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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Tips drop Tbirds

Seattle drops a big one to Everett last nigh 2-1. These losses are going to hurt down the stretch and I'm starting to lose a little bit of faith in this team's ability to get this done the rest of the way. Things are going to have turn around in a hurry if the Tbirds want to avoid another 2nd half tail spin.

Seattle came out firing on all cylinders to start the game last night and got an early lead courtesy of a nice feed by Connor Honey to Alexander Delnov who made a quick move to the backhand and beat Austin Lotz for the 1-0 lead. Taylor Green picked up the 2nd assist playing on that line and I thought he was decent again as a forward. Nothing spectacular, but I think he can give the team some useful minutes there. I noticed they also tried him on the PP for a short time as well.

Things seemed to fall apart after Seattle got the lead and Everett closed the period by closing the gap in shots. Momentum shifted for good after Everett tied the game and Seattle failed to capitalize on a 5 on 3 opportunity.

Quick side note: I want to once again point out to the faithful Tbird fans that yelling "shooooooooot" and thinking that simply "shooting" the puck on a PP actually works as an effective power play. It doesn't. I know this sounds quite simple but when you have more skaters on the ice than the other team, you should have the ability to obtain a GOOD shot... not just any old shot. Think back to all the times you've wanted players/teams to just shoot the puck only to have it blocked. Well... that's what the PK unit is trying to do. They are trying to clog the shooting lanes and keep shots from getting through to the goaltender. This is also why there tends to be so much room around the outside.  Seattle failed on the 5 on 3 chance... but it wasn't because they didn't "shoot", it was because they failed to get a good shot and Shea Theodore tried multiple times to hit the weak side post forward and wasn't able to get the puck there.

Bullet holes... because who doesn't like their quasi wisdom broken into neat little nuggets.

  • Branden Troock was back and looked both dangerous and rusty at different times. It was good to see him back out there though and if he can stay healthy he will definitely have an impact on some games.
  • Effort and Execution. If I were a coach, those would be the two things I'd be preaching to my team. We have to have effort first and execution second. Last night the TBirds get a B- for effort and an F for execution. There were stretches where I felt like Everett simply outworked Seattle but for the most part the effort was there. The execution was not. Too many shots that weren't one-timed on the PP and too many times where the shots came too late and Lotz had already had a chance to square up to the shot.
  • Evan Wardley... can't tip shots around the net. Block it with the body or get out of the way. That first goal should have never happened.
  • Alex Forsberg, brother of Jesse, has requested a trade out of PG and is going to play somewhere else until he gets a trade. His brother plays here, we have extra D, we have a hole in the 17 year old forward group. This just makes WAY too much sense.  Russ has probably already had a phone call with PG as I type this up.
  • Officiating wasn't very good last night but it wasn't why the TBirds lost. Stop whining about the officials people... this is a development league for both players and officials. You aren't getting an NHL crew out there. Stop Whining. Officiating is a tough job, sometimes it is done well and sometimes it is done poorly... just like how hockey teams play.
I don't have the heart to travel to Everett tonight after that game but I will be watching from the comfy cozy confines of the Hunnex basement. Seattle badly, badly needs a win tonight.


Back to Work Tonight

Seattle is back from the Christmas Break and back in action tonight at the Showare Center against the rival Silvertips. Everett isn't quite as terrible as terrible as I thought they would be (or hoped) and they've played pretty frisky against some tough opponents lately.  They lost at Portland 4-2 and followed that up by losing 3-2 to Portland at home. Before that they won at Tri-City in the shootout. I hate calling games "must win" games this early in the season but these are pretty critical games for Seattle.

The schedule is so tough that you have to take advantage of these match-ups against "lesser" teams.

Here is what the schedule looks like coming up:

Home Everett
Away Everett
Away Portland
Away Kamloops
Home Spokane
Home Spokane
Away Spokane (yup 3 straight)
Home Victoria
Away Tri-City
Away Everett
Home Portland
Home Lethbridge

Not a lot of games in there where I would consider the Tbirds to be favorites and that isn't a knock on Seattle, it speaks to the strength of the division and the conference. They simply have to get points out of these Everett games.

Seattle will be without Roberts Lipsbergs who is playing for Team Latvia over in Russia. I'm led to believe that Alexander Delnov should be back and there is a rumor that Branden Troock was going to play but I cannot confirm that and quite honestly I'm not expecting him to play.


Ams Give Tbirds a Big Fat Lump of Coal

Tri-City sent the Tbirds home for the holidays (about 9 days) on a sour note, sending them to their 5th straight defeat and 3rd straight home loss.

I don't think Seattle played that poorly... but that won't generally garner you wins and it especially won't garner you wins in this tough U.S. Division. Here are some general thoughts I had.

  • Generally speaking, I think Brandon Glover has played well for the Tbirds this season and his numbers would back that up to a certain extent. 3.78 GAA and .897 SV% on a team that isn't very good defensively are not horrible numbers. However, for Seattle to make the playoffs or have any hopes of making any kind of noise in the playoffs, they are going to need more out of Glover. The goal scored by McCue on the first shot of the game was a shot that he probably needs to stop and while I was in the car listening at the time... it sounded like the goal by Stromwall was a shot he should have stopped as well.  There probably isn't a more important member of the team than Glover for the rest of the season.
  • Taylor Green played up front for the Tbirds last night, playing Center and looking pretty darn good doing it.  The last thing Seattle needs is more skaters up front but Green might have a shot to fill the void left behind by Tyler Alos (not in terms of stats but in terms of the number of forwards). He had an especially nice rush where he took on 3 American players and got off a decent scoring chance.
  • Eric Comrie was excellent last night and I think you could easily make the case that he won the game for the Ams. He made several stellar saves and kept his team in the game despite being out-shot in the first period 14-7.
  • The pass Rouse made to Hickman on the PP for Seattle's only goal... what a beauty.
  • I thought the overall team defense was definitely better last night. I saw a lot of situations where 1 or 2 forwards were joining defenders in the neutral zone to break up offensive rushed by the Americans. That is the sort of thing that will keep shot totals down and help to improve the overall defense. Especially if Glover can get his A-game back on track.
  • Let's not forget that the Tbirds were without Lipsbergs, Delnov and still without Troock last night. All team's go through injury issues and I don't think anyone should use that as an excuse... but those 3 might be your top 3 scorers in a normal year and they are definitely in your top 5.
I still believe this team is capable of being "decent" this year but they need to start figuring things out pretty quickly after the Holiday break if they want to avoid the 2nd half struggles that have plagued them the past several seasons and that effort will need to be led by Brandon Glover and the return of Branden Troock.


Last Game Before Break

Don't worry folks... I'm back. I've been on a little vacation for the past couple of weeks. This has been a really weird year for me. I feel like I missed more games for various reasons than any of the past 5 or 6 seasons. Certainly the most games I've had to miss since I started this blog. I even have to leave the game early tonight to play in my own game.  Hopefully, things will start to get back to normal here as I don't anticipate missing very many games for the rest of the season.

Seattle will get set to hit the holiday break by hosting the Tri-City Americans tonight on a "2 for Tuesday". The Birds have generally played pretty well lately with the exception of games against Portland and the meltdown over the weekend (and the Victoria game I suppose). This team is much improved over the versions we have seen in the past couple of seasons but you can see the growing pains of a team that hasn't done a whole lot of winning and the learning process associated with winning some of these close games.

They still rank 11th in the Massey Ratings and I would tend to agree with that ranking despite the .500 record.  Teams in the 1 and 2 spots are Portland and Spokane while Tri-City sits in the 6 hole.  Seattle's schedule is quite simply, very tough. Where they should have been able to make up some ground was out on their Eastern road swing.

Losing to Brandon (21st), Regina (19th) and Swift Current (14th) are games that will probably come back to haunt them in the standings when they are faced with all of these division games the rest of the way. That's the bad news. The good news is that they still have 2 meetings with Prince George and 3 meetings with Vancouver. Those are games that they really "must" win.  They also "must" win most of the games with Everett but Everett has played better lately and those rivalry games are never going to be "easy" to win.

Hopefully the players haven't already mentally packed things up for the holiday and they can come out and get a big win over the Yams tonight.

Final Note: Seattle traded Reid Fritzke to Swift Current for a conditional 5th round bantam selection.


Portland Gets Bitchslapped

I've said this a lot lately and it's really bugging me... but I've been super busy this past week and I have a credentialing exam tomorrow that has been absorbing a ton of my time. It is what it is... believe me when I say I haven't given up on writing more for the blog... it just isn't happening right now.

My quick take on what happened to Portland yesterday.

