I was going to write about this past weekend and the T-birds moving up into fifth place in the Western Conference standings after the 2-0 win in Spokane Sunday. Then news broke Monday morning regarding Danny Mumaugh and the Seattle goaltending situation.
If you haven't heard by now, Mumaugh opted to end his hockey career, stating he had lost his drive to keep playing. Mumaugh had only seen action in eight games this season, last playing in mop up duty January 17th in a 6-0 loss up in Everett. For his career, over parts of three seasons, the Centennial, Colorado native appeared in 61 games posting an 18-21-4-4 record with one career shutout, respectable numbers for a guy who never was a number one goaltender. His biggest win came two seasons ago when he bested Tri-City at the ShoWare Center, a win that clinched Seattle a playoff spot and ended a three year postseason absence for the franchise.
For someone like Mumaugh to lose his drive, says a lot because as mild-mannered and upbeat as he was off the ice, on the ice he was a fierce competitor. He wanted to play and he wanted to win. I've never seen a goalie as happy to get a shutout as when Mumaugh got his one and only shutout last season in Vancouver against the Giants. Watching the final minutes of that game it was clear he was going to do everything in his power to preserve that goose egg.
Unfortunately for Danny, he was caught between a rock and a hard place. When Seattle initially traded for Taran Kozun in January of 2014, I think the original plan was to split the goaltending job between the two. Seattle brought in Kozun because Justin Myles couldn't stay healthy and Mumaugh was carrying too much of the load. But from the first moment he hit the ice as a T-bird, Kozun stole the job. He just started playing lights out and Seattle rode the hot hand. As a result Mumaugh saw less and less of the ice, which stifled his development and for a guy as competitive as Danny is, not playing is a tough position to be in. I've said from day one, the toughest job on the team this season has been being the backup to the league's #1 goalie. Danny just had he unenviable task of occupying that job.
And this season Kozun picked up where he left off. He's been the best goaltender in the WHL this season. When you are in a battle for playoff position and nearly every game is against a team you're fighting in the standings for positioning, you ride that hot hand.
Then, in the rear view mirror, is the goalie of the future, Logan Flodell. Seattle spent a third round pick in the 2012 Bantam Draft on the Regina product. He had a superb training camp and was solid in his one start this season before the Thunderbirds sent him to Nipiwan of the SJHL for seasoning. All he did down there was go 8-4-0 with a .901 save percentage and a 2.44 goals against average. Last week he was named the SJHL Rookie of the Week after leading the Hawks to two wins by stopping 52 of 55 shots he faced. Even if they started next season with Mumaugh and Flodell splitting duty in net, at some point Flodell was going to be the number one guy.
Meanwhile, I had the chance to speak with Seattle's goaltending coach Ian Gordon back in November when Seattle was on their six game road trip through the east. When I asked him about the T-birds goaltending situation post-Kozun, Gordon was very complimentary of Mumaugh, sang the praises of Flodell, but he was also very optimistic about a couple of other of the T-birds listed goalies that he has worked with or scouted.
Selfishly, for me, the best thing about Danny Mumaugh was how well-spoken he was. If I could, I would have interviewed him before every game. He always has something to say and says it well. But that was also true when he was out in the local community, speaking before young elementary students at local Kent schools. He is very comfortable with the spoken word and very at ease in front of groups. He was confident enough to wear his favorite Denver Broncos jersey before last season's Super Bowl in a sea of Seahawk blue. That is the kind of confidence that should make him a success in whatever he chooses to do with the rest of his life.
My T-birds three stars for the just completed weekend:
Third Star: Matt Barzal. No points in the three games but upon returning from his three month layoff due to injury, he is showing no ill affects. He's right back to playing like we expect. It's just a matter of time before the points start coming after hitting a post, a crossbar and getting robbed on the door step by Spokane's Tyson Verhelst. If his teammates had finished on some scoring chances he set up, he could have picked up 4 or 5 assists. The best part was he did not shy away from any physical play.
Second Star: Calvin Spencer/Donovan Neuls Combo pack. These two finished the weekend with one goal and four assists. Spencer may have played his best game as a T-birds Saturday in the overtime loss to Portland. He earned two big assists but may have been his best on the forecheck and the penalty kill as the T-birds were a perfect 9-for-9 on the PK in the last two games. Neuls meanwhile accounted for three points (1g, 2a) including the game winner Sunday. The rookie from Grenfell, Saskatchewan leads the team in plus/minus at +9.
First Star: Ryan Gropp. Gropp started his weekend Thursday with an assist for the winning team in the Top Prospects Game back in Ontario. He missed Friday's 4-0 loss in Kennewick but returned to finish the weekend with three points (2g, 1a) and was +3. He was the third member of the very productive Spencer-Neuls-Gropp line that was on the ice for four of Seattle's five goals on the weekend. He continues to lead the team in scoring with 36 points (18g, 18a).