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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Injury Update

Bad news.

This isn't inside information... but the WHL weekly report shows both Branden Troock and Justin Myles listed as being out indefinitely.

I would hate to speculate on what that means but for a guy who is constantly injured, that cannot be a good sign for Troock.


Friday Night Game Thread and Ugly Pictures

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Most of you probably won't see this until later tomorrow night or perhaps tomorrow... but I wanted to get a thread up for the game tonight and also make a comment about the game last night.

I just got finished watching the highlights of the game from the WHL website....

This is a team that simply doesn't care enough about not losing. It isn't that they aren't trying, they just appear to be indifferent to the outcome of the game. They "hope" they will win and they're going to try to win but they don't want to win as badly as the team across the ice wants to win.

Too many times you see Seattle players wandering around the low slot area without actually guarding ANYONE. They're just standing there taking up space. On one goal you can see THREE Seattle players surround ONE Kelowna player and the Rockets player wins the battle for the rebound and knocks the puck into the net.

Look... I'm not saying this team is supremely talented and wins are just a matter of caring more. This team isn't as short on talent as it has been in the past few years but they are still pretty short on talent. I'm also not saying I'm an expert... but when you get your tail kicked in 8-0 there really isn't much room for debate.

If/When this team brings passion and effort to he ice, they have a chance to win. Kelowna is a very good team but in this league, if you don't bring passion and effort, you get your ass whipped and that is what happened last night.

Want some depressing evidence. Check these out.

Three Tbirds players in the deep end of the zone and none are close to two rebounders standing around Glover.

Three more Tbirds "defenders" in the deep end of the zone and all have established outside position relative to the offensive player. Exactly opposite of what I'm absolutely positive they are being taught and told by the coaching staff. Inside position has to be established to keep offensive players away from rebounds and push them out of shooting lanes. Glover arguably should have had this shot but with the Kelowna traffic in front, even if he makes the initial save there is a great chance the rebound is slammed home.

Here, Seattle has at least established inside position but they haven't bothered to mark the one player in the slot who had a chance to score. Wardley is to the left and he was marking the passer who has left the picture to the left so he is exempt from this one but the other two are standing in the slot not marking up on Carter Rigby in the slot.

This one has two elements. Seattle is actually marking better but as things have gone lately they mark better and Glover doesn't make a save when they need it. That circle? That's the leak in the pads the puck slips through. Glover just has to get a better and quicker seal. BUT. We can't ignore the fact that Shea Theodore blindly and softly threw the puck up the middle of the slot as if he was setting up Heffley for the slapshot.

This one is a little tough to see but the point is... Seattle actually outnumbers the Rockets 5-3 in bodies here and still manages to let the slot player get open for a pass and shot and score.

Last one, because I have to leave to get down to tonight's game.  Here is perhaps the worst one. Swenson, Wolf and Elliot Theodore surround Rigby in the slot and Rigby wins the battle and gets off TWO rebound shots and the second one goes in.  I'm really kind of speechless about this one.

Let's hope things are a little better tonight.


Seattle loses, Hockey Challenge Time

I think I would prefer to just pretend that last night's game didn't happen and keep continuing to feel great about the Portland game on Saturday... so I'm just going to pass on that game last night.

I will point out one very huge problem I have. The Tunein Radio App I use to dial into 1090 The Fan when I am at home... keeps going to commercials smack in the middle of the game. How this happens... I have no idea. And one fan on Twitter told me that the same thing happens on the 1090 The Fan internet stream as well. Clearly either someone at The Fan 1090 is either incompetent and doesn't understand why going to commercials during a live broadcast of a game is bad OR they simply don't give a shit about the Thunderbirds partnership and they're going to just run their commercials no matter what. It sucks and it has to stop.

Ok, rant over.

Back to more important things.

Hockey Challenge 2013 is exactly one month from today and it is time for me to start begging and pleading with my awesome readers to start donating to this great cause in the name of my team.

The banner above is a live link that sends you directly to the Ronald McDonald House donations page. Make sure you select "Hockey Challenge" in the program area and leave a comment saying this is for Team IEB - Tyler Hunnex.

I'm going to personally match donations on whatever you guys donate... so get those donations in early and often.


