Minor sports, age-constricted as they are, always guarantee change in team rosters. Junior hockey is no exception.
This year has been exceptional for the Trail Smoke Eaters even considering that reality. Of a potential 17 returnees from a 2012-2013 Smokie team that showed considerable potential through its ultimately unsuccessful run at a playoff spot, just five remain in orange and black.
Included among the missing are all six members of what supposedly knowledgeable observers anticipated could form the strongest defensive corps in the BCHL this year.
Also gone are three members of the coaching/training staff and a fan-favourite goaltender.
The team has few aspirations left for this year, and so the new regime is compiling pieces of what it hopes will be a stronger contender for 2014/15. One thing you cannot say about boss Nick Deschenes is that he is not refilling his egg basket in hopes of success down the road.
There is only one 20 year old left on the roster, so upwards of 20 current Smokies are eligible to return next year. Add to that an affiliate player group numbering 19, so far, and the quantity, if not necessarily the ultimate quality, of choices Deschenes will have is great.
Smokie fans should be hopeful for the near future, one supposes, if only because the new regime, credited with strong efforts in junior B before coming to Trail, has gone so all-in with change, almost for the sake of change, in attempting to craft a better future for Junior A in the area.
Change, given the team’s recent results, was sorely needed.
It remains to be seen, of course, whether all the players Trail wants back will come back, and whether Deschenes and crew have enough Junior A level talent within the current multitudes, along with a plethora of, “future considerations,” (not all of which can be cash payments) to allow them to build a contender.
We can already see that they are trying. Stay tuned.
•If you are wondering about the junior worlds results, it isn’t a mystery that Canada isn’t a dominant force any more. For all the blather we hear about the spirit imbued in players by the simple act of them putting on a sweater with a red maple leaf embossed upon it, the truth is that everybody on the roster was looking well past the tournament, towards a lucrative professional future.
Their hearts were where their wallets will be, and surviving the event – albeit still trying to look good and improve their draft/training camp prospects – was uttermost in their minds. We cannot blame them for that – it is where society is.
We cannot expect, either, that Canada will ever again be THE top dog in junior play. Dominated as it is by money and the profit-centered NHL/major junior owners, Hockey Canada has neither the desire nor the means to make that happen.