Monday, September 29, 2014

Tigers Deal Koules To Portland

Today the Tigers sent Miles Koules to the Portland Winterhawks in exchange for a 4th round pick in 2017.

Well this move was a bit unexpected, and I'm thinking something else has gotta be in the mix. This move leaves them with 13 forwards, which is generally 1 short of the average of 2 extra forwards..

With the depth the Tigers had on defense it initially seemed very likely that they would only keep one overage defenceman. Right now the Tigers have 5 defenceman who are 19 years+, plus an overage goaltender....I think for the whl that is as deep as one could go...and good luck scoring on this squad....its going to be pretty damn difficult with the talent and depth they have.

Vannelli(19) Lewington(20)
Becker(20) Stanton(19)
Staples(19) Hobbs(17)
Brad Forrest(17)

It leaves 10 defence on the roster.(which on average is 3 too many) Right now the Tigers are 2 player over the 25 man limit(including rathjen). Something is going to happen with the defenceman...whether it's just a couple cuts or a trade that sees an impact forward, they have too many players back there right now.

One begs the question of if the Tigers are going to go for it this year?  Are the Tigers going to pull the trigger on a forward for defense-man type deal?   It makes sense to keep the experience if your gunning for a title. This move has me very curious on what they plan to do next.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Oil Kings squeak by Tigers 2-1

Game Hero
Tristan Jarry stood on his head, and the Tigers went 0 for 8 on the powerplay.  If the Tigers had buried their chances this could have been a blowout game in favor of the Tigers, as they carried the play for a good portion of this game.  The only reason it wasn't a blowout was because Tristan Jarry inherited some sort of Superhuman goalie powers and played the game of his life.

The Tigers powerplay looked a bit confused at times on what to do. They had a lot of zone time but better quality chances being shorthanded than with the man-advantage. The Tigers will get Tommy Vannelli back for Tuesday's game so hopefully he can provide a spark on the PP unit.

I was really impressed by How Edmonton tried to come at the Tigers with speed, and the Tigers matched it then turned it up a notch. Then Edmonton tried to up their physical play, which saw the Tigers up their speed again.

Defensive Situation
Both Schultz and Quenneville received a ton of ice-time. Brad Forrest was also dressed but only saw a handful of shifts. Schultz and Quenneville are here to stay.

Let's Look at next years Lineup to see if it makes their decision any easier.

Next Year's Defense
Gone: Vannelli, Lewington, 1 of (stanton/staples)

Ty Stanton(20) Connor Hobbs(18)
David Quenneville(17) Ty Schultz(18)
Brad Forrest(18) Scott Allan(19)

50% turnover creates a lot of extra room back there. The young guys need to play  minutes to groom them for next season.  Also does it make sense to play the Stanton/Staples combo a lot this season, when one of them likely won't be here as overagers?  
 (CoxSanford, Ast, Labelle, Staples,Stanton). 

What I would Consider ( 2 Good Options)

Scenario One
I would be trading/releasing Becker here, and sending down Brad Forrest
Pro's = Keep Staples experience and solidifies a very great Defensive core
Con's = Less ice time to the younger guys with a younger lineup next season.

Scenario Two ( I like this one the most)
Trade/release Becker, and Trade Matt Staples
Pro's: Balanced Lineup with young and experience, plus possible asset return with staples. Young guys get lots of icetime.
Cons: Loose a little bit of experience on the back-end.

Vannelli(19) Lewington(20)
Stanton(19) Hobbs (17)
Quenneville(16) Schultz(17)


Becker unfortunately is the odd man out. Lewington, and Langhamer are locks. They need some scoring up front with Koules. This isn't a hard decision IMO. Koules was a slow starter last year pointwise. He hit a post tonight, so hopefully gets it going soon.

In regards to Staples I like Quenneville and Schultz on the 3rd pairing D unit. I think Hobbs is good enough/ready to play a 2nd line D Pairing with Stanton. This gives a great mix of youth and veterans experience, dressing a strong lineup now, youth for the future, and some depth and size with Allan. Forrest could potentially be sent down, or a callup later in the season if there is a trade.

Why not cut/trade Allan?
I think Allan has great mobility and potential. I want his size in next years lineup. With him in the lineup over staples you have him an extra year, as well as cut down on next years overage situation.
I might consider a trade if the return coming back included a goal scoring power forward.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tommy Vannelli Sent back to the Hat

That's actually slightly surprising that he was sent back so early. I thought he had a good shot at coming back, but was surprised he was assigned right back to the Tigers instead of the AHL.

He Joins Ty Stanton who was sent back yesterday.

Left At Camp
Marek Langhamer (20)
Miles Koules (20)
Tyler Lewington (20)

The Tigers overagers all remain away.

Current Defense(9+)
Kyle Becker(20) Tommy Vannelli (19)
Ty Stanton(19)  Matt Staples(19)
Connor Hobbs(17) Scott Allan(18)
David Quenneville(16) Ty Schultz(17)
Brad Forrest(17)

*Tyler Lewington

Defense Thoughts
I really don't know what the Tigers will do here, and I find this scenario hard to explain. Evaluating their roster, Its difficult to make decisions when 3 overagers are still away at camp. There could still be a surprise that happens.

They will need to cut/trade at least 2 players to get down to the 25 player limit in 3 weeks.
( 1 of them very highly likely to be a 20 yr old  when Lewington returns)

the other?
They basically have 4 guys (Allan, Schultz,Quenneville,Forrest) competing for 1 spot, and that opens up a ton of questions...

 If they keep a young  16 in Quenneville as well as 8 Defenceman does he see 40 games as required?
Maybe they send him down and keep 2 17's.

Do they throw Allan up at forward bringing a physical presence up front? They would still need to cut down 2 players on the back-end.

Does a guy like Staples/Allan get traded with the young prospects stepping up, bringing in a power forward? I see this team as a dark-horse contender depending on what their forwards can bring, and if that is the case I'd prefer Staples experience back on D, as it would make their defense one of, if not the best in the league

Do they cut one or two of the 17's in Schultz/Forrest?  Both of them good players.

What can they get in trades for Staples, Allan, Schultz/Forrest?

All the scenarios make my head spin. All these young guys are good, and next year their will be room with a bit of turnover.  I do think if they have a shot at upgrading a good player with size up front they should seriously consider it even if they are losing playing years from a young Defenseman (which is rare). What would you do?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Tigers Win Home Opener 5-1

While Lethbridge may not be the best test of your new players, I think playing them for the first two games is a nice transition from exhibition to regular season.

I was highly impressed by the talent level of all of the first year players. Not a single first year player looked out of place.

 I think every player on the team is a whl calibre player, and its going to be extremely tough to make decisions to send a couple of them down.

David Quenneville - Very mobile, and a great first pass. He belongs up here as a 16 yr old.
Mason Shaw - A Very smart sparkplug in your face type player with some talented hands.
Brad Forrest - Calm and poised, his skating style reminds me of Russell. He has a ton of potential
Matthew Bradley - Can just tell this guy is going to be a future star. He was the best Tiger on the ice.
Ty Schultz - I remember watching him a bunch on the ice, but its hard to put thoughts into words here. He played a solid game, not as flashy, but didn't make many mistakes.

Nick Schneider - Perhaps a bit of nerves on the first goal, but he was very positionally sound overall on the first shot. He didn't let a bad goal in, and gave the Tigers the chance to win.

I really can't believe the depth the Tigers have on the back-end. When all the defenseman return they are going to be cutting very good young players who are more than whl capable. This Defence is going to be great for at least the next 3 years.

Big Hit
Chad Butcher had a nice little toe drag past Tyler Wong, Wong however clipped him up high in the chin and Butcher went down and looked a little woozy. It was the 5'8 165 lb sparkplug Mason Shaw who immediately went to his aid and was smart in not taking a penalty but going up to Wong and getting in his face for the hit.

Wong received a 5 minute major and game misconduct, and is likely to get a 1 game suspension. The Tigers didn't score on the man-advantage.

Pre-Season Predictions
I had a big post written up, and then I went and read
He pretty much took the words about my predictions from the Tigers out of my mouth, and his thoughts about the Other teams seem spot on.

Give his blog a read if you haven't, his thoughts about how the various teams will do is an excellent read.

NHL Camps
Marek Langhamer - Arizona
Miles Koules - Washington
Tyler Lewington - Washington
Tommy Vannelli - St. Louis
Ty Stanton - Detroit

Most main camps opened up this weekend. A lot of teams have exhibition games coming up soon. I think a lot of teams will make first cuts after this weekend.

Tigers Win Season Opener 3-2

Scott Allan Vs Tyler Bell
- Very quick fight. Actually calling that a fight would be generous as it was a lightning quick come together grapple and fall to the ice.

The Canes Russian Import Pavel Skumatov scored the Hurricanes First 2 goals of the season.

A quick shot from the slot to beat Nick Schneider made it 1-0 Hurricanes

Under 10 minutes later Skumatov would score his 2nd off the game, coming off the boards and hook slinging the puck as he was falling. Schneider opened up his pads for a split second and the puck beat him five-hole.   2-0 Hurricanes

The Tigers would get on the board as Kyle Becker would get his first of the year. Cole Sanford entered the zone and looped back and found a trailing Becker. Becker potted the shot low far side which beat Canes Netminder Zac Robidoux. 2-1 Hurricanes

Griffen Foulk Vs Mason Shaw

Shaw appeared to throw a good hit finishing his check and the camera cut away. It came back to a 6'1 200 b defenceman trying to throw punches at mason shaw a 16 yr old standing 5'8 165lbs.
Shaw held his own and this was largely a grappling match, before both players fell to the ice. Foulk received an instigator, 10 minute misconduct and fighting major, which largely put him out for the rest of the game.  A 19 yr old vet taking on a 5'8 rookie on paper is a huge mismatch, and I'll just say its the type of fight Doty would have taken issue with.

The Tigers Markus Eisenscmid would score his first of the year. Off a rush Markus from his backhand on his offwing shovelled a shot towards the net and it somehow beat Robidoux. A shot he should have easily stopped.. 2-2 TIE

Late in the game Hurricanes Bryton Sayers would win a puck battle and lift it over the boards in his own end resulting in a powerplay for the Tigers.

Directly off the facebook the puck was won back to Connor Hobbs who let a shot rip past a screen Robidoux 3-2 Tigers  and that is how the game would end.

I didn't watch much of the game but it seemed a bit sloppy. The Tigers had 7 guys out, and the canes had 4 guys out. Home Opener Saturday Night!!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tigers Will Start the Season With a Short Lineup

The Tigers season starts Friday Night in Lethbridge.

Tigers Making NHL Main Camps
Tommy Vannelli - St. Louis
Miles Koules - Washington
Ty Stanton - Detriot
Tyler Lewington - Washington
Marek Langhamer - Arizona

From what I have read it looks like all 5 Tigers players played really well during their respective NHL prospect camps, and have all been invited to NHL Main Camps.  Lewington was mentioned as a standout. Stanton had an amazing +6 stat in 3 games with the Wings.

Chad Labelle, and Anthony Ast are recovering from injuries, and Jared Rathjen's status is unknown with last report mentioning something in the pre-season medical came up and he still needs to be cleared by doctors.

The Tigers will start the weekend potentially down 7 regulars(8 players total), and only 1 overager (Kyle Becker) in the lineup.

Goaltenders Current Lineup)
Nick Schneider(17)
Cole Schafer(19) *temp

Defense Current Lineup 
Kyle Becker(20) Matt Staples(19)
Connor Hobbs(17) Scott Allan(18)
David Quenneville(16) Ty Schultz(17)
Brad Forrest(17)

Forwards Current Lineup
Bradley (17) Cox(19)  Sanford(19)
Eisenschmid(19) Owre(18)  Butcher(18)
 Mowbray(18) Penner(18)Shaw(16)
 Rassal (17) Fischer(17)

NHL Camps
Tyler Lewington 20yr old defenseman
Miles Koules - 20 yr old forward
Ty Stanton - 19 yr old defenseman
Marek Langhamer - 20 yr old goaltender
Tommy Vannelli - 19 yr old Defenseman

Anthony Ast - 19 yr old Forward
Chad Labelle - 19 yr old forward
Jared Rathjen - 20 yr old Goaltender

They will be playing with a very young lineup to start the season with the youngest average age of 17.8 yrs,  combine that with the smallest, and lightest group in the WHL. This will be a perfect opportunity for the young players to step in and make their mark. Right now the Tigers are carrying 27 players(not including Schafer) and will eventually need to get down to 25.  They will potentially start the season short 1 player depending on the availability of Ast, Rathjen, Labelle.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tigers @ NHL Camps

Update: 3:50 PM Wednesday
Tommy Vannelli
Miles Koules
Tyler Lewington
Ty Stanton
Marek Langhamer

Have all made their respective teams main camp and will be not be with the Tigers for the weekend. So they are down their top 3 dman, starting goaltender, and 1st line forward.

