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Hockey Challenge 2014

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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.

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