Just over one month away from the end of the BCHL regular season, Chilliwack Chiefs coach and general manager Harvey Smyl is without a contract for next year.
Finishing up the last year of a two-year deal signed prior to the 2011-12 season, Smyl says no talks have been held between himself and Chiefs management.
“With the way things have been with the trade deadline and the playoff push and the new kids coming in, plus scouting, there’s really been no time for that,” Smyl says. “We’ve had budget meetings too. It’s been a really busy time.”
Speaking Tuesday morning, one of the BCHL’s all-time winningest coaches says he’s not sure when talks will start.
“It’s not like we’re in the big leagues with agents that are pushing, so I don’t really know who would initiate it,” Smyl says. “It came up just before Christmas with (Chiefs president) Glen (Ringdal), where it was, ‘We’ll talk in January.’ And that’s been it.”
A playoff qualifier in every year he’s coached, Smyl is looking at maybe missing the postseason for the first time.
Though he’s still not waving the white flag, his team is 10-31-1-3 and 14 points behind the fourth place Surrey Eagles in the Mainland division race.
It would take a minor miracle for his team to be playing beyond the close of the regular season on March 1.
Smyl knows this season gives him little leverage in contract talks, but he hopes Chiefs ownership/management would look at his overall body of work when making decisions.
“Our expectation going into this year was to be better than we are,” Smyl admits. “A lot better. Maybe we accelerated our positioning last year and did some things that maybe… usually there’s a progression and because we accelerated, maybe that’s why we’re in the position we’re in today.”
Until he signed his most recent contract, Smyl always operated year to year on verbal deals. From the outside looking in, there was always a sense that he had the job as long as he wanted it.
But Smyl says he never looked at it that way.
“That’s not the right mind-set to have in the job that I do,” he notes. “It’s the nature of the business that you’re only as good as your last game. I understand that, but I do hope they consider years prior.”
Speaking about this matter last week, Ringdal says he looks forward to sitting down with Smyl, and intended all along to do so after the trade deadline.
“Now is the time when we’ll start talking about it, see where he wants to go and what the short and long term situations are,” Ringdal says. “We’ll absolutely discuss engaging him for as long as we can.”
Ringdal cautions that it’s not a simple matter of sitting down for lunch and hammering it out over a bowl of soup.
“There’s a lot to go into it when you talk about compensation and assistants and the whole mix,” he says. “There’s a bunch of stuff that comes into play and it takes a number of talks to get it settled down where everyone’s comfortable. Harvey is one of the most spectacular coaches in the history of this league, so we absolutely want to have a full discussion to engage him long term.”
As the Chiefs prepare to celebrate their 25th anniversary next season, it would be strange to not include the man who was part of most, if not all, of the team’s major events.
“I’m proud of what this franchise has with history and tradition, and the players who’ve played here have nothing but fabulous things to say about the community,” Smyl says. “They’re proud to have been a part of the Chiefs family, and I’d certainly like to be a part of celebrating 25 years.”
l On the ice, Smyl’s Chiefs suffered back to back weekend losses to the Coquitlam Express.
Chilliwack lost 4-2 in Coquitlam Friday, with Carter Cochrane and Matt Tibbet getting the goals.
The Chiefs lost 6-3 on home ice Saturday with Tibbet, Kyle Westeringh and Ben Butcher lighting the lamp.
Chilliwack plays in Langley Friday, and home versus West Kelowna Sunday.