Sunday, November 2, 2008

Smokies Trade Smutek, Add Gummer

The Smoke Eaters ended their days of carrying 8 defensemen by trading offensively gifted D Skyler Smutek (90) to Drayton Valley of the AJHL for scoring forward Adam Gummer (89). Gummer had 9 goals and 7 assists in 20 games for Drayton Valley and led the team in scoring before the trade. He'll jump right into Trail's top 6 as Nick Sandor is out 3 to 6 weeks with a shoulder injury.

I'll have more on this trade later tonight.

UPDATE: So what can we expect from Gummer?  I had a chance to talk to him tonight and that interview will air on Overtime Monday night.  Check it out as well as my interview with Coach Ingram on the trade between 6pm and Midnight on Mountain FM.  The verdict is that he's a physical guy who likes to shoot the puck.  His improvement (0.5 PPG last year to 0.8 PPG this year) comes from hard work this summer, a significant size increase from his rookie year, more confidence and comfort with the level of play, and an increased role on the team.  Gummer was basically one of only two go to offensive players I can spot based on Drayton Valley's stats.  He told me he is really looking forward to playing with the talented players on the Smokies for a team that is in the midst of a competitive division.

As for the question of why the Thunder would trade their leading scorer, Drayton Valley is struggling badly this season and are looking to build for next year.  Gummer requested a trade on Friday and I guess the team didn't want to drag things out. They had a deal in place within a day or so.

It's hard to predict how he'll do.  Most people I've talked to have told me that the level of play in the BCHL is a little bit higher than the AJHL.  However, the biggest difference is that this league is a little more high scoring than Alberta's.  Gummer tells me that all the teams he has played for in the AJHL played defensive styles and he's looking forward to playing for a team and in a league that opens things up a little more.  Those factors would point towards an increase in production for him.  That being said, he was getting a ton of ice time in Drayton Valley as one of their few offensive weapons.  In Trail he'll jump right into the top 6 due to an injury to Nick Sandor, but he won't be the lone go to guy for the Smokies.  How do you balance the better scoring chances he'll get playing with superior players with the fact that there are more guys to share in the scoring?

It's also important to see how he fits in.  The locker room in Trail is very tight and the chemistry is strong.  Gummer sounds very enthusiastic about his chance here, but chemistry is a hard thing to predict.  How will his personality fit in?  The leadership core in Trail has brought this team full of new faces together and turned them into a family so I expect they'll make his transition easy.

Given the fact that I have yet to even see Adam play I'm hesitant to expect too much from him. I think keeping a similar pace to what he's been doing so far this season isn't too much to ask. Lets say for now a 0.7 to 0.9 PPG pace would keep everyone happy.  A little more would be great, a little less is OK as long as he brings a complete game to the rink.  He's someone who has worked his way from the fourth line to the top line in his AJHL career so he should be able to play in any type of situation.

One nice thing about his addition is that he's a shoot first player right now.  9 goals to 7 assists so far this year.  While he'll have more options in Trail, the Smokies would love to see someone who can convert some of the chances they've been missing out on lately.  A 6'1, 195lbs player who plays physical and can put the puck in the net?  That guy would've been huge on the PP on Saturday.

We'll get our first look at Gummer (I'm predicting his nick name ends up being Gummy) on Wednesday night at the Cominco Arena against Alberni Valley.  I don't have first hand knowledge of this, but I predict he'll step into Sandor's spot on the Pickering/Gehon line.  That is of course if Gehon is good to go by Wednesday.  He was hoping to play Saturday but a lower body injury kept him out and I don't know his status yet for Wednesday. 

There are quite a few key Trail players who are playing banged up.  You might think a game against the last place Bulldogs would be a good place for a rest, but the Smokies must win their games against Coast teams to keep pace with their Interior opponents.  They can't take a hard working Alberni Valley team for granted.

On that note I want to give some credit to Andrew Pickering who just kept coming back out after taking a couple of beatings on Saturday.  He took a rough looking knee on knee hit in the first, but he didn't stay on the ice to try and sell the penalty.  He limped to the bench and was back our 2 minutes later to score a big goal.  Later in the game he went hard to the net, collided with Gillis and then got jumped by a much bigger Wray.  Pickering shook it off and played out the rest of the game with intensity even though his team was down 5-2.  He knew with a couple of guys battling injury that he had to step up for the team.  Nice gutsy effort on his part.

