Saturday, December 2, 2017

Eastern Conference Expectations

To Push or Not To Push

Late November and early December is the point of the season where teams have outlined their identity and going through a set of checks and balances to determine their overall strengths and weaknesses.

Usually, by now there are signs of hot starts slowing down, and weak starts heating up. The teams that are falling may still be winning, but hanging on for dear life, while the teams that are heating up may not necessarily be winning, but are outplaying their opponents.

For the teams who haven't solidified there identity, December is an evaluation month for the upcoming trade deadliJanuaryanuary.

Past History
Past history has told us that big splashes in the trade market have had high failure rates as mentioned in a previous post ; however, occasionally these deals have indeed vaulted a team to the top

This season has already seen a few big splashes in the Eastern Conference.  Regina Landing Cale Fleury, and Swift Acquiring Gennaro and Malenstyn.

Eastern Conference
Is very top heavy. There seems to be few average or above average teams. Instead we have some powerhouses and basement dwellers.

Season Review
I'm going to do a mini-review on all Eastern Conference Teams starting with some of my pre-season rankings. Further down the page, I will do a small recap on a team by team basis and throw some thoughts out on the recaps.

Brandon Wheat Kings

Pre-Season Goal Projection: 225
Current Pace:  299

Pre-Season: I had them listed as an "Average Team", that was volatile. Last season they struggled and this year would lose a high profile player in Nolan Patrick. I listed them as volatile because they retained some really good talent in the lineup and going into this season had advantageous draft positions. There was room for them to exceed expectations, but I wasn't confident in their ability to do so.

Players Exceeding Expectations:
Stelio Mattheos, Kale Clague, Linden McCorrister, Connor Gutenberg, Evan Weinger

Most of these guys are their skilled top 6 players, but looking at projections from last year they are all exceeding them.  Example Clague only scored 5 goals last season in an injury-shortened season, but he already has 10 this year and has powered up their powerplay.

Future Thoughts
Brandon has a well-balanced roster, and they just received a big return. Overage Defenceman James Shearer has been out the whole season with an injury. Brandon plays a very high tempo, quick team game, and according to, has the easiest schedule in the league.

Brandon should also have a solid team next year because they are well balanced in terms of skill and age groups. There are 3, potentially 4 strong teams in their division, and getting out of the East will be hell in the playoffs.  They could have a .700 record and finish without Home-Ice in the first round. Two teams in their division have already added peices, and it is likely that number will jump to 3.

Due to the strength of their division, it is uncertain if they will choose to add or just stay status quo. I feel they are in a similar position to Medicine Hat. They have a solid roster, perhaps overachieved a little with an easier schedule, but they have some very talented players. I think at this point they are still in evaluation mode, and perhaps in another month, the decisions to buy/add/stay status quo will become clearer as the conference sorts themselves out.

A successful season would be getting into the 2nd round of the playoffs, but that is a goal that may be incredibly difficult.. Competitively speaking being ok with a great season and a first-round playoff exit doesn't sit well in hockey. They are winning, but also in a tough spot. It will be interesting to see what they do.

Calgary Hitman
Pre-Season Goal Projection: 252-276
Current Pace:  216

Similar to Brandon I had them listed as Average, but volatile. Their defense and goaltending were weak last season, with medium turnover. They did have all of their offensive players back this season, so there was hope that they would be much stronger. I thought they were volatile because I felt their overall improvement and few losses would improve their roster, even though their draft positioning was disadvantageous.

Future Thoughts
They had an injury to key forward Beck Malenstyn. Their 2nd line forwards hasn't seen a great deal of improvement and their offence has dried up. As a result, the Hitmen have already decided to sell, and have pumped up their roster full of 16's and 17's.

The Central division is incredibly weak and getting 2nd/3rd in the division is still a possibility. The Hitmen have bargaining power with Jake bean. He may be one of the most prized assets out there, and the Hitman could relay the fact that they still want to get into the playoffs.

I expect them to sell Bean and try to get a roster player in return.  Despite their younger roster and poor record, they could still have a shot at playoffs just because the central is soo weak.

A positive outlook for them would be to make the playoffs. They did receive 3 roster players in their recent deal. If they happen to click their is outside potential to laugh into the 2nd round while some of the Eastern Beasts look in with distaste.

A more realistic goal would be to get into the playoffs and gain some assets for the future.

Edmonton Oil Kings

Pre-Season Goal Projection: 225
Current Pace:  195

I marked them as having "a developing year" as their roster was very young. I put them into average territory because I was intrigued by some of their younger talents. The OIl Kings loaded up on the young guys with very few veterans.

Future Thoughts
They had a good start to the season, but have stumbled and as of writing this post, have lost 12 games in a row. They have a pretty good top line offensively, but defensively they have no veteran defenceman and are simply too young to handle some of these teams that can score goals.

They are doing the rebuild the old fashioned way, giving their young players all the ice-time. As a result this season and next will be underwhelming, but in 2 years they should have a much stronger team on the ice.

Being in the conversation for the playoffs would be a good season, but they would probably rather have a higher draft pick. Oil Kings fans should stay patient, this is the "down cycle" for their winning years of the past. A playoff berth would be considered an above average achievement.

Kootenay Ice
Pre-Season Goal Projection: 210
Current Pace:  205 

I had them listed as having a roster that was prime to tinker with. Pre-season they had an aging roster that was lesser skilled. I listed them as an average team, where a wildcard spot would be considered successful.

They did tinker. New goaltenders, completely re-worked their defence, and traded away their 3rd line.

They have traded for youth at all 3 positions.  They have done a great job at re-balancing their age groups and getting away from an ageing core.  They did just trade away their best defenceman, but the Central Division is soo weak, that they probably have a good shot at getting a playoff spot anyway.

When their new GM first started to make a couple moves for Overagers, I was questioning their new ownership/GM group. I realized those picks were all conditional and the players they traded for were released and basically experiments. I took a closer look and realized they were re-balancing their group rather well. I have cautious hope for Kootenay going forward and like their roster a hell of a lot better than pre-season.

