Wednesday, January 30, 2008
When I'm sick like this I find it hard to muster up enough energy to get out of my chair. I find it hard to muster up enough energy to make a phone call. Play hockey? Forget it. Credit to the Smoke Eaters and Nitehawks for gutting it out while sick. It's a battle for me to even call a game let alone play one.
Tonight it's the Smokies and the Vipers. Every game between the two teams (except the last one) has been very entertaining. Both games here in Vernon have gone to overtime. I'm hoping for another exciting one here tonight.
Smokies need to shoot a lot more pucks tonight. Having been shut out two games in a row you know they are going to be gripping the sticks a little tight. Lets hope they can overcome that and score a much needed early goal. An early one would lift them up and get them going.
Tonight is also the return of Chris Crowell to the Vernon lineup after his elbow that knocked out Smokies D Ryan Hill. Hill is still out but Crowell's five game suspension is up. Will that lead to fireworks in tonight's game? I doubt it. The Smokies are down to 11 forwards and 5 D so they can't really afford any suspensions here. We'll see what happens.
Also tonight is the return of Stefan Decosse from his most recent injury. Here's hoping that's the last game he misses this year. It's been bad luck for Decosse so far this year, and Trail could really use his offensive touch.
Tune in to the game tonight on Mountain FM!
Saturday, January 26, 2008
It's been a tough month. 13 games with 10 of them on the road and a short bench. It hasn't gone well so far. Night in and night out we've seen these guys work their butts off without getting the kind of results they all strive for. Night in and night out that frustration builds and that confidence takes another hit.
Last night the Smoke Eaters gave up 51 shots and had 10 of their own. Grant Rollheiser was just outstanding for the Smokies. Without him that score could have been worse than 4-0. They were hard on themselves after the game. I'm sure the coaches were too. Nobody is happy with that kind of result. These guys are not going to make excuses.
But that doesn't stop me from saying that hey... these guys were sick out there. Their bodies were weaker, their endurance limited, their abilities diminished by a bug. They don't want to use it as an excuse, but I'm perfectly willing to come on here and say it should be one.
The other reality? This month has been hard, and the schedule doesn't get easier.
That's where you come in.
I don't know how many people read this blog. I'm sure it's not that substantial. However, I will say now that I really hope as many of you as possible come to the game tonight. It's easy to turn away from a team when they're slumping. It's easy to walk away from a team that isn't living up to whatever your expectations happened to be. But this is a team right now that has been on the road all month, injured, sick and struggling. If there was ever a night they could use a boost from a strong home crowd... this is that night.
If there was ever a time to cheer as loud as you could to get those juices flowing and lift this team up... this is that night.
Don't let last night's result fool you. This team competes hard out there and will continue to compete hard. They just need a boost right now. They need an edge that will get them that confidence back. They need to score an early goal that opens up those floodgates and gets them going. One way to help them get that done is to come out in big numbers and make some noise tonight.
We've seen some great games this year between Penticton and Trail. One of them was just a couple of weeks ago in Trail. The Smokies had 'em until the Vees tied it up with 30 seconds left. It was a great game and we know from victories earlier this year that the Smokies can play great games against the Vees.
Despite the losses, this is an exciting time. It's a playoff race! Quesnel is 3 points back and Prince George is 4 points ahead. 5th, 6th and 7th place are all on the line. Those final two spots are up for grabs. It's the time of the year where you've got one eye on your game and one eye on the scoreboard. It's fun stuff even if you are battling for that final spot instead of the first one. Enjoy it.
If there was ever a time that a road weary team could use some friendly faces and loud support, now is that time.
Hope to see you there tonight. Puck drops at 7:30pm.
...I'm told that Kevin Limbert actually scored a hat trick in the All-Star game. There has been some difficulty at getting completely accurate information on what happened. But congratulations to Kevin for a great performance at the game. I think everyone on the team and in the community knows how good a representative he is of the Smoke Eaters.
...It sounds like the recovery is coming along at a normal pace for Ryan Hill. Concussions are very tricky, but I hope he can get back into the line-up as soon as possible.
...Speaking of getting back into the line-up; Stefan Decosse could be back as soon as Wednesday. He joined me in the booth as the colour commentator last night. Thought he did a pretty darn good job. If you agree join me in bugging him to look at broadcasting or communication options in school! Despite that, I hope that I never see Stefan back in the booth with me again this year. Much rather see him setting up and scoring goals than talking about them!
...I thought Justin Brown and Tylor Johnson of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks handled themselves well for Trail last night. The Nitehawks players who joined Trail this year have pretty much all stepped in and done a fine job. None of them are coming in and scoring hat tricks or anything. They're asked to step into a hole and provide solid, simple play. Coaching and talent must be pretty good in BV, because they've almost always done that job. We'll see how many of them make the leap to Junior A next year. I think both Brown and Johnson could.
...Penticton Coach Fred Harbinson told me in the pre-game interview that Nathan Westover is fitting in well in Penticton. He says the staff told Westover he has to compete hard every night to fit in with the Vees, and thus far he's done just that. Nathan is certainly a very talented player. I don't think either side of that trade (Westover for Geerin) is complaining about the results. Those are the best trades.