  1. Portland fans crying about the punishment need to remember that no matter the level of severity... you got caught. Plain and simple. You cheated, you got caught, you deserve to be punished.
  2. This may surprise many Tbirds fans but I actually do not believe the punishment fits the crime. Based on the information we have (more on that in a second) it appears to me as though the punishment is absurdly stiff. The violations that Portland claims to have broken seem minor in my opinion and the punishment doesn't appear to fit the crime. In addition, if the league is truly punishing them for things they believed happened but they can't generate proof of it... that's also unfair.
  3. However. I firmly believe there is more to this story than we are being publicly told. There is simply no way the WHL would have punished Portland this severely based solely on the information the Winterhawks are providing. My belief (along with others) is that Portland's press release is an attempt at saving face and the league simply doesn't want the public (or the NCAA) to know about the severity of the rules that were broken. Obviously this is just an opinion... but it seems logical to most that the punishment is pretty egregious if they were truly only guilty of the infractions that have been released publicly.
Portland will likely appeal the ruling and will also likely have the penalties reduced but the punishment will still be crippling to the franchise over the next 8-10 years. The lesson here is pretty clear... the WHL has rules and whether you like the rules or not you WILL follow them or the punishment will be quite severe. End of Story.

Some quick Tbirds notes.

  • The "DHL" line of Delnov-Honey-Lipsbergs has been outstanding lately but you didn't need me to tell you that.
  • I think Jared Hauf has looked improved lately. Development was always kind of expected to be slow for the tall 17 year old and things appear to be getting better. He's still getting himself in trouble at times when he isn't moving his feet (or isn't moving them fast enough) but I feel a lot more comfortable with him on the ice than I have previously.
  • The trade for Griffin Foulk was a bit of an odd one to me. Obviously the team feels he is a pretty good defender (and at this point I'm not going to argue) but I'm surprised the team felt compelled to go acquire another defender AND another 17 year old defender at that.  Injury? I know Wardley did not play on Tuesday and maybe there is something going on there.
  • Branden Troock is listed as being out for another 1 week on the injury report. Let's hope it's only another week and Seattle can get him back on the ice. The Tbirds have performed pretty decently in his absence but it goes without saying that his ability and offense would give the team a boost. Tyler Alos is still listed as day-to-day.
Tough, tough 3 games this weekend starting with the Cheaterhawks on Friday night in Portland followed up by red hot Kelowna at home Saturday and first place Kamloops on Sunday.


US Division

Those of us that watch the US Division teams regularly pretty much already knew this but check out this latest screen cap from the Massey Ratings.

Three US Division teams in the top 5 and all 5 teams are among the top 15 teams in the league based (obviously) on statistics.  I always try to get people to understand that I DO actually sympathize and understand the point of view of the "frustrated" Tbird fan. Unfortunately, I think most of them believe that things happen and occur in a vaccum where the only thing that matters at the end of the game is wins and losses. While the bottom line (again obviously) is wins and losses... they actually occur with context and things like the Massey Ratings can help understand that context.

Seattle is "only" 10-12 but they've also played the 2nd toughest schedule in the league. It helps explain why they are 10-12 and not 15-9 like Prince Albert.

Central Scouting Rankings have been updated for November and Shea Theodore and Jared Hauf are ranked.  Theodore is no surprise... while Hauf might be a slight surprise. Seth Jones of Portland is still ranked number 1. Screen cap courtesy of TSN.


Hockey Challenge 2013

Just a quick note today.

I have updated the banner at the top of the blog to reflect the NEW Hockey Challenge info for the 2013 game.  I will once again be asking the generous readers of this blog to donate to the Ronald McDonald House in the name of my team for the Challenge. My IEB team is still undefeated at the Challenge and we will once again be looking to continue our winning and fundraising ways.

Updated stats from Massey Ratings have reflected the Tbirds recent games and they have slipped to 10th in the WHL. That is to be expected after a sub-par road swing. 8th in offense, 15th in defense. They have played the 2nd toughest schedule.

I have to say that if you were lucky enough to watch some of the games, as I did, you would have likely come to the conclusion that they deserved a much better record on the road trip. Most fans are going to look to the record and find a reason to resume bitching and whining and complaining but in my opinion the play did not reflect on the wins and losses.  I truly believe we are seeing a much improved team and I think the wins will start to come a bit easier as they come together and learn to win a bit more.  Keep in mind that this team has turned over and changed a lot in the past season and I think this is the type of team that will get stronger as the season progresses.

Updated Massey Ratings can be found here.


Write Something Already

You may have noticed I haven't written anything in several weeks. Believe me... I've noticed too.  I've really enjoyed just being a "fan" lately and not feeling the pressure to write anything after games. Some of you have noticed that I still try to tweet out some stuff during games and you should definitely follow me on twitter so that we can interact during games.

Today is obviously election day and that is definitely important but the Tbirds also have a game tonight in Brandon that starts at 5pm local time. Did you know that Brandon is 1,429 miles away from Seattle if you go the long way through North Dakota but it's only 1,269 miles away if you head north at Coeur d'Alene and go  by way of the Trans-Canada Hwy. In other words... Brandon is pretty far east. By the way, the game tonight can only be heard streamed on am1090, ESPN710 or on the radio dial at 96.5 KJAQ.

Believe it or not... Statistically, Seattle is actually a pretty good team this year. Massey Ratings has Seattle ranked 7th in the WHL and actually had them as high as 4th the week before. Part of the reason for their high ranking is their moderate success against what current ranks as the toughest schedule in the league. Casual fans drive me crazy all the time talking about how the offense is to blame with the Tbirds lose. Well, Seattle ranks 5th offensively and 12th defensively in the league. The offense might have been a problem in previous years but you have to keep the puck out of your own net as well.

The U.S. Division is rated as the toughest division and the Western Conference is rated as being tougher than the East.

Also... in case people are curious they currently project Seattle to finish with 36 wins which would be good for 72 points but that doesn't cover any loser points. So that probably projects out to around 80ish points.


Hickman leads Tbirds to victory

Conventional wisdom would tell you that Alexander Delnov (2 g, 2 a) led the Tbirds to victory last night. It would also be perfectly reasonable to suggest Connor Sanvido and his 2 goal effort or maybe Luke Lockhart and his 2 goals would be your choice for 1st star of the game.  All would be reasonable selections. I'm here to tell you that the player of the game last night was Justin Hickman.

Coming out flat in the 2nd period after they had dominated the 1st, Seattle found itself quickly down 2-1 after a minute and fifteen seconds. The crowd of 4,145 deflated and it looked as though the game may have turned I would have called timeout but Konowalchuk knows his team better than I do and exactly 2 minutes later Hickman would engage Carter Proft in a fight that lasted little more than 10-15 seconds but changed the course of the entire game.  Few actual punches were thrown before Hickman wrestled Proft to the ice and skated off imploring the fans (and his team) to get a little fired up.

Like clockwork, Delnov whipped in a wrister just 33 seconds later and Sanvido scored two and a half minutes later and the game had turned.

With this franchise it seems as though we are always saying "wait 'til next year" and sometimes it is foolish optimism for us to have looked towards next year. Fans, especially Tbirds fans, seem to feel like things are either "win a banner" or "that year sucked". I understand that sentiment to a certain extent because the Tbirds have very few banners and have enjoyed very little upper level success and I would consider upper level success to either be a Division title or Conference Finals appearance and beyond. The point is... I want to be very careful in my praise for what I saw last night. If you're looking for this team to win a WHL title this year I think you've set the expectations a little too high.

However... Based on what I have seen so far this season I can easily say this is the best Seattle team we've seen in several years. This team won't miss the playoffs. I feel pretty comfortable making that "prediction".  You have to go back to 2008-09 for the last time this team made the playoffs.  That team went 35-32-5 which was good for 75 points. The season before in 2007-08 the Tbirds went 42-23-7, good for 91 points.

I think this team is looking more like the 08-09 version but has a decent chance to put themselves closer to the 91 point mark.  Right now the team has the ability to roll 4 forward lines and have a pretty good chance at getting scoring from any of the 4 lines. My biggest concern continues to be the defense but so far they have been able to hold things together and I think guys like Wardley and Forsberg bring enough physicality to the defense to keep offenses from getting too comfortable.  Hauf and Green are still very raw and haven't learned to use their size to their advantage yet and that only comes from being better skaters.  I've said it a million times before... if you put Andre the Giant in skates... he isn't knocking me down because he doesn't know how to skate. It doesn't matter how big you are if you can't generate enough leverage to knock people on their ass (something Wardley has learned to do in SPADES in the last calendar year). If Hauf and Green manage to take a step forward before the year is over, this could be a very good defensive unit.

