career has placed him 8th on the career list. Pickard can jump past Evan Lindsay and Steve Passmore and into 6th place if he starts Friday night against Moose Jaw and plays more than 54 minutes.  At that point, he'll have his eyes set squarely on Danny Lorenz for the franchise record of 12,634 minutes played and also 3rd all-time in WHL history.  Kyle Moir and Kurtis Mucha remain after that and he needs 1,614 minutes played before the end of the season to pass Mucha.  If he averages 59 minutes played per game he would need 28 games played in Seattle's remaining 39 games to have the record.  That's a pretty safe bet. If you sprinkle in roughly 6 starts for Daniel Cotton, Pickard would break the WHL record against the Silvertips at home on March 11th.
  • Cason Machacek, sniper.
  • Playoff Watch 2012: It's been a while.  Seattle sits in 7th place by points and 6th place by winning percentage. Last season, Everett was the 8th seed with 67 points and it may not even take that many to get into the playoffs this season. Conservatively, let's say 67 is the magic number... the Tbirds need 36 more points in their final 39 games to be playing meaningful hockey past the 2nd weekend of March.  Vancouver currently sits in 3rd place in the Conference. I would love to see Seattle get the 6 seed and face the Giants in the first round. I know, I know... we're getting a little ahead of ourselves.
Players and fans will get one day of rest to regroup as the Tbirds will host the Moose Jaw Warriors.  The Warriors might be a tired bunch as they played at home LAST NIGHT before hitting the road to get to Kent before Friday's game.  Google Maps says it’s about 19 hours by car.  Yikes.


Ugly Win for Tbirds

When does a win feel like a loss? For me, it was last night as the Thunderbirds managed to get a 2-1 shootout win over the Everett Silvertips in front of a sold out crowd of 6,150 at ShoWare Center.  I really disliked how the Birds played last night and I think it is really going to be a challenge for Steve Konowalchuk to break some of the bad habits that continue to show up in some players. Normally I wouldn't be too worried about the first game back from Christmas break but the problem isn't the effort level, the problem is the way our "best" players are playing the game.  We might as well get straight to the bullet holes...and fair warning that this isn't going to be pretty.
  • We might as well start on a slightly positive note.  Good tilt between Mitch Elliot and Josh Caron. Caron is one of the few true heavyweights left in the league and I can't remember ever seeing Elliot lose a fight... until last night. Credit Elliot for taking on the 6'4" Caron and he hung in there and landed a few good shots, but he definitely received more than he landed, and as a result you would have to solidly give the win to Caron.
  • The Power Play was horrendous with Seattle going 0/4 with the man advantage. They had all kinds of trouble just getting the puck set up in the offensive zone. Once they did, they had trouble getting shots to the net. It was interesting to see Laroque get some time on the PP as well as to see Honey out on the point during at least one shift.  Honey actually made one of the smarter "under the radar" plays I have seen in a while: as he heard Pickard banging his stick to signal the end of the PP, he quickly reacted and shifted to get a 2nd defensemen on the ice for even strength.
  • Ok... truth time.  Burke Gallimore looks completely bored out there and seems completely disinterested unless he has an offensive chance. Obviously, that is just an observation (and I could be wrong) but I think a lot of fans would agree.  I don't think it's for lack of caring on Gallimore’s part, rather I think he has some chronically bad habits.  In addition to his lack of defense and general hustle outside of an offensive chance, his shots are missing the mark.  Gallimore (along with pretty much the rest of the team) is shooting to snipe and missing the net a lot. Smarter shots are needed. I don't know how to describe on paper what I mean by that... but shooting high and wide of the net with two players crashing the net isn't a smart shot.
  • Marcel Noebels:  I had kind of hoped that going to the World Junior Division I tournament might get Noebels back into the "team concept" and force him to quit trying to do so much on the ice and to use his teammates.... I was wrong. Back to the same #15 we saw early in the season. What happened to the Marcel Noebels we saw last year who played with humility, fire and passion.  Is he too comfortable after being drafted? Too much self induced pressure? No trust in his teammates? Arrogant?  Your guess is as good as mine.  If he keeps playing like this, his -17 rating is going to be -34, which is a crying shame to waste his talent.  Look guys and gals... there isn't a big mystery why Gallimore and Noebels are -16 and -17. Stats can sometimes be misleading but when you lead the team in scoring and you have the worst plus minus rating, you aren't playing good hockey (defense).
  • Branden Troock.  Let's build a little stew.  Take a base of #15, sprinkle in a little #22 and mix in a little "17 year old potion" and you have yourself a Troock Pot (wow that was bad) a lethal mixture of not so great hockey. Troock tries too hard to dangle and do too much on almost every possession, refuses to use his teammates effectively and the result is 11 points in 27 games for a kid who (in my opinion) is much more talented than that stat line. He might have some time to think about it now after leaving the game with a wrist injury.
  • How badly does this team miss the steady play of a guy like Brendan Rouse?
  • Kyle Verdino was out with an injury last night while Dave Sutter was away at the WJHC with Team Switzerland, allowing Evan Wardley to step in on defense.  I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.  He was physical and gave Coach K some solid minutes last night and was rewarded with his first WHL point as he spun and threw a shot towards the net that caromed right to a wide open Gallimore at the bottom of the circle for the goal.
  • Also positive, I continue to like the way Colin Jacobs is playing.  Last season I felt like Jacobs was playing similar to the way Noebels is playing right now and I think Jacobs has completely turned his game in the right direction. If Jacobs can continue doing the little things like back-checking, going hard to the net, getting pucks to the net and using his teammates effectively, I think he could be in line for a very good second half.
  • Luke Lockhart continues to work hard but really isn't anywhere to be found. I can't help but feel like he is completely wasted on a line with Noebels and Gallimore.
Look, two points is always two points... but not all two points are created equally. Everett has won only 6 games all season (2 on the road, one was at ShoWare) and they were without their best player in Ryan Murray. If this team thinks they are going anywhere they needed to come out and absolutely bury the Silvertips in front of a crowd that was just begging to be entertained. Instead, we were blessed with more selfish hockey by talented hockey players who don't seem to be getting it.

Seattle is in Everett tonight for the back end of the home and home. I'll be heading up to Everett looking forward to seeing (hopefully) a very different team tonight.


Tbirds hit Holiday Break

I wasn't able to attend the game on Saturday night due to a Holiday Party, so I don't have very many thoughts on the 3rd period collapse on Saturday except that it looked bad on my phone.

I was able to catch the game on Friday night via webcast.  The biggest takeaway from the weekend is that Tri-City is a damn good team. The Americans have now won 8 straight and have only lost 2 games at home all season. Seattle looked poised to pick up 2 points on Saturday night but completely melted down in the 3rd period.

Tbirds are off until Tuesday the 27th. I want to wish everyone a very happy Holidays. The players will spend the week at home and hopefully come back refreshed and ready to gear up for a playoff run.

One final note.  I have updated the banner at the top of the page to reflect the new date of the Hockey Challenge 2012.  I will once again be raising money for the cause and I will provide additional details as I get them.


Game 29 Recap

No witty titles today. I'm tired and cranky and today is honestly one of those days where I would rather not write anything... but I think it is important to always try to get something out for you guys to read to keep everyone coming back and staying informed. So here goes.

  • Seattle picked up the 3-0 win last night over the Vancouver Giants getting 3 goals in the final 4.5 minutes of the game to pick up their 13th victory of the season and move them within 2 points of getting back to ".500". 
  • The Tbirds started slow again and spent much of the first period having trouble getting the puck cleared from their own zone.  One thing that consistently puzzles me about the Tbirds is the lack of forwards moving through the middle of the ice on their breakouts. It appears as though they are actively avoiding the middle of the ice and forcing things to the outside. I don't know if this is an intentional tactic or if the players just aren't executing the way they are being told.  Either way... at times Seattle is having a ton of trouble getting the puck out of their own zone.  It got better as the game went on, but the first period was pretty rough.
  • Seattle got better in the 2nd and had some pretty legitimate scoring chances that were thwarted by Giants goaltender Adam Morrison. One of the biggest scrambles came when Morrison appeared to break the skate strap on one of his goalie pads, forcing backup Jackson Whistle into emergency service.  The 16 year old held his own despite losing his stick for about 30 of the 95 seconds he was on the ice. I thought Morrison was excellent for the Giants and if it weren't for the world class snipe by Branden Troock the outcome may have been different.
  • Speaking of Troock... he broke open a scoreless game with a frozen rope over the shoulder of Morrison and into the top corner.  Troock has been trying to do way too much lately picking up right where Marcel Noebels left off after leaving to play for Team Germany. Sometimes trying to do too much will occasionally get you into good scoring chances and Troock buried a big time goal with the game on the line last night.
  • Solid game from Cason Machacek, who I haven't written very much about unless it was a penalty or a fight. Machacek picked up an assist on the goal by Luke Lockhart and finished with a +2 and perhaps most importantly 0 PIMs.
  • Officiating was solid last night, kudos to Brett Iverson and Mike Campbell.  They weren't perfect... but I don't ask them to be perfect. I expect to not notice their impact on the game and let the players mostly decide the outcome and they did that.
  • Pickard was, of course, solid in net for the Tbirds but the defense deserves a lot of credit for keeping the dangerous chances to a minimum.  Even Pickard admitted in the post game show that he only needed to make a "few good saves" which is probably just a statement of humility with a sprinkle of truth. The defense kept shots to the outside and cleared rebounds from the front of the net.
  • This group of forwards is starting to look extremely deep and you have to wonder what is going to happen when Rouse and Noebels return.  My guess? Wardley and Doty probably become healthy scratches most nights while the 4th line becomes Mitch Elliot, Connor Honey and Sean Aschim (or something like that). That's a damn good "4th line".
  • Braeden Laroque was a HS last night.
Seattle now sits alone in 8th place on raw points but they are actually 6th in point percentage.  The conference is pretty weak this year and the Tbirds might be able to ride that all the way up to the 5th or 6th seed (catching Spokane will likely be tough).