...The Powell River Kings did Trail a big favour last night. They got down 3-0 early against Quesnel, but came back to win the game 6-4. That loss means the Millionaires are still 3 points back of the Smoke Eaters for the final playoff spot. It's also a real kick in the pants for any team to lose after having a 3-0 lead. That could impact Quesnel's momentum for the rest of their long weekend. Tonight they're in Langley and tomorrow it's a game in Vernon. Westside beat Prince George 7-3 last night. The Spruce Kings are still within striking distance for Trail. Nice to see former Smoke Eater David Arduin back in the line-up after an injury in December.
Friday, January 25, 2008
"When you're going through puberty there are some cells in your chest thatThe good news is that so far it doesn't require surgery. He'll go through 12 weeks of chemo and hopefully that will take care of it.
go down to your testicles. In some people, some of these cells end up staying
behind in your chest. I wouldn't say it's normal, but it's not bad that some of
these cells stay behind. It happens. But mine turned into a cancer."
Scott seems to be in very good spirits and is confident in a full recovery. He says they caught the cancer quite early and are optimistic that treatment should work just fine. I can't wait to see him lace up the skates with the Smokies again next year. God willing he'll be a big part of that team. As I've said before, I think he is a player that has a terrific hockey sense and work ethic. Could be a big goal scorer for the team next year too. But that's not the priority now, other things are more important. I know fans and friends are keeping him in their thoughts.
If you want to hear the full interview I've posted the audio files on our website.
NEWS AND NOTES
...Kevin Limbert scored twice in the BCHL All-Star game on Wednesday. Of course goals in that game were about as rare as photos of Britney Spears on the internet. Limbert scored twice in the twelve goal third period. Congratulations to the Smoke Eaters Captain and Fruitvale native on doing a fine job representing the team at the big game. Despite Limbert's efforts, the Coast beat the Interior 15-9.
...The Smoke Eaters start a home and home with Penticton tonight. The last game between the two teams went to Overtime with former Smokie Nathan Westover scoring the winner for the Vees. Trail actually had a lead with 30 seconds to play in that game. They're hoping to bust out of a nine game losing streak against the top team in the Interior conference. The Smoke Eaters have played Penticton well all year long and we shouldn't expect anything less tonight and tomorrow. The pre-game show gets underway at 6:45pm tonight with AM Ford Trail Smoke Eaters Hockey on Mountain FM and the BCHL Fanzone. Tomorrow night the puck drops at 7:30pm at Cominco Arena. Support these guys, January has been tough and they could really use a boost from a strong crowd.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Game after game after game I keep wondering if this year's Trail Smoke Eaters are ever going to get a break.
- Top pairing defenceman Cam Brodie gone for at least 6 weeks and maybe the season with an injury.
- Defenceman Paul Levarsky leaves the team right before the trade deadline to play pro hockey in Slovakia (forcing any deals to be for help on the back end).
- Defenceman Ryan Hill gets knocked out and injured for at least 2-4 weeks if not longer just after the Smoke Eaters make trades to get a full roster of D.
- Top goal scorer Brett Corcoran suffers an injury in the same game and only returns for a few shifts against Victoria.
- Point a game player Stefan Decosse gets hurt for the third time this season with no time table yet for his return.
Last minute departures and injures at the worst possible time leave the Smokies short on cards before the deadline. That leads to the toughest month of the year (10 road games and 13 total in January) with a shorter bench and several more injuries. Two of those injuries to top point scorers on a team that doesn't score enough goals. One of those injuries an aggravating one that didn't stop Grant Rollheiser from playing goal, but did somewhat limit him earlier this month. It hasn't stopped.
Following a team game in and game out. Getting to know the players and the coaches. Travelling with the team. Seeing every single game live in the arena. It's a new experience for me. Even if you follow a professional team as closely as any fan can, you never get this close to the journey. It's a pretty amazing thing for a hockey fan. However, since it's the first time I've done it to this extent, my ability to analyze their reality is limited by my scope.
When I look at the string of bad luck that this team has faced I don't know how to categorize it. Do all teams face these same hills and the best ones just find a way to climb? Does it feel like they never get the bounces because they're the team I follow and the team I grow to care about? I don't know.
What I do know is how it feels. It feels like every time this year's Trail Smoke Eaters make a mistake they get burned for it. It also feels like every time they score they had to fight, scratch, claw and kill to get that puck in the net. It's a bit of an exaggeration, but sometimes it really does feel that way. I'm not even saying this to be negative. These guys work damn hard day in and day out. They care and they want it, but it's never ever ever easy. It's a fight against the best teams (that they sometimes win) and it's a fight against the worst teams (that they sometimes lose), but it's never a cake walk. It's certainly never dull.
The Smoke Eaters came into this season with a lot of high expectations. They had a lot of returning veterans from a third place team. They won a playoff series and there was lots of excitement about making another run this year.
I'd say the "bad luck" of this season could be traced all the way back to losing their Coach and GM mere weeks before training camp. That forced a new coach to come in without time to analyze the roster before camp, or to do any of the off season recruiting himself. A new coach with someone else's roster and high expectations.
There are fans out there who will rip the Coach or the players because of these high expectations.
