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Hockey Challenge 2014

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A sad day has arrived...

Many of you have no doubt noticed the dwindling frequency of my posts over the past year. I knew this day would eventually arrive and sadly I think I have realized this week that the time has come for me to take an extended hiatus from Let's Go Birds.

For 1035 posts (this one being 1036) I have sincerely enjoyed writing about the hockey team I grew up watching. For the better part of 8 (mostly frustrating and ultimately disappointing) seasons I have attempted to break down games, players, transactions and just about anything that has happened to the Seattle Thunderbirds (at least the stuff I think that matters).

I could fill up this section with the excuses I have for taking a "break" and the fact is that none of you will likely care (and shouldn't). Occam's razor is loosely interpreted to mean that the simplest of explanations among competing hypotheses is the one that should be selected. Well... my excuse is that life has simply gotten in the way.

Trust me when I tell you that my passion for Tbirds hockey has not changed. I enjoy watching the game and the team as much as I ever have. My absence from games and my lack of time to write have drained my motivation to provide quality content beyond the most obvious and mundane observations. I was never going to be able to operate Let's Go Birds in a half assed way and my lack of both quantity and quality has compounded my frustrations with trying to keep things going.

I'm not even sure I'm doing a very good job of explaining myself right now.

This isn't necessarily a retirement.

Perhaps, at some point down the road, I will pick this up again and get things rolling. Perhaps I won't. I'm really looking forward to the next time I get to watch the team play and not have to worry about analyzing what is going on and whether I have something intelligent to write about.

My one true regret will probably be the donations to the Ronald McDonald House that I will miss for the Hockey Challenge each year. So do me a favor... keep donating to a great cause on my behalf. I can promise that each year I will still find the time to raise money and play a little hockey for The Challenge.

Finally. From the bottom of my heart... I want to thank everyone who has ever read this blog and followed what we do. I want to thank Jon for trying to help me keep this thing going and trying to pick up the slack for me when his time allowed.

It has been a pretty fun ride. Thanks for letting me be a part of things and building this blog into what it was.


Seattle and U.S. Division Computer Ratings

Every season I like to periodically update everyone on the WHL Massey Ratings and I haven't done that yet this season. So without further ado... let's update.

Seattle currently sits 9th in the WHL in current rating and 5th in "Power Rating" (as a reminder, Power Rating is a measure that attempts to predict how good a team will be going forward). So the Massey Ratings are expecting Seattle to play a bit better as the season moves along.

They are 13th in Offense, 6th in Defense and they have the 21st "Home Ice Advantage". (Another reminder that HIA isn't a pure measure of how good a team is at home but rather how much their performance is impacted by playing at home. If a team wins all their games at home but loses all their road games they're going to have a much higher HIA than a team that wins all their home games and all their road games).

They have played the 3rd toughest schedule and they have the #1 toughest schedule for the remainder of the season.

Why have they played such a tough schedule and will continue to play such a tough schedule?

The U.S. Division (and also the BC Division). The U.S. Division ranks 2nd in strength behind the B.C. Division. This makes the Western Conference tougher than the Eastern Conference to this point in the season.

Seattle has an opportunity to take advantage of a weaker Division on this road trip.

Seattle has remaining "expected wins" of 26 and "expected losses" of 29 which would finish their record at 33-35-2-1. Some of those 29 losses will no doubt come in OT or the Shootout so their expected point total of 69 should probably inch closer to 75 depending on how many of those "expected losses" are pushed to the extra frame.

Kelowna is the top rated team. Followed in order by Brandon, Everett, Medicine Hat, Tri-City, Prince George, Kamloops, Spokane and then Seattle. Portland checks in at #11 but have a Power Rating of 5th. So don't expect the struggles to continue too much for the Winterhawks.

On the flip side, the MR's think we should see some regression from PG, Kamloops and Spokane but not from the Everett Silvertips.

Kelowna has expected wins of 60! Wow. That will probably regress a little but a repeat of their 57 wins from a year ago seems quite reasonable at this point.


Shoot the Puck... at the "right time"

I tweeted about this the other day and I meant to expand on it and my schedule just hasn't allowed for it (something that has become far too common these days). Seattle will host the Red Deer Rebels tonight and I will be watching closely how many times Seattle hits the net with the puck.

Seattle fired a ton of pucks at the net Saturday night and just wasn't able to score, losing to the Vancouver Giants 1-0 but the fact that they got those pucks to the net is a sign that good things should start happening more often (provided they keep shooting... I'll get to that).

Currently, Seattle has a shooting percentage of 8.434% which is "good" for 3rd worst in the league. Kelowna leads the league in shooting percentage at 15.717% and while I don't expect Seattle to get themselves up to 15% anytime soon I also don't expect them to shoot this poorly for the entire season.

Last season, the worst shooting team in the WHL was Lethbridge at 8.113%, so I suppose it is possible that Seattle really is "this" bad and things won't improve. If they don't... you can expect them to be near the bottom of the standings as the worst shooting teams in the league last year were Lethbridge, Kamloops, Moose Jaw and Tri-City (aka, not good company).

Seattle has to continue to get pucks to the net while they are playing 5x5 and continue to be selective on the Power Play. I know some people love to yell "shooooooooot" when teams are on the Power Play but the time to yell "shoooooooot" is actually when they are at even strength. Studies have shown (just trust me here... I'm too tired to source it) that more shots generally equal more goals and particularly at even strength.

The catch-22 is that you have a bunch of 16-20 year old boys/men who just got finished shooting the puck 38 times on net and not scoring and it would be somewhat reasonable for them to collectively be more selective with their shots. This of course... would be a mistake. Seattle is only averaging 27.8 shots on goal per game and that is after getting those 38 against Vancouver. By contrast, league average is roughly 30.8 and Medicine Hat leads the league at 35.8 shots on goal per game.

The challenge of the coaching staff (and I have to assume they are doing this) is to make sure they know that they have to keep shooting the puck and that eventually they will get some lucky bounces to go along with the quality goals that they will also score.


A comment / Question from a reader

This was just posted as a comment on another post, but I thought it was such a great question / thought, it deserved it's own place.

Montague Pei said...

It's been quiet on here for some time, so perhaps I can get a discussion going on the T-Birds. From watching the last number of games, I notice that the first line is always playing about every second shift. Not only that but because of the numerous penalties that are allocated in junior hockey, these first line guys are constantly on the power play, the penalty kill and their regular shift. Instead of playing a 4 lines rotation, they continually use those guys all the time, where at some point, they will wear down. I noticed it the last few games, where in the third period, that line was worn out so tired. Not only does this type of line change wear guys down, it also leaves them vulnerable to injury, which we cannot afford to have happen. The style of play of this team, as being directed, reminds me of the Vancouver Canucks last year under a different coach. Their first line of Sedin, the new coach had them killing penalties, the power play, blocking shots and a regular shift. What happened??? These guys had the worst year of offense in their careers and they got hurt. 

With the type of play with our first line and these guys leaving to play World Juniors, by Christmas or in January, they will be so beat up, that when the crunch comes, they are playing way below their level.

We have to start rolling all our lines. I understand that we are trying to get a build up of points early in the season, but this can all crumble later on. It's a long season, take time to develop all our young guys... Just thinking and wanting comments on this ...


A bag full of thoughts.

I have not posted lately, so here is a lot of thoughts that have been roaming through my head.

This weekends games

On Friday, I completely disagreed with coach.  He liked our play in the first two periods, I didn't.  I thought we had very little passing that was working.  We are especially afraid to take shots the were open.

On Saturday, I thought we played a very good game, just couldn't get that early goal.  And the bounces just didn't seem to go our way. 

Coach starting to get a little frustrated

In the past couple of game reports, Coach K has used some choice and carefully thought out wording to describe the officiating and the league's discipline.  I don't recall seeing or hearing him do this before.  Is this maybe his way of working the officials.  If so, it doesn't seem to be working.

2 things I think this team is missing

1) A 2nd line that can score consistently.
2) Confidence.

The power of one goal

What would one extra goal a game mean to this team.  Score one more goal turns the 1-0 Everett loss into a tie or win.  It turns a shootout loss to Spokane into a win.  It turns last nights OT loss to Kamloops into a win.  Well, that's anywhere from 4 to 5 points.  4 points would move them from a .455 winning percentage to a .636.

This is one reason why I am not worried about the team.  Youngest team in the league, in most games, only giving up 3 goals a game.  It is just like Coach K said at the beginning, this team will get better and better as the season goes on, and maybe a few of those one extra goal per game start going in.

What I am worried about

One thing I am worried about is the teams home record.  Granted, one OT loss, one SO loss, one very close loss to Kelowna, and a one goal loss to Everett.  What do all those games have in common, one goal (see above).

Of course the other thing that has to worry everyone is giving up the first goal in all but one game (I think that is the stat).  Always playing from behind is never a good thing.  But, also a positive can be taken out of it.  In most of those games, they have come back to tie or take the lead.  That is a great positive for a young inexperienced team.


This team love to pass.  I think this is one way you can tell the players are lacking some confidence.  How many times have players decided to make a risky pass when they have a great shooting chance of their own?  Of course, I would rather have this then a bunch of puck hogging "me-first" players.

I love how this team is starting to stick up for each other.  Quite a few times over the past week, players were having liberties taken against them, bad hits, scrums, and every player on the ice comes flying to to help out.  Even look at both of new defenders (can you call them new still, with all the playing time), right there in the middle of things.  Heck, even Barzal was starting to the get a little physical over this last weekend.

The new guys

Speaking of new defenders, how much locker room credit did Allan get. Get off airplane, meet with coaches, play 50% of a game.  I am sure when he heard he had been traded, that is what he predicted was going to happen.  I really like his passing.  Very hard, crisp, usually on the stick, and more times then not to the right player (making the best move).

Ottenbreit, I love the way he plays physical.  He is not afraid to step in any situation.  Another great pickup in a trade that Farwell has pulled off.

Irresponsible reporting

Take a read of this article.  Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the Wardley hit and suspension, how can anyone claim this is anything but a sensationalized piece of writing with a goal of getting a writers name out and more clicks on a webpage.

The choice of wording is questionable at best. Particularly, the last paragraph where it basically says the best thing for Petan to do is rest and make sure he is 100% fully recovered and there is no need to rush him coming back.  I guess a couple days on the bus fixes everything.

Hypothetical situation

We all know Ethan Bear is out with an upper body injury, and that he was held out of the game where it appeared he took a punch while on the ice.  He sure was bleeding heavily.  Let's just say that hypothetically, his injury actually started when he got checked from behind by Bjorkstrand the game against Portland.  I am by no way saying this is the case, as there is no way Seattle puts him back on the ice if he was hurt.  But lets say the check from behind started the injury process, then Wardley is sitting out 7 games, in part according to the WHL website as "The hit resulted in an injury to opponent".  But Bjorkstrand is playing while Bear is injured.

WHL Website

Everyone these days is ripping the new WHL website apart for having problems working, or even showing any information.  I for one am going to praise them.  In the computer development terminology, there is a term called "beta testing".  This is the process of finding bugs and issues while a product is in development. Normal companies might have 1 or 2 testers.  The WHL managed to get a few thousand of these people to work for free.  Cue the sarcasm.


During the game October 3, Seattle played in Portland, and I did not attend.  So as usually, I brought up the game on the net.  Since I dont appreciate listening to the play by play pair in Portland's side of the game, I tried to get the away audio.  But for me, there was no drop down selection ability.  I checked with three other fellow viewers, and it was all the same for them.  In the press release dated September 18th, it stated "Fans can still take advantage of the live support chat option, accessible directly from theWHL LIVE site, which instantly connects viewers to a customer support team member to resolve any issues."  So I decided to use this to find out why.  I tried 2 different times, and both times, no customer support person ever joined the chat window.  So I sent them a support email through their system, and got an email back with my ticket numebr, and a message saying would get back to me very shortly.  Funny thing happened Saturday night, October 18th.  I got the response.  It explained that they were sorry I missed the game "which I never said, and did not miss it", and that is was caused by an issue in the venue.  They have offered me a free live game.  So it took 15 days to offer me a free game, and not deal with the actual issue.  I guess nothing changes with the WHLLIVE.



Sigh. I guess people can't behave while I'm on vacation. Comment moderation turned on.


Tbirds add a Defender and the Wardley Hit

Just released, Seattle has added Scott Allan from Medicine Hat for a 5th round bantam selection. I know very little about Allan other than he is listed as being 6'5" and 235 lbs (sounds like a Farwell guy to me) and is listed as being from Colorado.

I would have to imagine this is a response to the anticipation that Evan Wardley will be suspended, Ethan Bear is injured or perhaps both.

I saw the Wardley hit over the weekend and here is my take.

In 2014, the world has been successfully conditioned to believe that everything is seen as either black or white. People seem to believe that things are either one way completely or they are the other way completely. This is quite unfortunate because I think most, if not all, things are actually colored quite gray.

To me, this is another one of those situations.

I watched the replay late that night and saw the hit, I watched the replay in slow motion probably 25 times. Portland announcers, writers and even the team itself called it a "dirty hit" while some in the Seattle fan base feel strongly it was a clean hit.

This is what I believe:

- Petan puts himself in a vulnerable position in the neutral zone in a tight space where he has to know he's going to get hit and really does nothing to protect himself from potential contact. Does this make it his fault? No. Does this mean he shares a little bit of responsibility? I say yes. Petan is already a small target at 5'9" and lowers his body position even more to receive the puck and enter the zone. This isn't his fault, I'm just stating it as a point of fact.

- Wardley has good gap, doesn't take unnecessary strides, lowers his body, keeps his skates down and his elbows tucked. All consistent with a good clean hit. Where I can see Wardley went wrong is that a split second before contact, his body position goes from a low crouch to a higher and extended position. This, in combination with Petan already being a lower target means that point of contact is going to be high.

Seattle is saying the point of contact is shoulder to shoulder or shoulder to chest whereas Portland is going to say the point of contact is the head.  I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. It looked to me like Wardley got quite a bit of body but also probably made contact above the shoulders because of the nature of Petan's position.

Do I think he'll be suspended? Yes. He's a repeat offender and the responsibility is always going to be placed on the hitter not to make contact high. Do I think it was a "dirty hit" as the Winterhawks official press release stated? No, I absolutely do not.

Wardley is trying to make a hockey play. That's his game and that's what his game should be. Portland is a finesse team and as such they believe they are should be entitled to skate around the ice without so much as a tiny bit of contact here and there. Well, it doesn't work that way. Some hockey players and teams are tough and strong and physical and their game is to make sure Nic Petan thinks twice about receiving a blind pass over the center of the ice. That. Is. Hockey. 

The NFL has a defenseless receiver rule. Hockey has no such rule. You are allowed to hit a player cleanly and legally even if he has hit head down and doesn't see you coming. I cannot tell you how many times we were told as kids to "keep your head up" at all times and be aware of your surroundings.

Wardley's hit will receive discipline and I would probably agree that it will be justified. But Portland's announcers, writers and front office should probably take a really close look in the mirror before casting casting aspersions on him. 

They should look no further than the hit delivered by Oliver Bjorkstrand to end the overtime period. Bjorkstrand's hit came well after the horn (Wardley's was during play), was delivered to an opponents back (Wardley's was not) and used the boards to inflict added harm (Wardley's did not). Both hits were delivered to opponents who were unsuspecting but Petan probably should have expected contact in the neutral zone during the middle of a play where Ethan Bear can reasonably expect not to get checked well after the horn sounds.

Portland fans, announcers and team officials will most certainly disagree but in my opinion the intent of the Bjorkstrand hit was far worse than Wardley's.

Shades of gray...


Kevin Wolf update

A tweet went out last night from Danny Mumaugh indicating that Kevin Wolf is no longer with the team.

No official word from the Thunderbirds on how this decision came about but it would seem as though perhaps Wolf got caught up in the numbers game (as we suspected) and left either on his own or was released.

With the addition of Turner Ottenbreit and the return of Evan Wardley, Seattle has 7 healthy Defenders and would have had 8 once Shea Theodore returns from injury.

Wolf never could quite get his skating up to speed and that probably hurt him in the end. He seemed like a good kid and we wish him well.


A look at older experienced scorers for the team

Everywhere you look, Seattle fans seem to think this team needs a proven top end scorer.  So I decided to take a look at the league, and what might be out there.

As you will see from the lists below, there are really only 11 players that I can see being realistic trade targets.

This is based on a few factors but for the sake of argument we're going to mostly exclude players in the same conference and players on teams we think probably won't be looking at trading skilled veterans.


To trade now or later

I am curious why everyone assumes that a trade is coming this week.  Yes, Wardley was returned back to Seattle.  Yes, Seattle now has 4 20's.  But unless Hickman is ready to come back, why make a move?  You have until October 15th, so why rush things.

I have no knowledge of how close Hickman is to returning to the lineup and the WHL weekly update has him listed him as day to day.  Maybe when it gets updated today, it will say he is back.  But I will remind people that last year, it listed Honey as day to day for periods of time also.

So what if he is NOT back this week? Why force a trade if you don't have to?  Take the extra time to make sure you have your mind made up.  Maybe spend more time deciding on a goalie.  Maybe a better offer will come along if you wait a little while longer.

Lets say you have decided on your three 20's, and Kozun is one of them.  You wait another week, and a team comes along and offers two first round picks for him (AKA Marcel Noebels).  Does something like that change your mind?

Lets say you wait a week, and play both of them this weekend, and one gets hurt?

Of course, if Hickman is ready to come back this week, then maybe this post is all for not.

Editor's Note: Adam Henry has been traded to Saskatoon for 17 year old defensemen Turner Ottenbreit.


Opposites Attract

Everyone knows that in life, opposites somehow find each other.
The first two games for Seattle fit that almost perfectly.

Here were some opposites I noticed

A win.
A loss.

A road win.
A home loss.

This one goes a little below the belt, but a championship banner raised.
No banner raised.

A great drive (or ride in my case) home.
A grumpy and terrible drive home.

Shots on net.
Shots wide of net.

Shots attempted.
Looking for the perfect shot.

Shots picking corners.
Shots hitting the center of the goalie (give him lots of credit).

A powerplay that worked.
A powerplay that struggled.

