Sunday, April 19, 2015

Next Year's Brief Outlook (Edit May 4th)

100% Gone to Gradation.
Kyle Becker
Marek Langhamer
Tyler Lewington

Overagers Likely Moving  to Pro's
Kyle Burroughs *signed
Tommy Vannelli * signed

The Blues have a lot of defensive contracts expiring. Their will be room for Vannelli in their system. The Islanders have some depth on Defense in their system, but I think Burroughs would probably fit in nicely as a 3rd pairing guy in the AHL for next season. Their is a small chance Burroughs may get returned but I still think at this point it is unlikely.

Potential Overagers
Cole Sanford
Dryden Hunt
Trevor Cox
Ty Stanton

I think its likely all these guys will be back. Hunt/Stanton have been to NHL Camps. Hunt is also ranked on the draft lists. They will probably all get camp invites somewhere, but I think its likely they all get returned.

It is possible that any one of them gets drafted and signed. I think even if any 4 of them do, they are still very good candidates to finish their years in junior. Since they are still slightly questionable its likely a decision won't be made until they are all confirmed to be back. If they do indeed get them all back they should all demand a pretty good price.

Overages likely moved/traded/released
Markus Eisenschmid - Euro Overage (There is just not enough room even if he came back)
Anthony Ast
Chad Labelle
Matt Staples

I don't think their will be much of a market for any of the above. The Tigers will be lucky to get any sort of pick back on any of them.

Next Year's Roster  ( 2 OA forwards, 1 defense)

Forwards  (Depth purposes, don't put too much stock into line combos I just threw them together)
Sanford(20) Owre(19) Hunt(20)/Cox(20)
Penner(19)  Bradley(18) Butcher(19)
Rassal(18)  Shaw(17)  Mowbray(19)
Jevne(17) Fantillo(17) Fischer(18)
James Hamblin(16)
Michael Spacek???


Ty Stanton(20) Ty Schultz(18)  
 David Quenneville(17) Brad Forrest(18)

Nick Schneider((18) - Starter
Backup - Open

Michael Spacek(18) Forward

Last years import selection is a highly touted prospect. ranked as the 5th overall european skater. It is unknown whether he plans to come over this season. Hopefully whoever drafts him encourages him to come over to North America.

The Tigers have some options they can run with. They can go with 2 OA forwards, and 1 defense, or 3 OA forwards. If they go with 3 OA forwards their defense becomes bone dry with only 2 returning players, however their top 6 becomes pretty impressive, but will have a high turnover the following year.

I think it is possible that they ask Blake Penner to move back to the point for next season. If they do that it might be possible to keep the 3 O/A forwards if incoming defensive prospects are decent, or they can snag 2 good defenceman in the import draft. However in terms of value Hunt/Cox would demand a higher price than that of Stanton.

In terms of balance I would favor the 2 OA Forwads, and 1 Defense, but final decisions likely won't be made until they can get a look at training camp next season and see what they have.(unless a good deal is offered in the off-season)

Known Prospects

The Tigers will have one of the most potent 1st lines in the league. Nick Schneider should be a pretty good option in net. The Tigers have a couple good young prospect goalies that will be fighting for the backup spot.

Unfortunately their forwards will still be tiny, and the massive size they had on Defense are gone so their defenceman will be tiny as well. Lack of size will be a big issue. The 18/19 yr old forwards could be used as trade bait in grabbing a defenceman, as their forward depth seems quite high.

EDIT: Removed

 IF the import Michael Spacek comes over the Tigers could have a pretty balanced attack up front. I think they will have more goal scoring depth. Their defense will be a question mark. If they can grab another key import defenceman they could potentially surprise with up and comers schultz/quenneville getting key experience this season, and could have a decent top 4. However with a lot of turnover their may be a few bumps for next season.

Their goaltending should be OK. It is way to early for predictions, but they probably won't be contending for a title, likewise they should still be good enough to compete for a playoff spot. They have potential for both a surprising dark horse year, as well as a down year. Their are a lot of unknowns with some of the incoming prospects and higher than normal turnover rate.

