Results 1 to 2 of 2

Thread: Constantine says it was a great season

  1. #1

    Post Constantine says it was a great season

    By Nick Patterson

    For seven years the Everett Silvertips wandered the hockey desert, thirsting for success without a single oasis in sight.

    Seven years without hanging a banner. Seven years without winning a playoff series. Seven years of being little more than a WHL afterthought.

    In 2014-15 the Tips finally found succor.

    Everett's season may have come to an end with its Game 5 playoff loss to the Portland Winterhawks on Sunday, but it couldn't diminish the accomplishments of a team that finally put the Tips back into a position of prominence.

    “We accomplished a lot,” Everett captain Kohl Bauml said. “We had our doubters all the way to the end about what we could do. We gave it our all and proved a lot of them wrong.”

    Little was expected of Everett before the season began. The Tips finished tied for second in the U.S. Division in 2013-14, but the loss of most of their impact offensive performers cast a cloud over the 2014-15 season. Everett was largely predicted to battle Tri-City for third place, and no one picked the Tips to challenge Portland's four-year reign atop the division.

    But Everett surprised everyone. Despite having a limited amount of top-end talent at their disposal, the Tips finished 43-20-3-6 to win the division title, the team's first since 2007. Everett essentially led from start to finish, holding off a hard-charging Portland at the end.

    Then after ending that drought the Tips ended another when they overcame Spokane in the first round of the playoffs. The 4-2 series victory was Everett's first playoff triumph since 2007, when the Tips again topped Spokane by a 4-2 margin in the first round.

    “I thought it was a great season,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “There's a number of players who had been here a while and didn't have anything to hang their hat on, no legacy. It was fun to watch that group, that really wanted to leave here and have something to be proud of for all the work they put in, accomplish something that told them they were good.”

    The biggest surprise for Everett was the performance of the offense. Before the season began the main question surrounding the Tips was whether they would be able to score goals. But instead of being anemic, Everett actually had its best offensive output in its 12-season history, scoring 237 goals in 72 games for an average of 3.3 per game.

    The acquisition of Nikita Scherbak played a big role in that. Everett, seeking to fill the void left by the graduation of offensive focal point Joshua Winquist, acquired Scherbak from Saskatoon in a blockbuster trade the first weekend of the season. Scherbak, a first-round pick by the NHL's Montreal Canadiens, led the team in scoring with 82 points (27 goals, 55 assists) in 65 games and gave the Tips an offensive gamebreaker.

    “I thought we'd struggle to score,” Constantine said. “At this time last year we talked about the loss of a whole lot of the offensive makeup of our team from two years ago. We just thought we had lost too much to reproduce last year's offense, which was just an OK offensive team. We thought we'd take a step backward, and the exhibition season was an indication it was headed in that direction. So the acquisition of Scherbak was really critical to make sure we had enough talent to be at least as good as last year. Then along the way a lot of guys improved in such a way that we were able to find a way.”

    Among the players who improved were Bauml, who topped the 30-goal threshold, winger Carson Stadnyk, who finished second on the team in scoring with 69 points, and defenseman Noah Juulsen, who posted 52 points from his defensive position and turned himself into a candidate to be selected in the early rounds of this year's NHL draft.

    Everett also unearthed a gem in goaltender Carter Hart. The 16-year-old rookie spent most of the season as the backup to veteran Austin Lotz. However, Hart took over the No. 1 position down the stretch and ended up leading the league in goals-against average. He finished the season 18-5-2-3 with a 2.29 goals-against average and .915 save percentage, then followed up by posting even better numbers during the playoffs with a 2.28 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.

    Yet Everett was still a team with just two NHL draft picks (Scherbak and defenseman Ben Betker) and one players certain of being selected in this year's NHL draft (Juulsen). Contrast that to a team like Portland, which has eight NHL draft picks on its roster along with two players who are rated highly for this year's draft.

    “To overachieve you have to make sure the whole is better than the sum of its parts,” Constantine said. “I think we got a little more out of the group than maybe was on paper, and that's a testimony to our leadership. Not my leadership necessarily, but the leadership of the guys in the room (Bauml and alternate captains Betker and Brayden Low) and all the coaching staff (assistants Mitch Love and Brennan Sonne and goaltending coach Shane Clifford).”

    Constantine went as far as to compare this season's team to the legendary first-year team in 2003-04, when the expansion Tips shocked the league by winning the division title and advancing to the WHL finals.

    “I think it felt a lot like the first year,” Constantine said. “The first year we had an expansion team so there was no expectation of success. In addition we had a bunch of players who were castoffs in that they were exposed to the expansion draft, so they had a little bit to prove, and we had a very close group in the locker room. I think there was a lot of that in this year's team. The expectations were lowered by the lack of success for a few years, and the players who had been here had built-up energy to finally get something done. We certainly weren't predicted to be the division champions at the beginning of the year, so having something to prove to people was a motivator during the year.”

    The result was a memorable season that will always be remembered by a banner hanging from the rafters of Xfinity Arena.