Getting 3rd in the division would be a good season, but there may be a temptation to keep what they have and not sell further.  There is a door open for an easier path to round 2. They do have a couple 19yr olds who might be asked about in trade scenarios. Forward Vince Loschiavo has struggled a bit and only has 6 goals where last season he put up nearly 30.

Lethbridge Hurricanes

Pre-Season Goal Projection: 220
Current Pace:  253

I had them listed as above average and a team I wasn't sure about. I expected them to retain a rock-solid defence & goaltending with all potential core members returning but had questions offensively. They unexpectedly lost a key overage defenceman and acquired Olsen Tate from Prince George to fill the unexpected loss of Brennan Menell.

I feel they have under-achieved so far. They have had a few medium-term injuries, and have swapped Overages as their players returned to health. Lethbridge has struggled on the road and went through a tough stretch losing 8 games in a row when rookie superstar Dylan Cozens was off playing in the under 17's

They have scored a few more goals than I expected, but their defence hasn't been as strong as I expected either. With the weakness of the Central division, I see them as the front-runner for the 2nd place spot in the division. I could see them upgrading one of their overage slots, but defenceman may be at a premium this season.

Instead of looking to add, they may ponder selling. They have a bundle of 19's offensively and defensively that may be inquired about. Like Brandon, they may still be evaluating their roster, and unsure about what their ultimate direction will be this season.  I would not be surprised to see a small rebalancing and selling a 19 or two for younger assets, while still trying to make a 2nd round playoff appearance.

Medicine Hat Tigers

Pre-Season Goal Projection: 310
Current Pace:  288

I had them listed as a top tier and potential championship team if all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.  Tigers unexpectedly lost Zach Fischer who went home and Mason Shaw with a near season-ending injury.

They are leading the central division by default, but in an underdog type role compared to the Eastern Conference.  Their defence hasn't been as strong as expected, but their offence has been better than expected if you count the losses of Shaw and Fischer.

I expect Lethbridge to press them as the season wears on. Their is also volatility when it comes to the playoff outlook. First place could mean facing a strong East team in the wildcard spot. If that happens the first round matchup could potentially be a lot tougher than a 2nd round matchup.

The last few games I've noticed a strong change in their game. They have a variety of forwards who have improved a couple notches who went from depth players to potential key players.

I think right now they are in evaluation mode. Will a key acquisition launch them into the contending conversation? or will they just be a beneficiary of a weak central division.  They did just outskate and outplay the top 2 teams in the west despite only grabbing 2 of 4 points.

The Tigers have an impact player and stud rookie out of the lineup on long-term injuries.  We will wait and see how this team performs, but come closer to the trade deadline, they may be looking to join the conversation in contending should they not falter leading up to the deadline.

Moose Jaw Warriors
Pre-Season Goal Projection: 293
Current Pace:  332

I had them listed as a top team. They have a veteran roster with a lot of returning players that can score as well as a potential 1st round NHL draft pick on their back-end.

They have had some injuries early in the season. They have a very weird roster where they don't have a single forward who shoots right handed.

Moose Jaw looks to be one of the front-runners in the Eastern Conference. They may look at adding a right-handed shot up front, as well as a veteran #1 type defenceman that can join Jett Woo on the #1 pairing.

The East is so strong, but the warriors were built for this season. 1st in the East is so important because finishing 2nd means a tough first-round playoff. Anything less than a 3rd round appearance will be considered a disappointment. With swift adding, there is a guarantee that one of these teams will face an early playoff exit.

Prince Albert Raiders
Pre-Season Goal Projection: 234
Current Pace:  222

I had them listed as an average team that could be volatile. Unlike Edmonton who are going with a pure youth movement, Prince Albert has a few veterans to assist in their youth movement.
Unfortunately for PA their 9th overall pick in the CHL import draft didn't report. It would have made their younger group a lot more powerfull. Prince Albert went into the season with a "developing year" mentality with a strong goal of making the playoffs.

They have the toughest schedule in the league. With a developing roster a good season for them would be a wildcard spot. Their roster is interesting as their age groups are slightly unbalanced when it comes to defence vs offence. With defence & goaltending, they have a strong 18yr old class. Up front, they have a strong 17yr old class.  Their defence will peak next season, their offence may not be as strong. The following year their offence may peak, when their defence is not as strong. Going forward I will be keep to keep an eye on that, but I'm wondering if they try flipping one of their 17yr old Dmen, for an equivalent forward to balance things out.

I think they are a tougher team than what their record indicates. They will have a very strong defence and goaltending next season so they will only get better as the season goes on. They will be fighting with Saskatoon for the wildcard spot. While I don't expect them to sell, If someone offers them a good deal for one of their OA forwards they may look at doing so.

Red Deer Rebels
Pre-Season Goal Projection: 247
Current Pace:  219

I had listed them as a dark horse and an above average team and I feel I would have made the same decision if I had to evaluate them again. They looked to have the makings of a well-balanced roster despite being in a recovery mode from their past memorial cup runs.

They have underperformed.  They traded one of their better defencemen(freadrich) for a forward who didn't quite work out and then flipped the forward for a 3rd round pick.  They sold one of their forwards for a 6th round pick, as well as recently released an overage forward.

Sutter is tinkering with their roster trying to create some chemistry this season, but with a small preference for future assets. They have 2 19's that could generate some interest in Zablocki and Hagel, at the deadline. If they sell they will need to buy an OA next year.

A disappointing season, but at this point, making the playoffs would be considered a success. I Imagine the next few weeks will be important in deciding the direction of their team on whether they tinker to make the playoffs and potentially get into round 2, or if they decide to re-balance for the next few seasons.

Not making the playoffs would be considered a disappointment, but there is still a lot of time to turn the season around.

Regina Pats
Pre-Season Goal Projection: 288
Current Pace:  234

I had them listed as Top Tier Team, only with the expectation that they would add assets for this season. They needed some more top end talent for their memorial cup run.

