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28-In-28: Viper or Garden Snake?

by SICHL Insider | August 14, 2015, 10:03 PM ET

Time to look at those slithering Vipers from Vancouver! This former expansion club from 2010 has done pretty well in the past few seasons building through the draft. Don't think it is quite a playoff contender just by a quick surface look, but let's dive in a little deeper and see if we really do have a viper or just a garden snake at the present time.

Finances (Costulator approved):

Vancouver's current cash position $19.4M

Revenue:

  • Team had 92.2% attendance last season which was 7th best in the league.
  • Team had a touch under $65.7M in non-playoff revenue ranking them 12th in the league.
  • The Vipers $3649 revenue per seat is 5th best in the league!
  • Costulator predicts a slight revenue reduction coming for the Vipers this season as the team slips in the standings.
  • Vipers had no playoff revenue last season and that is expected to continue for this upcoming season.
  • Expected Season Revenue $64.5M with no playoff revenues

Expenditures:

Based on roster here is the Costulators forecast of the Vipers expenditures:

  • Current Roster 29.8M, Expected farm team costs 1.7M.
  • Franchise Player 2.5M - RFA resigning 5.5M.
  • 4 roster spots to fill through UFA signings/rookies.
  • Expected team expenditures in the $48-$50M range.
  • Forecast Bank Balance for the Vipers = $33.4M.

Unrestricted Free Agents:

Ten, yup count em, ten UFAs! At first I thought I was looking at the Colonials financial page! Bryce will have a lot of work to do this offseason. The obvious choice for FP will be Mike Ribeiro as he will provide most of the scoring punch in 15/16.

Restricted Free Agents:

Only 5 RFAs with the most important signings being Cogliano and Russell. Both players should fall between the $2.5 - 3 million range.

Strength/Weakness:

The strength on this team will be at the forward position with the top line of Hall, Ribeiro and Zuccarello which in my opinion is more of a 2A type line going into next season. After that they will be looking to Santorelli, Rakell and Cogliano as more of a line 2B. Not really scaring too many of the deeper Canadian Conference teams. However that is OK. Bryce needs to stay on target by continuing to develop his prospects and focus on drafting.

Goaltending will be just OK with Hiller (solid pickup via trade last season) to take on the bulk of the netminding Pickard, Tokarski and Johnson will duke it out at camp for the back-up role. I expect in a few seasons Pickard will challenge for the #1 role.

Defense will be the weakest link this coming season with Jackman, Holden and Russell as the top 3. The Vipers will lose Jovanovski, Stuart and former expansion pick Liles to free agency. Bryce may have to fill a few holes via trade or free agency, but at this stage I don't think he will break the bank.

In the System:

Top 3 prospects include:

1. Valeri Nichushkin - Big power forward with speed and truckloads of talent to boot. Nichushkin has a very high ceiling and projects to be a first line winger. Great skating stride and a laser shot! Drafted 12th overall by the Vipers in 2013.

2. Robby Fabbri - Talented playmaker on the smallish side. Great vision and passing skills. Despite his size he is a very competitive player with leadership skills. First rate offensive ability. Fabbri had 51pts in 30GP with the Guelph Storm last season.

3. Griffin Reinhart - Projects to be a big minute defenseman. Solid puck mover and has plenty of size. Doesn't have many weaknesses in his game. His play has yet to translate into pro level readiness but expect him to start with the GHA Rattlers.

In additional to the aforementioned, the Vipers will see Ken Agostino and Joe Faust compete in the GHA with the Rattlers.

Closing notes:

Bryce has seven picks in the SICHL draft including his 1st rounder, which will be the 8th overall. This pick should land the Vipers a player like Zacha, Meier, Provorov or Crouse.

Speaking with Bryce, he sounded pretty optimistic about his Vipers "Despite not making the playoffs this year I'm very happy with the Vipers progress. We've given our fans a competitive and entertaining team which is something some other teams can't say. Our patience is starting to pay off on some of our picks like Valeri Nichushkin, Calvin Pickard, and Rickard Rakell. Plus we'll be adding another top 10 pick to our arsenal this fall. We realize that we have some work to do on the blue line but we're not going to make any quick fix moves and mortgage our future. We're confident that there will be playoff hockey in Vancouver next spring."

Had a chance to catch up with a fellow GM just before leaving Vancouver and his thoughts on the Vipers were "From where I'm sitting the Vipers are, without a doubt, the biggest wild card in the league. I didn't think they had a snowball's chance in hell last season, but they stayed competitive right up to the bitter end. Bryce is in a good position -- he could easily justify mailing it in this season and building for the draft, but he's also got the flexibility and bank roll to do some work this summer and get in the playoff hunt. Either way, I won't count them out."

Well I don't think this team is ready for primetime just yet but it is on the right track, full steam ahead. Rome wasn't built in a day. Solid scouting, drafting and smart minor trades will get this team where it needs to be. No need to go hogwild spending in free agency. Give this team 2-3 more seasons.

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