Five games into the 2012-13 BCHL season, a worrisome trend has emerged for the Chilliwack Chiefs.
The team cannot score goals.
The Chiefs have put the puck in the net just 11 times in five games this season, for an average of 2.2 goals per game.
Only the truly awful Salmon Arm Silverbacks (four goals in five games) are worse.
Only once this season have the Chiefs netted more than two in a game, scoring four in a 4-2 win over Surrey Sept. 15.
“We need to be working better as a group and smarter as a group,” head coach Harvey Smyl said after last Friday’s loss against Victoria. “I thought there were a lot of poor decisions, some selfishness and other things we don’t want.”
To be fair, it may simply be that Smyl’s squad doesn’t have the horses to do it.
The entire top line from last year – Derek Huisman, Malcolm Gould and David Bondra – is gone, and not too many teams experience an offensive uptick when they lose their top three gunners.
Their replacements, guys like Austin Plevy and Luke Esposito, could break out at any time and hey, problem solved.
“I am concerned with the way things are going five on five,” Smyl said. “The willingness to go to the front of the net is an issue. I don’t know if it’s the players we have or what at this point, but we are concerned.”
Ryan Donohoe was seen as part of the solution when Smyl brought him in from the OJHL, but so far its donuts across the board for the Peterborough native.
Ditto Garrett Forster, who was expected to take a big step forward in his 17-year-old season. They could flip the switch at any time and become the producers Smyl envisioned.
Or they might continue to struggle and act as anchors for the offence.
“These guys are young men with tons of heart and character, and they want to do well,” Smyl said, defending his guys. “You try to fight through it, but sometimes things don’t go your way. I know they are going to get better.”
Another answer for Chilliwack’s scoring woes might be a league-wide trend.
As we mentioned in last Thursday’s sports section, the BCHL is loaded with elite netminders.
Putting pucks past Mitch Gillam and his masked confreres is tough enough, but Smyl has also noted a change in the way teams are playing.
“The style is changing more and more in our league,” Smyl explained. “Teams are going with a less aggressive forecheck and waiting for mistakes to happen.”
That’s boring for the fans and not the way Smyl wants to play.
But if the game is heading back to dead-puck ways, his team must adapt.
“That’s just the way the game is going, and we’re going to try to learn both styles,” he said.
The Chiefs host the Powell River Kings Friday, facing a team that is middle-of-the-pack offensively and defensively.
The Kings were terribly stingy last year, suffocating their Coastal conference opponents. Goaltender Sean Maguire is gone, but understudy Jonah Imoo has stepped in well.
Imoo has a 2.49 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in six starts. Chilliwack will have a tough test putting pucks past the 18-year-old.
Puck drop is 7 p.m.
The Chiefs are on the road Sunday night, visiting the Surrey Eagles.