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9.18.2014

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.


Tyler:

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)?

Jon:

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?

T:

I don’t know that this qualifies as a *bold* prediction but I think this team might have trouble getting into the top 4. I think fans want to see “progress” and the easiest way to measure that is by placement in the standings. Throwing a wrench into those plans is the recent news that Justin Hickman is going to be out “week to week” with an upper body injury. That is going to make this forward group even younger (although I would imagine that means McKechnie will stick around for a while longer before any decision is made). But considering how well the Hickman/Gropp/Barzal line was playing, the loss of Hickman for a couple of weeks is going to have an impact on the offense. Combine that with Wardley and Theodore being off at training camps and I could see this team struggle a little bit out of the gate.

I just think this is a very young offense and I’m just going to need to see some more production out of some guys before I get too excited about the direction this year. How much faith do you have in guys like Eansor (I have a fair amount), Pederson, Spencer and Kolesar to step forward and carry some of the load and how much are we expecting out of True and Baltram?

J:

Very valid points you make.

I do feel that there is a lot of faith being put into one year veteran players.  And honestly, it may be too much pressure for some of them.  During training camp, I really liked the way each played at times.  But consistence is the name of the game for them.  I think it will be slow going during the first few months of the season, but we will quickly learn who is up for the challenge.

About the import players, I really like what I see.  From the first time I saw Baltram, he can skate very well.  However, I think True seems to have started adapting to the smaller rink a little better.  He appears to be willing to hit players and go into the dirty spots of the ice.  I expect that they will take a bit longer then some of the other young players just because they are new to the smaller ice.

So if you are not going to get excited quite yet about the younger players, are you thinking the team needs to go out and grab a couple older experienced forwards?

T:

I don’t know that the team needs to get dramatically older. I just think you might be able to selectively trade one of your excess 17 year old forwards for a 19 year old forward to help give the team a little more punch. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need a scorer, maybe you get someone who can help match up against other teams scoring lines so that your young guys can go out against “non-elite” lines and take advantage. The only way to do that is to have other lines that can threaten or at least go out and shut down the other top lines.

How comfortable are you with our defense and goaltending? I know that I’ve made it very publicly known that I think Seattle keeps Kozun in net as a 20 year old and Coach K has already indicated that he’ll be the starter this weekend. We know the team has some excellent offensive players in Theodore, Smith and Bear but do they have enough pure defensive prowess to keep the puck out of the net? I love to always remind people who become obsessed with scoring that a goal saved is worth exactly the same as a goal scored. That goes perhaps twice as much for the goaltending situation. Do you think Kozun is the guy to carry the load? If not, are you convinced that the defense in front of a guy like Mumaugh or Flodell is enough to get you home ice advantage?

J:

I’ll start with defense.  I am quite comfortable with them.  I thought last year the team did an excellent job of pairing matching defenders together.  When you had a young defender, you had an older one.  When you had and offensive minded one, you had a defensive minded one.  I think we will see this continue this season regardless of whether they keep zero, one, or two 20 year old defenders.

The thing I am not so comfortable with is the team defense.  By this I mean the younger forwards backchecking and playing responsibly in their own end of the ice.  Since they are so young, will they be able to adapt to Coach K’s styles and systems and know what to do and when to do it.  The good news is since so many of them are 17 instead of 16, they likely have a little head start being a year older.  But to me, the forwards helping out are the key to this team, just like any team really.

Now in net is a totally different situation about what direction they go.  Just like you, I publicly stated that Kozun is the guy to go with.  But I also publicly have said Mumaugh is the guy.  Then 5 minutes later I have said just go with Flodell.  I am so confused over the situation that I flip flop back and forth.  I think this is because as coach has said in an interview someplace, none of the 3 stepped up to the plate in preseason and won the job outright.  If the team is comfortable with Mumaugh in net and plan on next season making a run for it, it would seem they would want him to be here this season learning a starting role, and leading next season.  But if they are not that comfortable with him, and want an older goalie that was lights out last season for Seattle, then they go with Kozun.  Either way, I see Flodell as making the team as a backup.  The difference being that if they go with Kozun, they would have to be comfortable with Flodell the following season as the starter.

Some people look at it as who has better trade value, which I think is somewhat unfair.  On paper, you would say that a 20 year old starting goalie has higher trade value then a 19 year old backup.  But, the market for a 20 is so much smaller, that the value goes down (unless you are Kamloops, and can get a 1st rounder for an average overage goalie like last season).  But then you look at the number of teams that might be looking for a 19 year older goalie that is ready to take over as a starter, and you are maybe at 2 to 3 teams.  So really, the trade value of both players is roughly the same.  I think some fans out there are thinking that we will be able to get a 19 year old forward that can score goals in a trade for a goalie, and I think you might be able to, but only if you bundle one of the 17 forwards.

So I guess this is a long winded way of saying “Don't ask me about goaltending because I will tell you something, and 5 minutes later tell you something different”.

Which is also the same thing I will tell you about the 5 "20’s" we currently have left.  One minute I say keep XYZ, the next it is XGE, and the next X isn’t even one I would keep.  The wild card of course is whether Wardley comes back.  And up until Hickman got hurt, the same question would have worked for him.  Now, unfortunately for Hickman, I am guessing he is back for sure.  And if he is back, then I think he is a lock as one of the 3 "20’s".  As for the other two, the next decision you have to make is in net.  Because of course if you decide on Kozun, then he is one.  So even if Wardley comes back, you have to decide on defender or forward for the other.  If they don't go with Kozun, then you have a little more wiggle room.

Each of the players have their strengths.  Henry is a good puck moving defender. Wardley is one of the most feared hitters in the league. Mckechnie is a very good shut down forward that has been known to score at times.  Anyone can make a case for each of these players.  The good news for whomever doesn't make it, they will play in the WHL someplace.  I think each of these players are an upgrade over a lot of the 20’s still on teams.  And that should mean that Seattle can find a trading partner, but I wouldn't expect much back in a trade.  If we could get a 3rd round pick back, I would be happy.  Most of the time I would say get a younger player, but we have so many of those already, I say take the pick.

Currently, as I type this, I am going to publicly state that I think they team goes with Hickman, Wardley, and Henry.  There, I typed it.  What do you think of the 20’s situation and what they end up doing?

To be continued...

10 comments :

Anonymous said...

I see this team heading for a disappointing season, due to lack of scoring up front. Hope I'm wrong, but that's the way I see it.

Anonymous said...

Hey, it's Junior hockey and it goes in cycles...just enjoy this season because with this team and their ages...the best is to come. The joy will be to sit back and watch them all develop together as a team...next year will be the time to relish it....

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to write the team off before we've seen them play some regular season games. The US division after Portland is weak, and I could see the birds finishing fourth or better. In theory they should get better as the season goes on.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to watch Portland this year, especially in terms of defense and goaltending. With De Champlain not returning to the team, only 4 of their 9 defensemen played on the team last year. Burke hasn't looked all that solid in pre-season and won't have a Dumba or a Seth Jones in front of him this year, either. They may have a million ways of scoring, but it may take some high scoring affairs for them to get those W's this year.

Tyler Smith said...

Well there is only one crucial thing I want to point out there.... HOCKEY IS BACK!!!

Anonymous said...

DeChamplain was not a defenseman.

Kodi said...

Though I do believe that junior hockey is cyclical, it always appears that the good teams are always good because they know how to judge talent and aren't afraid to change the system based on the talent that is available.

I think we have a chance to be decent this year but I think we are really looking at next year to be the start of the run. I still hope that we trade Theo at the deadline if it's looking like we don't have the horses to win and use those picks for trades next year to strengthen the team.

Of course Theo has to be healthy first.... Dammit

Anonymous said...

Chances Theodore gets traded this season: 0%. You don't trade your best player when you're a playoff caliber team.

jon said...

Chances Theodore misses the first 4-6 weeks of the season? 100%

Anonymous said...

Pray four 4. It also certainly changes what we do with our 20s.

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