So... rejoice Tbirds fans. We should be seeing some more winning hockey going forward and that makes things very exciting for the rest of this season. Wait until next year is a tired and worn out mantra... but it is a mantra that "might" actually start becoming a reality if players can continue some of the momentum we are beginning to see.


Showare Ice Surface

Here is a weird update for you guys.

I just got done playing a game at ShoWare and I'd like to report that the ice surface is in really good shape. In previous years when I have played games at both Key Arena and ShoWare the ice surface was very soft. Soft ice means that skaters have to work harder because their skate steel sinks into the ice a little more than normal.  Softer ice also tends to lend itself to slightly slower game speed for the same reason.

The ice I skated on today was much closer to a "normal" surface and felt great. Whatever they did or whatever they are doing to make the ice surface more normal is definitely working. I'll be interested to see if the game speed appears just a tad bit faster tonight.

Random update... but I figure a few people might be interested in knowing this.


Announcement, Lockout Rant, Tbirds Hockey

Hey look... I have something to write about so why not have a Menage a Trois of posts on a Friday? We'll get three topics together all at the same time

First, I have a bit of a minor announcement to make. Recently, my good friend John Barr started a blog that provided updates on the possibility of a new downtown sports arena and subsequently the possibility of an NHL team coming to Seattle. John and I have decided to collaborate on this new project that I think most Seattle area hockey fans will have interest in - You can (and should) also like our page on Facebook right here.

For now, John will still handle most, if not all of the posting over at the new website because he is well versed on the issues surrounding getting an NHL team to the Seattle area. John will continue with his relocation updates and I will eventually transition into the team recap/analysis writer in the event that we should be able to score an NHL team.  Do me a favor and give the website a look, John does an amazing job and I hope to contribute to that in the near future. This doesn't mean any changes for Let's Go Birds and we still don't have any clear indication on when or if Seattle will receive an NHL team.

Second. While we are on the subject... allow me to rant a little bit about the NHL Lockout (this is something I may post over at the new website as well).

I join with most hockey fans in being utterly and totally annoyed (possibly disgusted) at the idea of another lockout and a lost season. Billionaires fighting with Millionaires is the tag line often mentioned and it's true. It seems as though most fans believe that the owners are being unfair and the players are getting a raw deal in this recent round of negotiations. I would tend to agree with that. When the players were locked out in 2004 and eventually came to an agreement in 2005 after the cancellation of an entire season, it was widely perceived that the owners "won" and the players conceded a lot.  In light of this, the owners have now come back 7 years later, after record revenue growth, and demanded that salaries be rolled back further and that the players should make more concessions.

The players are getting shafted, plain and simple. Owners aren't being fair to ask for so much more after getting so much 7 years ago and enjoying the bounties that the past 7 years have provided.

However.  Answer me this.... Exactly what leverage do the players have?? The answer (imo) of course is none or at least very little.

The situation hinges on this - too many owners simply have no reason to run games.

James Mirtle of the Toronto Globe and Mail wrote an eloquent article back in July that illustrates perfectly the reason why many NHL teams aren't generating revenues large enough to cover expenses. If you lose money every time you open the doors to the arena to play a game... well... you aren't very eager to play games.

As Mirtle points out, the owners believe they'll have an easier time extracting 200-300 million out of the players before they can extract that out of the richest franchises in the form of revenue sharing.

So if most owners don't have an incentive to play games.... what leverage do the players have? They can be united all they want but most ownership groups aren't being hurt by shutting their doors.

If the players were smart... they would accept the salary roll-backs while insisting that the league institute better revenue sharing or other ways in which the bottom 70% of the franchises have a better chance to succeed and turn profits (or break even).

Unfortunately, until the players realize that they really don't have solid ground to stand on (beyond the moral ground) the lockout will likely continue.

Third.  Thank whatever God you believe in that we still have Junior Hockey! The Thunderbirds hit the ice tonight in Kamloops looking to continue their momentum after their stunning late game heroics up in Prince George last weekend.  I'm going to have the game on tonight but I may not be able to watch a ton of it. I'll try to post as many thoughts as I can.

The Riley Sheen for Jacob Doty trade sure is working out well. I suspected at the time that this trade would work out quite well for Seattle and so far things are looking pretty good. Sheen has 4 points in 4 games.

Also, Jarret Smith has been a revelation (at least on paper) so far as he has 3 assists with a +2 rating through 4 games.

I'll have some actual relevant thoughts after I see a game or two.



Yup. I'm officially unreliable. I've obviously written nothing this week after missing the first two games and now I'll be out of town and most likely unable to watch the next two games.

I'm officially unreliable.

That's the bad news.

The good news is... this won't last very long. I'll be back to my normal schedule here once my schedule settles down.

Don't give up on me yet people...



A couple of update items for everyone today.

First, I have to acknowledge the fact that there has been a severe lack of content lately. I apologize for that. With the lack of a writing "team" there are times where I get pretty busy at the office and outside of the office and it generally takes away from my time to write for the blog. I realize that isn't a good excuse but it does help explain my lack of updates.

Second, It also just so happens that I had to be pulled out of town this weekend I'm going to miss opening weekend for the second year in a row. I suck, believe me, I agree.

Third, some actual updates. Yesterday it became clear on Twitter that Seattle had decided to release defensemen Brad Deagle and go with Luke Lockhart and Brendan Rouse up front. I think this is a mistake on the part of the team but probably not something that means a lot. Seattle currently has 7 defensemen on the roster (a number that is too small in my book) and a vast majority of those defensemen are untested and unproved at the WHL level. I think it's a gamble and a risk and it isn't a gamble I would have been willing to take. Brad Deagle was arguably your most consistent and solid defender last year and I don't think a marginal training camp and preseason should have changed that. Oh well. I don't get paid to make these decisions.

I would just hate to see a defensemen or two get hurt (you know, because these things tend to happen all the time) and have them suddenly be down a body. Dear Jesse Forsberg, please don't get hurt.. k thanks.

Happy opening weekend to everyone and I promise to get things more fired up when I get back the following week.


CHLPA and Seattle Ticket Revenue

The other day the fledgling CHLPA (and I'm tempted to use the word floundering) tweeted out some "Revenue" figures that they claim come directly from the CHL website.

First off... I can't seem to verify that fact anywhere and nobody else seems to be able to verify that either. So if the CHL is posting revenue figures on their website it appears that the mysterious tweeting CHLPA is the only one that can find them.

Second... I really don't know that I have a strong opinion on the CHLPA yet. The rest of this post isn't meant to be a slam on the CHLPA. I'm all for CHL players being treated well. For the most part, I think they already are treated pretty well. While some may call playing hockey in the WHL a "job"... I, most certainly, would not. When I played college baseball and I received a food stipend for road trips, I didn't think that what I was doing was "work". I looked at it like I was playing the game because I loved playing it and for the small (non-existent in my case) hope of being a professional one day.  I realize the NCAA considers the CHL "professional" but we all know that is a heaping pile of bullshit. So I'm all for the players being treated well but I can't help but feel like the CHLPA is a solution to a non-existent problem.  Couple that with the fact that this all seems like a really weird and strange April Fools joke and I find it hard to believe this is going to gain any traction. We don't even know "who" this CHLPA is. We have Georges Laraque acting as the "Executive Director" and an anonymous twitter account.  Quick addition to that thought... does anyone else feel like the CHLPA twitter will just one day say "nevermind, just kidding... just wanted to see everyone get worked up about nothing"??

Let's also throw out the fact that there are several franchises that are struggling to make financials work and unions typically add benefits but they also add costs. My belief is that the Thunderbirds are doing much better in ShoWare than they were in KeyArena but it is quite possible that any formal formation of the CHLPA could put one or more franchises in danger of closing up their doors. That is PURE speculation on my part but that is the sense that I get.

Having said all of that.... Let's actually break down the numbers because I'm a nerd and I love numbers.

Sunday, September 2nd the CHLPA Twitter (@theCHLPA) stated that the Tbirds "estimated" ticket sales were 141,086 good for revenue of $4,853,367. The last semi-reliable attendance figure we have is from 2009-10 where Seattle drew 138,724 but I know for a fact that attendance has gone up since that year. That works out to average crowd of 3853 and I think it is a lot closer to 4000. 4000 by 36 games is 144,000. So let's assume that the CHLPA numbers are correct. What we shouldn't assume is that each one of those tickets are paid for. Every team gives away some tickets... let's say roughly 5%. That would reduce the paid tickets number down to $134,031. Take that number and divide by $4,853,367 and you get an average ticket price of $36.21.