But lets not forget a couple of very important things about last season. First of all, they were 2 points behind second place Vernon and only 1 point ahead of fourth and fifth place Salmon Arm and Prince George. That's how tight it was from second to fifth. We're talking about three points. So we're not talking about a team that was coming back together after finishing first place by 20 points. We're talking about a good team grouped with three other good teams from second to fifth that all easily could have traded places in the regular season standings. This is not something I'm saying to denigrate their accomplishment as much as something I'm saying to show just how tight the BCHL is and just how many good teams there are. This is a very competitive and difficult league. They weren't leaving anyone in their dust last year, it was a dog fight. When it's that close, one or two changes can be huge set backs.
I got to the Kootenays in February of last year. Just long enough to see my share of Smoke Eaters game while also running around to different KIJHL rinks. What I saw was a good team with an outstanding goaltender. I've always believed strongly in the strength of the save percentage statistic as a measuring stick for goaltenders. Guess which goalie was tied for first place in save percentage last year?
Cole Anderson of the Smokies and Riley Whitlock of the Capitals both posted outstanding 0.915 save percentages to lead the BCHL. Watching Anderson play last year, you could see just how important he was to the success of the team. He was a veteran goaltender in his final season of junior hockey playing incredible hockey. This year only Nathan Lieuwen (in 11 games) and Alex Evin have better save percentages than Anderson had last year. Arguably no goaltender this year means as much to their team as Anderson did to the Smoke Eaters last year.
Cole Anderson was not going to be replaced this year. That doesn't mean that Trail's goaltending is substandard or "the" problem on the team. Quite the opposite. Outside of maybe one or two games I would never point to goaltending as a main factor in a Trail loss. More often I'd say that Grant Rollheiser and Paul Barclay have kept the Smokies in games. Rollheiser sits tied for 12th in save percentage, but he's tied for 7th among goalies who have played at least 20 games. That puts him right in the middle of the pack among starting goaltenders. Do you know how many of the goaltenders ahead of him are his age or younger? 3 out of 11. One of those (Lieuwen) has only played 11 games. So among 18 year old and under goalies he's fourth in the league. All of this to say Rollheiser has at the very least lived up to expectations if not surpassed them.
However, neither Rollhesier or Barclay were going to come in to Trail and replicate the kind of year Anderson had. Only Alex Evin has numbers that would fit that goal and he's playing on the most talented roster in the BCHL. I don't think it ever would have been fair to expect that, and the loss of Anderson was always going to cost them some points that would have to be made up elsewhere.
Lost in all the talk about how many guys were coming back this year was the fact that they lost some very important pieces of the team as well. F Joel Barrett (51 points or 0.9 points per game), F Matt Turner (43 points or 0.7 points per game and 137 penalty minutes), D Alex Greenlay (29 points or 0.5 points per game, 143 penalty minutes and the team captain), F Brian Kang (35 points or 0.6 points per game), D Patrick Copeland (26 points or 0.6 points per game) and D Justin Frechione (solid defensive D with 8 points).
We're talking about two or three top six forwards, two top four defencemen and another in the top six. That's some significant scoring, grit, toughness and defensive play to replace. The off seaosn recruiting before the season didn't replace those guys. In terms of permanent additions made before Coach Ingram joined the team, only gritty all around F Patrick Martin, young and improving D Braden Kinnebrew and the goaltenders remain. The team didn't bring in anyone in the off season that was going to immediately replace a guy like Barrett or Turner's production. They didn't bring in any defencemen who could replace the production or grit of Copeland and Greenlay.
Players who had smaller roles on last year's team were certainly expected to be in a bigger role this year. I think they've done that. Ryan Bulach has gone from 0.3 points per game to 0.7 points per game. Paul Mailey has jumped from 0.3 points per game to 0.4 points per game while playing a much more important two-way role. Scott Warner moved from 0.3 points per game to 0.5 while being put on the ice against the other team's best players every night. Cam Brodie jumped into a top pairing spot very effectively before he got hurt. Credit to them for stepping up.
However, last season's team had a new addition in David Arduin who topped the team in scoring. They had a new recruit in Stefan Decosse who put up nearly a point a game. They had three other new recruits (Paulsen, Warner and Bowman) who stuck with the team the entire season in important roles. I don't think it would be unfair to say that the Smokies staff under Tim Kehler had a better summer in 2006 than they did in 2007. It happens, not every new class of players will have the kind of success that the 2006 group did.
Ingram came in and saw that there wasn't enough new scoring on the team. He made a deal to add August Aiken ( which later indirectly impacted the David Arduin trade as the future considerations Westside got for Aiken came back to Trail in that deal when the team wasn't getting expected results). He recruited Steve Ourosov to add some offensive spark. He saw they still needed some help on defence so he added Ryan Hill and Paul Levarsky. However, what Ingram didn't have a chance to do was analyze the team's needs over an off season and recruit players to fill those voids. He can't be held accountable for that part of this team.
People say that any talk of injuries is just an excuse for not getting expected results. Sometimes that's a fair statement. But don't you think injuries to significant parts of the team can do enough to really change results in such a close league? There are no nights off in the BCHL this year. Even teams lower in the standings like the Bulldogs and Merritt can knock off the top teams at any time. The Bulldogs just beat Penticton this weekend.
Compare last year's Smokies to this year's Smokies. Last year's team didn't really battle too many serious injury problems that I've been able to discover. Looking at their top 15 scorers only two played fewer than 50 games. Kevin Limbert played 48 games and Patrck Copeland played 45. At most we're talking about 12 and 15 missed games. When looking up and down that roster it's hard to find any significant, long term injuries to guys who would be top 6 forwards or top 4 defencemen. Nobody listed on the main roster (outside Connor Gregory) played fewer than 37 games last season.
- Top 6 forward Stefan Decosse has been injured three times and missed 25 of 47 games. More than half the year so far.
- Top pairing defenceman Cam Brodie is going to almost surely miss the rest of the regular season. That would mean he played 35 of 60 games.
- Top 4 defenceman Ryan Hill has will miss at least 10 to 15 games with a concussion. If not more.
- Offensively gifted local forward Logan Proulx never played a single regular season game with the Smoke Eaters due to an ankle injury.
- Jamie Paulsen missed the first two months of the season with an injury.
- Dylan Herold missed 14 games in the fall.
- Casey Shade missed 6 games in the fall with an injury.
- Scott Jago had to leave the team for medical reasons. His entire season has likely been lost outside of a chance he could play some AP games if he's feeling up to it now that he's working out with Castlegar in the KIJHL.
We're just talking about long term injuries here. Everyone gets nagging injuries throughout the year. However, when it comes to serious injuries and man games lost to them, it looks like this year's team has had much worse luck than last year's. There certainly could be some guys from last year's team that I didn't know about, but we're still looking at more injury trouble this year than last.
ADD IT UP
When you look at several of these factors I don't think it's hard to see why the Smoke Eaters are getting different results this season. You go from a 20 year old goaltender who was at least top 2 or 3 in the league to a couple of successful rookies who could never be expected to replicate those results. You go from a team that added at least five full time skaters and two goalies before the season started, to a team that added only two full time skaters and two goalies before the season started. You go from a team that lost very few man games to injury, to a team that has been missing one of their top scorers for more than half the year and has lost two of their top 4 defencemen for at least significant time or the rest of the season. A team that had another defenceman leave for Europe right before the trade deadline. A team that in my opinion, just hasn't had a heck of a lot of luck this year.
You have to be good to be lucky BUT you also have to be lucky to be good.
We've seen how good a healthy and focused Trail Smoke Eaters team can be. We've seen them play games like Tuesday's overtime loss against Penticton where their two-way play, strong goaltending and hard work keeps them stride for stride with the best teams in the league. We've seen them nearly beat Team Canada West. We've seen them get wins over Nanaimo, Salmon Arm, Penticton and others. Winning is not impossible this year, but in my view there sure have been some road blocks in the way.
My conclusion would be that this team deserves patience. This coaching staff deserves patience. They are all working very hard under what were not necessarily ideal circumstances at times.
Hey Smokies fans, lets look at things this way: the Smoke Eaters are just storing up good karma for when it really counts. After a significant run of bad luck during stretches of this year, it would only be right that the good luck would come in... oh... lets say March and April.
In the meantime, it's time to break this 7 game losing streak and put some pucks in the net. The rest of the season starts this afternoon against the Clippers.
Friday, January 18, 2008
The Army is a tremendous educational opportunity for Warner. It's also guaranteed work after school is done. A five year commitment, but it's a guaranteed living if his pro career doesn't advance. If it does advance, Warner tells me he could play while working for the Army in the summer.
Warner also knows he's going to have a big role on the team. They are apparently short on defencemen, especially ones who can move the puck. Warner leads the Smokies defencemen with 25 points in 45 games this season. In 44 games last year he had 15 points. It's a significant and steady improvement as Warner was given a bigger role on the team. With the injury to Brodie and trade of Westover, Warner stepped right into the #1 role on the defensive core that he had been sharing with those two throughout the year. He plays in every situation and had to really log some huge minutes when Trail was down to 5 defencemen for a period of time so far this year. He did an admirable job in a tough situation.
It's always disappointing for a fan on some level when you know one of the team's best players won't be back. However, it's much more important that the player gets a chance to better themselves and their life. This is why a player like Warner came to the BCHL from Alaska. He told me yesterday that this opportunity probably wouldn't have come for him if he played elsewhere. It's wonderful for any program when you're able to say you moved your players on successfully to the next level of hockey.
We'll certainly miss watching Warner play next year, but everyone in Trail should be really glad that he's getting this great chance.
Congrats to Scott and his family for this great step in his life and career.
The official word is in from the BCHL on the Chris Crowell hit. He'll receive 5 games for the hit. I'll have more on this later. I feel the suspension is a little light, but I'm glad the league is taking action. Crowell apparently called Hill after the hit. I don't know what he said or didn't say (And I'm not sure it's any of my business), but I will say that it takes class and integrity to take that kind of step. We all make mistakes, I know I make a ton of them, but if you take some responsibility for it I definitely respect that.
By the way, if anyone (and some have) questions whether it was the hit itself that took Hill out, all you have to do is take a look at his face. There's a huge scar/scrape/bruise on there right at the cheek area. In some ways he's lucky the hit didn't also break his jaw.