Many Musings

A bunch of thoughts on this past weekend that saw the Tbirds finally break their 15 game losing streak by beating the hated Portland CheaterWinterhawks. Let's just jump right to the bullet holes.

  • Friday night in Everett was a complete disaster from a results stand point but it wasn't necessarily a terrible effort by the team. Danny Mumaugh started in goal for Seattle and wasn't sharp. I still have hope/faith in his development but right now Mumaugh is over his head playing in the WHL. His movements are not efficient and his read/react to the play just isn't quite up to WHL speed. Please remember... it's rare for a 16 year old goaltender to come into the league and immediately be ready to play. Calvin Pickard's don't come along or happen very often. Mumaugh will benefit from the game experience he is getting and I hope it will motivate him to improve rather than frustrate him.  The first goal he gave up was a perfect example of where is at right now as he over-reacted to a shot that went wide of the net on the Power Play and was slow to recover to the backside where the shot was blasted in before he was even able to turn his head.  This isn't his fault... he shouldn't be in this situation but Justin Myles is still experiencing some head and neck issues from a car accident and Seattle doesn't have any other options right now. Russ probably should have acquired a backup goaltender at the deadline and sent Mumaugh back to Colorado to get more playing time... but for whatever reason that didn't happen.
  • Seattle played better than the 5-1 result. They fired 45 shots on Austin Lotz and they were bested by a good goaltender. I believe the television broadcast mentioned that they attempted around 75 shots and 45 hit the net.  Everett blocked quite a few and others missed the net. Sometimes that happens. The Tbirds also showed they weren't going to take their frustrations, tuck their tail between their legs, and limp away from the EEC by getting into 5 fights. Regardless of your opinion on fighting there is a time and place where fighting can mean something and I think Friday night was one of those times. The team was mad and frustrated and they weren't going to just take it.
  • Saturday... oh what a day. The way Seattle played on Saturday has to be the blueprint for every game the rest of the season. The sobering news is that they played about as well as they could and only beat Portland by 1 goal. One game doesn't change the fact that Portland is a really, REALLY excellent team. They might be in the middle of a 3 game losing streak currently but they are a team that should win the WHL and would have an excellent chance at winning the Memorial Cup.
  • Seattle forechecked relentlessly and that was the key to the game against the Winterhawks. Portland has an extremely talented defensive core led by guys like Seth Jones, Troy Rudkowski and Tyler Wotherspoon and the Tbirds were able to force them into difficult spots and force them to make quick and difficult decisions. When you pressure people, they have less time to find the right option and the perfect pass... something the Portland players do excellently. Seattle found a way to pressure them enough to force some turnovers and find the back of the net. Seattle outshot Portland 39-28. The last time Seattle out-shot Portland? You'll have to go back to January 28th of last year when the Tbirds out-shot Portland 54-47 and lost 8-3.
  • Brendan Leipsic, the ultra talented agitator from Portland, was awarded the 3rd star but did not come out of the locker room to receive his medal.  I've had conflicting reports about this. Some have said the three stars were late getting down to rink-side while at least one fan who I know sits right by the tunnel claims he saw Leipsic told about the star. I don't know all of the facts... so I'll stick to what I know... He didn't come out and I haven't seen that happen in a while at Showare. I would actually prefer to believe that the stars were sent down late and he wasn't told. I'd like to give him the benefit of the fact. Seriously. What I won't give him the benefit of the doubt on... is getting blown up by Jesse Forsberg only to come back and try to bait Forsberg into a penalty by hooking his knee after the whistle. Either take your hit like a man... tip your helmet and skate away or drop the mitts and do something about it. Super talented, probably smart, but not real brave.
  • Sunday saw the Tbirds take on Lethbridge and fall behind 3-1 before Coach Konowalchuk used his timeout to calm things down and re-focus the troops. Timeouts don't always work very well but in this case it worked to perfectly. Connor Honey scored about 6 minutes later and Andrew Johnson added another goal just two minutes later and Seattle had re-tied the game going into the 3rd period.  After taking the lead and extending it to two goals at 5-3... you would have loved to see Seattle clamp down late in the game and salt away the victory. Playing their 3rd game in 3 nights (same as Lethbridge) they weren't able to put the win away and were forced to take things to overtime. Seattle dominated the first 3 minutes of overtime, firing 8 shots on net but had to hold off a Hurricane charge in the final two minutes to get things to the shootout.  In the shootout... Luke Lockhart was the only scorer and Seattle managed to escape with 2 points and turn another potentially disastrous weekend into 4 points. My only question... Riley Sheen has some of the best hands on the team (arguably the best) and isn't selected in our top 3 shooters. I don't know if that is a "reward" system type of thing for Coach K but I find it hard to believe you have 3 guys better suited for the shootout than Sheen.
  • You know who is working his tail off and just not getting any "puck luck" right now. Alexander Delnov. He keeps playing like this and the points will come in bunches.
  • I think Connor Honey really IS this important to the team. The lost a bunch while he was out with an injury... he comes back and they win two. His scrappy hustle in infectious and his hockey IQ is excellent. His pass out from behind the net to Lipsbergs in the Portland game was an outstanding setup and I can't count how many times he has done that this season. Additionally... he fired a one time rocket past Ty Rimmer in the Lethbridge game to get Seattle's momentum going again.
Seattle is back in action tonight in Tri-City where they have not been very good the past several years... with the exception of the December 6th game where they snapped a long losing streak in Kennewick. The Americans are a solid team but they are a team Seattle has to target for points, even if it is a road game. They can ill afford to "punt" points the rest of the way if they want to make the playoffs and especially if the want to catch Everett for 7th place and avoid playing Portland in the 1st round.