Now... Let's see if we can back into the average ticket price at the arena.  Let's ignore the fact that season ticket holders get a discount on the per ticket price because that would completely blow the number out of the water. So let's just deal with retail price.  $40 a pop for club seats and I'd say there must be about 500 club seats. That's $20,000. 200 glass seats? That's a guess but I think it's close. 200 by $30 is another $6000. I'm guessing about 500 of the Family tickets at $16 each, $8000 and that leaves 4925 tickets at $24 which is $118,200. Put it all together and it would add up to $152,200 for each home game (before suites).

Your head is spinning... I know... stay with me....

That means that if you sell out the entire place (which we all know doesn't happen) that average ticket price works out to $24.84 and once again this is assuming that every ticket is actually a "paid" ticket.

Now let's work in suite tickets (as was pointed out on my twitter). Let's say roughly 20 suites at 14 seats per suite and $50 per ticket and average suite sales are probably 60%. That adds about $8400 to the total. Which gives us roughly a rounded total of $160,000 in revenue per game. Average ticket price? $26.22... still not even close to the $34.40 that the CHLPA wants you to believe.

Last point... this all assumes that tickets are all sold on a retail basis and we all know that isn't true. I pay $558 per season ticket and that makes my average ticket price $15.50. Let's assume the Tbirds have 1500 season ticket holders (I don't actually know the number) that means that the $26.22 average ticket price that we calculated not only can't be correct but also cannot be any higher than that because somewhere around 1500 people are actually buying tickets at a discounted per game rate.

Which means...

The numbers the CHLPA tweeted out... are complete garbage. Either that or there are some major gaps in the facts or their "sources".

"Educated" guess... I'd say revenue for the Tbirds was closer to $20 per ticket with actual paid attendance being closer to 140 to 145k which would put revenue somewhere between $2.8 and $2.9 million.


Preseason Roster, Notes

The Thunderbirds have posted their preseason roster. A few things to note.

  • No Barzal. All along I have said that I don't think we have too much to worry about when it comes to Barzal signing on with the team and I will still maintain that to be the case. However, I would say I'm a little more nervous than I was yesterday. No Barzal in this preseason is a strong indication that he still hasn't signed. I'm not worried yet... but on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being "I'm not worried, leave me alone" and 10 being "Crap, here come another 100 'fire Russ' comments" my stress level just went from about a 3 to a 4.  If that makes sense...
  • Wray, Bell, Low, Holub and Folk are the forward guys listed who we may or may not have expected. Kolesar is still around but he's 15 and already signed, so that is cool but he can't make the team. 18 forwards if you count Kolesar and Delnov (who isn't listed). If you subtract either Lockhart or Rouse and Kolesar you wind up with 16 forwards. My best guess is that leaves maybe 1 or 2 cuts to make but I wouldn't be shocked to see them carry an extra guy until they are sure that Delnov will arrive.
  • On defense. Wolf sticks around despite having a so-so camp. He was already signed though so not much of a shock there. Jerret Smith, who showed some very interesting offensive potential in camp, is still around. Only 8 defensemen are listed which would indicate to me that Deagle is definitely staying and they may not make another cut on defense. Maybe 1 cut if they wanted to send someone home to get more playing time. No Douglas as well... he might have been a slight surprise to some.
  • In net... a mess.  5 goalies are still listed and I think it is anyone's guess as to who has the lead in the backup goalie race. I think Cotton is being given a chance to either play himself on the roster or play himself off the roster. His spot to win or lose. If he falters... I'm guessing Myles or Mumaugh and if I had to place a bet... I'm going with Mumaugh.


Lund Traded

Chance Lund has been traded to the Swift Current Broncos in exchange for a 6th round Bantam Draft pick.

This helps clear the 20 year old situation but won't quite solve it.

This doesn't come as much of a shock to me. A 6th round pick isn't terrible value for a 20 year old player and especially one who hasn't really shown a lot in his previous seasons.  Early in the 2011-12 season Lund looked like he was ready to take things to the next level but he slowed as the season wore on and was rarely a factor late in the season.

Seattle will now presumably choose two players from the Brad Deagle, Luke Lockhart and Brendan Rouse group.


Caution and O/A's

A funny thing happens around the time of training camp. Fans start making their annual trek over to Showare Center where they pick apart each and every single play and event. They pick every moment apart as if there is a hidden scoreboard that keeps track of positive plays and negative plays and by the end of camp the players who make the team are the ones who simply played the best over a 3-4 day period.

So let me get this straight... we're going to evaluate players based on a few short days rather than evaluating them based on the dozens of games they played in front of scouts last year in addition to the 3 or 4 days of training camp?

I would have to hope that the coaching staff had largely already decided who they wanted to make the roster this season prior to camp. That doesn't mean that a player with an extremely strong camp can't crack the roster but I would hope their evaluations are based on a whole lot more than a small handful of scrimmages.

This relates very directly to what I believe the Thunderbirds should do with their Over Age situation.  The decision on whether to keep Brad Deagle, Luke Lockhart, Chance Lund or Brendan Rouse to round out the two remaining 20 year old spots on the roster should probably be based on their body of work and not just a few days of camp.

In my mind, I think Deagle probably has to make this roster, leaving the choice down to Lockhart, Lund or Rouse. Deagle was the most solid and reliable defender last year, including Theodore. 

I've seen some claim to believe that the team has "plenty of D" with the acquisition of Jesse Forsberg. They believe that adding Forsberg makes Deagle redundant on the roster... or something to that effect.

For the sake of entertainment... let's see what that would look like:

Let's say Deagle isn't on this roster.  Your top pairing is probably Forsberg and Shea Theodore. Your second pairing is likely to look something like Evan Wardley and Jared Hauf.  No disrespect to either of those players (both of whom I like on various levels) but I think you are taking a major risk if you're going into the season asking those guys to play 20-25 minutes a game.  Phil Pietroniro might fit into that equation somewhere and so might Jarret Smith or Kevin Wolf or Reid Fritzke or Taylor Green. None of those players have been battle tested within the WHL.

So, do you feel comfortable with those guys as your top 4 after surrendering 292 goals in 72 games last year? At a rate of just over 4 goals a game? Quite frankly, I don't.  And again, that isn't a knock on Wardley or Hauf. I really like what I've seen from Wardley and I think Hauf has a chance to eventually turn into a very good player.

If you get rid of Deagle, you're keeping two of Lockhart, Lund and Rouse. For the sake of argument I'll group Lund and Rouse together. Look how many forwards this team might have (in no particular order):

Folk/Ross (?)

That makes 18 possible forwards. You have established depth at the forward position, something you don't really have on the blue line.

If you keep Deagle and go with Lockhart (or Lund/Rouse, whatever) as your final OA spot.... You now look like this:

Forsberg - Theodore
Deagle - Wardley
Hauf - (whoever)

I suddenly feel a lot more comfortable about a defense where Hauf/Wardley are getting 15-20 minutes a night with Deagle, Forsberg, Hauf and Wardley eating up PK minutes to free up Theodore to play a ton of PP minutes to go with his normal minutes.

While the offensive "potential" of guys like Lockhart, Rouse and Lund are enticing the problem comes down to positional scarcity. Those guys don't play defense and Deagle does.



I won't be able to attend the sessions today but beat writer Andy Eide (@AndyEide) is there tweeting updates along with the team itself.

Here are a few of my observations from the session yesterday.

- More people were there than have been in previous years. You're always going to have parents and some older players but there were definitely more fans than previous years.
- Mathew Barzal looked very good though possibly unchallenged. I thought he looked to break out offensively a little bit too much but you simply cannot deny his talent. He is a 15 year old playing against 15 and 16 year old's and he is a cut above everyone else in terms of skating ability and puck handling. I'll be very interested to see how he plays against the big boys.
- Michal Holub passed the eye test for me. I think he makes the team if he continues to play like he did yesterday. Showed good speed getting to the outside and around the corner with the puck, he always seemed to be around the action and generally "looks" like a player who belongs in the league.  He has to keep it up... but I think he probably makes the team.
- Keeping with the '96 players for a moment... I thought Jordan Ross outplayed Carter Folk.
- Dylan Gambrell has some nice skills and it will be really interesting to see if they can get the U. of Denver product signed.
- I thought Kevin Wolf struggled. I heard that he played better in the morning but he didn't look very solid yesterday afternoon.
- Austin Douglas is improved but I think he is still a long shot to make the team. I'd like to see him be more assertive on the ice.
- Danny Mumaugh looked fine although he was barely tested in his half.
- In the '97's... I thought Keegan Kolesar looked pretty good at times. He has a nose for the goal to go with decent speed and some decent handles. He should be ready by next year.
- Hunter Lester is a listed player from Idaho and while he isn't the swiftest of skaters he was always around the puck and had a nice session. He sticks out like a sore thumb with the Michigan colored pants with the number at the bottom. The line of Lane Pederson, Lester and Kolesar had some decent shifts.
- I didn't notice Tristan Simm or Luke Van Schaack at all after they scored in the early session.
- Nick Holowko has good chemistry with Barzal and that very well could be enough to make the team next year.
- Jordan Roberge had a nice session and seemed to be around the net a bunch. He had a goal.
- Evan Cusmano is an interesting player. He's a big body... very big body... and he doesn't exactly fly around the ice. But he always seemed to be in the right places and he has pretty decent hands.
- Cody Lightfoot had a few impressive hits including one that was a touch high on Holub.
- Ethan Bear, the 2nd round pick, still looks a bit raw and unsure of himself to me but he has a solid frame and skates well. Another year of seasoning and he should be fine.

I'm probably forgetting a few things... but that is what I have. I'm missing the sessions today but I'll be back in the rink tomorrow afternoon for what I believe will be a main camp scrimmage.


Rookie Player Research

Here are some notes I've compiled on the rookies that played in the initial scrimmage this morning. Some guys we already know a lot about (Barzal) and some we know a fair amount about (Kolesar, Douglas, Wolf, Mumaugh, etc.)  Here are some notes I found on players I'm not as familiar with.

- Nick Holowko played with Barzal on the Burnaby Winter Club last year and also participated in the Western Canada Bantam Championships playing with Barzal on Team BC.

- Dylan Gambrell played with Danny Mumaugh with the Colorado Thunderbirds U-16 club last season and has publicly committed to the University of Denver and his Elite Prospects profile says he is originally from "Boney, WA". I feel like I'm stuck in a bad dirty joke... but I don't have a clue where Boney, WA is.  He is one to watch... he must be at least a little curious about the the CHL if he wanted to come to camp. Tbirds had him playing with Holowko and Barzal this morning.

- Tristin Simm is a listed player from Surrey, BC and played for the Semiahmoo Bantam A1 team last year. I can't find much else on him.

- Jordan Ross was selected in the 9th round by the Tbirds in 2011 and played for either the Tisdale Trojans or the Balgonie Prairie Storm last year and by some reports had a fantastic year and tallied a bunch of points. He was in camp last year.

- Nash Dabb is a listed player who played for the North Shore Winter Club and appeared to be one of the leading scorers.

- Carter Folk is a 4th round selection of 2011 and was in camp last year as well. I can't find a lot from him... but he did score a goal this morning.

- Jordan Roberge is a listed player and a '97 born player. He played for the Langley Bantam A1 team last season.

- Luke Van Schaack is a '97 listed player as well and tallied twice this morning. The line of Folk, Roberge and Van Schaack appeared to have a good morning. He played for the Wenatchee Jr. Wild but also came over and played for the Seattle Bantam team in at least one tournament. Obviously it would be a cool story if he made the team but don't get your hopes up.

I'll do some more research and be back with some more notes tomorrow. I will be tweeting from the afternoon scrimmage as well.

Rookie/Training Camp Opens

Training Camp slash Rookie Camp has opened this morning with a Blue/Grey game featuring '96 and '97 players.  I'm not able to attend this morning but I will be in attendance for the afternoon session and will tweet out some updates.

Here is a link to the roster and lines for this morning.


Vacation Over

Summer vacation (from writing) is over and it's time to talk some hockey. If you're a hockey fan, you have to love this time of the year. No matter how bad your team was in the previous season... come August, we all have some level of belief that they will be better in the upcoming season. A ton of things have happened since I was able to opine on the state of the team so let's get right to the bullet holes.

  • ESPN 710 fired ex-beat writer Mike Caccioppoli and hired two new writers.  Andrew Eide (@AndyEide) and Tim Pigulski (@tpigulski) will now cover the Tbirds for the radio affiliate. Caccioppoli, in my opinion, was a poor writer and had a poor knowledge of hockey and the inner workings of the WHL. I'm well aware that a small set of fans passionately agreed with his opinions (and that's great) but his interviews with Russ were borderline offensive and most of his blog posts were either simple game recaps (that could be found on the Thunderbirds website) or combative interviews with the accommodating General Manager. Andrew will serve more as the "reporter" for the blog while Tim will handle the "analysis". From what I have seen and read so far the coverage will be vastly improved from what it was in the past year.  I have read several of Andrew's posts and I think they are have been largely excellent. I wasn't a particularly big fan of one of Tim's first articles but I'm not going to take him to task this early in the job. I think some things Tim has written since, have been excellent.  Since I believe the new blog/coverage is worthy of reading (I didn't before) I will be adding it to the links at the side of the page. Check out Andy and Tim.
  • Seattle picked up a 20 year old goaltender from Calgary named Brandon Glover. By most accounts Glover is a solid addition to the team and should help solidify the defensive zone for a defensive unit that is still very young. I think you could make an argument that the team will be better off without Calvin Pickard in goal. Losing Pickard in goal is an obvious loss in skill... but often I have seen teams play passively around a goaltender with an excellent reputation and I think there were times where the Tbirds wound up standing around watching Pickard make saves (or not).
  • Seattle selected two players in the Import draft and the reports I have seen have been very good. Alexander Delnov is a Russian winger who was considered by some to be a sleeper with excellent upside after being selected by the Florida Panthers in the 4th round. His compete level is excellent and he should be a solid contributor immediately. I caution Thunderbird fans with their expectations. I would fully expect Delnov to score some points and be a solid player but I think it would be unfair to expect him to be an immediate superstar and 95 point scorer. Give him some time to adjust to the American game and he should be just fine.  Seattle's other selection was Center Roberts Lipsbergs from Latvia. Lipsbergs should also be a solid player but will likely be more of a depth Center in his first season. He also wore the "A" for the Latvian team which would indicate some level of leadership qualities. Delnov  has plenty of size at 6'0" and 187 lbs and Lipsbergs is a tad on the small side at 5'10" and 176 lbs but he should be just fine.
  • Ah yes... the "big" trade. I may have waited until the end to get to this. Last week the Tbirds traded disgruntled (he had asked for a trade) forward Colin Jacobs to the Prince George Cougars in exchange for 19 year old defensemen Jesse Forsberg. This is a fantastic trade for the Thunderbirds. Jacobs, in my opinion, has been one of the most overrated and disappointing players in the last 10 seasons. A player with a pretty solid set of hands, Jacobs' skating speed and ability just never seemed to improve. He had trouble creating space and when you can't create space with your feet you have a hard time using your hand skills to create opportunities. There is a reason why Jacobs' had so much success on the Power Play during his 17 and 18 year old seasons.  In exchange for Jacobs, Seattle picks up a veteran defensemen in Jesse Forsberg (requested a trade) who was also the Captain of the Cougars last season.  The addition of Forsberg gives Seattle a pretty solid pairing of Deagle (should they keep him) and Forsberg... which would allow Shea Theodore to focus on doing what he does best... quarterback the power play and help put the puck in the net. The more defensive minutes that can get covered by Deagle, Forsberg and the other defensemen... the less pressure there will be on Theodore to play more than 20-25 minutes a night. Theodore is a blossoming talent but you have to be careful about putting too much pressure on a 17 year old to play like a 19 or 20 year old in this league.
  • The Training Camp schedule was released today and I have to admit that I don't really like it. Scrimmages on Thursday and Friday will be at 9am and 4:30pm making it pretty tough for working folk like myself to attend training camp. I'll adjust my schedule and find a way to attend a couple of the sessions.  Saturday will have a scrimmage at 3pm while Sunday will feature scrimmages at 9am and 4:30pm again.  Monday will be a full jersey wearing scrimmage at 5:30pm.
  • EDIT: Ah yes the Doty trade. How quickly I forget things. The Doty trade was another productive one by Russ even if Riley Sheen never plays (and I have a hunch he will). Doty was a fantastic kid and I have met his mother and they are wonderful people... but I think it was clear that Doty was having trouble developing enough foot speed to ever have an impact in this league beyond his tremendous fighting prowess (a skill that a poor/developing team doesn't have the luxury to carry). If he thinks he should be getting more of an opportunity... good for Russ for getting him out of here and giving him that chance while getting player who was a year younger and may develop into an offensive player.
This is going to be a pretty important season in the RE-development of this franchise. At some point they have to be able to turn the corner and win some games and I have a pretty good feeling that this is the season. Does that mean they are going to win the US Division... no... I don't think it will be. I think they still trail teams like Portland in overall talent. But they should be improved over last season and I think they have a pretty solid shot at getting back into the playoffs in the back end of the bracket. We should all get a clearer picture after training camp and some preseason games.