Now to be fair, here are some thoughts on what didn't change between the two nights

A very bad slow start by Seattle.
Kolesar knows how to hit and fight.
Kozun looked good.
Seattle has an energy line, and when they come out, the hit, hit, and hit.
Coach K changed the lines up in the middle of the game.
Large loud crowds.
Big 50-50 pots.

My father pointed out after the game to me, just to try and cheer me up that Seattle's goals against average is 1.0 and Seattle's goals for average is 2.0.
If you continue that the entire season, you will win every game.


Tbirds shutout in home opener, zone entries

I'm running a little short on time today but I wanted to put up some quick thoughts about last night and give everyone the zone entries.

  • Seattle started a bit flat (shocking considering the pomp and circumstance surrounding team intros) and it cost them an early goal. It was a goal that wound up being the game winner for Everett as Silvertips goaltender Carter Hart was fantastic earning the 26 save shutout.
  • While Hart was very good for Everett but I also thought Seattle put way too many shots right into his chest and at the end of the game wound up putting way too many shots wide of the net.
  • Obviously, nobody scored last night for Seattle but this was precisely my concern going into the season. There are going to be nights when the top line doesn't score and you're going to need some other guys to step forward and last night that didn't happen.
  • Taran Kozun played well again and I see no reason why he won't be the guy going forward. Hard to imagine them not keeping him around.
Zone entries. Several disclaimers here. One, we cannot possibly make any conclusions from these numbers. It is one game. This was more for my enjoyment and for fun to see what it looked like within the context of one game. Two, I'm sure I missed things. So don't assume these are 100% accurate, they aren't. Three, tracking these numbers is very subjective. For instance, Jared Hauf and Ethan Bear both took shots from around center ice that resulted in shots on goal. I think I counted the Hauf one as a dump because we had players going towards the zone and I didn't count Bear's because everyone was going for a change. These kind of judgment calls happened all game and it's pretty tough. So what I might consider a carry-in and a dump is not going to be exactly the same as other people.

With all of that out of the way... here you go.

20 Dumps
8 Possessions Gained (40%)
4 Shots (20%)

32 Carry-ins
22 Possessions Gained (68.75%)
10 Shots (31.25%)

Seattle actually carried the puck a lot more than I thought they would. That's a really good sign. They started the game dump heavy and that is when they fell behind and had only 3 or 4 shots. As the carries went up, the shots went up. However, the 31.25% shot percentage on possessions gained is way too low. Gropp, just for example, had 5 carries that only resulted in 1 shot on goal. Seattle has to find a way to get the puck to the net more. As you can see, the way to do that... is NOT to dump the puck in more. As low as I thought the "Carry Shots" were they still outpaced the number of shots on goal gained with dumps.

Barzal, not surprisingly, lead the team in carries with 8. 7 of those resulted in possession and 4 resulted in shots on goal. Pretty good on a night where he can definitely play better.


Starting the Season with a W

Seattle got exactly what they needed with a season opening win last night. It won't go down as the most impressive victory in club history, with Portland missing somewhere around 57 NHL draft picks from their lineup (is that number right?). I also don't think we can make very many assessments about the team after a win over a shorthanded Winterhawks club but it certainly isn't a bad sign. After all, Seattle is also without Justin Hickman and Shea Theodore who are obviously impact players for Seattle. In case you didn't hear the news, Seattle will be without Theodore for a while now as he suffered an elbow injury at Anaheim Ducks camp on Sunday and will be out around 4-6 weeks. He should be back around November.

I had trouble completely analyzing the game because the WHL video feed was still so choppy I thought this was 2002. Maybe my internet is just bad... I don't know.  Here were a few observations that I came up with.

  • One of my biggest concerns going into the season was team defense and that concern was shared by Jon as well. I don't think we can declare this issue dead but the team defense last night was pretty excellent. Seattle had a few bad giveaways early in the game but generally kept things pretty buttoned up after that. Taran Kozun held quite a few shots to prevent rebounds (after a few shaky early moments as well) and did exactly what you would have expected from a 20 year old goaltender.
  • I thought Ethan Bear was particularly solid. What a good hockey player he is at only 17 years old. Even when he made minor mistakes it seemed like he quickly covered them up. The sky is the limit for him and someone is going to get a really good player in the NHL draft this year. He may not have the high upside of a guy like Theodore or Mathew Dumba but I'm going to be very surprised if he doesn't carve out a nice NHL career.
  • Keegan Kolesar nearly won a foot race to a puck with Keoni Texeira when he started the race behind him. We've heard (and seen) that Kolesar's fitness and skating had improved but it was one of those moments where I said to myself "whoa". He also scored earlier in the game on a nice deflection in front of the net. If Seattle is going to prove me wrong and make it to the #4 (or higher) seed for the playoffs, guys like Kolesar will have to play like this on most nights.
  • I liked what I saw from Alex True and Florian Baltram. Baltram even played with the Barzal/Gropp line for a while.
  • Nice to see Seattle mix it up a little bit with Portland. For several years now that has not been Portland's calling card and it seems like whenever Seattle can get Portland to mix it up a little bit the results favor Seattle. When Portland stays out of the scrums, they've generally won. Jared Hauf got things started early with Alex Schoenborn and kept things feisty through the "multiple fight situation" in the 2nd.
  • Ryan Gropp, 1 game, 2 goals. Maybe 35 goals was too conservative. I hope he pots 40.
  • Mathew Barzal, 1 game, 2 assists. Ho Hum.
Everett is not missing nearly as many players as Portland is, so I expect this game to give us a little better indication of where things stand. Preseason games really don't matter very much but Seattle has to be feeling a little bit stung by losing back to back games to Everett to end the preseason.

I will be attending a rare game without kids tonight so I'm actually going to try to track some entry stats. Don't expect that to be a regular thing (unfortunately) but we'll see what it looks like.


Jon and Tyler Predict The Future, Part 2


I really hope they don’t make a decision on someone like Kozun based on a few exhibition games and a small handful of regular season games. I will ask you, what seems more indicative of his talent level? The .934 he posted in 10 games in January last year? The .928 he posted in 24 games with Seattle? Or a few exhibition games in August/September? I’m hoping the bigger sample size wins out but you never know. In fairness, he did post a .897 in 29 games with Kamloops but he posted a .914 in in 20 games with Kamloops the year before.  

With that being said I think they keep Kozun to stabilize the defensive core, I think they keep Wardley (assuming he doesn't sign a contract) because his skill set is more difficult to replace and I think Hickman stays because he’s your Captain and forms a really good line with Barzal and Gropp when healthy.

You mentioned Coach K’s “system”… I think I’m generally a pretty knowledgeable hockey fan but I admit that I still have so much to learn. One thing I can’t quite figure out is what kind of style of play Coach K is really trying to establish with the players. That’s not to say that I think anything he is doing is wrong, it’s clear that he values hard work, get pucks to the net, etc. Those things are pretty obvious. To me, style goes well beyond the obvious things, it moves into more complex ideas such as, do they want to trap in the neutral zone? Do they want to chip and forecheck in the corners? Do they want to keep and carry the puck into the offensive zone? Do they hang back and take care of defense first or do they play a wide open style?  If you were to ask me to describe the Steve Konowalchuk Thunderbirds, I’m not sure I could describe any kind of calling card. So educate me Jon (I smirked writing that), tell me what the identity (playing style) of the Coach K Thunderbirds is?


Jon and Tyler Predict The Future, Part 1

As we do every year (and every week day) Jon and I started discussing the upcoming season and in this post we let you drop in on the conversation.


Jon, let's kick off our annual prediction post by having me state that I think this team is ripe for disappointment this year. I know that's going to be a bit of an unpopular stance but the team is very young up front and I just don't see enough scoring depth to enable this team to take a really big step forward. The defense and goaltending should be a strong point but I don't think they will lead the league in defense (or be top 5) and that is a recipe for some very uneven performances.  Tell me why I'm wrong (or right)?


You have a very valid argument.  But, I will start out by asking, what would you consider a disappointment?  Is it not winning the WHL? Not making it to the Western conference final, etc? Just about every prognosticator (took me 5 minutes to come up with the correct spelling of that word) out there has Seattle picked for 2nd place in the division, and making into the second round of the conference playoffs.  They say Seattle will be well behind Portland, and far enough ahead of Everett and Tri. So does that mean not obtaining those results is disappointing, I would say yes it would be. 

But if they do obtain those goals, could it still be disappointing? I would say yes to that also.  Last year they won 41 games.  Let's say they win 45 games this season, and have enough points to finish in the top 4 of the conference, but they do it by allowing close to the 249 goals they gave up last season.  To me, that would be a HUGE disappointment for a team people are saying is one of the best defensive teams.  Let's say the same result, except they win a ton of games 2-1, giving up 200 goals, but finish with 200 goals scored, down from the 238 they scored last year.  Is that a disappointment? Well, probably not.

So to answer your question, do I think this team is ripe for disappointment, I say it all depends on what your expectations are going in.  I agree with all the people picking us for a top 4 finish, and getting the goals against down (249 last year, .5 goal per game better, totaling  213), but with the scoring down also (238 last season, down .5 goals a game, totaling 232).  These numbers were almost exactly what Everett had last season, and we know that was good for a tie with us for 2nd in the division.

So what are your expectations that make you think Seattle is ready to disappoint?


Wash, Rinse, Repeat

It is only preseason, or so I keep telling myself that over and over.

