The Trail Smoke Eaters have sent 20 year old goaltender Garrett Beckwith to the AJHL'sDrumheller Dragons in a future considerations deal. The other shoe had to drop here. There was no way the Smokies were going to bring two 1990 born goaltenders into camp in September. A choice had to be made and the Smokies are going with Kiefer Smiley.
In this case I'd say that decision was made when Kiefer played lights out hockey in the last two months of the season. He was especially good in the playoffs and gave the injury-plagued Smokies a real chance in all the games against Westside. I'm sure Smoke Eaters fans are hoping what we saw of Smiley at the end of the season was a return to the form we saw from him as an outstanding rookie with the Cowichan Valley Capitals. If he is able to build on that Trail will have a very talented veteran to lean on this season.
As for Beckwith, I'm sure he's hoping that last season was just a slight bump in the road of what has been an impressive young career. I heard rumblings of some people wondering if he would go back to the KIJHL's Nelson Leafs, but what does he have left to prove there? It'd be near impossible to top a 2008-09 season in which he lost twice all year and took his team to a championship.
Garrett will get a chance in Drumheller to prove himself at the Junior A level. We saw some signs of that last year. However, what could any goaltender do with the kind of mistakes we were seeing on the ice early last season? After a rough start to the year confidence was likely a factor for both netminders. Garrett is a very talented and athletic goaltender. You can see it in the video I made for him to help with college recruitment. It's just a matter of putting it together with consistency. If he does, the Dragons will be very pleased with the deal they just made. Doesn't hurt that he's a quality young man as well.
Good luck to Garrett this year and I'm sure fans in Nelson and Trail will be watching the box scores.
WHEELDON TO THE ICE
Just when he thought he was out... they pulled him back in.
I'm sure most people thought that if Simon were going to take another coaching gig it would be with a BCHL or WHL team rather than midget. So what happened? Wheeldon resigned as Nelson's coach because he wanted to spend more time with his family. He has another full time job and was being stretched quite thin. However, the Major Midget program in the Kootenays was in real trouble. We were getting down to the final hour basically. If Wheeldon hadn't stepped up the program may have died. Once it was gone it would've been very tough to get it back.
It is still a huge time commitment, but I think it'll probably be a little less taxing. Most of the players are living with their parents. There is no trading involved here. I don't think the job is quite as complex. That being said, if Simon commits to doing something he is going to do it at 100%.
The realities of Major Midget in this area is that we don't have as much of a population base to draw from as some major markets. We are also far more spread out so it's hard to get some of the best talent from the East Kootenay to come play here. Is the team from this area ever to likely win a championship? Probably not, but they can compete. Brent Petrick had them playing .500 hockey in the second half of the season with a commitment to hard work and team play. Wheeldon has a terrific record behind the bench and should be able to build on Petrick's work with the program.
Simon is used to winning, but that is not the primary role of a coach in Major Midget. His job is to get these local young talents ready for Junior B, Junior A and Major Junior. Given the great work he has done with the Leafs I suspect the program couldn't ask for a better hire. The only question is how long is he prepared to do the job and will this program survive if they are desperately searching for a coach every summer?
Lastly I just wanted to say kudos to those who organized Bobby Kromm day at the Cominco Arena. I couldn't make it but apparently there were quite a number of people there to show their respect to the legendary coach. Look out for more planned tributes to the 1961 Smoke Eaters this year! Join our facebook group (link on the left side of the page) to stay on top of it all.