Next season will be Everett’s 10th-anniversary season, complete with a commemorative logo and everything. Can you believe it? Where have the 10 years (OK, nine years) gone?
And for the first time in those 10 years the Tips head into a new season under a new regime. Doug Soetaert was in charge of building Everett’s roster going into eight of those previous nine seasons, and the one season he wasn’t at the helm it was his underlings who performed those duties, so there wasn’t really much in the way of transition or philosophy change.
But it’s possible we’ll see a big philosophy change going into next season.
New Tips general manager Garry Davidson came from Portland, where he spent four years as the team’s director of player development. In those four years Portland put a heavy emphasis on skill, building some of the most offensively-gifted teams the WHL has seen since Everett entered the league. Davidson said, both at the time of his hiring and after the season ended, that he’s looking to increase the amount of skill and skating ability in Everett’s system.
In contrast, when Soetaert talked about building the system, he often emphasized work ethic. It’s not that Soetaert didn’t believe in having skilled players, but it doesn’t seem to have been the same type of priority as it appears it will be under Davidson.
So it’s possible we’ll see some significant differences between the roster at the end of this season and the roster at the start of next season.
It’s certainly possible Everett will have a similar look from a personnel standpoint. The Tips potentially could return all their forwards but one: leading scorer Josh Birkholz, who graduated as an overager. Everett finished the season with just five 19-year-olds, meaning only two need to be trimmed to reach the overager limit of three.
But Everett was not a skilled team this season, as evidenced by its paltry goal total. And though the Tips could return just about all of its forwards, I’m not sure you’d describe many of those players as being highly-skilled types. If Davidson is determined to put his stamp on the team immediately, it’s likely there will be some shuffling of the roster during the offseason.
That makes it difficult to project just how good the Tips will be next season. Based on who could be back and prospects who have been signed, it’s hard to project the Tips as a contender. There’s a good chance Everett will be better, especially with head coach Mark Ferner now having a year under his belt. There’s also a good chance the ceiling in the U.S. Division will sink a bit as both Tri-City and Portland will lose a lot of top players. But the Tips have a lot of ground to make up. Even Davidson said he still sees it as being something of a rebuild.
But there are a lot of wild cards in the mix, too. The last four years Portland has been the league’s most successful team when it comes to luring NCAA and NCAA-bound players to the WHL. Can Davidson do the same for Everett? The Tips will have a high pick in the CHL import draft, giving the team the opportunity to add an immediate impact player. Then there’s the up-in-the-air status of captain Ryan Murray and uber prospect Seth Jones.
So it should be a fascinating offseason for Everett, and just how good the Tips could be won’t be known until the dust settles.
Next: 2012-13 preview: Ryan Murray (who’s coming back?)