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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Jon and Tyler Chat about Predictions

Tyler Hunnex: Well Jon, we’re just a few days away from one of our favorite days of the year, Opening Night. This year the Tbirds get to start the campaign with our hated rivals the Portland Cheats Sucks Winterhawks.  Before we get into expectations and predictions for the season, tell me what you expect out of opening night. As I’m writing this, Shea Theodore is still with the Anaheim Ducks and while he might be sent back in time for the opener, is appears as though he might remain with the Ducks for the weekend. It also appears that the team may be without 20 year old Mitch Elliot who was sent by the Vancouver Canucks to Utica to attend their AHL training camp.  After two straight losses to the Everett Silvertips to close out the preseason, what are you expecting to see on Saturday night?

Jon Whiting: It is actually my second favorite day of the year (first being first day of training camp).  After the way this team played last weekend, I am very worried about Saturday night.  Hickman will be out with a suspension, and Hauf will be back.  Assuming Forsberg is still out, and Thoedore's plane cant land in time, Seattle will still be missing those two.  Last Saturday night, I really wanted to see how the team responded after being dominated Friday night.  Instead of seeing character, fight, determination, I saw a team that played even worse.  Portland will still be missing some of their top guys (As of right now, Bjorkstrand, Leier, Leipsic, and Pouliot), but it wouldn’t surprise me if a couple of these guys get returned today or tomorrow.  So what I hope I see and expect to see are probably two different things.  I really hope Seattle learned from last weekend and comes out with energy, determination and passion. I hope it doesn't let Portland get under their skin, gets strong goaltending and skates to a big win in front of a huge crowd.  That’s what I hope happens.  Until this team can show me it has that fire in it, I expect Portland to want to show Seattle they are still the top team, to cause Seattle to take some undisciplined penalties, score a couple power play goals, then watch Seattle come unglued and maybe a couple really good fights.  So the biggest question I see going into Sunday night is first in line for Seattle to skate out for warm-ups (always the starting goaltender).  Any guesses?

TH: Devon Fordyce.  The goaltending situation seems to be incredible fluid right now but I don’t think you would have bothered to keep Fordyce if you weren't going to give him the first opportunity to be the starting goaltender. I think both Justin Myles and Danny Mumaugh have played well lately but I don’t think either of them has played well enough to earn the top spot.  Myles is certainly one to watch though. Management has always been very high on him and we really haven’t had a chance to see him play very much due to his injuries. At 6’2” he has a very big frame and he moves pretty well in net. The defense is a much bigger concern in my mind. Getting Jared Hauf back helps but without Theodore I have a feeling that you’ll see the time struggle to move the puck out of their own end as we saw in the games that he missed.  (EDIT: Jon and I started this earlier in the week and Coach K has since announced on the Ian Furness show that Justin Myles would be the starter and Danny Mumaugh would back up. I guess I whiffed on this one. I easily could have just taken this out or changed it but this was my true response at the time.)

JW: I completely agree with the struggling to move the puck out of the zone.  This has been an issue for the last few years.  I think they are expecting Foulk to set up and start rushes somewhat like Theodore does.  Not having this certainly puts emphasis on the forwards winning battles, back checking, and being able to skate the puck out when needed.  The first couple preseason games they did this very well.  The last couple of games, not so well.  When they can move the puck out well and find a forward that is moving, that is when this set of forwards will really be able to show their strength.  So back to the goaltending, if they are going with Fordyce, in the 7 preseason games, he played a huge total of 97 minutes, over a game and a half.  His last action came when he played the first half of the September 7th game against Portland.  If I continue to do the math correctly, that means he will not have seen game action for 14 days before Saturday night.  Any concern from you that they are kind of just throwing him out there with no real tune-up?

TH: Not really. He’s been practicing with the team all along and has seen plenty of shots, that doesn't concern me too much. Of course… since we started this, Coach K has stated that Myles will be the starter and Mumaugh will back him up. So the question has turned from concern over Fordyce to what Myles will do with this opportunity.  I was polled yesterday for the U.S. Division by Portland writer Scott Sepich and my order went: 1. Portland 2. Spokane 3. Seattle 4. Everett 5. Tri-City. Placing Seattle ahead of Everett is probably more based on hope than true analysis but I think the two teams are close enough that things could really break either way. How are you ranking the division? And… what do you say the chances are that someone beats Portland for the division, 10%? 20%?

JW:  The only way someone beats Portland for the title is if Portland's defense and goaltending let them down quite a bit.  And, really, I could see that happening about as much as someone offering to watch both my son's so I could have a vacation with my wife.  For me, you have the division the same I would say.  BUT, for 2nd through 5th, I really think you could find an eight sided dice, put each team on two sides, roll it for the order of finish, then do it another 999 times, come up with the most common order, and I would say ok.  If you told me Seattle would finish 2nd, I would be really happy, and agree with you.  If you told me Seattle struggles and finishes 5th, I would be really unhappy, but I would say I could see that happening.  Hoping to help that 2nd place finish, Seattle claimed 20 year old Erik Benoit off waivers.  Does this close the book on Elliot, or maybe Forsberg is hurt more then we think, or maybe Benoit is a fill in until they can figure out what to do?

