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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Can we move on now?

Ok... the Union of Victims got their wish and the Tbirds will have a new coach next year.

There is no debate left... let's have some class and let Rob go in peace.

It's time to start talking about things that matter.


Coaching Change

I was wrong. It happens...

Seattle today decided to go in another direction and will not renew the contract of Coach Rob Sumner.

I have made no secret of my opinion on this subject. I think Sumner could have done a better job with the teams that he has had but I do not feel like he was the main reason for the failures of this organization, especially in the last two seasons.

So in my mind... this makes Rob Sumner the scapegoat. Having said that, this is a business and the team hasn't performed well (for whatever reason) the past two seasons and the Thunderbirds chose to go in a different direction.

The Union of Victims will be throwing a party at Gators tonight... drinks are on them.


Season Wrap

As I'm sure all of you know... Seattle's season came to an end on Sunday evening but their playoff hopes came to an end on Saturday night in a one goal loss to Portland. That was followed on Sunday by a tough one goal loss to Tri-City who owned the Tbirds all season long.

Seattle was competitive to the end... but their demise came during a stretch in January and February after newly acquired Ryan Button and 20 year old D-man Travis Bobbee both went out with injuries. Seattle went 0-6 in the 6 games that Button missed. Go 2-4 in those 6 games and Seattle winds up in the 8th spot in the playoffs.

Quick wrap on the Seattle end of the season awards:

Shutouts: Calvin Pickard (1)
Hat Tricks: Brendan Rouse, Luke Lockhart, Colin Jacobs, Burke Gallimore, Marcel Noebels (4 goals)
Fan Favorite: Calvin Pickard
Most 3 Stars: Calvin Pickard
Graduates: Travis Toomey, Travis Bobbee, Brenden Dillon, Burke Gallimore (likely back), Erik Bonsor (maybe back), Ryan Button (maybe back)
Humanitarian of the Year: Travis Toomey
Scholastic Player of the Year: Mitch Elliot (2nd year in a row)
Most Improved: Brenden Dillon
Most Dedicated: Austin Frank and Michael Salmon
Rookie of the Year: Marcel Noebels
Defensive Player of the Year: Brenden Dillon
Top Scorer: Burke Gallimore
Most Valuable Player(s): Calvin Pickard and Brenden Dillon

Right here you can find my season preview. Let's see what I got right and what I got wrong.

First off I projected the team to score 195 goals and the team scored... 195 goals. Holy shit I'm good.

I also thought the team couldn't possibly be worse on defense than they were in 2009-2010 and called for 225 goals against. Whoops. Seattle gave up 264 goals, 9 more than they gave up in 09-10. Yikes

Using those projections I thought Seattle would have 61.77 points and they wound up with 64 points. Pretty good there.

I thought at best they would be as high as 6th and they were 10 points off that pace and at worst they would be 9th and technically they would be tied for 9th.

What I didn't count on... was the defense being as bad or worse than it was the year before. Mitch Elliot has a team worst -27 followed closely by Burke Gallimore at -26 and Brenden Dillon at -25.

Notables... yeesh not many. Marcel Noebels being 3rd on the team in scoring and only -11 was probably the best overall performance. Dillon winding up with 51 assists was fantastic but that plus/minus is glaring. Gallimore led the team with 34 goals and 70 points. Erik Fleming was -20 in just 50 games and Justin Hickman was -20 in just 46 games.

I still believe Travis Bobbee is a pretty good hockey player but I have to admit that his injury filled 14 point, -11 campaign was pretty much a disaster. I truly hope his shoulder is ok and he finds hockey somewhere and has a better season next year.

What do I think this team will look like next year??

Here goes...

Disclaimer: I don't ever, ever talk to Russ Farwell or Rob Sumner. I don't bother them. So these opinions have no inside knowledge and this is strictly what I would do with the team.

20 year olds: I think Gallimore is back and I'm optimistic that Button is back because someone mentioned to me that they didn't think Boston had enough spots for him in Providence next season. We'll see. Despite the fact that the defense might be scary next season I wouldn't bring back Bonsor and I would trade for a better 3rd 20 year old.

Back next season: Noebels, Lockhart, Jacobs, Rouse, Alos, Sutter, Doty, Hickman, Frank and Elliot. In my mind these guys are definitely on the team next year.

Guys I'm not sure about:

Sanvido - Sanvido has shown that he has elite scoring ability but very little ability to be a good enough skater to allow those skills to translate to the Major Junior level. I think he'll be once again fighting for his roster spot but considering that he is a shootout weapon and Seattle doesn't have many of those... I would expect him to make the team.

