Addition by subtraction? A look at who the T-Birds lost
By Tim Pigulski
Thunderbirds general manager Russ Farwell knew going into this offseason that he would need to make significant changes to a roster that has failed to reach the playoffs for three straight seasons. Considering that eight of the WHL’s 10 Western Conference teams qualify for the playoffs each year, such futility is unacceptable to a now restless fan base.
As a result of their shortcomings, the 2012-2013 T-Birds will be missing a number of familiar faces.
G Calvin Pickard. Not much needs to be said here. Anyone who is a fan of the T-Birds or WHL knows what Pickard has meant to this organization for the past four seasons. As a 16-year-old he unseated incumbent Jacob DeSerres, a Philadelphia Flyers draftee, as the starting goalie and in four seasons went on to set the WHL record for career saves and become a second-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche. We can only imagine how much worse the team’s record would have been over the past three seasons if not for Pickard’s consistently spectacular play. The key to replacing Pickard, in addition to continued solid goaltending, will be a much more solid effort from the defense; that is, a defense that doesn’t allow nearly 40 shots per game. Pickard will be moving on to the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, as he continues his road toward someday (hopefully) being an NHL goaltender. To try and compensate for the loss of Pickard, Farwell went out and grabbed goaltender Brandon Glover from the Calgary Hitmen in exchange for a third-round Bantam draft choice. Glover was named the VAUGHN WHL Goaltender of the Month last November.
D Dave Sutter. Import draft picks can often make the difference between a team being a serious contender or an irrelevant pretender. The ability to immediately add an 18-year-old with a legitimate NHL future to your top lines can transform a roster from the top all the way down. Just look at Portland and what they’ve done with first-round NHL draft picks Nino Niederreiter and Sven Bartschi. Unfortunately, Sutter never made close to that impact for the T-Birds. In two seasons, he played in 130 games, registering 30 points (6 goals, 24 assists), 105 PIMs, and most tellingly, a -53 rating. Sutter went on to sign a professional contract with a Swiss team, but did not have a place in Seattle, as he would have been a 20-year-old (WHL rules limit each team to three) import player (maximum two).
W Burke Gallimore. Gallimore tantalized T-Birds fans during the 2010-2011 season when he averaged nearly a point per game as a 19-year-old. Possessing a wicked shot from the wing, fans were looking for Gallimore to improve on those numbers in his final WHL season, hopefully seeing him evolve into a team leader and a name atop the WHL’s point leaderboards. However, generally uninspired play and an inconsistent supporting cast led to Gallimore barely reaching the 40-point plateau.
D Cason Machacek. Machacek was acquired from Lethbridge shortly before the season began to provide a physical, stabilizing force on the back end as a 20-year-old. When he was on the ice, he was a solid defensive defenseman, registering a -8 rating in 50 games played. But Machacek had trouble controlling his emotions, culminating in an eight-game suspension for bumping an official with only 10 games left in the season – a critical time as the T-Birds unsuccessfully tried to scrape their way into the postseason.
W Jacob Doty. In case you missed it, fan favorite and feared brawler Jacob Doty was dealt to the Medicine Hat Tigers for forward Riley Sheen early in the offseason. The undersized Sheen (5-foot-9 and 148 pounds) is said to have a good set of hands and some offensive prowess, but his three points in 46 games last season left me wondering what he’s really going to bring to the team. Consider that Doty, who really only played to intimidate opponents, registered seven points in 55 games. As a disclaimer, I haven’t had much of a chance to see Sheen play, so we’ll have to wait and see who got the better of this deal.
W Dillon Wagner. Wagner was picked up off waivers from Portland about halfway through the season to fill the open 20-year-old roster spot created by the departure of defenseman Kyle Verdino. Wagner’s time in Seattle was unspectacular, as he tallied a mere six points in 32 games. I don’t think much was expected of what was essentially a “rental” player, and as a result, his presence (or lack thereof) won’t prove to be a significant loss.
2012-2013 will mark head coach Steve Konowalchuk’s second season with the team. He’s now had a full year to implement his system and work with Farwell to build a roster that’s more suited to his coaching style, so this campaign could be very telling as to the type of head coach that Konowalchuk can be.
With the home opener still approximately two months away, we can certainly expect more roster changes to occur, including the loss of at least two of the team’s 20-year-olds, which include centers Luke Lockhart and Brendan Rouse, winger Chance Lund, defenseman Brad Deagle, and the newly acquired Glover.
Later this week I’ll be taking a look at the new faces that joined the T-Birds this offseason via trade or the CHL Import Draft.
You can follow Tim on Twitter @tpigulski.