The top 10 goaltenders in the league have an average age of 19.1. It is extremely rare to see a starting goalie that is younger than 17.
The big weakness here is that the Tigers don't have a solid backup. I'm not knocking McGovern here. 16's with limited experience in today's game are simply too young to handle the experience and shot strength of 19's.
They will be forced to rely on Schneider for the majority of their games and their is a degree of risk of injury or being overplayed.
Schneider will be an overage. Normally 20's under contract for more than a year don't return. Nick Schneider is signed by the flames and their goalie situation looks volatile for next season. Quite often NHL team will place a player in the AHL/ECHL or junior based on how many contracts they have in their system. It's not often what's best for the player, but what's best for their own system.
If we look to next year; Schneider coming back is up in the air with the Flames volatility. Even so McGovern would still be hard pressed for the starters role being only 17. If Schneider doesn't come back their is a high chance the Tigers will need to look for a temporary starter before McGovern comes into form for his 18yr old season.
If the Tigers remain with the status quo; their are 2 scenarios that equal trouble.
- Schneider is injured this season.
- Schneider is plucked off to the Pro's next year and they don't have a goalie is starter material.
If they acquire a backup
If the Tigers acquire a goalie for this season, they would likely send McGovern down. Then when Schneider finally moves on they can call up McGovern whether that is next year, or the year thereafter.
Worse case scenario, next year McGovern comes into form, and they have 2 goaltenders fighting for the starters job, while new prospects also compete for a spot. For the Tigers it seems like a win-win scenario. The only caveat here is the price that potentially comes with and their has been some goal-tending movement this season already. Even though Schneider will be the #1 guy and play the majority of games I think they should look for backup alternatives as long as the price isn't ridiculous.
I have full confidence in Schneider as he is capable of making the big breakaway stop or a big save in critical times of the game. The Tigers defensive capabilities are underwhelming so his .897 save percentage is ok, despite the Tigers winning a lot of games.
An upgrade over Schneider would cost a lot and it would be a relatively minor upgrade in the bigger picture. Schneider is playing the bulk of the games, and goal-tending is big on mental sharpness and technique. He looks a bit mentally tired at times.
Whenever we talk about defense we should get away from "defenceman" and talk about the defensive play from the whole group.
The Tigers forwards are offensively minded. They rely on fast transition and sometimes take off early, which means that turning the puck over in the neutral zone is a death sentence. They have to make sure they limit those turnovers. Their offensive players are sometimes not defensively aware. One of their big weakpoints is that their forwards are out of position often and it leaves big gaps and puts more pressure on the defenceman.
Elite Defenceman Vs a Good Defenceman
In the WHL elite and good forwards will own good and average defenceman. It takes an elite defenceman to stop elite and good forwards consistently. Defenceman peak later than forwards why?
Keeping things extremely general, Forwards are the higher speed players. It takes experience and smarts for someone who is slower to stop someone who is faster while skating backwards.
The group they have now in my opinion are mostly great skaters, but defensively average.
I could create a scale, but this post is already getting long
Assuming everyone is healthy.....
In a nutshell an opponents top line has a minuscule advantage over the Tigers top defensive coverage.
However if we take into account the Tigers powerful offense as a whole, that swings the advantage into the Tigers favor. Still their is a bit of volatility and in the short-term anything can happen.
2nd line is where the Tigers have a gap. A strong team with strong players on line 2, will take advantage of the Tigers average defensive capabilities. Right here is where the Tigers need their offense to overpower the opponent. If they don't or can't the opponent has a natural advantage.
3rd - Here is where the Tigers shine. The opponents offense and depth isn't as great as the Tigers. The Tigers 3rd line can score and they create a massive advantage. The Tigers essentially have near PPG forwards facing off against average players. So for 15 minutes of a hockey game the Tigers get an automatic big advantage
4th - Similar to the 3rd line. Tigers have more depth offensively, and have good forwards playing against below average defenceman. Here is another 6-8 minutes a hockey game where they have the edge.
When everyone is healthy they have 3 scoring lines, and a 4th line that probably a 3rd line on most WHL teams. They overpower a lot of opponents, as a team that doesn't have a strong top 4 defensive group doesn't stand a chance.
Right now with Fischer/Dahlstrom out, their offensive output has kinda shrunk to 2 lines. They really need some depth players like the Jevne's Hamblin, to step up. They also need the vets like Bradley to take pressure off players suck as Butcher and Shaw.
With their defensive gaps, the group needs to take care of their own zone first. Occasionally a player will get a bit selfish and take off risking their position for a chance. They really need to limit that to maybe 1 a game, and ensure their own zone is looked after.
Prior to the injury to Rubins, and Fischer suspension, the Tigers were going into hockey games with 22 minutes or 1 period worth of matchups that are overpowering opponents.Combine that with a 30% PP, a top ranked PK, that is a significant advantage.
With Rubins and Fischer out, the Tigers shrink to 2 scoring lines, as well as average defensive capabilities. That means the Tigers offense is good, but not overpowering, so the line 2 gap is now a disadvantage, the Tigers defense can be taken advantage of, and they become an average team.
Even though it is only 2 players, it shrinks the overpowering nature the Tigers had. They need to try and get the opponent to utilize their 3rd/4th lines because the Tigers have a natural edge in play there.
When the Tigers offense over-powers they will win. Win their offense doesn't overpower they will loose. Edit: Fischer has since returned, but Dahlstrom will be leaving to go to the world juniors for Sweden.
Where to go
So they have a lot of good skaters on defence, but I think they need a 2 or 3 tiered approach to eliminate the bigger defensive gaps. Just one guy will help but won't magically solve their average defensive team play.
They need a 2 way defensively sound defenceman who can make great first passes out of the zone. Someone who can break up a cycle. A Burroughs/Stanton type. Finding someone who is not just another great skater, but who is incredibly smart and defensively sound. It pushes their depth down, and suddenly a "good" defenceman like Kirichenko is playing more against the opponents 2nd line
Rubins New Guy
Then if an injury occurs to one of their top 4, they will will still have great depth. The only problem is that multiple teams will likely be looking to add a top defenceman so the cost may be really high.
A defensively sound forward. They are 1 guy short up front, but they could use a guy like Dylan Bredo. A smart guy with speed, who has insane defensive instincts. Someone who takes care of their own end first.
Fischer Butcher Owre
Bradley Shaw Dahlstrom
Rassal Defensively forward Gerlach
Jevne Hamblin Prezusio/haden/chyzowski
Also they need to work on their D-Zone coverage. Too many times they bunch together in straight line formations which are terrible as it leaves a lot of open space.
My Christmas Wish List
Top line smart Defenceman
Defensively Sound smart forward
I think if they can fill those 3 holes, they have a very solid chance of playing for a memorial cup, as long as they can remain relatively healthy.
A defensively sound forward could be cheaper to grab. a player like forrest would be more than enough value. A backup goaltender is a "nice to have" but with their other 2 needs may be the last thing on the plate to get.
Players that I think could be available
Dalton Gally - Bigger Dman. Tigers have a lot of depth, but may want to keep for next year
Gary Haden - Tigers have a lot of depth and he isn't getting much playing time. Could be worth a lot
Brad Forrest - A very good skating 19yr old Dman. Could easily play 2nd line minutes on most teams
Dylan Macpherson - good smart skating Damn, depth issues limit playing time.