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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Seattle vs Kamloops - Game Thread

Happy New Years eve to all.
This game could be an interesting one, since Kamloops is struggling mighty.
They have lost 4 straight games and 17 of their last 20.

Two stats from Saturday nights game against Everett

Just for the fun of it (and so my wife and parents could make fun of me), I kept two stats for the game.  The man situations time again, and then Shea Theodore's icetimes.


Thoughts on the two games this weekend

Overall, a good weekend in the standings, but I thought a somewhat pour weekend on the ice.
Any time you can take 3 out of 4 points against a rival, including 2 points in their building, it has to be good.  But of course in true US division (and western conference) form, the teams they are fighting against also picked up 2 to 4 points.

Personally, based on play alone, I thought Seattle should have lost Friday night, and won Saturday.
The team didn't play close to a full 60 minutes either night.

The one thing Seattle did do well over both games was hit, hit, and hit some more.
Virtually any chance the players got to finish a check, they did, with quite a few that would rate huge on a check meter.  By the 2nd and 3rd periods on Saturday night, you could tell Everett players were taking an extra little second to see if a hit was coming or not.

I talked to a Seattle non-suit player Friday night during warmups, and he said Thoedore was in a zone, and boy was that true this weekend.  He logged a ton of ice item, and joined the rush whenever he got the chance.  I did think at times he was looking a little too offensive as opposed to making the safe play.

Troock once again looked like a beast out there.  So many strong plays with the puck, and with speed.  He only had one point this weekend, but had so many other chances.  At times looked like the Troock of past, trying to do too much on his own.  But in fairness to him, quite a few of those times he had to do that because he didn't have anyone on a rush with him.

Austin Douglas's injury must be healed, as he got back into both games.  He filled in on the 4th line up front both nights.  For the few shifts he got, he filled in well, got a couple checks in, and skated hard, not looking out of place.  Must feel great for him to get back in action and see some game time speed.

Friday night

  • Myles looked very scary during warmups, letting in quite a few easy shots, but was the opposite once game time hit.
  • This is easy to say, but Seattle controlled play in the 1st, got dominated in the 2nd, and played well in the 3rd.
  • Some great saves by both goaltenders in this one.
  • And some even better saves by defenders helping out their goaltenders
  • But the biggest saves had to go to the posts, as both teams had a couple.
  • I am pretty sure that Seattle's 3rd goal was scored on a 4 on 1, but it may have actually been a 5 on 1.  Talk about joining the rush.
  • All 3 Seattle goals were top shelf water bottles.
  • One fight, DeRoose started strong, Wardly finished strong.
  • With Everett on a 6 on 4 PP with time running down, the ref's went upstairs to figure out how much time was left on the clock.  It seemed like it took 3 to 4 minutes to add 1.5 seconds back.  Not a good ratio for a somewhat easy task.
  • Great crowd in Everett on cowbell night.  But, I must admit, the noise wasn't that bad.
  • Everett goaltender (and former TBird) Daniel Cotton had a Go Pro Camera on his helmet during warm-ups.  I am going to try to get some footage of this once it is posted.

Saturday night

  • Mumaugh looked very shaky all night long, but also had a few huge saves to make up for it.
    • There were a couple where he had to do the splits, and man can he do them.
    • A couple of goals I am sure he would like back, but also a couple saves he would say he shouldn't have made, so maybe those equal out.
  • At one point in the 3rd period, Seattle went on a 14-0 run on shots (I think)
  • Seattle's powerplay looked very good tonight, compared to Friday nights (that wouldn't be very hard)
    • But, Everett's powerplay also looked a lot better.
    • Maybe this means the teams penalty killers did a great job Friday, and were very bad Saturday.  Hmmmmmmm.
  • Some questionable calls by the officials had both coaches angry.  First time in a while we have seen coach K get visibly angry with the officials.  After the second period, he spent a long time near the exit to the ice having a discussion with both of them.
  • Seattle's opening powerplay goal was a set play that was so nice.  Great tip at the blueline on a long breakout play to Lips coming in with speed.
  • Great crowd this time in Kent.  Loud and behind the team.  Quite a few Tip fans made the trek down.


Seattle vs Everett - Game Thread

Attempt at a stat from Friday nights game

I have always wanted to look at the flow of a game, based on man situations.
How much time is actually spent playing even strength, penalty kill, etc.
So I have been trying to come up with a computer way of doing it from a scoresheet.
So last night, I tracked it by hand.
Showing it graphically is a little difficult, but this is my first pass at it.

There are 16 unique man situations that can take place.  Of course there is even strength, then each team can be up one man up, each team can be 2 men up, and lastly each team can technically be 3 men up.

In the following graphs, the home team is on the top, followed by even strength, followed by the away team.  The grey is the situation.  Last nights game was not exactly the best game, because there was only one power play goal scored.

Period 1
Both teams with 2 powerplays, and even a little 4 on 4 action.

Period 2
Everett dominated play, and had 3 powerplays.  You can see they scored on the first, about half way through it.  But the last one was very short, as they took one.  Overall, the bulk of the period was played even strength, and the fact Seattle got dominated means they lost a lot of battles.

Period 3
Boring for the stat work.  Very even period as far as play goes.  Ended with Seattle taking a penalty and ending up down two men, but didn't give up the tying goal.

In conclusion, not exactly the best game to show this from.  I will do it again tonight just to see how it looks.  I really want to do it for the last Portland game when there were a lot of penalties and not much even strength play.


Seattle at Everett - Game Thread

I will be at the game, and Tyler will be changing diapers.

LetsGoBirds adds two new writers to the blog

Tyler may be taking a little time off from the blog.  The Hunnex's got a slightly late Xmas present yesterday.  And actually, I guess they really got two presents (and yes, they knew they were having two).


Seattle vs. Tri-City - Game Thread

Last game before the break. Seattle is down a handful of players and have called up Lane Pederson to help out tonight. They will still dress two short of the maximum. 

Can they head into the break with some momentum?


My take on the Leipsic hit

Since everyone has posted their opinions on the hit, I thought I would write something up on it.
But, to be unusual, I am not going to give my opinion (but I think it is easy to figure out).

Instead, I am going to look at why I think this type of hit has no benefit, no good outcome, and is completely irresponsible, and has no spot in the game.  I would say this if it was Brendan Leipsic, Evan Wardley, or anyone one else from any other team.


Paging the doctor

Going into last night, Seattle dressed only 17 skaters.

We all know the long term injured players, Honey and Douglas.
Then when I show up to the rink last night, Yakubowski and Bear are not skating during warm ups.
Then you add in Lipsbergs being away at world juniors, and the bench is short.
Don't forget Holub left the team last week.

So your roster last week that contained 23 skaters is down to 17 for last night.

Then Barzal goes down with an injury 6 minutes into the 2nd period, and you are at 16 skaters.

Let's look at the fights / scrums with 5 minutes to go in the 2nd period.  Seattle loses Hickman, Hauf, and Wardly for roughly 10 minutes (Hickman 7 minutes).  So that left Seattle's bench with 13 skaters.  That is not much at all.  Just think if Portland didn't have 5 top players away.

So it looks like Seattle may limp into the holiday break (at least from a missing player situation).

Filling up the roster

Something to point out as well, is that Kolesar leaves to the U17's, from December 29th to January 4th, along with Bear and Barzal.  So the roster will be losing one more skater.

So do we try and bring a listed player in to help out?  Would that player even get the ice time to make it worth it?

Lane Pederson is playing in Saskatoon and that might be a long distance for him to go.  Plus, he is at the U17's at the same time, so doesnt really help much in the post holiday break.

Since Pederson probably doesnt fit the bill, let's get the crowd fired up.  Lets get Jagger Williamson to come for a couple games.  I am not sure if he signed with us yet, but if not, no better Xmas present for him.

Maybe Kaden Elder gets in a couple of his 5 games in before the end of the season.  But he is playing in Wilcox Saskatchewan, which is also a little far away.  He is playing for a Notre Dame team that usually goes to a major tournament over the holidays, so he might not be available.

Next up is Nolan Volcan.  From Edmonton.  He is signed, so maybe, possibly, who knows.

Bottom line, you might just see a couple new players over the next couple weeks.


Seattle vs. Portland - Game Thread

Seattle will put their 7 game win streak on the line tonight at home against what will be a depleted Portland Winterhawks team.  Portland will be without several of their players who are away playing for their respective countries. Team Canada players Taylor Leier, Nic Petan and Derrick Pouliot are away and I'm pretty sure they will be without Oliver Bjorkstrand (Denmark) and Layne Viveiros (Austria) as well.

Seattle has a golden opportunity here to take advantage of a depleted Winterhawks lineup and extend the winning streak to 8.


Seattle at Tri-City - Game Thread

Seattle rides a 6 game winning streak into Kennewick tonight to face the Americans. The Thunderbirds are 7-1-2 over their last 10 games and have climbed into 5th place in the conference while effectively erasing the 6 game losing streak they suffered through in November.

