T-Birds’ busy offseason continues after dealing Jacobs
By Tim Pigulski
In a bit of a shocker, the Thunderbirds dealt center Colin Jacobs to the conference rival Prince George Cougars for 19-year-old defenseman Jesse Forsberg and fifth- and seventh-round selections in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. As one of the few players on the team who has been selected by an NHL club already, many were expecting Jacobs, a power forward, to carry much more of the offensive load this season after an injury-shortened 2011-2012 campaign.
When I first got news of the trade Friday afternoon, my gut reaction was that the T-Birds had subtracted another unhappy player with high potential for an over-aged player whose hockey career was nearing its end. Considering the team’s lack of offense last season, losing a player of Jacobs’ caliber to a rival they’ll be playing four times this season would only serve to push the team even lower on the food chain of the WHL’s U.S. Division.
After taking a bit of time to think about the trade and speaking with general manager Russ Farwell, this now looks like it has the potential to be a solid deal for both the T-Birds and Cougars. Seattle, loaded with talent but sorely lacking in experience on the back end, adds an experienced and physical D-man in Forsberg who isn’t afraid to drop the gloves and acted as Prince George’s captain last season. With the offseason additions of Alexander Delnov, Roberts Lipsbergs, and Riley Sheen to the forward ranks, Farwell felt that one of the team’s most pressing needs was a leader on defense who could positively influence the development of young players such as Shea Theodore and Jared Hauf, among others.
Prince George, on the other hand, picks up Jacobs, a player with loads of potential whose career in Seattle seemed to be growing stale. All in all, a trade that filled needs for both teams.
After a shoulder injury during the offseason, Jacobs was never quite able to return to form and only managed 19 points in 44 games — much lower than what is expected of a potential NHL player. With great size and decent hands, he flashed glimpses of greatness but was never able to put it all together during his three seasons in Seattle. However, the thing I will most remember about Jacobs’ time in Seattle was his propensity for diving. I wasn’t the only one who noticed either, as he was penalized numerous times for acting jobs. In my opinion, while acceptable in sports like soccer and basketball, diving has no place in hockey. Hopefully a fresh start up north will allow Jacobs to clear his mind and focus on playing the game and developing his immense amounts of untapped potential.
Forsberg, on the other hand, is a stay-home defenseman who plays a “no frills” sort of game. Unlike his brother Alex, who is still in Prince George and was the No. 1 overall Bantam Draft pick in 2010, Jesse doesn’t possess much of an array of offensive skill. Last season he contributed six goals and seven assists to a playoff-bound Prince George team, but also added 132 penalty minutes in 58 games, demonstrating a physical touch that may have been lacking on the blue line after the loss of Cason Machacek.
Both players had requested trades from their respective teams this offseason. Jacobs, since returning from injury, never felt like he was really able to find his game again in Seattle, while Forsberg similarly had felt his development grow stagnant lately in Prince George. Farwell is fortunate that he didn’t have to sell Jacobs for lower than his worth, as is so often the case when a player is demanding a trade. Also worth noting is that Forsberg has already expressed his excitement at joining the T-Birds, a factor that can’t be underestimated whenever a player joins a new team that has had a rather dark recent history.
On a side note, I also asked Farwell about any new developments in the Ryan Gropp situation. He confirmed that Gropp will remain in Penticton and the BCHL this season, but provided some hope that an eventual foray into the CHL is not totally off of Gropp’s radar.
Check out my full 11-minute interview with Farwell above for much more detail on Forsberg, Jacobs, Gropp, Lipsbergs, what to keep an eye on in training camp, and the battle for the open center spots heading into training camp.
You can follow Tim on Twitter @tpigulski.