One of my favorite TV shows of the last two decades is The West Wing, a political drama that lasted for seven seasons on NBC, that followed the fictional presidency of Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen.
The show was incredibly written by Aaron Sorkin and had a great ensemble cast. I have been re-watching all seven seasons during the last few months, often watching three to four episodes a night, and in the series Sheen has a reoccurring line of “What’s next?” when he is ready to move on to a new topic in meetings.
That was the reaction of the Portland Winterhawks when they knocked off the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday night to clinch the U.S. Division Championship for the first time since 2001-02 and first overall in Western Conference in the regular season for the first time since 1997-98.
There wasn’t a huge celebration or a big display of emotion. There were plenty of smiles and handshakes, but it was evident that while winning the U.S. Division was a great accomplishment for an organization that won just 11 games four years ago, it was just the realization of what has been the expected outcome since day one of the 2010-11 season.
Expectation met…what’s next?
Well, what’s next is the opening round playoff series against the Everett Silvertips starting on Saturday night at the Rose Garden. I will be doing an in-depth tournament preview later this week, but this should be a hard-fought series amongst two teams that battled in each of the 10 games played this year. There won’t be many surprises as after 10 games, you kind of get a feel for one another.
As we close out the 2010-11 regular season, here are a few noteworthy accomplishments for the Winterhawks:
– The first 50 win, 100 point and 300+ goal season since the Memorial Cup team of 1997-98.
– Six players averaged over a point a game and the Hawks had five players reach the 70 point plateau.
– Sven Bartschi led all rookies in goals (34), assists (51), and points (85). His 51 assists set a new Winterhawks team record for 18 year old rookies, passing the 49 assist mark set by Steve Konowalchuk in 1991-92.
– Craig Cunningham has now played on five straight division title winners – four with Vancouver and one with Portland. He may be the only player in WHL history to play five full seasons and win the division title each year. Cunningham also finishes his regular season WHL career having played in 233 consecutive games.
– Nino Niederreiter scored two overtime winning goals, giving him four overtime winners in his career tying the franchise record with Todd Robinson and Ken Yaremchuk.
– The Hawks won 24 road games and earned 49 points on the road, tying the franchise record in both categories, matching the numbers of the 1980-81 team.
A first round preview will be forthcoming and maybe some video highlights of the year…hope you all have got your tickets for Games 1 & 2 this weekend at the Rose Garden…it should be fun!