Do better, or else.
As we head into 2011, the Silvertips are bobbing in a sea of inconsistency, and with the trade deadline fast approaching, Soetaert is demanding an improvement.
“The players need to get on the same page, focus, compete on a regular basis and set their individual goals aside,” Soetaert said. “If not, then it's going to be a tough last part of the season for them.”
Everett finds itself 16-16-2-3 going into the weekend, which simultaneously ties the Tips for sixth and last in the tight Western Conference. Given that Everett expected to be among the conference's contenders, Soetaert is not pleased with the way the Tips are performing.
“It's been tough to evaluate the players in the sense that we're not playing as a team, which is disappointing,” Soetaert said. “I still believe we're in the race and will make the playoffs — there's no way we're not going to make the playoffs. But we've been inconsistent and that's the frustrating part.”
Soetaert said he's satisfied with the way the team's younger players have performed. However, he doesn't believe Everett's veterans have done enough, particularly up front, where the Tips have scored the second-fewest goals in the Western Hockey League.
“Our most-inconsistent part has been our older players,” Soetaert said. “We need our older guys to compete on a nightly basis to lead our hockey club. I know we're not going to win every game, but we need to get rid of the bad nights where we've only got a few guys going. We need guys to step up and contribute offensively who haven't done that on a consistent basis.”
With the team showing little progress, there's been speculation the Tips might be sellers at the Jan. 10 trade deadline, sacrificing veterans to build for the future.
But Everett has never been a seller at the deadline in its eight-year history — with the possible exception of trading Kyle Beach in 2008-09 — and Soetaert made it clear he doesn't intend to begin now.
“Have we ever done that?” Soetaert responded when asked about the possibility of selling. “There's your answer.”
Soetaert also said he doesn't expect to do much buying. Everett already made several trades during the offseason and the first half of the season, acquiring the likes of center Landon Ferraro and defenseman Brennan Yadlowski, and that's depleted the Tips' trading resources. Soetaert also cited the high prices being asked, as evidenced by the haul Vancouver received from Portland for overage center Craig Cunningham earlier this week — the Giants picked up two players as well as first- and second-round bantam draft picks.
“We're going to take these guys as far as we can go,” Soetaert said. “I don't expect anything of significance happening (at the trade deadline).”
That means Soetaert is banking on a change in form by the current roster.
There are reasons to believe it can happen. Everett's been without head coach Craig Hartsburg for most of the first half because of his heart surgery. His imminent return could have a positive impact on the team's play. Also, the Tips suffered through an inconsistent first half last season, hovering around .500 until the new year hit. Then the players bought into Hartsburg's systems and Everett proceeded to win its first 14 games in the new year en route to finishing tied for the best record in the Western Conference.
“I know Craig is going to get the guys on the same page,” said Soetaert, who emphasized that associate head coach Jay Varady and assistant coach Chris Hartsburg have done all they can while Craig Hartsburg has been out. “If not, they're going to have a miserable last two months because I know Craig's not happy with the inconsistency as a team.
“I still believe we can elevate our game. As soon as we start playing for the team, we'll have success.”
It's possible Craig Hartsburg will make his return behind the bench at tonight's home game against Vancouver. When asked whether he'd be behind the bench tonight he responded, “Ask me again tomorrow.” ... Prospect Tye Hand has joined the team for practices. Hand, a 15-year-old defenseman who was a second-round pick in the 2010 bantam draft, is not expected to appear in any games.
Nick Patterson's Silvertips blog: http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog.
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