Same game, different night.
Well, not quite the same, but the basic formula was the same.

Seattle had a really bad slow start, and it showed.
Seattle got lucky when Elder went off for high sticking a minute and a half after Everett got it's second goal.  I thought for sure they would get a third and basically wrap the game up right there.

It is only preseason, or so I keep telling myself that over and over.

If I have my numbers correct, Everett got it's 3rd shot of the game right after their 2nd goal around the 6:15 mark of the first.  Their 4th shot game at the 19:00 mark of the first.  So they went 13 minutes of playing time between shots.
Seattle just controlled play the entire rest of the period.
The 2nd period was much the same.  Everett had 10 shots, and 7 of them came in a 2 minute window half way through the period.

It is only preseason, or so I keep telling myself that over and over.

Now, here was the difference from Friday night.
Seattle was back to shooting the puck wide of the net, and also afraid to take shots.
More then once, a Seattle player found themselves in the slot with a shot, but instead tried to make a pass.  Or they just plain held the puck too long, and the chance went away.
The 3rd period was also a little from the previous night.  Everett didn't dominate play as much, but instead, they just gave Seattle no chances.  Only 2 shots the entire 3rd period, and those came in the last 5 minutes.

It is only preseason, or so I keep telling myself that over and over.

As the previous night, the lines were changed again.  But Saturday, I actually thought they started to play better then the previous night.

I thought Flodell looked very good, and was beat by very nice deflections on two of the goals, and was left out to dry on the giveaway behind the net.  The only goal I really fault him on was the empty net goal, I mean come on, he was so far out of position sitting on the bench.

As has been pointed out in the write up's by Andy Eide, Nolan Volcan had a great night.
But the one player I thought had the best night and I have not seen it mentioned was Nick Holowko. He hit everything that moved when he had the chance, went very hard after the puck when he was on the ice, and played smart in his own zone.  He got his name on the score sheet with two checking from behind penalties.  One was a good call, the other somewhat questionable to me.

After this post, it is not preseason any longer, so I can't use that line any longer.


Another 4-1 loss to Everett

The first thing I have to remind myself was that this was a preseason game.

A game to try out things, see what works and what doesn't.
And a lot of things did work, and a lot of things didn't work.
So I am going to approach this as if was a regular season game, just for the practice.

I really liked Seattle's first two periods.  Especially the first.  They controlled play, sometimes in dominating fashion.  My only problem with it was that although they did get off 20 shots, I didn't think very many were quality shots.  But I also give Everett some credit there, for bending, but not breaking (for a football term).

One major breakdown in front of the net where Seattle couldn't clear the puck, and it ends up in the net.  On Everett's 2nd goal, the puck pin-balled around, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not, and ended up in the back of the net.  Everett's 3rd goal was from an amazingly tight angle.  I was at that end, and everyone around me thought it deflected off of Smith's stick, but no one in the press is saying it did, so maybe we are wrong (no jokes here please).

The 3rd period was when Seattle really needed to put on the pressure, and instead, it was all Everett. Everett held the puck and controlled the play much the way Seattle did in the 1st.  It took a lot of effort for Seattle to clear the puck, then make a change before the next wave of Tips brought it in.  It looked as though Portland was playing Seattle with nice passes, winning battles, etc.

At the end of the game trailing 4-1, Seattle did get a chance to practice with the extra attacker. Danny Mamaugh was pulled with a minute and a half to go in the game, but Seattle couldn't really get setup to do much.

The highlight of the night for me was watching Jared Hauf drop the gloves with Zane Jones after a scrum in front of the net.  The way Hauf was playing all night, he was looking for this type of play.  He was hitting everything in sight during the game.  And the fight just continued the hitting, as he seemed to use Jones as a bobble head.  Jones did get a couple in to make the fight closer to even, but a clear win for Hauf.

One other positive I took out of the game was the power-play.  When Seattle was able to gain control, I thought they moved the puck around well, and did get some good quality scoring chances.  They used the point players well, and for the most part, the passes were stick to stick.

The last positive was that I don't recall Seattle shooting the puck wide very often.  I sometimes joke that Seattle is the best at the league about missing the net, but tonight, it just didn't seem to happen very much.

Now on to the part of the game that just killed me watching (and the part where I have to remind myself that it was only preseason).

The lines were all mixed up, and changed somewhat throughout the night.  Partly because of special teams times, and part just to mix things up, but it just seemed like guys were not working well or getting in a groove with each other.  In reading some of the quotes from Andy Eide's article on the game, Coach wanted to remind Barzal and Gropp that things change, and that " (they) sometimes think it's going to come easy if they're together".  So he had them on two different lines.  Coach followed that quote up with "I liked both their games today".  I did not.  I thought they played well doing what they do, but I didn't think they meshed with their line-mates very well.  Maybe more practice with it, maybe with more time it would work, but I personally didn't think it worked well.  But, I do keep telling myself that a player must be able to play with different people, in different situations, and that it is only preseason.

It will be interesting to see how the team reacts tonight in the final tune up for next weekends games, especially knowing that they play this same Everett team in the home opener.


Some info to fill your week before the big weekend

Here is some interesting reading info to fill up your time until this weekend's preseason games.
I will be at both games, and as usual, will have my thoughts posted, probably on Sunday.
I hope to see a lot of you there Saturday night.

The first thing caught me completely off guard this morning.

It is a story about how the state of Washington is investigating the WHL teams to gain an understanding of the working conditions for the players.  This has gone as far as the attorney general, who is working on a legal opinion.

Second reading is a list of the top 40 NHL draft eligible players according to TSN's Director of Scouting Craig Button .  

The usual 3 are listed, Barzal, Gropp, and Bear.  Interesting to see Gropp lower then Bear, which is usually not the case.

Third reading is a complete joke.

It is the BMO top 10 rankings.  And Seattle gets an honorable mention.

Lastly, if you want to compare WHL teams.

Alan Caldwell has his amazing list of teams and what players they have left in camp.
What the list shows is the average age of each team and their average height and weight.
If you take a look, you might get a little bit scared about Seattle's situation.
Seattle is listed as one of the youngest team, and still have 5 20's.
To get further scared, if you look at the actual spreadsheet he has listed also, you will find that Seattle has the fewest number of games played for forwards.  And it is not close.

But there is a big change since the last couple of years.  Seattle comes in the middle of the pack for height and weight.  In previous years, Seattle was the tallest, and usually near the top of weight.


What I learned this weekend in Everett

Here is a list of what I learned from watching 8 hockey games in one weekend between 6 teams

  • Evan Wardley has one mission right now, and that is hitting everyone that comes near him as hard as he can. Really, really hard. 
  • Jared Hauf is being just like Wardley, and throwing his size around. 
  • Seattle still has an issue at goaltending and which two they will keep.  All three looked good this weekend, with of course Flodell stealing the show with Sunday's performance. 
  • Luke Osterman is a little antagonizer in a big frame. 
  • Nick Holowko showed why he really wants to make this team. 
  • The same can be said for Lane Pederson. 
  • Shea Theodore is averaging 2 points per game.  That puts him on pace for 144 on the season.
  • Alexander True left the team, but TRUE to his word, he came back. 
  • Man can Florian Baltram skate well
    • On the rosters they handed out, Baltram was listed as being from Vienna AUS.  I had to idea we had a player from Australia. 
  • Taran Kozun only got to suit up in one game.  I guess being 20 and taking up a valuable game sheet roster spot if dressing has its advantages. 
  • Giving up 10 powerplays in one game is not good. 
    • Only allowing 1 goal in the 10 is not bad. 
  • A note to Seattle shooters, the idea is to put the black puck in the net when you shoot, not wide, not over the top, but inside the net. 
  • EVERY Seattle player was either even or plus on the +/- side of the scoresheet. 
Some non Seattle observations

  • Victoria has a lot of players that are under 6 feet tall (shortest was 5'6), but they hustle like crazy and can really skate. 
  • Oliver Bjorkstrand is one damn good player.  If he is not the best pure offensive player in the WHL this season, then whomever is better is a really damn good player. 
  • Everett still has the worst goal judges in the league.
    • Note to the goal judges, the puck must go across that little red line in front of you in order to turn on the flashy light, not wide, not in front, but behind. 
    • Note number two, a shot on net is only counted when the puck would go across said line in note number one, but someone stopped it from crossing. 
  • If you can believe it, the off ice officials in Everett are even worse. 
  • The WHL still doesn't know how to schedule officials.  How does every game of the 9 have 2 officials, except the last game. 
  • Brooklyn Bros. Pizzeria still has amazing pizza, but their service still sucks. 
  • The price of beer at a hockey game is way to high. 
  • Spokane's Tamas Laday is listed at 6'6, and that is tall.  Everyone was going after him to see just how tough that size is. 
  • Don Nachbaur is still the best dressed coach in the WHL. 
  • Wearing your mouthguard is a very important rule now. 
    • Having your mouthguard fall out, and keep playing is ok. 
  • Doing a dry cut on the ice between regulation and OT is......whats the words I am looking for.......STUPID, BORING, MOMENTUM BREAKING, EXCITEMENT DOWNER, and most of all USELESS. 