Tbirds WIN!!! The Streak is Dead!!

I just wanted to throw up another thread for people to comment.  The streak is dead. What a game by Seattle. I sure wish they could figure out how to bring it like that night in and night out.


Live TV (!!) Game Thread

Since we get a real live televised game tonight (7:30 Root Sports). I'm going to open this game thread for people to comment as we go along. I'll be tweeting as well.


14 losses in a Row, yup.

I haven't really had the heart to write much in the past couple of days. The Tbirds have now lost 14 straight and the Hawks got their hearts ripped out on Sunday. But, I suppose the show must go on and I have to provide for a fresh new post for people to complain about the team and complain about Russ Farwell (you're welcome?).

As has been the case over much of the 14 game losing streak, Seattle didn't play horribly this past Saturday at home and Sunday in Tri-City, they just didn't play well enough to win. The team is locked in a deadly stretch where they have mental and physical breakdowns and opposing teams are making them pay for them nearly every single time.

Bullet holes... because I'm lazy today.

  • Mitch Elliot took a Kneeing Major on Sunday night when he ran into Connor Rankin of Tri-City. It appears that Rankin escaped with only a thigh bruise and that is really good news. I hate to see anyone ever get hurt like that. I stated my case on Twitter and got into an argument with Andy Kemper about the extent of the penalty and I stand by my position. I watched the replay several times and posted a screen shot of the hit. Elliot's knee is barely extended (and I'm being generous there) and is never turned out. In full speed it appears that Elliot goes for the hit and Rankin avoids it and their legs collide. If Elliot gets more than a game or two I'd be pretty disappointed.
  • 6 Tbird players were listed today in the Central Scouting rankings. Theodore, Lipsbergs, Hauf, Honey, Smith and Sheen are all listed in the top 210 North American skater rankings. Three thoughts here: A) Awesome. B) How in the world can we not make the playoffs with this kind of perceived talent. C) When teams lose 14 games in a row it is easy to lose sight of this but things "should" continue to improve in Tbirds land. All of these players are back next season and all should be highly motivated to improve their game before the NHL draft and after it if they are lucky enough to be selected. CSS Rankings can be found here.
  • With just 28 games remaining in the season the Tbirds sit only 3 points ahead of Prince George for the 8th and final spot in the playoffs and the distinct pleasure of getting their asses handed to them by the Portland Cheaterhawks. As bad as they have played... they are only 1 point behind Everett for 7th place.
  • Updated Massey Ratings - Seattle has slipped (not surprisingly) down to 17th in the league and while things were looking better than the record indicated earlier in the season... things are now just about as bad as the record indicates. Seattle's metrics have taken a serious hit during this 14 game stretch. The offense still ranks 10th in the league but the defense has slipped all the way down to 19th. I've said it before and I will say it again... Offense is not the primary issue with this team. Massey Ratings can be found here.
The season is starting to slip away but there IS still time to stop the bleeding and get into the playoffs. If Seattle finishes 8th I think they get smashed by Portland but if they finish 7th I think they have at least a punchers chance against a team like Kelowna or Kamloops.