Seattle travels to Tri-City on Friday night to start a home and home series that will continue on Saturday. Tis the season of holiday parties and I will miss the game on Saturday. Look for updates on Friday night as I will be watching the action from the friendly confines of my home television.


Game 29 vs. Vancouver

Tbirds take on the Vancouver Giants tonight at the ShoWare Center. Let's talk about the 4-3 shootout win last Saturday against the Victoria Royals.

  • Seattle did a much better job getting pucks to the net on Saturday night and wound up with 37 shots on goal (overtime included) and the result was 3 goals. That isn't exactly setting the world on fire but it is an improvement over what we have seen previously. Getting nine power play chances doesn't hurt either and Seattle probably should have put the game away long before the Royals comeback if they could have converted on at least one more of their chances.
  • Tyler Alos had a fantastic game with a goal, an assist and a +2 rating. Alos is a really good kid who has started to play better lately and I have a feeling that these points will do wonders to his confidence and might springboard him forward. He was also sporting the "A" on Saturday and certainly represented it well.
  • Colin Jacobs also had a nice game getting a Power Play goal on a give and go with Kyle Verdino.  It hasn't happened yet but I expect the Tbirds Power Play to see an uptick with Jacobs healthy. What I notice most about Jacobs this season is that he appears to be having a lot of fun playing the game again.  In the past couple of years he has seemed frustrated and almost angry at times. Two games is hardly a sample size worth talking about but it's really nice to see him smiling so much.
  • The turning point in the game was the 5 minute "solo" Fighting Major after coming to the defense of teammate Burke Gallimore. The penalty gave Chilliwack Victoria a 3 minute power play and they were able to convert 3 times to tie the score.  By the way... Hickman also received a Game Misconduct, which is automatic in a "one man fight" situation.  I love the idea of Hickman sticking up for Gallimore but it just might not have been the right time to do it. The tripping penalty looked a bit ordinary to me except for the fact that Gallimore's momentum caused a big crash into the end boards.  Obviously, if Seattle had been able to kill the 3 minute Power Play we wouldn't have even need to talk about it.  Good intentions, poor outcome... it happens.
  • Following up on the Connor Honey situation. Honey registered his first WHL point, getting an assist on the Sean Aschim goal. Neate Sager from Yahoo Sports Canada has some additional information with quotes from Russ Farwell about the whole situation.  It's a good read, find it here.
  • Campbell Elynuik received a one game suspension for his Boarding Major for his hit on Shea Theodore from Friday night.  Taylor Crunk received two games for his Cross Check to the face Major that he laid on Tyler Alos on Saturday night.  Cody Beach received a one game suspension for the "accumulation of embellishment penalties". That isn't Tbird related at all... I just found it funny.
Seattle is now sitting at 17th in the Massey Ratings, just ahead of Lethbridge, Prince Albert, Victoria, Kelowna and Everett. Offense is still the most glaring weakness as the Tbirds sit at 21st in the league in the raw offense metric, ahead of only... your... Everett Silvertips.


Honey and Jacobs

A few quick thoughts on the 1-0 loss last night to the Prince George Cougars.
  • I spent a lot of time focusing on Connor Honey and Colin Jacobs last night.  Let's start with Honey. Honey came out on fire in his first shift and threw a big hit that was called Interference by our Maestro of Ceremonies Jason Nissen. Looked an awful lot like a clean check to me with the puck sitting just two feet away... something that happens... oh I dunno... 30 times a game? In any event, his first shift ended with a penalty but I didn't mind the penalty at all.  I loved the aggressive nature and the willingness to go out and throw your body around.  He also wasn't afraid to shoot AND get the shot on net, which is something this team is sorely lacking right now.  There was a stretch in the middle of the game where I didn't feel like he had very many shifts with all the penalties that were going on back and forth but overall I really liked what I saw. Seattle is starting to build a very interesting 1994 group with Troock, Hickman, Honey and Wardley.
  • Jacobs.  I liked what I saw from Jacobs but I think he would admit that he was a little rusty. It shouldn't be a problem at all and I imagine after a few games he will get his live game speed going again.  He was up to his usual shenanigans trying to bait opponents into penalties and I thought he was very active circling on the breakouts, something that is needed from more players. Coach K had him on the point on one of the PP units and I think we'll see an increase in the PP production with Jacobs back.
  • Overall thoughts. The first period was all about Seattle racing around and hitting people and it was a fantastic display of the physicality that this group can bring to a game.  Unfortunately, they didn't score... and it seemed like most of the players gave up on the game plan because the hitting nearly disappeared entirely the rest of the game and the result was a big goose egg on the score-sheet. Players have to realize that the game plan isn't always going to work to perfection. The abandonment of the game plan only leads to more struggle and leads to players trying to do too much on their own with the puck. The 2nd and 3rd periods were a classic example of that.  The Tbirds had only 4 shots in the 2nd and 11 in the 3rd (though many of the shots in the 3rd came at the end of the game when Seattle had pulled Calvin Pickard). Hit Hit Hit Hit. That should be the mentality of this team. Hard rushes through the neutral zone but if nothing is there, you chip it deep and make the defense pay the price. Fans hate this.  I heard it for years while Sumner was here "all we do is chip and chase, dump and chase... etc."  There is a very good reason why.  It's because the biggest strength this team has is its size and the ability to use their checking and size to create turnovers on the fore-check.
  • Shots. Shots were a big problem last night (just 24 overall and just 9 and 4 in the first two periods). The Tbirds were getting a ton of shots blocked.  Players are trying too hard to either snipe a goal and often times missing the net or they are just blasting it without any real purpose and things are getting blocked.  Seattle needs more shots on goal where players are just throwing pucks to the net and forcing opposing goaltenders to either catch and hold or steer shots to the corner.  To simplify things... what they need is more shots towards the 5 hole of the goaltender.  Chest, Glove, Blocker... these are all shots that are relatively easy for the goaltender to catch and hold or steer away. Shots on the ice? Somewhat easy to steer away with the stick. Shots in that middle zone, off the ice, below the gloves is where the goalie has to use his leg pads to make the save and those are the shots that create juicy rebounds.  Those... are shots with purpose. They have to get more shots to the net.
  • 3 fights last night and a lot of chippy play. Deagle had a nice fight and I love when players have fights where they are basically saying "I'm not taking anymore shit from you... let's go." Doty finally got a partner in Campbell Elynuik and after a rough start was able to land some pretty good shots towards the end. Last but not least we had Cason Machacek sticking up for Shea Theodore after getting hit from the blindside (and high) from Elynuik. I love Machacek sticking up for his teammate. Unfortunately, because we are saddled with this ridiculous Instigator penalty the Tbirds only enjoyed (and I use that term loosely) a 3 minute Power Play instead of 5 minutes. The WHL website is showing Elynuik's suspension as TBD at the moment.
  • I'm so tired of complaining about officials. It seems like the officiating in the league is at a recent low and I can't figure out exactly why that's true.  Too much turnover, too many new officials? I don't know. There were a bunch of things I thought were incorrectly called last night on both sides but the one I want to focus on was the last one. With a 1:12 left in the game the puck is dump/shot in to Cougar goaltender Drew Owsley. Owsley briefly covers the puck, takes his glove off of the puck and the whistle hadn't yet blown.  Branden Troock races in to ensure that Seattle gets the whistle, setting up a faceoff in the Cougar zone and allowing Seattle to pull Pickard and get 6 attackers on the ice. He HAS to go hard to the net to ensure they get the whistle. Troock races in and stops abruptly in front of Owsley spraying snow in his face.  He HAS to do this because obviously he can't just plow into Owsley at full speed. Referees Nissen and Spurgeon decide that it's worthy of an USC penalty putting Seattle shorthanded and effectively ending the game. What a wonderful idea... let's take the game out of the player's hands with over a minute to go in a 1 goal game by calling something that happens a handful of times per game. As a fellow goaltender, I'm all for protecting goalies, but believe me... this isn't protecting goaltenders.  Throw the book at players who run over goaltenders and let "snow spraying" get policed by the defenders in front of the net. A horrible, ridiculous administering of the end of the game by those two officials.  I hope someone educates them on how silly that was and they learn from it and become better for it. The WHL is a development league for both players AND officials and we must all keep that in mind.  Keeping it in mind... it sure seems like things have been below par lately.
Back at it tonight against the Victoria Royals who hung an 8 spot on Lethbridge last night before heading down to Seattle.