The addition of Gummer, subtraction of Smutek and injury to Sandor leaves the Smokies with 22 active guys.  That will leave them with one scratch on forward and on the blue line.  Ultimately that's probably a better situation.  A lot of the rookie guys in Trail's forward group haven't had many nights off to get that different perspective in the stands.  Expect to see that change now.

Coach Ingram is also calling for increased production from those young guns.  He wants to see guys like St. Denis and Legassic more often use the skill and creativity they obviously possess. Its just a matter of building confidence at this level.

I hope we get to see the return of the Loyst/Nugent/Porterfield line.  That group is going to win a ridiculous number of puck battles along the boards and in the corners.  I think Loyst has been very good since returning from his injury and they seemed to be developing a good chemistry.

All in all it seems like a nice trade and vindication of Ingram's decision to hold on to all those young D.  They got a chance to test them all in key situations and now have been able to turn one of them into an impact scorer.

(Smutek goes to war for his team - Photo Randy Emery)


I don't know what Skyler's plans are.  He's a very talented young man with a lot of creativity and enthusiasm.  I'm sure it's always hard to swallow when you get moved, especially to a different league, but I really hope he continues to play at this level.  It's very difficult for any puck moving defenseman to get into a groove when he's in and out of the line up and not playing as part of a consistent power play unit.

There are a lot of guys on this Trail blue line that move the puck well (although based on the power play the last two weeks they clearly don't have everything figured out) and that made it difficult to get everyone the looks they need.  Smutek is a high event defender who is better suited to being in a top 4 situation with consistent power play time.  If he wasn't going to get that in Trail, I hope he relishes the opportunity to get that ice in Drayton Valley.  I believe that if he does he'll thrive.  

Sometimes it's better for a young player in his position to be on a team with less depth, because he can learn as he goes while still getting 20 plus minutes a game.  That's why I have a hard time understanding when players refuse to report to struggling teams.  It could be exactly what they need to give their own careers and point totals a jolt upwards.  Of course it's also pretty darn far from home for Skyler. Drayton Valley is quite a trek from Seattle.  I'm sure these kinds of decisions are not easy for young men.  I didn't have the guts to leave my home town until I was 24!

Smutek has better moves than most players out there.  He's slick, fast, creative and he has a good shot.  He just needs to get his confidence back and he needs to more ice time against Junior A competition.  He's made a few questionable decisions with the puck, but what rookie offensive defenseman hasn't?  If he gets the ice time to work out those kinks and if he keeps getting stronger so he can handle the bigger players at this level, he's going to be a major point producer.

Coach Ingram didn't make this trade because Smutek failed here in Trail.  He's on his way in the right direction.  However, he is the guy that Drayton Valley wanted and Trail's defensive depth made him expendable.  That's the cruel reality of hockey sometimes.

I hope he can look back on his highlights here with pride.  His first BCHL goal, his unbelievable move in overtime against Prince George, having the guts to drop the gloves in front of the home fans... in his brief time here Smutek had some great moments.  I'm sure that if he sticks to it, he'll have a ton more.


That's how Coach Ingram described Saturday's game.  The Smokies had 7 power plays including 1:42 of a 5 on 3, a 4 minute PP and a 5 minute PP.  They didn't score one PP goal.  They barely generated any quality scoring chances.  They didn't look like the group that was once ranked first in the BCHL.  Now they're falling towards the middle of the pack with the man advantage. They have to get that straightened out, because their PP was the difference between a win and a loss on Saturday.

They worked hard at even strength and drew a lot of those penalties with their hard work.  The guys battled.  However, you don't get points for that.  You have to execute on your opportunities.  Look back at Friday's 2-2 tie.  The Smokies had several odd man rushes and an overtime PP that they couldn't convert.  Two weeks ago one or two of those chances would've been in the back of the net.  They've got to get their finish back.

I do want to note that while I am being critical of the PP right now, I'm certainly not free from criticism!  I got caught assuming during the game yesterday and was calling the game as if the 5 minute major was a 2 minute PP.  There was a light fixture blocking my view of that part of the score clock, but that was a serious mental lapse on my part.  That was just a part of what was a sub par broadcast from me on Saturday and I can admit that it happens more often that I'd like!

Hopefully everyone will be sharper this week.

No comments: