Friday, January 10, 2014

Age is Just a Number

There was lots of speculation after the Thunderbirds traded away 20 year old Seth Swenson to Lethbridge on Thursday, that the team would use Friday's trade deadline to fill the overage void. Afterall, the departure of Swenson left the T-birds with just one overage player, left winger Mitch Elliot. But when the trade deadline arrived, Seattle did not add any 20s, instead picking up a 19 year old goalie instead.

The T-birds now have 11 1994 born players (19 yr. olds)on the roster. With the exception of newly arrived goalie Taran Kozun who will share goaltending duties with 17 year old Danny Mumaugh, all will play every night when healthy. So the reality is, there was no room on the roster for anymore 1993 born players. The team didn't feel like adding a 20 year old just for the sake of filling two open overage spots. I'm sure Seattle GM Russ Farwell inquired but my guess is he found the price a bit too steep. I would imagine teams looking to trade off a high end 20 year old were asking for one of Seattle's core of young players and Farwell wasn't willing to sacrifice the future.

You might recall earlier this season in an interview Farwell said other teams had inquired about 16 year old prospect Lane Pederson. At that time Farwell said Pederson was not available. Well, if he wasn't willing to deal a player not yet on the roster, then it is an easy leap to conclude he wasn't going to trade away any of the young talent currently playing with the team or other young prospects in the pipeline.

For now, you might as well look at these 11 '94 born players as "overagers" because only three will be with the team next season. Swenson, while a tremendous teammate was being used in a dimished role. After accumulating 63 points in his first 106 games as a T-birds (.60 pts. per game), he had only picked up 20 pts. in 43 games this season(.47 pts. per game), playing primarily on the 4th line. It isn't that Swenson is less capable of scoring points then he was a year ago. The fact is he lost time on the scoring lines because younger players (Barzal, Gropp) were filling that role. When you have a younger player capable of giving you the same or more production then an older player, in a development league such as the WHL, the younger player usually gets the ice time. In Lethbridge Swenson will probably be asked to take on more of an offensive role.

Swenson came to Seattle from Portland in the Marcel Noebels deal two years ago. He helped turn around the culture in the T-birds locker room after three non playoff seasons. I'll remember him for the diving pass from behind the net that set up Luke Lockhart's tying goal, in the waning seconds of Game Seven, of last springs playoff series with Kelowna. If he had one flaw, it was that he is a Denver Broncos fan.

Some would have argued that Seattle needed to obtain a 20 year old goaltender. To that I would answer, what 20 year old goalie was available that was an upgrade over what Seattle currently has? Corbin Boes? He went to Portland but even his numbers don't jump out at you; not at the cost of a 2nd round draft pick. Instead Seattle traded for Kozun, surrendering seldom used defenseman Austin Douglas and 18 year old goaltender Justin Myles.

The emergence of the 17 year old Mumaugh made Myles expendable. With 16 year old prospect Logan Flodell waiting in the wings, one of Mumaugh or Myles was not going to be here next season. Mumaugh just outplayed Myles the first half of the season. His effort Wednesday in Prince George, making 28 saves on 29 shots in a 2-1 shootout win cemented his spot with the team.

As for the acquisition of Russell Maxwell from Lethbridge. I call it the further Konowalchuk-ization of the roster. Maxwell sounds like the prototypical player head coadh Steve Konowalchuk likes on his bench. A hard nosed, gritty, two way player in the same mold of Sam McKechnie and Soctt Eansor; hard to play against and able to play in all situations.

Finally, Michal Holub gets his wish. Farwell granted his request for a trade by sending him to Lethbridge in the Maxwell deal. The 17 year old Holub had left the team in early December over a lack of playing time. I like Holub, I think he has the chance to be a solid power forward in the WHL. I think Seattle would have preferred to keep him. Certainly Holub has to think about his future, afterall, this is his draft year. But personally, I was disappointed he didn't stick around and fight for, and earn, his ice time. He would have gotten plenty of it over the past month. He could have been part of a dynamic group of young forwards here next season along with the likes of Barzal, Gropp, Eansor, Calvin Spencer, Pederson, Kaden Elder and Nolan Volcan. Still, I wish him the best with the Hurricanes.

So, the T-birds roster is now set. They still need to get a few players back from injury, but I like the looks of this club going forward.

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