I commiserated along with the rest of you over the Thunderbirds Game Six and series loss for about an hour. Then I started to think about the game and the playoff series Scott Eansor just had and realized how fortunate I was to witness that effort. Then I realized I get to see that over the next two seasons. True definition of a gamer as he raised his level of play. Hard not to let that bring a smile to your face. That smile turned to an ear to ear grin when I stepped back and understood just how well this young team played. Not just in this series, but all season. You can't fault the effort or the passion they play with, no matter the final result.
In sports the word chemistry has been thrown around like a used penny so much it has become a bad cliché. Almost every team says they have it. Those that don't say it's over emphasized. Maybe chemistry is the wrong word. All I know is there is a thread that runs thought this team, from player to player, that puts them all on the same page. They're sympatico. The dictionary defines that as getting along and having mutual understanding with another. That's what I've seen all season long with this group and I don't expect it to change any time soon.
I will admit there have been times over the past 15 seasons that coming to the rink was more chore and less passion for me. That was never the case this season; not with this group. I was excited to get to the arena every night and watch this team grow, amazed at how fast so many rookies raised their game to the next level. I could lose three fingers on my right hand in a meat grinder accident and still use the fingers left over to count the number of times this team didn't give 60 minutes of effort.
Is it tough to lose a series you had equal opportunity to win? Sure it is. I'm sure as a player you go back and over-analyze your performance and nitpick at your mistakes or opportunities missed. It's probably much easier to digest if you had been swept in four. The hope is you learn from the experience moving forward.
Seattle overcame a first half without Shea Theodore. they overcame an injury that cost them the services of Matt Barzal for three months. They weathered through as Alexander True was knocked out for two months of the second half of the season with an arm injury. They overcame the loss of their captain, Justin Hickman, to season ending surgery. they made it through all that yet, in the end, I think they suffered one long term injury too many.
How significant was the loss of Keegan Kolesar? Kolesar missed the final month after being knocked out of action with an arm injury back on March 3rd in a game in Victoria. He was, essentially, a 20 goal scorer unavailable in the postseason for a team that didn't have the most prolific offense. But he was more then that. Kolesar is strong at both ends of the ice. He's a physical presence and a key part of the penalty kill. Would he have made that much of a difference in this series? We'll never know. Maybe with him Seattle at the least gets this series to Game Seven. You have to figure he was worth another goal or two for Seattle and maybe a goal or two less for Portland. That might translate to one more T-birds win.
In this series, Seattle, with one NHL draft pick, faced a Portland team with seven. Yet they battled down to the very end. In my opinion, the most talented player on the ice in the series was Theodore. The T-birds defenseman was a first round NHL draft pick for a reason. He logged a ton of ice time. In past years you could count on him for his offensive prowess. This season he raised his defensive game to a new level and became a more complete player. that showed against Portland. I think he's the most talented player to put on a Thunderbirds jersey in the last 15 years. I say that only because I think he has a higher ceiling then former Seattle defenseman Thomas Hickey. Of course over the next two seasons, Matt Barzal could surpass them both.
Just saw the final Central Scouting Service rankings for the 2015 NHL draft. There are four T-birds on the list, led by Barzal. No Alexander True in those rankings so it appears his injury cost him a spot on that list. But if I'm an NHL team, just based on his playoffs, I take a flyer on him. Although, if I'm honest, there are three things I have a hard time believing in as I get older; Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and CSS draft rankings. They are a nice guide for fans but NHL teams and their scouts will have a better idea of players standings then CSS. The teams spend a lot more time watching these players up close and personal.