    Slap shots
    Betker will be finishing the season with the Oklahoma City Barons, the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers selected Betker in the sixth round of the 2013 NHL draft, then signed him to an entry-level contract just before the playoffs began. ... It's possible Russian center Ivan Nikolishin will not return to Everett next season for his 19-year-old campaign. Nikolishin, who finished third on the team in scoring with 62 points in 72 games during his second season with the Tips, may remain in Russia.

  2. #2

    Post Outlook may hinge on Matthews

    By Nick Patterson

    Remember the name: Auston Matthews.

    He will be the story of the Everett Silvertips' offseason.

    Everett heads into the summer with its outlook for the 2015-16 Western Hockey League season completely unknown, largely because of the uncertainty about whether players such as Matthews will be a part of the team.

    “I think right now it's a little foggier to me where next year's team is going to be compared to this year,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “Last year it was very clear who was leaving and very clear who was coming in, so it was easier to predict where we sat in the summer. This year we have more overagers as potential candidates, we have some pretty high-level players who are our property but nobody knows if they're coming. So it's hard to know exactly where we're at or what we need.”

    Everett is coming off a season in which it finished 43-20-3-6, winning the U.S. Division title and advancing to the second round of the WHL playoffs for the first time since 2007. But where the Tips might finish next season is anyone's guess.

    And it may all depend on Matthews.

    Matthews is the potential game changer. The big, highly-skilled, 17-year-old center from Phoenix is considered one of the best hockey prospects in the world. He's currently playing for the U.S. National Team Development Program's U-18 squad. His 114 points (53 goals, 61 assists) in 58 games through Thursday broke the program's single-season scoring record of 102 points set by NHL star Patrick Kane in 2005-06. Many project him to be the first-overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft.

    His junior rights just happen to be held by Everett, which selected him in the third round of the 2012 bantam draft.

    Matthews, who visited Everett last summer, has stated publicly that he's 50-50 on whether to play for Everett next season or for an NCAA school — he narrowed his college choices to Boston College, Boston University, Denver, Michigan and North Dakota last fall, though he has yet to take any official visits to those schools. He's expected to make his decision sometime following the U-18 World Championships, which continue through Sunday in Switzerland.

    Also lurking in the background is Everett's history with Seth Jones. Jones, like Matthews, was a star with the national team who had to choose between Everett and the NCAA when his time with the national team ended in 2012. Jones ultimately chose to come to the WHL, but refused to play for Everett, forcing the Tips to trade his rights to Portland. Everett is in better position this time around as the Tips are the reigning division champions, rather than a team that struggled to make the playoffs like in 2012.

    Having Matthews next season could be the difference between Everett being a contender or an also-ran.

    “I think he would be what we call a ‘seven' in our business: a franchise player,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson said.

    “He and his people and his family told us they wouldn't make a decision until after the U-18s, so we have another week to wait, they'll be done Sunday,” Davidson added. “We'll just patiently wait until that's over, then reach out to them and see exactly where they're at.”

    It's not just Matthews. Everett holds the rights to several high-end offensive talents whose futures remain in the air. That includes the Tips' top two picks from the 2013 bantam draft, centers Tyson Jost and Patrick Khodorenko. It's possible that should the Matthews domino fall in Everett's favor, others could follow.

    “I think the Matthews decision can make a big difference in a lot of ways,” Davidson said. “It could have an impact on us getting Euros, it could have an impact on anyone on our (protected) list. They could see it being a real plus to be here next year if (Matthews) is here.”

    The uncertainty surrounding the Tips for next season extends beyond just possible additions. Everett has seven potential overagers for next season with just three roster spots available. That group includes leading scorer Nikita Scherbak, a first-round NHL draft pick who has already signed a contract with the Montreal Canadians, meaning he's expected to play professionally next season. Forwards Carson Stadnyk, Remi Laurencelle, Logan Aasman and Jake Mykitiuk, defenseman Cole MacDonald and goaltender Austin Lotz are the other candidates.

    There's also question marks with regards to Everett's import players. In addition to Scherbak, it's also possible the Tips won't get fellow Russian Ivan Nikolishin back. Nikolishin, who finished third on the team in scoring in his second with the Tips, may choose to remain in Russia for his 19-year-old season instead of returning to Everett.

    But for all the questions surrounding the team, the Tips should have a solid defensive base to build from. Noah Juulsen, who's expected to be selected in the early rounds of this year's NHL draft, and Kevin Davis took big steps forward in their second seasons in Everett. Those two will be the foundation of the Tips' blue line.

    Everett also found a diamond in goaltender Carter Hart. The 16-year-old rookie played far beyond his years, taking over the No. 1 position down the stretch and finishing first in the league in goals-against average. He then proved up to the pressure of the playoffs, matching his regular-season numbers during the postseason.

    “We have some very nice pieces out there that if they come our way it will be very exciting,” Davidson said. “But in saying that if they don't come here I think we have a really good nucleus coming back. We just might have to attack it a little differently if the other pieces don't fall our way. It's going to be an interesting offseason.”

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts