The WHL season came to an end Sunday when the Portland Winterhawks defeated the Edmonton Oil Kings in Game 6 of the WHL championship series, claiming the series in six games.
I want to thank our resident Portland fan, Fax, for reminding me that by winning two games against the Winterhawks in the first round of the playoffs, Everett won as many playoff games against Portland as any other team in the league. The Tips, who were eliminated in the first round by the Winterhawks, and Oil Kings both took Portland to six games. Kamloops won just one game in the Western Conference finals, and Spokane was swept in the second round. That may be cause for optimism for the Tips going forward, especially given the Tips’ youth.
Fax also suggested that with Portland winning the championship, the Seth Jones trade could end up becoming one of the best win-win trades in league history. With the Tips likely having anywhere between seven and 10 seasons remaining from defenseman Ben Betker and forwards Tyler Sandhu and Mitch Skapski, I believe that’s a reasonable assessment. That said, I will always wonder “what if” with regards to the Ryan Murray-Seth Jones defensive pairing that never was.
As for Portland, what a crazy season it was for the Winterhawks. First there were the unprecedented sanctions levied by the league for alleged player benefits violations, something the league still hasn’t really explained. Now it’s capped off by a championship. What happens now heading to the Memorial Cup? Portland head coach and general manager Mike Johnston was suspended by the league for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs. The playoffs are over, so is Johnston’s suspension over, too? If so, does Johnston return to the bench for the Memorial Cup? Do the reins remain with assistant coach Travis Green, who guided the team to this point? How’s this going to work?
Speaking of Green, the Tips still don’t have a head coach, and apparently the Green-to-Everett rumors resurfaced during the championship series. Here’s what Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal had to say:
“Travis Green, who has filled in admirably for suspended Portland Winterhawks head coach/general manager Mike Johnston the last 5-1/2 months, is a hot item around the Western Hockey League. He could be coaching the Everett Silvertips next season. The connection: Everett GM Garry Davidson used to work as Portland’s director of player personnel. Plus, the former NHLer’s family lives in California.”
(tip of the hat to Gregg Drinnan for heads up)
Davidson has said he’d like to have a new coach in place by the beginning of June. If Green truly is Davidson’s primary target, then the Tips will have to wait until the Memorial Cup is over to make any kind of a hire. The Memorial Cup championship game is May 25.