WHL Plays of the Week

I don't usually post these videos (though they are very cool) but I wanted to point this video out for two specific reasons.  One, Pickard is featured at around the 2:30 mark.

The other one deals directly with the officiating from the game last Friday against Tri.  I heard more than a few fans complain about the officials not reviewing the "high stick" goal that was scored.

Well... the first clip from plays of the week is a pretty clear shot that the goal was good.  I give officials a hard time when I feel like they deserve it, so I feel like I should give them credit when they get it right and on this call they absolutely got it right.

Link here.

Back in Action

The Cougars of Prince George are in town tonight to face off against the "new look" of the Seattle Thunderbirds. Colin Jacobs will make his much anticipated season debut, Connor Honey will make his franchise debut, and Mitch Guiel seems to have been reassigned by the team. Let's cover last weekends games first.
  • Friday night, Seattle dropped a tough 4-2 result to the Tri-City Americans.  The game was, in effect, a one goal game and Justin Feser added an empty net goal with less than 1 second to play. Officiating played a big role again as Tri-City was able to tie the game at 1-1 on a 5-3 PP.  Brad Deagle was called for a Cross-Checking penalty after defending goaltender Calvin Pickard after being slashed after the whistle by an Americans player.  The call resulted in the 5-3 for Tri and a tie game. Officials were not the reason why Seattle lost though and they never are. Sean Aschim tied the game with his 7th goal of the season in the 3rd period but Burke Gallimore took a debated High Sticking penalty just 8 seconds later and Tri-City regained the lead 30 seconds after that. Gallimore, Sutter and Noebels were all -2 and Seattle just can't survive most nights with their top players producing like that.
  • Evan Wardley had an impressive fight with Justin Feser early in the game. I loved seeing the passion from Wardley and I figured it would pump the team up, but I didn’t see a noticeable difference in play.
  • Marcel Noebels just isn't a very good hockey player right now. He is a very talented player who isn't playing the game the right way for the moment.  I know it sounds like I'm blasting him, which isn't my intent.   Like I have said before, he continues to try to do too much with the puck.  I think he is not making smart decisions and is not trusting his teammates and tries to force the play.  Good hockey is good hockey and it doesn't change depending on the player.  The talent level of the player affects the results that are produced from playing good hockey. That is why lesser talented players can still be good hockey players and have good results and good players can struggle. That being said, I have faith in his ability.  I've seen Noebels play very good hockey because he is a very good hockey player.  There is a reason why Philly drafted and signed him.  He just isn't focusing on the things that would allow his natural talent to take over and affect the game.
  • Saturday's game against the Winterhawks was a disaster on most levels. Portland was able to score their Teddy Bear Toss goal early in the game, causing a 25-30 minute delay.  Following the delay, they never looked back on their way to 60 shots on goal and a 7-1 victory. I'm not sure the delay really had any impact on the result as Seattle looked flat, tired, intimidated... you name it... it happened. This was complete and thorough domination  in every way. The best thing to do with this Portland game is to put it behind us and move on.
  • Colin Jacobs returns tonight.  At times I have seen Jacobs do the very same thing as Noebels.  A very talented forward, I'm excited to see what kind of energy and purpose Jacobs will bring to the ice. I'm certain he is very excited and anxious to get the season going.
  • Connor Honey will also make his debut tonight.  I find it interesting that the Green Bay Gamblers weekend preview said that he was "traded" to us (not true) and contained a quote from the Coach saying that he "simply couldn't balance school and hockey". He did go on to say that Honey was a "good teammate and we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors." Link to the story is here.
For tonight's game I'm going to try something slightly different.  I'm going to try to focus special attention on what Jacobs and Honey are doing on each shift.  Doing this... I'm going to miss some of the main action but I want to get a sense of what we can expect from Honey and how comfortable Jacobs looks in his first action back.


Connor Honey joins Tbirds

Connor Honey has joined the Tbirds.  Honey, 17, was in training camp with the Birds in August but left before the preseason started and did not sign a development deal with Seattle.

I was very impressed by Honey in training camp and I think he can help a little bit immediately.  Average size at 6'0" and 174 lbs his speed and hands were impressive and I think he will have the ability to create some plays right away. I think he steps into one of the top 3 lines, even with the return of Colin Jacobs on Friday and I think he has a chance to stay there even after Rouse and Troock return.

Honey had played 17 games with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL where he had 1 goal and 6 assists.

Official press release is located here.

Tbirds Release

Seattle is set to have two announcements this afternoon. Stay tuned to the official website and the blog for analysis.


Why Seattle should trade for Inglis

Over the weekend the Prince George Cougars announced that they were sending Charles Inglis home to await a trade because he broke team and league rules.

The easy thing to say is that Seattle should trade for him because... well... he's a good player. It isn't quite that simple though. Inglis has now worn out his welcome in two different places, Saskatoon and Prince George. A trade for Inglis would come with some risk.  He may not like it in Seattle, he may not like Seattle's team rules anymore than he liked PG's and if it winds up not working out here his trade value would be nearly nothing after  not working out with now 3 teams.

Here is why it actually might make a lot of sense.
  • The Tbirds are short on truly dynamic forwards. Gallimore is a great shooter, Noebels is struggling, Lockhart is struggling and while Jacobs is ready to return we don't really have any idea who long it will take him to get up to full speed.
  • It probably won't cost you very much.  I'm certain that a few teams will be interested in Inglis, but how much can the Cougars expect to get from a player who would be expected to sit at home the rest of the season.  I can think of a handful of players and draft picks I wouldn't lose sleep over taking a gamble on Inglis.
  • Inglis is from Winnipeg, Pickard is from Winnipeg and both are 19 years old. I have no idea whether they are friends or not and I admit that this is a reach but my hope would be that Pickard would have a positive influence on Inglis and perhaps he would buy into the system. For whatever it's worth, PG has no players on their roster from Winnipeg.
  • If the trade doesn't cost you very much and things don't work out... you could send him home and chalk it up to a gamble that was probably worth it.
  • Inglis also hasn't been drafted or signed and IF things were to work out you might wind up with a very good 20 year old next season.
I don't really expect this to happen but I think there is some solid upside at a very low cost available here and that is exactly the type deal they could make to get better without selling the farm.

I've been too busy to write game recaps... I apologize. Friday was ok, Saturday was brutal. I'll get around to it when I can.  Anyone want to apply for a writing position?? haha.


Back in the W column

Seattle comes from behind to get a 4-2 win over the Swift Current Broncos last night.  I honestly wasn't very impressed with the effort but I also had to leave for my own game with 10 minutes left in the game and I wasn't able to see the 5 minutes of the game where they actually played hard.  (Maybe I should leave games early more often?) These are the types of games that drive us fans crazy.  Why can't they just come out and play with the same energy on a consistent basis? Why can't they play with that swagger and chip on their shoulder that they showed during the winning streak? Quite frankly... I don't have the answers to those questions.  What I do know is that when this team plays with energy and a physical fore-check, they have the ability to beat just about any team in the league.
  • I want to clarify my thoughts on Marcel Noebels.  I don't think Noebels is being a selfish player.  I think there is a very clear distinction between a guy trying to do “too much" and a guy who plays selfishly.  Marcel Noebels cares. He definitely wants the team to succeed and I think he would be the first one to say that he isn't happy about the -15 sitting next to his name.  If anything he might care TOO much, which is why I believe he is trying so hard to force the play to make things happen.  I have faith that he will figure out that balance between laying back and forcing the action.
  • What an interesting night for Shea Theodore.  Earlier in the game he was really struggling. There was a shift on the PP where he must have given the puck away 3 or 4 times and actually needed Dave Sutter to bail him out a couple of times (which is amazing, more on that in a second). Then he winds up sending a wrister home for the game tying goal after a great face-off win by Tyler Alos and getting the first star of the game.  Just goes to show the types of inconsistencies that will show up more with talented 16 year old players.
  • Sutter.  I've spent a lot of words writing about Sutter and I think it's for good reason.  He is inconsistent and he is a lighting rod for complaints by Seattle fans. I can't really defend his play lately and it reached a point last night where I might be starting to change my mind a little.  I think Sutter has loads of potential. If I were an NHL team I would definitely be looking at him as an under the radar free agent signing.  One moment Sutter will blast a slap shot, hustle back to save Theodore and make some very smart decisions with the puck. The next moment he might make a terrible decision with the puck, nearly fall down, turn the puck over and get beat around the outside... which is exactly what happened on the first Broncos goal.  I really believe that with another couple years of working on his skating and his decision making abilities you could really have an impact player.  The problem is... Seattle can't really afford to wait two or three more years since he is 19 years old. A maddening problem.
  • Chance Lund with a greasy game winner. I love seeing guys park in front of the net and pick up greasy goals.
  • Evan Wardley made his season debut and did so as a winger.  After what I would call a nervous start he looked like he was able to settle into the game a little bit. Having a guy who can play a little bit of forward and some defense can be valuable.
  • Alos had a big face-off win that got the puck to Theodore for the game tying goal and finished the night +1. He's starting to come around.
  • Calvin Pickard was his usual solid... but I bet he would like that first goal by Taylor Vause back.  Pickard was beaten 5-hole and while it was an excellent shot by Vause, that isn't the type of shot that goaltenders like giving up.
  • Quick word about being an idiot.  Yes, I am an idiot... what's your point.  I appreciate the kind words of in my "defense".  Seriously, they aren't necessary but they are very much appreciated.  A year and half ago I probably would have let things like that get me down... but these days I honestly couldn't care less. If you're calling me an idiot, well that means you're still reading what I write which is good by me.
Seattle moves into a tie for 6th place in the Western Conference with 23 points in 24 games. They will have a chance to get back to .500 when they host the Tri-City Americans on Friday night followed by a trip to Portland on Saturday (so it won't be easy).


