You get what you pay for, goes the old consumer’s adage. If you want quality, you have to give up quality, goes an old hockey adage. When Kootenay G.M. Jeff Chynoweth traded team captain Jason Jaffray along with Aaron Rome, Jeff Harvey and the club’s first round pick in next year’s Bantam Draft to Swift Current for B.J. Boxma, Duncan Milroy and a fifth round pick in the 2004 Bantam Draft, immediately those truths could be applied to the deal. The biggest question now is that, did the club sell its soul in order to improve itself in the areas needed most – goaltending? Did the ICE give up too much? That’s the $64,000 question.
This trade could turn out to be the most significant trade in the history of the ICE franchise. The club just dealt arguably the most popular, hardest working, trench warfare fighting, durable, community-minded player in the club’s history in Jason Jaffray. Aaron Rome and Jeff Harvey were big parts of the Kootenay ICE – there is no denying that fact – but both were with the club less than fourteen months. Rome, a talented d-man that seemed to be on the cusp of a breakout season, who went about his business in contributing to one of the best defensive corps this club has ever had. How much of a contributor Rome was to the ICE blueline depends on who you ask. Nevertheless, we are about to find out.
Harvey, an enigmatic goalie who never quite seemed to be able to step out of the shadow of Dan Blackburn. Yes, they were some big shoes to fill but what Harvey was unable to do was live up to the expectations of both team management and its fans. If you don’t have the confidence of those two factions, finding it in yourself becomes that much more difficult of a task. That leaves two things – the trading of an immensely popular player and the inclusion of a first round draft pick for next May’s Bantam Draft.
Break it down into something more than the sum of its individual parts. Ask yourself what was the most inherent thing the Kootenay ICE needed in order to make a serious run at a WHL Championship this season? What was it that all the pundits said had to happen if the ICE were to be the top Junior team in the country?
Two words, Dan Blackburn.
When it was surmised that the Black magic we all had witnessed the past two seasons was never to return, it was strikingly obvious that Harvey nor the up and coming rookie in Bryan Bridges were going to carry the load. Getting a goaltender to keep pace in increasingly tight B.C. Division of the Western Conference now seemed of paramount importance. Scanning around the WHL, the pickings were slim. Brent Krahn? Rumors yes, reality no. What would be the cost compared to the risk of re-injury if Krahn indeed comes back? Nick Pannoni – maybe, but Seattle would be waiting until the trade deadline if they were going to make a deal. By then the price always go up and it also might be too late. You can scratch the whole of the B.C. Division because of the taboo of trading within itself.
The Michael Garnett rumblings were either one of three things: no playoff experience, too expensive or the Blades weren’t willing to part with him. The fact remains that Swift Current could afford to trade one of the two tenders they had. That is a fact not found in many WHL teams. Which points to B.J. Boxma and obviously, he isn’t going to come cheap. He’s an overage player, meaning to get one you have to give up one. But how do you replace what Jaffray brings to the table? ICE brass seems to think the void can be filled by what’s already in the dressing room with Colin Sinclair, Jarret Stoll, and Richard Hamula. With those comparisons, it’s hard to argue with them.
Defense wins championships Jeff Chynoweth mentioned often this season. Yet he dealt Rome. Is it a loss that will be felt among the defensive unit? The task will be up to the remaining d-men to make up the slack. Duncan Milroy, a player different in caliber but comparable in value will bring a wealth of offense to the Key City. The kid can score points and can be a solid two-way player. Of course one could argue that scoring was the least of the club’s worries. The last time I looked the ICE were still the highest goal-scoring club in the league. The draft picks? That is the great unknown only the hands of a clock can answer. As I’ve been told – you want quality, it’s going to cost you, and it did. Question now is how much?
Right now, the trade was good for both clubs in that it filled certain needs and enhanced others. Save for the first round pick, the trade was a saw-off, almost even. What didn’t get noticed or announced in any press release were the intangibles that went to the prairies along with it last Tuesday.
The challenge for the Kootenay ICE now is to find those intangibles within themselves. Only then will have the cost might’ve been worth it.