The Dennis Williams Era Started With a Lot of Coffee. And Soundbytes.

At approximately 6:35 a.m., I walked into XFINITY Arena prepared to embrace the launch of the Everett Silvertips / Dennis Williams era. Dan Todoroff, the organization’s big wheel in charge of day-to-day operations, just sat down at his desk as we eventually tag teamed a helping hand for King 5’s unfolding of the Tips 17-18 story (guest starring Mitch Love, and Lincoln).

Ask me how it was like after that? A blur. Coffee (a ton of it, too), station-to-station duties, testing of a radio line to make sure Fox Sports 1380 had no “gremlins” interfering with live coverage, and a cordial hello to Jesse Geleynse, Nick Patterson, Jose Moreno, Q13 Fox,  loyal Tips ticket buyers, etc …

Flash forward to 2:35pm: news conference over. The whirlwind slowed down to 3rd gear.

Flash forward to 4:35pm: the Dennis Williams / Mike Benton / Fish “official exclusive first conversation” was over. The whirlwind officially came to a state of calm.

After going home to play Dad and enjoy dinner with family, you bet there was a 15-minute nap involved.

In between, I had my first words with Dennis Williams, aka “Willie” (still need a refresher? click here and here). As the 5th “full time” head coach in Tips history, he enters with a win percentage a shade below .700 in the last seven seasons, an NAHL championship, and the torch taker which includes a burning flame of five U.S. Division titles.

The first five questions, in what will be a part of many conversations between us:

  1. MIKE BENTON: What defines your core values?

    DENNIS WILLIAMS: When you’re trying to build a championship hockey club, you have to put emphasis on character of each player. Knowing the players coming back from this past season, and what Garry Davidson and his staff has done, it’s set the table for a successful season.

  2. MB: What excites you about taking a job like this?

    DW: It’s been a job, when I joined CSH seven years ago, (that’s categorized as) a dream job. Now to have the opportunity to come to Everett, bring family, and be a part of the Pacific Northwest – knowing it’s absolutely gorgeous – my kids are excited. I’m excited to get going and give the fans a great product to cheer for.

  3. MB: Is it fair to start defining goals yet for this season?

    DW: I think right now i’m just trying to grasp everything and get a handle on all the faces and names I’ve met over the last few days. First thing’s first, I want to reach out to all the returning players and draft picks. From there, we’ll get planning going for the summer.

  4. MB: What’s it mean to coach the Silvertips and coach in the WHL?

    DW: It’s a great honor. I said this year is a gem and it’s a jewel program to coach. And to be the coach here, it doesn’t come lightly. It comes with high expectations and i’m looking forward to coming in and helping do our best to win not only championships, but get this club to the Memorial Cup and eventually hoist it.

  5. MB: Playing style – what do you like, what do you prefer, what do you see out of this team moving ahead?

    DW: Like anything in this day, it’s an evolution and (signaling) a change in hockey. We want to focus on playing the game with speed, playing with intensity, and generating as much offense as possible. It’s getting harder and harder.

    But our focus is working on the skill sets of our players, helping them continue to get better, and bring the intensity. That has to come from us as a coaching staff. We have to set the bar each day. I’m looking forward to it. I have to wait 90 days until these guys get here again. Every day will be like the 24th of December – I’ll have to keep waiting and waiting. Then we can get on the ice here.

Williams is still technically transitioning from Bloomington, where his family is still packing up an old house and his daughters are completing their year of school. Look out for more on Monday’s big day in The Everett Herald, Q13 Fox, KOMO, King5, and The Barbershop Show (KJR).

“The 25th of December” is one day closer.

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton recently completed his second season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 12th in the game.  Tweet at him here.

Phone Call, It’s Mirco Mueller

As a first round pick by the San Jose Sharks in the 2013 National Hockey League Entry Draft, defenseman Mirco Mueller is part of a master plan.

That master plan: successfully hand off the torch from the bearers such as Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Paul Martin – all who have left their 20’s in the rear view mirror.

As recently as today, Sharks assistant general manager Joe Will told CSN Bay Area of the master plan to accumulate players as early as 2013, when Mueller (who’s furnished 20 points in 62 games for the young San Jose Barracuda followed by four assists in 10 AHL playoff games) was the Sharks first pick off the board. Since then, the Sharks drafted 24 players in the span of three drafts (2013-15).

Mueller put himself in position by blossoming his game on the Silvertips blueline under the watchful eye of assistant coach Mitch Love, who handles the Tips d-men. Mueller’s transition from Switzerland, his draft year, delivered 31 points in 63 games, followed up by a 27 point campaign in 60 games in 2013-14.

Mueller is one of 17 ‘Tips who have made their NHL debut since Everett’s inaugural season in 2003-04.

Mueller still texts with Love, engages in conversation with WHL alumni, and misses Everett. Mueller spoke on Wednesday afternoon over the phone, with the Barracuda preparing for their Conference Final showdown against the Grand Rapids Griffins:

  1. MIKE BENTON: What surprised you about this season?

MIRCO MUELLER: I don’t know. It was a season that I really didn’t know what to expect. We had a lot of new and young guys come in. nobody knew what to expect but I think we’ve been playing good hockey all season long and carry it into the playoffs and into our first two rounds. Hopefully we can keep going.

  1. MB: What kind of a player has (San Jose head coach) Roy Sommer made you?

MM: Tough to say. I think I’m still the same player as I was back in Everett. I just got better. My whole game kind of evolved and obviously more this year with the team having success, especially in the playoffs. But we’re not content.

  1. MB: How tough is Grand Rapids?

MM: We’ve only played them twice this year but they’re a similar team like us. They play with a lot of speed, a lot of skill and it’ll be a great series between two great teams. I’m excited for it to start.

  1. MB: You get a kick out of seeing WHL faces now in the AHL?

MM: Yeah, definitely.  We’ve had a lot of new guys this year and a lot of more WHL guys – more than what I’ve seen before in San Jose – guys like (Adam) Helewka, (Rourke) Chartier, (Jon) Martin – there are some guys I remember from the U.S. Division and B.C. Division. It’s definitely fun and we talk about the junior days and see which guys know which coaches. It’s funny how small the hockey world is.

  1. MB: What did playing in the WHL do to prepare you for the pros?

MM: The biggest thing is the amount of games and the intensity you play with in the WHL. The travel makes you be able to handle it much better, once you move on. So much where you can just worry about your game and nothing else going on. It was a great experience for me playing (in Everett) for two years.

  1. MB: Person from Everett you text from the most?

MM: Probably Brayden Low and Ben Betker. With Ben, we played against each other (Betker in Bakersfield) quite a bit.

  1. MB: How much of a difference did Mitch Love make in your game as a defenseman?

MM: He made a big difference. He is a coach who hasn’t been retired that long and has been around the modern day era, playing in the AHL previously. We’ve always had a good relationship and nowadays we shoot texts back and forth.

  1. MB: What do you miss most about Everett?

MM: The whole area. I really enjoyed living there. The guys around the rink, the fans, the great atmosphere to play in, even my billets. We try to check in every now and then. The whole place is really comfortable and it’s a great place to play in the Western Hockey League.

The Barracuda, aiming for their first trip to the Calder Cup Final, open Game 1 of the Conference Finals this Saturday against Grand Rapids at SAP Center (6:00 p.m.).



Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton recently completed his second season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 12th in the game.  Tweet at him here.

Hot Hot Heat

The Stockton Heat delivered a pulsating win for the ages – granted, it even kind of felt like first round vs. Las Vegas, 2013 – Sunday night in a 5-3 victory over San Jose in Game 4 of their first round series which included a blitz of three unanswered goals in the third period (sound familiar?).

Tuesday night will be the “do or die” game 5 at SAP Center, with the winner advancing to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs against the winner of the Ontario Reign / San Diego Gulls tilt. That’s the beauty of playoff hockey: the thrill of the “clean slate” in elimination games brings on all the feels/goosebumps/anxiety we embrace.

Everett Silvertips stick tap: alumnus and defenseman Mirco Mueller, with a pair of assists and a +1 rating in four games from the blue line for the Cuda. Trainer Marc Paquet is currently in his second season managing the bumps and bruises of the Heat, and in his third season as a part of the Calgary Flames organization. Considering he’s the king of all care-taking in a space no more than a center ice dump-in length from my old office space, that’s a cool six degrees of separation.

I’ve got a lot of ties back to the Northern California area. As my career began in Stockton with the genesis of professional hockey in the Thunder, my eight years there (2005-13) tied to the meeting of my wife, Amy in nearby Modesto. A cornucopia of family and friends still reside in Stockton, and in surrounding areas. So, it’s hard to ignore a series that’s brewing to be a classic.

While the players change, perhaps the mystique remains? The Thunder went 7-3 all-time in games where they forced elimination, and 2-1 on the Game 7 stage (the first round is a best-of-five, so we treat it like a “Game 7”).

Their last game 7? The year of 2013 A.D. … Stockton 5 – Las Vegas 3. First round. That was one game after the Thunder forced Game 7 with five electrifying third period goals to complete a game 6 comeback at home.

We remember how far they got in that playoff run.

Stick taps for you and cheers to more history in the making, 209.

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton recently completed his second season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 12th in the game.  Tweet at him here.