They have struggled and this season is starting to look a little scary for them. They previously had one line producing offence, and have greatly welcomed Nick Henry back into the lineup which has given the pats more of a 2 line punch. Acquiring Cale Fluery was a massive boost on the back-end and the pats should be a little better with those 2 integrating back into the team.

They just received some bad news that Austin Wagner will not return. They were likely waiting for his return before deciding on how to upgrade. A Wagner return meant they could sell sloboshan and get a discount on another impact forward. Now they will need to reach into the depths of their cupboards and will likely be forced to empty the tank to acquire some more scoring punch.

I feel the pats need at least 2 more scoring forwards, they need a bit of a shakeup and more skill up front. Even though they have a guaranteed memorial cup spot, the pats probably hate the fact that Moose Jaw, Brandon, and Swift Current are very strong hockey clubs.

This has the makings for either:  A movie type ending (playing through some incredibly tough adversity). Or back to back disappointing finishes, and a "what the hell" just happened outlook.

I am rooting for them a little, just as long as that doesn't mean them ending the Tigers season, should they meet. I just have a bad feeling about how they spent their assets the last couple seasons. It's like they freely overpaid knowing they were rich, then suddenly when it came time to pay the bill they were unexpectedly shortchanged.

Saskatoon Blades
Pre-Season Goal Projection: 256
Current Pace:  238

I had listed them as average, with an ageing roster of lesser skilled players. They have re-balanced a small amount and removed a couple older players.  I felt a successful year would be getting a wildcard position.

Future Thoughts
This is the last "flush year" Next year in accordance to a proper recovery we should see them compete for a regular playoff spot, but they did mix up and match their draft picks more than any other team I've ever seen, and I'm highly uncertain and feel their path the next few seasons may be volatile.

From what I've seen they started the season very slow, but have put up a near .500 record since. Saskatoon has been very inconsistent with their play, as they have beaten Moose Jaw, Brandon, and Swift Current. The massey ratings list them as having the 2nd toughest schedule in the whl.

While they are currently on the outside looking in with the playoff picture, they are in the conversation when it comes to the last couple wildcard spots.  They may be tempted to upgrade to make the playoffs as it has been a while and their fans are unhappy.  Perhaps a team like Regina comes calling for one of their OA's and sends Sloboshan back to the Blades.

I think the Blades made all those moves with the intention of making some playoff noise a year earlier. If someone comes calling about their OA's they should be in that conversation and look to upgrade for the future because there isn't a lot of hope for this season.

I look forward to watching their roster play out to see what all those trades ended up doing.  A successfull year would be making the playoffs or recouping some big assets. Not recouping assets and missing the playoffs doesn't do anything for them.

Swift Current Broncos

Pre-Season Goal Projection: 260
Current Pace:  302

I had them listed as Above Average and a potential Dark Horse. At that point, they had an Incredible top line and great defensive depth. (since added an OA goalie)

I was questioning their overall depth at forward which is why I didn't list them as a potential contender....

Future Thoughts
We knew their top line was good, but their top line has some of the most amazing chemistry I've ever seen. Tyler Steenbergen has scored 31% of the Bronco's goals. Gawdin has a lot of offensive skill, and Heponiemi is a great visionary/playmaker that complements both players. Together those 3 have 68% of the Broncos goal totals.

Their experience on the back-end has them sitting with the 2nd best Goals Against Average in the League. Their issue was that they had virtually no secondary scoring; however, they recently made a blockbuster deal and acquired 2 impact forwards who have played together in Calgary.

Going forward, yeesh. Nobody has been able to stop their top line, and they just added the makings of a 2nd 1st line. They just need a better PK unit and this team looks really good. With the quality of talent they hav acquired, anything less than a 3rd round appearance would be considered a disappointment.  They may still look at add another defenceman to play in their top 4.

Swift Current - I'd list swift as a half surprise. We knew they'd be above average, but their top line has fueled an attempt to "go for it" and are now contenders and potential favourites. There is talk they are looking to upgrade a defenceman to solidify their top 4 joining Khaira, Sissons, and Minulin.

Brandon - Imagine where they would be if Nolan Patrick was in their lineup? I feel that I was a bit dumb in "under-estimating them". They had favourable draft positions, but I under-estimated some of the skill in their lineup because of their disappointing season last year and felt the loss of Nolan Patrick would further put them into average territory.

Red Deer - I apparently vastly over-estimated them, but If I had to do everything over again, I would probably still list them as above average. I feel they have underperformed, and that has prompted them to make some moves. They lost some key scoring from the previous year, but they looked to have a roster with potential for a good deal of improvement from their forwards. Although I didn't have a good read on their defensive capabilities, I went with their fans opinions of having a strong defensive group highlighted with A-list prospect Alexander Alexeyev, which hasn't been as strong as expected.

Lethbridge - I'm not completely ready to list them here yet. I felt their defence and goaltending would be their strong suit and power them to a 2nd place finish in the central. They did have an unexpected loss from Brennan Mennell.  There is lots of time for them to rebound. Since the Central is so weak, Lethbridge may not have decided on which route to take. They have some players whom other teams may inquire about.  If their is such a thing as an easy entrance into the 2nd round of the WHL Playoffs, Lethbridge is a candidate for that spot.

Most Improved 
Swift Current
Kootenay Ice

Most Disappointed
Red Deer

Monday, November 13, 2017

Is the WHL becoming More Offensive?

Is The WHL Game Changing?
Bob Ridley has stated in the past, he feels the game tends to change every 5 years or so.
This season and last, I feel that offence has been rising and I'm curious to see if the numbers back it up.

Key Rules Changes
2014-2015 - The last WHL Import Goaltender played in the 2014-2015 season(Marek Langhamer)
2015-2016 - 3v3 overtime introduced before the shootout (previously 4x4)
2016-2017 - Kicking the Puck in the Net is allowed(as long as the player is not in the crease)

Before the 3v3 OT rule was in place, the whl was seeing close to a 50-50 split in terms of games being won in OT or a shootout.  Last season 92 were solved in OT, and only 38 went to a shootout.

