It seems Everett Silvertips fans are confident heading into the season, despite heavy player losses.
The Silvertips open the 2019-20 WHL season Friday night when they host the Tri-City Americans at Angel of the Winds Arena. Everett is the defending U.S. Division champion, and the Tips have won the past three division titles. Much of the core of last season’s team is gone, but there doesn’t seem to be a heavy favorite in the division this season, and Everett overcame substantial player losses en route to winning each of the previous two division banners.
Therefore, this week’s Seattle Sidelines poll asked readers whether they thought the Tips would win their fourth straight division championship. Here’s how you voted:
POLL: With the 2019-20 @TheWHL season beginning Friday, will the @WHLsilvertips win their fourth straight U.S. Division title? Full context, including a closer look at the team, here: https://t.co/6Nk8XS5tIu
— Nick Patterson (@NickHPatterson) September 16, 2019
Add it all together and 65 percent of the voters believe Everett will win its fourth straight division title, while 35 percent said the Tips won’t. Despite the low voter turnout, the numbers were almost dead even between the Twitter poll and the blog poll.
This is some strong confidence in the Tips. Everett lost a ton off of last season’s squad. Connor Dewar and Riley Sutter, the team’s top two players, are playing professionally. Defensemen Artyom Minulin and Sahvan Khaira and sniper Zack Andrusiak all graduated out of the league. Rugged winger Robbie Holmes was traded, while defenseman Ian Walker retired. And the Tips still have to shed one of their overage quartet of Wyatte Wylie, Jake Christiansen, Bryce Kindopp and Max Patterson. Those are major losses.
However, Everett does have a couple things going for it. Whichever three of the overagers the Tips keep represent an excellent trio, and in Dustin Wolf the Tips have one of the league’s premier goaltenders. Even without a strong 19-year-old group, that combination of overagers and goaltending is the same formula Everett used en route to a Western Conference championship in 2017-18.
There also seems to be no consensus on which team in the U.S. Division is the favorite. Spokane was favored last season, and the Chiefs ended up being the U.S. Division team that went furthest in the playoffs, but so much of Spokane’s hopes hinge on whether star defenseman Ty Smith sticks in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils at 19 or is returned to the WHL. Portland had a lot of young talent last season that showed great promise, but the Winterhawks also had perhaps the league’s best player in Cody Glass as well as the league’s leading scorer in Joachim Blichfeld, both of whom are gone.
Given that Everett found a way to carve a path to a banner each of the past three seasons when no one expected it, why can’t the combination of coach Dennis Williams and general manager Garry Davidson do it again?
Based on the poll results, Tips fans have faith that they can.