The Trail Smoke Eaters took their first step towards a turn around, hiring Yale alumnus Nick Deschenes as the team’s new head coach and general manager.
“On a personal level I’m really excited,” said Deschenes. “I think I’m ready for this opportunity, and ready to do my best to help the organization and get it back on track.”
The Smokies dismissed head coach Bill Birks, after a five-game losing streak dropped the Smoke Eaters to the bottom of the Interior division.
“We as a board of directors met with coach Deschenes on the weekend and were very impressed with his approach,” said Smoke Eaters president Tom Gawryletz in a release. “He comes to our organization with a terrific hockey background and was doing a great job with the club in Grand Forks.”
Deschenes joined the Border Bruins as a coach at the tail end of the 2011-12 season after his final year playing professional hockey with the Federal Hockey League’s Danbury Whalers.
Under Deschenes’ guidance, the Border Bruins went from 1-49-0-2 to 8-40-1-3 last year, and a very respectable 6-7-1-0 record to start this season in the tough Neil Murdoch division.
The 34-year-old coach’s rebuilding of the Border Bruins entailed recruitment and changing the culture in hopes of ending an 18-year playoff drought; he sees the problem in Trail as slightly different.
“Trail Smoke Eaters have a rich tradition,” said Deschenes. “I think there’s enough experience on the team, and there’s enough player’s that have had success, they just are not reaching their potential. What I see is more identifying psychological factors, and thinking more like a team, competing for each other, and creating that environment to make them better hockey players.”
As a player, Deschenes skated in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Fort Saskatchewan Traders, scoring 40 goals and 85 points during the 1998-99 season earning a scholarship to Yale University.
Deschenes played four seasons with the Yale Bulldogs, scoring a NCAA career-high 17 goals and 37 points during the 2000-01 season. Upon departing the Ivy League school, Deschenes played in the AHL with the Philadelphia Phantoms, and ECHL, Trenton Titans, before a five-year stint in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, before wrapping up his career in Danbury.
Assistant coaches Barry Zanier and Craig Clare, who had been serving as interim co-coaches for the past twelve days, will now resume their regular roles.
“I think it’s going to be a good working relationship, you know Barry’s got the experience, and Craig’s got some youthfulness he brings to the group, and, myself, brand new wanting to learn, wanting to get better, and between the three of us I think we’ll have some success in accomplishing what we set forth.”