Sports

Smyle dealing as deadline day arrives?

Today is an anxious one for the Chilliwack Chiefs, with the trade deadline looming.

It is the last chance for Chiefs general manager Harvey Smyl to make a significant improvement to his roster heading into the playoffs.

Recent struggles aside, the Chiefs have established themselves among a small group of title contenders.

Backed by an MVP candidate in goaltender Mitch Gillam, Chilliwack would be a threat to beat anyone in a playoff series.

And this year, there is no super Penticton Vees team standing in the way.

With the landscape as it is, it would be suprising if Smyl did nothing at all.

“When we’re on our game, we’re right there with anyone else, and there’s a number of teams who think they’re right there as well,” he said. “So the players who are available are being courted, if that’s the right word, by a number of teams. There’s just more of them involved in the process.”

With the exception of the woefully bad Cowichan Valley Capitals (9-20-1-3), no team is truly out of the playoff picture just yet. Do the Vernon Vipers cough up an Adam Tambellini or Aaron Hadley if they’ve still got a shot?

This looks like a year in which supply may not match demand. When that happens, prices climb sharply.

Chilliwack’s needs seem clear.

With Josh Hansen and Ryan Donohoe injured, the top six has suffered.

Hansen will be back soon and Donohoe will return eventually (four to five weeks), but a forward with offensive chops would have to be at the top of Smyl’s shopping list.

“I we can strengthen that area, then sure we’d like to do that, but that’s not an easy thing to do,” he cautioned. “The top six has certainly been a concern, but when Josh and Ryan return, our depth gets a lot greater.”

The loss of Mitch Skapski to the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips gave Smyl more to think about. The 16-year-old had locked down a regular spot.

His absence hasn’t created a gaping hole, but there is room for a bottom six forward as well.

“We’re looking for more grit, more size, and experience would be a very important part of it,” Smyl said. “The Skapski thing and the injuries, I’m not using them as an excuse, but it’s all taken away from a deep team concept where everyone knew their roles. Now we’re putting guys where they maybe haven’t played before, and there are some issues.”

If forwards are a weak spot, defence could be an area of strength.

The Chiefs are carrying eight capable blueliners, which may give Smyl depth to deal from.

“I guess we’ll deal from wherever we need to deal from to improve our hockey club,” he said, keeping his cards close.

While some GMs might secretly list the trade deadline as their favourite day of the year, Smyl doesn’t like it at all.

The thrill of the deal takes a back seat to human elements, and the knowledge that lives are being turned upside down.

“You’ve got to remember that these are kids that you recruit, work with all year and develop relationships with,” Smyl said. “Our goal when we recruit them is not to end up trading them. But at the same time, our goal is to try to win, and we owe it to our fans to try and ice the best product possible.”

There have been no early deals yet, but follow the ProgressSports Twitter feed to get the latest trades as they roll in.

Find the transaction wire online at bchl.ca.

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