Trade Deadline - Seattle Edition
The trade deadline is roughly 24 hours away and this one could be very interesting for the future of the Seattle Thunderbirds. Whether we see General Manager Russ Farwell trade a number of players or we see him make no trades, this deadline will have huge impact on how this team looks in the next couple of seasons. My opinion? I think this team needs some drastic changes and here's why:
First, I believe Farwell needs to blow this team up. Last summer, Farwell made the difficult decision to let Rob Sumner go and in the process effectively started a "change" in the Seattle Thunderbirds organization. New coach, new approach, new regime... the only problem is of course we still had the same group of players. I think the verdict is still out on whether Konowalchuk is a great coach or not but, in essence, I don't think that even matters here. Coach K might be a fantastic coach and we just don't know it because he doesn't have the right players yet. Farwell changed the leadership at the coaching position and now it is time to follow through with that change and get rid of the players that don't want to be here, are unwilling to work hard, or aren't responding to Coach K.
Second, take a quick glance at the WHL Standings: Losers of 4 straight games, the Tbirds are still solidly in the playoff race with 33 points in 28 games, good for a point percentage of .434. 8th place Victoria is in the middle of a 9 game losing streak (3 points) and 9th place Prince George is in the middle of their own 4 game losing streak while Everett has lost 3 straight following their win over Seattle last week. All three teams are considerably behind Seattle in point percentage at .369, .350 and .275 respectively. Seattle doesn't need to play lights out the rest of the way simply to qualify for the playoffs (something the organization desperately wants to happen). If Seattle were to trade away Calvin Pickard and others, they should be able to hang on to a playoff spot. If we assume that Victoria and Prince George play better than their current record and finish the season with a winning percentage of .403 (58 points), Seattle only needs 26 points out of 68 possible remaining points to make the playoffs. That is a .382 point percentage the rest of the way. Therefore, I believe Seattle can trade away their most valuable pieces and still make the playoffs.
This is what I think "should" happen but that isn't necessarily what I think "will" happen. So let's break this down into two different parts. Who I think should get traded and who I think will get traded.
Who "should” get traded:
Calvin Pickard: Sigh. This one hurts. A lot. Calvin has been a warrior for this organization and has suffered through several crappy seasons while he continued to post solid numbers and has flat out stolen a couple of games a season for the Tbirds. Calvin really must be traded. He is the most valuable asset Seattle currently has and getting back a 1st round bantam selection and/or a couple of 16 or 17 year old players would help load up the Tbirds in future seasons. Is that guaranteed to work? No. But part of the reason Seattle has suffered through the past three seasons was their refusal to trade players like Thomas Hickey and Prab Rai when they had the chance to do so. Making things just a tad bit easier is the excellent play of Daniel Cotton. Cotton is most certainly not a "replacement" for Calvin Pickard but he has played well enough to prove that he can handle the job for the rest of this season and become your starting goaltender as an 18 year old next season. I don't want this trade to happen... but it simply has to happen. If Farwell decides to keep Pickard, the most likely scenario is a first round playoff exit to either the Portland Winterhawks or the Kamloops Blazers.... and now what? You'll lose Pickard to the AHL next year and the gain was 2 (maybe 3) home playoff games. The upside to keeping Pickard would be hoping he can steal you a playoff series win (or two?) and that just isn't likely with the way this current team is constructed.
Marcel Noebels: Ah yes, the curious case of Marcel Noebels. The German, in his second season with the Tbirds is having a season vastly different from his freshman season that saw him post 28 goals and 26 assists in 66 games for the Birds. Last season, he played hard, played humble and posted a -11 on a team that features forwards with -26, -14, -19, -18, -17... etc. etc. You get the point. This season has been completely different. After being drafted in the 4th round by the Philadelphia Flyers, Noebels made it clear he would have preferred to play his 19 year old season back in Germany but was told by the Flyers to report to Seattle. Noebels has often tried to handle the puck through multiple defenders and has held onto the puck far longer than he should seemingly looking to score goals more than making the right play. He also has not played responsibly from a defensive point of view, and it has resulted in a team worst -22. He is still super talented and has played on both the PP and the PK. A team looking to upgrade their Import might be interested in giving Noebels the change of scenery he may need to get his season turned around.
Burke Gallimore: Gallimore has a wicked shot. Leading the team in goals with 17 and overall scoring with 27 points in 38 games, Gallimore also has a 2nd worst -19. Gallimore has never been the fastest player on the ice and his inability (or desire) to back-check is the cause of the plus/minus. He is, however, a pretty useful player on the PP with a hard and accurate release. A contending team that needs a boost on the Power Play but can hide him on the 3rd line could probably find Gallimore useful.
Jaw? [I didn't get this up fast enough as Moose
Jaw just traded for 20 year old forward Cam Braes.]
Colin Jacobs: He won't get traded but we'll deal with that in the next section. I would trade Jacobs because he still has some value and it just isn't really working out to the level that I would have wanted it to work out. Jacobs has a lethal shot but still hasn't figured out that he is more of a power forward than a puck handling wizard. Jacobs is an 18 year old who will still be playing in the league next season and that could bring back some decent value from another team. Again, this won't happen but that is what I would do.
Branden Troock: Troock has suffered too many injuries and plays like a younger clone of Noebels. His value certainly isn't at his peak but I would personally cut my losses here and see what I could get back for him. This is a trade I wouldn't automatically make and it would depend on the return. I don't like the way he is playing but he is only 17 and has time to change and improve.
Mitch Elliot: Let's face it, it just isn't working for him here in Seattle. Do you want to hang onto Elliot for another season hoping he figures things out the way Chance Lund has? (which btw... I don't have any problem with Chance Lund and how he has progressed but let's not act like Lund has suddenly become a star player) Elliot seems like a nice kid but he looks completely lost on the ice this season. He is another player I feel might benefit from a change of scenery.
Now for who likely "will" get traded:
Mitch Elliot: (Strong Chance) I think Mitch probably will get moved to give him that change of scenery and give him a chance to improve. The easiest place to send him would be back to Prince George and I believe the Tbirds need another defender to get Hauf off of the ice as much as possible down the stretch (he only needs to play in 11 more games) and that would immediately improve your defense by a little bit.
Connor Sanvido: (Maybe) If someone had interest in Sanvido I could see him getting moved here at the deadline. Sanvido has barely been in the lineup much this season and another team might be willing to give him a shot.
Braeden Laroque: (Not Likely) I doubt Laroque gets moved unless Seattle gets another defender or two back in other trades. Laroque has struggled at times but I don't really feel like the Tbirds can afford to trade any defenders at the moment.
Kyle Verdino/Cason Machacek: (Not Likely) I don't think either of these guys are on the move and I don't think either would net very much return but they have both had limited success this season for a variety of reasons.
I would love to see Farwell blow this team up and make some changes but, I honestly don't see it happening. I think the organization is desperate to get into the playoffs and they feel a deep sense of loyalty to ensure that Calvin Pickard gets into the playoff with the Seattle Thunderbirds and not with another team and I think the safest (maybe not best) way to ensure that happens is to keep your veteran players and put things in the hands of Steve Konowalchuk to keep trying to change the mentality and the way some of these players are playing.