Total Goals Scored (Shootout goals not counted)

Goals Scored
Powerplay Goals
5529 (Projection)

Note: There was a goal boom in 2016-2017, and it looks to be increasing for this season at a very similar rate to powerplay goals.

Goaltender Save Percentage.

Total Shots
Total Saves
Total Save Percentage

Note1: A statistically significant substantial decrease of .13 points in 2016-2017
Notes2: Although Shots are at a high point they aren't above the high of the last 6 seasons.

Powerplay Goals

Total PP’s
Total Goals
Total SHG
17-18 (Projection)

Note:   Total Powerplay chances and conversions seem to be an all time high, but the goal boom of 2016-2017 doesn't seem to show a big increase.
Note2:  This season total PP's and conversion are at a high, but we will see if that continues to the end of the season.

We don't have enough data to make a 100% conclusion; However, goal scoring appears to be on the rise in the WHL and goaltending has taken a hit.

Previously .900 was a basic figure a team would classify as "competitively average". With the recent offensive outburst, .900 save percentage is now above average.

What is the main cause? Probably a combination of more goals being scored in OT, a few extra goals being allowed via kicking them in outside the crease, as well as a slight decrease in goaltending talent with the removal of Import Goaltenders.

I would also argue that more teams are adapting to an offensive style of hockey as wanted by their fans. An Example of a defensive casualty would be Kevin Constantine with the Everett Silvertips. The Tips made the 2nd round with impressive records in each of the last 3 seasons, but was let go (likely because of his defensive style of hockey)

We will have to keep an eye on things, but it appears that the hockey world (at least in the WHL) might be starting to enter a golden age in goal scoring.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Reviewing the Tigers

Blog Comments
The comments exploded on here after Fischer announced he was leaving the team. I took a few days to write this review because I was quite angry and writing comments in anger are usually poorly thought out. This is a long post, but hopefully, you find it interesting.

Topics (But not necessarily in the following order)
1. Season Start & The Central Division
2. Junior Hockey Cycle and how the Tigers play into it.
3. Clouston & Desjardins talk
4. Players who have left the Organization
5. The Future of the Tigers

I'm giving Clouston a B grade Read on to find out why...

Unfortunate Season Start A Blessing in Disguise
I was disappointed in how this season has started with Shaw getting hurt and Fischer requesting a trade. While one was unfortunate, the other might have been prevented.

It has forced the Tigers to play all their players and the young guys are shining through! Darren Kruger  Kids such as Ryan Chyzowksi, Dawson Heathcote, Josh Williams, Henry Rybinksi all look like they will be highlight impact players once they reach 18/19. The new Acquisition Hayden Ostir looks like the type of player the Tigers will create massive value from since he has 1-2 more years after this season. The Tigers acquired more points than they gave up, so the Fischer deal despite unfortunate circumstances is a win.

Central Division
This season in the central division no-one stands out.   1st in the central and a banner is up for grabs. I felt the Tigers had a "favorite" shot at that pre-season, but we will wait and see how the loss of Fischer and Shaw impact that. Tigers may still be favorites, just.... in an underdog position compared to the Eastern Division which is exceptionally strong.

The East is so strong that there is a weird weird possibility.....  Finishing first in the division might mean playing a team in the East who finished with more points in the regular season. I think in the long-term is it unlikely, but that would be interesting...

The Canes have built up their defensive game as a counter to the Tigers offensive game. Red Deer should also grow stronger as the season progresses.

You could make an argument that this isn't the Tigers year they don't have the team. They have a bunch of younger players, build around them. That question in itself is what most teams dream of. A shot at 1st in the central and potential to be very good in a couple years.

The Junior Hockey Cycle
I think most of you are well aware of the cycle, but for those that don't...

A WHL team drafts players after their 14yr old hockey season. Which means that most players don't make the team for another 2 or 3 years. When they are 18-19 a few years later they turn into impact players. See the chart below for a look at how many points the average WHL Forward earns in their career.

Average Points Per Age Group (Forwards) (Min 30 games played)
16 Yr Olds = 0.226 Pts/Game = 16.2 Pts
17 Yr Olds = 0.421 Pts/Game = 30.3 Pts
18 Yr Olds = 0.610 Pts/Game =  44 Pts
19 Yr Olds = 0.763 Pts/Game =  54.9 Pts
20 Yr Olds = 0.882 Pts/Game =  63.5 Pts
Note: This is the Competitive Average as having a 30 game minimum takes away most players who were cut/released. Last season saw a higher number of points generated. The Total points is based on 72 games played.

The table above shows you, how much an "average" forward will improve points-wise  An averagely skilled 16yr old improves 400% by the time he is an OA.

Improvement Curve & The Cycle
The Junior hockey cycle takes 4 years to rebuild( In some cases 5 with traded draft picks).

Championship teams usually have a very strong core of 18 and 19's.  In essence 2 very strong drafts/recruitment's back to back.  When that core matures at 18/19 they are supplemented with Overagers, Import Draft selections and ideally a few young "up and comers"  that are the depth 4th liners.

 A year or two after the strong season, most of the stronger players graduate and the team is now full of younger players. As a result, they end up with poor seasons and strong drafts...and the cycle resets.

Now the cycle has changed a little in some organizations. The Tigers are a prime example. Usually, in down or mediocre years, teams strive for balanced age groups so that there isn't a high degree of turn-over every year.  The Tigers tend to do this and hope that every couple years they pull out a strong draft and have stronger teams.

Examples of Successful Cycles In the WHL
I could go over many examples. Take the Edmonton Oil Kings of 2011-2012 to 2013-2014. 3 straight WHL Finals appearances can be attributed to 3 very strong drafts in their inauguration years of 08 to 2010. They missed the playoffs in 2 of 3 of those years. Bob Green was at the helm (He was a big part of the Tigers organization and scouting networks when Willie Desjardins was here)

The cycle doesn't guarantee top teams, as you are competing with other teams in the same stages of their own cycles. A team that cycles the right way will have a competitive advantage over teams that have spent a couple bantam draft picks in previous years balancing out their age groups, or adding assets to win an extra playoff round.  Great scouting gives you strong teams and the building blocks to develop a winner.

