Smoke Eaters under construction

The Trail Smoke Eaters are officially in desperation mode.

The Trail Smoke Eaters are officially in desperation mode, frantically trying to build a winning team or at least one that doesn’t lose quite as much.

With only three wins in 17 games, the Smokies sent captain Logan Proust, one of the last remaining homegrown talents, to Cowichan Valley Friday.

When a team jettisons an aging veteran to a contender – like the Boston Bruins did Raymond Bourque to Colorado in March of 2000 – it usually means the team is raising the white flag on the season.(Of course it also usually happens at the end of a season not 14 games into it.)

It’s too early to say, but the trade is probably beneficial to both Proulx and the Smokies.

The 20-year-old veteran managed just a goal and two assists this year, 11 points last season and has been getting marginal ice time playing on the third and fourth lines.

He’s played 66 games (not scored 66-points as I mistakenly wrote in Monday’s article) for the Smoke Eaters and has been a character guy on and off the ice.

I like Logan but it’s a good move for the Trail native who is going to a contending team, coached by a familiar face.

Former Smokie coach Jim Ingram said he is very excited to get Proulx in Cowichan. He also bent over backwards to voice his support for the Smokies’ coaching staff, recognizing the difficulty of rebuilding a team from the ground up and playing in a city with high expectations and a low threshold for losing.

Nor is it easy for a local kid to play in front of hometown fans especially wearing the “C”. It’s great when playing well but once you struggle, a select group of fans, often fueled by beer more than brains, can be a little overzealous in their criticism.

Guys like Travis St. Denis and Steve Koshey know this all too well.

On the positive side, Proulx’s exodus will also open a spot for a younger player that may improve the Smokies in the long run.

Let’s face it, the Smokies aren’t just renovating. It’s a team under construction, in fact, they are still pouring the foundation.

As of today, only three players remain from last year’s team, Clayton McEwan, Adam Boytinck and Eric Cooper.

Last season’s team had eight returning players and finished fifth in what was widely considered a good year for the team.

New players continue to move in and out of the lineup, the recent being Conner Tiechko from Prince George. There have been great additions like Clayton Chessa and Nick Wong and Adam Fares has had flashes of brilliance when he’s not hurt.

They’ve competed in most games, beat Penticton and their win Sunday against Westside is promising. But just when they seem to make headway, injuries decimate their lineup.

The Smokies lost the services of four of its regular players this past weekend and will look to add four or five APs to replace the regulars.

It’s hard to maintain any momentum when you don’t know who you’re lining up with on any given night.

Make no mistake, this is first-year coach Bill Birks’ project and despite the casualties, both injured and traded, he’s assembled the tools to build a solid squad.

The Smokies are not about to surrender and hopefully, by the second half, the team will come together and  win at least as many as they lose.

Perhaps the two best assets we can have, and the only ones available to us, is patience and hard work. Like character, it’s hard to say how solid a team is until it’s built.