CANMORE – With the dust of the AJHL trade deadline day settled, the Canmore Eagles are looking forward to the remainder of the season after a flurry of trades.
“It was a busy couple of weeks for us leading up to the deadline and we turned over about a quarter of our roster bringing in four new players,” said Eagles’ assistant coach and general manager Evan McFeeters. “For us, it feels like a new beginning to the season with our new guys and core players to lead us into the playoffs.”
The Eagles season has been a rollercoaster ride. On four separate occasions this season they have lost three or more games in a row, and have not managed to string together more than two wins in a row.
Through 43 games this season the Eagles hold a 16-24-4 record and sit in fifth place in the South Division, seven points off the mark of the fourth-place Camrose Kodiaks.
Ten of the 16 wins in the 2019-20 campaign have come against teams with a worse record, and four of those wins were against the leagues basement team, Calgary Canucks.
The team has struggled against teams with a near identical or better record. To close out the regular season, the Eagles’ will play the top three teams in the South Division, Brooks, Okotoks and Drumheller a combined nine times.
Despite the poor record against the top three in the team's division, McFeeters is confident the trades made will have a positive impact in the remaining 14 regular season games and the playoffs.
“Now it’s all about preparing for playoffs, so it’s not as much about individual game preparation as much as solidifying what our game plan is and what our strengths are. The new players we brought in fit our identity a lot more,” said McFeeters.
“Playing against these tougher opponents is about playing that more playoff style of hockey where there’s less space on the ice and we have to use our feet and our body to gain ice.”
The Eagles said goodbye to a pair of 19-year-old players on Wednesday (Jan. 9), sending Max Giangualano and Carter Coles to the Grande Prairie Storm.
In return, Eagles’ general manager Andrew Milne brought in a big centreman, Lukas Jirousek, and 18-year-old defenceman Zac Cunningham.
A few hours before the end of the trade deadline, Milne made three more moves to cap off a busy couple of days. Canmore acquired defenceman Cameron Chin from Spruce Grove in exchange for futures.
In order to make room for Chin, the Eagles dealt 20-year-old defenceman Brent Schuldhaus to the Olds Grizzlys.
“We had to move a player out to move a player in and we felt that was a deal that gave us a year down the road,” said Milne.
The final transaction was the acquisition of Tye Carriere of the Calgary Hitmen. The Eagles’ held the rights to Carriere before he made the jump to the WHL as a 17-year-old.
“He was a guy we were hot on coming out of midget, so we are excited to have him here,” Milne said.
Through 66 games and a few injuries in the WHL, Carriere scored 17 points.
“I think there’s only seven guys here that I played with last year," said the Eagles’ leading scorer, Connor Lyons. "Obviously there’s a lot of new guys around, but I think we are gelling well and we just want to have a strong push into the playoffs. Our team is younger and guys that have come from other teams are really motivated to play."
The Eagles management and players feel positive about heading into the final stretch of the regular season and playoffs, and insist the flurry of trades was not about “waving a white flag” on this season, but about preparing for the final push and building for the next few seasons.
“As a group, we feel the moves we made at the deadline are going to set us up for better success," McFeeters said. "We feel that we can skate a lot better. Now we can push the pace a little bit. There’s only 14 games left in this season and we’ve pushed in all our chips here so now we just have to see where they fall."