Thursday, October 24, 2013

A (Leth)Bridge Not Too Far

I'm a big Riley Sheen fan. I really like the way he plays at both ends of the ice. I greatly admire the hard work he puts in on the penalty kill and I certainly more then appreciate how gracious he's been with me when it came time to do an interview.
But I love this latest deal that Thunderbirds GM Russ Farwell has put together, sending Sheen, Carter Folk and a 2015 3rd round Bantam pick to Lethbridge in exchange for Jaimen Yakubowski and Sam McKechnie. This deal tells me that Farwell believed he had the horses to compete for a high seed in the WHL playoffs next spring but he wants more. He wants to compete for a championship. This is about going all in because you added two more 19 year olds to a team with a lot of 19 year olds. To me, this trade isn't a "should we make the deal", it was a "when can we make the deal" move.

While the deal doesn't guarantee it will put the T-birds "over the top" in that regard, on paper at least, it makes Seattle a very tough match up with their forward lines. Look at the top twelve forwards now on this roster. It's just my calculation, the coaches may see it differently, but you've got Lipsbergs, Barzal, Hickman, Delnov, Troock, Swenson, Benoit, Elliot, Yakubowski, McKechnie and when healthy, Honey and Gropp. Now look at your depth because we haven't even mentioned Holub, Kolesar and Eansor.

Talk about a battle for ice time!

Secondly, the price paid, in my estimation, is relatively inexpensive. Sure, it did cost you the hard working Sheen but you have to give up something to get something back. Still, we're talking about two forwards who a season ago combined for over 50 goals and 80 points for a Hurricanes team that didn't score a lot. Just so you have a comparison, their point totals last season would have been third and 8th on the T-birds with similar totals put up by Luke Lockhart, Delnov and Swenson.

When Seattle signed Ryan Gropp last week, it meant finding ice time this season for Folk was going to be next to impossible. In Lethbridge he'll have a chance to play. The 3rd round bantam pick in 2015? Isn't that what they got from Moose Jaw in the recent trade that sent defenseman Jesse Forsberg to the Warriors? Capital well spent.

I don't have any insight as to why things didn't work out in Lethbridge this season for Yakubowski and McKechnie but they now have a new lease on life and hopefully the chance to play with a playoff contending club will spark them to put up similar numbers to what they had last season.

Here's what Seattle gave up: Riley Sheen 17g, 34a so far in his WHL career (133 games). Here's what they got back: Jaimen Yakubowski 49g, 30a so far in his WHL career(145 games). Sam McKechnie 40g, 36a so far in his WHL career (153 games). While all three players are similar in games played and assists, both Yakubowski and McKechnie have been much better at putting the puck in the net. Remember, the name of the game is to outscore your opponent. I like to think Seattle got better at it with this deal.
*****Just an addendum to what I wrote Thursday. There is a lot of chatter about what this trade means for the team next season because they are now top heavy with 19 year olds. It's true that the T-birds now have seven '94 born forwards on the roster (plus two '94 d-men). Of course they will only be able to keep 3 of those nine players next year and with the loss of the three 20 year old forwards on this year's roster, the T-birds will be looking to replace anywhere between seven and nine of their top 12 forwards in 2014-15.

That's definitely an impact but will it be the deep impact we might think? None of the recent trades affected the young core of this team. Carter Folk is a loss but I didn't see him as a top six forward next season as an 18 year old. He definitely would have been getting a regular shift on the 3rd or 4th line next year but he probably wasn't a top six forward for another two years, when he reached his 19 year old season. Sheen could have been kept next year as a 20 year old but there are also other very good options for those 20 year old spots in 2014-15.

The T-birds still have a solid young core of forwards for next season in Barzal, Gropp, Holub, Eansor, Kolesar and Lane Pederson. I would guess at least two, if not all three of the 20 year old spots next season will be occupied by forwards. Furthermore, you'll probably see an Import Draft in which the T-birds are in the market for two forwards. It will probably be like the Import draft two years ago when they added an NHL drafted player (Delnov) and an NHL draft eligible player (Lipsbergs).

Remember too, Seattle has already signed two high picks from last spring's Bantam Draft, first rounder Kaden Elder and second rounder Nolan Volcan, to WHL contracts and both are forwards. There is also the possibility of trading some of those other '94 born forwards this offseason for a younger winger or center.

Just as important, Seattle's defensive core of Smith, Theodore, Hauf, Wolf, Douglas and Bear should all be back and will have added yet another year of experience while a high end talent like last spring's #1 draft pick, Dante Fabbro should be added to that mix. The goaltending again will be in good hands with a combination of Danny Mumaugh, Justin Myles and highly regarded prospect Logan Flodell.

Will the T-birds take a hit in the depth department next season? Yes, but it may not be as deep as you think. They didn't trade away the future but they did make themselves stronger in the present.

1 comment:

  1. Hope you're right, Thom. I've been highly critical of Farwell in recent years for not taking enough risks as GM, so this big trade with Lethbridge came as a shocker! I'm very pleased Russ recognizes the potential of this year's squad and pulled the trigger on a trade like this!