What will we see: Guarantee?

In February of 2013 the Silvertips declared, “Enough is enough.” Everett was in the midst of its third straight eighth-place finish in the WHL’s Western Conference, and the front office decided that wasn’t going to happen again, issuing its famous guarantee. The Tips would finish sixth or better in the conference in 2013-14, or season ticket holders would receive a $100 credit toward the following season’s tickets. It signaled a commitment to no longer settling for mediocrity. It was touch and go for a while during the second half, but Everett eventually fulfilled that guarantee, finishing tied for fourth in the West. So mission accomplished

However, that guarantee had two parts, and the second part could be vastly more difficult to achieve.

The guarantee extended to the 2014-15 season. Everett guaranteed those same season ticket holders that the team would finish fourth or better in the Western Conference next season, thus earning home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Otherwise, it’s another $100 credit.

On the surface that seems eminently doable. Everett is coming off a season in which it made a 31-point improvement, and the Tips still had a young team, meaning most of the roster will return. The Tips will have a 19-year-old goaltender with two years experience as a No. 1 in Austin Lotz. A defense that allowed the second-fewest shots on goal in the league should return nearly intact. And having Kevin Constantine back behind the bench clearly makes a big difference when it comes to results. Why wouldn’t a team that just finished tied for fourth under those circumstances be able to repeat that level of success?

Well, I’m telling you it’s not going to be easy.

First, look at the competition. Kelowna, Portland and Victoria all reached the 100-point threshold this season, a number that typically indicates an elite team. Looking at the potential rosters for next season Kelowna and Portland are going to be loaded again, and I think Victoria has enough coming back to sustain a level of excellence. Everett’s can’t count on any of the teams ahead to help out by backing up.

Then, even though the Tips won’t lose much in quantity, what they lose in quality will be difficult to replace. Winger Joshua Winquist, who carried the offense, is gone as a graduated overager. So too are core pieces in defenseman Matt Pufahl and center Manraj Hayer. Center Jujhar Khaira has already signed an NHL contract, and signed 20-year-olds almost always end up playing professionally. That’s four of Everett’s top five scorers this season, and Everett wasn’t a high-scoring team.

Everett’s front office dodged a bullet this season when the Tips took 24 of a possible 26 points from their final 13 games, thus making the the guarantee a non-issue in the final couple weeks. Everett certainly is in the mix for a top-four finish next season. But the Tips may have to brush up on those Matrix-like bullet-dodging skills if they want to avoid ponying up this time next year.

Next: What will we see: Goal scoring?

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