Monday, September 27, 2010

Normally I wouldn't sing high praises coming off a three game weekend that saw the T-Birds go 1-2, especially when you are a team that mustered only 19 wins the previous season. But there is a different feel to this team. There is no lack of confidence...and it is not overconfidence either, it's just a belief in each other. Each player in that locker room believes in each other, and more importantly they are buying in to what the coaches want them to do. They could very easily have finished the weekend 2-1 but they are not dwelling on that heartbreaking loss in Everett. They realize it is what it is and they are moving on. Even the loss Sunday to Tri-City was not as lopsided as the final stats may show.

What did show Sunday though was fatigue. The T-Birds were the only team in the WHL to open with three games in three nights and two of those were on the road. That's a tough way to come out of camp. It's like asking your car to go from zero to 60 mph in two seconds before you have a chance to put all the air in the tires.

That fatigue led to many of the penalties they were assessed against the Ams. Still, I thought the T-Birds did a more than credible job on the penalty kill. It's tough when you spend the middle portion of a game constantly shorthanded but they almost made it out of that situation. To be down by only a goal heading into the third period was a testament to their grit while undermanned. And the two power-play goals Tri-City scored? Well, the first was just a great shot through a screen by Kruise Reddick. The second one, the eventual game winner, was controversial in the eyes of T-Birds goalie Calvin Pickard who thought he was interfered with.
This was also the first game where the T-Birds missed the depth they will have with a full, healthy roster. Hopefully Scott Ramsay, Tyler Alos and Branden Troock are back in the lineup soon.

The T-birds are a team that I believe is going to show great growth over the course of the season. I believe they will be vastly better in March than they are now and I like the way they are currently playing.

Here's why; this roster has not played together very much yet and they are still adjusting to each other on the ice. Lets break this roster down and you'll understand what I'm getting at.

Very few of the players on the current roster were with the team just 12 months ago.
#1 Calvin Pickard-entering third season with organization.
#2 Travis Bobbee-obtained via trade two days before the start of this season.
#3 Scott Ramsay-obtained via trade at the start of the 2009-10 season.
#4 Erik Bonsor-obtained via trade middle of the 2009-10 season.
#5 Brenden Dillon-entering fourth season with the organization
#7 Mitch Elliot-entering fourth season with the organization
#8 Connor Sanvido-entering first season with the organization
#9 Justin Hickman-entering first season with the organization
#10 Glen Goodall-back with the team after a 15+ year absence (just kidding!)
#11 Branden Troock-entering first full season with organization (played in 9 games as a 15-year -old, primarily at the end of the year)
#13 Tyler Alos-entering second season with organization
#14 Charles Wells-entering fourth season with the organization
#15 Marcel Noebels-entering first season with organization
#16 Brendan Rouse-obtained via trade October 2009
#18 Dave Sutter-entering first season with organization
#19 Colin Jacobs-entering second full season with organization (played 5 postseason games at the end of the 2008-09 season).
#20 Luke Lockhart-entering third season with organization
#21 Austin Frank-obtained via trade January 2010 but played just two games at end of last season. Entering first full season with organization.
#22 Burke Gallimore-obtained via trade in January 2010
#23 Chance Lund-entering third season with organization
#24 Ryan Aasman-obtained via trade January 2010
#27 Erik Fleming-entering third season with organization
#28 Jacob Doty-entering first full season with organization (was on roster for 3 games last yr).
#29 Michael Salmon-joined team in January 2010 after being released by Prince George
#33 Austin Baecker-obtained via trade February 2010 but did not play with Seattle last year. Entering first season with organization.
#37 Travis Toomey-obtained via trade one week before start of this season.

Of the 25 players 15 were not with the team when they broke camp prior to the start of last season. Essentially 2/3rds of the squad were not here exactly one year ago. You think the Seahawks have had a great deal of roster turnover? Well, so have the Thunderbirds.

Additionally only six players with the team today were with the club two seasons ago when the 2008-09 regular season ended, and not one of those six players was among the top 12 scorers for the team that year. As you can see, there is still some "meetin' an' greetin'" going on in the T-birds locker room.

So, once these players get more comfortable and familiar with each other both on and off the ice I believe they will improve their play on the ice. In fact I believe that among all the teams in the U.S. Division they have the potential to show the most growth from now until the end of the season and I say this firmly believing they are a solid contender for a Western Conference playoff spot now.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


While the end result wasn't what they were aiming for, the T-Birds performance on opening night in Everett has to leave you with a taste of optimism in your mouth. Seattle did a lot of good things despite the, 4-3, setback. Many of those things they did are things that the coaches have been preaching throughout camp and the preseason. I know it's only one game but the effort was a carry over from a lot of the good habits learned in the exhibition games.

Again though, after just a 19 win campaign a season ago, the T-Birds are not looking for moral victories. They were 38 seconds away from earning at least a road point against a division rival and made a cardinal blunder that led to their defeat. I can live with the failure to score on the five minute power play because they were creating chances; Luke Lockhart was on the doorstep with the puck twice and couldn't get it in. But you have to clean up the mistakes in your own zone. Failure to do that on so many occasions last season led to disastrous results and it reared its head again last night. Now, I'll barely tolerate it on opening night but if the same issues are popping up in game 35 then there's a problem. But I have a feeling, as this team plays more and more together, this won't be a chronic issue like it was a year ago.

Speaking of Luke Lockhart, I've always liked his play. He gives maximum effort every shift. He has an enthusiasm and frantic pace on the ice that reminds me a bit of Aaron Gagnon. But what I saw in preseason and in the first game is a player who has taken a giant step forward in his development. He and Charles Wells were relentless all night on the forecheck. In fact I can't single out one player who had an off night. Even Jacob Doty did a nice job to create a Seattle power play by forcing an Everett penalty. I have no problem right now forecasting 25-plus goals for Luke.

So, even though it was a loss on the scoresheet their were a number of small victories for Seattle. They didn't erase the big ghost from a season ago (snatching defeat from the jaws of victory) but they eliminated a lot of small ones (for example, they only allowed 28 shots against).
Anyone who takes this team lightly this season does so at their own peril. This team is going to compete.