Blue/White/Camp Thoughts

"Training Camp" wrapped up Monday with the annual Blue/White scrimmage where Team White took down Team Blue 4-2. It's always exciting to see some hockey again but I also think fans and bloggers alike tend to get a little too worked up over a few scrimmage sets. The fact is, these kids are only showing what they have over a very small set of days and I would hate to think that decisions of any large scale magnitude are being made based on a few days over, say, an entire season(s) worth of a players history.

That said... here are a few thoughts I had from watching the Blue/White game and one of the scrimmages.


Thoughts on Schuldhaus and Wolf

If you've followed on twitter or talked to most of the people that have been to the scrimmages and main camp and you bring up the name Brandon Schuldhaus, you get an answer that might go something like "Wow, that kid sure has looked impressive.  I would keep him on my team for sure, possibly even replacing a couple veteran players we have"

But lets look at the options he has for the upcoming, and look at it from his side of things.  I think he has two options (or more, who knows).

Option 1:
Play in Seattle as the #6-7-8 defender, sit half the games, and get some ice time in the others, probably not play on PP or PK, and learn the ropes.

Option 2:
Last season he played for Shattuck Saint Mary's prep academy.  It is arguable one of the top 5 prep schools for hockey in the world.  Its alumni include the likes of Crosby, Toews, Kessel, etc.  Not only is it a great hockey school, it is also a very good educational school.  The team plays roughly 50 games a season, and Schuldhaus would most likely be a #1-2 defender, and play on the PK and PP.

So which would you choose as the player or the players family?

As bad as this sounds being a Seattle fan, I know my choice would be to go back to Shattuck for another year, work hard, get better at all aspects of the game, and come back to Seattle as a 17 year old and look to become a #4-5-6 player that plays every game.  This is why I feel he will not be on the team this season.

If the situation was a little different, and Schuldhaus was looking at going back to Midget and his team played 30 games against lower talent, my answer would be totally different, but it is not.

The next player that seem to be in people's discussion list is Kevin Wolf".  He is the player that most fans think is competing with Schuldhaus for a defensive spot.  So if you tell them that Schuldhaus is not on the team, they say, well then Wolf can be.  He can play half the games, sit out the rest, be ready in case of an injury, and when that happens, become the #6 defender, play a little, and that is all.

So I ask all those fans to look at it from Wolf's side of things and would you be happy with that situation.  I will remind you that is the situation he did as a 16 and 17 year old.  So the answer is of course "No way would I do that again if I was him", which usually leads to silence while they try to figure out where to go next.

So all of a sudden, if you look at the situations from the players side of things, you now have two players that are not playing on the team, and one open spot.

Do I have an answer for who will fill in the spot.  Well, no, not really, but I do have an idea.  This is going to sound really odd and almost counter intuitive.  Everyone knows Seattle is deep of defense, and needs some offense, but why not trade Wolf to a team that is not deep on defensive, needs an 18 year old, and in return, take a younger 16 year old defender that is willing to fit the role of learning this season.

Don't be surprised if you see neither Schuldhaus nor Wolf on the roster this season.

Training Camp Report

I'm going to withhold some bigger comments until after the Blue-White scrimmage tonight but I did attend the morning session on Sunday and while it is quite exciting to watch hockey again I didn't really notice anything earth shattering. Barzal, Gropp and Hickman are good... etc.

After the scrimmage tonight we'll have a clearer picture about who is in the mix but I still expect at least one and perhaps two trades in the next couple of weeks.


My thoughts on the 1st two days of scrimmages and rebuttal of 15's

I thought I would start this off with my rebuttal to Tyler's post on the 15's

Oddly enough, this wont appear like much of the other side of an argument, as I agree with what Tyler says.
First off, you hear the hype about drafted players, and you want to see if they stand out above all the ones in their age group.  You know that late round draft players that are big wildcards.  Are they really a wildcard, or did they not even show up at all? There are always undrafted players that take things by surprise.

But the biggest reason I love it is that it is KIDS, trying out.  Kids giving 120% of what they have.  Leaving everything on the ice, trying for a dream.  That is not to say that the older players don't do this, but by the time the veterans roll in, the roster is almost set, and they are having fun going through the motions of proving they have the talent to stay.  But the 15's don't have that ability.  Look bad or lazy in front of every scout we have, every coach we have, and everyone will remember it.  The same can be said about looking good.

As Tyler put it, this doesn't mean the dream is over or that their chances are gone, etc.  But of the 32 kids born in 1999 at camp, maybe 4 or 5 will play in the WHL.  For the rest, they can be proud of the fact they got to tryout, and use it as motivation for the future.

The one thing I want make perfectly clear, Every player out there and every parent of those players should feel so proud they got the chance to tryout at this high of level.  Everyone of them has the ability to play at the level, there may just be a couple more players with more ability.  I would not be ashamed for anything that happens.  UNLESS, you don't leave it all on the ice.

So now that is over, on to what I thought about the 3 scrimmages I have watched.

To me, there are 4 players that stand out head and shoulders above all the others.  And I am talking about talent, and not how tall they are.  And not to anyone surprises, they are all 16's.  I would keep all 4 on the team (assuming they are committed to the WHL), but I am guessing they only keep 3 (and those three are already signed (Volcan, Elder, and Khaira).  Schuldhaus is the one that really impressed me and kind of came out of no where (being a 5th round pick).

The other 16's appeared to each be just one step below those four.

Now the 15's that I talked so much about above.  I think I have a different opinion on them that others do. Each year, 3 or 4 stand out.  Two for the reason of being better then the rest, and two for being noticed because of their mistakes.  This year, each scrimmage I walked away very confused, because no one stood out very much to me.  Now some people will say "Yikes, that cant be good", but I think of it more as a GREAT sign.  No one stood out because they all had very good shifts and a couple bad shifts.  For every very good forward, there was a very good defender to counter that.  Colin Alexander (Director of player personal, I think is his title) did a very good job of distributing the teams.  I will also say the goalies all had flashes of greatness.

These scrimmages are mostly where you see the individual talent come out, because the players for the most part don't know each other.  They do not know where their line mates will go.  No chemistry.  Not a ton of flow.  So you really notice a play where the forward goes through three players and puts a shot in the top corner.  But you also notice the three players that let that happen.  And this year, those types of plays were few.  It can be frustrating watching a forward bring the puck off the boards and attacking the net, instead of passing to the wide open defender at the point for the shot.  Just as it is frustrating watching a 2 on 1 where the player with the puck always shoots.  But that is what also brings players out and gets them noticed, is making everyone around them better by making that pass, giving up your great chance for someone else to have a better chance.  Basically, being a team player not really knowing your teammates.

The hitting and physical play picked up in each session along with the pace.  You could tell players started relaxing and starting to work together more.  More players started not liking each other, taking late shots, big hits, going back at each other.  Again, it is the players giving their 120% that makes it better and better.  Some players that had better games in scrimmage yesterday had no so great games today, and the opposite true.

To end it all, HOCKEY IS BACK, and that is the best thing of all.

Veterans and older players practice

After the morning skate Friday, the older players that will join camp on Saturday got to visit the ice for a little workout.  And by little workout, I mean true training camp.  There were 6 stations set up, and the players were divided up into 3 or 4 players per group.

The really cool thing for me is that the drills they were doing, all but one of the stations work for any age group of players.  And even the one that worked on skating could easily be adapted to work down to the youngest of beginners.

I have embedded YouTube videos's of each station for your viewing pleasure.

Why I don't care about 15 year olds

Jon is going to counter point this later today but since I'm here stuck at work and he gets to watch hockey I get to fire the first shot on this debate.

I don't care what the 15 year old's look like in camp. Why?

Raise your hand if you thought Brenden Dillion was going to play in the NHL when he was a 15 year old?

I'll wait.

Now... Raise your hand if you thought Erik Fleming looked great as a 15 year old? Connor Sanvido? Steve Chaffin? How about Cody Hanson?

I admit that I'm taking extremely unfair shots at these 4 guys right now and I feel bad about that but my point is that we've seen plenty of 15 year old players who looked good and didn't pan out and we've seen 15 year old players that came out of nowhere to become good players and some that looked good immediately and also become good players.

15 year old players don't really concern me because the amount of physical and mental development that can happen between 15 and 17 (much less 15 and 19) is enormous. Players who are small now might grow and players who were big for their age group as a 15 year old might have already reached their peak size.

We. Just. Don't. Know.

And that's why I'm much more interested to see how the 16 year old players look because not only are they one year closer to their actual development but they (obviously) also have the actual ability to potentially contribute to the team this year.

Getting excited about a 15 year old player is fun... but I just don't think it means very much at this point.



On the day that training camp opens, let's take a look at what the roster might look like from my eyes.

The usual disclaimer applies... the reason why this is called "Rosterbation" is because it might be a fun exercise to do but it really doesn't get you anywhere and it is ultimately unsatisfying. Things are bound to change a lot before opening night, there are always a few camp surprises and I can guarantee you there will be another couple of trades made before the start of the season.

Without further ado and bad metaphors... let's start with the 20 year old situation.

