Since entering the WHL as an expansion franchise in 2003, the Everett Silvertips have in many ways been a model franchise. Everett’s list of accomplishments is as long as one of Zdeno Chara’s hockey sticks. One need only glance into the rafters at Angel of the Winds Arena and count the number of red banners hanging down to understand that.
But I think the time has arrived to set the bar a little higher. It’s time for the Silvertips to win a WHL championship.
Over the course of 16 seasons Everett has achieved pretty much everything possible during the regular season.
The Tips have made the playoffs in every season of their existence. They’re the only franchise in the WHL that’s never missed the postseason, and they’re the only team that’s made the playoffs every year since 2004. The next closest is Everett’s first-round playoff opponent, the Tri-City Americans, who made the postseason 15 of the past 16 seasons.
The Tips have won seven U.S. Division titles since their inception, the most division titles for any WHL team since 2004. The next closest are Medicine Hat, Kelowna and Vancouver with six apiece.
Everett even has a Scotty Munro Trophy for finishing with the league’s best record, a feat the team achieved in the 2006-07 campaign.
That’s a remarkable stretch of consistency and sustained excellence. It’s a testament to everyone in the organization, from owner Bill Yuill down, who has contributed to Everett’s success over the years.
But while making the playoffs and hanging division banners is nice, the Tips have done that enough. It’s time for Everett to bring home the big trophy.
The Ed Chynoweth Cup, given annually to the WHL champion, likes to make the rounds. In the 15 previous seasons Everett was in the league, 11 different franchises hoisted the cup as league champs. That group includes three of Everett’s four U.S. Division rivals: Spokane in 2008, Portland in 2013, Seattle in 2017.
Given Everett’s history of success, one would think the Tips would have joined that group by now. Instead, among the WHL’s 22 franchises, Everett is one of five that have never won a league championship. Tri-City and Saskatoon have waited the longest, as both have been in the league 53 years without a title. Moose Jaw has waited 39 years, while Victoria is in year 13 and still awaiting its first title.
So it’s not as if Everett is the league’s longest-suffering franchise as far as championships are concerned. But no doubt Everett fans are ready for the euphoria that’s been building, but never quite crested.
Everett is in a particularly purple patch right now. The Tips just won their third straight division title, and they’re coming off winning the Western Conference last year, falling just two games short of the WHL championship. Had Everett held onto its 3-0 lead in Game 2 of the WHL championship series against Swift Current, thus claiming a 2-0 series lead and coming home with a chance to end the series, maybe we’re not having this discussion.
Instead, Everett’s trophy case continues to be missing one piece of hardware.
“I think it is (time to win a championship),” said Everett governor Zoran Rajcic, who’s been with the franchise since the beginning. “But those accomplishments of winning the U.S. Division title, it’s a difficult task, especially when you look at how tough our division has been since we started. Those are great accomplishments and we still acknowledge those are important things to achieve. But it’s the first step of the overall process. The net result at the end of the day is to give ourselves a shot at winning the WHL title.”
“I think (it’s time to win a WHL championship),” Everett captain Connor Dewar agreed. “Any time you make the playoffs you have an opportunity. We’ve come close a few times, it was a frustrating outcome last year.
“Come playoff time, you don’t look too far ahead, but you do know what’s at stake.”
Does Everett have the team to do it this year? I’m not sure. The Tips had another tremendous regular season, but they coasted to the finish line, winning just 10 of their final 17 games and getting passed by Vancouver for the conference’s top seed. Everett is as good as it gets at preventing goals, with the league’s deepest defense supporting Dustin Wolf, who won the league’s goaltending triple crown. But I’m not convinced the Tips have the requisite offensive firepower, especially with the status of injured No. 1 center Riley Sutter for the playoffs still uncertain.
But whether Everett has the horses to win it all this year doesn’t change one fact: For a franchise that’s won so much in its 16 years of existence, there’s one important accomplishment that’s missing from the catalog, and winning a WHL championship has to be the goal.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.