Loss Friday, Loss Saturday, Game Tonight

Unfortunately, I have a real job and that job has been killing me the past few days. I'm sorry for that and as a result this is going to be pretty short and sweet as well.

  • Anyone who thought Seattle had become an elite team after wins (home) over Tri-City, Portland and Regina got a reality sized smack in the face on Friday and Saturday night. So what does all of this mean? Are the Tbirds bad? Are they good? Answer: Neither. What it means is that this team isn't terrible but it also isn't elite and you're going to get some really good games and some really ugly games.
  • Let's take a look at Friday first. Prince George really isn't a very good team but Seattle didn't show the necessary amount of urgency and it eventually caught up to them.  Sure, the tying goal scored by the Cougars was extremely lucky but if Seattle had scored 3 or 4 goals it never would have been an issue.  Unfortunately, they showed a complete lack of urgency and allowed the Cougars to hang around in the game long enough to eventually get the game into overtime. Bad teams get rolled by bad teams at home. Good teams hammer bad teams at home and mediocre teams play just well enough to allow a fluky goal and a shootout to lose a point to bad teams.
  • Saturday's game was just a complete bloodbath.  This was one of the worst performances of the season from the Tbirds.  The only consolation I can take away from this game is that Seattle drove through the night to get to Kamloops at 5:30am and the Blazers are a solid team.  The ingredients came together for a recipe of disaster.  Seattle spent nearly the entire game in their own end and Daniel Cotton could hardly be blamed for any of the 8 goals.  Shots were 50-19 in favor of the Blazers.  
  • Injury added to insult, Troock was hit with an accidental high stick from Brenden Ranford that resulted in a trip to the hospital and a fractured "first rib" that will sideline him for about 4 weeks. 
  • If THAT wasn't enough, Cason Machacek took a checking to the head major penalty and his suspension is still TBD as of 2:30 this afternoon.  Considering his previous discipline, I would not be surprised to see a 5 game suspension. That means that the experiment of having Kyle Verdino playing up front with the forwards will have to take a hiatus.
  • One of the biggest things I kept noticing from Friday and Saturday was Marcel Noebels trying to do too much.  He must let the game come to him and quit trying to over play every situation. If you don't think there is a correlation between how he is playing and the -15 rating. That wouldn't be a big deal if the rest of the team were -15 or worse but his rating ranks last on the team with the closest being Luke Lockhart and Jared Hauf at -11.
  • Speaking of plus/minus ratings. Seattle now has no player in positive territory and Brendan Rouse's 0 leads regulars.
  • On a brighter note.  I like the way Tyler Alos has been playing lately and it seems like it has been a long time since I was able to single him out in a good way.
Everyone needs to take a deep breath (myself included) and realize that every season is going to have their ups and downs. Even the 19-6 Tri-City Americans got hammered by Spokane 7-2 and lost to the lowly Everett Silvertips 6-3 earlier in the season.  It is important to keep from focusing on one game or a just a handful of games and look at the bigger/overall picture.

Let's see how they bounce back against a very beatable Swift Current team tonight.


No WJC for Pickard

I will have some time today to write my thoughts about the games on Friday and Saturday but I wanted to get this up first.  I suppose that things could change but as of this morning Calvin Pickard will not be getting an invite to the World Junior camp for Team Canada.

A full list of the invites can be found here.


3 in a row??

Seattle officially has a winning "streak" after their 3rd straight win, defeating the Regina Pats last night 5-2. The Birds once again got off to what I would call a bit of a slow start, though not as bad as we have seen previously. Regina was able to capitalize on two occasions late in the period to take a 2-0 lead.  Seattle responded under a minute later as Branden Troock got his first of two goals on the night.  Tyler Alos took a shot from the top of the circle left of the goaltender and Troock saw the puck deflect off of his chest and into the goal.  That particular goal was a huge momentum builder as Seattle went into the first intermission down only by 1 goal.  Troock added a second when he poked the puck past a sprawled Matt Hewitt to tie the game in the 2nd period, setting the stage for Seattle to extend their winning streak if they could produce a solid 3rd period.  Burke Gallimore captured the lead that would not be surrendered just 6:28 into the period as he ripped one off the bar and in from the slot area after a Regina turnover. Kyle Verdino and Chance Lund finished the scoring as Regina appeared to tire down the stretch and the Tbirds picked up their 10th win of the season.

  • A very good night for Troock, not just because of the 2 goals, but because of the way in which they were scored.  Both were greasy goals that were the result of going to the net hard and hanging around the crease area. Troock is going to get his fair share of flashy goals but this is how (eventually) you take your scoring to the next level.
  • No offense to Troock, but I thought the real star of the game was Gallimore.  For the 3rd night in a row, Gallimore looked like he had fire in his belly and led the way with some bone crushing hits.  That right there is how this team has to play in order to win.  They must be able to use their size to a physical advantage on the fore-check to create turnovers and create scoring chances.  Gallimore was so good, he is still being listed as both the 2nd and 3rd stars on the scoresheet!
  • What a beautiful feed by Luke Lockhart to Verdino on the Power Play for the 4th goal of the game.  Verdino pinched down the backside of the zone and Lockhart hesitated for just a split second to make sure he had the passing lane and fed a tape to tape pass and Verdino tapped in for the score.  Seattle had 3 PP chances last night and looked very good on the 1st and scored on their 3rd chance.
  • Chance Lund finished the scoring with a nice individual effort and a blast from just inside the blue line that was ever so slightly deflected by the Regina defender and found the back of the net.  Lund is coming on strong again.
  • 16 year olds Jared Hauf and Shea Theodore were paired up together last night and played wonderfully in doing so. Both seem to be getting more comfortable by the game and even though neither had points last night they were both +3 on the evening.
  • Brendan Rouse suffered an injury in the first period and didn't return.  A report I received had his hand taped up and he was sitting upstairs with the Scratches in the 2nd period.
  • Not a lot of ice time for Connor Sanvido who appears to be in the coach's doghouse again.
  • Marcel Noebels is so talented.... he just has got to quit trying to do too much with the puck.  It seems like he is trying to create the perfect setup on every shift when I think he would be more successful keeping things simpler.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.  Be thankful for your families, and the 3 game winning streak! Seattle welcomes in the Prince George Cougars on Friday with a chance to run their streak to 4 games.


Can I still go back to Saturday?

