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Hockey Challenge 2014

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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.


Anonymous said...

Perspective and reason on the internet. Who would have thunk? Anyway, with that said, I agree with your post.

I think you're right, you have to keep Deagle and in that event, the decision on the other player to stay is going to be a tough call. And a call that is going to be scrutinized, second-guessed and questioned by the fan base not matter what the decision.

I could sit and make a good argument for and against for any of the three forwards. Still a ways out before any decision has to be made.

Anonymous said...

Went to the game, looks like some good talent for the future for a change.
Sheen---quick, good passer, great trade
Low looks like he wants to stick, banged a few bodies
Hanson, Folk, Green and Wray look like players

What can I say about Barzal. Kid has talent
Young goalies looked good. Future looks looks solid in goal.

Lockhart fit right in with the talent of the 16 year olds.

Anonymous said...

I see your point that scrimmage performance should never outweigh the body of work that is prior regular season experience. That said, there were some definite 'vibes' in the air this weekend. For one, Lund got a ton of ice time and looked great. Lockhart played less, was rarely a factor, and hardly looked the part of a returning captain. After a disappointing season last year I have held the opinion that there is no way that Lockhart makes the team as an O/A, and I saw nothing to change my mind. Deagle, Glover, Lund are the 3.

Anonymous said...

Let's assume it is true and Lockhart played less and Lund got a ton of ice time. Why do you think that might be? Don't you think the reason for that is they know what they have in Lockhart and are comfortable with a player they know can win face offs, play on the PP and the PK and has been a team leader? Maybe they need to see if Lund can do some of that, although he's not a center so he doesn't take face offs and he doesn't get much PP time. So far he's been a low scoring winger who can kill penalties.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @9:55, who plays center after dispatching of or Rouse and Lockhart?

Anonymous said...

9:55 here. Filling that Center position starts with Hickman, who should show enough growth this year to put up better numbers than Luke's dismal year last season. Then you would have to count on either Lipsberg or Sanvido to be your #2 without Luke and Rouse. I agree that we would be lacking skill at the Center position, but we already have a severe weakness at Center.. They might as well go with the youth movement. For all of the experience that Lockhart and Rouse have, the numbers don't justify cutting the penalty killing master or a strong defender like Deagle.

Kodi said...

Just curious but couldn't part of the decision process be based on who is willing to give up "X" for an overager?

For instance what if a team needs defence help and they would give up a 3rd round pick for Deagle but for Lund/Rouse/Lockhart a team isn't willing to give up anything or like an 8?

At what point do you look to see if you have something on the team that can replace that 20 year old.

Thunnex said...

In the previous two seasons I might have agreed with that but I think the organization is in "put up or shut up" mode.

They/We HAVE to make the playoffs this year. Any return on a 20 isn't going to be great enough to outweigh the betterment of the on-ice product.

I do however think your argument might work for the other forwards. If someone is willing to trade for Lockhart and not trade for Rouse or Lund... I think you trade Lockhart and it makes the decision easier.

Anonymous said...

I haven't enough from some of the young d-men that would make me feel comfortable releasing Deagle. I've seen enough though from some of the young forwards that I would feel comfortable going with just 1 20 year old up front. My guess is it comes down to Lockhart or Rouse because they play a position (center) of need. I like Lund's size and speed but he can't score.

Mr Tell13 said...

I think Tyler's analysis is sound. The defense is better with Deagle in the lineup. But with Deagle in, you have 3 guys that will want (and be able) to play over 20 minutes/game. And that is against quality opponents. Hauf still needs to improve his game and I don't think he would benefits from only playing 10-15 minutes a game against 3rd lliners. Wardley posses the intimidation factor and also need to play against top guys.

That would leave minimal minutes to any new face to get experience into the WHL caliber game, and that could probably hurt development.

As forwards go, I have no idea, like for defense I would liek to see a LOT of new faces getting action this year but the coaches need to make the playoffs. So they will probably run 3 lines of experienced guys and a line of rookies(or new guys). Or not .....what do I know.

One thing I don't agree with is that you can evaluate the offensive output of Lockart favorably against Rouse. In 48 games, Rouse had .46pt/game vs Lockhart .51pt/game. And that is including the beginning of ther season when Rouse was not even on a regular line. To compare with someone else, everyone is fawning over Honey's performance but he has the same amout of point in the same amout of games as Rouse. Lockhart had plenty of opportunity and ice time to shine last year. Rouse, even with fourth liners was somewhat effective and was a great sasfety valve for Troock and Honey last year.

Anonymous said...

The usual game day line up is 12 forwards, 6 d-men and 2 goalies. Sometimes you go with only 11 forwards (double shift your centers) and 7 d-men. Very rarely are you gonna play 4 sets of d-men (8 in the lineup).

Thunnex said...

Expand on that thought. I'm not sure I get what your point is.

Yes, I'm well aware that teams normally only dress 6-7 defensemen. My whole argument centers around not seeing 6 defenders who are ready for regular minutes if you drop Deagle. The argument is that you are taking a huge gamble if you're asking Wardley, Hauf and the rest to occupy 4 defensive spots with 2 of them needing to play 20+ minutes.

Correct me if I misunderstand your point.

Anonymous said...

I was responding to Mr Tell's post, He mentioned running three d-lines of experienced guys and one line of rookies or new guys.

Anonymous said...

Honey was a rookie, Lockhart and Rouse are long past that, so yeah Honey's offensive output was promising and he looks much more talented.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Honey is also VERY accomplished in the area of laying down the smack talk. He was giving it to Wolf pretty good in the Sunday morning scrimmage. Pretty obvious his mom wasn't in the crowd.

Not that Wolf didn't have it coming.

Thunnex said...

Got it... my mistake.

Mr Tell13 said...

Yes, I am aware of the usual amout of players dressing up for a game. I was comparing to defense in the sense that I would like to see a lot of new faces, not having the same amout of players.
I guess I should of emphasize "As forwards go,...

to Anon 6:08
The rookie factor only go so far for forwards (wings) in my view. Honey was doing ok until he got lined up together WITH Rouse AND Troock.

Kodi said...

Rumor is one of the 20's was just traded.

Since nothing is out yet I won't say names but keep an eye out.

Thunnex said...

Thanks for the tip... I'm working on it.

Kodi said...

Lund to Swift Current for a 6th Round Pick

(Just Posted)

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