CHL Import Draft
The Tigers may look at drafting in 2 defenceman to recover some of the depth they lost. Michael Spacek is last years euro pick. He is a highly touted prospect from the Czech league. It is unknown if he comes over or not. Last season he played in the Czech Extraliga ( A professional men's hockey league putting up 12 points in 40 games as a 17 yr old. He also potted 1 assist in 5 games at the world juniors)

Summer Highlights

WHL Bantam Draft (Thursday May 7th)
NHL Entry Level Draft (June 26/27)
CHL Import Draft ( Tuesday June 30th)

Season Tickets
Has anybody heard anything on season Tickets?  No lease has been signed yet, 

Future (modified thoughts from above)
The Tigers will be in an interesting position next year. They should contain a huge offensive punch up front. Their goaltending will be good with Nick Schneider taking the helm. Their defense will be ravaged. Schultz, Quenneville, Stanton will likely be a fairly decent top 3, albeit a little inexperienced. If you add penner to the mix, and a potential euro Defenceman, their defense could be anywhere from poor to above average. If they could somehow snag the next Poporov/Honka (unlikely) their defense could actually be very good, and they could be a massive darkhorse that lays a serious challenge.  All dreaming aside, right now we could project their defensive as a notch below average with the inexperience.

They could be in a similar position to last year, except reverse the defense and forwards. Their age groups are fairly balanced.

It will be a see-how-it-goes type of season. Their is potential for a sell-off to bolster the 16/17 age group. Their is potential for adding some depth on the back-end to challenge Red Deer/Brandon. Right now they look like a team that is continually poised for above average years, but nothing that stands out yet. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

2015 Season

2015 started off with quite the bang.

The fates of Marek Langhamer and Tommy Vannelli were a bit up in the air. Langhamer was signed by Arizona, he could have moved up to the pro ranks, however Arizona acquired some goal-tending depth in the off-season, sending langhamer back to juniors which made him the last European goaltender in the whl.

Tommy Vannelli was sent back to the Tigers fairly early. We expected for him to compete for a spot in the AHL. Normally drafted 19 yr olds are ineligible to move up, but  since he was drafted out of high school in the US, instead of the Tigers, he was eligible to move up to the AHL. The blues sent him back fairly early

Overage Surprise
With the stacked back-end, I think a lot of people expected to see Kyle Becker moved out as the last overager, but the Tigers went the other direction sending ppg forward Miles Koules To Portland. Koules was the biggest forward on the Tigers team at the time. The Tigers average size prior to the trade deadline was the smallest and lightest in the WHL.

Season Start
 The Tigers only lost once  during the first 13 games of the season. They never gave up more than 2 goals for the first 1.5 months of the season.

Their defense and goal-tending was stingy ( we knew pre-season that their back-end would be stacked) , however it was their offense that surprised.  The games weren't even close with the Tigers dominating in both ends of the rink.

Connor Hobbs
In November up and coming defensive star Connor Hobbs left the team and demanded a trade. He was getting third line minutes as one of the younger players. He was traded at the deadline along with a 2nd and 3rd for Dryden Hunt, and Kyle Burroughs. Hobbs had an impressive last half of the season with the pats.

Season Of Injuries
The Tigers had injury troubles right from the get-go. It started with Anthony Ast injured pre-season
 Markus Eisenschmid missed some time with a knee injury.  Chad Butcher was out for a while with a couple concussions.

Mason Shaw was shutdown at christmas due to season ending knee surgery.

After christmas the defense core was ravaged by injury and suspension, at one point they needed to bring back Blake Penner as the Tigers only had 3 D eligible out of the 8 on the roster.

Kyle Becker(concussion), Tommy Vannelli(broken finger), missed significant time out of the lineup as well as Steven Owre out with a Broken Jaw. Marek Langhamer also missed some time with a hip/pelvic injury.

If I'm not mistake the Tigers only played 2 periods all regular season with a healthy lineup. If you count Mason Shaw, it's only 1 period all year. In game 2 against the rebels They had a full lineup, and in game 3 Butcher went down with a fractured hand. Butcher returned for games 4, and 5 of the Hitman series.

