EVERETT — From the outside, the Everett Silvertips may look like a team in turmoil.
If you ask them, things are just fine.
Sure, the Silvertips have won just two of their past eight games since returning from the Western Hockey League Christmas break, and just lost key players in defenseman Gianni Fairbrother and forward Dawson Butt to a season-ending injury and a 12-game suspension, respectively.
But the Silvertips aren’t putting extra pressure on themselves to right the ship heading into a difficult three-games-in-three-days stretch.
“It’s just a normal weekend for us,” Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams said. “We’ve had a really good week of tempo and talking. Just a real positive week. And that’s not to say we’re going to win hockey games this weekend either, but we have to take off some of the pressure and deflect them other directions.”
Williams and the team’s leadership have done as much as they can to lighten the atmosphere around the rink despite the recent circumstances. It involves gestures like ordering lunch for players on Wednesday and taking the team to the Immersion escape room in Massively for further team bonding.
A team that bonds together escapes together.
Thanks for the solid team building time @Immersion_games!
— Everett Silvertips (@WHLsilvertips) January 16, 2020
The Silvertips host the Kelowna Rockets on Friday, the eventual host of the 2020 Memorial Cup, before hosting archrival Seattle on Saturday and returning the favor at the Showare Center in Kent on Sunday.
Everett will have to do so without two veteran contributors that logged plenty of ice time.
Fairbrother, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, was a top-four defenseman for Everett this season and recorded five goals and 25 points, the fifth-most amongst Silvertips’ skaters, before being shut down. Fairbrother was an all-situations player, logging significant minutes on the power-play and penalty kill, and was a team leader as an assistant captain.
“We obviously lose some leadership with Gianni there,” Williams said. “He plays a 200-foot game without the puck and some other guys will have to step up.”
Kasper Puutio, the 17-year-old defenseman the Silvertips acquired on trade deadline day from Swift Current, is expected to shoulder the roughly 25 minutes per game Fairbrother is leaving behind, in Williams’ estimation.
The Finnish blueliner is expected in Everett on Friday after competing in the Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects game on Thursday in Hamilton, Ontario, although it’s uncertain whether he’ll be able to play against Kelowna that night.
Butt, a Buckley native, has 12 points in 38 games and adds a rugged presence to Everett’s middle-six forward group.
The key for Butt moving forward is staying out of the crosshairs of the league’s disciplinary office, as he’s been labeled a repeat offender with his recent 12-game suspension, the longest the league has handed down since 2014. Any other transgression could possibly warrant an even longer suspension.
“We’ve already talked to Dawson after the game and the league has talked to him,” Williams said. “Obviously it’s a lot of games. Dawson has played well all year. He hasn’t had any antics this year, as far as I’m concerned. In Seattle, he stuck up for Gianni Fairbrother when (Matthew) Wedman took a five-minute major with head contact, but other than that, it’s been a quiet year for him.
“He’s been able to play good hockey for us and he’s been focusing on playing the game right. What happened Sunday was unfortunate, but Dawson, he takes it just like any player would. I’m sure if he could re-think and re-do it, he wouldn’t have done that.”
Everett native Hunter Campbell is the next man up for Butt’s spot as Everett’s third-line right winger until Butt can return on Feb. 19 against Moose Jaw.
Josh Horton covers the Silvertips for the Herald. Follow him on Twitter, @JoshHortonEDH