Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Raimondo and Legassic's Seasons Over *UPDATED*

(Marco Raimondo and CJ Legassic - Photo from the BCHL website)

Scroll down the blog to vote in our latest poll on the new Trail third jersey...

Some awful news today for the Trail Smoke Eaters. Marco Raimondo and CJ Legassic are both out for the remainder of the season. Raimondo sustained his second concussion of the season in practice this week while Legassic re-injured his knee. The full extent and long term implications of both injuries are still unclear. However, this does unfortunately end the BCHL career of the twenty year old Raimondo. Hopefully he is able to resume his career in college next season.

Raimondo finishes his BCHL career with 21 wins in 49 games, a 3.31 goals against average and a 90.02 save percentage. His 90.64 save percentage last season with Cowichan Valley was good enough to place him top five in the league. However, Raimondo had an inconsistent season with the Smoke Eaters that was interrupted by a broken jaw and concussion he sustained in the fall. The initial injury derailed what had been a very effective tandem of Barclay and Raimondo early in the season. Unfortunately, they both never got healthy together again for an extended period of time. I truly believe the very athletic Raimondo had the potential to be among the best if not the best goaltender in the league.

The job now falls again to Paul Barclay whose own season has been somewhat derailed by nagging injuries. He thrived when taking over the starting role on his own after Raimondo went down earlier in the season. Barclay will now get the opportunity to be "the man" in Trail. It's a role he's been after since he first attended Smokies camp in 06-07. It's time for him to show that he can lead a team as a #1 goaltender. He has all the skills and the mental make up necessary to do it. Barclay has made some big steps forward this season. His save percentage is basically a full point higher than it was last year. He has also been the starter for an extended period of success and stole some games against great teams. Now lets see if he's healthy enough and consistent enough to get that job done.

The Smokies will now have to rotate between their available affiliate goaltenders as back-ups for Barclay. Word is that Barclay is feeling as good as he has in ages after his start on Saturday and some hard work during practice. The Smokies can't afford to lose him again.

The APs Trail has available between the pipes are local major midget Alex Ross, Peter Alexander from Nelson in the KIJHL, Jason Greenwell from Fernie in the KIJHL and Riley Wall from Chase in the KIJHL. Greenwell is the only netminder of the four who has started a game in the BCHL this season. He allowed four goals in a 5-4 Trail overtime victory in Quesnel. Greenwell also had an extended stay with the Smokies in the fall when Raimondo went down with a broken jaw. Alexander played a little over a period in relief of Raimondo a few weeks ago in Penticton. Ross has backed up one Trail goaltender or another several times, but he's yet to see any action this season.

Both Wall and Greenwell have save percentages over 91% in Junior B this season. However, they are both starters for teams in the playoff hunt. Alexander has had a solid season in a tandem with Westside AP Garrett Beckwith for the league leading Leafs, but Beckwith has outperformed him statistically since being cut by the Warriors so Peter might be more available than the other two.

Ross will be with the Smokies tomorrow night in Westside and Alexander will likely fill that role on Friday night at home against Vernon.

What would happen if Paul Barclay were injured again? That's a subject Jim Ingram didn't even want to discuss or think about when I talked to him today. I'm sure there must be some kind of flexibility in the league's usual carding rules in the case of goaltender injuries. Unlike with skaters you can't just role with a shorthanded roster and hope for the best. I just don't know what that flexibility might be and frankly I hope for Trail's sake that we don't have to find out.

As for Legassic, he had been playing better and better as the season progressed. I thought his initial injury might have slowed all the progress he was making at the time, but he came back right on top of his game. This is a player who is very skilled at getting under the other team's skin. He's also a young man with speed and great hands. As he ages and matures physically he should be able to add more of scoring dimension with the team next season. As it is, he wraps up his rookie season with 3 goals, 6 assists and 51 penalty minutes in 36 games. I look forward to watching him take another leap forward next season. It's a shame he won't be able to help the Smokies come playoff time, because he's exactly the kind of guy you want on your roster in the post-season. He's also a pretty good colour commentator so I'm hoping I might be able to lure him back to the booth for a game or two.

I just want to take this opportunity to wish both Marco and CJ a speedy recovery. They are two of the biggest characters on the team and both quality individuals that the Smokies are really going to miss on the ice. Hopefully they'll stick around at least until the banquet later this month.

Just when it seemed like the roster was getting healthy...

On a positive note, Brandon Clark and Ryan Bulach will be back in the line-up for this week. Clark returns after about a month on the sidelines. He is the emotional leader of the young defensemen and is sorely missed in special teams situations. Bulach's ridiculous suspension is finally over and not a moment too soon. I've talked at length before about how important both Bulach and Clark are to the team on and off the ice. We're talking about the leading scorer up front and the PP QB who both have knacks for game winning goals. A forward who wins something like 75% of his face offs and a defensive rock with a physical edge. Their additions should be a big boost to a Trail team that uncharacteristically lacked energy on the weekend.

I'll have more on this turn of events later tonight. You can hear an interview with Coach Jim Ingram on Mountain FM's Overtime after 6pm.

NOTES: There's a poll on the BCHL website on top rookies. You can show your support for Trail's JF Boisvert who right now is polling second behind Matt Bodie of the Powell River Kings.

Speaking of polls, you all voted overwhelmingly for Prince George as your favourite first round opponent for the Smokies. There isn't much chance of that happening. Those who voted didn't leave much room between Westside or Penticton. I think that's reasonable as both have their advantages and disadvantages as opponents for the Smokies. One thing is clear, Trail can beat both teams at Cominco Arena. However, if they can't figure out how to win on the road a 2-0 deficit is very hard to overcome in a five game series! Lets see how the Smokies do in Westside tomorrow. Tune in to AM Ford Trail Smoke Eaters Hockey on Mountain FM!

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