TH: I don’t think it completely closes the door on Elliot but it does lead me to believe that they feel like he is going to sign a deal and stay with Utica. Obviously, you could have Elliot return and then make a decision between the 4 players you have left but it seems like he has made enough of an impression on the Canucks organization that they are inclined to keep him. Predictions are always difficult and nearly impossible but they are always fun, so let’s make a few.

Tbirds finish 3rd in the U.S. Division, 5th in the Western Conference and open on the road against Spokane.

Leading scorer: Lipsbergs – 35 goals

Barzal points: 68 (and also leads the team in points)

Goalie to play the most games: Justin Myles, 46 games

Number of NHL Games played by Shea Theodore: 0

Points by Theodore: 57

Playoff finish: Seattle beats Spokane in 6, loses to Kelowna in 7 in a rematch of the 2013 playoff series.
Your turn.

JW:  I will match your prediction format

Tbirds finish 3rd in the U.S. Division, 5th in the Western Conference and open on the road against 
Victoria (and an amazing road trip I may add).

Leading scorer: Delnov – 40 goals (Almost went completely out on a limb, and said Troock with 40)

Barzal points: 81 (and also leads the team in points)

Goalie to play the most games: Justin Myles, 38 games

Number of NHL Games played by Shea Theodore: 0

Points by Theodore: 72

Playoff finish: Seattle beats Victoria in 5, loses to Portland in 6, after pushing them very hard.

TH: I hope everyone is still excited about the season, even though we just told you exactly what will happen. It should be a good one.


Kodi said...

Bjorkstrand and Leier were returned

Andy Kemper ‏@AndyKemper 18 Sep
Columbus returns @OBjorkstrand to @pdxwinterhawks.

Andy Kemper ‏@AndyKemper 18 Sep
One more on the way. .@Leier22 has been returned to @pdxwinterhawks by the Flyers.

Anonymous said...

As for the Winterhawks couple of years ago they had 3 18 or 19 year olds play in the NHL and won a hard fought division title against the Chiefs. When does Seth Jones come back to the hawks? At least Ty Rattie will be playing in the AHL

Sean said...

Now that the season is about to begin I noticed something odd about the T'Birds' schedule. They play each of the Eastern conference teams once----12 games. They play each of the B.C. division 4 times---20 games. That leaves 40 games to be played against the other 4 U.S. division teams to get to the season total of 72 games. This should be simple ---play each team 10 times. Why do the Birds play Portland 12 times, Tri-City and Everett each 10 times and Spokane only 8 times? Can somebody please explain the logic of how they justified this ? I am told that something similar was done last season. Why not play each of the other 4 teams 10 times?

Anonymous said...

Something I've been considering when trying to rack my brain and think of ways that Portland can possibly suffer a letdown this season and lose the division crown.. It's a little something I call the 'Brendan Dillon Factor'. When Brendan Dillon was the top Defenseman on the Thunderbird roster, his 51 assists helped a lot of somewhat good players look like great players. In the season after Dillon left, Luke Lockhart went from a 48 point player to a 37, Burke Gallimore went from a 70 point player down to a 40. This year Portland likely loses Seth Jones and his 42 assists and possibly weakens the defense that turned Brendan Burke into a 2.58 GAA goalie. Without Ty Rattie's 62 assists, the scoring numbers may take a dive for the members of their top line. We'll still have to contend with Leipsic and Bjorkstrand, but if either's numbers take a Gallimore-like dive, we could be in for a more competitive divisional race than most people think.

Kodi said...

Sean, I believe it's because each team has a "rival" who they play extra games against The Spokane Kootenay one though I think is based on location for Kootenay to help them out with travel though.

Seattle/Portland 12
Everett/Vancouver 12
Spokane/Tri-City 12
Spokane/Kootenay 4

Unknown said...

I'm interested to see how Portland's D is this year. They lost three of their top 4 defensemen from last year (I'm guessing they aren't getting Jones back since their roster doesn't list him). Their D played 435 regular season games last year and the guys on their roster for this year only played 172 games last year. That seems like a big loss, also when I watched them play last year they seemed to rely on 5 defensemen to log all the minutes, three of which are now gone. They might have to change how they play with less experience on the blue line, their forwards might have to come back and support more instead of cherry picking at the blue line.

Anyway tomorrow night will be fun, I'm interested to see who fills in for Hickman until game 4. Hopefully Forsberg is ready to go soon and Theodore is returned soon.

Anonymous said...

I would like the WHL to go back and play a home and home game with every team in the East. Rotating between divisions is just silly. In my opinion I do not think the Seattle and Hawks need to play 12 times a year. Nor do the Birds play Tri cities or Everett 10 times too.

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