We need to be realistic. The Smoke Eaters would require a miracle at this point to finish better than bottom two in the Interior Division.
They haven’t been decent for 60 minutes more than a couple of times this season at Cominco Arena, are dead last in the BCHL on defence and second-last on offence.
The club needs, and is making changes, which is part of the reason for their dismal record.
Things are unlikely to get much better any time soon. So, a big-time, “re-building,” year.
There are some positives.
The Smokies have a few likely-looking young players and the opportunity to look at as many more of them as they wish without damaging any playoff prospects, which are nil.
The roster as it stands, even with its talent-deficit and newness, played Penticton and Vernon (Top-20 national ranking teams) pretty much even for all but 10 of 126 minutes on the weekend – albeit both of the visitors were without top-line players.
That shows, I guess, that the Smokies, really short of elite talent, are within the mix for the middle tier players who make up the bulk of most teams.
Trail needs to audition upcoming kids, from Junior B and Midget AAA and elsewhere, in search of potential for next season.
In a way, they have complete freedom to bring players in on spec because they are unlikely to worsen the situation for this season.
It’s going to be a long, hard year for players (who are trying), coaches, executive members and fans.
Mistakes were made in some trade deals, the club began and continues without a number one netminder in place and the division is the toughest it has been in a decade.
Management has some time to develop signs of improvement, but not unlimited time.
The Smoke Eaters survive on a base of season ticket buyers and sponsors and some progress must be evident before the season ends to encourage those support groups to stay on board with the project.
Both groups have so far supported Smoke Eater teams, not just winning Smoke Eater teams, during the club’s Junior A existence. Developing some sense of an exciting future is likely required to keep all of them around.
Meanwhile, hockey fans have one last opportunity to take in the BCHL’s top-ranked team out of Penticton Sunday.
The Smokies’ unsettled roster will probably feature a few new faces again, and all the new and fairly new Smoke Eaters will have a chance to pit themselves against an elite squad as a measuring stick for their own Junior A progress and prospects.
Try and make it through the snow – see if you can bring a carload of those who aren’t that mobile in the winter – for the 3 p.m. start.
This Smoke Eater club is no less, “ours,” for having a down season.
It’s still Cominco Arena, one of the best small-town facilities in the world. It’s still the Smoke Eaters. It’s still Trail. It’s still Junior A hockey. All reasons to get to the games.
Oh yeah, and get out and vote on Saturday. It matters.