Before we move on to Regina tonight and Prince George on Friday, I’ll finally give my thoughts about the Saturday game.  Seattle picked up their second straight impressive victory over a quality opponent beating the Portland Winterhawks 6-3 before a crowd of 4,538 at ShoWare Center. The Thunderbirds chased goaltender Brendan Burke in the second period which was the first time in a long time that I recall Seattle truly chasing a goaltender out of the game. As a fellow goaltender, I hate seeing that happen to any goalie, but those nights do happen. He's young, he'll probably bounce back. The Tbirds now find themselves solidly in the playoff picture (with an obviously long way to go) with 18 points and a win percentage of .450. Everett and Prince George currently bring up the rear at .292 respectively.
  • Chance Lund started the season hot, cooled off a bit, and has since picked up the pace again.  Lund tied the game at 1-1 with an impressive individual effort just over a minute after former Tbird Charles Wells opened the scoring.  Lund had a goal and an assist to go with his +2 rating. His 13 points have already tied his career high from last season when he also had 6 goals and 7 assists. Also important is the imrprovement in his plus/minus rating and the fact that he has only 2 PIMs on the season.
  • Seattle had so many chances that the score could have looked much worse much earlier in the game if it weren’t for a bit of bad luck. I counted 3 post shots including 2 by Justin Hickman in the early part of the game. Seattle was definitely buzzing early this time as the shots were 13-12 in favor of the WHawks in the first period.
  • Speaking of Hickman, he made one of the smartest plays I have seen all year on the Penalty Kill that led to a Luke Lockhart shorthanded goal.  Hickman gained control of the puck in the neutral zone as Seattle went for a change and instead of just dumping the puck or forcing the rush, he patiently carried the puck wide and waited for support.  That support came in the form of Lockhart who jumped off the bench in front of the also changing Winterhawks and Hickman sprung him for the partial breakaway he was able to convert. Very heady play by Hickman.
  • Lockhart wound up with a goal and two assists on the game and Seattle desperately needs him to get things going if they want to continue to play at this level. Lockhart is still well off his point pace from last season but hopefully this game will really get him going.
  • Given time and space, I'm not sure there is a better shooter in the league than Burke Gallimore.  Unfortunately for him, getting that time and space can be difficult, but when he has it, he doesn't often miss.  That was exactly the case on both of his goals, he was left open in the slot area with time to get off a good shot... their goaltender had no chance.
  • I have been very pleasantly surprised by the excellent play of Brad Deagle.  Deagle notched 3 assists on Saturday night and he now has 7 points in 18 games. Over 72 games that would give him 28 points (not much) but when you combine that with a respectable plus/minus (-3) and only 10 PIMs in 18 games, you have a pretty solid contributor.
  • Tip of the hat to Shea Theodore who ultimately chased Burke with his first WHL goal.
  • Seattle needed to somehow contain Portland's biggest studs and they were able to do that as previously on fire Sven Bartschi went pointless with a -4 and Ty Rattie was pointless with a -5. You just aren't going to see that very often from those two quality players.
  • Mac Carruth appeared to "crotch" Branden Troock with about 2 minutes left.  It's too bad Pickard isn't the fighting type because that would have been a good spot for somebody to stick up for Troock. I'm guessing Carruth may get what is coming to him one of these days.
  • Officiating left a lot to be desired but I'm just so tired of complaining about that.
  • My wife ripped the twine for a free turkey after the game that I will be happily deep-frying on Thursday afternoon.  Wish me luck in attempting to keep my house from burning down.
  • Two solid wins moved Seattle up to 15th in the latest Massey Ratings.
  • Calvin Pickard earned CHL goaltender of the week honors for his two victories.
Seattle gets Regina at home tonight before the Thanksgiving holiday and then welcomes in Prince George on Friday.


Big win for Seattle over the Ams

There is the formula.  You want to see how the Thunderbirds could be successful this season?? Last night at ShoWare Center, we witnessed the exact blueprint for beating anyone in the WHL.  It wasn't a dominating performance (like Vancouver hanging an 11 spot on Victoria last night), and it wasn't necessarily the most impressive victory I have ever seen, but it was the style of game Seattle needs to play in order to win this year.  They were out-shot overall but didn't allow the Americans too many great scoring chances, kept shots mostly to the outside and were able to clear the rebounds that Calvin Pickard wasn't able to control.  Pickard picked up his 8th career shutout, 3 of which have been against the Americans. I tweeted last night that I thought the first team to score would win and that was certainly the case.  Let's not get too excited about one victory (a home one at that) but if Seattle can get more consistency playing this style of game, I think the playoffs are in our future.

  • I hate complaining about officiating but I find myself doing it more often than I would like.  There were some odd calls last night. Sean Aschim got called for a "Kneeing" when the replay showed his knee never even touched the other player. Jacob Doty gets called for a Delay of the Game on a play where the Ams player had his stick on Doty's stick then the same play happens 5 minutes later at the other end and isn't called.  Kyle Verdino gets called for checking from behind on a play where the Ams player clearly saw him and turned his back at the last second.  Brad Deagle makes a wonderful defensive play on a 1 on 1 and gets called for tripping on what looked like a pretty darn legal open ice check and last but not least Verdino gets called for tripping on a play where it looked like he barely bumped the Ams player.  I'm not saying it was one-sided either, I just happened to remember the bad called against the Birds because... well... I'm a fan.
  • Seattle started slowwwwwww again with Tri-City jumping out to a 7-1 lead in shots through about 8 minutes of play but they were able to rebound with some spirit for the rest of the first period trailing in shots only 14-13 at the end of the 1st. The Americans are going to win a lot of games this season and being able to withstand the initial rush and stay in the game was a factor in the win.
  • Big Big Big Power Play goal by Aschim started the scoring. It was the only Power Play goal scored by either team in the game as they combined to go 1-15 with the man advantage. It goes without saying that one reason Seattle was able to win the game was the effective play by their Penalty Killing units, forcing Tri-City into an 0-8 scoring opportunities.
  • Chance Lund picked up a goal on a nice feed by Burke Gallimore.  I thought Gallimore struggled for the first and second periods but managed to pick up his game when it mattered most in the third period with the helper to Lund and the empty net goal to close the scoring.
  • Calvin Pickard had a legitimate chance to notch the empty netter before Gallimore did but just wasn't about to get any juice behind the clearing attempt. Pickard covered his face in mocking shame after Gallimore put the game away.
  • Pickard was otherwise excellent.  He made saves through screens and held onto a ton of pucks, eliminating rebounds.  For the most part the shots he wasn't able to control he was able to steer to the corners.  This is exactly why you give elite goaltenders time to work through tiny struggles.  You give them some solid defense in front of them, keep the shots to the outside where he can see and handle them and let them make a couple of key saves to win you a ballgame.
Seattle gets right back to work tonight against the also hot Portland Winterhawks. Sven Bartschi has been absolutely on fire lately with 4 straight 3 point games and 30 points in his last 11 games. 


Tbirds Split Weekend

Sometimes I just don't feel like writing until the end of the weekend. I was able to watch the game at Calgary on Friday and listen to the game in Cranbrook last night.   The Tbirds were able to split the weekend and return home after a 2-4 road trip, a bit of a mixed bag over the weekend. Here are some thoughts... none of which you will hear me calling Calvin Pickard "overrated".
  • Friday night's game was very entertaining and saw a flurry of goals scored in the first period, followed by both teams buckling down a little bit and providing some intensity in the final moments.  In the end, Seattle was able to escape with a 5-4 win over the Calgary Hitmen.
  • Saturday night's game was pretty entertaining as well, as the Tbirds were able to keep the game much closer than the 5-1 final indicated.  This was essentially a two goal game in the third period with Seattle hitting no less than two irons that could have made it a one goal game or tied it up.
  • Justin Hickman is starting to find his groove.  In my opinion, Hickman has played hard all season and just hasn't had very many points to show for it. Since Thursday, we saw Hickman come through with some tangible evidence of his ability as he notched two assists on Thursday, two goals on Friday and another goal last night. I think Hickman has a chance to be a very good power forward in this league as things are starting to come together.  He must stick to the excellent game plan of fore-checking hard and creating those opportunities by disrupting the opposition's defense.
  • Brendan Rouse had an excellent road trip, registering points in each of the 6 games (2 goals, 5 assists).
  • I haven't held back my criticism of Dave Sutter lately. I think he takes too much flack overall but lately the flack has been pretty deserved.  Sutter had an excellent game on Friday night chipping in an assist and going +3 but then reverted back to a -2 last night. I think this is pretty much what you are going to get from Sutts, some good nights and some bad nights. He is still 3rd on the team (among regulars) in plus/minus, and I think more significant faults can be found in other bodies on this team.
  • Shea Theodore was back in the lineup Saturday after sitting out two games in a row. I'm not really sure whether they were HS's or whether he was a little banged up.  Either way, he was back last night and Hauf was the one to sit out.
  • Daniel Cotton continues to do a fine job filling in for Pickard when called upon.  His 27 saves last night didn't seem to be the reason for the loss.  Thom Beuning mentioned on the radio broadcast that perhaps Pickard has been trying to do a little too much in net and I think that is a bit of an accurate statement.  I can attest to the fact that when your defense isn't playing well you tend to resort to crazy things in net.  It is easy to focus on things that you shouldn't, overreact to certain situations, and find difficulty concentrating on stopping the first shot and controlling the rebound.  Pickard is a NHL caliber goaltender and his numbers have been extremely consistent over his WHL career.  I have no doubt that they will be similar by the end of the season. Cotton's time will come but that time is not here yet. Pickard is your starter, no controversy here.
  • Chance Lund got off to a great start to the season but has faded a little bit as of late, which leads me to wonder if he's been working through an injury. His hustle was back on Friday night in Calgary as he helped kill off the end of the game when the Hitmen pulled the goalie in an attempt to tie the game. Lund also created another scoring chance where he just powered past the Hitmen defender.  
  • Sean Aschim has 2 points in 4 games since joining the Birds.  So far, I like what he has brought to the table.
  • Brad Deagle has one of the most incredible lip sweaters I have seen on a player in recent years. Everyone needs to check that caterpillar out before Movember is over.
Seattle now returns home for a 4 game home-stand starting Friday night against the Tri-City Americans and Saturday against Portland.  


Tbirds sign Kevin Wolf

Kevin Wolf has signed a developmental deal with the Seattle Thunderbirds.  Wolf, 15, hails from Cuomo, MN and was drafted by the Tbirds in the 10th round of the 2011 Bantam draft.