Just before Christmas the Tigers were fighting with Brandon for 1st place in the Eastern Conference, and had a big healthy lead over Calgary.

Trading Deadline
The Tigers made a splash in the trade markets acquiring key players Dryden Hunt, and Kyle Burroughs, trading away disgruntled defenceman Connor Hobbs, 2nd, and 3rd round draft picks.

Despite the New acquisitions making big impacts in the lineup, with the injuries the Tigers had been sustaining they were quickly falling down the standings.

In 2014 they amassed an impressive .730 winning percentage
In the New year it dropped to a   .571 record

New Year
The New Year did not start out very well. They were crushed by Regina, a team the Tigers had just acquired 2 of their best players from.  They were defeated on Rogers Sportsnet by vancouver who had the 3rd worst record in the league.  They were also beat by Saskatoon(at the time had the worst record in the league), and back to back losses from Lethbridge(who also at the time had the worst record in the league)

However they did have bright spots as they beat the Kelowna Rockets in Kelowna which had the leagues #1 record.  Their fall from grace allowed the Hitman back into the race and they ended up capturing the division banner.

The Tigers entered the playoffs back on a winning note with a 7-3 record in the last 10 games, including sending the Arena off in Typical Tiger Fashion with a 6-2 drubbing of the Saskatoon Blades.

Playoffs Round One
They didn't know their opponent until the very last game of the season, and the Red Deer Rebels came calling.   It was a very tough series, with the Rebels owning the Tigers in the physicality department. Every game was a 1 goal game, with the Tigers getting the better of the puck luck taking the Rebels out in just 5 games.  It was game 4 where the Tigers really adapted to the Rebels style of play. The rebels arguably had more puck possession time during the first 3 games, as they were  putting lots of pressure on the Tigers defence.

It was a very low scoring series, luckily the Tigers top Line did most of the scoring needed.
5 games flattered the Tigers, as the Rebels Connor Bleakley wasn't 100% suffering from a groin injury that took him out in February.

Round 2

In Round 2, the Hitman came calling as they took out Kootenay in Round 1 in 7 games. Due to conflicts with the Saddledome, they played a very weird schedule. a 1-2-1-1-1-1 format.

Game 1 the Tigers shot themselves in the foot. They came out with a bundle of nervous energy and gift-wrapped the hitman a 2-0 lead. The Tigers dominated the game, but Calgary shutdown the Tigers topline, and the Hitman snuck out with a 3-1 win. If the Tigers had won this game, this would have completely changed the outcome of the whole series.

Game 2 would see the Tigers only victory as an overtime shot from Centre Ice by Matt Staples would tie the Series.

Game 3 The Tigers stormed out of the gate with a quick 2-0 lead. After that they got a bit complacent as Calgary scored 5 straight goals en route to a 5-4 victory.

Game 4 was a heartbreaker. The Tigers played terrible during the first 2 periods, but came out on fire in the 3rd period and OT. Defensive breakdowns would cost them and the Hitman walked out with a 3-1 series lead. This heartbreaker would end up being the last WHL game played at the old arena.

Game 5 was another heartbreaker with Calgary scoring the series winning goal in double overtime.

Year In Review
Being  honest this year left a sour taste in my mouth. I think its the first year in the last 13 where I felt the Tigers didn't perform to expectations. A 2nd round exit is not good enough.

It's easy to point fingers on coulda shoulda, but there are a few things I was hesitant about/didn't necessarily like.

I was a bit surprised on keeping Becker over Koules. Koules did have a poor start, but he also had poor starts the previous 2 seasons.One wonders if Becker was the odd guy out, if that would have meant Hobbs staying put and more offense and a bigger body from Koules. I didn't like the move for 2 reasons because at the time the defense was strong, and the Tigers issue was scoring and size up front.

 I felt the Tigers didn't adequately address the size issue up front at the deadline. Their were bigger body players available that could put up a few points. Virtually none of their goals were garbage goals, which are important parts of any championship team, their size was just too small up front, and the Tigers had defenseman taking faceoffs, and joining rushes behind the opponents net occasionally.