The biggest difference?

In my mind, it has been the consistent dedication to playing with physicality. Forwards have been more dedicated to the fore-check and even guys like Jared Hauf have noticeably stepped up their checking game.

It also helps when your offense is clicking.

Seattle has now scored 33 goals during the 6 game winnings streak (5.5 per contest) and guys like Branden Troock have been on fire.  Troock has taken some flack from me over the past year (when he's been healthy) because I think he tries to do too much at time instead of playing a sound, solid passing game while going hard to the net to use his strength and size to his advantage.  During the winning streak, Troock has registered a point in each game tallying 7 goals and 12 points with a +7 rating.  Hopefully he realizes that this is the blueprint for success and things continue to "click" because he can be a really high level player playing this style of game.

Alexander Delnov has been excellent and Shea Theodore has 10 assists during the win streak.

Tri-City is banged up right now with a handful of guys out due to injuries. This is a game they can win if we ignore the fact that Seattle has not had a lot of success in Kennewick.


Seattle vs. Spokane - Game Thread (Home Edition)

You know the drill... we're playing Spokane again. Tough to beat teams 3 times in a row.

Lot of fights last night, especially towards the end of the game. We'll have to see if it carries over to tonight. I actually think Seattle plays better when they mix it up and get other teams frustrated.


Seattle at Spokane - Game Thread

We just did this! Thanks a lot computer schedule maker... oh, we play them tomorrow as well? Back at home? Geez...

Anyways... the only news this week was the departure of Michal Holub.

Holub made his way into 50 games last year as a 16 year old but had only played in 16 game so far this season. The overall talent level of the Seattle forwards has improved quite a bit from last season and Holub just wasn't able to find minutes.

I wasn't convinced that Holub was ever going to be able to carve out much of a WHL career and this will give him the opportunity to either find some playing time in Junior A or get traded to a team that might have some ice time to let him development. Probably the best move for him at this time, we wish him well.


You want stats? You can't handle the stats

Since readers seemed interested in the faceoff stats I posted last week, I decided that I would use my stat application and track everything I do for Root Sports.  I did this for last Friday's game against Saskatoon.


What does Delnov have to do?

Yesterday, tte WHL announced Prince Albert Raiders’ forward Leon Draisaitl is the Denny’s WHL Player of the Week for last week.

I will admit, he had an impressive couple games, scoring 4 goals and adding 3 assists for seven point in those 2 games.  He was also a combined +3.  The Raiders won both of those games.

But what about Delnov.

He played in 3 games in 3 nights.  He had 4 goals, 4 assists, for 8 points, and was a combined +5.  And Seattle won all those games.

On top of that, he also played for Team Russia in the Super Series on Tuesday, where he had one assist and was a +1. Oh yeah, and he had to travel back and forth to Red Deer.

So really, he played 4 games, had 4 goals, 5 assists, 9 points, and a combined +6, and traveled roughly 1000 miles (straight line calculation).


Seattle at Spokane - Game Thread

Seattle visits Spokane tonight for the first meeting of the season and the first of three straight games against the Chiefs.

After a really nice pair of games at home, I'm expecting a bit of a tired team tonight in the 3rd game in 3 nights.


Seattle vs. Victoria - Game Thread

Seattle is coming off a nice 6-2 win over Saskatoon last night and Victoria comes in red hot. The Thunderbirds will try to cool off the Royals and their goaltenders.

Radio Appearance

I'm going to be doing a weekly (I think) segment on KLAY 1180am on the Weekend Warriors radio show every Saturday and today is the first of those segments. I don't know that it will be at the same time each week but this week I'll be on at around 1:45 to talk Tbirds hockey. Show runs from 1-2 and is hosted by Mark Miller and Ryland Spencer.

Go to the website here and you can stream the broadcast or tune in to 1180am if you're in the south end.

Welcome to the Delnov show

In this weeks episode, the character of Alexander (played by Alexander Delnov), finds the magic potion that was hidden in the far off town of Red Deer.  Upon drinking it as part of a family holiday feast, he is transformed into his alter ego, Super Delnov, a character that has not made an appearance in the show since season one.  Everything Super Delnov does turns to a red light.


Seattle vs. Saskatoon - Game Thread

Sorry for the late post up here... Nice win for the boys tonight. Delnov with a huge 5 point night.


Faceoff Stats from Saturday night's Portland game

Someone mentioned in the comments (sorry, couldn't find the exact one), that Seattle's issue is they cant win faceoffs.  They asked if the league kept stats on this.  To which my answer to the second one was "HaHaHaHaHaHaHa".  But, I also said, I will keep track for this game.

After the break, you will find far too many geeked out stats on the Faceoff's


Jon's thoughts on the Portland game

What a huge win.  Not just because of the points earned in the standings, but the mental side of things even more.

Twice the Birds battled back from what had to be disappointing events to come back and win. In the past they might have let the game get out of hand and didn't.


Seattle at Vancouver - Game Thread

Seattle heads to Vancouver tonight. This is the type of game they have to get if they want to stick around the top 4 in the West. 


Lipsberg guilty, but not guilty

Just announced on the twitter line, but in case you miss it.

Lipsbergs checking from behind major penalty has been changed to a double minor and the game misconduct taken away.

No suspended given.

I guess that means the league felt it was still a penalty, but maybe the league reads this blog.

No Shea Theodore in the Subway SuperSeries

This is some old news, but I wanted to put it up anyway.

The Subway SuperSeries is coming up next week in Red Deer and Lethbridge.
In case you are not aware, this is a set of games against Team Russia.

Team Russia plays 6 games, 2 each against QMJHL, OHL, and WHL) and it is used as a tune up for the World Juniors over Christmas.

When the roster was announced a couple weeks ago, I noticed Shea Theodore was not participating.
This came as a big suprise to me, as I personally think he is one of the best defenders in the entire WHL.

I asked GM Russ Farwell for some thoughts on this and he provided me the following paraphrased comment.

"They are only taking players that are candidates to play at the World Junior Championships. They felt they had enough offensively focused guys. The defenseman they have invited are trying out for the “shutdown/defensive roles” and Shea is not a candidate for that role."

Looking at the roster of defensemen participating in the games

1994 players
2 Ryan Pulock
7 Damon Severson
8 Griffin Reinhart
51 Derrick Pouliot

1995 players
2 Dillon Heatherington
4 Madison Bowey
10 Josh Morrissey

Even I have to admit that is a nice list of players, and the older players do have the style of Theodore.

Since this is being used as a chance to look at World Junior players, remember that team Canada has to look at players from other leagues, and will probably only keep 8, so that is some serious competition.

Russ also said

"Shea is getting some attention but is not considered a candidate for this year and he should aim to keep improving his overall game so he can be considered next year."


Lipsberg - Wheaton Hit

A quick comment on the hit last night that sent Mitch Wheaton to the hospital.

It really makes me sick to my stomach to see a player get hurt like that. Hockey is a dangerous game that comes with known and generally understood dangers and there are moments where we forget that these players are still young men that are barely of legal age and some younger. I never ever, ever want to see a player get hurt like that.  The fans chanting U.S.A. has to be one of the dumbest things I've seen at a hockey game... but I could spend another entire article on that whole subject.

In real time, I didn't think the hit looked that bad with the exception being that Wheaton's "landing" was bad and that's an understatement.

Upon replay my opinion didn't change a whole lot.  Lipsbergs chases him behind the net and is initially on his back... which is what makes the hit a questionable decision.  The problem is that Wheaton turns back to absorb the hit and by the time Lipsbergs actually hits him I think he gets a lot of shoulder and some of the back.

I think a penalty was probably justified. Initially, I thought a boarding call would have been completely appropriate and I could see the justification for checking from behind.  I think this is one of those situations where I think the outcome dictated the extent of the penalty.

Regan Bartel posted his column this morning and I know he disagrees with me and thinks that the hit was bad and Lipsberg should face significant suspension.  I respect the hell out of Bartel. With all due respect to Thom (who is great) Bartel is the best PBP guy in the league and I respect the hell out of his knowledge and perspective. I just think this is one of those cases where I'd have to respectfully disagree with him.


Seattle vs. Kelowna - Game Thread

Seattle stopped the bleeding over the weekend getting 3 out of 4 possible points in Victoria and now face the red-hot Kelowna Rockets.

This will be the second time in a month that Seattle will be hosting a team coming into the game with at least an 8 game winning streak. Portland came into town riding a 9 game winning streak on November 1st and started the Tbirds 6 game losing streak.

I'm posting a game thread but don't forget to check out Jon's post below.

What is a first line?

Reading all the recent discussions while in Victoria, I had a few questions for some of the commentators and readers of the blog.  I don't think any of these questions really have answers, I am just curious what people think, and continue the momentum we have here of discussion / debate.  I will try and post one every couple of days to give time for discussion, and leave space for games, thoughts, and anything else that comes up.

