This Everett Silvertips season took me back to my youth.
When I was a child one of my favorite toys was my Intellivision video game system. There was a game called Space Battle, where you were kind of like Luke Skywalker or Han Solo in Star Wars when the Millennium Falcon was escaping the Death Star. You controlled a turret and tried to shoot down incoming enemy fighters before they zapped you. The opening screen showed where the squadrons of enemy fighters were located, and if it was a difficult looking formation I’d immediately pounce on the reset button in search of more favorable starting conditions.
This season it was the Tips who hit the reset button.
Last season was supposed to be Everett’s rebuilding season. Former general manager Doug Soetaert announced publicly the team was rebuilding, the team had a new coach in Mark Ferner, and the Tips went young to begin the season. The plan was simple enough: suffer the growing pains with a young team, then reap the rewards in future seasons.
But things didn’t work out that way. Everett won just six games during the first half of the season. Soetaert made some curious trades for veterans. The rebuild wasn’t taken to it’s conclusion as veteran stars Ryan Murray and Kent Simpson weren’t cashed in. And Soetaert was relieved of his duties in February.
Garry Davidson was brought in as Soetaert’s replacement, and once superstar prospect Seth Jones announced he wouldn’t play for the Tips early last offseason, it was time to reach for that reset button. And oh what a complete reset it turned out to be.
Davidson cleaned out the roster, then put together an even younger team, forcing those young players into key roles. He handed the goaltending reins to an unproven 17-year-old. He fired Ferner and played the final three months without a head coach. This was a true case of tearing it all down and building from the ground up.
Because of that, you almost have to throw the results out. This season wasn’t about winning, this season was about getting down to beauty base zero. It wasn’t always pretty. This team went through some barren patches, and for the third straight season the Tips couldn’t score goals. Once the Tips were scrubbed clean, they again found themselves snagging the conference’s eighth and final playoff berth during the final weekend of the regular season. It was a tired refrain that seemed destined for an all-too-familiar coda of a first-round playoff sweep, followed by speculation on whether it would have been better to miss the playoffs to get a better draft pick.
But then something unexpected happened. Everett actually won a playoff game. Then another. OK, so two playoff wins isn’t exactly much to crow about. But for a franchise stuck in neutral and forced to hit the reset button, that represented real accomplishment. It provided a sign of hope, and hope is something this organization has been lacking.
Next: 2012-13 review: Youth movement