Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday Audio, Tonello Details

New Smokies Defenceman Curtis Tonello

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Smokies Coach Jim Ingram

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Friday Game Preview with Salmon Arm Broadcaster Patrick Haas

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So who is Curtis Tonello? The interview will give you some sense of who he is and what he thinks he brings to the table. However, to get a clear picture of what we're dealing with I think it's also important to take a look at his background. If you look only at his BCHL stats so far you'll see a guy with 2 goals and 10 assists in 72 games. That would indicate someone who probably isn't a fixture on the power play nor a guy who is going to come in and provide a ton of scoring help. That fits with what Coach Jim Ingram said he's looking for Tonello to do. The Smokies want him to be a guy who can come in here and make smart, simple and sound defensive plays. They want someone who can make quick and calm decisions with the puck. Basically they're looking for some veteran stability on a team which has had trouble keeping their opponents off the board.

However, there may be an unexplored offensive side to Curtis as well. He mentioned to me in the interview that he feels like he could contribute that way and a couple of sources have mentioned that he has a pretty darn good shot. Bulldogs play by play man Evan Hammond even told me that he could see Tonello has having the potential to be a #1 guy for a team in the BCHL if he lives up to his potential. Does anything in his past give us that idea?

We don't necessarily see that side in the PIJHL when Tonello was a 17 year old. As a rookie with Richmond he put up 13 points in 48 games on the back end. Those are not bad numbers -- especially for a guy who we know plays a solid game in his own end -- but they don't jump out at you as someone who will be on the power play. That being said, Tonello had some big games in the playoffs. He twice put up 2 points in a game as Richmond battled and beat Delta in the first round.

There's also some interesting information about Curtis on his profile from the Richmond website:
"Curtis was fortunate enough to make Best ever two years in a row. He played U16 and U17. He went to Salmon Arm to compete for his zone area. Curtis has been part of many successes during his hockey life. In Peewee playing for the N.S.W.C. his team won everything possible. They won the league, Provincials and the International Peewee Tournament in Quebec City. In 2nd year bantam Curtis's team won the league, the Chilliwack Tournament, Provincials and western canadians. His individual successes have been mostly during his last season with the Vancouver Canadians where he won Best Defencemen on his team and played in the Major Midget All Star Game."
What about in Major Midget? There we see more signs of someone who can produce if given a bigger role offensively. Tonello was the top scoring defenceman on the Greater Vancouver Canadians in the 2006-07 season when he put up 26 points in 40 games. That season he got to play with the likes of Evander Kane, Cam Reid and Brad Read. In fact, Tonello was significantly ahead of teammate Michael Boivin in scoring among defencemen on the Canadians. Boivin went on to score over 30 points for Nanaimo last season and earn a scholarship.

Am I saying that Curtis is going to come in here and suddenly match Steve Koshey point for point? Not necessarily. The point is that he has shown in the past that he has the ability to play the game at both ends of the ice. He had 23 assists in that Major Midget season. One of the things that I've been told about Tonello is that he has a good first pass. Perhaps that's why with more ice time he was able to pile up the "apples" in midget. Playing with some of the talent that Trail has up front we could see that happening for him now.

Ultimately I know what the coaching staff and fans are hoping to see from Curtis... solid play in his own end. They want to see him help make this team stronger in their own end. However, there is some evidence that this is a guy who could be an impact player in other ways as well. This league is all about opportunity. Last season the Smokies picked up a player from the Bulldogs who only had 3 points in his rookie year in limited duty. Nobody expected much from him. He now has 20 goals and 38 points in 32 games for Trail this season. Could Tonello be another Nick Sandor? It's something to watch as the Smoke Eaters head to Salmon Arm tomorrow and host Vernon on Saturday.

As for the departure of Tye Lewis, it's never fun to see a talented player go. The live blog chat we had featured a comment relating the Lewis deal to trades of David Arduin and Chad Gehon in the past two seasons. First of all, we shouldn't forget that the Gehon deal brought in a man who currently has 37 points and is one of the top forwards in the league. Secondly, Lewis wasn't Trail's leading scorer at the time of the deal. Scott Jacklin and Nick Sandor were both ahead of the dynamic Vancouver, Washington native. The other thing to note is that Trail didn't have the same kind of offensive depth last season or the year before when they made those moves. This year's Smokies have Sandor, Jacklin, Mike Betz, Sam Mellor, Travis. St. Denis, Darnell Dyck and Matt Wilkins all scoring at a 0.7 points per game rate or better. The top 5 in that list are all point per game players. Plus Paul Mailey (a 40 point guy last season) has 7 points in his last 9 games and seems to be finding his scoring touch again. Depth up front is not an issue for Trail.

So far this season the Smoke Eaters have 121 goals or 3.8 goals per game. That's better than every team in the Coastal Conference. That's better any of the other bottom 5 teams in the Interior. Trail can score goals. The issue is that the Smokies have allowed 160 goals so far. That's 5 goals per game or worse than every team in the BCHL but Merritt or Williams Lake. It's pretty obvious where they need to improve. Coach Ingram's move here was to work towards improving that number. They are making some strides. They cut that average goals allowed number to 4 in their last 6 games. However, if you're going to win games during a playoff race and in the playoffs themselves you need to keep the puck out of your net. That isn't just on the goaltenders or the defencemen, it's on the whole team, but this move is a step towards trying to do that.

Even if Tye Lewis is a more famous player than Tonello that doesn't mean this move doesn't make sense and doesn't help the Smokies. We'll find out. We'll also see what furue considerations the Smokies get come spring.

I think it's one of those deals that helps both teams. The Bulldogs have been terrific so far this year but have relied heavily on their top line. Lewis gives them the scoring depth they need to try and secure top spot on the coast. He's a very good addition to that team. It also might be great for Tye whose goal scoring had dried up a little bit over the last month before he scored the hat trick against Quesnel last week. I look forward to seeing him light it up over there while Tonello makes a solid contribution here. That's how trades are supposed to work.

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