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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Exhibition Game and Season Preview

I took in the first two periods of the exhibition game last Saturday night at ShoWare Center.  To be quite honest... nothing really jumped out at me.  Seattle's play we decent at times and poor at others and that general malaise led to the eventual 4-1 defeat to the Silvertips. A Tbirds team without Lockhart, Jacobs, Noebels and Pickard isn't really something that I'm going to spend too much time worrying about.  Here are a couple of observations I made.

- I like Justin Hickman's fore-checking, but he needs help.  Too often I found him to be the only one willing to aggressively get into the offensive zone and make life tough for a defender by dishing out a check behind the net or in the corners.  People often look at the size of the Tbirds and wonder why Portland is so effective with their size and Seattle isn't.  Well... I believe that is true, in part, because the Tbirds have far too many "big guys" who aren't willing to use their size to really punish people on the fore-check.  The goal isn't to "hurt" the other team... but the goal should be to make a defender less comfortable behind the net and in the corners.  When players are uncomfortable, they make mistakes and when they make mistakes you create offensive chances that result in goals.  Seattle struggles to score in 5 on 5 situations last year and I think this is one of the primary reasons why.

- Michael Salmon looked ok in net.  One goal wasn't hit fault, while the other he should have made the save. Daniel Cotton (listed as Michael Cotton on the rosters) played just fine while I was there and eventually gave up 2 in the third. One fan I talked to said they thought he looked good in net.

- Troock, Wardley, Hauf and Jacobs are all out with injuries.

- Doty got into a "fight" with Everett newcomer Jesse Mychan.  It wasn't much of a fight as Mychan basically jumped Doty after acting like he was going to decline the fight.  A really weak move in my opinion.  If you don't want to fight, decline the fight.  If you do want to fight, take the fight, square off and get going.  Don't act like you aren't going to fight and then basically take a running leap at a guy.  I hope Mychan makes the Silvertips, because I think we'll be in for at least one good rematch with Doty.

- Luke Siemens had a very solid game for the Silvertips.  Despite the fact that I wasn't too excited about the play of the Thunderbirds, you could argue that they could have held a 2-1 or 3-1 lead in the 2nd period and they didn't in large part because of Siemens.

Onto the preview...

But first a quick note.  I will be missing my first Season Opener in many years this Saturday.  My softball team which is sponsored by the great Gators Sports Bar & Grill in Kent... will be playing in the World Championships along with 215 other teams from around the country this weekend.  I hate missing Tbirds games, but this is one of the few exceptions I will need to make.  If we get done in time I will try to dial up the game from the hotel to keep tabs.

As usual... in order to piece together a sensible "preview" and prediction about the season, it is important that we take a look at what happened last season.

Seattle scored 195 goals and gave up 264 goals. In 2009-2010 they scored 172 and gave up 255.  Last year, my belief was that Seattle would score more (check) and they would give up slightly fewer goals (oops).  There is no question that in order for Seattle to be more successful in the win/loss column in 2011-12 they will need to bring the goals against down. 264 goals represents 3.67 goals against per game, a number that is very difficult for just about any team to overcome.

My belief is that Seattle will score more goals this season.  I don't think they will score 250 goals but I do think they will manage better than 195.  This is based on the number of older forwards that have returned this season.  Travis Toomey was a solid hockey player and an outstanding leader but his 22 goals and 17 assists can be replaced.  The 51 assists and 59 points from Dillon probably will be difficult to replace... but everyone else returns with higher expectations.

Gallimore should be able to repeat his 34-36 and I think you can safely pencil him in for another 70 points. Noebels had 28 goals and 26 assists and I expect both of those numbers to go up.  I don't think it is unreasonable to expect Marcel to crack the 30 goal mark and he should be able to improve on the 26 assists.  I think 30-30 is a safe floor for the German. Lockhart made the jump from 16 to 48 points last season and while I wouldn't expect another 32 point jump I also wouldn't be surprised to see another 20 point jump.  I think he is another guy who could threaten 30 goals and 30 assists and that would give Seattle three players with 60 or more points for the first time since the 2008-09 season when Greg Scott, Prab Rai and Jim O'Brien all had over 60.

Colin Jacobs should be able to improve on his 22-22 campaign from last year, but it really depends on how quickly he is ready to play.  Jacobs has bundles of talent... that probably won't get fully tapped until Coach K can teach him how to get in front of the net and pick up 20 garbage points to go along with 40 "skill" points.  Only then will he top the 60 point mark as well. The rest is going to have to come from guys taking things to the next level.  Alos, Lund, Elliot, Sutter, Doty, Sanvido, Hickman all need to get better and take a step up in production for the offense to safely get over the 200 goal mark.  If any of these players takes a significant step forward... Seattle might have something.

Seattle ranked 10th in PP last season finishing at 21.2%. That was less than 1% point from being 5th in the league.  Seattle should continue to be solid on the PP this season. The PK unit started the year decent but wound up 19th in the league at 77.4%.  Call me optimistic, but that should improve this season.  Seattle has plenty of forwards with experience now and with Pickard in net the Birds should get closer to middle of the pack.

Based on all of this... I see the offense being somewhat similar to that of the Chilliwack Bruins now Victoria Royals who were very top heavy with Howse, Horak and Sundher leading the way. Projection: 225 GF.

Last season I said that the defense couldn't possibly be worse and then Seattle went out and gave up 9 more goals than the season before.

Let's try this again... the defense can't possibly be worse, so I'm just going to ballpark things at 240 goals against.

