The Everett Silvertips appear to have reached their down cycle. The Western Hockey League is considered a cyclical league, where teams go through up periods while the team matures, followed by down periods while the team rebuilds. With heavy roster losses from last season and a plethora of rookies this season, the general consensus is that the Tips will struggle toward the bottom of the standings.
However, all is not lost. Everett can still have a successful season, but a lot of things have to break right. The Tips have never had a losing record in their five-year history. Here’s a list of things that have to happen for the Tips to keep that string of winning seasons alive:
1. The team must find an identity.
Last season John Becanic took over as head coach after an impressive four-year run by predecessor Kevin Constantine. Since Becanic served as an assistant throughout Constantine’s tenure, it was assumed the transition would be smooth. That didn’t turn out to be the case. Becanic came in with some new ideas, and some of those never seemed to sink in for a roster used to life under Constantine. As a result the Tips often looked disorganized and were wildly inconsistent. Winning streaks alternated with losing streaks, and the team never found its niche.
Now, with so many new faces, Becanic has the opportunity to make this his team and create an identity. Even if that identity is merely the young team that comes out and plays hard despite superior opposition, it’s imperative the Tips figure out who they are.
2. A No. 1 goaltender must emerge.
One thing Everett’s never lacked in franchise history is goaltending. From Jeff Harvey to Michael Wall to Leland Irving, the Tips knew who their top goaltender was and were confident in his abilities.
Do the Tips have the next in that line? Shayne Barrie did an admirable job as a rookie backup last season, but is he capable of taking over the No. 1 job and providing the type of reliability needed for a young and developing team? If Barrie’s not up to the task, is 16-year-old Kent Simpson ready to shoulder the load? Whether it’s Barrie, Simpson or someone acquired via trade, Everett needs to be secure between the pipes.
3. Kyle Beach has to be the Kyle Beach of 2007, not the Kyle Beach of 2008.
During the first half of the 2007-08 season Beach was arguably the most potent force in the league. A big, physical, abrasive, goal scorer, Beach carried the Tips in the first half, piling up 23 goals and 28 assists in his first 41 games.
The second half was a different story. First came the fight-induced concussions, then the aggravated sports hernia, both of which caused him to miss games and lose effectiveness. Beach was a shell of his former self during the second half with just four goals and five assists in his final 19 games.
Beach is healthy again, and Everett needs him to return to the form from the first half of last season, thus giving the Tips a focal point from which to build the offense.
4. Shane Harper needs to become a point-per-game performer.
From the moment Harper took the ice at training camp as a 16-year-old, it was apparent he had offensive ability. Turning that ability into production has been a gradual process. Last season he took another step forward with 43 points in 71 games. Now being counted on to be a first-line player, he needs to take that next step forward.
5. At least one other veteran forward must become an offensive contributor.
Everett lost eight of its top 10 point producers from last season’s team. Aside from Beach and Harper, no other returning player scored more than 19 points. It would be asking a lot from the rookies to make up all that lost production. Therefore, someone among the veteran forwards, whether it’s returners like Zack Dailey and Matt Ius or trade acquisition Daniel Bartek, needs to pop in the occasional goal.
6. A new power-play point man needs to be found.
The point man on the power play usually carries the puck up the ice and initiates the offense. In most cases that player is a defenseman. The past two years the Tips have used a forward in that role: Peter Mueller two seasons ago and Dan Gendur last season. This season it will probably be handed back to the defense. Taylor Ellington, Mike Alexander and Chris de la Lande will get their shots, none are proven.
7. The rookies must contribute immediately.
With 12 new faces this season, the Tips won’t be able to field a lineup without a heavy rookie presence. Therefore, these players have to produce. Fortunately for the Tips, most of the rookies are 17-year-olds rather than 16-year-olds, meaning they’ve had one additional year to mature physically. But they’ll have to be ready from Day 1.