Lund - In my mind this was another lost season for Lund. He was -15 and most of his 13 points came conveniently around the trade deadline in a 9 game stretch. In my mind he needs to really come ready to play next year because if you can't do a lot better than that as a 19 year old I worry about your spot on the team.

Fleming - The former 1st round pick... I just can't see him on this team next year. For his own sake he would probably be better off going back to Junior A where he can play and be a solid contributor and have fun with the last couple years of his Junior Hockey.

Spooner - No idea what happens to Spooner. He didn't really show a lot but he didn't really play a lot either. I will say this though... as you will see below there is probably a defensive spot to be had for a guy like Spooner if he steps up and improves in the off-season.

So where does that leave us...

Defense -

Button (hopefully)
3rd 20 or Bonsor

Forwards -

Alex Kerfoot?
James Neil
Maybe 1 of: Wray, Edwardh, LeLievre, Houcher, Ness... etc.

The back end of the forwards should have a lot of competition.

Goaltenders -

Pickard obviously for one more glorious season. Beyond that... I have no idea. If I was Michael Salmon I would be begging to get out of here. Playing that little could not have been fun and if I were him I wouldn't see the point in sticking around another season. Now whether that means getting traded or going back to Junior A... I have no idea.

What to expect??

I think we're going to see Seattle finally get themselves back into the playoffs but I'm not expecting big things. I think this team might be able to crack the 200 goal mark again but I'm not very optimistic about the defense being improved by a ton. I think the best we can hope for is something like 200+ goals and a reduction in goals against down to the 220's and you might be able to get 75 points and get back into the playoffs.


Playoff predictions. Spokane over Portland in the West Finals, Red Deer over Saskatoon in the East and Red Deer over Spokane for the WHL Championship.

Final Word... hopefully...

I'm kind of hoping we can put all this "fighting" to rest... I'm sure this won't actually end it but hopefully this will help pump the brakes a little bit.

First thing... The Union of Victims certainly has the "right" to yell and scream and do whatever they want. Their folly of course is in thinking that Russ or Rob give a shit about your yelling and ranting. So if Russ and Rob don't care... what exactly is the point? You guys say you are trying to get something to "change" but if what you're doing isn't actually creating any change... well then all you are doing is being disrespectful and rude to your fellow fans.

My suggestion to the Union would be this... There are far better ways to express your frustrations than the rude and disruptive behavior that is only bothering those around you. How about this... don't buy tickets and write an intelligent and polite letter to the front office explaining to them why you aren't renewing your tickets. I can assure you they don't care about your posters, your cardboard cutouts or your taunting but they might care about losing your money.

Second... This is all mostly a waste of energy. Everything I have been told is that Rob Sumner is going to be back as coach of the Thunderbirds. That makes all this discussion (some good, some not) kind of a waste of time.

I'll get on with the business of wrapping up the season later today.


Anonymous Comment Hall of Fame

I have no idea what just happened... but someone just left a comment in the previous thread that I would consider one of the best comments I have ever seen on this blog. For some reason... it isn't showing up in the comment section.

Fortunately for myself and all of us... I have every comment forwarded to my inbox. This comment deserves its own thread. And if the commenter wants a job writing for the blog, let me know.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Believe it or not... Seattle is still alive":

A lot of lies and rumors have been spread about the players and management of this team. One of the funnier mistruths often repeated is that Russ doesn’t care about winning. This is a business and Russ absolutely cares about winning. By owning a winning team he would be able to raise ticket prices, sell more merchandise, and receive more money should he choose to sell his stake in the team. No denying that they haven’t gotten the job done, but to say he doesn’t care is to really not understand the motivations of a business man. Another lie was thrown out there by a guy on the Big Baby Facebook page, otherwise known as the official T-Bird page. He said that Pickard asked to be traded and that Mike Caccioppoli could confirm this. I asked Mike about this and he informed me that he had no knowledge about that trade request. I know, shocking.

Why should Russ change anything? What is the incentive? This is a business after all. The facts are that Rob Sumner cannot possibly make as much money as Hay, Hartsburg or Johnson, due to his having no AHL or NHL coaching experience. This equates to more money in Farwell’s bank account. By paying himself to act as GM, he pads his account even more. Oh, and just in case you thought that the weak on-ice product would affect the bottom line…… hasn’t. Attendance was up this year. This of course means more money going to Russ. Also, according to the organization they have around 150 new season ticket holders signed up for next year. It is also laughable that some have called for Russ to step down as GM. Would you fire yourself at a time when profits are up? If so, I feel sorry for the people depending on you to provide for them.

What we are seeing with the t-shirts, signs and creepy cardboard cutouts of Sumner is just a union of victims. If you think that Russ and Rob are bothered by any of this, you are clueless. They are probably laughing at you. Russ will listen to you when either he has had enough of the status quo, or you are able to cost him money. The tickets, beer, food and team merchandise you buy all show Russ how much you really care. Some of the most recent posters seem to have figured this out. They have the business sense to talk with their wallets instead of a high school sign. While I will keep attending and cheering for the Birds, I respect people who disagree with me and who won’t be coming back next season….when they act like adults instead of whiners. When you are yelling at Rob during the post-game interview it is because you are paying Russ for the privilege to be there. Is that an effective strategy? Would any of you be wimpy enough to quit your job because people yelled at you? How can you take people like that seriously? I take the people writing on this blog seriously, because they are expressing their opinion of the need to replace Sumner in a thoughtful manner, whether you agree or disagree with them.

Some have talked about going to Everett instead. You might want to do some research before jumping ship. Looks like Hartsburg hasn’t been able to get a “talented” (about as talented as Seattle) group to play well this year. Funny how even a former NHL player and coach can’t get a less talented team to achieve, but Sumner is expected to work miracles. Not to mention how Hartsburg’s 3rd place team was booted by the 6th seeded Kelowna Rockets in last year’s playoffs. And take a look at the Froese & a 3rd round pick for Ferraro deal as it was quite the stinker. Soetaert should probably fire himself over that one. Ha ha! Funny, I thought only Seattle made bad trades. It will be interesting to see if the people that have openly talked about leaving actually “man up” and do so, or if their reputations as whiners will be solidified at the ShoWare next season.

The marketplace is the ultimate arbiter of how things are going, and thanks to your patronage things are good!


Believe it or not... Seattle is still alive

I'm the first one to admit that I kind of gave up on this season about 10 games ago. I was also the person that said there was no way Seattle could lose to either Chilliwack or Prince George and make the playoffs...

Well... I was wrong.

The road to the playoffs are still very difficult but they aren't impossible. 10 days ago Everett was in a pretty solid position... but now they have lost 7 straight (2 in overtime) and they now finish the season with 4 straight road games. Pretty tough finish. It isn't impossible to see Everett getting only 2 more points the rest of the way and Seattle would need to go 3-1 to tie them.

Now let's look at Kamloops. Kamloops is 1 point ahead of Seattle but with only 2 games left in the season. If Seattle were to go 3-1 over their last 4 it wouldn't matter what Loops did. Their 2 games are a home and home with Prince George and with their playoff position not locked in yet you should expect PG to fight pretty hard for at least one game to get them into the playoffs.

Now... can Seattle go 3-1? Still pretty tough. The margin of success for Seattle is razor thin and you saw that last night. They fight and fight just to stay in game (again I say because of lack of talent... but you haters keep hating and fighting the "good fight") and once the 3rd goal was scored (not the 2nd) it becomes too difficult mentally to keep fighting when the game doesn't come very easy. Even Friday night when they did play well they still only managed to win 3-2 in overtime despite out shooting the Bruins by a ton.

So the task is difficult... but not monumental and hopefully the boys realize that despite the disappointment of last night this thing doesn't have to be over. Kelowna should be resting at least a guy or two on Wednesday since they have the BC Division locked up. At Spokane is the game I expect to be a loss, though the Tbirds have had a little success there. Finish out the season home against Portland and Tri-City... both tough games. It won't be easy... but it also doesn't have to be time to throw up the white flag.


Seattle Gets Help

Seattle is definitely still alive and perhaps I was too quick to write them off.

The Tbirds needed some serious help from the teams around them in the standings and right now they are getting it.

Last night Tri-City jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Kamloops only to fall behind but eventually come from behind and score with 56 seconds left in the game to deny the Blazers of any points.

Red Deer went up to Prince George and spanked the Cougars 7-0 and Spokane took care of Everett at home 4-2.

The three teams closest to Seattle couldn't gain a single point last night and suddenly this thing looks doable.

I will repeat though... Seattle must get 4 points out of their two games against Chilliwack and Prince George this weekend. Preferably both wins would come in regulation (especially the Prince George game) but getting 4 points is an absolutely must.

Scoreboard watch for tonight:

Chilliwack is in Vancouver tonight to face the Giants.


Staying Alive... barely...

Despite getting embarrassed Friday night at the hand of the Portland Winterhawks playing in front of a television audience... Seattle is still barely alive in this thing and they took care of the one game that really mattered this weekend.

Everett and Chilliwack still look pretty solid to make the playoffs in the 6 and 7 spots but suddenly Seattle is only 3 points back of Kamloops and Prince George and they actually have 1 game in hand on Kamloops.

The season will come down to the last 6 games and the next two are without question the most important. The Tbirds will host Chilliwack on Friday night and Prince George on Saturday night. 4 points is really the only option. You might be able to survive with an Overtime or Shootout win but cannot survive losing to either team.

I wasn't able to get to the game on Saturday night as I was stuck in Lacey all day at a softball tournament. I did get back in the car in time to listen to most of the 2nd and got home in time for the 3rd... so I can't make many comments on the actual play of the team.

I did see the replay of the Dillon fight with Ferraro... WOW. Give Ferraro credit for fighting Dillon when this is exactly the issue that I have with the Winterhawks. If you're going to run your mouth you should be ready and willing to drop the gloves. Having the guts to drop the mitts didn't keep him from getting pounded by Dillon but at least he had the guts to try to back up his words.


Nice Sunday win over Everett, Lost Weekend

First off I just want to thank everyone for donating to the Hockey Challenge. My team raised over $30,000 for the House and I'm pretty sure I reached my personal goal of $1500. I will know later this week. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I look forward to Hockey Challenge 2012 and pushing the stakes up to $2000 for fundraising. My team won our game Saturday 7-6 in a very spirited contest and I helped Team Gray defeat Team Blue 4-3 in the Top Contributors game on Sunday after the Tbirds win. Thanks to the literally dozens of people for sticking around and watching Jamie Huscroft make me look silly... haha.

Back to hockey...

A very satisfying 5-1 win over Everett Friday dampened the fact that in my opinion Seattle was effectively eliminated from playoffs this weekend.

After winning in Spokane last Wednesday, Seattle had a chance to carry that momentum over to the weekend and put themselves back in the chase. But the loss in Tri-City on Friday night and the heartbreaking last second loss to Portland on Saturday effectively eliminated them and here is why.

Let's look at Seattle first.

Seattle has 9 games remaining and 55 points. Last season, teams needed 71 points to get into the playoffs. In order to get to 71 points the Tbirds would need 16 of the 18 possible points remaining. In other words... they need help.

Can they get that help? With 6 home games and 3 road games left... we'll have to assume that Seattle wins all of their home games and gets a point or two from the 3 road games. That would give them 13-14 points and leaving them with 68-69... a large task by itself.

Now can Seattle get enough help for that to even matter??

Chilliwack has 11 games remaining, 6 of them at home and one visit to Seattle. The Bruins are 5-4-0-1 in their last 10. To stay at 67 or below they would need to only get 10 points in their final 11 games. Ok... that one is doable and at least somewhat realistic. Bruins have a tough hill to climb themselves.

Kamloops. The Blazers are on fire right now winning 5 straight and getting points in 6 straight. They have only 8 game remaining though but also have 5 of those games at home. To get to 67 the Blazers need to get only 5 points in 8 games. The Blazers have Lethbridge at home, which is probably a win and a home and home with PG to end the season. Hard to imagine Kamloops not getting at least 5 points but you never know. Kelowna is better, Tri-City is better and Kelowna two more times. It isn't impossible for them to lose all of those games.

Prince George. The Cougars are in the same situation as Kamloops with 8 games remaining ad 62 points and they only have 4 home games left. They visit Seattle on March 12th. Red Deer at PG should be a loss and Spokane is going up there this weekend for two games that could both be losses. If Seattle can manage to win in regulation when PG visits on the 12th it is certainly possible that PG might only get 5 points in 8 games.

Everett. The Tips are in the best situation of this grouping. They have 63 points and they have 9 games left. Hard to imagine them only getting 4 points in 9 games though they do only have 2 home games left and 7 roadies including at Tri, at Seattle, at Spoke, at Tri again, at Portland, at Chilliwack and at Vancouver. If Everett isn't careful... they could find themselves in a tough situation down the stretch.

"So you're telling me there's a chance..."

Yes... but for any of this to mean anything Seattle has to get 13 points in their final 9 games and they'll need two of these scenarios to play out.

One this is for sure... if they want any shot at all. The games Home vs. Everett, Home vs. Chilliwack and Home vs. Prince George are all must win games. If you drop any of those games... you're pretty much done.

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