Friday September 12th
Tommy Vannelli(Blues) - 1 Goal, 1 Assist, -1 rating, 3 shots.
Ty Stanton(Red Wings) - Did not play

Former Tigers
Jake Doty(Blues) - 1 shot
Curtis Valk(Canucks) - 2 goals
Hunter Shinkaruk(Canucks) - 1 assist, -1 rating, 3 shots, 2 PM
Kale Kessy(EDM) - 1 shot 2 PM

Saturday September 13th
Jake Doty, 1 Goal, +1, 4 shots
Tommy Vannelli - No Stats
Ty Stanton, +1
Kale Kessy 2 Fights, 12 PM's

Sunday September 14th
Curtis Valk 1 Goal, +1, 2 shots
Hunter Shinkaruk 2 goals, 8 shots

Monday September 15th
Tommy Vannelli - 1 shot, 1 slashing penalty
Jake Doty - No Stats
Ty Stanton - 1 assist, +4, 1 shot
Curtis Valk - -2, 1 shot
Hunter Shinkaruk -1, 2 shots

Tuesday September 16th
Tyler Lewington - Was the lone player mentioned in an online article at having solid defensive play.
Interview here    Coaches said they were very impressed by him. 

Marek Langhamer - Played 2 periods, with 1 goal against.
Ty Stanton - 1 assist, +1, 2 shots
Tommy Vannelli - 1 shot, 2 PM's

Wednesday September 17th
Marek Langhamer

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Explaining the New Playoff Format

The WHL has adopted a new Playoff format this year and I haven't really payed attention to it until now.  I personally hate it because of a flaw in a potential unbalanced conference alignment in which we saw last season.

Ultimately you need to beat the best to be the best. Playing a 72 game season then getting thrown into a wolf, or mouse playoff seems unfair.

This years Format is determined by the top 3 in each division + 2 wildcards.
The 2nd and 3rd place team in each division play against in each in the first round. So throw away your thinking about 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, 3 vs 6, 4 vs 5...

This is how last year would have ended up.

East Division
1 Regina   85 pts --DIVISION WINNER.#2   Plays higher wildcard
2. Swift Current 85 pts  2ND IN DIVISION Plays BELOW
3. Brandon  77 pts        3RD IN DIVISION PLAYS ABOVE
4. Prince Albert 75 pts  WILDCARD #2  (Lesser)
5.  Moose Jaw  51 pts
6. Saskatoon  37 pts

Central Division
1. Edmonton 103 pts  DIVISION WINNER#1    plays lesser wildcard
2. Calgary 103 pts    2ND IN DIVISION PLAYS BELOW
3. Medicine Hat 92 pts  3RD IN DIVISION PLAYS ABOVE
4. Kootenay 83 pts   WILDCARD #1 (higher)
5. Red Deer  75 pts
6. Lethbridge 29 pts

PA defeated the Rebels in a tiebreaker in regular season.

First Round (Seeds are by regular season total points)
Bracket Two
#4 Regina(DIVISION WINNER) Vs #6 Kootenay (Higher wildcard)
#5 Swift Vs  #7Brandon

Bracket One
#1  Edmonton (Division Winner) vs  #8Prince Albert   (Lesser Wildcard)
#2 Calgary Vs #3Medicine Hat  

Second Round - The Winners of each bracket play each other.
Third Round - Bracket One vs Bracket two

The top 3 seeds are all in one bracket, and they will play each other in the first two rounds These should be 3rd and 4th round matchups not 1st and 2nd round matchups.  Meanwhile the #6 seed Kootenay is suddenly enjoying life.

A month before the season ended when Kootenay and the Tigers were neck and neck, really it would be better to loose a few games and drop back, as Kootenay had a much better position in the playoffs than the Tigers.

To me this scenario is complete garbage and I really hope we don't see it.  The weaker teams get rewarded with more potential playoff games and the good teams get penalized.

