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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Short interview with Russ Farwell (part one)

Last week, I came up with some questions for GM Farwell that were not about this last season, but about looking forward.  He returned the following answers (in red).  I appreciate the time and fast turn around he gave on these.

I will post the questions in a couple parts as the relate to events coming up in the off season.

20 year old situation

Is it fair to assume that all 19's get moved to the overage list, therefore freeing up space on the 50 man list? RF: Yes that is how the new spots are created for the bantam draft.

Does this include both Euro's also? 
RF: Yes imports need to be added to the regular list when drafted.

It seems more and more recently, teams that have had extra 20's have tried to move them during the offseason.  Do you think you’ll actively seek to move some of these 20 year old players earlier in the offseason? 
RF: Our (extra) 20s are a bit more complicated.  Troock is signed; Hickman just finished in the AHL so has to be treated as a legitimate possible to play there; and Honey is an unknown due to health so until those guys are settled it is hard to make decisions regarding our other 20 year olds.

With Maxwell announcing his intention of forgoing his overage season, do you have the ability to place him on some kind of different list to retain his rights, just in case he decides to come back? 
RF: No

Bantam draft

Assuming all the 19's and Euros get moved to a 20 year old list, that leaves a lot of space for the draft, and you have 9 draft picks, do you plan on picking into the 10th round? 
RF: We will pick as long as we like players but probably will leave a spot or two open for later on.

I have read this draft is not as strong as years past (maybe not as deep is a better term), any thoughts on that? 
RF: Probably not as strong as some.

With what appears as possibly a very strong 16 year old defensive core coming in (with the hopeful signing of Fabbro, Khaira, Osterman, etc), will the team be leaning more towards forwards? 
RF: We will see.

Seattle has no 3rd or 4th round picks in the draft, does this effect the direction you take with the first two picks? 
RF: No we will pick the two best players we can and hope we can make up for our holes with our two picks in the 5th.  we will not be trying to trade up to fill those holes.

Last season, you drafted a 19 year old goaltender, this seemed very unusual.  With no 19 year old forwards, is it possible you would do that again with one of the late picks to fill that role?
RF: Possible but unlikely. There are few players able to play in the WHL that are unprotected.

Local look at the upcoming Bantam draft

I will almost never do this, but I wanted to post a link off to the Everett Herald and Everett Silvertip reporter Nick Patterson's blog.

It starts by talking about what Everett has in picks, but it is the second part I would love for people to read.
There are a few local kids that could get picked in the draft this week.

One of them in Brendan Studioso.  I have known his father (and played hockey) with him since 1995ish.
I know a few readers of this blog know Chris and Brendan very well, as he used to be a TBird season ticket holder (until Brendan's hockey made it so he didn't have time), and frequent road tripper with me.  Brendan has always worked his butt off to be the best hockey player he can be (doesnt get that from his dad, ok, just kidding).

So good luck to all the local kids out there, but especially Brendan.


Season Wrap: Player Grades

I kind of dislike “grades” but it is the easiest way to quantify things and also opens up all kinds of reasons to debate. So without further ado, here are my 2013-14 player grades after the "jump".


Season Wrap, Finally.

Apparently, I'm too stupid to figure out how to put together a podcast with Jon and I discussing things about the season. It's on my bucket list and I'll get it figured out eventually but I want to make sure we do it well and do it the right way.

I didn't want to let this go any longer.  After all... training camp starts next week. (Not really... keep up with me here people).

The Kelowna Rockets sent the Tbirds packing with a 4 game sweep the week before last. A disappointing result to be sure but there are positives (and negatives) to be taken away from this season. I'm going to use a grading system because everyone does it and I'm too lazy to think of something better. What I will do is use a number system because it allows me for a lot more nuance. Scale is 1-10. 10 is good, 1 is not.



Where the hell has Tyler been you might have asked?

I'm nailing down some details for Jon and I to do some podcasts to replace some of the standard, end of the season stuff that myself or Jon might normally write.

Stay patient and you'll get to hear Jon and I butcher some audio by next week where we're going to discuss some year in review stuff as well as where we go next year with not only the 20 year old situation but the rest of the team.


Looking back at Tyler and Jon's picks at the beginning of the season

Way back on September 20th, Tyler and I made our before season predictions

So you dont have to go back and look at that post, here is what we said

Tylers Picks

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.