Last week, General Manager Russ Farwell took a muddy situation and turned it into mere murky waters by trading Jaimen Yakubowski to Moose Jaw in exchange for a 3rd round pick.  We also sent a 7th round pick as part of the deal but I really don't care about that. This felt like really good value to me. Yak was a nice player who added some toughness, defense and accountability to the group but with the number of returning candidates for the 3 O/A spots I think it was going to be an uphill climb for him to make the team.  Do I think this makes the trade last year for Yak and Sam McKechnie a bust? No, I don't. Riley Sheen was going to be in the same situation as both Yak and Mac and losing Carter Folk seems appropriate for the chance to get better overall (and I think you did).  Trading Yak to get back the 3rd you gave up in the deal means it was essentially Carter Folk for MacKechnie and if you wind up either keeping Mac or trading him for a pick to replace Folk the deal seems quite reasonable.

Mac and Yak didn't quite give Seattle the offense they might have thought they were getting but they formed a stout shut down defensive line that logged some pretty important minutes down the stretch.

So who does that leave. Russell Maxwell has elected to forego his final WHL season. Alexander Delnov and Roberts Lipsbergs were not going to be coming back and Seattle has replaced them with two new Import players. Branden Troock signed a contract and won't be back. That leaves us with Taran Kozun, Justin Hickman, Evan Wardley, Adam Henry, Connor Honey and McKechnie.

Who stays? I'm betting on Kozun, Hickman and Wardley. Here is why.

Kozun played lights out after coming over from Kamloops in a mid-season trade and even though Seattle's defense should be improved it will also most likely be the featured strength of the team. Seattle's offense will be much younger up front and a 20 year old goaltender would likely form the best defensive core Seattle has seen in several years. Farwell loves to have veteran goaltenders and the combination of his age, experience and play last year justifies giving him a spot. I don't think being a camp counselor at Tbirds hockey camp is a sign that he is assured a spot but I do think it is an indication of where they are leaning.

Justin Hickman was Seattle's Captain last year and most teams don't willingly cast aside their Captain. I'm not saying that it never happens but I'm very doubtful that Hickman won't have a spot on this team. He is known for being a hard worker and a popular figure in the locker room. I'm more sure of this pick than Kozun.

I think they keep one experienced defender around and I think that man is Evan Wardley. Am I sure of this? Not a chance. I think the situation with the 3rd spot is very fluid and could change depending on how things shake out this weekend. Wardley and Adam Henry play the same position but they bring very different things to the table. Wardley destroys things on skates and Henry prefers to do more of his work with a puck. Henry's skill set is one that I think Seattle can replace with their other defenders while I don't believe that anyone in the rest of the defensive unit can replace the physicality that Wardley brings to the table.

Connor Honey.  I don't have any knowledge about the health of Connor Honey. I hope he is healthy and I think even if he is I wouldn't put him on this team. To me, it's too much of a risk when a guy has been out for the amount of time that he has. O/A spots are tough to fill and would present a problem should he go down to injury again. If he's healthy and Seattle is in a gambling mood... I could certainly see a scenario where they might go Kozun, Hickman and Honey to solidify the front lines. In that scenario I think Seattle could probably still get trade value for both Wardley and Henry and they would probably do that.

Sam McKechnie also has a very real chance to make the team and that will become a little more obvious after I break down the numbers... so let's get to it.

Assuming my first scenario of Kozun, Hickman and Wardley/Henry here is what the rest of the roster looks like.

Justin Hickman (20)
Sam McKechnie/Connor Honey (20)
Forward Spot (19)
Ryan Gropp (18)
Calvin Spencer (18)
Scott Eansor (18)
Mathew Barzal (17)
Lane Pederson (17)
Keegan Kolesar (17)
Alexander True (17)
Florian Baltram (17)*
Luke Osterman? (17) Per Andy Eide Tweet
Nolan Volcan (16)
Kaden Elder (16)
Forward Spot (16)

Others who could be in the mix dependent on being at camp: Latrell Charleson (19), Ashton Clark (18), Michael Sauer (18), Donovan Nuels (17) and Nick Holowko (17)

*Baltram was said to be reporting to the team but as of this moment I don't see a transaction confirming this. I *think* he is going to be here.

Evan Wardley/Adam Henry (20)
Shea Theodore (19)
Jerret Smith (19)
Jared Hauf (19)
Kevin Wolf (18)*
Ethan Bear (17)
Luke Osterman (17)*
Sahvan Khaira (16)

*I'm not sure Kevin Wolf is a lock to make the team but depth would dictate that he has a very good chance to make it if he plays well. Luke Osterman has not signed yet and I'm assuming he will be at camp. He'll have a pretty good shot to make it if he signs.

Taran Kozun (20)
Danny Mumaugh (18)
Logan Flodell (17)

As you can quite clearly see, under the first scenario Seattle carries only 12 forwards for sure (hint... that isn't enough) and upwards to 8 defenders (hint... that's probably too many) and 3 goaltenders (hint... you don't really *need* 3 goaltenders).

This opens the door to a number of scenarios where the team may take a chance on Connor Honey being healthy or they keep a guy like Sam McKechnie.  I also think there is a strong possibility that we will see one of the goaltenders traded for a forward. If I had a choice, I probably move Danny Mumaugh for a 19 year old forward (or any forward) not because I don't like Mumaugh but I think you'd get a little more value out of a goaltender who has already proved he can play in the WHL and also sets things up a little better for Flodell to be an understudy to Kozun this season and be ready to take over in his 18 year old year. Mumaugh would also probably welcome a trade if it was to a team that would give him a chance to be their #1 goaltender.

The other thing you'll notice here is just how many spots are truly up for grabs. If Seattle chooses to go with Mac or Honey instead of a 20 year old defender that opens up at least one other spot on defense (possibly two). If Seattle chooses to go with Wardley/Henry on defense that probably opens a spot in the forwards for either another 16 year old forward or a player they bring in via trade (which I think is much more likely).

I think we will see Farwell go out and grab another body on either Forward or Defense as I think they would probably prefer not to carry more than three 16 year old's if they could help it.

As I said when I started this, the situation is very fluid and I think the only thing we know is that this roster won't really be confirmed for us until they hit the ice opening night.


Why we should have seen this trade coming

Here is a list of trades the last three seasons Russ has made in the first two weeks of August.
So why change anything.  Add one more to the list of early August moves.

08/15/13 Taylor Green to Brandon for a 5th Rnd '14 cond
08/01/13 Connor Sanvido and Andrew Johnson to Swift Current for a 4th Rnd '14  

08/03/12 Colin Jacobs to Prince Geroge for Jesse Forsberg, a 5th Rnd '13, and a 7th Rnd '13
08/29/12 Chance Lund to Swift Current for a 6th Rnd '13

08/11/11 Kyle Verdino from Swift Current for a 5th Rnd '13 (cond.)

Perhaps a coincidence but it seems as though Russ likes to make his 20 y/o deals in the month of August.

Players report in one week (Happy happy, joy joy)

Or less depending on when you are reading this.  August 20th is approaching fast.

But for me, the 21st can't get here soon enough.  As Some of you my remember from last season, the first day of training camp is one of my top days of the year.  It is a day I mark on my calendar and look forward to for a couple months.  It is a day I take off from work to go see friends, players, parents, fellow fans, but most of all, the future.

From the training camp schedule, I should be at both sessions on the 21st, the afternoon session on the 22nd.  The 23rd, that one becomes difficult because it is my oldest son's birthdays.  Usually I find a way of attending the scrimmages, and then taking him out to the family fun center in Kent for lots of arcade game playing.  I will probably only attend one of the scrimmages on the 24th. And Monday the 25th, I will be there for sure.

This season, since one of my best friends son was drafted by the Silvertips, I am going to try and attend one of their scrimmages, so I can watch a kid I held as a baby try out.  So that may effect my schedule somewhat.

Since everyone knows I love to talk and talk and talk about this stuff, please leave in the comments section anything you would like me to talk about.


Follow up to Tyler's Prospects Breakdown

Tyler mentioned something in his post that I wanted to add a little knowledge to (or at least attempt to).

On Alan's website, if you count, you should come up with 48 or 49 player names.  Why is this not 50 names for 50 players.

From what I know, there are actually 4 lists that WHL teams use.

  • The active list - 50 slots available, used for all active roster players and prospects
  • The college list - number of slots available unconfirmed, used for players that were on the active list, but have committed to a college
  • The 20 year old list - this list is used after the season ends, and is where 19 year olds get moved to so that teams have free space on their active list for the draft.  Any 20 year olds playing on the team during the season must appear on the active list.
  • The suspended or long term injure list - I have heard of a list like this where you can put players that don't report to camp, leave the team, or otherwise are hurt. (obviously also unconfirmed)
The bottom 3 lists are used so that you can retain the rights to the players, without them actually playing for you.  For example, if you have devoted time and energy into recruiting a player, and they decide to go the college route, another team can not come in a list the player and have them come play.

The 20 year old list is interesting because teams will leave players that are playing in the NHL or it's farm team, just in case they get assigned back to the WHL team.

With the college list, I like the idea that a player has to be on the active list for a certain period of time before they can be moved to the college list.  Otherwise teams would just list every college player out there in case they could get one.

