Chilliwack Chiefs hockey boss Brian Maloney has been a busy guy of late.
Since Oct. 15 the junior A club has brought in five new faces and sent out five. In are goaltender Lucas Szyszka and defenceman Olivier Beaulieu along with forwards Tim Delay, Michael Stenberg and Nathan Morin. Out are goalie Cole Savage, defenceman Liam Steele and forwards Casy Laylin, Chad Muller and Dryden Kuramoto.
Maloney said the roster remake was largely motivated by Chilliwack’s early season results. Standings wise, Maloney said the team has performed as he thought it might. He thought a young and inexperienced group would need time to come together, and they’d be much stronger in the second half of the BCHL season.
But that was his view wearing his general manager hat. His view as head coach is different.
“When you’re a coach and you’re in it on a day-to-day basis, you strive for perfection and our record just wasn’t good enough, not for Chilliwack anyways,” he said. “At the end of the day we needed to do something.”
Maloney identified areas of need on his roster. Topping the list was a lack of experience, and the new additions have more of it. He also felt he needed to add more “sandpaper” to the lineup.
“I wanted to make sure we added that experience and sandpaper without giving up a lot youth,” he said. “We looked at things at our 10-game reassessment and we had a lot of players that played a similar style. We were looking to add guys who play a more 200-foot game.”
“This is the most trades I’ve ever done, and you don’t go into a year excited about doing trade, but I couldn’t just sit and do nothing. My job as a general manager is to put a roster together that gives us the best opportunity to win, and I felt we were thin in some areas.”
Coming out of the flurry of moves, Maloney feels better about where his team is at.
The goaltending duo of Lucas Szyszka and Austin McNicholas has been better than the tandem of McNicholas/Cole Savage, although there’s still room for improvement. Szyszka has a 3.48 goals-against average and 89.9 save percentage in eight appearances. McNicholas has a 3.85 GAA and 86.4 SP, also in eight appearances.
“We’ve been better there, but both need to challenge themselves a little more,” Maloney said. “The timing of some of the goals they’ve let in hasn’t been the greatest, and I think they’d be the first to admit that. They can elevate their play, both of them, and that’s on them. We’re giving them the opportunity to be ‘the guy,’ and they’re both definitely good enough to do it.
“They’re really good kids who work hard, some of the best character kids we’ve had in a really long time at that position. I have a lot of patience and time for kids like that.”
Overall, Maloney said his team is “trending in the right direction” and getting the moves done now gives Maloney a chance to evaluate up to the BCHL trade deadline on Jan. 10.
“It’s a fight every game for us, which is good because we’re still a really young team,” he noted. “We wanted to get things set now so if we do run into injury problems or we need to upgrade in a certain area, we’ll still have some flexibility and time to look at options.”
The Chiefs skate into this weekend with a record of 7-10-0-1, good for sixth in the Coastal conference. They have a couple of tough road games ahead when they visit Coquitlam Saturday (Nov. 26) and Surrey Sunday (Nov. 27).
The Express are 10-6-3-1, third in the Coastal conference. The Eagles are 15-3-0-0, second in the Coastal conference.
Chilliwack’s next home game is Nov. 30 versus the Langley Rivermen.