Thursday, January 9, 2014

Did You Think We Were Going Away for Good?

Doom and gloom, right? Woe is us, correct? The beginning of the end, yes? No, no, no! The T-bird's left on their five-games-in six-nights road trip in 5th place in the Western Conference standings, then three losses and they slipped to 6th! But guess what? by the time their sojourn out into the bitter cold and snow north of the border was over, Seattle was in 4th place!

Seattle has had two hiccups this season. One was the 0-5-1-0 skid at the start of November. They just didn't play well during that stretch. No excuses for that. It wasn't their best hockey. Now, during this second skid in which they went 0-4-1-0, yes, they didn't play well, but playing 11 straight games (seven on the road)without a full roster, sometimes dressing two skaters under the limit, didn't help. After treading through the first six games of the injury plagued stretch, and going 3-1-1-0, it caught up with them and they stubbed their toe, badly.

The T-birds aren't looking for any sympathy. They realize injuries are part of the game. Isn't it funny though, that as the T-birds started to get a few players back in the line up, they won back-to-back games up in Prince George? At this level, you might be able to survive one or two injuries but 5 or 6 and most long term? That's a tall order.

In their four losses the T-birds actually played well early on. They were down just 2-1 after the first period New Year's Eve at home to Kamloops. In Red Deer they held a 1-0 lead after one. In Edmonton the T-birds were only down, 2-0, midway through the game and in Calgary Seattle was outshooting and possibly outplaying the Hitmen until a couple of crucial mistakes in the final few minutes of the first period doomed them. As each of those games wore on, Seattle's thin bench couldn't keep up.

Seattle is not out of the woods yet. They still have four key players listed as out with injury on the WHL Weekly Report. But as the saying goes, what doesn't kill us make us stronger and the T-birds didn't die on the vine out east. They should come out of this stronger because young players like Kevin Wolf and first year players such as Calvin Spencer, and Austin Douglas got more ice time. Rookie Ryan Gropp took on a more increased role in the team's offense while a veteran such as Sam McKechnie asserted himself even more on the ice.

The T-birds have made one trade so far ahead of Friday's WHL trade deadline. Seattle acquired center Russell Maxwell from Lethbridge in exchange for Seth Swenson, Michal Holub and a 4th round draft pick. Always tough to see a guy like Swenson get traded away. It is the tough part of this business because you're not dealing with commodities here, you're dealing with human beings.

You learn to appreciate these young men, not just for their skills on the ice, but their qualities off it. Swenson was always upbeat and always seemed to carry a friendly smile and positive attitude, no matter the situation. I wish him the best.

I'll have more thoughts on the trade deadline after it passes tomorrow and we learn whether or not the T-birds have made any further moves.

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