At first glance, Everett’s 2011-12 season looks like a carbon copy of 2010-11. Indeed, some of the similarities are downright eerie:
– This season the Tips went 22-40-2-8, good for 54 points. Last season they were 28-33-7-4, which equaled 67 points.
– This season Everett struggled to score, being credited with 185 goals, the third-fewest in the league. Last season the Tips struggled to score, being credited with 172 goals, the second-fewest in the league.
– This season Everett squeezed into the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth, needing a loss by Seattle on the season’s final day to secure that berth. Last season the Tips squeezed into the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth, a loss by Seattle on the second-to-last day of the season providing the clinching moment.
– This season the Tips were swept in the first round by top-seeded Tri-City. Last season the Tips were swept in the first round by top-seeded Portland.
It was almost like someone did a copy-and-paste job. So why does it feel so different this time around?
The answer is simple. The journey to those very similar outcomes traveled vastly dissimilar paths.
In 2010-11 the Tips began the season with great expectations. Everett was coming off a campaign where it tied for the best record in the Western Conference, and the Tips not only had a decent core returning, they also made a couple exciting offseason player additions. However, Everett sputtered through the first half, then collapsed in the second. The Tips limped to the finish line, losing 10 of their last 11 before getting destroyed by the Winterhawks in the playoffs. During exit interviews with the players, coaches and general manager Doug Soetaert, every single individual expressed nothing but frustration and dissatisfaction with how the season unfolded.
In contrast, this season was acknowledged as a rebuilding season from the beginning. It certainly wasn’t a smooth ride. At the midway point Everett had just six wins. Franchise leading goal scorer Tyler Maxwell asked out and was traded. Longtime general manager Doug Soetaert ended up taking the fall, being dismissed at the beginning of February. But in a rebuilding season the main priority is seeing progress on the ice, and the Tips improved as the season went along. Everett won 12 of its final 23 games to resurrect from the dead. The rookies found their way and contributed more to the cause late in the season than they did early on. And just making the playoffs — extending Everett’s streak of making the postseason in every year of existence to nine — was an accomplishment in itself. Then in the playoffs the Tips at least put up a fight against Tri-City, culminating with their thrilling comeback and overtime loss in Game 4.
So even though the Tips find themselves at a similar point as they did one year ago, the arc is trending upward rather than downward, and that should bode well for the future.
Next: 2011-12 review: Why the turnaround?