Lets hope this whole discussion helps limit future hits of this nature. More importantly, lets hope Ryan Hill is back soon.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
This isn't exactly how the season was meant to go for Trail native, Logan Proulx. The speedy youngster impressed many at the Edmonton Oil Kings training camp. So much so that they wanted him to stay in the WHL for his 16 year old season. However, Proulx decided he wanted to stay home another year. He knew that the WHL was his goal; but he told me at the time that this was an opportunity to be with friends and family, play high level hockey with the Smoke Eaters, and maybe bulk up a little. As a Smoke Eater broadcaster I was secretly hoping that a year with the club would maybe change Logan's mind and keep the offensively gifted player in the BCHL for his junior career.
An unfortunate incident in exhibition play derailed the BCHL season for Logan before it even started. His ankle injury kept him out of action out of the gate, but he was expected back a couple of months into the year. But that injury just wouldn't heal properly. Week after week we all hoped for Logan's sake that progress would come. At times we were left to wonder if he would ever get to suit up this year. Yet despite all the set backs and I imagine all the frustration, Logan was at every Trail game he could make. I'm not sure if he missed a home game the entire year. He even made as many road trips as he could, crutches and all. Proulx never gave up on the idea that he would be a member of the team. He even did a bang up job as a guest on my show and sometimes colour commentator during the games.
As the December 1rst card deadline came and went, the Smokies had no choice but to take Proulx off their carded list. The cards ended up being absolutely necessary with the departures of Westover, Paulsen and Levarsky, as well as the injury to Brodie. There was always a hope that he'd get healthy in time to get carded before the trade deadline, but it just didn't happen. Despite that, he still came to every game and involved himself like he would be a part of the team.
Fortunately things seem to have improved a lot lately for Proulx. He's out of his cast and skating again. With luck he'll be in shape to play in a couple of weeks. The only disappointing thing about the very good news is that it won't be as a Trail Smoke Eater. There are no cards left in Trail. The Beaver Valley Nitehawks had their 16 year old spots filled. There was no where for Proulx to permanently play. The option I had heard discussed was that he would suit up for a Midget team and AP for both the Nitehawks and Smokies. That meant he could play 5 regular season games for Trail up until the point that his Midget team was done for the season. He could also play unlimited playoffs games. It would mean a lot of bouncing around from team to team.
I have only talked to Proulx briefly, but I imagine that wasn't an ideal scenario for him. Instead he talked to the Oil Kings and they offered him a chance to come and play out the rest of the year on their club. Can you imagine the kind of impression Proulx made on Edmonton for them to give him a spot on the club in February of a year in which he hasn't played a single regular season game? He must have been turning some heads back at camp. That really says a lot about the respect the Oil Kings have for Logan's talents. Congratulations to Proulx and his family as Logan takes the next step of his hockey career. He's certainly making Trail proud.
It's too bad it won't be as a Smoke Eater, but in my opinion he was definitely a part of this team this year. And just as they always say, once you're a Smoke Eater, you're a Smoke Eater for life. Hopefully we'll at least get to see him on television a few times!
THE CROWELL HIT
Lots of reaction to the Crowell elbow on Ryan Hill this weekend. My post was copied to the BCHL message board, and a bunch of back and fourth ensued between Trail and Vernon fans. In my opinion, this kind of thing is beyond a simple rivalry. I certainly don't think it's in the hands of the Vernon Vipers organization themselves. I think this is the action of a single player and he is responsible. Its not about Trail vs. Vernon or whose side you're on. It's funny I get called a homer not two weeks after multiple posters here claimed I was quite the opposite. But this is instead about a dangerous hit that could put the hockey career of a young man at risk.
There's no question some Smoke Eaters have done some dirty things at times this year. Every single team is responsible for a questionable hit, stick, punch, whatever at some point in the season. No one should be saying one team is ready for prison and the other a group of saints.
The point is that every single year we're learning more and more about the dangers of concussions. They have ended the careers of countless athletes, and changed far more lives permanently. I have a very good friend who missed an entire year of school because of a concussion. Knowing him as well as I do, I knew he wasn't quite the same guy for more than a year. It took him a long time to really be himself again and to operate at the capacity he was used to. Even today he can't do all the things he used to be able to do. He can never play soccer again, he can't play any contact sports, he can't drink... and that's just one man's story. The careers of the Lindros brothers should be example enough for the dangers of concussions in hockey. The league has to do everything they can to prevent these types of hits and these types of injuries. This is not only about hockey, it's about quality of life.
It's up to the BCHL to take a strong stand. Not because I want them to punish the Vipers or to personally hurt Crowell. I hope Vernon has a great season and Crowell's career reaches new heights in years to come. This is about making a statement. These kinds of hits can not be tolerated. It's unacceptable and dangerous when we're dealing with pro athletes who get paid and have insurance. It should be much more unacceptable when we're dealing with unpaid young men whose hockey value is tied to their future.
Lets protect that future.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
I got to see the replay of the elbow up in the Smoke Eaters video booth. It wasn't pretty. I have no idea what in the world Crowell was thinking. He must not have been. It was a long, obvious charge and hit with a blatant elbow. It's like he could smell blood and just couldn't stop himself. I don't know Crowell and I'm not going to comment on him as an individual or even as a player really. All that matters to me for the moment is what I saw on the ice in tonight's game. This kind of hit wouldn't have been acceptable if his team was down 5-0 or in a close game, but when you're winning 5-0? When the game is all but over. What kind of statement does that make? You have a dominating win in the bag, but still feel you have to send a message with a cheap shot like that?
...With Quesnel's loss and Prince George's win today we're seeing a little seperation in the 5/6/7 spots. The Spruce Kings are 3 points ahead of Trail with a game in hand. The Smokies are 5 points ahead of the Millionaires with 2 games in hand. In baseball terms they're 3 1/2 games ahead of Quesnel. With 16 games left to play there's still lots of time for things to change. Anywhere higher than 5th is looking like a remote possibility now, but Trail could still finish out of the playoffs if they don't get their share of wins the rest of the way. Once you make the playoffs all bets are off. We've seen the Smokies beat Salmon Arm, Westside and Penticton. We've seen them take Vernon to overtime 3 different times. I'm still confident any playoff series would be a real war.
Friday, January 11, 2008
I'm just going to post the trades I can find information for here with links and very brief commentary. We can leave futher anlysis to a later date and perhaps to more well informed people. This week on Mountain FM's Overtime I intend to seek out the movers and shakers in the BCHL to talk about the deals they made and get a sense of what that means for the playoff race.
Jan 6, 2008: The Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the BCHL acquire the playing rights of Bryan Gillis (88)(G) from the Antigonish Bulldogs of the MJAHL in exchange for future considerations.
Click here for the Silverbacks press release. Gillis is a terrific goaltender who stole the show at the World Jr A Hockey Challenge in Trail and Nelson this past fall. He's a big upgrade for Salmon Arm and could be the difference in a series against the other top teams in the Interior. Looked very solid in the 5-1 win over Trail.
Jan 7, 2008: The Victoria Grizzlies Hockey Club transfer the playing rights of Grant Toulmin (89)(F) to the Prince George Spruce Kings Hockey Club in exchange for future considerations.
Click here for the release from the Spruce Kings and click here for Victoria's release. I don't really understand the move to be honest. Toulmin is at the right age to fit into Victoria's plans for an RBC run next year. With 26 points in 37 games he seemed to be playing quite well as an 18 year old. You would think he'd be among the team's top scorers next year. Big forward who should help the Spruce Kings as they make a run for the playoffs. Victoria says the player they'll get from Prince George is the key to the deal for next year, so we'll have to wait and see who that ends up being.
Jan 8, 2008: The Trail Smoke Eaters Hockey Club acquires the playing rights of Kevin Koopman (88)(D) from the Merritt Centennials Hockey Club in exchange for future considerations.
Click here for the release from Merritt. Check out my part 1 of my post for more thoughts on this deal. Koopman fills a giant hole for the Smokies. Hard to know how good a deal it is for Merritt until we find out what player they'll get.
Jan 9, 2008: The Merritt Centennials Hockey Club transfer the playing rights of Jorday Zalba (88)(F) to the Victoria Grizzlies Hockey Club in exchange for future considerations.
Click here for the release from Victoria. Merritt's says the same thing it did about Koopman essentially. Zalba is an Island boy and Victoria's release indicates he'll be helping them get to the playoffs this year. However, Zalba is still only 19 and could be back for their RBC run next year. Whatever they are giving up to get Zalba must be less than they are getting from Prince George for Toulmin.
Jan 9, 2008: The Surrey Eagles Hockey Club transfer the playing rights of Andrew Hammond (88)(G) to the Vernon Vipers Hockey Club in exchange for future considerations.
Click here for the release from Vernon. After losing their goaltender to college, the Vipers had to do something. They apparently were looking at a couple of Jr B goaltenders, but ultimately got Hammond from Surrey. Hammond's numbers are pretty good. He's a rookie in the BCHL, but a 19 year old rookie. An 89.90 save percentage is pretty solid. It'll at least provide good competition for Gore. I don't think Hammond stacks up to the goaltending Penticton, Westside or Salmon Arm has though.
Jan 9, 2008: The Quesnel Millionaires Hockey Club transfer the playing rights of Chris Baker (87)(F) to the Grande Prairie Storm of the AJHL in exchange for the playing rights of Thomas Kala (89)(F).
Click here for the release from Quesnel. Kala is a 5'8, 160lbs forward who played Jr B hockey in Victoria last season. He's apparently a very quick skater and should help Quesnel down the road. Baker was just going to play out the rest of the season and the Millionaires are almost sure not going to be contenders this year. They make the move without improving their competitors. Quesnel also released Darryl Gagnon to Fernie of the KIJHL.
That's it so far for trades posted on the BCHL website. However, other deals were announced by the teams themselves.
Jan 10, 2008: The Cowichan Valley Capitals Hockey Club tranfer the playing rights of Clinton Pettapiece (87)(F) to the Westside Warriors Hockey Club in exchange for the playing rights of Alex Gellert (89)(F) and future considerations.
Click here for the release from Westside. I'm hearing that the future considerations Westside will give up are going to be very significant. How can we properly judge this deal without knowing just how significant they'll be? I guess first by saying that the Warriors just added one of the top scorers in the entire league. Westside has the third lowest goals against in the league. However, their scoring is right in the middle of the pack. With Pettapiece coming in and Arduin returning soon from injury, that's bound to change. The Warriors are in second place without Arduin and Pettapiece. Their addition could easily take them to the next level. Gellert isn't a huge loss to a contending team, but they also sent Chris Shudo to Mellville of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in order to make a 20 year old slot available. Shudo wasn't an all-star, but it is a loss from the roster. In terms of this year's roster the Warriors have only had to give up Santiago, Gellert and Shudo to get Pettapiece and Arduin. That is a very significant upgrade. The Warriors are likely the most improved team after the deadline.
Jan 10, 2008: The Trail Smoke Eaters Hockey Club transfer the playing rights of Chris Santiago (89)(F) to the Victoria Grizzlies Hockey Club in exchange for the playing rights of Chris Markiewicz (88)(D).
Click here for the release from Victoria. Markiewicz refused to report to Trail and was shipped to Alberta. Santiago was the immediate return in the David Arduin trade. More on the deal in Part 1 of this post.
Jan 10, 2008: The Trail Smoke Eaters Hockey Club transfer the playing rights of Chris Markiewicz (88)(D) to the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League in exchange for future considerations.
Again there's more information in the earlier post. An unfortunately rushed move, but could turn into something nice for next season.
Jan 10, 2008: The Vernon Vipers Hockey Club transfer the playing rights of Patrick Raley (89)(D) to the Trail Smoke Eaters in exchange for future considerations.
Click here for Vernon's release. More info in the earlier post. Vernon picked up a couple of former WHL defencemen at the deadline and sent Raley to a situation where he'd have a chance to play. Trail gets a D they needed after Markiewicz refused to report.
Jan 10, 2008: The Vernon Vipers Hockey Club acquire the playing rights of Kevin Kraus (89)(D) from the Tri City Americans of the Western Hockey League and of Justin Palazzo (89)(D) from the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.
Click here for Vernon's release. Palazzo had 4 points in 37 WHL games this year with Vancouver and Prince Albert. He was a -5 with 56 penalty minutes. He's also 6'4 and 202lbs. A big guy with WHL experience. Kevin Kraus had 5 points in 21 games with Tri-City. He is also a big guy at 6'2 and 202lbs. They should add some size and experience to Vernon's blue line. However, it doesn't look like either guy is much of a point producer.
Jan 10, 2008: The Surrey Eagles acquire the playing rights of Tommy Tartaglione (88)(G) from the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League.
No official release yet but he's listed on Surrey's BCHL roster. Tartaglione has been with three different WHL teams in three season. He's never posted a save percentage about .900 and his G.A.A. went from 2.15 with Vancouver two years ago to 3.59 this year in Prince George. That being said, a .894 save percentage in the WHL is a decent number and should mean that he's an upgrade over Hammond in Surrey. We'll see how that goes. This is obviously a big step for Trataglione as he's 19 and doesn't have much more time to prove himself as a starter that can lead a team.
Jan 10, 2008: The Prince George Spruce Kings Hockey Club have acquired the playing rights of Morgan MacLean (88)(F) from the Grande Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League in exchange for future considerations.
Click here for the Spruce Kings' release. MacLean played most of the year with the Prince George Cougars in the WHL so this is a natural move. He scored 10 points in 30 games with the Cougars, but likely wouldn't have returned to the WHL as a 20 year old so he may be with the Spruce Kings for next year as well.
Jan 10, 2008: The Prince George Spruce Kings Hockey Club have transfered the playing rights of Ryan deVries (87)(D) to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons of the AJHL in exchange for future considerations.
deVries is very good defenceman at the Junior A level and his departure will certainly hurt the Spruce Kings. He's scoring at a very impressive 0.8 points per game clip from the blue line. However, they're a team that will finish no better than 5th in the Interior and it makes sense to try and get some value out of a top end 20 year old when you're building for the future. Smokies fans will like seeing deVries go as they fight with PG for 5th, but won't like seeing PG bolster their forwards with MacLean and Toulmin.
January 10th, 2008: The Merritt Centennials Hockey Club have acquired the playing rights of Jordan Wilkins (90)(D) from the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League.
Click here for Merritt's release. Wilkins is a hulking 6'4 and 210lbs. He had a goal in 30 games this year and another goal in 25 games last year with the Ice. Seems to have developped more of an edge this year by jumping his penalty minutes from 5 to 32. I would imagine he's just looking to get some playing time before returning to the WHL next year, and with all the rumoured departures from Merritt there will certainly be lots of playing time for him. If he does stick around next year, a player that size could certainly do some damage in Merrit's rink.
January 10th, 2008: The Merritt Centennials Hockey Club transfer the playing rights of Eric Ruud (87)(F) to the Weyburn Red Wings of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in exchange for future considerations.
No release yet but click here to see the SJHL transactions. Ruud just killed the Smoke Eaters when they played Merritt. He really jump started his junior career when he moved to the Cents earlier this year. He's been absolutely terrific there in a situation that allowed him to play a lot of minutes in key situations. Ruud went from posting numbers like 0.7 points per game to 1.6 points per game this year. If he reports to Weyburn he'll get a chance to play for one of the better teams in that league and prove himself in a competative situation. Good luck to him.
I've heard about several departures from Merritt at and around the deadline. However, there's nothing official on their website or any other site I can find. Until I get official word I'll just have to leave the speculation to other people. However, I can say it's going to be a pretty bare bones and youthful roster in Merritt the rest of the way. Certainly an opportunity for their young guys to get some significant ice time and kind of a baptism by fire.
Am I missing anything? Let me know in the comments and I'll add it to the list. What do you think about the big trades? What teams improved the most and what teams didn't do enough? Any and all thoughts are welcome. I'll continue to update as more trades come in.
EDIT: More deals...
Jan 10, 2008: The Burnaby Express Hockey Club of the BCHL acquire the playing rights of Tim Holloway (88)(F) from the Drayton Valley Thunder of the AJHL in exchange for future considerations.
Holloway a lot of BCHL experience. He'll add a veteran pressence to Langley. Described as a guy who won't put up a ton of points, but he'll do a solid job and give you solid minutes in key games.
Jan 10, 2008: The Salmon Arm SilverBacks of the BCHL tranfer the playing rights of Graeme Gordon (89) (G) to the Merritt Centennials of the BCHL in exchange for future considerations.
With Brian Gillis coming in to stat for Salmon Arm, it looks like Gordon was the odd man out. Neither Mainprize or McConnell played for Merritt last night in their 5-3 loss to Prince George. If they're gone from Merritt that means Gordon can come in and be the starter there. I'm sure he'll see a lot of rubber, anyway.
Jan 10, 2008: The Langley Chiefs Hockey Club of the BCHL acquire the playing rights of Russell Laforest from the Antiganish Bulldogs of the MJAHL in exchange for future considerations.
Laforest appears to be another veteran role player. Langley adding some experience at the deadline, but it doesn't look like much scoring.
Jan 10, 2008: The Quesnel Millionaires Hockey Club of the BCHL transfers the playing rights of Lee Pagee (87)(F) to the Camore Eagles Hockey Club of the AJHL in exchange for future considerations.Pagee is certainly a big loss for the Mills, but with them on the outside of the playoff picture at the moment it's probably better for him.
Jan 10, 2008: The Merritt Centennials Hockey Club of the BCHL transfers the playing rights of Johnny Mahovlich (89)(D) to the Olds Grizzlies Hockey Club of the AJHL in exchange for the playing rights of Adam Grier (89)(F) and future considerations
Jan 10, 2008: The Westside Warriors Hockey Club transfer the playing rights of Chris Shudo (87)(F) to the Mellville Millionairs in exchange for future considerations.
I had heard rumours that Shudo wouldn't report, but he apparently made his debut there this weekend. Good luck to him!
Thursday, January 10, 2008
The big news for Smoke Eaters fans is that the Castlegar Rebels acquired Scott Jago's KIJHL rights from Fernie. Jago is a Castlegar native who played earlier this year for the Smokies. He left the team a couple of months ago for medical reasons. That kind of a situation is completely private so I have not made any efforts to get an update on Jago to this point. However, if Castlegar picked up his rights, perhaps that means he's looking at making some kind of return to hockey before the season is up. If that's true I'd be thrilled to see him back in action. Jago will certainly be back in the BCHL next year when he's healthy. He has just terrific hockey sense and I would be very surprised if he didn't return to Trail. By the way, you can see Castlegar's new uniform Friday night when they host Nelson at 7:30pm. Bring your radio to listen to our broadcast of the Smokies/Vipers game while taking in KIJHL action there of at 8pm in Fruitvale.
Grand Forks sent their top scorers to Kimberly. 19 year old forward Andrew Green and 17 year old forward Jerris Gregory go to Kimberly for 17 year old forward Konrad Sander. Green has 48 points in 40 games this year while Gregory has 31 points in 34 games. Gregory is the brother of former Smoke Eater Connor Gregory. Connor has 16 points in 31 games with the Border Bruins this year and will be playing for them in this weekend's KIJHL All-Star game. Sander has 10 points in 25 games for Kimberly. The Dynamiters are in a very tight battle with Spokane and Creston for the last playoff spot in the Neil Murdoch East Division. Grand Forks would likely be in the thick of things in any other division, but they are all but eliminated from the playoff race in the very tough Neil Murdoch West. The Border Bruins actually only have 4 fewer points than Kimberly while playing more often against the very tough Nelson, Beaver Valley and Castlegar teams.
It's too bad for Grand Forks fans that they won't be in the dance again this year. However, when you look back at a 33 point season in 06-07 and a 12 point season in 05-06, there is reason for optimism. They have been a better team this season and the program is turning around.
Click here for a link to a Muskies message board. This post talks a lot about Gethers being a quality person more than it talks about him as a hockey player. Still, that's a positive sign for BV fans.
The KIJHL may not have reported all the deadline transactions just yet. If anything else happens for Beaver Valley, Castlegar, Grand Forks or Nelson I'll let you know. I also plan to go into the BCHL trades from yesterday as well when I have the time.
The biggest deal for Kootenay Boundary fans (outside of Trail's trades) was Christina Lake native Clinton Pettapiece getting dealt from Cowichan Valley to Westside in exchange for Alex Gellert and what's sure to be a heavy price in future considerations. Westside will have two dangerous weapons that local fans know very well. Pettapiece and former Smokie David Arduin could be a lethal combination on the power play.
Also, Vernon picked up goaltender Andrew Hammond from Surrey. They needed a starter after losing theirs to a mid-season college scholarship. We'll see if he gets the call against the Smokies. Should be fun to watch all the trades officially filter in. We'll get more details in the coming days.