They brought in hunt who scored some goals, but unfortunately something you can't predict the production from Chad Butcher and Markus Eisenschmid both suffered.

I  felt round 2 was an example of how the Tigers year went. I felt their was a lot of complacency in their game. Bad Mistakes at key moments in the game  haunted them when they lost. It seemed like the coaches would harp on the rookies if they made mistakes, but when the vets made a lazy play nothing was mentioned on the bench.. Not naming names there were some vets that at times needed benching with their lazy play.

The Tigers defense would often be forced to come in to protect sanford/cox and they took a beating over the course of the season. Lewington fought through injuries, and took on some tough fights early in the season. I don't know for sure but I expect he played through some pain this season.

Their PP never really clicked during the entire year and most often their PP would fail when they needed it most. Combine that with injury troubles and that seemed a recipe for a down year.

Like I said above coulda/shoulda/ #armchairGM

Next Year's Outlook coming up shortly. They have lots of decisions to make in the offseason.

RIP 2015. Hitman Advance with a 4-3 2OT Win

Well the Tigers hockey season came to an end late friday night.

Hitman forward Jake Virtanen scored with 45 seconds left in the third period to tie the game and Travis Sanheim scored in double overtime to defeat the Tigers 4-3 and take the series 4-1.

Good Luck to the Hitman in the rest of the playoffs.  Will post some thoughts in a few days about the current season, and the Tigers future. Bitter feeling as the last game in the arena for the Tigers was a poorly attended playoff game with a heartbreaking overtime loss. Would have liked to see it go out in style.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Hitmen Take 1-0 Series Lead

Don't know what to make of that game. I though the game flow was a bit lopsided in favor of the Tigers, but they kept shooting themselves in the foot at the end of their plays. As a result the finish wasn't their and they gave the hitmen some opportunities to score that shouldn't happen.

Breaking out of their own end and coming up through the nuetral zone the Tigers played really well but once they got into the offensive zone it was like dawn approaching  a horde of trolls, with everything turning to stone once they started thinking about taking a shot on net.

They came out of the gate with a lot of nervous energy. Couldn't quite get the handle of the puck, even langhamer suffered through it, with a couple goals along the ice he normally stops. The Tigers handed the Hitman an early 2-0 lead with a few bad giveaways, and credit to the Hitman for capitalizing on their chances as they didn't get very many. It's not often 14 shots on goal will win  a regular season game, let alone a playoff game.

Even though the Tigers were down 2-1 going into the third period it felt like they would overcome it, but somehow off a scramble play, the puck was in the back of the Tigers net.

Turnaround Play
For me the moment happened when Mack Shields somehow made a cross crease unbelievable glove hand save. That moment it could have been the backbreaker that tied the game and opened the floodgates

Next Up
Both teams get a day off and then they play back to back games in Calgary Sunday, Monday

Monday, April 6, 2015

Round Two Schedule

Game 1: Friday, Apr. 10/15 @Medicine Hat 7:30pm
Game 2: Sunday, Apr. 12/15 @Calgary 4:00pm
Game 3: Monday, Apr. 13/15 @Calgary 7:00pm
Game 4: Wednesday Apr, 15/15 @ Medicine Hat 7:00 PM

 It's going to be a weird schedule with the Tigers starting the series @ home, and game 2 taking place @ 4 PM.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Off To Round 2!!!!

Series Summary
Game 1 2-1 Tigers
Game 2 1-0 Tigers OT
Game 3 2-1 Rebels
Game 4 5-3 Tigers
Game 5 4-3 Tigers

First Two Games
For the first 3 games the series was a defensive slugfest. The ref's put their whistle's away and there wasn't much room out there to move. The rebels were hitting everything, both teams were taking care of defense first and is slowed the offensive chances to a crawl. The Tigers found out early that they would be forced to dump the puck on many occasions.