Examples of "The Down Cycle"
Take the current Saskatoon blades as a prime example.  They had some sustained success for a lot of years and eventually, they drained the cupboards for the Memorial Cup run in 2013. Regina is currently going through that process of draining the cupboards for this season.

Now Saskatoon has had a few years of poor seasons since.   In reality, they are just taking the long road to recovery. Drafting at 14, then waiting until those players mature takes some time.  IMO they screwed up their recovery by trying a statistical value trading approach, and it may take an extra couple seasons before a contender is built, but I won't get into it any further here.

Rick Carrier  Willie Desjardins, & The Revamp of the Tigers Organization
There was a really good article that appeared on the Tigers website 5 years ago. They interviewed Rick Carrier who with Willie Desjardins were the founders of the Revamp of the Tigers organization. ( Could add Bob Green in their as well)

In the article Carrier stated he wanted to "blow the team up" but the Masers were some of the folks who reminded him to stay the course.

The bad thing about a down cycle. The bad press, the fans are not happy. Winning solves everything, and many shortcuts are taken to achieve that, which wrecks teams championship chances in the long run.

 In the Tigers case, they had been in a down cycle for 6 years, so they were not recovering appropriately until Rick Carrier changed things and Willie Desjardins instituted his successful long term vision. Today Sean Clouston has taken over and continued that role.

The "Tigers Cycle"
The Tigers are well aware of the Cycle. When Willie Desjardins was here he had an advantageous situation taking over a team with multiple higher round picks. As such he was able to very quickly turn those cupboards full of China and create a wonderful dining room setup.. hah! His vision and work ethic molded a team that was having difficulties generating a winning culture.

Sean Clouston was a big part of that and took over the reigns as head coach in 2010, and soon after the GM role.

With Willie and Clouston they understand that buying an asset is expensive. They understand that shortcuts hurt a team in the long-run. For an Impact player generally, you need to give up 3 pieces...A good young player, a high draft pick, and a 2nd tier prospect at a minimum.

A lot of the teams in this league buy and sell. There are big pros and cons. If done right this helps their up years by receiving better players, helps their down years being less skilled and a higher draft pick position When unlucky or done wrong, it is disastrous.

The Tigers generally don't take those risks. They have added strong pieces, but only after players have demanded trades, and the long-term cost is minimal. They like their cycle to be an above average line with occasional "up blips".

Adding at the Deadline
One of Willie's best Moves was acquiring Michael Sauer from the Portland Winterhawks. The Tigers were close to championship caliber, but Michael Sauer paired with Russell gave the Tigers a premier 1st line pairing....both made the NHL. The Tigers gave up Patrick Wiercoich and Lee Morrow. Wiercoich went the NCAA route and Morrow only played in 20 games with Portland. A #1/2 Dman for nothing.

To Add or Not To Add
There are 22 teams in the league so it is natural to have multiple teams competing at the same point in their "up cycle" seasons.  The Tigers in the last 15 years have not sought out the for 3 type deals with one exception....

Tigers  2015 Season
The Tigers did add in 2015, but only because Hobbs demanded a trade. The Tigers acquired Hunt, Burroughs for Hobbs, a 2nd, and 3rd round picks. The Tigers later shipped Hunt for a 2nd and 3rd round pick. The Tigers basically lost 2.5 years of Hobbs for a half season of Hunt+Burroughs, which is significantly much smaller than a 1 for 3 or 2 for 6 deal. We can also add that Hobbs was a throw in to a previous deal with P.A

The Tigers weakness was an inconsistent and small offence and while they did acquire some help Butcher's production went down and their offence stayed the same. That downside was that the Tigers got beat by the Hitman in 5 games in Round 2 against a team they owned during the regular season. The Tigers also had insane turnover on the back-end and missed the playoffs the following year. It was a relatively smaller risk that failed, but because of that run they ended up with the #6 pick and Josh Williams

WHL Buyers That Failed
There are many cases of buying that end up failing.

2017 - Prince George
2016 - Red Deer Rebels
2015 - Medicine Hat Tigers
2014- Victoria Royals
2013 - Saskatoon Blades, Kootenay Ice
2010 - Brandon Wheat Kings

Buyers That Worked (Won the WHL)
2015 - Kelowna Rockets
2012 - Edmonton Oil Kings
2011 - Kootenay Ice

2017- Seattle
2016 - Brandon
2014- Oil Kings
2013 - Portland
2010 - Calgary
* Made small deals/tinkered in their winning years

Past Memorial Cup Champions
2007 Vancouver Giants
2004 Kelowna Rockets

2007 - Vancouver bought  Kendal McArdle
2004 - I don't remember, but I don't think the Rockets bought in 2004, I could be wrong.

Note: I define buyer as a team that made a significant deal in the winning year that impacted their future. Giving up something more than a 2nd round pick.

Competitive Advantage
This is just in the last 8 years, but the list of buyers that have failed is long. The list of buyers that worked is short. In short, buying can work, but it is very risky....

Clouston Vs Desjardins
Everybody has a different way of doing things. 
One Difference Between Clouston and Desjardins
Willie gave a depth player a chance to perform and if they weren't capable he gave them a renewed chance on another team and recovered a draft pick. Example players like Brad Forrest, Gary Haden, Tyler Prezuiso might have been moved, for 4th and 5th round picks.

Sean Clouston
Clouston became the Head Coach after Willie Desjardins landed a pro job in 2010. This is Clouston's 8th season as head coach. (Willie D left after his 8th season)

Clouston came in and modified things. Clouston holds onto his depth players. They are the healthy scratches and receive spot duty and lesser ice-time on the 4th lines. The top lines and older players are played much more heavily. Same thing with goaltenders and that could be a big reason why the Tigers have been poor at developing goaltenders lately.

