Chilliwack Chiefs head coach and general manager Brian Maloney is in for a busy week.
Friday is the BCHL’s trade deadline day and the last chance for Maloney to make a major move before the playoffs.
His team sits second in the Mainland division and sixth in the overall BCHL standings. If you’re looking for a way to gauge what Maloney may be thinking about his team’s playoff chances, look no further than a pair of post-Christmas games against Coquitlam two weekends ago.
The Express are this year’s runaway train, 15 points ahead of any other BCHL club. The Chiefs took them to the shootout twice (Dec. 28 and 29) in an evenly played home-and-home that showed Chilliwack can stand toe-to-toe with Coquitlam.
“We’re extremely close (to the Express), and those games were a great test for us,” Maloney said. “They’ve been playing like that all year and we haven’t been, but now we know what that feels like. Now we know we can play with these top teams.”
Maloney has already made several additions that signal a belief in the roster he’s built. Adding 20 year old forwards Trevor Adams and Davis Murray and 19 year old center Tommy Lyons qualified as go-for-it moves.
The team also gets Ethan Bowen back from a broken hand within the next week or two.
“I truly believe we already have the right players here and the right mix of skill and grit,” Maloney said. “I don’t think we’ve gotten everything out of everyone yet, but we have the team to be the team.
“It’s a matter of us (coaches) trusting the players and the players trusting themselves that we’re good enough.
“Just adding someone doesn’t necessarily make you a better team. It just adds a body and the potential for confusion.”
The one thing Maloney noted in his roster rundown was a shortness of experience.
Adams, Murray and Brett Willits give them three 20 year olds.
Coquitlam has five.
Chilliwack has six 19 year olds while the Express have eight.
The experience divide between the two teams is most obvious on defence.
Coquitlam has one 20 year old, five 19 year olds and one 17 year old in their blueline crew.
Nineteen year old Nathan Kelly is the grizzled vet on the Chiefs blueline, surrounded by three 18 year olds (Xavier Henry/Cooper Moore/ Jack Agnew), two 17 year olds (Brody Gagno/Garrett Valk) and one 16 year old (Hudson Thornton).
If Maloney were to make one addition, would it be a Mitch Andres-style veteran defenceman, at the expense of one of his younger blueliners?
“Some fans might not enjoy hearing this, but I’m development first, and winning the whole thing is the cherry on top of everything else,” Maloney said. “I get more satisfaction out getting young hockey players ready to move on to school or into pro.
“There are teams in the past that have won, but their players have never gone anywhere.”
The other thing to watch for will be reactionary moves, although Maloney said he won’t be the one making them. If Coquitlam adds to their already potent roster, will feel pressured to respond?
“It happens a lot and it’s tough because you never know exactly what you’re getting either,” Maloney agreed. “You run that risk too. Does he play how we want him to play? Does he fit well into our culture and community? Will he put too much pressure on himself?
“But other times it’s a great addition and we’ll entertain ideas. But there’s a not a lot that’s likely to come roll the table that’ll be better than what we already have.”