Debating the merits of Plus/Minus

Just a quick note here. There have been a handful of comments regarding Seattle releasing Rouse instead of Lockhart so I want to address the point quickly.

Yes... on the surface Lockhart is -28 while Rouse was +4 on a team where MANY players are in the minus category. There is most certainly an argument to be made that perhaps Lockhart should have been the player released instead of Rouse but that argument shouldn't and doesn't start and end by simply looking at Plus/Minus.

To look at one statistic (much less a greatly flawed one such as Plus/Minus) to determine the merits of a player is to make an overly simplistic and poor argument.  Rouse might be better than Lockhart but you can't determine or prove that simple by looking at Plus/Minus.  Players bring different things to the table and you have to consider the entire package.

Another overly simplistic and equally as flawed argument would be to say that the team needs scoring and Lockhart has 14 goals while Rouse has 6 goals. So... that must mean that Lockhart is better and the TBirds made the correct decision, right? No, wrong.

Here's another one. Jacob Doty and Riley Sheen. Yes, Sheen is -21 and Doty is not. Anyone who watched the team the last couple of years couldn't possibly think Doty was better than Sheen. Doty is playing for what is likely a better team... so of course his Plus/Minus number is going to be better.

I mentioned earlier that Plus/Minus is a flawed statistic. Some/most consider it to be more of a "team stat" than an individual one. That's not entirely true but it also isn't entirely false either, which makes it a flawed evaluation tool.

I've already spent too many words on this and I think you all get the point. You can't cherry pick stats simply to prove your point. Well, actually you can... just don't expect me to take you seriously when you do it.

Plus/Minus is a statistic that can be used a part of statistical evaluation. To use is as the only tool is simple ineffective.

More words on Johnson

Got a first hand account of Andrew Johnson from a Moose Jaw fan who is a friend of mine.

"Johnson has potential it just never seemed to work out here (Moose Jaw). Sticks up for his teammates but isn't the toughest guy in the world. Decent scrapper for his size. His -20 has more to do with the team being bad than his play. He goes for the hit all the time."

That last part is of particular importance to me. I tweeted during the game Tuesday about the lack of hitting on the team right now. A guy like this might also be exactly what the team needs.

Adam Kambeitz to Seattle

Seattle gives up a 3rd round Bantam pick in 2014 to land 20 year old Adam Kambeitz. I think this is a good trade for Seattle. Kambeitz has been known in the past as being a hard working, tough player with good leadership qualities. Something this team seems to be sorely lacking right now.

My best guess is that this means the end of the line for Brendan Rouse. It could also be Luke Lockhart or Brandon Glover but my guess is that it will be Rouse.

Andrew "The President" Johnson to Seattle

Seattle picks up Andrew Johnson from Moose Jaw for a 4th round bantam selection. That seems to me like a bit of a high price for an 18 year old who is -20 (worst on the Warriors). I'll get a more detailed report later.

This appears to be the only move that Seattle made today.

Trade Deadline Day

It's trade deadline day and the deadline is 2pm local time. Seattle dropped another game last night in Spokane by the score of 4-1.

I have a hard time thinking that any other teams are actually going to want our players right now but SOMETHING has to be done by Russ.

Please get me some players who actually give a shit about winning and actually care about working hard and aren't content to just go through the motions on a nightly basis.  Not every player is afflicted with this disease but a lot of the team is and it's time to start finding some players who want to bring it on a nightly basis.


Tbirds drop 11th Straight

I don't know how much in the way of poignant comments I have to make today after Seattle drops their 11th contest in a row last night, falling 4-3 to the Spokane Chiefs. I didn't think the team played terrible but I didn't think they played well either. I would echo the thoughts of some of the comments people have been making that guys like Lockhart need to step up their game and start playing better and showing some leadership to get the team pulled out of this funk they are in.