Equal Balanced Conferences
 How this goes remains to be seen, whether the #1 seeds will take advantage of more weary second round opponents, or whether it will be harder as their opposition will be rivals and more battle tested, it will probably even out.

I think there is a higher chances for upsets playing close rivals, and the path in playoffs is a notch more difficult.

I think we will see on average more playoff games played per year, less overall travel, and more money generated. The road to the finals will get harder. I really hope we don't see conference imbalances because that could put a damper on a strong season.  It does make divisional games that much more important. If you have a great season you are hoping for teams in your division to be weaker.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Tigers Make A Couple Cuts

Tigers Recent Cuts
Caleb Fantillo (16)
Marshall Skapski (16)
Ryan Jevne

Current Roster (27 players, 2 Over Max, 2 Extra overagers)
October 10th Cut-down Date

Current Forwards(14)
(Just for depth purposes, basic Line Combos, don't read into it)

Sanford(19) Cox(19)  Koules(20)
Eisenschmid(19) Ast(19)  Butcher(18)
Penner(18)  Owre(18) Bradley (17)
Labelle(19) Mowbray(18) Shaw(16)

Rassal (17)

Miles Koules is headed to the Washington Camp.

Forward Cuts Left: 0
It is unlikely they make another cut up front unless they bring in someone in through trades.

Current Defense(10)
(Just for depth purposes, basic Line Combos, don't read into it)

Kyle Becker(20)* Matt Staples(19)
Connor Hobbs(17) Scott Allan(18)
David Quenneville(16) Ty Schultz(17)
Brad Forrest(17)

Tyler Lewington(20) (At Camp)  *Estimate a last minute addition to be back to start season
Ty Stanton(19) (At Camp)       * Estimate to be back to start season
Tommy Vannelli(19) (At Camp)  *Unknown return

Defensive Cuts Left:  2-3
They have 3 dman away at camps, so its possible we don't see another cut until these guys return, as another cut would leave them short. Eventually one defensive overager is highly likely to be gone.
 It's likely the Tigers hold on to the overagers until who is coming back is known, unless another team ramps up a bid on a guy like Becker.

Tommy Vannelli -Most likely will not be back to start the season. They will probably give him a long look and the Tigers season starts near when AHL camps begin. If he comes back it is likely after the season started as I doubt they assign him directly back to the Tigers but instead to the AHL first.

Tyler Lewington -  We should put an asterisk beside him. It is unusual that a player will decline an offer. My best guess is that he was offered the league minimum and Washington has 8 guys under a 1 way contract in the NHL and another 9 guys signed in the minors and if he accepted he would be automatically buried in their farm team with limited ice-time if Washington moved him up.(8 guys on the last year of their deal) so he could probably get a much better overall deal waiting a year and signing the next.)  Without a contract I think it is likely that he will be assigned to the Tigers instead of the AHL and be back to start the season.

Jared Rathjen(20)
Nick Schneider(17)

Mark Langhamer 20)

I think Langhamer will be back based on how many goalies Arizona has after their NHL camp is done. If he gets sent down to the AHL to compete for a job it may take a few weeks after the season started before he is back, but they have 5 goalies competing for AHL spots, including Langhamer. With Langhamer's contract eligible to slide it just makes sense if they send him back down to junior so he can be the #1 and get 60 games in rather, than getting 5-12 games in the ECHL, or even a 3rd tiered league like the CHL (not canada's CHL).

Pre-Season Prediction

In both cases overall their forwards are quite small and its hard to estimate on what type of impact this will have on game flow if at all.  Their forwards have an average size of 5'9.85  176.6 lb.

Compared to last years league average size of  6.05 inches and 187 lbs.

I did an incredibly rough conservative player to player estimate projection  on how many goals each player can/should get and I peg them to score roughly the same amount of goals  as a team as they did last year. Bump them down a notch do to their small size up front but bump them back up if Vannelli and his skating returns. They could definitely use a solid big bodied player to score some garbage goals.

Predictions pre-season are a crapshoot

If Vannelli and Langhamer are gone
Goaltending is average, defense is above average but youthful. I would estimate a 4th-7th regular season finish.

Vannelli and Langhamer Back
Their defense and goaltending will be near if not the class of the league. I estimate a 2nd-6th place reg season finish.