So based on Alan's list, and our roster to end the season, I think this is how it looks

50 man list

Vaughan Ahrens
Trevor Ayre
Colin Baird
Florian Baltram
Hunter Bancroft
Mathew Barzal
Ethan Bear
Wyatt Bear
Ian Briscoe
Latrell Charleson
Ashton Clark
Cam Coutre
Scott Eansor
Kaden Elder
Dante Fabbro
Logan Flodell
Ryan Gilchrist
Tyler Graber
Caleb Griffin
Ryan Gropp
Reece Harsch
Jared Hauf
Nick Holowko
Spencer Hunter
Sahvan Khaira
Keegan Kolesar
Luke LaMaster
Jason Mailhiot
Nick Mantai
Danny Mumaugh
Donovan Neuls
Luke Ormsby
Luke Osterman
Lane Pederson
Reg Pohl
Michael Sauer
Brandon Schuldhaus
Baker Shore
Jerret Smith
Calvin Spencer
Shea Theodore
Colton Thomas
Alexander True
Jarret Tyszka
Nolan Volcan
Matthew Wedman
MacKenzie Wight
Jagger Williamson
Kevin Wolf

20 year old list

Alexander Delnov
Adam Henry
Justin Hickman
Connor Honey
Taran Kozun
Roberts Lipsbergs
Russell Maxwell
Sam McKechnie
Gavin Stoick
Branden Troock
Evan Wardley
Jaimen Yakubowski

College list

Brock Boeser
Michael Brodzinski (He may be on the 50 still, since he was listed this last spring)
Evan Cowley
Ryan Edquist
Dylan Gambrell
Shane Gersich
Alexander Kerfoot
Matt Kiersted
Avery Peterson
Andrew Taverner
Justin Woods

Training Camp info

I saw someone ask about training camp, and when things might happen.

If Seattle is like Everett, players will report on the 20th, and the first on ice day will be the 21st.

This, of course, is only speculation at this point but camp usually happens around that time. The team generally puts out a camp schedule and I would imagine that will come out any day now.


Seattle's 2014-15 Prospects Breakdown

Yesterday, Alan Caldwell over at Small Thoughts At Large released his annual listing of the players that Seattle has on their list that did not appear (in very many games) with the team last season.

I have no idea how Alan gets these lists compiled but they are pure gold and he's greatly appreciated for his work.

I put all the players into an excel database (because that's the kind of nerd you know and love me to be) and have a few breakdown thoughts for you.

Seattle still has two 20 year old players listed.

One is Alexander Kerfoot, who at one point was rumored to be interested in coming to Seattle but ultimately did not. If my memory serves, I believe he even camp to camp or rookie camp as a 15 or 16. He is playing for Harvard and had 14 points in 25 games last year. My understanding is that there is a college list that is not part of the 50 man list and that is probably why we still have him listed.

Seattle also listed Gavin Stoick back in the fall of 2010 and he has remained on the list here as a 20 year old. Stoick played one year at Cornell and then left and played last season in the USHL with the Green Bay Gamblers. I'm not sure whether he would also fall on the college list since he is technically no longer at college. He's a classic Farwell player at 6'4" and 216. Stoick is also listed as being from Portland, OR in HockeyDB.

There are five 19 year old players.

Andrew Taverner is committed to Quinnipiac.
Avery Peterson is committed to Nebraska-Omaha.
Evan Cowley is the Goaltender (Florida Panthers draftee) who went to Denver last year who I thought we might have an outside shot at but he played very well in 5 games for the Pioneers and I would imagine that ship has sailed.
Michael Brodzinski is a recently listed played who played at Minnesota last year. He could be a name to watch for as he played in 26 games and tallied 13 points for the Gophers last year. He is a draft pick of the Sharks.
Latrell Charleson is a big defenceman who was just listed this spring. Listed at 6'4" and 230 and played Junior A in Battleford last year. Probably a long shot but looks like a fighter type. It will be interesting to see if he comes to camp.

There are four 18 year old players.

Dylan Gambrell is one of them and boy it sure would be nice to see Gambrell come to Seattle. He is slated to attend Denver in the fall.
Ashton Clark, Michael Sauer and Shane Gersich aren't newly listed players.  Gersich is committed to North Dakota and Sauer has already signed a WHL contract. Someone made a comment that he had previously signed with the Americans but has yet to play a WHL game. I would think you would probably see him in camp.

The 17s are of course led by 4 players Seattle has drafted, Logan Flodell, Lane Pederson, Donovan Nuels and Luke Osterman. The first 3 have all signed agreements and would make them strong candidates for the roster this year (goaltender situation acknowledged). Osterman is the wildcard here as he looked great in camp last year but with a lot of D players already in the fold and without a signed contract yet he may want to be assured of playing time before he comes to Seattle officially.

The two recently drafted imports, Alexander True and Florian Baltram are also on the list here as well as 3 listed players.

The newest is Goaltender Vaughan Ahrens out of Minnesota. His numbers were excellent for Wayzata High School last year and he is slated to play for the Minnesota Magicians of the NAHL. He'd be a long shot to make the team. Brock Boeser was listed last fall and is a commit to Wisconsin.

Nick Holowko was in camp last year and we'll have to see if he is in camp again this year. I would have to imagine he'd be a long shot to make the club as well.

The 16's are filled with draft picks, as you would imagine. 8 of them in total. Elder, Volcan and Khaira are on board and the big one Fabbro is not.

Listed players include the recently listed Tyler Graber who is from Red Deer. Players listed last fall include Jason Mailhiot and Ryan Gilchrist who we saw in camp as well as Matt Kiersted (committed to North Dakota) and another goaltender in Ryan Edquist. Edquist has already committed to Minnesota for the 2016-17 season and played at Stattuck-St. Mary's last year.

The 15's have all of the most recently drafted players along with 3 newly listed players as well.

Colin Baird is another Minnesota kid and is listed at 6'3 and 168. Whoa.
Luke LaMaster is also a Minnesota kid.
Nick Matai is another really tall kid at 6'3" and 160 and is out of Camrose.

All total, 7 Goaltenders, 6 Left Wings, 7 Right Wings, 4 players listed as "Forwards", 13 Centers and 11 Defenceman.  The forward positions don't really mean much at this point.

4 players are listed at 6'4" including two Goaltenders while Baker Shore and Nolan Volcan check in at 5'7".

Latrell Charleson is 230 lbs and could probably make a large meal out of Ian Briscoe who is listed at 141 lbs. Hunter Bancroft narrowly misses being Charleson's meal by being listed at 142 lbs. (Where am I going with this?)


Seattle Signs Matthew Wedman

Today, Seattle announced the signing of Matthew Wedman to a standard player agreement. He played last season for the South Side Athletic Club.

Wedman was a 2nd round selection in the 2014 Bantam Draft and getting a player signed this early is a tad unusual but it is also a great sign that he is committed to playing in Seattle and that the Thunderbirds feel he has a good shot to be a part of the team next year as a 16 year old.

Wedman is the brother of Cole and Dan. Cole played for Spokane and Dan is a Cornell commit.

Russ Farwell described Wedman as a Center and even though most kids play Center at some point in their youth, this seems to be an indication that they see him eventually playing there for Seattle.


Prospect and Development camps

Most NHL teams have developmental camps where they bring in their newly drafted players, other players in their system, and some younger free agent players to get to know them better.

Here is a list that we compiled of Thunderbirds who have been invited to camps. 

  • Shea Theodore - Anaheim
  • Branden Troock - Dallas
  • Justin Hickman - Winnipeg
  • Evan Wardley - Montreal
  • Jared Hauf - Winnipeg
  • Taran Kozun - Washington
  • Dylan Gambrell (prospect) - Brooklyn Islanders

If you see any others, please let us know, and we will add them to this list


CHL Import Draft

Seattle's first selection this morning is a 17 (technically he's still 16 and his birthday is on the 17th of July) year old Center from Denmark named Alexander True. True is listed at 6'3" (Surprise! a big guy... never saw that coming) and 179 lbs. So he's tall with a frame that probably needs to fill out. He played in several places last year, playing 16 games for Rungsted U17 and posting 62 points in 16 games. He then also played for Rungsted's IK team in the Denmark 2 league for 25 games and with the big club for 11 games.

Here is a video profile on him from Hockey's Future.

True is a cousin to the recently drafted Nikolaj Ehlers, who went 9th overall to the Winnipeg Jets.

Have fun trying to search for much on this guy... I can't find much of anything.

As usual... with a bigger guy. I really want to see how he skates. Too many big guys can't skate and this is a league where you have to be able to skate.

Seattle's second selection this morning is another 17 year old. This time it is Florian Baltram from Austria.

Baltram is a smaller player at 5'10" and 170lbs (nearly the same weight at True) and is listed as a LW.

Playing 42 games for the U20 Lower Austria Stars Club (which appears to be a part of the Okanagan Hockey Academy) he posted 17 goals and 24 assists and a +16 rating last season.

Collection of videos here and I believe he is wearing #89 (that would be sweet if he wore that here).

He played for Austria's U18 team at the WJC-18's (In a lower group with Hungary, Japan, Ukraine, Poland and Slovenia) and had 2 points in 5 games.


2014-15 Schedule Released

The basics.

Seattle has exactly 36 home games, and 36 road games.  Amazing how that works out.
Seattle plays Portland 12 times, Everett 10 times, Tri Cities 8 times, and Spokane 10 times.
The schedule is very even across the board, with each month having 10 to 13 games.
They have 17 home games before Christmas, and 16 away games.
February is the month of homes games, with 9.
While January is the month of road games with only 9 road games.
There are 8 Tuesday night games, so one would assume Two for Tuesday is back.