The Tigers themselves were committing to Defense, and received great goal-tending from Marek Langhamer. Despite not scoring many goals they were patient and didn't get frustrated staying away from the after the whistle rough stuff, and didn't shoot themselves in the foot.

 The first two games could have gone either way. The Tigers were fortunate to come out with both games. They capitalized on a couple chances and it was enough, as the Rebels had a real tough time scoring goals.  I though Conner Bleakley was a force in game 1. I thought after that the rebels captain wasn't as strong. I suspect he wasn't fully recovered from an injury, as he missed a lot of time late in the season, and Cole Sanford laid him out with a strong hit at the end of game 1.

In Red Deer For Games 3 & 4
The rebels were absolutely fired up in game 3, and in game 3 they hit their peak. They played great as a team and at this point it did look a bit scary that this series would go 7 games. They outplayed the Tigers, and squeaked by them with a 2-1 score.  I'd say the puck possession was probably 65-35 for them, and after this game it almost looked like they found the formula to stopping the Tigers.

Game 4 Series Turning Point
I'm pointing to game 4 for the series turning point because it was in game 4 where the Tigers were able to adapt to the Rebels intense forecheck and come out with speed.  In the second period it was all Tigers as they hounded chance after chance and potted 2 goals in the second period.

They did a lot better job at supporting each other away from the puck. I think they adapted to the rebels strong physical play, and were more prepared to take a hit to make the play. They did a better job at owning their own space and had some pushback winning more one on one battles, which the rebels had previously held a bigger edge.

Game 5
Was similar to Game 4 in terms of game flow, however the Tigers didn't help themselves getting into penalty troubles. They were a lot more aggressive and took 7 penalties. The game was more free-flowing and I think because of that the refs called a few more penalties. Despite the tie game into the 3rd period, it just felt like it was a matter of time before the Tigers would score again. The Tigers had more chances, and it felt like the rebels were just hanging on.

Then with 1:46 left in the game Trevor Cos sniped the game winner top corner glove side.

I thought the Rebels goaltender had a real tough night in the net. He was fighting the puck as evident by some of the rebounds and close calls that were happening. Their were a couple goals scored he might have liked to have back.

Tigers Win 4 Game to 1.

Next UP
They await the winner of the Calgary Vs Kootenay series. Kootenay won their last 2 games and are taking the Hitmen to Game 7 Monday night.

If Calgary wins the Tigers start on the Road. If Kootenay wins the Tigers will start at home!

Interesting Factoid: Since Willie Took the Helm in the 2002/2003 season the Tigers they have only failed to make it to round 2 just once in the last 13 years.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Tigers Split in Red Deer. 3-1 Series Lead

Game 3 (2-1 Loss)
It was very similar to the first two games. The rebels shut everything down and it was a pretty defensive hockey game.  The Tigers had troubles generating offense, and didn't play as well as they could have. The rebels outworked the Tigers, and jumped to a 2-0 lead, before Sanford potted a goal with 8 minutes remaining. Lewington hit the post late in the game.  I thought the Tigers were a bit soft in their play, and didn't own their space. They did a lot of reaching in from the outside, and numerous passes went astray.  Red Deer was the harder working team and deserved the win.

Game 4 (5-3 Win)
Thursday Night's game broke the standard mold we have seen. The Tigers came to play and were the better team in the last half of the first period and owned the second period. In the second the Tigers had chance after chance scoring 3 times and amassed an 18-7 shot advantage.  Their power-play went 0/4 but generated a ton of shots, and swung the momentum their way.

The Tigers did a much better job at throwing everything on net, and 2 of their goals were generated off rebounds with traffic. Cox scoring off a rebound on a bad angle shot, and Owre scoring off a Vannelli shot from the point.  Sanford scored in the first with a nice shot from the outside slot, and Hunt scored five-hole on a breakaway in the third after the rebels started out with a strong push.

The Tigers led 4-1 before the Rebels got a couple goals off just throwing the puck on net. Bleackley banked one in off a Tigers defenceman, and Wyat Johnson scored a shothanded goal tipping the puck mid air on a shot thrown towards the net.

Next Game: Saturday Night @ The Arena