It’s that time of year again. Hockey season has arrived.
The Everett Silvertips open the 2019-20 WHL season this weekend when they host the Tri-City Americans on Friday and the Victoria Royals on Saturday at Angel of the Winds Arena. This is the Tips’ 17th season in Everett, if you can believe that.
Everett is coming off a season in which the Tips went 47-16-2-3, finished in first place in the U.S. Division and advanced to the second round of the playoffs, where they were knocked out by the Spokane Chiefs.
And Everett’s U.S. Division title was remarkable, because it was the team’s third straight division banner. For context, a team winning three straight U.S. Division championships happened only once previously since the Tips entered the league in 2003, when the Tri-City Americans won three straight from 2007-10. The division banner was Everett’s seventh in 16 seasons, which is three more than any other U.S. Division team during that span.
So can the Tips make it four straight?
The conventional wisdom is that Everett is unlikely to pull off the feat. Everett suffered substantial player losses from last season. Forwards Connor Dewar and Riley Sutter, the team’s two best players, have moved onto the professional ranks. Defensive minute-eaters Artyom Minulin and Sahvan Khaira and sniper Zack Andrusiak aged out of the league. Rugged winger Robbie Holmes was traded back to Regina as part of Everett thinning to three overagers. Steady defensman Ian Walker retired to pursue his schooling. And we still don’t know the fates of defensemen Wyatte Wylie and Jake Christiansen, who remain at NHL training camps and could earn the chance to play pro this season.
But you know what? The same things could have been said about the Tips each of the previous three seasons. Everett was not considered among the favorites for a division title in 2016-17, 2017-18 or 2018-19, yet somehow managed to pull it off. The Tips overcame the loss of the likes of Noah Juulsen, Dominic Zwerger and Aaron Irving after the 2016-17 season, then the losses of Carter Hart, Patrick Bajkov, Matt Fonteyne and Kevin Davis after 2017-18, yet maintained their level of success. Indeed, in 18-19 the Tips had their best winning percentage of the three seasons.
Looking at this season’s team, the roster appears a little top heavy with a lot of question marks. Everett has an elite goalie in Dustin Wolf, who won last season’s goaltending triple crown. Winger Bryce Kindopp was just named captain and is poised for a big season. And defenseman Gianni Fairbrother has emerged as a top talent. But the Tips are going to be young and small of stature on defense, even if both Wylie and Christiansen return, and once again Everett enters the season wondering who’s going to provide the scoring.
But general manager Garry Davidson and coach Dennis Williams have answered those type of questions in the past. Why can’t they do it again?
So what do you think. Do the Tips win a fourth straight U.S. Division championship? Take a stab at it here: