Silvertips shattered expansion curse

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

It used to be the way of the expansion team.

Brutal year. Bad year. Better year. Competitive year.

Then the Everett Silvertips showed up and went to the Western Hockey League final in their expansion season.

They made the playoffs in their second. Then went to the conference final in their third.

Last year they finished with the best regular-season record in the league only to be upset by the Prince George Cougars in the second round of the playoffs.

"Our philosophy here was that we don't like losing, we like to win and we came up with a plan where we were able to do that," said Silvertips general manager Doug Soetaert. "We had a plan of what age groups we wanted to draft in that first year, we took the best players available in those age groups."

Made up from a group of castaways, similar to the group the Edmonton Oil Kings put together yesterday in expansion draft, the Silvertips posted a 35-27-8-2 record in their inaugural season finishing first in the U.S. Division.

They went on to win their first three playoff series, upsetting the heavily-favoured Kelowna Rockets in the Western Conference final, before losing to the Medicine Hat Tigers in the final.

The Rockets had finished first overall that season and were hosting the Memorial Cup - a tournament they went on to win.

"We wanted to be competitive, that's all we wanted in that first year," Soetaert said. "We didn't know we were going to go to the finals that year.

"But we got guys in that expansion draft that needed more ice time and we gave them more ice time. We gave them more responsibility and they flourished with it."

The following year the Silvertips went with a youth movement. They had seven 16-year-olds in their lineup. Yet they still managed to finish third in their division, make the playoffs and win a round.

The following season they were back in the conference final.

"In Year 3 we benefited from playing those 16 year olds and we ended up winning the U.S. division again," Soetaert said. "After Year 1, we had to go with our younger players and we've been fortunate enough to be able to draft very well and be able to find the odd player outside of the draft that has been able to contribute."


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