Wolf is a big kid standing 6'4" and weighing in at 180 lbs. at the time he was drafted (he might be bigger now). He attended rookie camp and training camp in August where his skating ability proved to be very impressive for a 15 year old, especially one of his size.

This is a
quality signing for the Birds.  These are the types of kids that you hope to hit on occasionally to augment your draft classes.


Streak Over

Seattle gets a nice win in Lethbridge last night to break their losing streak. Things sure do feel a lot better after wins.  I didn't get a chance to catch much of the game last night (bad blogger, I know) but I was able to listen to portions of the game in the 2nd and 3rd periods. It’s feeling like this team isn't giving up on the season.  It gives me hope when I feel like the players still have hope to turn this thing around.  Regardless of whether or not that happens, it feels better when it appears that the players still genuinely care.

This "observations" come from the box score and listening to the radio, so keep that in mind.
  • Calvin Pickard seemed to have a nice rebound game, stopping 33 of 35 shots to pick up his 6th win. When Pickard is on top of his game, the team always has a chance to win.
  • Justin Hickman probably deserved a star last night.  His forecheck led to the Brendan Rouse goal that gave Seattle a two goal cushion and eventually was the GWG. Hickman finished +3 for the night, had an assist on the Noebels goal and probably deserved one on the Rouse goal.
  • Another good game from Rouse, who now has 5 points on the road trip in 4 games and has 9 points on the season.
  • Marcel Noebels, goal, assist +2. That is more like it.
  • Shea Theodore was a scratch a night after Jared Hauf was a scratch.  It could be that both are getting the old HS for performance reasons but I think it has a lot to do with them being 16 and the coaches not wanting to burn them out over the course of a long season.
Seattle travels to Calgary next to face the Hitmen in the other potentially winnable game of the trip.


Tbirds lose again, Showare gets high marks

Seattle lost again on Saturday night in Edmonton 4-1 to the Oil Kings.  From what I have been told, Seattle played a tad bit better but still had a dreadful start to the game getting out-shot 16-6 in the first period and falling behind 3-0. I haven't watched the game yet but I'm going to assume it was a lot of the same except they didn't fall apart after the rough first period.

Seattle also announced a trade in which Center Sean Aschim was acquired from Moose Jaw for a conditional Bantam draft pick.  Aschim played for Kelowna last season and had logged 4 goals and 5 assists in 13 games for the Jaw this season. I hope Aschim can help get some offense going because at this point I would hate to see him take minutes away from younger players who need to play and get better.

Last but not least.  I little plug for a website called Stadium Journey that posted a review of their experience at ShoWare Center for opening night.  It is nice to see the Sho get a nice review and even nicer that we have a good barn to call our home.  The review can be found here. Take a look at it if you get a chance.


Rebels Hammer Tbirds

I'll keep this short and sweet. Mostly because there just isn't much to say after another dreadful performance by the Tbirds. I'm addicted to bullet holes so let's just stick to the formula.
  • Seattle gave up the first 11 shots of the game and thanks to Calvin Pickard they were somehow able to keep the Rebels off the scoreboard before Burke Gallimore scored on Seattle's first shot.  It wasn't a fair indication of how the game was being played and sure enough the Rebels answered back with 4 unanswered goals in the first period and the game was effectively over.
  • Pickard should probably be traded. Picks gave up 5 goals on 22 shots and none were really his fault. Seattle is playing horribly in front of him and probably killing any chance he had of making Team Canada at the WJC.  At this point, Cotton has proven himself to be a pretty capable goaltender and this team isn't going anywhere this season.  I know Russ and Steve keep saying that they "like their team" but I don't expect them to say anything different.  They have to believe in their team publicly. My eyes tell a different story and there isn't much to like about this team. Trade Pickard for players that are already in the league... NOT draft picks.  Seattle had a bad track record with draft picks but Russ has a knack for recognizing talent once it hits the league. Trade Pickard to Kamloops who have played very well in front of a rookie goaltender and a journeyman goaltender. He deserves better than this.
  • Speaking of Cotton... I want to emphasize that I was very impressed with his technique and overall play tonight.  Cotton looks like a solid WHL goaltender in the making. As a 17 year old he could use the experience of playing and seeing some shots and we all know Seattle can provide plenty of shots for him to face.
  • Noebels, Lockhart and Gallimore - 2 points, -4. I'm picking on these guys for a reason. These are your best players and they need to start playing like it if this team has any chance at winning.
  • The first period was staggeringly bad. I can't believe after the crappy game they played on Tuesday that the Tbirds could manage to play arguably worse in the first period tonight.  Passes were being thrown to areas of the ice instead of sticks. Teams in upper levels of adult rec league hockey don't do things like that. I realize we're talking about completely different levels of competition but comparatively there is no excuse. This is major junior hockey and the expectation is that "most" of the time passes are going to be intended for a teammates stick and not an area where you hope someone can pick up the puck.
  • The officials were crap tonight but I'm not going to sit here and pretend it had any impact on the game. It was just annoying.
I can't stand to write anymore about this game.  I'm going to go tailgate and attend the Huskies and Ducks game tomorrow and hope that ignoring this team will cause them to play better tomorrow in Edmonton.  I'm trying to keep the faith but it's pretty difficult when things are getting worse. We all have to hope that the team is approaching "bottom" and they will soon start to swing back towards positive play and results.

Road Trip, Follow Up

I apologize for not having a game recap from Tuesday's game against the Giants.  I meant to write on Wednesday morning and I've just been super busy at work and wasn't able to get to it until today.

A few quick thoughts on the game.

It was awful.  Of the games that I have seen this season (which is most), this was the worst I have seen the team play.  Vancouver out-worked and out-hustled them from the opening faceoff and never really looked back.  Fortunately for Seattle, Calvin Pickard was truly up to the task and was able to keep the Tbirds in the game for 59 minutes. They actually had a chance to win after Kyle Verdino converted a Power Play goal with just over 6 minutes to play, cutting the deficit to 3-2 but Vancouver was able to hold them off and added an empty net goal to produce the final 4-2 margin.

  • Penalties killed the Tbirds again as they gave up 2 PP goals in 6 chances.  Holding, USC, Delay of Game (twice!) and finally a Too Many Men penalty with 1:25 to play in the game.  These are penalties of the frustrating variety and these are the kinds of things Coach K has to crack down on.
  • Connor Sanvido must be in the doghouse.  It appeared to me that he didn't play a whole lot on Tuesday night and was picked to serve the Too Many Men penalty at the end of the game.
  • At what point do I start to worry about Luke Lockhart, Burke Gallimore and Marcel Noebels.  Combined they have just 20 points in 35 games with a -27 rating. Yikes.
  • It's pretty tough for me to defend Dave Sutter lately as his play has lacked (to say the least)... however... he is still tied for the team lead at +1. Worth noting.
  • I heard someone say that Doty was hurt and wasn't able to play on Tuesday but he is not listed on the weekly injury report. Breaden Laroque is listed as "day to day", Evan Wardley is listed as 1 week and Colin Jacobs is now listed at 1 month+.
  • Branden Troock was one of the few skaters I thought had a decent game for the Birds. Justin Hickman also had a decent game, getting Seattle's first goal.
  • One thing that has driven me crazy about the Seattle teams of the past couple of years is the inability of the players to keep shots from getting blocked and passes from getting intercepted.  This is actually harder than it would seem to the average fan, but other teams seem to be better than we are at getting pucks through to the net and threading passes through to other players.  I'm not really sure how to fix this, but it is extremely frustrating.
Things are about to get very tough for the Birds on this road trip. We can probably expect to see similar results to the ones we have seen out of Everett.  The Silvertips have lost 4 of their 5 games so far on their trip with their only win coming in Red Deer in the shootout. I wish I could be more optimistic, but I'm just not going to expect anything more than about 3 out of 12 possible points on this trip.


Kevin Sundher wishes he played Seattle every game

Not very many glorious things to write about the game on Sunday with the exception of the impressive volume of alcohol that I consumed over the course of the weekend.  Oh... you wanted hockey coverage? Ok, fine... but don't say I never did anything for you people.

Kevin Sundher put on a show, collecting his first career hat-trick, adding a 4th goal and all coming after he potted 2 goals the night before. Sundher is on pace for 216 goals and 252 points... if he played Seattle every game. Bummer for him.

Overall the game was crap for Seattle. I'm not sure what to tell you.  They gave up a goal early, responded with a Power Play goal but then continued to get vanquished on the PK by giving up the next 3 goals on the kill.  The penalties are troubling in both number and type.  Delay of the Game, Tripping, Tripping, Hooking, Tripping, Too Many Men... These are penalties of the lazy variety.  Roughing you can excuse because guys are playing hard and being physical. The "stick" penalties are killer and especially when you are sitting at 21st in the league killing penalties at a rate of only 70.2%

I'd like to talk less about this game specifically and more about the team in general.

The biggest issue going forward (obviously opinion here) is the ability of Coach K and Coach Rumble to change the culture of the team and in the locker room.  Steve Sarkisian, football coach of the University of Washington Huskies, has talked about talking over that program and needing to change the culture surrounding the players and how they approached games.  They needed to "Expect to Win". But repeating the mantra doesn't just make it true... you need to have tiny victories here and there before players start to believe in the message and truly start expecting to win.

This is what Steve Konowalchuk must do with the Seattle Thunderbirds. We have seen it happen a few times this season in both ways. Friday night the Tbirds fell behind 2-0 on two shorthanded goals and could have easily folded the tent.  Instead... they immediately answered with 3 goals and earned themselves two points.

Saturday nights game was the opposite.  After Seattle fell behind 4-1 the game truly felt like it was over and the team seemed to take on the "here we go again" look.  As the Tbirds improve, and I believe that they will, they will need to conquer the psychological demons that have developed as a result of the past 2 seasons of losing. Games like Friday give fans hope that the players are learning to win.  Games like Saturday are a reminder that results don't happen overnight and that the journal back to the playoffs will be a process.

Seattle is due for a good showing at home and they have already proved that they can beat Vancouver.  They need to bring it on Tuesday before they head out on a very tough road-trip.


One down, One to go

Road trips are always fun.  My wife and I boarded the Clipper yesterday morning with a buddy and about two dozen other Tbird fans yesterday for the two games up here on the "Island". It was nice to see so many fans making the trek up here for the two games.  The game itself was a tad on the boring side for most of two periods, so we entertained ourselves by getting about 2.5 sheets to the wind, setting the stage for a dramatic 3rd period that saw the Royals and Birds combine for 6 goals and push the game into the shootout.  Seattle would eventually win on a Luke Lockhart shootout goal and to even their record at 5-5 (3-1 on the road).

  • Dave Sutter. Sutter is the current "fans complain about this particular player far more than they should for slightly justifiable but ultimately incorrect and misguided reasons... see: Scott Jackson for reference." Some nights I feel like I have to point out all of the good plays that Sutter makes just to counterbalance the fans who point out every single mistake that he makes.  I don't know how or why he has become this player to Tbird fans... but he is and it definitely has something to do with expectations.  Last night I can't really defend him very much.  He simply wasn't very good and he was out for both of the Shorthanded goals early in the 3rd period that could have easily been the outcome in the game. He was also out for the 1st and 3rd Seattle goals and helped Seattle get right back into the game.  You take what you get with Sutter and I think the expectations on him are a little unfair... but it is what it is.  Sutter is far from perfect but he is rapidly improving and he is vastly better than he was at the beginning of last season.  Stay patient people... it's coming along.
  • Nice to see Connor Sanvido get his first goal of the season, the tying goal came on a partial breakaway off a pass from Chance Lund. Sanvido fought off a defender and slipped it past goaltender Keith Hamilton.
  • Brad Deagle had another nice game for the Birds. Deagle and Breaden Laroque both have their consistency issues as well but both have had some excellent games lately.  Deagle's shot from the point sneaked through Hamilton to give the Birds some life after the two quick shorthanded goals. He added an assist on the goal by Sanvido and finished +2 for the night.
  • The Burke Gallimore goal, to give Seattle a 3-2 lead was scored just 13 seconds after the goal by Sanvido.
  • Jacob Doty was much better tonight.  More focus on playing hockey first and let the fights come to him. The fact that he didn't have a fight should not deter him from continuing to play this way.  If he continues to play hard and drive hard to the front of the net and make other teams frustrated by his play... he'll have plenty of chances to fight.
  • Pickard 34/37, 1st star. Yawn... ho hum, just another night.
Seattle gets to enjoy their day here in Victoria (as will I) before getting back to work tonight at the Save On Foods Memorial Arena.  Just a hunch... but I will probably be a few sheets again tonight, so don't expect any mind blowing analysis (isn't that normal??)


Fleming to Swift Current

Seattle has traded Erik Fleming to Swift Current for future considerations in the 2012 Bantam Draft.

The considerations will clearly depend on whether Fleming A) Reports to Swift. B) Sticks with the team. C) How much he plays.

Hopefully Fleming can catch on with Swift and keep his career going.


Fleming and Frank Out

Erik Fleming has been removed from the roster page at the Thunderbirds website. I can't confirm from any sources what exactly has gone down.  I will update when I can.

UPDATE - Erik Fleming and Austin Frank are both gone.  Frank appears to have chosen to leave, I'm not sure exactly what the circumstances are surrounding Fleming being gone.

Frank was known to be a very hard worker but found himself without a spot on the blueline after Seattle traded for Brad Deagle and Braeden Laroque.  He played some forward on Sunday but my guess is that he wants a chance to play defense somewhere.

Fleming, a first round bantam selection in the year that Seattle selected Calvin Pickard in the 2nd round, just never seemed to find a comfortable fit with the Tbirds and unfortunately will go down as another 1st round bust in Seattle's history. Fleming had been sitting out with an injury

Where these guys go from here is not quite clear to me at this time.


Tbirds better than Ambien

Seattle loses to Everett 5-1 last night in what could be their worst game of the season to date.  They lost 5-0 at home to Prince Albert earlier in the season but early indications are that PA is probably a better team than Everett.  Especially a Silvertips team playing without Ryan Murray. This was the type of game that had people calling for Rob Sumner's job... which is why I will maintain once again that I don't think coaching is the primary issue. I'm not blaming this loss on Coach K and the coaching staff, but clearly they will need to continue fighting the battle to get these players to play hard on a nightly basis for 60 minutes.

Seattle started the game with the "jump" that was needed in the first 10 minutes, but completely lost the momentum after a couple of penalties resulted in two Power Play goals for the Tips. From there it was all downhill for the Birds. The game was so bad I wished I could have turned it off. Through 9 games, the numbers are not looking good for Seattle.  Their offense ranks 21st, their home-ice "advantage" is 20th and they have played the 3rd easiest schedule so far. Bullet holes... yes please.

  • The Penalty Kill was completely ineffective for Seattle, giving up 3 goals in 5 chances.  With the lack of scoring the Birds are doing right now they cannot afford to give up PP goals and right now they rank 20th in that department.
  • Kyle Verdino was suspended TBD for some kind of incident on Friday night at Everett. Unfortunately, I wasn't at the game and didn't get a chance to watch, so I have no idea what he did to warrant a suspension.
  • Hard to single out any players for either being good or bad... pretty much everyone played a poor game overall.  Burke Gallimore had a nice deflection goal off a slap-pass from Shea Theodore but neither was very good after that. I honestly can't think of one player I was particularly excited about.
  • Seattle had 7 defensemen dressed and Austin Frank played up front.
  • The Tbirds really need Colin Jacobs back to provide a shot in the arm.  Jacobs is still listed as being out for 1 month. Evan Wardley is listed at 2 weeks, and Erik Fleming is day to day.... aren't we all..
  • I don't care even a little bit about the 3 stars of the game given at the rink, but Gallimore being the 3rd star was an absolute joke. If they need to interview a player, just do it. Why bother even giving out 3 stars when everyone in the building knows they are a joke. Once again though, just to make it clear, I really don't care very much about 3 stars.
  • Seattle travels to Victoria on Friday to take on the Royals.  I will be going on the trip and should have internet access while I'm there so I will update when I can. Victoria isn't very good and Seattle returns home for the Vancouver Giants on Tuesday of next week.  Things will get a lot tougher after that as they hit the road on their trip through the Central Division, where Medicine Hat, Edmonton, Red Deer and Kootenay represent 4 of the 5 top ranked teams in the WHL.  They better get some work done in the next 3 games before they hit the road.
Quick disclaimer: All of the numbers and rankings I use come from Massey Ratings (link to the left).


Game 7 Thread

I have my own game tonight at 8:10 at the Kent Valley Ice Center... about a stone's throw from Showare Center.  As a result I'm only going to be able to catch the first period of tonight's game.

I'll throw this thread up for people to discuss and comment before, during or after the game.


Tbirds beat Blades, demand to be ranked #5 in silly CHL poll

One of the reasons why my writing sucked so much last year (hey I can admit it...) was because the Thunderbirds of the last two years were supremely boring to write about.  That shouldn't really be much of an excuse, but quite frankly I never considered myself much of a writer even before starting this blog a touch over 4 years ago and I still don't really consider myself much of a writer these days. This years team (so far) is so much more enjoyable to write about and it isn't only because of the now .500 record.  Recall that Seattle got off to a good start last year but I really didn't have very many positive things to say outside of the obvious (Pickard rocks, too many shots, defense isn't good, Dillon is a beast... etc.) I got up at 4am this morning to compete in a Bass fishing tournament.  I'm exhausted. I really want to go to bed... but Seattle's 3rd win in a row tonight has my adrenaline pumping just enough to bang this thing out and talk about a great and surprising win for the team. Bullet holes? Yes, please.

  • I just talked about how boring obvious observations are and I'm going to lead with some obvious ones.  Burke Gallimore and Marcel Noebels each notched 2 goals tonight and it was great to see the "usual suspects" chip in with some points. Both have been off to relatively slow starts and there is no way Seattle can continue to win without these guys putting points on the board.  Noebels scored on a breakaway off a beaut of a stretch pass from Kyle Verdino to give Seattle the lead and added an empty net goal to close the scoring. Gallimore had a nifty little seeing-eye sniper in the final two minutes of the 1st period that really seemed to change momentum and also added a sneaky little PP goal, scoring from a sharp angle off a rebound from off the end board behind the net.
  • The story of the game tonight was the Penalty Kill of the Tbirds.  The shot totals were lopsided due to the 6-3 edge the Blades had in PP chances in addition to the Birds scoring within 5 seconds on their PP chance in the 3rd period. Saskatoon came into the game converting on 24.4% of their chances while Seattle came into the game ranked dead last in the WHL, killing just 63.2%.  The 6/6 boosts the Tbirds all the way up to 20th!! and up to 72%.
  • Saskatoon's all-world D-man Duncan Siemens, who nearly made the opening day roster for the Colorado Avalanche, had no points, was -3 and got briefly pummeled by Mitch Elliot. Siemens hadn't been -3 in a game since February 3rd, 2010 when he was -3 against the Prince Albert Raiders.
  • Early in the 3rd period, Siemens, who is also the Blades Captain, stood up for teammate Ryan Olsen by taking on Mitch Elliot for a hit that Siemens didn't like.  On one hand I really commend Siemens for taking on that fight.  He's sticking up for a teammate and he isn't exactly a slouch at 6'3" and 205 lbs.  On the other hand... at the time, the Blades were down 3-1 and now they lose their Captain and arguably their best player for 5 minutes.  Tough call but sometimes those things are worth it when you have to be a leader.
  • Speaking of fighters. Jacob Doty spent more time in the box tonight (10 mins +) than he did on the ice. I shouldn't pretend to speak for Coach K or know what is going on in his head with regards to Doty... but my guess is that Doty is in the proverbial "doghouse" right now and he is going to have to change his game a little bit to get out and start making an impact.  Doty could be a very useful forechecking power forward... but right now he is spending just a little too much time focused on fights.
  • Brad Deagle and Braeden Laroque were great last night in Vancouver... not so great tonight. Overall, I'm starting to like what I see.
  • Verdino with the assist on the Noebels goal and was +2. Easy to forget that this was only his 3rd game of the season but already he has 3 points in those 3 games.
  • One thing Seattle has had for the last two seasons... is size... and it looks like they are learning to use it. Saskatoon has some pretty decent sized players and when the game got tough in the 3rd period the Blades tried to get physical with the Tbirds and Seattle just kept dumping them on their butts. That is the kind of physical presence that will pay off down the road for the Birds.
  • Blades goaltender Andrey Makarov took his first WHL loss tonight.  Makarov still boasts very good numbers at 6-1 with a 2.13 GAA and .934 Sv%
  • Calvin Pickard was up to his usual tricks stopping 43 of 45 shots to earn the win.  Pickard will no doubt lament the puck exchange behind the net that lead to the Blades 2nd goal but overall he was very good and his new trapper was in fine form.
  • The Alos-Troock-Rouse line wound up with no points on the night but had some great chemistry going and had numerous chances.  Those chances will eventually convert into points.
Quite a bit more I could probably say but I'm running out of gas here. Very tough to give out stars tonight and stars are stupid but I'll do it anyways.

Let's Go Birds 3 Stars of the Game:

1. Verdino - #2 was a rock tonight for the Birds, added a beautiful assist and was +2
2. Gallimore - His goal towards the end of the 1st period changed momentum and his PP goal in the 3rd made it very tough for the Bladed to comeback.
3. Michael Burns (Sask) - Burns had two goals for the Blades and nearly tied it.

Honorable mention - Pickard - It felt weird not giving him mention for 43 stops. Hickman - Another solid game with an assist and +2. Dave Sutter - Quiet night for Sutter but be made a couple of very fine defensive plays and he had an assist and +2 as well. Noebels - Gave Seattle the lead and the eventual icing on the cake.


Game 5 Recap

I have to be up at 4am tomorrow morning so I'm going to make this short and sweet.

  • Big win by the Tbirds tonight.  Vancouver has looked like a pretty good team early in the season and they went into their barn and dominated the game for the better part of 50 minutes of the game.  For about 10 minutes of the 3rd period, Seattle lost their way a little bit but they were able to survive and Kyle Verdino buries a long rebound off a Justin Hickman shot to give the Birds the 3-2 win.
  • Great game by Justin Hickman tonight.  Hickman won the battle over two Giant players that led to the puck squirting out to the front of the net where Lund tapped it in for the 2nd goal of the game.  He didn't technically get the assist, but he caused it.  He did get the assist on the GWG as he worked a pass from Verdino into a hard and low shot that kicked out to the right of Morrison where Verdino took care of the rest.  Excellent game from Hickman.
  • Also an excellent game from Braeden Laroque and Brad Deagle.  The newest Tbirds were instrumental in Seattle giving up only 20 shots and Laroque added a PP goal in the 1st period that tied the score.
  • Overall it was a great effort by the Seattle defense. I can't remember the last time the Tbirds dominated the shots on goal in the way that they did (37-20).
  • Chance Lund with another solid game.  He had a great game last week and didn't get a point and was rewarded by the hockey gods with a tap-in.
  • Connor Sanvido had a couple of really excellent shifts that gave the Giants fits, especially on the PP and earned the assist on the 1st goal by Laroque.
  • Shea Theodore has been kind of quiet to begin the season but added two assists tonight and the Vancouver radio guys were glowing about him.
  • Seattle holds Brendan Gallagher to just 1 point on the night... that is how you beat the Giants in Vancity.
  • Kind of a quiet game from Branden Troock but the toe-drag in the 3rd period was absolutely sick and almost wound up being the go-ahead goal.
  • I honestly didn't think Verdino was having a very great game as he had drawn two penalties earlier in the action but his GWG makes everything better... a thing of beauty.
  • Calvin Pickard... must have been bored.  It's ok Calvin, it probably won't last.  He still made a couple of very clutch saves that were needed to preserve the victory.
My 3 stars of the game:
1. Hickman
2. Sanvido
3. Adam Morrison (Van)

I'm off to bed... I apologize for the relative brevity.  See you all tomorrow night as the Birds host the Saskatoon Blades.


Game 4 Recap

Seattle is in the win column with a 5-4 victory over the Victoria Royals on Saturday night.  The game was notable for several reasons so lets get right to the bullet holes.

  • Most important in my mind was the game played by Branden Troock and probably not because he scored 2 goals in the 3rd period, including the game winner.  The most important aspect was that he was checked from behind, head first by Jesse Pauls and had to be helped off the ice to the bench. But, he didn't miss a shift and appeared to emerge from the play without injury.  Justin Hickman came to his defense and promptly checked Pauls from behind right behind him.  Troock recovered enough to score two 3rd period goals, including the winner when the Royal defender coughed up the puck in his own zone.
  • Also notable... Marcel Noebels was a healthy scratch on Saturday night.  I'm just guessing, but Coach K talked about the team needing to play "together" more and it looked to me like Noebels was just simply trying too hard to do it himself on Friday night.  Hopefully this won't become an ongoing issue but everyone knows that Noebels didn't really want to be here this season.  My impression of Marcel is that he isn't the type of player to pout about this and will re-dedicate himself to playing the game the way Coach K expects.
  • I'm pretty quickly starting to believe in Chance Lund.  Lund was -1 and didn't have a point in the game but that is exactly why you can't always judge a game based solely on the stats.  Lund is flashing speed that I never never seen from him. He is pulling away from forwards and skating around defensemen, and not just a time or two... I counted 4 different times he just blew by defenders on the edge and either drew a penalty, should have drawn a penalty or got a chance on net.  This can't just be confidence.  This is a player who is physically faster than he was before and with his size it is becoming a huge weapon.  His finishing skills still leave something to be desired, but the more chances he gets the better finisher he will become.
  • Dave Sutter also had a decent game but is still making some mistakes that need to be tightened up. His goal bounced off a Royals defender and one of the goals against Seattle (I think) was redirected off his skate and into the net.  He is playing with a lot more confidence and I think this season will be another where he will improve a lot as the season goes on.
  • Pickard was excellent again and stuffed several chances that likely would have changed the game.  The mistakes in the defensive end are still glaring and if it wasn't for Pickard things would be even worse than they have been. Pickard struggled a little bit after not making team Canada last year and even though the stats don't reflect it... he is off to a very solid start this season.
  • Scoring was spread out pretty nicely with Elliot, Hickman, Troock, Alos, Rouse, Sutter, Lockhart and Gallimore all getting at least one point.
  • Deagle and Theodore didn't have any points but both were +2.
  • I don't recall Doty seeing much ice time after his 10 minute misconduct. Doty needs to learn to pick better spots for his fights and altercations and until he does... he's going to have his butt parked on the bench.  The 10 he got served no purpose... as he got 10 for jawing Traber.
Seattle gets another week of practice before heading to Vancouver on Friday night and returning home for Saskatoon on Saturday.

WHL Scoreboard