OFF AND WINNING
By Thom Beuning
Let’s just call the first three games the Thunderbirds just played, opening week. It started last Saturday with the season opener in Portland and finished this past Saturday with the home opener at the accesso ShoWare Center, with a stop in Spokane in between.
In the big picture then, Seattle did well, winning two of three. You win two out of every three games, and you’re going to finish a 68-game schedule with a 45-23 record. Of course, games aren’t played on your calculator, but if someone told you in August Seattle could put up a record like that this season, I think you’d be happy as a clam.
Now, if I said the T-Birds didn’t play their best hockey this past weekend, still had a chance to win both games and ended up with a split, would you be okay with that as well or would you be disappointed? I think the team is the latter. The coaches certainly voiced their frustration when the weekend was over, particularly after the Portland loss.
Why? Because they have raised the bar. Last season was a development year, 23 games with no real expectations other than to gain experience, push up the learning curve and get ready to challenge this season. Yes, they wanted to win every game, but the lessons learned, in both winning and losing, a season ago had value for this team moving forward.
Now they’ve upped the ante on themselves because they believe the talent on this roster is ready to compete for something besides gaining experience. The development season is behind us. This is the season to battle for something more concrete, whether that is a playoff spot, a division banner or championship run. What does that look like? It looks like a team executing the game plan as one unit on the ice. It’s focus and attention to details. It is, as Head Coach Matt O’Dette says, employing good habits. Some of those elements were missing at times over the last two games.
So what are good habits? I think the first is trust. Trusting your coaches, trusting your teammates. When you trust those around you, you are less likely to be a selfish player. Attention to detail is another. Executing a play isn’t always going from step one to step two. More often, it is step one to step five, and steps two through four are those small details in between. You can’t take shortcuts. It’s like a game of tug-of-war. Everyone on the rope line has to be pulling in the same direction. Talent will only carry you so far because there is talent on the other side as well, pulling back.
It’s still very early in the season and sitting at 2-1 is better then sitting here 0-3. The coaching staff knows there are things to iron out, but I like that the team has a winning record through three games and they aren’t satisfied. This group, like many teams in the league, has not been together much over the past month, what with players away at NHL camps, injuries and immigration issues. They are still learning to play as a unit and even good teams have off nights. According to O’Dette the T-Birds brought their C game to Spokane Friday and still won. Over the last two or three seasons, I don’t remember saying that. Heck, there were times they brought their A game and still lost.
What I would tell you as a fan is go ahead and be excited about this team. They’re going to be good. What you should be excited about even more is that this team doesn’t think being good, is good enough.
My T-Birds Three Stars through the first three games:
Third Star: C Matt Rempe. His two goals and work in front of the net were a big reason for Seattle’s opening night win down in Portland. If he plays like that every night, he’s going to be a handful for opposing teams. He came back from NHL Training Camp with the New York Rangers with a ton of confidence.
Second Star: W Reid Schaefer. Schaefer had a terrific training camp and preseason and he’s carried that with him into the regular season. He’s been consistent and noticeable for all the right reasons in all three games. It will be interesting to see if NHL scouts are noticing him as well.
First Star: G Thomas Milic. Milic started all three games and gave his team a chance to win all three. He missed the preseason with an injury, is still not at one hundred percent, but you wouldn’t know it from the way he’s played. And he’s still wet behind the ears. He’s only played in 14 games over the past two years. He’s only going to get better.
My mom passed away last week at the age of 94. She lived a good long life. I’m not mourning her death, I’m celebrating her life. When I was just starting out as a play-by-play broadcaster, I had an instructor tell me to focus on an audience of one. That is, speak as though you are describing the game to just one person. My mom loved to listen to games on the radio. Hockey, baseball, football, basketball, you name it, she was tuned in. So, my mom was my audience of one. She still is and always will be.