Want some really sobering stats courtesy of a friend of the blog?

Seattle's record in January the past several seasons.

2009-10 - 12 games (1-8-3-0)
2010-11 - 15 games (2-11-1-1)
2011-12 - 14 games (1-11-1-1)
2012-13 - 3 games (0-3-0-0)

Add that up and we have 44 games and a record of 4-33-5-2. 4 wins in 44 games and only 15 out of 88 possible points. WOW.  We all knew this but when you put it to paper... just staggering.

I'd love to know what Coach K means when he says that players aren't buying into the system. There are things that we can easily see as fans... things like lack of effort, lack of physical play, etc. but I just wonder if these are the same things Coach K is talking about or whether there are some "system" type things guys aren't doing.

In the first period, I counted exactly one meaningful hit and that was delivered by Hickman along the far boards at the south end. In the second, a meaningful hit caused a turnover and lead to the Elliot goal. It's hard to figure out why players don't understand what it takes to win.

Brandon Glover obviously had a bit of a tough night but I would hardly blame the loss on him.  The penalty and goal 19 seconds in were pretty much all his fault but he battled hard after that to keep Seattle in the game. The 2nd goal was one he'll want to have back but he also should be getting more help from his Defense there. The 3rd was deflected and the 4th was a giveaway. Let's not be too quick to blame the goaltender.

Seth Swenson had a nice game last night. Picked up an assist on the Troock goal where he dropped the puck off to Troock and went hard to the net to set a nice screen on Spokane goaltender Eric Williams. He wound up +2 for the night as well.

Nice little fight for Daniel Wray. He didn't wind up exchanging that many punches with Adam Smith but they charged at each other like gladiators. Respect.

I didn't see Shea Theodore's giveaway that lead to the 4th and game winning Spokane goal because I had to leave for my own game. I was told that it was a pretty bad decision. Theodore scored a goal earlier in the game so it wasn't as if the entire night was a complete loss but I still wonder whether he is battling an injury. Things just don't quite seem right with him.

At this point... the streak is more mental than anything else and the team just needs to find a way to break out and have a good game and get a win to stop the bleeding.


Kamloops hammers Seattle

Not as much time to update today as I had hoped for... so here are just some quick thoughts.

  • Seattle actually got off to a decent start in the game last night but they weren't really generating much in the way of genuine scoring chances as much as they were just possessing the puck. The effort was decent but it wasn't translating into many scoring chances.  Hickman's goal on the PP was a good smart shot that came off an end board carom but I wouldn't even call that much of a scoring chance as much as it was just a smart play.
  • After Freshman Danny Mumaugh gave up a couple of soft goals the team seemed to crumble. The mental state of the team appears to be in shambles right now and when things start to go poorly... things are falling apart. What should be happening... is the players pulling up their proverbial boot straps and getting back to work hitting people and flying around the ice. Instead, they appears to lose focus and energy and things just get worse. Mumaugh will have better days and the TBirds have to play for him instead of thinking he is going to do the job for them.
  • Shea Theodore looks a little lost to me. Obviously, he was benched a couple of games ago down in Portland and his game just doesn't seem to be right. He was blown by for a goal last night falling for a fake shot and he was separated from the puck on several occasions in his own zone. Makes me wonder if he is hurt or something else is wrong.
  • This team isn't THIS bad and some of that has to fall on Coach K. It isn't entirely his fault because coaches coach and players play. Coaches do have the ability to "push the right buttons" and right now he isn't doing it. This team is regressing instead of progressing.
  • Don't look for Seattle to be trading for Alex Forsberg as rumors have it that Prince George is demanding a King's ransom to obtain him. I'm not sure how PG thinks they can bash a guy's work ethic and character and expect to get maximum value in return. IF indeed Forsberg has work ethic and character issues (and perhaps brother Jesse would know... since playing with his brother obviously didn't keep him in PG) and the Cougars are insisting on a crazy price tag... I'd just assume pass on him and find someone else. If they want Gropp... I'm game. If they want someone else... I'm passing.
Dare I say it... but if Seattle doesn't start to pull the nose up on this diving plane, we may be looking at another year outside of the playoffs. Something that seemed very improbable just a month ago.

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