No, the Everett Silvertips won’t be playing in the WHL championship series this year, despite having a team that was a strong contender for that distinction.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with the Tips and the WHL finals.
The WHL championship series would have begun Friday, if the end of the season and playoffs hadn’t been cancelled as part of the measures to slow the spread of coronavirus. So for this week’s Seattle Sidelines poll, let’s speculate on the Everett teams that reached the championship series in years past.
The Tips have never won a WHL championship in their 17-season history, but twice Everett has won the Western Conference and advanced to the finals: 2004 and 2018. What would happen if we pitted those squads against one another?
In 2003-04 the Tips were an expansion team populated by players who were acquired in the expansion draft, meaning Everett had approximately the 15th-best player from every other team. Not only is that not a formula for winning a championship, it’s usually a formula for finishing dead last.
But the Tips, instilled with work ethic and discipline under former NHL coach Kevin Constantine, turned in a season worthy of the famous Miracle On Ice. Everett shocked the hockey world, finishing 32-27-2-0 to win the U.S. Division, then pulled off a string of playoff upsets to win the Western Conference before running out of gas and falling to Medicine Hat in four games in the finals.
That team may have lacked top-end talent — John Dahl and Riley Armstrong tied for the team lead in scoring with just 44 points — but it made up for it with organization and dedication to the cause, embodied by franchise legend Mitch Love. Defenseman Ivan Baranka gave the team a foundational piece on the blue line, while goaltender Jeff Harvey chipped in with a strong campaign.
In 2017-18, Everett again found itself with a first-time coach in Dennis Williams, and the Tips again were not held in high regard before the season began, with some speculating it may be the year Everett’s string of making the playoffs in every season came to an end.
Instead, the Tips grew stronger as the season progressed, finishing 47-20-2-3 to again win the U.S. Division title, then rolled through the playoffs before falling to Swift Current in six games in the finals.
That team was led by the most accomplished goaltender in WHL history in Carter Hart, while Patrick Bajkov tallied 100 points to become the first triple-digit scorer in franchise history. Bajkov’s fellow overagers, Matt Fonteyne and Kevin Davis, also had standout seasons, while the likes of Connor Dewar and trade acquisition Garrett Pilon provided quality scoring depth.
So which team would win a seven-game series between Everett’s finals teams? Would it be the scrappy underdogs from 2004, or the more polished crew from 2018? Cast your vote here: