With the early conclusion of the 2019-20 WHL season, many fans are left questioning which team would have been sitting atop the standings at the end of the full regular season, the Portland Winterhawks or Everett Silvertips. Instead, I am wondering how the 2019-20 Portland Winterhawks compare to the last PDX team to make a Memorial Cup run. Between the 2012-13 and 2019-20 rosters, which group of Winterhawks had a better chance of bringing the Memorial Cup back to the WHL? I plan to break it all down and figure it out for myself. We all know the correct team ended up with the title this year anyway.
Portland fans are still regularly reminiscing over the team from the incredible 2012-2013 season. Players such as Ty Rattie, Nic Petan, Troy Rutkowski, and Derrick Pouliot are still fresh on the minds of any Portland fan who was around at the time. Likewise, you can find discussions surrounding Seth Jones and Oliver Bjorkstrand taking place between Portland fans just about every other day. I could go on until I have named the entire roster, but I’m sure my point is understood. Just as both the 2012-13 and 2019-20 Winterhawks made theirs, starting with strong performances in net.
The guys in goal
Both Lanigan and DiLaura were traded before the end of their respective seasons and are not included below. For the sake of this discussion, I will only be using regular-season performances.
Mac Carruth signed a one-year extension with a DEL2 team, the Lausitzer Füchse, back in March. Brendan Burke spent the last four years playing for the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
Dante Giannuzzi is expected to continue for the Winterhawks whenever the 2020-21 season is allowed to get underway. Joel Hofer’s return to the WHL is in question as he is a 2000-born player signed to an entry-level contract with the St. Louis Blues. Depending on the Return to Play protocol of the AHL, Hofer may be making the full-time jump to the pros for the upcoming season. He is currently in attendance at the training camp that started today for the Blues.
Joel Hofer rocking his Portland Winterhawks helmet. pic.twitter.com/pmHlwQiFWC
— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) July 13, 2020
SHARE TO WIN: Mac Carruth broke the Western Hockey League's record for career playoff wins on Saturday… http://t.co/e5zXCCD5zr
— Portland Winterhawks (@pdxwinterhawks) April 8, 2013
The 2019-20 season was Joel Hofer’s first full season with the Winterhawks after being acquired from Swift Current in an early 2019 trade. Meanwhile, Dante Giannuzzi had all of 4 games of WHL experience (excluding any preseason games), prior to the start of the season.
In contrast, the 2012-13 season was Brendan Burke’s second full season in Portland while also being Mac Carruth’s fourth and overage year.
By the numbers
With tonight's assist, Dante Giannuzzi is now tied for 54th place in points per game by WHL rookies.
Dante is a goaltender. #WHLStats
— Robert Murray (@NovaCanuck) February 17, 2020
Each of the four netminders posted a save percentage over .900, the best being .931 (Giannuzzi). Just as consistent between each of the four was the average goals allowed, with the highest GAA of the four being 2.65 (Burke). The average for Carruth/Burke comes out to a .919 SV% and a 2.35 GAA, while Hofer/Giannuzzi even out to a .916 SV% with a 2.08 GAA. The edge could go to either pair but, when looking solely at goaltenders, Carruth/Burke would just barely get my vote as I view SV% more telling of a goaltender and GAA more as a team stat.
Let us not forget that each of these goaltenders also showed off some talent when playing the puck. Hofer had one assist during the season. Giannuzzi stood out to fans and had an outstanding three assists in his nine games. For the 2012-13 team, Carruth and Burke recorded 2 assists each.
However, we also saw Carruth and Burke split many more minutes throughout their season. The duo saw 2275 and 1876 minutes, respectively. In comparison, the 19-20 season saw Joel Hofer play a total of 2839 minutes while Dante Giannuzzi got a total of 499. Personally, I am left to wonder what would have happened had Dante Giannuzzi gotten more games during the time both before and after Joel Hofer’s absence while helping Team Canada win gold at World Juniors. Perhaps with a more even split in the coming season, I’ll get to find out.
Conclusion on goaltending
Understanding that I have a slight bias for the 2012-13 team in general, I must confess that Mac Carruth and Brendan Burke make up one of my favorite goalie tandems to this day. My initial reaction is just to say that they are the stronger pair to hold down the crease. After this comparison of the two sets of goaltenders, I can’t say I’ve thoroughly convinced myself otherwise. As the regular seasons have it, I would give the edge to the 2012-13 team as having the goaltending pair I would want in net during a Memorial Cup run.
Despite what I have just said, had Giannuzzi seen more minutes and Hofer been allowed some rest, there is an excellent possibility that I’d be picking the younger set of goaltenders. Hofer had a standout season and would be a massive asset if he is to return for another season. If he gets the call to Springfield in the upcoming season, the Winterhawks may be in the market for a new starter. However, should Giannuzzi be able to replicate the numbers he put up this last season while taking on the responsibility of being Portland’s starting netminder, maybe we will see him lead the 2020-21 team in bringing the Memorial Cup back to the WHL, where it belongs.