The Sea-to-Sky Boner Report: Feb 22nd, 2014

That's Offside!
February 22 2014 10:48AM

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The last time we checked in on the Vancouver Giants, they were fresh off a loss against division rival Victoria, but just a game removed from a 10-0 blowout of the Lethbridge Hurricanes (despite having lost their captain and #1 defenseman Dalton Thrower to a reported ankle injury). 

Since then, times have been tough for the G-Men as they stared down one of the toughest stretches of the season without their best player. The wins have stopped coming, goaltending has struggled, and the possession numbers have slipped.

More importantly, Vancouver has lost ground in the all-important race to stay out of 7th in the WHL. They sit just 4 points up on the 7th place Everett Silvertips, and with just 10 games remaining in the regular season, it's definitely scoreboard-watching time. For a look at how the rest of the season is shaping up, read past the jump.

Vancouver has won two games in a row, but both of those are against the absolute bottom-feeders of the WHL in Kamloops and Lethbridge. Before that, they had just 3 wins in the previous 10 games, and had suffered big losses at the hands of Calgary, Portland and Edmonton. The 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Edmonton Oil Kings in particular was a particularly poor effort, as the Giants managed just 16 shots on goal over the entire game, which was a season low.

The presence of Dalton Thrower is being missed throughout the lineup, as his absence affects all facets of Vancouver's game. Since suffering a lower body injury on January 24th, the Giants are a middling 4-5-2-0. Their powerplay has been operating at 17.5%, and their possession numbers have fallen by roughly two percentage points, down to sixth in the WHL from fourth:

Rank Name 2p SF 2p SA 2p SF% SF SA Total SF% GF GA Sh% Sv% PDO
1 Edmonton Oil Kings 1453 982 59.67% 2161 1508 58.90% 242 140 11.03% 90.78% 101.81%
2 Medicine Hat Tigers 1446 1092 56.97% 2194 1735 55.84% 210 159 9.41% 90.84% 100.24%
3 Portland Winterhawks 1556 1192 56.62% 2300 1887 54.93% 287 184 12.44% 90.39% 102.83%
4 Everett Silvertips 1263 992 56.01% 1861 1555 54.48% 171 180 9.09% 88.48% 97.57%
5 Kelowna Rockets 1440 1185 54.86% 2180 1781 55.04% 250 150 11.31% 91.78% 103.09%
6 Vancouver Giants 1373 1146 54.51% 2021 1746 53.65% 205 203 10.05% 88.53% 98.58%
7 Regina Pats 1344 1179 53.27% 2035 1845 52.45% 203 206 9.66% 88.98% 98.64%
8 Prince Albert Raiders 1328 1282 50.88% 1968 1937 50.40% 188 211 9.41% 89.20% 98.61%
9 Spokane Chiefs 1194 1170 50.51% 1854 1715 51.95% 198 189 10.53% 89.08% 99.62%
10 Kootenay Ice 1263 1254 50.18% 1876 1907 49.59% 196 170 10.26% 91.18% 101.44%
11 Swift Current Broncos 1376 1369 50.13% 2049 2060 49.87% 151 174 7.28% 91.82% 99.10%
12 Brandon Wheat Kings 1314 1314 50.00% 2020 1994 50.32% 216 219 10.60% 89.11% 99.71%
13 Calgary Hitmen 1267 1299 49.38% 1996 1912 51.07% 238 168 11.79% 91.36% 103.15%
14 Victoria Royals 1236 1320 48.36% 1868 1960 48.80% 200 152 10.52% 92.39% 102.90%
15 Prince George Cougars 1413 1531 48.00% 2083 2245 48.13% 214 264 10.06% 88.44% 98.50%
16 Seattle Thunderbirds 1223 1344 47.64% 1907 2041 48.30% 201 175 10.30% 91.56% 101.87%
17 Moose Jaw Warriors 1159 1289 47.34% 1857 1917 49.21% 151 225 8.03% 88.54% 96.57%
18 Tri-City Americans 1113 1317 45.80% 1669 2011 45.35% 203 209 12.06% 89.74% 101.80%
19 Kamloops Blazers 1201 1456 45.20% 1771 2178 44.85% 151 253 8.47% 88.51% 96.98%
20 Red Deer Rebels 1201 1491 44.61% 1816 2192 45.31% 176 193 9.59% 91.32% 100.91%
21 Saskatoon Blades 1193 1626 42.32% 1809 2468 42.30% 175 252 9.67% 89.90% 99.57%
22 Lethbridge Hurricanes 1133 1659 40.58% 1759 2460 41.69% 145 295 8.14% 88.12% 96.25%

This deficiency in puck possession can be a symptom of a few things, namely difficulties turning pucks over and exiting the defensive zone - two areas where Thrower excelled. Mason Geertsen has tried to fill-in in the captain's absence, and while he's done an admirable job, the 18 year old simply does not possess Thrower's offensive talent. Not surprisingly, the Giants' top offensive weapons have also had troubles scoring since Thrower has been out of the lineup.

Between the Jan 24th game against Lethbridge and the most recent game against the woeful Hurricanes, leading scorers Carter Popoff and Brett Kulak both had 0G-4A in 11 GP. Jackson Houck had 0G-0A in 10 games, and Dominik Volek had 3G-1A over the same time. Cain Franson and Joel Hamilton posted much more respectable numbers, but again, the majority of their offense came in two games against the basement-dwelling Kamloops Blazers.

Unfortunately, Thrower isn't expected back in the lineup for another two to three weeks, and Vancouver's schedule doesn't get any easier. Four of their 10 remaining games come against the CHL-leading Kelowna Rockets, and two more still come against who I consider to be easily the WHL's two best teams in the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Portland Winterhawks. By contrast, the Everett Silvertips face Seattle and Tri-City for 6 of their remaining 13 games, and elite teams just 3 times over that span. Vancouver will need some drastically improved play and some good luck to stay in 6th and avoid a 1st round matchup with the powerhouse Winterhawks, who are 15-0-0-0 since receiving Mat Dumba from the Minnesota Wild.

Wins, expected wins, and special teams:

Rank Name GP Wins Ewins Diff SOW SOL PP% PK% STI
1 Kelowna Rockets 58 46 43 3 4 4 21.70% 86.80% 108.50%
2 Portland Winterhawks 60 43 43 0 1 3 28.50% 82.50% 111.00%
3 Edmonton Oil Kings 57 41 43 -2 4 1 20.80% 85.20% 106.00%
4 Victoria Royals 61 41 39 2 4 3 21.40% 82.10% 103.50%
5 Calgary Hitmen 60 39 40 -1 3 3 22.60% 83.90% 106.50%
6 Medicine Hat Tigers 59 36 37 -1 4 0 19.70% 80.30% 100.00%
7 Seattle Thunderbirds 59 34 33 1 5 3 20.90% 80.40% 101.30%
8 Kootenay Ice 59 33 33 0 4 2 24.80% 78.80% 103.60%
9 Regina Pats 59 31 28 3 7 3 19.30% 72.90% 92.20%
10 Spokane Chiefs 60 29 31 -2 3 2 22.10% 78.00% 100.10%
11 Everett Silvertips 59 28 28 0 2 1 20.10% 77.20% 97.30%
12 Vancouver Giants 60 28 30 -2 2 3 22.40% 81.10% 103.50%
13 Brandon Wheat Kings 60 28 30 -2 2 2 23.90% 75.50% 99.40%
14 Tri-City Americans 61 28 30 -2 2 3 18.10% 81.70% 99.80%
15 Red Deer Rebels 60 28 27 1 2 3 19.70% 82.30% 102.00%
16 Prince Albert Raiders 59 27 26 1 3 2 25.30% 77.60% 102.90%
17 Swift Current Broncos 59 27 26 1 2 6 23.00% 76.80% 99.80%
18 Prince George Cougars 63 25 25 0 5 5 17.60% 74.70% 92.30%
19 Saskatoon Blades 60 16 20 -4 0 3 22.20% 74.40% 96.60%
20 Moose Jaw Warriors 58 15 18 -3 2 6 19.10% 77.50% 96.60%
21 Kamloops Blazers 60 12 16 -4 1 3 15.80% 71.20% 87.00%
22 Lethbridge Hurricanes 61 12 12 0 2 3 19.20% 71.30% 90.50%


Around the B.C. Division:

Kamloops Blazers: Are a league worst 1-9-0-0 in the last 10 games...F Chase Suoto is out for 1-2 more weeks with an upper body injury, while F Luke Harrison, F Tyson Ness and G Justin Myles are all out indefinitely...F Cole Ully leads the team in scoring with 62 points in 57 games.

Kelowna Rockets: Sit 1st in the WHL with a 47-8-0-4 record...Ranked 1st overall in the CHL Top 10 rankings once again...Second leading scorer F Tyson Baillie will miss 4-5 weeks with a broken leg, while D Jesse Lees is day-to-day.

Prince George Cougars: Have moved to 2 points back of Tri-City for the final playoff spot in the WHL's west, but Tri-City has 3 games in hand...20-year old F Todd Fiddler was named WHL player of the month for January after 16 goals and 13 assists in just 14 games. Fiddler has 73 points in 43 games since joining Prince George...Forwards Jari Ericsson, Chase Witala and Alex Forsberg remain day-to-day with injuries, F Brett Roulston is out for 2 weeks, F David Soltes is out 4-6 weeks, and G Brett Zarowny is day-to-day.

Victoria Royals: Clinched a playoff spot for the first time in franchise history with a 3-2 OT win against Tri-City...Have won 7 games in a row and are 9-0-1-0 in their last 10...Are ranked 10th in the CHL Top 10 for the 2nd week in a row.

Other WHL News and Notes:

  • Portland has won 15 games in a row since Mat Dumba has returned from Minnesota, and are unbeaten in 19 straight games. With Dumba in the lineup, they have outscored their opponents 94-31, or an average of 6.3-3.1 per game.
  • Portland F Nic Petan now leads the WHL in scoring with 102 points in 51 games, and is 2nd in the entire CHL behind Erie's Connor Brown, although Brown has played 6 more games.
  • Spokane F Mitch Holmberg still leads the WHL in goals with 51 in 60 games.
  • Amid a tumultuous season, the Lethbridge Hurricanes have fired assistant coach Brad Lukowich after he left the team, due to suspected differing philosophies with head coach Drake Berehowsky. Lethbridge is 12-45-2-3 on the season, with a league worst 147 goals for, and a league worst 300 goals against.
  • The Hurricanes also have the misfortune of being completely broke and are averaging fewer than 700 fans per game. Alumnus Kris Versteeg is rumoured to have interest in buying the team.
  • Seattle and Tri-City took part in a line brawl earlier this month, the second recent one that Seattle has been involved in. Both teams received fines from the WHL for secondary altercations.
  • Recent suspensions have been to Swift Current's Dakota Odgers (1 game) and Bobby Zinkan (3 games), Moose Jaw's Scott Cooke (2 games), Calgary's Jaynen Rissling (2 games), Lethbridge's Macoy Erkamps (1 game) and Carter Amson (2 games), Brandon's Colton Waltz (3 games), and Tri-City's Jesse Astles (7 games, the longest suspension this season).
  • The CHL and Sportsnet announced a new 12-year television deal that will see Sportsnet air more than 50 CHL games each year. The exposure is definitely good for the CHL, but by no means is this the beginning of massive mainstream exposure for the Junior hockey circuit in Canada. Segmented markets don't really make regional cable coverage viable, so don't expect to see hundreds of nationally televised games on your T.V. anytime soon.
  • The WHL plays of the week are here, featuring some pretty nice passing plays this week.
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Covering the WHL - with a focus on the Vancouver Giants - for the Nations. Helping feed your sea-to-sky boners. Follow my inane ramblings on Twitter @Thats_Offside.
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#1 Josh W
February 22 2014, 06:20PM
Trash it!
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I really enjoyed this article!!

10/10! Would read again.

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