The reasons for the season of frustration for the Smoke Eaters were on full display Wednesday night.
With an opportunity to put a smudge on the Salmon Arm Silverbacks’ playoff plans, Trail played some good hockey, made some outstanding plays – virtually all of Trail’s goals were the result of excellent hockey – but made just enough mistakes in their own end, from the goaltender on out, to suffer another one-goal loss.
At full strength the Smokies are as dynamic offensively as any team fans at Cominco Arena have seen this season, but they are, often frustratingly just are, not quite good enough on the defensive side of the game.
The team, despite having missed a pair of premier point getters for almost two months, sits in the top half of the league in scoring. The Smokies are, however, third worst on the defensive side of things. That has led to 12 one-goal losses and another six games in which the club was in with a chance but eventually went down by two scores – some of those empy-netters.
It wouldn’t have required much of a turnaround for them to have still been in the hunt for post season play at this late date. Whether there are enough hopeful signs in goal and on defence for the team to optimistically try to carry on in hopes of a better return will be the question going forward.
Meanwhile, the Smokies are home Saturday and Wednesday against two of the top teams in the league – teams they have shown they can play with most nights – and the turnout at the arena will send signals to the team’s operators (on our behalf) about whether it to be optimistic about carrying on – or make the decision to pull the plug.
• The Nitehawks final home game of the season goes tonight. It is part of a three-game set with the Castlegar Rebels that many see as a division finals preview. Nelson, Beaver Valley’s most likely opponent in the semis, is among the highest scoring teams in the league and Spokane, too, has had some success of late, so finals prognostications should be taken with a dollop of salt.
Rebels/Nitehawks is the likeliest matchup, so the game is probably well worth taking in, especially for all those rink side coaches who want to hone their advice for the coaching staffs involved.
• Trail is not the only BCHL club that is not making a profit – far from it. Several BCHL teams are struggling financially and this off-season will be interesting. Whether the league can come up with new policies to either help teams cut costs or increase revenues, whatever those policies can be at this date, may point the way to the future for several franchises.
I guess we just stay tuned, and maybe attend the annual meeting when it arrives.