Clouston also preaches his systems pretty heavily, and he keeps commenting on the radio that they demand their players to play a certain way. Players with a high degree of defensive smarts, but not necessarily high mobility and players who play with an edge and high physicality are players that the Tigers don't target.

The Tigers that play a strong north/south game from blueline to blue-line, and the guys who are east/west or physical players sometimes feel it difficult to adapt.

Nonetheless, Clouston recognizes that older players generate more offence.

Why any Owner Would Love The Current System
This is not intent of being anything bad, 
The junior hockey cycle....When you have a good team, you have good attendance which means more money. When you have poor teams you get poor attendance which means less money. Business owners hate losing money, they like stable investments. Hockey is cyclical and volatile
Clouston has been a head coach for 7 years,(this is his 8th season). Under Willie & Clouston the Tigers have failed to make the 2nd round of the playoffs only once. That is actually a pretty phenomenal achievement to have a system in place that can provide continual results. The owners also love the stable revenue.
The Masers have owned the team a long time, the Tigers have had good years, they have had bad years.They have lost money, they have made good money. If your a business guy and someone gives you consistent results, consistent attendance, consistent revenue...there is little chance of them altering that pattern as it doesn't make sense to do so. The only danger is not failing to adapt to changing market conditions and the game-changing, which even Bob Ridley mentioned the game seems to change every 5 years.

What the NHL Wants
 They want people who know how to win. All one needs to do is look at the coaches who won in the WHL Finals, and realize that every coach who won in the last 5 years( I haven't looked beyond that) left the following year for a pro job.

 (Seattle's' Steve Konowalchuk, Brandon's' Kelly McCrimmon, Kelowna Dan Lambert, Edmonton Ryan Huska) There are more, you get the point.

Clouston & Desjardins Coaching Record
The True .500
.500 Winning Percentage or 72 points is a benchmark that a lot of people use for an average team. However, with the introduction of a point for an overtime loss inflation has occurred. If we take the total amount of points and games into account the true average fluctuates very close to .550 depending on the Amount of OT games in a season.

Clouston's Regular Season Record
294-179-17-14 = .614 Winning percentage.
Plus .064

Clouston's Playoffs
His record is 37 wins, 33 losses = .529.
.029 above the average.

His playoff success is above the average, but half as successful as his regular season play

Compared to Willie Desjardins
Note: Willie coached 3 seasons with no extra OT point.
Regular Season
333-182-15-28-18 = .631 winning percentage
.100 points above the average
(.531 is the combined estimated .500 with 3 seasons in which there were no points for an OT loss

65-43 = .602 record
.102 points above average.

Willie Desjardins
Just going through that data, it makes you appreciate what we had in Medicine Hat when Desjardins was here. I listened to his radio interview last weekend with Bob Ridley and he mentioned he had some offers to coach in the WHL, but it would be difficult to go anywhere else than the Tigers.

Sean Clouston
These stats show that Clouston has been successful during the regular season and mildly successful in the playoffs. We also see he rides his top line older talent over developing players. So is his coaching creating extra success? or is he just knowledgeable of how to take advantage of the WHL system?

At this point, nothing leads me to believe there is anything special in his coaching, but his long-term vision has led to moderate success in his GM role.

Clouston's Improvements
I have seen improvements over the years. 3-4 years ago the Tigers started activating their 2nd defenceman into the rush. (He took a while to implement that).

The last few years we have seen players behind on the depth charts traded instead of 4th line scratches that may have otherwise ended up demanding trades (McGovern, Fantillo)

Their penalty kills used to be quite passive. Now they are passively aggressive (which is better) Passive kill only works best when you are severely out-skilled. Although Bobby Fox was taken credit for this.

David Quenneville - A little inconsistent at times in the early going, but somebody taught him to be more aware of his defensive surroundings. I would guess that could have come from the Islanders or Fox.

The last 2 seasons the Tigers are playing  3 line combos with spot duty to the 4th line. In years previous there was a heavy emphasis on the top 2 lines.

Clouston's Grade & Overall Ranking
I'm giving him a flat B.  He was part of the system for developing consistent winning years and that is awesome. It would be wrong to give him anything less than a B for that.

I cannot give him a higher grade due to players continually leaving the organization and mild success in the playoffs. If we take out the players leaving the organization I would have given him a B+.

It is almost a given in Junior hockey that players asked to be moved. ( I'm sure Willie had players asking for deals as well) The bad thing is that Clouston has overlooked this for a while, and now he has a reputation of someone who has an attitude behind closed doors. Us fans are starting to be highly concerned about what happens in the dressings rooms and every player that now leaves will cause more scrutinization.

He hasn't been able to make a WHL Finals appearance, and his regular season success hasn't yet equaled playoff success. IMO he is weak on teaching defensive skill; however, he excels at teaching North/South mobility, as well as a very solid vision of how to achieve above average teams.

Players leaving & Organizational Issues
The List of players Who have publicly Sat out and Demanded Trades
Jayden Hart - December 2013
Connor Hobbs - November 2014
Spencer Jensen - January 2014
Cole Sanford January 2016
Zach Fischer October 2017

I think it takes a lot for a player to just abandon the team.  The first couple players us fans were quite perturbed about players wanting to leave, as we were still used to the Willie Desjardins era.

After the last couple has left, we automatically assume it was the coach.... Junior hockey you need coaches that can connect with the players. It is disturbing that players would rather sit out than chase their dream with the Tigers.

We don't know what goes on in the dressing room. We want medicine hat to hold a high reputation. All we know is that issues are happening.

Winning has a tendency to solve everything, and the Tigers have a high degree of talent coming in. Clouston has a big opportunity for his career if he aspires for a pro job.

Clouston's' Grade

If I would compare Clouston to a hockey player in the pro ranks. I would give him a 1-year AHL deal to see if he is worthy. I'm not ready to offer him a long-term thing because I think he is just a little above average.

He understands how the system works, and his systems work well in the regular season.  I'm not ready to call for his firing, I think for the success he has brought here he deserves a couple years to bring this team together but the grip on my leash is a little tighter.

