What will we see: Truculence?

truc-u-lent [TRUHK-yuh-luhnt] adj.

1. fierce; cruel; savagely brutal.

2. brutally harsh; vitroiolic; scathing.

3. aggressively hostile; belligerent.

(definition courtesy of Dictionary.com)

Listening to Everett coach Kevin Constantine talk about hockey is often a fascinating endeavor. He’s clearly someone who thinks the game. But during exit interviews, what made me smile inwardly was when Constantine pulled out a word straight from the Princeton Review vocabulary list after I asked about the Tips building an identity. Here’s the quote:

“I think we were a team that was pretty consistent in how you saw the same thing, and I say that in a positive way. We were reasonably consistent in our style of play and fairly detailed and disciplined in how we played. I think that identity needs to grow into a slightly more truculent style, a little more eager to go to battle. I think Seattle ultimately was a bigger and more truculent team and that took a toll physically. I think we need to be more like that.”

Constantine went on to talk about wanting to improve on the skill side, then add both those physical and skill components on top of the structure and discipline that was established this season. But it was the “truculent” comment that stood out to me.

From a penalty-minute standpoint Everett was the most disciplined team in the WHL this season, being handed just 816 penalty minutes. No other team in the Western Conference was below 1,000. That discipline was an asset as Everett had 97 more power-play opportunities (318) than its opponents (221). That’s an incredible 44-percent more chances than the opposition, and it resulted in 21 more goals.

Those differentials carried over into Everett’s first-round playoff series against Seattle. Over the course of the five games Everett had 31 power plays to Seattle’s 17, resulting in an 8-3 goal advantage for the Tips (9-3 if you include Everett’s short-hander). Yet the T-birds still won four of the five contests. Why?

The truculence Constantine talked about was probably the biggest factor. Game 3 was the best example. Everett led 2-1 after the first period, and the Tips held a 14-13 shot advantage thanks to a 4-1 edge in power plays. But despite the score, the feeling was that Everett got hammered in the period. Seattle’s forwards dished out big hits left and right. Those hits resulted in penalties, but they also did a number of Everett’s defense. Noah Juulsen was knocked out of the game, the rest of the Tips defensemen looked intimidated the rest of the night, and Seattle ended up winning the game 4-3 in overtime.

Seattle’s team was better suited to being truculent. The T-birds were a little bit bigger than the Tips up front, but they were significantly older and more-physically developed, and they made full use of those qualities. Everett will be older next season than it was this season, and it sounds like Constantine will be encouraging the Tips to use that to their advantage physically.

Next: What will we see: Tyson Jost?

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