With just five wins in 24 games the Trail Smoke Eaters are shaking things up.
After four games as head coach, Nick Deschenes is wasting no time putting his stamp on things as the team traded two of its top players this week. Going west are forwards Brendan Lamont and defenceman Curtis Toneff; Lamont, 19, to the Penticton Vees for future considerations, and Toneff, 20, who led all Smokie d-men in scoring with four goals and nine assists, to the West Kelowna Warriors for 18-year-old defenceman Dylan Bowen.
“I still think every move we make is going to better our club,” said Deschenes. “There needs to be some changes because a little bit of the mentality from before I jumped on board is still kind of lingering and things need to be shooken up a little bit.”
Lamont counted five goals and added six assists in 24 games. He had a good start to the season, but his production slowed over the last month with just one point in seven games, and one goal in his last 17. For personal reasons, he requested a move closer to home in Langley.
“We’re looking out for his best interests and that was the primary motivation for the deal,” said Deschenes. “I liked him as a player, we had him slotted to keep moving forward and developing him . . . but hope he’s more comfortable there, and it might help his game as well.”
The Vees also were likely looking to add a forward to fill in for Josh Blanshard who will be out of the Penticton lineup with a lower body injury for at least two months.
With an open roster spot, the Smokies are in discussions with last year Smokie forward Luke Sandler, who is looking to return to the BCHL after spending the beginning of the season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL – just not to Trail.
“He is looking to come back to the BCHL and that allows us some flexibility there to get him carded and get him maybe moved to another team.”
According to Deschenes, the 20-year-old Chicago native would like to be moved to a contending team to finish out his junior career.
Similarly in Toneff’s case. With the West Kelowna Warriors in striking distance of top spot in the Interior division, the addition of a solid defenceman with good leadership qualities and an offensive bent could be the difference between first and fifth in the tight division.
“It’s going to be better opportunity for him,” said Deschenes. “He’s definitely one of the players I wasn’t keen on making this kind of deal, but it came up and it’s going to benefit the team long term and help us build for the future.”
While recent transactions suggest the Smoke Eaters have thrown in the playoff towel, Deschenes believes the trade for the younger Bowen will make the team more competitive in the long run.
“I’m confident in the program we are putting in place and have in place and are building towards and bringing in a player of that quality . . . it’s going to make our club better.”