The Future
Lets' leave this on a good note. The Cycle.The roster in 2 years.

In 2 Years
While it is still early I think in 2 years the forward group will be exceptional and goal scoring won't be an issue.

Defensive is still volatile, as there are no new players playing significant roles as of yet. However, they do have a ton of depth and youth. Joel Craven, Trevor Longo, Cole Clayton, Daniel Baker, and Eric Van Impe. The law of odds say at least a couple if not most of them should turn out well, they just need some experience.

Goal-tending is tougher to judge, but they have 2 younger kids in Kaeden Lane, and 1st round pick Garin Brojklund looking to crack the backup job behind Jordan Hollett next season. These 2 will still be relatively young and the Tigers have historically had a tough time developing goalies. I really hope next year that whoever wins the backup role will be given ample time to develop.

Overall the forward group will be ok, defensively we will wait and see how they progress.

Rybisnki(18)Chyzowski(19) Heathcote(19)
Ositr(20) Hamblin(20) Williams(18)
Anderson(19) Steele(19) Price(18)
Hopwo(18) McCarry(18) xxx

Clayton(19) Craven(19)
Longo(19) Baker(18)


Add 2 imports, and anything else they find in the next 2 years.
Feel free to give me feedback if this was a difficult read or too boring.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Tigers Trade Duncan McGovern + Fischer Deal

Duncan McGovern
The Medicine Hat Tigers announced on Monday that they have traded 2000 born goaltender Duncan McGovern to the Kootenay ICE in exchange for a 5th round selection in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.

McGovern was likely a victim of coming through at the wrong time; however, the Tigers have been very poor at developing their own goalies. It is one of the positions they continually struggle with.

Bullion, Schneider, Shields, Lotz, Langhammer, Wapple, Lanigan. are all examples of players coming from other teams. (Langhamer was an NHL drafted goaltender before being picked in the Import draft, so that doesn't really count)

Tyler Bunz who was drafted under Willie Desjardins rule and his last season in 2011-2012 was the last Tiger Goaltender that was drafted or recruited as a Tiger and made it to the starters role.

This move is basically a sign that Bullion is here to stay for this season. Crazy to think that at one point he was likely a day or two away from being released before the Fischer incident happened.

Kootenay Ice
They have a 19yr old and an 18yr old who have put up some mediocre numbers so far this season. In the off-season they acquired Everett's Backup Overage Goaltender. He didn't work out so they picked up Kurtis Chapman from Regina, and Bailey Brkin from swift for conditional 6th round picks.

Zach Fischer Fischer Deal
The Spokane Chiefs made a splash on the trade front Thursday, acquiring Calgary Flames prospect Zach Fischer from the Medicine Hat Tigers in a multi-player trade.
Headed to the Tigers are a trio of assets, including 18-year-old right wing Hayden Ostir and 16-year-old defensive prospect Eric Van Impe. The Tigers also received a second-round pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft to complete the trade.

A 2nd Round pick in 2019
Might be a mid round to later round pick

18yr old year old Hayden Ostir
Have to wait and see him play, but if we look at the average whl forward and how they progress, he is on pace for a 35-45 point season if he plays all 72 games in his 18 year old year. The Tigers may be able to bump that up, but lets see what he is capable of first. It looks like his level of improvement from 16 to 17 was quite high, so hopefully he can be a near point per game player at 19&20.

16yr old Defenceman Eric Van Impe
He was a 2nd round bantam pick and putting up great numbers in Midget AAA. Potential core player for the future. The Tigers defensive group has a lot of young 16-17 yr old depth now with (Clayton,Longo,Craven,Baker, and now Eric Van Impe)

I don't follow Spokane much, but this was Spokane dumping assets.  They had extra players on their roster with an exceptionally strong 17yr old age class. They were looking for a veteran player to help provide experience to their younger up and coming group of players.

With the addition of Fischer, and IF Kailer Yamamoto comes back from the Oilers, Spokane will have a much better balanced team with a lot of youth; however, their goal-tending is still very young.

With this deal spokane had to release a 20 year old, so this was an acquire 1, and give up 4 type deal for them. They gave up a lot for someone who will not help them when their 17yr old age class matures.

I don't follow them close enough to make a good opinion, but giving up that many assets for a 1 year rental player with a younger roster is something I'm not fond of, but then again sometimes too much depth creates issues like what the Tigers have seen with players wanting out.

Overall Returns
The returns on Fischer are pretty impressive.  It sounds like their were multiple teams in on the Fischer sweepstakes, which may have gone in the Tigers favor. They followed their usual strategy of balance. A little bit for this year and assets for the future.

I'm going to do a review on the Tigers Organization the last few years. I'm just compiling some stats and it will be a bigger piece.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Early Season Thoughts

Early Season Thoughts

Overage Deadline
The overage deadline is October 10th which is almost here. The Tigers need to be under the limit of 3 Overagers and 25 players.  Decisions will need to be made SOON. They still  have 28 players and 4 overagers

Dalton Gally & Defenceman
I noticed his weight has dropped 10-12 lbs from last season.(depending on what site you get your stats from.

 Last year I half wrote him off as a guy I wasn't keen on. A "defensive filler" so-to-say, but his work ethic has completely changed. He is a lot leaner physically and looks way more mobile on the ice.  So far he has my vote as the most improved player.

Gally has been behind the veteran defenceman on the depth charts. He is being given 3rd line minutes as expected with other veterans ahead of him. As a 19yr old with limited offensive numbers in his whl career, his trade value is low, but he is giving the Tigers great experience and value on the 3rd line.

In an ideal situation you'd want your 3rd unit to be younger up and coming guys, unless you plan on an "up" season and wish to maintain a veteran presence.(Which is what we want this year to be)

Going forward the Tigers will be answering the question on what to do with their younger defenceman and Gally's improvements has made that decision tougher. They still have 10 defenceman on the roster.

Current Combo's
Quenneville Nassen
Rubins Macpherson
Gally  Clayton/Macphee

Moving Gally means more regular ice-time for Clayton/Macphee, and being able to keep another guy such as Joel Craven, Daniel Baker, or Trevor Longo.

