First-year Everett Silvertips coach Mark Ferner doesn't intend to be the first coach not to take the team to the Western Hockey League playoffs.
EVERETT — Even with a young team that is obviously in a rebuilding period, Mark Ferner doesn’t intend to become the first coach in Everett Silvertips history to miss the Western Hockey League playoffs.
Everett joined the WHL as an expansion team in 2003-04 and won the Western Conference title. The Silvertips have returned to the playoffs every year since.
Last season, Everett barely kept that streak alive, finishing in the eighth and final playoff spot before being swept by the Portland Winter Hawks in the first round.
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The Silvertips start the season with three of the elite players in the WHL on their roster in defenseman Ryan Murray, goaltender Kent Simpson and proven scorer Tyler Maxwell.
Murray, 18, is the youngest captain in franchise history, a player so skilled he is projected to be a top-10 pick in the 2012 NHL draft.
Simpson, a second-round pick by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, missed all of the preseason after arthroscopic knee surgery but might be ready to play this weekend.
Maxwell returns for his fourth season after scoring 41 goals with 25 assists last season.
After that, the Silvertips’ roster features 13 rookies and six players at the league age minimum of 16.
Just six players on Everett’s roster have more than a season’s experience.
“The expectations don’t change just because you have a young group,” first-year coach Ferner said as the Silvertips prepared to begin their ninth season. Everett opens against the defending Western Conference champion Winterhawks on Friday and plays its home opener Saturday against the Kelowna Rockets.
“We have a good group, and we’re going to have the mindset to get better every day and see where that takes us,” Ferner said. “We have a group where if everything lines up, we can definitely be successful.”
Ferner, 45, takes over the Silvertips after former coach Craig Hartsburg accepted an position as the associate head coach of the Calgary Flames. Ferner compiled a 165-51-7-17 record as the coach of the Vernon Vipers, winning two Canadian national Junior A championships in the process. He also spent parts of two seasons as coach of the Kamloops Blazers.
A former defenseman in the NHL for parts of six seasons, Ferner expects all his players to be responsible defenders.
“Defense is all about hard work,” he said. “There’s an old saying we like to use: There aren’t bad defensive players, just lazy ones.
“Everybody can play defense, and everybody is going to be expected to.”