225 goals for and 240 goals against puts projected team points at 67 points.  Last season, Everett had 67 points and finished in 8th place in the conference.  Now, keep in mind that I have purposely tried to be conservative with these projections.  If the Seattle defense takes a HUGE step forward under Coach K and Coach Rumble you could see things be a lot better than that.  At the same time... this projection has both the offense and the defense getting better and there is a very real possibility that both or either one of those things happen. Without Troock helping the offense get to the next level, I'm just not sure it would be prudent to expect a lot more than this.  Once again... I hope I'm wrong.

What do you guys think??


Anonymous said...

What's wrong with Troock now? He played in camp, so he must have been better? But now he's absent again??

Anonymous said...

Apparently Troock is still having the same issues that kept him from playing last season.
So basically your assessment of the team is they will be no better than last season, somewhere around 8th or 8th in the conference?

Anonymous said...

Good luck next weekend! Happy to see an update from you. I think this team has potential to be very solid on offense and decent on D if we can keep guys healthy. I am saving for playoff tickets ( or a sunny vacation)

Anonymous said...

This team is driving me nuts. They have Fleming and Sanvido as first rounders that hardly live up to billing. They make an excellent pick in Troock and he's been seriously injured missing his first and now possibly second season. They draft a Farwellian giant in Hauf and he is injured. They draft what looks like a highly skilled natural goal scorer in Gropp and he hasn't signed. When team has botched top picks and then has horrible luck we will suck.

Anonymous said...

A couple thoughts.. First off, I wonder if the change in goaltending coach will make any difference in a guy like Pickard who has been coached on national teams and NHL camps as well? It'll be interesting to see how it goes.

As for transactions, still have one more shot at improvement, which is trade value for Salmon to boost the D a bit.

I've already been hearing fans plea to 'cut the new coaches some slack' if things don't go well. I think that is feasible, but it won't save Farwell and the talent scouts from justifiably being thrown under the proverbial bus should things fall apart. Lots of high draft picks on display and big expectations on the shoulders of Sanvido, Hickman, Hauf, and Green.

Last comment.. The secret to improvement lies in the month of January! The past two seasons will be remembered as the years that the team came out of the Christmas break and played 30 days of lifeless hockey. That cannot happen again. Good luck, and go Birds.

Anonymous said...

I don't really expect second round picks to do that well on this team, especially big guys drafted by Farwell, now on the other hand when he listens to one of his good scouts and drafts a Shea Theodore in later rounds, then I expect some success. Hopefully Sanvido will contribute some this year. Maybe Hauf turns into a shut down top D man. We will see.

Anonymous said... goal wasn't his fault but another he should have made the save?

I can remember saying that numerous times saying that about Pickard last year. Heck, I remember saying that five times during his bobble head night. BTW...the other goal wasn't his fault.

I'm all for giving Salmon more playing time this year. Last year it was too much Pickard.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for trading pickard and getting some decent prospects for him. Let salmon start, its not like we are really going anywhere this year.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for letting them play a few games before I give up on the season. Sheesh!

Anonymous said...

Charles Wells is now a Winterhawk

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff. Portland adds a 20 year old to a roster that already has a few too many OA's. He may not be there all year.

Anonymous said...

Or Portland is not getting back most of those 20s from their NHL teams. Most are signed players. Just glad they got Wells and not Parker.

Anonymous said...

Any more word on Troock? Anyone know a time frame on Jacobs?

Anonymous said...

Did it matter if Pickard or Salmon was in the net last year? No, the defense was that terrible.

Pickard's future is set. Time to put Salmon in the net for more than relieving a drubbing of Pickard. Time for Salmon to make his future. He may not make the NHL but can at least make a career in the AA or AAA hockey.

Anonymous said...

What's the point of keeping either? Why not trade pickard early, get some talented 16, 17 year olds, and start new. Its the best time to do that especially with all the failed first round picks. Let picks play for a playoff contending team, and let's move on. Its sad, to me it was such a waste of talent to not build around him. As for salmon, sure he's a decent stop gap, but he's not the answer, neither boys will be here as 20 year olds, let cotton play half the games or more to see what he's got. Its time to actually rebuild, right now, there is no future for this team. Example, hickey being our last first round pick to matter.

Anonymous said...

Salmon getting playing time here is irrelevant unless Pickard is traded. Cotton has outplayed Salmon this preseason and is 2 years younger. Check out the stats below. I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be backing Pickard up this season. Also, I can’t see this team using up a 20 year old spot on Salmon next season regardless of what happens to Pickard.
Cotton 3 87 5 0 3.44 0 0 0 0 53 48 0.906
Salmon 3 91 9 0 5.95 1 2 0 0 43 34 0.791

Anonymous said...

has anyone thought of trading lockhart? Don't get me wrong, hes a great player with tremendous with a lot of heart, but I think seattle should try to rebuild and get some solid picks instead of trying to compete. I don't think this team is going anywhere soon.. Just my two cents. by the way I know some of you may flame me for this post, but its just how i feel about the t-birds.

Anonymous said...

i agree, trade anything you can, i think pickard would bring more back in a trade, than lockhart, but i dont think there is anything on this roster that is untouchable. maybe theodore, trook and hauf. right now, there isnt much to look forward too.

Anonymous said...

I see Salmon isnt on the roster anymore? Did he get released? Traded? Seattle's website does not give out much for information like the other clubs.

Thunnex said...

Quick answer... Salmon left/re-assigned to the Canmore Eagles of the AJHL.

Anonymous said...

Will the Birds have first pick in the draft next spring? It's early in the season but it's looking like it's a possibility. Still very early but our goals per game is lowest in the entire league so far. Maybe we can draft a great young prospect who will then decide not to sign!

Anonymous said...

Throwin' them under the bus after TWO games,really.They are a little dinged up but give em' a break eh.I'm not expecting a trip to Shawinigan or anything,but CALM DOWN,they've played TWO GAMES.Still got 70 more,jeez!

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