Jons Picks

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.

How it actually happened

Tbirds finish 2rd in the U.S. Division, 4th in the Western Conference and open at home again Everett
Leading scorer: Lipsbergs – 33 goals
Barzal points: 54
Goalie to play the most games: Danny Mumaugh, 35 games
Number of NHL Games played by Shea Theodore: 0
Points by Theodore: 79
Playoff finish: Seattle beats Everett in 5 games, and loses to Kelowna in 4


So you can see, Tyler was closer to the truth then I was, but I think I came out on top because I wrote this post.

Editor's Note: Yes, Jon is the true winner.


Rockets set tee times for Seattle

As I sit here writing this, I keep thinking to myself that today (Sunday when I started writing this) would have been game 6.  A home game.  One team up in the series 3 games 2.  One team looking to close out the series, and the other looking to force the most exciting thing in sports, a sudden death game 7.

But instead, I am recapping a four game sweep of Seattle by the Kelowna rockets.

To me, this series was about what if's.  What if Seattle had scored on the first power play 15 seconds into game one?  What if Seattle hadn't given up 3 PP goals in game one?  What if Seattle had skated in the second period of game two?  What if Seattle had scored on more then 1 PP when given 10 chances in game three.  What if game four wasn't win or go home?  But everyone knows exactly what if's get you.


All of these what if's come down to one thing.  Capitalize and convert on the chances given to you and this series may have turned out differently.  In every game, you can look at the number of quality chances Seattle had, and think what if they had scored on the cross crease wide open tip in scoring chance, that breakaway, that puck lying in the crease, etc, etc.

While Seattle didn't capitalize, the exact opposite could be said for Kelowna.  When given a breakdown, a turn over, a missed back check, a bad penalty taken, Kelowna, put the puck in the back of the net.  It seemed like 100% of the time they did this, but I am sure it was less.  What does this say about Kelowna?


There is a reason they won the BC division (other then the rest of the teams sucked).  There is a reason they won the Western conference regular season.  There is a reason they finished with the best overall record in the WHL.  There is a reason they were ranked number one in the CHL.

Great teams like Kelowna (and Portland) make you pay for your mistakes.  Good teams make you pay sometimes.  There is a fine line between the two levels of teams in any game, but across an entire series (or season), the differences become more and more obvious.

When Seattle skated like they did in the first period of game two, Kelowna became the team that made mistakes.  Seattle just couldn't make them pay.  This is most obvious in the fact Seattle only scored 11 goals in the four games (and four of those came in one game).


Delnov (3), Bear (2), McKechnie (1), Henry (1), Hickman (1), Eansor (1), Lipsbergs (1), Barzal (1)

That is the list of Seattle scorers.  Just like the series against Everett, scoring from across the board.  You have representatives from each of what people would consider the top three lines, and add in a couple more from the defensive core.  This shows your team had the depth.

The fact that a few of Seattle's big names don't appear on this list I feel is a sign of how deep Kelowna is as a team, and how well they were able to match Seattle's big guys.


I really thought Seattle outplayed Kelowna at even strength.  The scoresheet doesn't show it, as Kelowna outscored Seattle 14-9 even strength.  I seemed to recall a couple of Kelowna's goals coming four on four.


The first big one to point out is Kelowna's Damon Severson.  What a series he had.  He was involved in 50% of Kelowna's goals (4 G, 7A).  And his defense was equal to his scoring.  Watch for him playing in New Jersey in a couple years.

How many huge saves did goaltender Jordon Cooke make.  When needed, he came up with big save after big save.  He made Seattle work very hard for every goal.

And because I pointed out how much more I thought Barzal should have been rookie of the year over Nick Merkley, I feel I should show that Merkley ended the series with an impressive 2 goals and 6 assists.  Not too bad for a 16 year old.

In the end, Seattle has to be disappointed they weren't able to push Kelowa past 4 games but it was pretty clear why they could not. Kelowna is possibly the best team in the WHL this season and they showed why their game is so excellent and diversified. The Rockets didn't even play their best series and they were still able to close out Seattle in a sweep.


Mathew Barzal added to team Canada U-18

With the Thunderbirds exit from the playoffs, it opened up the possibility for Barzal to join the Canadian national U18 team.  Canada jumped all over it, and he has been added, and is off to Finland very soon.

He is one of 8 16 year olds (CHL playing age) on the team.
Based on his birthday of May 26th, 1997. he is the 2nd youngest on the roster.
There are 7 other WHL players on the training camp roster currently, and as teams get eliminated, they can be added.

This is the tournament games that he will be playing in
Monday, April 14 - Canada vs Denmark (exhibition)
Thursday, April 17 - Sweden vs Canada
Saturday, April 19 - Canada vs Germany
Sunday, April 20 - Slovakia vs Canada
Tuesday, April 22 - Canada vs Russia
With playoffs to follow

I am not sure if any of the games are streamed or not.
But the game on the 22nd against Russia is being shown on TSN in Canada.


Season's done. Whats coming up on the blog?

As everyone knows, the season came to an end last night.
So Tyler and I wanted to give you a little preview of the posts we have planned.
This way, everyone can hold their comments to those posts, and we can have a great area for debate and discussion.

So here is the list, mostly in the order that we have talked about doing them in

  1. Wrap up on the Kelowna series
  2. The season in review
  3. Possibly some sort of interview with a coach
  4. What to do with all those 19 year old for next season
  5. New faces we might see at training camp in August
  6. What might the team look like at the start of next season
We will try and space each one out a little bit, to make sure you have a reason to keep coming back to the blog and looking at all those crappy Google Ads.

Is there a topic you would like to see our opinion on and or discussed?

Feel free to leave a comment with the idea, and we will add it to the list.


Thoughts from the first two games in the series

Well, now that I have returned home from a great trip to Kelowna.....
Ah heck, I didn't get to go on this trip, that is the way I wanted to start this post out.

Seattle finds themselves down two games to nil (soccer / american football reference there).
What went right and what went wrong in the first two games.

Game one - Thursday night

I personally was not disappointed with the results of the game (except the losing part).
I thought Seattle learned exactly what "NOT" to do against Kelowna.
Here is my list of those

  • Put Kelowna on the powerplay
  • Give up a goal in the last minute of a period
  • Give up a goal in the first minute of a period
  • Play less than 60 minutes
  • Give up rebounds and not be there to clear them
I really thought Seattle was the better team 5 on 5 for the first two periods.  I don't count the 3rd period, because once the game became out of reach, so did any thought to playing as a team.

Seattle did something a lot of teams didn't (including themselves) during the regular season against Kelowna.  After giving up two very early goals in the game, they clawed their way back into it, and came very close to tying it. 

But in the end, a loss is a loss is a loss.  You cant give Kelowna that many powerplay attempts, especially 5 straight, and expect to come out of their barn with a win.

Game two - Saturday night

This game, I was frustrated with the second period, and that is about it.  Seattle learned from my list of 5, except the part of the play 60 minutes.

Once again though, Seattle gives up 2 early goals, but this time they clawed their way back to tie it.

Seattle was once again the better team 5 on 5, except for the 2nd period.  They completely dominated Kelowna in the 1st, and then gave it all back in the 2nd.  Now, Kelowna deserves a lot of credit for that also.  Their adjustments between periods must have worked.

Seattle's penalty kill was much better tonight, only giving up 1 goal, and that came on a 4 on 3.  Not sure who missed what on that play, but a great player in Severson was allowed to basically walk the puck all the way to the slot and fire a shot.  Not much Kozun could do with the NHL caliber shot.

The only thing that kept Seattle from winning this game was Kelowna goalie Cooke.  I don't know how many HUGE saves he made, but it had to be in the double digits.

Game three

It goes without saying that Seattle is in a must win game on Tuesday. Lets hope the 2 for Tuesday results continue.  Except lets stop the OT part and just win it in regulation.  To do this, Seattle will need to play 60 minutes.  Man, how many times could people write that this season.

A few closing thoughts

  • How much is the injury to Yak hurting Seattle.  Games with him, 4-0.  Games without him 0-3.
  • Both Thom and Coach K said that Pederson looked very good, even better then some vets looked
  • One player that I said last series would make the difference has really struggled this series.  My guess, Kelowna is deeper then Everett, and got away with line matching against him
  • It appeared on the net feed that Kozun was struggling at times with the puck.  No idea without being there in person to tell for sure.
  • I said it above, but will say it again, man did Cooke have some huge saves
  • Damon Severson for Kelowna, what can you say.  3 goals and 4 assists in the two games.  If it was a Seattle player, I would say "Player of the week"
  • As much as I love listening to Thom call games, Regan Bartel is so fun to listen to.  He is about the only out of town broadcast I actually like listening to on the internet feed (Marlon in Victoria is one of the others, in case he will still want me on the radio with him next season).  Just to listen to him call LipsBergs name over and over.
  • Yes Mr. Bartel, in case you are reading this, I will bring you two hot dogs and one beer on Tuesday night.
  • How about the Edmonton Oil Kings.  In 2 games against Brandon, 
    • Game 1, 5-0 win, shots 45-15. 
    • Game 2, 3-0, shots 57-29. 
    • Totals: two wins, two shutouts, 8-0 score, and shots 102-44
  • And speaking of The Oil Kings.  Lets say they win this series, and the Kootenay Ice win their series.  Edmonton will have played the 8th, 7th, and 6th seeded teams in the playoffs.
  • Portland is doing their best to make me eat my words about Victoria beating them in 6 games.
  • Everyone should start planning on a trip back to Kelowna for game 5 next Friday night.  Lets get a bunch of fans to go up and have some fun winning.
  • My wife is making me shave my playoff beard, so blame things on her.


Seattle at Kelowna - Game 2

I was indisposed Thursday night so I can't really give you a fully intelligent recap (like usual?). It appeared to me that I really didn't miss much and the game result was quite simple. Seattle gave Kelowna 6 Power Play chances and they converted 3 of them.

I'm not any kind of genius but if they are going to be hard pressed to win games with that formula.

No matter... what Seattle wants out of the weekend is still available. A split in Kelowna is what they are looking for before returning to Seattle for a 2 for Tuesday night tile and they can get it tonight with a strong performance.

I mentioned in the preview that I expected Kelowna to come out strong and they did just that. Now, Seattle has to start inflicting punishment. They have to wear these guys down with every check and do it while staying out of the box.

I will be indisposed again tonight (sorry) so Jon will have his thoughts and recap sometime Sunday or Monday.


Everett Wrap, Kelowna Preview

Seattle closed out Everett in smashing fashion on Saturday night turning a very close game into a runaway with a 5-0 victory.

Color me surprised. Everett came into the series red hot and Seattle came in scuffling a bit. The series was incredibly close, despite the 4-1 outcome and Everett has to feel like they were a few key plays away from changing the outcome of the series.

However, they didn't and Seattle moves on to the second round to face the top seeded Kelowna Rockets. I thought Everett would win in 6 games and I'm very happy to be wrong.

Now comes the tricky part.

Seattle matches up quite well with this Kelowna team. They played them tough during the regular season and as most of us know they nearly pulled off an epic upset last year in Round 1 of the playoffs.

The question is whether the match-up can override the excellence that is the Kelowna Rockets. Kelowna was simply incredible all year long piling up a total of 60 wins against just 16 losses. Massey ratings lists the Rockets with the 2nd best offense to go with the 3rd best defense.

Regan Bartel, who has an excellent perspective on the game in addition to being a top notch broadcaster has already noted that with Seattle playing in a tougher division their record could easily be slightly better.

I also agree with Regan to a certain extent that the 4 games these teams played probably don't mean a whole lot because the rosters have changed.  I will only disagree slightly in the sense that I think Seattle's physical style of play hasn't really changed and I do think that matches up really well with Kelowna.

I was happy to be wrong about the first round series against Everett so we might as well just keep that trend going.

Ultimately, I think Seattle gives Kelowna all kinds of trouble. This team is believing in themselves to a level I didn't really think that they could. They stopped a red hot Everett team cold in their tracks. Kelowna has to know in the back of their minds how much trouble Seattle was to finish off last year. They also know that the physicality of that series was probably one of the reasons why they were swept in the following round at the hands of the Kamloops Blazers. I expect Kelowna to come out trying to make a statement in the first two home games and if Seattle can salvage a split (or better), the Rockets could start thinking about last year again.

In the end though, I think Kelowna's skill is just too much for Seattle to overcome and Kelowna breaks their hearts again with a Game 7 victory on home ice.  I hope I'm wrong again but I'll say Kelowna in 7.

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