In 2002, then-New York Jets head coach Herman Edwards gave the sports world one of its all-time greatest sound bites. When asked whether he had to talk to his 2-5 Jets about not giving up on the season, he responded with the answer that launched a thousand YouTube clips:
“You play to win the game! Hello!”
This past week Garry Davidson played to win the games.
The WHL trade deadline came and went Wednesday, and the Everett Silvertips’ general manager pulled out all the stops to give the Tips a fighting chance at achieving something special this season.
“I thought Garry did a great job this past week,” Everett coach Dennis Williams said. “With Mitch (Love, Everett’s assistant coach) and I talking to him and consulting about some of our needs from the coaching side, I thought he made some great moves to help bolster our chance down the stretch.”
Davidson’s boldest move was acquiring 19-year-old playmaking center Garrett Pilon and 19-year-old hulking defenseman Ondrej Vala from the Kamloops Blazers for a substantive package that included popular 17-year-olds Montana Onyebuchi and Orrin Centazzo, two prospects and two bantam draft picks. He sprinkled in a handful of depth moves, picking up forwards Spencer Gerth (Victoria) and Bronson Sharp (Portland) and defenseman Jameson Murray (Calgary) in smaller deals on deadline day.
As a result, Everett heads into the final two months of the regular season with arguably its strongest roster — it’s either this season or 2014-15 — since Davidson was hired as general manager in February of 2012.
“I thought if we were going to add we needed to add two good pieces, which we got done,” Davidson said. “I’m very pleased.”
He should be. Because going all-in was the right call.
It wasn’t predetermined that this would be a season for Everett to go for broke. Indeed, when the season began it was a complete mystery how the Tips would perform. Few considered Everett any kind of contender, and if the Tips were going to make a big splash at the trade deadline the assumption was it would be by cashing in on star goaltender Carter Hart.
But for the third straight season Everett’s surprising success early in the season changed the calculus. The previous two seasons the Tips responded by making big moves to acquire defensemen, trading for Brycen Martin two years ago and Aaron Irving last year. However, those teams were light on scoring, and Everett was unable to land any additional offensive weapons. When the playoffs rolled around the Tips bowed out in the second round each year, leaving many wondering what might had been had Everett fully committed.
This year Davidson got all his chips into the pot. With the acquisition of Pilon and Vala the Tips addressed their needs as optimally as possible. While the trade may not have pushed Everett’s roster above the other contenders in the Western Conference, it’s elevated the Tips onto equal footing. And Everett has the advantage of having the best goaltending of the bunch.
“We had enough depth in assets that we were able to do what we needed to do,” Davidson said about the difference between this year and the previous two years. “We all know you have to give something to get something. I think at times last year I was trying to acquire players and I didn’t think we had enough pieces to make it happen.”
Not only did Davidson make it happen this year, he did so at what turned out to be a reasonable price. This year’s trade deadline was unlike anything seen since Everett joined the league in 2003. With a wealth of buyers and a dearth of sellers, the prices inflated to obscene levels the final two days before the deadline — so much so that the Brandon Wheat Kings, with a .683 winning percentage that was the third-best in the league, decided to sell off two of their best players to take advantage of the prices. By getting their business done a few days early, the Tips avoided the worst of the holiday rush and managed to upgrade their team without sacrificing the entirety of their future.
One can argue the Tips would have been better served in the long run by going Brandon’s route. After all, with this year’s prices it’s unfathomable what Everett could have gotten for Hart. But Everett was 18-7-0-1 in its 26 games heading into the trade deadline, is blessed by having the best goalie in junior hockey, and has the best overage trio in franchise history in defenseman Kevin Davis and forwards Patrick Bajkov and Matt Fonteyne. When are the Tips ever going to have those circumstances to work with again?
After Edwards delivered his now-famous rant, the Jets went on to win seven of their final nine games and make the playoffs.
Will the Tips see a similar boost in success? That’s yet to be determined. But give credit to Davidson. At this year’s trade deadline he played to win.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.