The first one that I really had to start debating myself was "What is a first line".  Quite a few of the comments were about player XYZ playing on the first line, getting first line ice time, etc.  So what do people feel a first line is?  Is it...
  • The line that starts
  • The line that gets the most ice time
  • The top scoring line
  • The line that other teams feel they must match their top defenders against
  • The line the coach wants out there in a close game
  • something completely different

How does a first line fit into a team like Portland last season (or arguable Seattle this season), where you have 3 or 4 lines deep?  Is there a true first line, or is it more line 1A or 1B?  Is there really a first line of forwards and a separate first line of defenders?

Since I asked the question, I guess I need to give an answer also.

Blog Re-design

As I'm sure some of you are noticing... we're going through a long overdue massive re-design of the blog.

I haven't messed with the design since the beginning and it really needed some updating.

Stay patient with us while we work through and fix some of the tiny little issues.


Response to a comment "Anonymous" made on November 17, 2013 at 12:31 PM

Now that I am back from Victoria, I have been catching up reading through all the fun comments to each post.  Then I get to the comment the title of this post is all about

"Speaking of having pride in your work, calling someone out for poor writing skills in the comments section is quite disingenuous considering what you allow Jon to write. He couldn't even be bothered to spell Wardley's name correctly three times the other day. He often has errors in his writing, yet no one has enough pride to edit his entries. He doesn't nor does the blog's owner."


Seattle at Victoria - Saturday Night Thread

A better effort last night and a slightly better result. Let's see if Seattle can salvage the weekend and get a split.

Mathew Barzal a healthy scratch tonight.

A new start

Picture on left was taken yesterday.  Picture on right I took this morning.
See the difference.  Yesterday, stormy, windy, rainy, and cold. Today, clear, sunny, dry, no wind, cold.  Ok, couldn't get all of them.
First, yesterdays game. Strong start, followed by two periods of unmotivated play.  call it no confidence, or what ever you want to.  I call it not winning the battles, not fighting every inch of the ice.  Too many times, puck into corner, and a royal comes out.
But the good news is that just like the weather, the Birds can leave Victoria on a good note.
Go out tonight, work as hard as you can, then work harder.  work like you are going to have to swim back to Seattle, uphill, both ways, in your gear, if you don't work hard.  Notice I didn't say WIN (but a win would go a very long way).  develope confidence, get shots and scoring chances.  But most of all, show that you care about playing.


Seattle at Victoria - Friday Night Thread

Seattle tries to get off the mat tonight in Victoria.  Will things continue or will they shake this slump?

In Victoria now

After a not so fun ride on the ferry this morning, a few of us have arrived.  The weather is so great, if you like Scotland.  40 degrees, windy, and pouring.

For me, its guys weekend. That means my two boys and I, no mommy.  Just a little bonding time with my boys.  Thank god they have cheap alcohol up here.

Since our room wasn't ready yet, we walked down to the rink to get our tickets.  lucky for us, it wasn't raining hard when we went.  And even luckier for us, the Birds morning skate was starting.  So we hung out and watched.  Sure hope they learn how to pass by tonight , since they had a hard time finding the tape.  everyone was out there, except Honey, who joined them half way through with the red jersey of doom on.

A little sight-seeing this afternoon, and then to the game.

Ad Hominem

I want to revisit this debate with "Ronny" one last time and address a few things. I really would like to move on from the thing and obviously I'm not doing that by writing another article. I turned comment registration on because I wanted to see if "Ronny" had enough guts to register himself before making a comment. Clearly he didn't.

This isn't meant as an attack on the guy (or gal... but one can probably assume). I rather enjoy the debate and I don't have a problem with someone having a different opinion, even if that opinion seems veiled, to some degree, in motives we can't entirely confirm.

First off... "Ronny" didn't throw this out initially but when challenged claimed that he had played 5 years of Major Junior and had coached at that level. I don't have any way of knowing whether this is true or not but let's assume that it is. I'd have a few questions.

  • Why are you commenting mostly-anonymously on a teams fan blog? I have no affiliation with the team and I'm most certainly not "part of the problem" because I have exactly zero control or influence over what the team does.
  • Why won't you identify yourself? Why are you hiding behind a keyboard? Are you still looking for a job at the WHL level? Why would you care what the Thunderbirds think if you are critical of what they are doing?
  • Lastly... and this offer still stands... why not email me privately? I feel as though I've been pretty civil in this entire discussion and at least I can give you proper credit for your level of expertise. People contact me privately about the blog all the time and I've never put anyone on blast.
My guess is that you are neither of these things... and thus none of these questions will ever get answered. And that's fine. I'm certainly curious to know who you are but I'm certainly not going to lose sleep over it.


Here is why I still think you're wrong.

Your argument is based on the theory that Barzal has been "given" ice-time and has been anointed as the golden child from the beginning and that this "culture" has made Barzal a cancer in the locker room and is slowly killing the team.

If this is true, shouldn't this have been true in the first 16 games of the season as well as the last 5?

Your argument is based on the theory that playing time should be earned, not given and that players on the team must be unhappy playing in Seattle because the 16 year old "phenom" isn't really a phenom and he is being handed the "keys". That he has been given his hype by a consortium of people from the Seattle organization all the way back to his midget and bantam days and that everyone, including myself, has bought into the hype.

I hope I have the argument right. I'm really trying not to exaggerate this thing. You believe that good organizations like Portland and Calgary stick their 16s on the 4th line and let them develop and that Barzal should be installed on the 4th line simply by his age and that the veterans on this team have earned their way.

The problem is... your argument eats itself. You're telling us that playing time shouldn't be given to Barzal and that playing time has to be earned yet you're literally giving ice-time to veteran players based on how old they are. You would say that the veterans on this team have "earned their place on the team" and thus ice time. More on that in a minute.

Players, regardless of their age, should have to earn playing time.  Barzal has been benched, Delnov has been benched, Elliot has been benched... just to name a few.

I may not agree with everything Coach Konowalchuk has done but to an outsider he clearly isn't "giving" playing time to anyone.

Playing time should be earned in practice and on the ice regardless of how old you are. Your "winning culture" defines playing older players regardless of whether they have earned it or not.

What has the current roster done to earn their playing time besides have a birthday each year?

Let's run down the roster real quick:

McKechnie - Like his game... but hasn't been here and thus has to earn his ice time.
Elliot - Been here for 5 seasons and has 29 points in 271 games while being a Thunderbird during the worst teams in franchise history. Has to earn his ice time.
Eansor - 1st season and lately has played as well as anyone and has earned his additional minutes. Or is he just being given those minutes?
Hickman - Captain, works hard, probably has earned some benefit of the doubt.
Troock - Hurt constantly, hasn't earned anything.
Gropp - Talented, hasn't been here. Needs to earn ice time.
Barzal - Needs to earn ice time and I believe he has and when he hasn't he's been benched.
Honey - Has earned his playing time in my book.
Yakubowski - Same as McKechnie, like his game... still has to earn it.
Swenson - Has earned it to an extent. Still has to go out and show it and he mostly does.
Delnov - Disappears at times and was -33 last year. Still needs to earn it.
Kolesar - Needs to earn it.
Lipsbergs - I'd put him in the Hickman and Honey group. Has mostly earned it.
Holub - Needs to earn it.

The only guys in my book who have previously earned some benefit of the doubt is Honey, Hickman and Lipsbergs.

Look... I don't go to practice, I don't sit in the locker room. I don't "know" who has earned playing time and who hasn't but unless you're going to tell me who you are and your name is Tyler Alos and you're telling me that you watch practice every day as well... I'm going to tell you that based on what I've seen on the ice, Barzal has earned his ice time as much as anyone else has.

I'm not willing to hand ice time to veterans who have lost a vast majority of their games with this franchise in the past 3-4 years.

Ice time is earned. Not given based on age.

You said so yourself.

Program Note: I'm taking a bit of a break from the team tonight. No tweets and I'm probably going to pass on watching the game. I need a bit of a mental break from the team and maybe that will bring them a win tonight.


11-8-2, Sky is Falling

I really don't have much in the way of eloquence this morning after that debacle last night.

I tweeted this during the game.

That really tells a lot about the story here. This team has been failing for years and every single aspect of the organization should be taking a good hard look at itself and wondering why these last 5 games have happened. I expected the team to get blasted and then went out and got blasted.

Look, it's 5 games.  It is a long season and 5 games only represents roughly 7% of the season. The season isn't over... but the problem is that it "feels" like it is over because teams that are generally regarded as upper level teams don't usually get their doors blown off the way the Tbirds have in the last couple of weeks.

This division is extremely tough and Seattle was able to fatten up on the Eastern teams. Two telling stats for you. First... Portland, Spokane, Everett and Tri-City are now all ranked in the top 7 in Massey Ratings. Seattle sits 10th. That means that in all of these division games, you're going to be the underdog and that takes a toll on a team.  You can be a good team and be in a clearly tough division and finish last. That seems to be where Seattle is headed.

Secondly, it is also telling that both Medicine Hat and Swift Current have edged ahead of them in the ratings and Seattle won in Med Hat and handled Swift Current pretty easily at home. This speaks to how far the team has fallen off here in a very short amount of time.

This team just doesn't seem to care and I have no idea why.  We've regressed back to the days of the past few years where the team just didn't seem committed to team defense. This isn't entirely on the defenders, forwards or the goalies... This is on everyone.  Every single one of them are letting themselves down right now by not being committed to team defense.

Everyone always loves goal scoring but offense hasn't been this team's problem for years.

I don't know what else to say. This team is in a death spiral and I honestly have no idea what will bring them out of it.


Seattle at Portland, Game Thread: Let's all freak out

I'm kidding, sort of. Seattle heads down the I-5 tonight to face the Portland Winterhawks. The Winterhawks have mostly had their number in the past few seasons and we're all well aware that the Tbirds are coming into the game riding a 4 game losing streak.

To be honest, I'm expecting nothing more than getting blown out by the Winterhawks.

I'm not happy about how the team is playing and I don't think fans should be happy either.


Here's the thing.

There may come a day where it might make some logical sense for me to advocate massive changes for the team but that day isn't going to come after a 4 game stretch.

Everyone needs to calm down. We know this team is more talented than they have been in years past and we know they made a couple of trades that have changed team dynamics. Over the past 4 games, it hasn't worked. Let's give it a little more time to see what happens.

There may come a time to reasonably panic and freak out but doing so after 4 games would be an overreaction.


Wardley gets 4 games

Just a quick note that the WHL finally announced Wardley's suspension.
Four games total, with one already served.
Looks like the first game he could come back would be Friday November 15th, in Victoria.

If it was as bad as it looked live (and I have not seen a replay yet), then 4 games seems about right based on the other suspensions handed out lately.

What worried me about this a little is the future.
The next penalty like this for Wardley, and he is a repeat offender.
So the next suspension could be getting longer.


TBirds drop 2 - Common Theme for both nights

I got home last night from the game in Everett, and was so frustrated that I decided to wait until the morning to do a write up, fearing I would type some things I didn't mean to.  But even with the extra hour added in (oh wait, two young kids believe that hour means an extra hours play instead of sleep), it didn't change my opinion of this weekend.

After reading what I wrote, I have decided I am not going to change it, but throw this out that it might be a bit of an over reaction.

This weekend to me was a complete waste and disappointment of two games.  Two huge games to make a statement against the two biggest rivals.  Two of the four teams you are competing against in the US division (don't look now, but after last night, Tri is only 4 points back).  Two of the other teams listed in the BMO top 10, the WHL writers top 25, and the Barak Obama CHL top 2000 (that's 2145 in Metric for you Canadian readers).  One game on home ice where you have been nearly unbeatable.  One game on the road in a place where you need to show you can win.

With all of those statements above, one would expect a team to get fired up, ready to roll, excited, exploding with emotion, etc, etc, etc.  Instead, what you got was a team that had NO DETERMINATION, NO FIGHT, NO WILLING, NO SACRIFICE, NO HEART, NO PASSION, and NO COURAGE.

In both games, when you should come out firing, instead they were flat, giving up a goal 3:45 in Friday, and a whole 53 seconds on Saturday.  Not a great way to start at all, but great teams shrug that off, and go back to work.  Instead, the Birds decide that getting 4 SHOTS (not scoring chances, but shots) combined in the two first periods of the games) was appropriate.  In Everett, I know one of those shots was a clearing dump by Theodore from his own zone, and I think the other was a dump in from the red line.  On Friday night, they at least had some drives to the net, but all the shots were wide.  Let me just say that again FOUR shots in two games.

So you go into the locker room, regroup, get your heads back in to the game, raw, raw, raw, captains stand and scream "we are better then this", everyone jumps up yelling and swearing, and running for the ice (saw that in a movie, so it must really happen).  If getting 5 shots and 6 shots in the 2nd periods of the two games is a result of this break, then it worked, because that is what they got.  These 2nd periods were basically the same as period one, only Seattle got SEVEN more shots over the two games.

On to the third period.  You are getting totally dominated at both ends of the ice, on the scoreboard, and in your fans hearts.  The only goal you have scored over both of the games in the 4 periods was a single handed short handed work your butt off goal (try saying that three times).  So again, the coaches, the captains, the trainers, the equipment guys, and the janitors gather the players, say "Lets go win this period".  Now, I will say that I honestly feel like Seattle did win both 3rd periods.  Maybe not on the scoreboard, but in scoring chances.  Both Burke and Cotton did need to make SOME good saves (with Burke letting in one goal, but Cotton none).

On to overtime and the shootout.  Oh wait, never mind.

Tyler Tweets

From Friday's game

"Portland has showed up on a mission. Tbirds have no answer so far."

Last nights game
Tyler was not at last's nights game, since got had an offer to go drink beer at a friends house (gee, I'm not jealous or anything.  OK really, if we had won, I wouldn't have been jealous).

"To me... This game has character written all over it. You got your ass kicked last night and you're in a tough building against a good team.  this is when you need to sack up and show what kind of guts you have."

"Wasn't sure Tbirds could play worse than last night but they're giving their best effort to try tonight."

"not hitting. Not finishing checks. No "jump". You name it."

"Instead of rising to the challenge. This team is cowering. Very frustrating."

Common Themes

There were a lot of common themes to both these games.  If you read Andy Eide's recap of the games with quotes from coach K, you will see that he knows what the commonality was".  But, if you don't want to go read them, I will quote a couple for you. "It's willing to be tough with the puck", "We had guys not ready to play", "turnovers in the neutral zone, almost on the first five shifts in a row, You're not even ready to win, you're not even committed to winning", and "We don't have the whole team competing right now".

I will translate to Jon language on those.  "We were not ready and mentally focused from the start of the game."  "We were not willing to fight for the puck at any time during either of the games, when we had the puck, when the other team had the puck, or when it was a 50-50 battle for the puck".  "Some players went out with fight in their eyes, while the rest skated around like all star Bantam players going up against inferior players".

There were five players that I thought gave a ton of effort in the games, and two of those are the goalies.  I could name 7 players off the top of my head that it would have been better to put out an orange cone on the ice instead of them (ok, a little over the top, maybe just TBird trainer Phil Varney instead of them).

The one player that I was most impressed with in both games was Troock.  On almost every shift, he went hard, threw his body into checks, fore-checked, and skated hard.  Unfortunately (and I dont blame him), it appeared he became frustrated and started trying to do too much offensively by himself.

The last common theme I am going to just say and not discuss is penalties.  Way too many unneeded penalties.  Badly timed penalties.  Lazy penalties.

Oh My God, The Sky Is Falling

This was games 17 and 18.  I asked my ten year old, and he told me that 72-18 leaves 54 more games.  The team is still 11-5-0-2, with a .667 winning percentage.  They are still in a three way tie for 2nd place in the US division.  They are still 6-1-0-1 on home ice.

Yes, their BMO ranking will surly drop out of the top 10.  Their EGO ranking will sure get slapped around.  Their confidence will get knocked back to earth.  And my guess, their butts will get bag skated for not putting in the effort.

Tyler pointed this out to me Friday night, if the team goes on a 52 game winning streak to close out the season, then the only reason anyone remembers these two games is because they were the last two games they lost.  If they go on to win the remaining 11 games against Everett, no one remembers Saturdays game.  Same with the remaining Portland games.

To me, these two games were as Tyler pointed out, not must win games.  To me, they were show what you have games.  Show you can compete games.  If they went 2-0, I would be sending in my Memorial Cup ticket order.  If they went 1-1, both close games, it would still be a great weekend.  If they went 1-1, but neither game was close, then oh well, ok, you got 2 points (possible against the best team in the league).  If you they went 0-2, but both games were close, I'd say ok, well, we are close, but not quite there yet.

Where to go from here

But instead they went 0-2, getting dominated in both games.  This is where team leadership, commitment, and PRIDE come into play.  The team needs to prove that these two games were just plain bad games.  That is all, we played terrible.  Turn things around, don't panic, go on a winning streak.  Get back to the basic's of the system, forecheck hard, finish checks, disrupt play, get turnovers, create scoring chances.

Remember that there are three new playerss till trying to fit in and get things down.  Having a full week of practice time should help that improve.

Other notes in bullet point

  • Lipsberg got hurt near the end of the game Friday night.  Coach says "Upper body" but not serious. Guess maybe his pride got hurt then <g>
  • A lot of people I am talking to are complaining about how much coach K messes with the lines.  And I will say that I can not disagree with that.  He seems to change them every game, and in mid game also.  I am not sure if this is an NHL type thing, or just a feeling he has to try and find the best match ups or guys working together.  Other coaches and teams don't seem to move things around as much as he does.  Maybe it is also a way he uses to send messages to players.  Skate hard, play more, take it easy, 4th line for you.
  • Speaking of coaching, I wonder how much of this lack of getting up for games (going back the last couple seasons) rides on the coaches and motivating them.  I personally agree with the benching of a player or even sitting him in the stand to send a message about working hard (no easier way to me to get the message then not playing and being forced to track stats).
  • I wonder how many games Wardly will get for running through and over De Champlain?  What a huge hit.  I know Wardly was trying to fire up the team and crowd, and I can understand that.  But I thought he did take a little run up to the hit (call it charging if you want).  A little scary seeing De Champlain on the ice that long, and clearly not moving much.  As much as I can not stand Portland, I truly hope he is ok.  But next time he decides to have his head down coming up the ice, remember what happened.
  • The Portland team is still dam good.  Like really good up front.  Like really scary up front.  But also beatable (not right now it seems).
  • Loved the argument between linesmen Kevin Boris and I think Leipsic.  Go get him Boris (now wouldn't that be funny to see).
  • Speaking of lipstick (sorry, auto correct, meant Leipsic).  He and Barzal were having a talking match at just about every faceoff.  Why couldn't we get that mic'd up.  Had to have been some great one liners there.  The good news for Leipsic is Barzal is only 1 inch taller so has to be one of the only players he stand eye to eye with <g>
  • And one more thing with lipstick (dam auto correct again).  You have to hate him, but DAM is he a great player.  And on a line with Petan, wow, scary.
  • Met some new player parents over the weekend.  Always great to say hi and hear what they think of the team.
  • Hotel and Tickets are still available from me for Victoria.  Its coming up quick.
  • Last night in Everett was Pink the Rink night for Breast Cancer.  Yours truly once again had pink hair.  Great cause, raise something like $100k off of everything.  And even if the opponent is your hated enemy, there are larger things in life (my step mom beat breast cancer).  See the image below for me and someone who had to bring her standards down to marry me (my beautiful wife Alicia) 


Seattle at Everett Game Thread

Seattle hits the road to Everett tonight for the first of 12 meetings between the bitter I-5 rivals.

11-4-2, Portland shows Seattle they're still tops

Portland dominated the 1st period on their way to a 5-2 victory last night at Showare Center. The Winterhawks showed that they are still top banana in the West in convincing fashion. Portland started fast and maintained their torrid pace through much of the game.  Seattle was able to muster a little bit of energy in the 2nd and 3rd periods but the 3 goal deficit to begin the game was just too much to overcome. Some thoughts about the game before another big game tonight in Everett.

  • Yak's Checking to the Head penalty from Tuesday night was changed to a Charging major (still a bit laughable) and was thus not suspended and available to play last night.
  • As I stated in the opening, Portland came out firing on all cylinders and looked like they were out to prove a point. They were on a mission from the start and their overall team speed just overwhelmed the Thunderbirds.
  • I'm so sick of Brendan Leipsic... how is that guy still in the league? I'm so sick of Portland for that matter. I can't believe I ever felt sorry for these guys when they were THE worst franchise in the league. Oh... I had a point. Leipsic is good, really good, and he tallied twice in the opening period to stake Portland to the lead. Seattle did themselves no favors by giving Portland a 5 on 3 penalty and I honestly thought both calls were pretty fair. Brendan Troock's interference along the side boards was an easy call and though you might have called Embellishment on Seth Swenson's tripping call I thought he did take the player to the ice and the puck wasn't close to him. Seattle can't do that and Portland made them pay.
  • Fans called for Justin Myles to get the hook after Garrett Haar ripped on past him to give Portland a 3 goal lead but I thought he had no chance on the 1st and 3rd goals and the Winterhawks were dominating the action. After the blitz, Myles actually played pretty well finished with 36 saves on 40 shots and keeping the game from becoming a blowout.
  • Evan Wardley picked up a Major for Charging and could face suspension. In real-time I think these calls are tough to make and even though we complain about officials all the time... they really do have a difficult job.  I didn't think the hit was "that bad" as I thought it looked like a clean body shot with Adam De Champlain getting caught with his head down. Wardley did come from the red line to just inside the blue line to deliver the hit but now we have to get into a conversation about what constitutes charging and whether he glided into the it or not. Honestly.. I'd have to see a replay and other people said they thought Wardley caught up high and in the head. If that's truly the case, I would have to defer. So far no suspension has been announced, so we'll have to see whether Wardley suits up tonight in Everett.
  • What bothered me most by last night was the complete absence of some players in a big game.  Where was 20 year old Mitch Elliot last night? No big hits, no fights, no impact on the game.  Alexander Delnov? Horrible decisions with the puck and his lack of awareness gave Portland the empty net goal.  Brenden Troock? He did pick up an assist last night but too many times he made poor decisions with the puck. Firing bad angle shots on the Power Play with nobody in front of the net and trying to dangle though multiple people to get to the net. You can't do that at this level. Here we have a fairly elevated game early in the season and a bunch of your players don't show up. Very frustrating to say the least.
  • Portland's speed makes life very tough on Shea Theodore. Theo is a superb talent who looks amazing against most teams. Against Portland? He looks downright mortal and human and I think that has everything to do with Winterhawk players being the few who can truly skate with Theo.
  • Seattle is much improved, that we know for sure. However, last night Portland showed us that they are still the class of the division and the Western Conference. Seattle is going to have to step their game up to the next level if they have hopes of catching up with Portland.
One final note going into the game tonight.  This game should be very interesting on a character basis. Everett got caught perhaps looking ahead last night and got handled at home by Brandon. You'd have to imagine that Everett is really pissed off going into the game tonight... BUT... Seattle just got handled on their home ice by division rival Portland. Shouldn't Seattle be a little pissed off tonight too? Will be extremely interesting to see how Seattle responds tonight and whether Everett shows up to play and blows their doors off.


Portland at Seattle Game Thread

Big game tonight as Seattle gets another chance to measure their progress and cool off the surging Winterchickens who come into the game on a 9 game winning streak.


Power Plays and Winning %, a chance for me to Nerd Out!

A comment from the previous game recap got me thinking about something.  The comment related to the fact that Seattle cannot afford to continue giving up Power Play chances to these good teams and expect to win.

Of course, this makes sense. The more chances you give a team like Portland to score with the man advantage the more dangerous they are going to be. Pretty simple hockey there.

That led me to looking at the fact that Seattle has only had 65 PP chances compared to 79 they have given to their opposition. This represents the 2nd worst mark in the league ahead of only Kamloops who have a putrid 62 PPF and 97 SHA (yikes).

So I began to wonder whether these things were correlated to winning. Do teams that maintain a poor ratio wind up losing in the long run and vice versa do teams with high ratio's tend to be the better teams.

Let's take a look at the current season first.

Translation: So far in 2013-14 the ratio of your PP chances to the number you surrender just doesn't seem to matter. On one end you have Kamloops (bad), Seattle (good) and Calgary (good) and on the other side we have Kelowna (good), Med Hat (good) and in 5th we have Brandon (under .500).

Teams are only about 16 games into the season so we really have a sample size that is too small. Let's look at previous years.


Translation: Wow... I did not expect this. In 2012-13 it really did not matter whether you netted more Power Plays than you gave up. In fact, the correlation is slightly negative. Generally speaking the better your ratio the lower your winning % was.

In fact, the number of Power Play chances you had mattered very little as well. Teams like Portland had a bundle of chances and a good record while the Kelowna rockets had a fantastic record and finished below average for chances.

Short Handed chances seemed to matter just a tad bit more and had a slightly stronger correlation but I wouldn't call it significant. Calgary gave up the most chances in the league last year by far at 367 (next closest was Saskatoon at 334) and both teams had winning percentages above .650 while Prince George surrendered the 2nd fewest chances at 260 and they were still terrible with a win percentage of .347.

Some people will hate this because they don't subscribe to statistical analysis but there just doesn't seem to be much evidence to support the theory that special teams matter very much.  They might matter a little bit but the evidence would suggest that it doesn't matter as much as we may have thought.

What does matter? File this one under the "Captain Obvious" category but the teams that score more goals and keep the puck out of their own net more often have better winning percentages. Hockey is a very complicated game but at its most simplistic level you have to score and you have to play defense.


11-3-2, Tbirds reclaim 1st

Seattle ran their record to 11-3-2 with a 4-2 win over the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings.

Seattle reclaims 1st place in the U.S. Division and 1st place in the Western Conference with the win. Their 24 points moved them 1 point past rival Portland (23 points) and sets up a showdown on Friday night at Showare Center.

A few notes I had from the game, let's go straight to the bullet holes.

  • Branden Troock was back in the lineup, his injury from the other night must not have been too bad.
  • Seattle won the game with pace and hitting. I know that seems a bit strange to say but when the Tbirds are throwing the body around and being physical they generally win and that was certainly the case last night. There were so many solid checks that I lost count.
  • The biggest and most controversial check of the night was landed by newcomer Jaimen Yakubowski (Quick side note - look here Jaimen, that name is wayyyy too long when I'm trying to bang out tweets so we're just going to call you Yak. Good by you? Good by me.) I have to admit that my initial reaction was that it was *probably* a headshot since Taylor Green is 6'7" and his helmet popped off. In real time I think it's a pretty difficult call to make and I wasn't the least bit surprised to see him given a 5 and a Game for the hit.  I was later told by a few different people that they had seen the replay during the 1st intermission and thought it was a pretty clean shoulder to shoulder hit and that Green's helmet popping off was just a circumstance of a big hit and Green's head snapping back on the hit. I have yet to find video of the hit but if I can find it we'll analyze it. I'm guessing it will hit Hockey Fights in the next few days.
  • I know we talk about how good Mathew Barzal is all the time... but I just can't get over how elite his vision is. His puck control and ability to skate with the puck and then deliver a great pass far more often than not is just super impressive.
  • Erik Benoit has a nifty little saucer that sprung Seth Swenson on a breakaway and resulted in a penalty shot. Benoit won't get credit for an assist... but he should.
  • The reports I had received on Yak and Sam McKechnie (Geeezzz... we're going to have to find a shortcut for that one too) were generally glowing. In addition to the comments left on this blog by a Lethbridge blogger I had been told by several people that what they really liked about Yak and Kech (doesn't feel right) was their ability to score "greasy goals". They were hard working types that didn't try to do too much and just played the game the right away and that resulted in points. McKnee (that's terrible) did exactly that last night, going hard to the net to poke in a rebound for his first Seattle goal. More to come, including a better nickname. (Mickey? meh.)
  • That was a pretty nifty empty net goal by Shea Theodore eh? Picked up the loose puck in his own zone and banked it off the glass and all the way down the ice to seal the victory.

Fans tend to think of things in exacerbated terms and I think some fans are going to place a little too much importance on this showdown with Portland on Friday night. The reality is, it's nothing more than another measuring stick of where this team is at. Portland started a bit slow with the players they were missing at the start of the season but have since reeled off 8 straight games and have showed once again that they are likely to be the class of the Division and the Conference. Friday will give Seattle another chance to see whether they have improved enough to truly compete with teams like Portland. 

Let's also not overlook the fact that Seattle goes up to Everett for their first match-up of the year. A crowd north of 8,000 is expected on Saturday night and Everett always plays Seattle tough in their own barn despite the loss of starting goaltender Auston Lotz to an ankle injury.

Big weekend for the Tbirds but let's not think these are "must-win" games yet.


And another move by Seattle

Welcome Jaimen Yakubowski and Sam McKechnie to the Thunderbirds.
Both are 19 year old forwards.
They were Lethridge's two leading goal scorers last year.

Yakubowski played in 66, scoring 32 goals and 18 assists.
McKechnie played in all 72 games, scoring 26 goals and 17 assists.

These two players were sent home last week from Lethbridge to await a trade.

From Gregg Drinnan's blog
“We talked to all the veterans, the coaching staff and myself and in discussion yesterday and right up to today we made the decision that these two players don’t want to be here and at the request of their families, agents and themselves and with discussion with them today, they want to be moved.
“So it was best for the hockey club that we have the players here that want to be here and the players that don’t want to be, we’ll move them.”

One could assume they did not see eye to eye with new head coach.

So Seattle adds 2 more 19 year old forwards, bringing the total to 7.
Add in 3 more 20 year olds, and that is a very veteran lineup.
Seattle has now even further deepened it's forward core.
Before this trade, they could roll all 4 lines, and put a ton of pressure on other teams.
Now, there is no question they can.

What did Seattle give up?
Riley Sheen, Carter Folk, and a 3rd round pick in 2015.
I personally actually thought Sheen would be moved when Gropp was added.
His ice time was going to go down more and more.
But then he went out and had a huge weekend, so I kind of changed that.
But, to get talent, you have to give talent.
We haven't seen much of Folk.
The team must have thought highly of him to keep around this long into the season.
When we saw him, he was a tough hard-nosed player.
A 3rd round pick is generally a good pick, but can also be hit or miss.

So overall, I love this trade.
We give up some future in Folk and the pick.
We give up some current in Sheen (who possible could have been back next season).
But we gain two proven goal scores.
And most of all, we announce to the rest of the league that Seattle is in it this season.

Minority Owner Dean Street dies

Per Thunderbirds Press Release, minority owner Dean Street has passed away.

Street was a member of the current ownership group for the past 11 years and was a big supporter for the Hockey Challenge event getting off the ground.


If you give up 50 shots, you're gonna have a bad time Mmmmkay?

Couple of thoughts on the games over the weekend.

Friday night Seattle appeared to be in control of the Prince George Cougars late in the game when Ethan Bear put home his first WHL goal. Bear took a feed at the far post from Justin Hickman and forced it past Ty Edmonds to give Seattle a 4-2 lead with just over 3 minutes to play in the game.

The problem was that Seattle was still giving up way too many shots and eventually it came back to bite them. The Cougars scored just seconds later to cut the lead to one and scored the tying goal on a scramble with just 56 seconds to play. I thought I saw Troy Bourke's shot go straight into the corner of the net before coming out and then trickling back over the line... but either way the game was tied at 4-4 and Seattle would eventually lose in the 6th round of the shootout.

Seattle is much improved this season but this game goes as a painful reminder that you cannot give up 50 shots against and expect to win. Seattle has to get a lot tighter on defense and keep shots away from the net.

Danny Mumaugh played well but also gave up too many rebounds and those rebounds were not often enough cleared out of the area by the Seattle defense. The Cougars had the extra attacker on for that game tying goal but that's the situation you have to defend when you're up a goal at the end of the game.

The frustration was magnified by a missed opportunity by Seattle to cash in on the empty net. Seth Swenson carried the puck down the left side and made what I thought was a smart play by dumping the puck into the corner. Unfortunately, Seattle was offside (I believe Riley Sheen... but I admit that I can't remember) and they were forced to tag up.

Speaking of Sheen, he built on his fantastic game on Wednesday with another fine weekend. I thought he had a little extra jump in his step and his hard work paid off with a goal on Friday and a goal and an assist on Saturday against Swift Current. With the addition of Ryan Gropp, I kind of wondered whether Sheen might be a potential trade target and he's making a strong case for the team to keep him or for another team to trade for him.

Evan Wardley returned to action Friday night and looked healthy. He tossed around a couple of big hits early in the game that got Seattle going after a sluggish start.

Saturday was more of what I'm going to start calling a "taking care of business win". Swift Current clearly isn't as good of a team as Seattle is but that doesn't mean they aren't capable of giving you a tough time in your own building and that's exactly what they did in the first period.

Seattle was unlucky hitting at least one post and one crossbar while the Broncos threw a shot on net that caromed off a skate or a stick and straight over the shoulder of Justin Myles.

The Tbirds stayed the course though and put 19 shots on goal in the 2nd period on their way to 4 goals.

The Broncos did manage to cut the lead from 3 to 2 to 1 with just over 10 minutes to go in the game but Seattle did what they couldn't do on Friday night and buckled down and TCOB. Jared Hauf got a rare goal (his 2nd of the season) with a laser that soared over the shoulder of Landon Bow. Justin Hickman then finished the scoring on a beautiful passing play from Roberts Lipsbergs for the 6-3 final.

I mentioned on twitter that I felt like this had a lot more to do with the Broncos making mistakes than Seattle playing excellently but teams that fancy themselves as contenders have to punish teams that make mistakes and Seattle did exactly that.

Shots were much better Saturday night with Seattle holding favor at 43-28 and Hickman was an assist away from another Gordie Howe hat-trick for the Tbirds. Mathew Barzal ran his point streak to 8 games with an assist and a +2 rating and is now +10 on the season with 19 points in 13 games.


As most of you know... I'm a stats guy and one of the few places that compiles statistical rankings on the WHL is the Massey Ratings. From time to time I'll provide some updates on what the Massey Ratings are saying.  This doesn't mean that the MR's are the gospel but if helps give us a landscape of the entire league.

The latest Massey Rankings show Spokane as the top team. This isn't too surprising given the Chiefs 10-3 record (Massey takes out OT and SO results and just calls them Wins and Losses).  Kelowna is #2 followed by Portland, Everett and Seattle! Tri-City at 5-9 actually comes in ranked #9.  Wondering why Tri-City ranks so high despite their 5-9 record? Look at who they have played... Spokane, Prince George, Portland, Seattle, Spokane, Seattle, Everett, Victoria (#6), Kamloops twice (won both games), Seattle, Portland, Victoria and Portland again.  They have played some tough teams early and unsurprisingly their schedule is ranked as the toughest so far and the toughest going forward.

Also... not surprisingly the US Division is ranked as the toughest division with the BC Division coming in 2nd followed by the Central and the East. It also makes sense that the Western Conference is rated as tougher than the Eastern Conference (ask Swift Current how tough the West is as they are 0-4 so far on their US Division trip).

Seattle has had the 7th toughest schedule so far and the 2nd toughest schedule going forward. So as we suspected, the schedule is going to get tougher the rest of the way.

The offense ranks 4th while the defense ranks 13th. Seattle has played better at home ranking as the 4th biggest difference between Home performance and Away performance.

It's pretty early to predict performance but Seattle is projected to finish with 39 wins which would be good for 78 points plus whatever games they lose in OT and shootouts (they currently have 1). That probably puts them around 82-86 points and puts them right in the mix for a 4th or 5th seed. I actually think that might be a little bit conservative but clearly Massey thinks the schedule is going to get a lot tougher going forward and that is probably true considering the difficulty of the division.


Fan trip to Victoria

I have a group package set up for the games in Victoria.
Two years ago, I took around 50 people up.
It was over Halloween weekend, and oh man, what a blast we had.
Tyler and his lovely wife went, and he can confirm how much fun we had.
Some of us may not remember the parts of trip, while others may remember getting sick on the boat ride home.
This time, it is not over that weekend, but will still be a blast.
We walked together from the hotel to the games (about a mile), ate dinner together, etc.

Anyone is able to join in on this package (player parents included, we had 4 players parents last time).

Fell free to email me at whitingjon at hotmail dot com for more info.

P.S. if anyone that wants to go is willing to watch my children and two other children going, there is some money to be made.

8-3, Seattle falls in Kamloops

Expectations have a funny way of shaping the conversation.  Two years ago, I probably would have said that the Tbirds battled hard last night but predictably lost a game in Kamloops. We would have noted how Justin Myles played well and that the Power Play just wasn't able to breakthrough. We would have been encouraged by the fact that the team only surrendered 28 shots and had a chance to win the game.

However... this team is different. The expectations are different and the expectations were raised even further by the signing of Ryan Gropp yesterday (despite his delayed debut due to a lower body injury). We have to maintain perspective about how far this team has come and especially how far they have come in just a short 7 months.

I point this out because for the duration of the season the critiques and analysis I attempt to give about the games may come across as failing to recognize how much better we have it. Expectations have a way of smothering perspective and I want to make sure we are maintaining perspective as we journey through this season.

So... in that light, let's try to keep things in perspective.

  • We're only 11 games into the season.
  • The season is 72 games long.
  • Plus a few more if we're lucky.
  • Seattle is a better team than they were last year. I don't think that's a stretch to say.
  • We're probably going to make the playoffs.
  • We might even get home-ice advantage in the first round and maybe more.
  • Yesterday we were tied for the most points in the WHL.
  • Today (by win %) we're 5th in the Western Conference.
I point all of this out to tell you... there is a lot of season left to be played.

So let's try to focus on what we know and not things we don't know.
  • Seattle generated 8 Power Plays last night. That's good.
  • They only scored on 1 of them. That's bad.
  • Justin Myles made 25 saves on 28 shots. That's decent.
  • He made several really good saves among the 25. That's good.
  • Myles has a save percentage of .901 and Danny Mumaugh's is .909. That's a good sign.
  • Seattle is outscoring their opponents 43-37. That's decent.
  • By comparison, in the last 4 seasons combined, Seattle has been outscored 750 to 1097.
  • This is real improvement and it started last season as their goal differential went from -119 in 2011-12 to "only" -76 last season. That's good.
  • Take away the 10-4 loss to Portland and the differential goes from +6 to +12. That's good.
  • We can't really "take away" games after they are played. That's bad... and unfair.
Jon made an interesting observation during the game last night that I agreed with (why am I giving him credit? I should pretend like it was my idea.) that the Seattle PP looked a little bit too focused on getting the puck to Shea Theodore.  Now don't get me wrong, getting the puck to Theodore is generally a pretty good idea but it felt a little too forced last night and I can recall only one time where they were able to hit Lipsbergs in the slot with that play that has been working lately.  Did Kamloops scout this and make it a point of emphasis? They might have and that might have been why the puck was getting forced out to Theodore more often. Seattle currently sits 18th on the PP at just 16.7% (8/48) but it is awfully early and I just don't think this team will continue to be this lackluster on the PP. I think we'll see that number rise over the next 10 games.

They did surrender one goal on the Penalty Kill last night but you have to like the way things are looking lately. Having generally better players means you can be more aggressive and chase players around the zone with more success and efficiency. I thought Riley Sheen had a particularly good game on the PK last night. With Ryan Gropp joining the mix, playing time is going to become increasingly tough for some players and I felt like Sheen was making a case for himself last night.

Final thought - This fan base is ready to believe. I'm ready to believe. The hardcore fans are ready to believe and eventually the casual fans will realize it and start showing up at the building.  Until that happens fully... This team will need to continue proving themselves each game. This weekend might bring us the highly anticipated debut of Ryan Gropp and Seattle will have two more opportunities to prove to the fans and the league that they are for real.


BREAKING NEWS: Ryan Gropp joins Tbirds

Breaking news out of Kent. Ryan Gropp has joined the Tbirds. I'll update as we get more information.

Obviously... this is fantastic news.


The first 10 games, and the rest of the month

I am so very excited about this team and the start they are having.  The fact that Everett and Spokane are off to virtually the same start has me thinking about things.
Is this start the result of the Birds playing really well, the quality of the teams they have played, both or neither?

After last night, the birds are 8 wins and 2 losses.

Here is a list of the results

Shootout Win 4-3 over Portland
Win 6-0 over Vancouver
Shootout win 5-4 over Tri
Loss 10-4 to Portland
Loss 3-0 to Tri
Overtime win 5-4 over Medicine Hat
Win 6-2 over Lethbridge
Win 4-3 over Kootenay
Shootout win 4-3 over Kelonwa
4-2 win over Tri

So, that is
3 wins in Shootout
1 win in Overtime
4 wins in regulation
2 losses in regulation

Looking at things this way gives us a better view and shows that Seattle is not exactly destroying teams. But, they are finding ways to win games and very good teams find ways to win games.

Now lets look at the records of the teams they have played:

2 game against Portland 4-3-0-1 (8-6-0-2)
1 game against Vancouver 1-7-1-1
3 games against Tri 4-6-0-1 (12-18-0-3)
1 game against Medicine Hat 7-1-1-0
1 game against Lethbridge 1-7-0-1
1 game against Kooteney 4-4-1-0
1 game against Kelowna 5-1-0-2

Combine all that up (and count the Tri's record 3 times, and Portland's twice, to make it equal out).
Looking at it that way shows Seattle has played a bunch of games against teams that are slightly below average.
Beating teams like this is what puts you NEAR the top.
Winning games against other top teams is what puts you AT the top.
So far, Seattle has handed the #1 team in the East (Medicine Hat), and the number #2 in the West (Kelowna) 1 of their 2 losses. The most impressive thing is that they did it in each of those teams home rinks.

So what all does this tell me about the great start. If you remove Kelowna and Medicine hat games, Seattle has played teams that are 18-39-2-6. So, 8 games against teams with not very good records.  But they have gone 6-2 in those games. So they are taking care of business against teams that based on their records, you should beat and that is a great thing.

The other great teams

Here is a quick look Spokane and Everett (the two other teams off to great starts).

6-2 win over Tri
6-2 win over Victoria
6-1 win over Victoria
2-1 win over Tri
6-4 loss to Portland
1-0 Overtime win over Everett
6-3 win over Kelowna
4-1 loss to Edmonton
3-2 win over Red Deer

2 games against Tri 4-6-0-1 (8-12-0-2)
2 games against Victoria 6-5-0-0 (12-10-0-0)
1 game against Portland 4-3-0-1
1 game against Everett 6-1-2-0
1 game against Kelowna 5-1-0-2
1 game against Edmonton 4-5-0-0
1 game against Red Deer 6-5-0-0
Combined record of 45-37-2-5.

8-4 win over PG
4-1 win over Vancouver
6-3 loss to Kelowna
2-0 win over Tri
1-0 Shootout loss to Spokane
2-1 win over Red Deer
4-2 win over Edmonton
3-2 Shootout win over PG
4-3 Overtime loss to PG

3 games against PG 5-4-0-1 (15-12-0-3)
1 game against Vancouver 1-7-1-1
1 game against Kelowna 5-1-0-2
1 game against Tri 4-6-0-1
1 game against Spokane 7-2-0-0
1 game against Red Deer 6-5-0-0
1 game against Edmonton 4-5-0-0
Combined record of 42-38-1-7.

So lets put these next to each other

45-37-2-5 - Spokane
42-38-1-7 - Everett
38-44-3-9 - Seattle

As you can see, Seattle has played games against teams far worse on average then either Spokane or Everett.
So the true test will come when Seattle starts playing them.

The rest of the month

Now, lets look ahead for Seattle
The next 6 games Seattle plays (through the end of October)
2-7-0-0 Kamloops
5-4-0-1 PG
6-3-0-1 Swift Current
4-6-0-1 Tri
1-7-1-1 Vancouver
5-4-0-0 Brandon

23-27-1-4 overall
So basically .500 teams, with Swift the only team with a winning record (and 1st place in the Eastern division).
So lets say Seattle goes 4-2 (a couple slip ups like Swift, and one other).
Heading out of the month of October, having played 16 games, Seattle could easily be 12-4.
Without only one slip up, 13-3.
And technically, if they take care of business against the teams they should be, could be 14-2.
Any way you look at it, that is an AMAZING start, and one most didn't expect (including myself).
The only problem, both Spokane (7 games, 2 against winning records) and Everett (5 games, 1 against winning records) could (and should) be basically the same.

I could easily see the end of the month standings being (rough numbers)
13-3 (26 points) Seattle
13-3 (26 points) Spokane
10-2-2-0 (22 points) Everett
Yikes, what a fun start

A huge game

I know you have to say - one game at a time. Every game counts. Not looking past your next opponent, blah, blah.But hey, that's what the team does.
As a fan, I look ahead at the schedule and see games coming up.
And one big, huge one gets circled on the calendar.
NOVEMBER 2nd, Seattle in Everett
The first meeting of the season between these two teams.
The first meeting since Everett took back to back games in pre-season against Seattle (and convincingly so).
The first meeting of 10 on the season.
The ONLY meeting of these two teams until after the Christmas break.


Thoughts from win over Tri

How many times over the last five years have we seem one team just completely dominate the first 5 minutes of a game.  Just come out of the gate, drop of the puck, and completely show a team how the night is going to be.  The answer to my question I dont think could be counted on two hands, you would need three or four.  But for the first time in a VERY LONG time, it was the Birds doing the dominating.  That seriously had to be the best five minute stretch I have seen this team play in a good number of years.

To me though, an even better indicator was how the next 5 minutes went.  Not quite as dominating, but very close to it.  The last 10 minutes of the period, more of the same.  Shots at the end of the period were Seattle 17, Tri City 8.  But really, at least two of the Tri shots were clearing dumps.  And on top of that, Seattle played shorthanded for four minutes of the first.  On one of those penalty kills, Tri didn't get one scoring chance at all.  I thought the domination continued for the rest of the game.  Not quite as good as the first, but very close.

Now, it was not all positive for Seattle.  Mumaugh did have to come up very big on a couple Tri shots throughout the game.  There were a few too many point blank shots where he had to make HUGE kick pad saves.  If you really want to be picky on the goalie, the first goal, he dove across the net to get a back door shot, and slid too far, so when the puck went off the post near side (which is the only place the puck could get past him), the entire net was open for the rebound.  And the second goal was a bad angle shot that he should have had.  Like I said though, you would have to be really picky to say anything bad about his game.

Speaking of goaltenders.  Howe much does Eric Comrie of Tri remind Seattle fans of Calvin Pickard.  Making so many big, string saves.  Not leaving rebounds, eating pucks when needed, and basically single handily keeping his team in the game.  If not for a his play in the first 10 minutes, Seattle is up 3 or 4 to nil (Like that multisport reference to soccer).  Everyone knows Comrie is an amazingly great goaltender, and it showed tonight.

My comment to people during and after the game was this. "What team is this, and can they make sure our normal team doesnt get returned."  This team is playing with so much confidence right now.  But also allowing that confidence is the fact that the team can roll 3 or 4 lines deep, and not have to count on the top line for so much.  Other teams can't match against that number of lines, and one line getting confidence means other lines can feed off of it.

One person I talked to last night had a conversation with Evan Wardly.  They said how much this team needs him back.  This was after the first period.  I guess his response was "Based on that, no they dont".  I know it was a joke, but man it almost is true (note, I am not saying that at all).

And now a few bullet point comments throughout the game

  • Dang my kids were well behaved last night.  Must have been the threat of not buying them the new Skylanders Swap Force that I picked up at midnight last night for them (note, they have been playing it since 8am, and I havn't even heard from them yet)
  • I am still amazed that Barzal doesnt get tossed from the faceoff more, since he turns so much.  But what is impressing me so much about it is he is actually starting with his stick on the backhand side of the dot, spinning his body counter clockwise as he pulls his stick to the forehand side, and then wins it straight back.  He gets incredible force and strength doing this because his body is swinging, but the speed at which he gets his stick across the circle is amazing to me
  •  This may sound like another nit picky comment, but I thought Troock struggled last night a lot.  Lost quite a few battles along the boards, and started trying to do things himself a little too much.  But, knowing what his injury was, I suspect it is still bothering him, and that would lead to the comment more.  Like I said, nit picky comment.
  • As the great Kelowna radio broadcast Regan Bartell says "LIIIIIPSSSSSSS BERG" had a huge game last night.  That forcheck hit he put on to set up his first goal was a huge hit.  It was at the far end from me, but I thought even if it was a totally clean hit (which I have been told it was), the angle the player went into the boards, and the loud noise, I expected a penalty to be called.  And his second goal was a great shot.
  • Speaking of shots, Theodore's goal, dam, wow, dam, wow, I cant come up with more words to use.  What a rocket shot into the upper corner.
  • I spent the second intermission talking and learning about NHL contracts from a player agent that sits near me.  I wont give out any names or any info he taught me, but just wanted to send out a huge THANK YOU for it.  So informative, and the type of behind the scenes education and knowledge I love to have.
  • First chance to see newcomer Adam Henry is action.  I thought he played a game exactly like he was described as.  Good skater, good passer, good defender.  I didn't think he anything particularly amazing, but he did a ton of stuff very well.  Ask my wife, his goal I called before he got the puck.  Where I was sitting, it was straight line from me, to where he was, to the upper corner of the net.  Perfect shot right where it needed to be.
  • Another defender, Ethan Bear.  What a few people said about his game making Forsberg expendable was 100% right on.  He is so calm for a 16 year old, sees the ice very well, and makes the right play 90% of the time.  And you can tell the coaches are willing to put him out there under any condition.
  • It was great to Kevin Wolf in the game.  Had some guys go around him with strong quick moves that a player his size shouldnt let happen.  But he also recovered from those plays well enough to make sure any rebound was cleared out.
  • A shout out the the line that Holub was playing on last night (usually Eansor and someone else).  To me, this is the sign of the team when you can roll this type of energy line, and not only to they not give up scoring chances at the other end, but they generate chances at the offensive zone, and put out so much energy that the opponent gets pinned in their zone, the crowd gets into it, and the team responds.
  • It is so awesome to see an opposing coach have to use the one timeout given per game 5 minutes into the first.  Tri was being so dominated, and the defensemen had been on the ice for so long, he had to use it switch players.  And when they needed it late in the game with the extra attacker, buzzzzzzzzzz, nope, all gone, no setup play for you.


Thoughts on the two trades

The Birds have made two player moves.

The first one has sent 20 year old defender Jesse Forsberg to the Moose Jaw Warriors. In exchange, they get a 3rd round pick in the 2015 Bantam Draft.

This solves the 20 year old situation by cutting down to the number of 20's to 3 (all forwards). This was probably the easiest way to solve the 20 year old issue and the too many defenders situation in one move. A 3rd rounder coming back is about on par with the other 20 trades as of late.

What is interesting is that Moose Jaw already had 3 20's, so maybe not a location people might have expected. Forsberg is a good defender on the back end, and a tough player at that. But Evan Wardley is starting to turn into that as a 19, so possibly the team didn't need another one. Off the ice, Forsberg was a class act, and I personally wish him the best of luck in the future.

The second move caught me by surprise.

The Birds have moved 18 year old Griffin Foulk to Lethbridge. Coming back is a 19 year old defender in Adam Henry. With the trading of Forsberg I certainly didn't expect another trade involving another defender. Foulk was advertised as a puck moving smooth skating defender when he was acquired from Everett. At times he showed this, but others times he looked like just a 2nd / 3rd line defender out there and he only had 3 assists in 46 games last season for the Seattle.

GM Farwell described Adam Henry as "adds some additional offense from the back end and supports our forward group and developing style of play.” Which is basically the same exact quote that Farwell used for Foulk when we got him. I don't know much about Henry, but he is still a defender that has played 4 years the league.

The funny thing I find about these two trades is almost all fans and the coaches / GM said those two were the best defenders during the playoffs last year and now neither are on the team.

How fast times change.


Game one of a big road trip

Lets see if the Birds can rebound from two straight disappointing games (losses to Portland and Tri).

First up is Medicine Hat.  They are off to a nice start at 4-1, only giving up 10 goals.

I have been told that Mitch Elliot will be playing tonight, so how many people think tough guys, former teammates, and friends Jacob Doty and Mitch Elliot will have a go to see who is the better fighter.

My guess, the answer is no.

Hopefully a little time off after last Tuesday, all spent on the road, will get the team bonded together and kicked back in gear.


Mitch Elliot on his way back to Seattle

Mitch just posted on twitter

"Headed back to Seattle I would like to thank the for the great opportunity"

So whats everyone think will happen now?

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