RIP Bruce McDonald

It is with a heavy heart that I post this entry today. I didn't really want to post this... but I also didn't think it was appropriate to let the day pass without posting something.

Tbirds color commentator Bruce McDonald lost his battle with cancer and passed away early this morning. Bruce was a member of the Tbirds organization since 1983 and served as a member of the radio broadcast team for the past 14 seasons.

I am at a loss for words comprehending at Bruce's sudden passing.  I don't consider myself to be a religious person but my hope is that Bruce is in a better place now.

The Thunderbirds have put out a press release that contains quotes about Bruce. I highly recommend reading through it. I would also recommend heading over to Thom Beuning's blog to get his thoughts about the passing of his friend.


Two Trades

Seattle made two trades last week that could have an impact on the team next season.

The first trade most certainly will. Seattle acquires 20 year old goaltender Brandon Glover from the Calgary Hitmen in exchange for a 3rd round bantam selection. Glover's numbers in the regular season were somewhat pedestrian with a record of 20-12, 3.11 GAA and an .885 Save%. He really stepped up his game in the playoffs for the Hitmen going 1-1-1 in 4 games with a 1.87 GAA and a .941 Save% that lead all WHL goaltenders in the playoffs.  I haven't seen him play a ton but I'm told that this is a really solid pickup for the Tbirds.  I'm a little surprised at the cost being a 3rd round bantam selection but Ty Rimmer netted a 2nd and a 3rd round pick so this was definitely the going rate for landing a 20 year old goaltender.

What does this mean? Well I think this officially puts Chance Lund and Brendan Rouse on notice. I think Brad Deagle is a lock for the team because of an overall lack of defensive depth and I find it very hard to believe that Luke Lockhart wouldn't make the team after being your captain last season. Glover would obviously be the 3rd.

This also means that the backup goaltending job is probably wide open. The team clearly didn't feel comfortable with Daniel Cotton as a potential starter which means he probably isn't a lock to be the backup as well. Danny Mumaugh will be in the mix as well as Justin Myles and maybe Nolan Kruizenga.

Here are some highlights of Brandon Glover after he won WHL Goaltender of the Month for December this past season.

The second Seattle trade saw fan favorite Jacob Doty shipped out to Medicine Hat in exchange for 18 year old forward Riley Sheen. Doty is probably the most feared fighter in the WHL but he just wasn't ever able to contribute anything more than that. His skating didn't improve a whole lot and it appears that he demanded a trade thinking he should be getting more playing time than he got this past season. I think Doty is a great kid but I didn't see him with any kind of future with this team and for that reason alone I think this was a great trade.

Sheen could be a huge boom or bust player for the Tbirds. Where Doty was going to be a 19, Sheen is an 18... so the Tbirds gained a year (good) and they lost a lot of size. Sheen is listed at just 5'9" and 148 lbs. He had just 3 points in 43 games with the Tigers but added a goal and an assist in just 8 playoff games.

I don't know a lot about Sheen and I don't know why Medicine Hat would be willing to give him up to get Doty (and we might see why next season) but from the highlights I have seen, Seattle may have plucked a real sleeper here. Given a chance to play on the Power Play and play more of a scoring role I wouldn't be shocked to see Sheen flourish. I know the popular thing to do is rag on Russ Farwell and numerous people have commented here and elsewhere that they hope the Tbirds "get a new GM" and I think there is a ton of failure to go around when looking at the bantam draft selections over the past 5 season... having said that... Russ makes some pretty nifty trades and I have a feeling this may turn out to be one of the good ones.

Here is a video of his team profile from the Tigers website.


Chris Rumble Video

I'm a day late getting this posted but who cares... it needs to go up either way.

Most of you know the situation with Chris Rumble and you may also know that Chris is the one responsible for the Seattle vs. Portland rivalry video... this one...

Chris put together this inspiring video about the hem/oncology floor of Seattle Children's Hospital. He filmed it on Saturday, edited it on Sunday and posted it yesterday. Truly talented. I dare you to get through a minute of this video without getting goosebumps or getting a bit choked up. Chris is featured in the video towards the middle wearing an orange shirt and the video has already passed 64,000 hits as of this morning.


Bantam Draft Selections

1st Overall Selection - Mathew Barzal. Whether he said yes or no to Seattle... the Tbirds have selected him. This draft has been described as Barzal and everyone else which makes the pick the right selection and a good selection. Now we all hold our breath and hope that he signs and comes to Seattle.

Barzal had 39 goals and 68 assists for the Burnaby Winter Club Bruins. Barzal is a swift skater and was an elite scorer against the best Bantam competition in British Columbia.

Links on Barzal: Seriously... just google Mathew Barzal.

20th Overall Selection - Keegan Kolesar. Kolesar is 5'11". Seattle takes another forward, which should satisfy the "We need offense" crowd. Kolesar played last season for the Winnipeg Hawks, notching 22 goals and 11 assists in 27 games. He is also listed in other places as being 6'0" and is believed by some to be the best power forward in the draft.

Links on Kolesar:

25th Overall Selection - Ethan Bear, Defense, Whitewood, Sask. Bear is stands 5'10.5" tall and played last season for POE Bantam Team - Tier 1. Seems to be some mystery on Bear. I believe he actually played for Kelowna's Pursuit of Excellent (per Alan Caldwell) and is listed in other played at being 6'0" already. And the lesson as always is that I am a complete idiot and obviously POE stands for... you guessed it... Pursuit of Excellence... take a bow Hunnex.

Links on Bear:

47th Overall Selection - Logan Flodell. Flodell is a goaltender from Regina, listed at 5'10" which is a solid size for a goaltender at age 15. He played this past season for the Regina Senators Bantam AA. Seattle appeared to get very good value on their first three selections... this pick seems like more of a reach. Flodell was ranked by two different places outside of the top 10 goalies available and he becomes the 6th goaltender taken in the draft.

By some accounts Flodell has a bad year on a bad team. (Disclaimer: I'm just throwing out as much information as I can find. Please don't treat any of this as the gospel. I really don't have any idea on these guys until I have seen them play and the only one I have seen play is Barzal. Just throwing that out there.)

Links on Flodell:

Seattle doesn't have a 4th round selection and I need to get some real work done. I will circle back later with the later picks.

I guess Seattle does have their 4th rounder.

69th Overall Selection - Mason McCarthy, Center, Blackie, AB. McCarthy played last season for the Okotocks Bantam AAA. Listed at 5'7" and only 130lbs he is very small but he has been described in one summary by Western Elite as an elite scorer who was buried on a bad Okotoks team and that he can really be a good player when playing with other elite players.

Links on McCarthy:

I was right the first time. Seattle did NOT have a 4th round selection. That was the pick that went to Red Deer to the right to select Dave Sutter in the Import Draft.  Everything I just said... applies to Red Deer.

Btw... if you can't tell already... Western Elite is pretty much the place to find information on a lot of these players.

91st Overall Selection - Lane Pederson, Center, Saskatoon, SK. Pederson played for the Saskatoon Generals Bantam AA and served at the captain of the team. He is listed at 5'8" and 149 lbs. 27 goals and 24 assists in 33 games played. Caldwell has him listed at 5'9" and 155 now.

Bantam Draft Day

Ok... here we go. The draft kicks off in about... ohhh... 8 minutes now.

Will Seattle select Mathew Barzal? Did Barzal agree to come to Seattle? Will Seattle trade the pick? We're going to find out shortly here.


Sad Update

I wanted to echo the thoughts of the Seattle Thunderbirds as they announced today that radio color commentator Bruce McDonald has been diagnosed with leukemia. I spoke with Thom Beuning who said that Bruce is as upbeat as he possibly can be and he should begin chemotherapy this week. Bruce will be undergoing treatment at Evergreen Medical Center Hospital in Kirkland for the next month.

This news joins the recent news that assistant coach Darren Rumble's son, Chris Rumble was diagnosed with leukemia two weeks ago as well.

If you want to let the two guys know that you are thinking of them I will direct you to the Tbirds facebook page.  Best wishes to Bruce and Chris, we know you guys can beat this.


Where do we go from here?