Confirming what we already knew, Seattle opens in Portland, and gets the fun time of watching them raise their Western Conference Championship banner.
The home opener is September 20th, against Everett.

What is very unusual, is that Seattle plays IN Portland 3 times in the opening month. It could be good to get those out of the way while Portland has some guys away at camps, and a new head coach.

Seattle and Spokane will be really sick of each other during the first part of the season, as they play 4 times in October, and 2 more in November.

After taking a year off, Seattle once again returns to Portland for New Years eve.

The Eastern Swing takes Seattle on the road the first part of November, from the 7th to the 16th, with only 1 week night game.  Long time on the prairie for 6 games.

Back to Back to Back

Seattle plays 5 - 3 in 3's,  and 4 times they will play 4 games in 5 days.
Seattle has 5 home and home series', 2 with Everett, and one each with Tri, Spokane, and Vancouver.

Longest streaks

The longest homestand is a huge 6 games in February.  The longest road trip is the eastern swing at 6 games.  Otherwise, Seattle plays 4 road games in Spokane, Followed by Kamloops, and PG twice at the end of January.

Some unusual games

Seattle gets a very rare Thursday night at home, the day before Halloween.
The last day of the eastern road swing has a 2pm start.
Seattle has two games in Vancouver, both with 2pm starts.


The schedule is way too balanced for my liking.  From January 28th to the end of the season, Seattle plays 25 games, only 10 of those games are against US Division opponents.  9 home games in February sounds great, but then you learn that is one more then you have in the entire months of January and March together.


T-Birds sign Sahvan Khaira

Seattle just announced the signing of Sahvan Khaira.

Khaira's brother Jujhar played for Everett last year.

Khaira is a big kid and everyone, including myself, liked what they saw out of him at training camp last year. This is a pretty good get for the Tbirds after they were shunned by Dante Fabbro. Khaira will essentially get the opportunity that Fabbro would have been given for minutes this year.

Khaira had 2 goals and 20 assists for the Okanagan Hockey Academy last year.

Edit: I just realized that this is the 1000th post that we've had on Let's Go Birds. I cannot believe I (and Jon) have hit the Publish button 1000 times on this thing. Thanks to everyone who reads us.


Seattle opens in Portland Friday September 19th

Portland has said their home opener is against Seattle on Friday September 19th.
On a note, my birthday is September 16th, so if anyone goes to the game with me, please buy me a beer while they raise their banner.


Home opener announced

The Birds just announced that the home opener will be Saturday, September 20, against the Everett Silvertips.  Now we all have something to put on our calendars and look forward to.

According to my calculations, that is in 102 days.
It also comes exactly 175 days after the TBirds won game 5 over Everett in their first ever playoff series.

I was going to come up with a big analysis of how huge this game will be, but even I can't be that sarcastic right now.


Fabbro chooses Penticton, for now. Why that might be ok for Seattle but not for him.

The Penticton Vees just announced that they have signed Seattle's 1st round pick Dante Fabbro for the upcoming 2014-15 season.

This, of course, is unfortunate news for Seattle fans but it isn't necessarily the end of the world. Fabbro could still wind up in Seattle in the same way that Ryan Gropp did who bailed on Penticton after one season and 10 games and came to Seattle for 59 games this year and registered a very respectable 42 points.

For Seattle, this could turn out just fine. Their defensive core will be pretty deep in the 14-15 season and even though Fabbro would have likely slotted into a top 6 role as a 16 year old, he may not have seen the kind of ice time that he may see playing for Pentiction (although that remains to be seen). If he winds up coming to Seattle for his 17 year old season, Shea Theodore will be gone and it would be uncertain whether Jarret Smith and/or Jared Hauf would still be around as 20 year olds.

However, the situation isn't exactly the same for Fabbro and I'm afraid he may have just made a costly career mistake.  I understand that there are players these days (parents in particular) that want to keep the college route open as an option but I've been pretty consistent with my opinion that it just doesn't make any sense for high draft picks. If you are a 7th round bantam choice and you have no guarantees of even making a WHL club, keep your options open and go hit Junior "A". Hit the weight room, grow another 2-6" and you can always jump to the WHL or accept a college scholarship and go that route. I have no problem with NCAA College hockey but it makes a lot more sense for late developing hockey players.

Two things make his situation very different from that of Ryan Gropp's.

In the case of Gropp, he had a late birthday and isn't eligible for the NHL draft until 2015. He played half of his 17 year old season and will play all of his 18 year old season before he will get drafted. His year in Penticton seemed to stall his growth and it took him a natural adjustment period to get acclimated to the higher quality WHL game.

Even if Fabbro comes to Seattle next season he will likely have to endure the same adjustment period that a player like Gropp went through (and most players). Fabbro will have to make the league adjustment very quickly and thrive in only one year before becoming draft eligible. Impossible? No. Difficult? Yes.

Yes, I realize players can go to Junior "A" and still wind up being high draft picks. In the 2013 draft, 22 of the 30 1st round picks were from the CHL. In the 2nd round, 19 of 31 (and in full disclosure, more NCAA and lower level league picks). 7 players were drafted out of the BCHL with the highest being Adam Tambellini towards the front of the 3rd round. Tambellini, of course, wound up in the WHL this year after leaving the University of North Dakota after playing in 16 games.

Again, if I was an undersized and a lower drafted player out of Bantam's I would absolutely consider the Junior "A" and NCAA route but if I'm a high pick who has the potential to be one of the top picks in the 2016 NHL Draft, I'm going to the WHL as soon as I possibly can and I wouldn't even consider any other route.

I hope it works out for him and I hope he winds up in Seattle. Who knows... perhaps he dominates in Penticton, raises his draft stock and keeps it there either in Seattle or Penticton. I just think the risk is massive.


Bantam Draft 2014 Updates

I will update this throughout the day as the picks happen.

Seattle kicked off their 2014 Bantam Draft by selecting Defenseman Jarret Tyszka from Langley, BC.

I can't say I'm terribly surprised. Seattle has a well documented history of drafting players with "size" and Tyszka certainly fits that mold at 6'1" and 165 lbs.

Also not surprising that Portland selected a 5'9" 138 lb Center.

A few links on the newest Tbird Tyszka.

- Follow him on twitter - @JarretTyszka_11
- Recently won Defenseman of the tournament at the Kamloops International Bantam Tournament - Link
- Colin Alexander describes him "Jarret is a big, mobile defenseman with a very nice combination of size and mobility. He has a physical presence on the ice, with strong offensive skills who could develop into a good two-way defenseman."
- Tyszka posted 27 goals and 47 assists in 68 (or 28... not sure) games with the Langley Eagles Bantam A1 team this past season.
- Some video of Tyszka scoring an overtime winner.
- Western Elite Hockey had him ranked 21st overall on their list.

In the 2nd round, Seattle selected LW Matthew Wedman from Edmonton. Wedman is 6'0" and 165.

- Follow him on twitter - @m_weds
- 33 goals and 40 assists for the SSAC Lions AAA team in 33 games this past year.
- Russ Farwell on Wedman "Matthew is a big, physical forward with good offensive skills and was a prolific scorer in Alberta Major Bantam League."
- Mid-Season Second Team Alberta All-Star by Western Elite.

In the 5th round Seattle selects Wyatt Bear (@14_wyatt) and Ian Briscoe (@BriscoeIan)

- Bear is another player with size at 6'2" and 207 lbs. Briscoe is smaller at 5'8" and 141
- Elite Prospect profiles for Bear and Briscoe
- Colin Alexander on Wyatt Bear "Wyatt is a big power forward with top end skill and hockey sense."
- Mark Romas on Ian Briscoe "Ian is a very skilled, speedy forward who is always engaged in the play. He is a very competitive player."

In the 6th round Seattle goes back to the pipeline in Colorado and selects Baker Shore (da_bakeshow), 5'7" and 160 lbs and played for the Colorado Thunderbirds last season.

- Has 3 brothers who have been NHL drafted including Drew Shore who played 24 games for the Panthers this past season.
-  Nick Shore played for the Manchester Monarchs and Quentin Shore played in college for the Denver Pioneers.

In the 7th round Seattle selects MacKenzie Wight (@mackwight91), a RW from Burnaby who played for the Burnaby Winter Club (same team as Barzal and Fabbro). He is listed at 5'11" and 165 lbs.

8th round... where I start to care less and less... Seattle selects Reece Harsch (@HarschReece) a Defenseman from Grande Prairie, AB and is listed at 6'2" and 180 lbs.

9th round... John Ormsby (can't confirm) and Reginald Pohl (@regpohl16 and only 3 followers).

- Ormsby, a Forward is out of California and listed at 5'9.5" and 150 lbs. Edit: The WHL website lists him as being from California but he is actually from Monroe per Nick Patterson.
- Pohl is a RW is from Douglas, MB and listed at 6'1.5" and 186 lbs.

10th round and Seattle is still going... selecting Hunter Bancroft (@hbancroft30) from Greeley, CO and playing for... you guessed it... the Colorado Thunderbirds (shocker I know). Listed at 5'11" and 160 lbs.

Round 11 and Seattle has passed and ended their 2014 Bantam Draft. Whew.

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