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Victor

Are Seattle and Riga the greatest underachievers?

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With Seattle's elimination in the first round of the playoffs, this means that cumulatively, Seattle and Riga have made one finals appearance in the past three seasons. This is in spite of finishing top two in the regular season in each of those three seasons – all they have to show for it is the Reign's Continental Cup win in Season 63.

 

It's not unheard of for Victory Cup winners to fall short in the playoffs, but usually that's to the next best team and generally that's made up somehow along the way. For the current incarnation of the Bears, you have to wonder when they'll get fed up with performing below expectations for seven games a season. This is especially tragic for them because within living memory Seattle has already blown two Victory Cups, failing to make the finals in S52 and S53. That was part of perhaps of the most similar stretch in VHL history, with this disappointment being preceded by Calgary's upset by Toronto in S51. However, that didn't feel quite as controversial as the recent high-profile playoff defeats, perhaps because neither had a superstar feel about it, plus both Calgary and Seattle lost to effectively the second best team in the league. In the more recent cases, the underachievement has been quite baffling.

 

How do Riga and Seattle pick themselves up from this? The VHL is an unforgiving league and the time to win it all is limited, as career limits and a tough salary cap limit the window of true contention to a very short period of time. Some teams have it in them to reinvent themselves and come back for one last hurrah – the smart money would probably be on the Reign given the lack of any large 'farm-selling' trades in the last 3-4 seasons while building up possibly the finest prospect pool in the league. But what is long-term planning worth these days anyway, when both Seattle and Riga are being outperformed by a Toronto team which last drafted a core team member in the S63 first round with Tzuyu and won't be adding to that any time soon.

 

In a league with ever-growing parity thanks to unprecedented consistent strength in draft depth, two strong teams in Vancouver and Davos missed out on the playoffs despite having a very healthy pipeline and rosters good enough to go deep in the postseason comfortably in previous seasons. This is the new reality of the VHL but one which will take some getting accustomed to. It's in theory easier than ever to build a dynasty because the prospect pool should never dry up even if some top picks are moved out. In practice though, it's becoming increasingly difficult to guarantee success because the top teams and players are so hard to separate. Is this reactionary? Just a bit, perhaps, but the ultimate judge will be whether the stories of Seattle and Riga will repeat themselves in the future or whether this was the exception. Chances are, this is just the beginning.

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1 hour ago, Victor said:

This is especially tragic for them because within living memory Seattle has already blown two Victory Cups, failing to make the finals in S52 and S53.

Just had to re-open that wound for me too didn’t you :(

 

4 Victory cups with Seattle now and 0 finals appearances outside of my final season with Beketov way back when.

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