Thoughts on the first half

First of all, I want to wish everyone happy holidays. I hope the season has treated you all well.

And in the spirit of the season, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about Everett’s first half:

– So far this season’s team has been eerily similar to last season’s team. Everett started off red hot, but then injuries hit and the team cooled as the Christmas break approached. The offense has been propped up by one transcendent talent (Joshua Winquist last season, Nikita Scherbak this season) who is largely responsible for making the Tips a league-average scoring team. Meanwhile, the Tips have one of the stingier defenses in the league.

I actually think Everett has more scoring depth this season than last season. Last season the Tips were largely reliant on whatever line Winquist happened to be on for its goals. This season Everett has been able to fashion two lines capable of scoring five-on-five. Everett’s defense seems just as capable, despite the unexpected loss of Mirco Mueller to the NHL.

But just like last season, I think the Tips have depth issues. When Everett is healthy and everyone is fully available, the pieces fit remarkably well. Every player slots into a role for which he seems ideally suited at this stage of his career, and as we saw early in the season a full-strength Everett team is a handful for opponents. But take just one or two players out of the mix and the domino effect of moving players into different roles seems to throw things out of whack. Compare that to a team like Kelowna. When the Rockets are missing players, they have depth players who are ready to step into bigger roles, and Kelowna hardly misses a beat. The Tips haven’t reached that level just yet.

So while Everett currently sits in first place in the U.S. Division, I think the Tips will need to stay healthy to stay there. Especially with Portland getting itself back on track after its horrible start.

– The trade deadline is Jan. 10, so what’s going to happen with Everett?

It appears the Tips have decided to try and go for it this season. Does “going for it” mean Everett is trying to build a championship contender, or does it mean the Tips are merely trying to put together a team that can fulfill the fourth-place guarantee and win a playoff round for the first time since 2007? I can’t answer that. What we do know, however, is the team acknowledged being involved in trade talks for Prince Albert star defenseman Josh Morrissey. I’ve since heard that Everett was a finalist along with Kelowna, which ended up with the winning bid. I’ve also heard it suggested the Tips are still in the market for a top-six forward. I’m not sure whether Everett has the resources to land a big fish, such as Regina’s Morgan Klimchuk, since the Tips gave up a lot to acquire Scherbak. But it seems Everett will be one of the teams in play leading up to the deadline.

It’s a shame the Tips couldn’t convince Tyson Jost to come to Everett this season. The first-round bantam pick decided to play his 16-year-old season with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, and by all accounts he’s been just as good as advertised. Had he come to Everett he’d be playing in the Tips’ top six and probably on a line with a first-round NHL draft pick (Scherbak) — and Everett wouldn’t need to be in the market for a forward.

Now here’s some quick thoughts on some individual players:

– Ben Betker: This guy is an absolute workhorse. The Tips need him back from his concussion big-time when the second half starts.

– Brayden Low: You have to respect the work he’s put in to be in his current position. What kind of odds would you have gotten that he’d still be with Everett as an overager when he was plucked off the scrap heap two years ago?

– Remi Laurencelle: The new Brayden Low.

– Carson Stadnyk: His development as a player has been pretty much textbook. At 19 he’s exactly the player he looked like he’d be when he starred at training camp as a 16-year-old.

– Dawson Leedahl: Unofficial member of the Legion of BOOM!

– Matt Fonteyne: If this kid isn’t named the team’s Unsung Hero, then I just don’t understand the parameters of the award.

– Noah Juulsen: He needed an adjustment period to being on a top defensive pairing, but now he’s up to full speed and I have to think his NHL draft stock is rising.

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