IF we look at turnover for next year the Tigers assuredly loose 2 of their top 4, with potentially a 3rd in David Quenneville.

IF the Tigers want to "go for it" keeping Gally is probably a better option. IF they are unsure about how good they will be(which I am)  going with some younger defenceman is probably a better route. as those younger defenceman will need to play 2nd line minutes next season, and exposing them to a regular 3rd pairing would do more for their development.

The Tigers have been guilty of having last years depth guys takeing icetime away from newer players.

So this decision on defenceman is quite important going forward for next season and this season.

Mark Rassell -
6 goals in 6 games. He has been the Tigers most dangerous threat on the ice. He is the type of player that has a lot of 1v1 skill, and can create chances for himself rather than relying on a systematic "overwhelm with speed" approach the Tigers have been known for the last dozen years.

Tyler Preziuso & Gary Haden
Last season I was disappointed in the improvement paths of both players. The Tigers only dressed Haden for a paltry 32 games and he didn't see a lot of ice-time.

Both players are playing better, but I fear that their age and their value are in danger of becoming mis-aligned. As 18 yr olds they need to become impact players with hopes that next season they turn into top 6 forwards. I don't see that from either of them yet.

The Tigers need those two to play top 6 minutes next year, and right now that is  a scary thought because they need to find big improvements in their game. Both are behind schedule so they need to step their games up.

Josh Williams
He was good in the pre-season. He shows potential for very high 1v1 skill. He is still learning the ropes and adjusting to faster play. I'll give you a little tip when it comes to recognizing who the next breakout player will be.

The direct sign before a point breakout is consistently winning the small battles that may or may not translate into points. Coming up with puck possession on  50-50 scenarios, skating past a guy standing still, stealing/stripping pucks away from veteran players. Central 1v1 positioning and only taking off after receiving puck possession and not before.

 These are the types of small battles that don't necessarily generate points by themselves, but are the starting blocks to something more

Williams is on the step before that.

 He isn't yet consistently winning the small battles outright, but he is coming out in advantageous positions.  I feel that it may take some games for things to click, but when it does it may click quickly. He has a lot of skill for a 16yr old.

Jordan Hollett
Still need to see more from him, but I'm getting a Dawson MacAuley vibe, but a little more mobile. A big goaltender who stops the first shot and his size will prevent lots of second shots.

The Tigers are great at training mobility and stick-handling puck control with their goaltenders, and those are two areas Hollett will look to improve upon.

Their is a reason why most goaltenders in the NHL are 6"2 or taller.  I have a feeling that fans may not see Hollett as talented as other goaltenders because he isn't as mobile as what the Tigers have seen in the past. While that may or may not be true, he needs to work on his mobility and likely will have some up and down games.

The reason you don't see small goaltenders in the NHL is that shots are now much faster than what a goalie can react too. A smaller goalie simply needs to react to a longer distance.

It is too early to judge Hollett's potential, but so far his showing has been decent.

Linus Nassen
The first couple games he played really well. I  expected maybe a slight bit more  from a 3rd round NHL Pick. He isn't a bad player, but he needs some time to get used to the North American game. I understand why Florida wanted him to play Junior, as he needs some seasoning and a little more aggressiveness/drive to his game. I notice he is becoming a little hesitant in high traffic areas, and they need to nip that in the bud before it becomes a bigger issue.

Dislikes - Overall chemistry
With Mason Shaw out for the majority of the season, the Tigers don't have a legit 2nd line centreman and are using a player who shouldn't be in the top 6.  They have (Hamblin, Chyzowski, Haden, White) as their centremen, and Hamblin is the only one who should be in the top 6.

The lack of a 2nd line centreman and trying to keep the roster balanced, has seen production dips from Zach Fischer and James Hamblin.

Will they re-balance their lines and put a winger at Centre? or will they continue to try and force what they have and hope something changes? Receiving a 2nd line centre in return for Gally is too much to ask for and would need more going back, and I haven't seen the Tigers trade a key youngster unless they demand a trade.

Rookies & Sophomores.
I like the group of newer players the Tigers have. Ryan Chyzowski is leading the way and has shown a noticeable improvement. The Tigers next season could be a little lean up front and someone like Chyzowski will be looked to provide a scoring presence. As the season goes on I expect to see Chyzowski, Rybisnki, Heathcote  become more noticeable.

I would like more time to watch Heathcote and Rybisnki they both look strong on the puck and look to have solid 1v1 potential.

Ryan Jevne
He is showing big improvements in his skating & work ethic.  We know from last year he has a very good shot. If he can connect the dots between his skating and his shot by improving his puck handling ability,  points will rise. He is better slotted into the 3rd line, but I'm hoping to see those dots start connecting.


The Tigers have been ok. Not great, but not terrible. 3 of the 6 games their shots against has been pretty low, which is great!! I think their is a lot of room for improvement here.

I see some communication issues and getting used to new players/roles.

An Example:

Their was a battle for the PUCK inside P.A's blueline. Macpherson took a slightly risky line change, just as P.A gained puck possession and fed the puck up the ice.

Now if Quenneville noticed this, he could have been more aware of the approaching P.A raider, but he was not aware, and was caught flat footed at center.  Now this play is not entirely Quenneville's fault, but a combination of a communication fault, with Macpherson making a slightly risky late change and Quenneville not being aware of it.

Quenneville has been a lot better defensively so far, but this is one play where 2 veterans misplayed the situation with poor communication.

Looked amazing in his first game back, not so much in his second game, but then again their whole group looked flat against P.A

An average start to the season which was almost expected with some late returnees and injuries. It is good to finally see everyone healthy minus Mason Shaw.

 The Shaw injury completely changed things. Him being out has diluted the skill, and it may take the Tigers a few games to work out solutions.

The good thing is that I don't expect Fischer and Hamblin to be held off the scoresheet forever. Once they start scoring the Tigers should start rising from .500.