Time to (finally) wrap up the season.  Obviously, everyone was a tad disappointed that the Tbirds weren't able to make the playoffs and didn't manage to play better over the 2nd half of the season.  That being said, I believe there are a handful of reasons to be cautiously optimistic for the next few seasons. Here is where I think the team goes from this point forward:

First, the good news... by missing the playoffs, the Tbirds put themselves in a position to win the Bantam Draft Lottery. The smart money is on Mathew Barzal being selected by Seattle but there are a few other names that I imagine would have an outside shot at being taken by Seattle. Barzal is a natural scorer who should be able to develop into a high point producer by the time he is 17 or 18. I watched some scouting film on him and was impressed by his skating and scoring ability. He is a tad on the smaller side at 5'9" and 152 lbs but smaller skaters don't really bother me too much when you have this much skill.  Chances are good he will probably grow as well.

There are some other names to keep your eye on and some players that Seattle will most definitely target with the #20 and #25 selections in the draft... but Barzal is almost a lock for the top pick.  For all Bantam Prospect news, you should really visit the Western Elite Hockey Prospects blog.

Getting a kid like Barzal is exciting but he won't be a factor until the 2013-14 season at the least. Let's take a look at what we might see out of Seattle in 2012-13.

We have to consider the situation with the 20 year old players.  Calvin Pickard will not be back. Dave Sutter will not be back as a "two-spotter" and I don't expect Braeden Laroque to be in the mix either. That leaves 4 players for 3 spots and I wouldn't be surprised to see all 4 come to camp and battle it out.  Brad Deagle is pretty much a lock in my mind. Seattle will need some veteran presence on defense next season and Deagle logged some very good minutes for the Tbirds this season.  Luke Lockhart is the captain and despite the lack of offensive production, I wouldn’t be very surprised if returned as captain next season. I know that some fans lament 20 year old captains that don't score a lot (see: Nielsen, Lindsay) but if you take a look around the WHL, you dont necessarily see a lot of 20 year old players leading the league in scoring. Yes, yes, I'm aware that Shinnimin lead the league in scoring and he was 20 years old, but following him was Stone (19), Rattie (18), Hughesman (20), Weal (19), Holland (19), Etem (19), St. Croix (18), Ferland (19) and Bartschi (19).  Having a 20 year old who scores a ton is clearly beneficial, but often times if your 20 year old is that good, he’s playing in the AHL (see: Pickard, Calvin). I wouldn't say that Lockhart is a lock for the roster, but I would be very surprised if he didn’t make it back.  That leaves Brendan Rouse and Chance Lund battling it out for the 3rd and final spot on the roster. Earlier in the year I thought Chance Lund was making a very good case for being the guy for that final spot but as the season wore on, Lund seemed to wear down and his point production slowed as well. He tallied 17 points in the first 24 games of the season and then only 15 points in the final 43 games. Rouse, who can kill penalties and is a responsible two way player and would project out to nearly the same point total as Lund over a 72 two game season. My best guess: Deagle for sure, Lockhart likely, Rouse tentatively, and Lund needing a big camp to prove he belongs on the team over Rouse.

Import Draft: The QMJHL will select first in the Import Draft followed by the WHL and OHL subsequently.  Seattle will pick 3rd in the WHL rotation which will be 8th overall in the draft and 8th in the 2nd round as well.  Last season, Gatineau selected RW Tomas Hyka 8th overall and he posted 64 points in 50 games with Gatineau. Keep in mind that the QMJHL is generally a higher scoring league than the WHL. So Seattle should be able to pick up one pretty useful top 6 forward with their 8th overall selection. Very few teams select in the 2nd round of the draft, but one of the teams that did last season was Tri-City who selected Malte Stromwall. Stromwall had 27 points this season for the Americans. Seattle will likely select a player with their 2nd round pick but I wouldn't expect much out of that selection. I wouldn't be surprised to see Seattle select a defender with their top pick to help round out the depth.  I also wouldn't be terribly shocked to see them select a goaltender but it might be tough to convince a goaltender to come over to play for a young team that just finished beating up Calvin Pickard.

The rest of the squad projects out in this rough form.

Defense - Deagle (20), Wardley (18), Theodore (17) and Hauf (17) are locks. Green should have a chance to stick but he needs to improve and they might try him as a forward as well. Kevin Wolf will likely have a very good chance to make the team and I have to hop that 2nd round selection Austin Douglas has improved. When I look at the defensive depth of the team I can't help but feel like Seattle probably needs to select a defender with one of their Import selections. Either that or draft a forward and trade one of the current forwards for a depth defender.

Offense - Lockhart (20), Jacobs (19), Alos (19), Swenson (19), Sanvido (19), Doty? (19), Elliot? (19), Hickman (18), Troock (18), Honey (18). That is amazingly 10 forwards who could be back without including any 17's or 16s. I'm not convinced that Elliot and Doty will be back but if they each go home and work on their strength, conditioning, skating, flexibility, etc. they will probably be back. That leaves very few spots left and that is also the reason why I half expect to see a forward traded for a defender.  Gropp will hopefully sign and be here next season. Daniel Wray will probably get a long look in training camp and Michael Holub played very well in camp last year and could be a possible 16 year old on the roster next season.

Goaltending - Cotton (18) and.... ummm... I'm not sure.... Danny Mumaugh was in camp last year as a 15 and I know he visited and likely practiced with the team toward the end of the season.  Beyond that I'm not really sure where they might go here.  Nolan Kruizenga was in camp last year as well but neither him nor Mumaugh would be expected to be a starter as a 16 year old. Cotton has a HUGE opportunity here to work his tail off over the summer and seize the starting job for the Tbirds. Don't be surprised to see Russ acquire a veteran goaltender or possibly pass over Rouse and Lund and sign a 20 year old tender to solidify the back end.

As for a wrap on this season. I have to say that I was disappointed with how the team played but I wasn't very surprised. I think we all expected a lot more scoring out of players like Burke Gallimore, Colin Jacobs and Luke Lockhart and for whatever reason that simply didn't happen. Jacobs never seemed to get back on track after his off-season shoulder surgeries and maybe a full summer of hockey training will do him a lot of good. His skating and speed needs to improve a lot to take his game to the next level. He has a good  shot and pretty good hands as evidenced by hit goal scoring success in the shootout. The problem seems to be that he finds it very difficult to create quality chances during live action.  Gallimore just never seemed comfortable this season. I think it would be unfair to generalize his play as being without effort but I think it would be fair to say that his play was generally uninspired. Lockhart worked hard but didn't see the results that we all thought we might see. Let's not forget that the first half of the season was marred (in my opinion) by Marcel Noebels constantly trying to do everything himself and getting traded out of town in one of the better deals that General Manager Russ Farwell has made in a while.

There is reason for hope.... Connor Honey played inspired hockey after joining the team at mid-season and should only continue to improve. Branden Troock has loads of talent and just needs to figure out how to correctly use it. Seth Swenson was almost an afterthought in the Noebels deal and turned in 17 points in his 34 games with the Tbirds, including 10 goals. Jared Hauf didn't show much in the way of offensive prowess but showed that with improvement he should eventually turn into a shutdown top 2 defender. Shea Theodore is a work in progress and made plenty of 16 year old mistakes but also lead the team in assists, becoming the first Thunderbirds rookie to lead the team in assists since a guy named Thomas Hickey. Evan Wardley improved a ton over the course of the season and looks poised to grab a hold of a top 4 spot next season and become an intimidating physical force on the ice.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Seattle is headed for the Memorial Cup next year... but I do believe that most of their best players in the 2nd half of the season were their younger players. If those players continue to get better and veterans like Jacobs and Lockhart bounce back and have good seasons next year, this team should find themselves back in the playoffs provided that they find a goaltender to give them a fighting chance between the pipes.

Bonus content:

I meant to do some playoff predictions and then I got sick. Three of the first round series' are over and 4 more are on the verge of being over. Vancouver/Spokane is the only series tied at 2 games each.  This makes "predictions" a lot easier but I'm going to do it anyways.

In the Western Conference, the Americans took care of the Tips and will face the winner of the Vancouver/Spokane series while Portland will have home ice advantage for their series with the "#2" seeded Kamloops Blazers. I think Tri wins their series no matter what and I think Portland takes care of Kamloops in 6 games. I believe Portland will then defeat Tri-City in the Western finals shocking the Americans one or two times at the Toyota Center and advancing to the WHL Finals.

In the East, I think the Oil Kings are extremely tough and won't likely have very much trouble with Brandon (likely winner) to reach the Eastern Finals. Moose Jaw will have an extremely tough time with Medicine Hat and Emerson Etem and I think Medicine Hat will pull off an upset and reach the Eastern Finals where Edmonton will prevail to play the Winterhawks.

In the WHL finals... I really believe that Portland is the best team in the WHL but I think it might be too tough to prevail against the Americans and the Oil Kings without home ice advantage. Portland makes it extremely tough but the Oil Kings prevail in game 7 in Edmonton to win their first WHL Championship.

Then again... what have I said all season long... what do I know?


Flu 1 - Tyler 0

The Cold/Flu had me pretty beat up since last week and has kept me from even thinking about anything resembling brain activity.  I promise I'm not done wrapping up this season. Check back in the next few days for a few more articles before we put a "bow" on this season.


Scott Lowe Remembered

From the elation of Seattle winning the draft lottery to a heavy heart this morning.

Scott Lowe passed away, peacefully, in his sleep last night. Lowe was an off-ice official for the Thunderbirds and a local hockey referee for nearly two decades.

Scott gave me my first GSHL 10 minute misconduct several years ago and I still liked the guy a lot.

He was a good man and he will be missed. RIP Scott.

Scott Lowe Puck Drop Tribute

Thunderbirds Win Lottery

The Thunderbirds just won the Bantam Draft lottery and will select 1st overall in the upcoming 2012 Bantam Draft.

In my mind, Seattle was already under a tremendous amount of pressure to improve their drafting of players and the pressure just got a tad bit higher.

The pre-draft speculation was that any team winning the lottery would likely select Burnaby Winter Club forward Mathew Barzal. We'll have to wait and see what Seattle decides to do.

The 2012 Bantam Draft will be held in Calgary on May 3rd.


Calvin Pickard Tribute/Retrospective

Seattle's season ended with a whimper last night, losing to the Portland Winterhawks 8-2 in front of nearly 8000 at the Memorial Coliseum. The Tbirds started fast and took the lead with a PP goal to open the scoring but the team seemed deflated as the Winterhawks answered just 9 seconds later on a snipe by Ty Rattie. The shot was first class, but it was a save Pickard needed to make in a game of this magnitude, and it didn’t happen.

The loss brought an end to the career of Pickard; a career that will no doubt go down as one of the best goaltending careers in the history of the WHL, despite the lack of playoff success.

As the first of several season wrap-up articles I plan to write this week, I wanted to spend an entire article recapping the career of Calvin Pickard…

Picks has been a solider for this franchise beyond the call of duty. He has never publicly complained about the teams that have been placed in front of him and by all accounts he has been a model citizen and an amazing teammate. Heartfelt comments and well-wishes poured in from teammates, fans, media and other players around the league.  He deserved better opportunities than he received during his time here in Seattle and I would like to thank him for the great memories and performances that we were able to see. Before we completely send Pickard off into the sunset to bigger and better things (because we may not ever see him back in Seattle again....) let's take a look at the WHL career of Calvin Pickard.

Pickard was drafted by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the 2nd round of the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft. Erik Fleming was drafted in the 1st round and Brandon Carlson was selected in the 3rd round. The younger brother of "Chetter" came into camp as a 15 year old with some high expectations. Anything resembling the career of Chet Pickard would have been considered a success. He wasted no time making a lasting impression as he didn't surrender a single goal in the camp scrimmages. Seattle fans knew they had something special.

September 19th, 2008 - Pickard's first official game in the WHL came at the CN Centre in Prince George where he stopped 32 of 37 shots in a 5-2 Seattle loss. He was greeted to the WHL by Dale Hunt (former Silvertip) and Brett Connolly who scored the Cougars first two goals.

October 11, 2008 - Pickard records his first WHL victory and shutout in the same game as he blanked the (then) hapless Portland Winterhawks 2-0, stopping all 20 shots in the process.

February 20, 2009 - Pickard stops all 36 shots and earns the game's 1st start in beating Spokane 3-0 for his first home shutout.

February 22, 2009 - Two days later, Pickard is forced to make at least 40 saves for the first time in his career stopping 40 of 42 shots to help Seattle earn a 3-2 victory at home over the Vancouver Giants.

March 7, 2009 - Playing in front of his brother Chet Pickard (rested on that night) Calvin stopped 24 shots to record his 3rd shutout of the season and first over Tri-City as the Tbirds blasted the Americans 6-0.

March 21, 2009 - Sadly this date marks the one and only playoff win in Pickard's illustrious career. Pickard stopped 33 of 34 shots and bested current Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Dustin Tokarski as the Tbirds evened the series in Spokane with a 2-1 victory. Seattle would drop the next 3 games and lose to the Chiefs 4-1 in the series.

September 8, 2009 - Pickard opens the 2009-10 season with a 4-3 victory over the Everett Silvertips stopping 46 of 49 shots in the process.

October 2, 2009 - A date that most Tbirds fans will likely remember for a very long time. Seattle is out-shot 57-20 in the game against the Tri-City Americans and it just didn't matter. Pickard stopped all 57 of the Americans shots, leading Seattle to a razor thin 1-0 victory. In the 3rd period alone, Seattle was out-shot 16-2 and Pickard was up for the challenge turning aside shot after shot including 5 American Power Plays. I researched the league records as much as I possibly could and nobody seems to be able to refute that this game is likely a league record for the most saves made in a shutout effort.

December 11, 2009 - Pickard owns the Ams again, stopping 54 of 55 shots and the Tbirds win 5-1 over Tri-City.

March 14, 2010 - In the final game of the season, with no hope of making the playoffs. Pickard stops 51 of 54 shots and Luke Lockhart scores 2:26 into the Overtime period, giving Seattle the 4-3 victory over the BC Division champion Vancouver Giants.

June 26, 2010 - The Colorado Avalanche select Pickard 49th overall and he is the 3rd goaltender selected in the draft behind Jack Campbell and Mark Visentin.

September 25, 2010 - Pickard picks up his first win of the 2010-11 season with a 37 save effort to defeat the Portland Winterhawks 4-1.

October 2, 2010 - Pickard beats the Winterhawks again, this time in the shootout. He stops 44 of 46 shots in regulation and stops Ty Rattie, Brad Ross and Ryan Johansen in the shootout to earn the victory.

November 2, 2010 - Seattle defeats Red Deer 4-1 behind 46 saves from Pickard. Red Deer would go on to earn 104 points and win the Central Division.

November 24, 2010 - Seattle loses 5-4 in the shootout... but not because of the play of Pickard who stops 55 of 59 shots. Adam Hughesman scores the only goal in the shootout and the Americans finally beat Pickard.

December 18, 2010 - Portland pumps in 52 shots on goal and Pickard stops 50 of them to earn Seattle the 4-2 victory over the Winterhawks. Brenden Dillon has 4 assists for the Tbirds in the win.

January 18, 2011 - The shootout bites Pickard again on this night but not before stopping 55 of 58 shots against the Kamloops Blazers. Brendan Ranford and Colin Smith score in the shootout for the 4-3 Blazers win.

February 13, 2011 and February 23, 2011 - Pickard makes 106 saves on 108 shots in beating the Spokane Chiefs twice in the span of 10 days and Seattle picks up two wins.

October 15, 2011 - 43 saves on 45 shots as the Tbirds defeat the visiting Saskatoon Blades at the Showare Center 4-2.

November 19, 2011 - In Seattle's only win over Portland this season, Pickard stops 47 of 50 shots on goal and the Tbirds defeat the Winterhawks 6-3 on the heels of 5 2nd period goals.

January 22, 2012 - Pickard breaks the WHL record for career saves when he makes save number 6,959, passing former Thunderbirds goaltender Danny Lorenz. Pickard would finish his career with 7,727 saves in just 4 WHL seasons.

March 10, 2012 - In a game he will otherwise want to forget, Pickard breaks the WHL record for career minutes played at the 7 minute mark of the 3rd period in a 11-3 loss to the Portland Winterhawks. Passing Kurtis Mucha with his 13,709th minute played, Pickard finishes his career with 14,025 minutes played... again, in just 4 seasons.

March 11th, March 13th and March 16th, 2012 - Pickard stops 107 of 113 shots during a 3 game winning streak to keep Seattle alive for the playoffs.

The Winnipeg, Manatoba native finishes his career with a record of 91-120-27 with 12 shutouts. 241 games played, surrendering 769 goals on 8496 shots for a save percentage of .909.

Pickard has been an absolute pleasure to watch in the past 4 seasons. Seattle hasn't provided very many highlights and nearly all of them has been a direct result of our good humored goaltender. The 2012-13 version of the Seattle Thunderbirds will have a gigantic hole in their goal crease and in the locker room. Calvin's legacy will be repeated for years after he packs his bags today for bigger and better things.

I won't speak for anyone else even though I suspect that I share the feelings of many... Thank you Calvin.

WHL Scoreboard