Should the Chiefs add to their coaching staff?

Earlier this spring, the Chilliwack Chiefs were swept by the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in the Coastal Conference final. The Chiefs have had some up and downs since head coach and general manager Brian Maloney took over just before the RBC Cup in 2018.

There was some turnover behind the bench, with former assistant Cam Keith turning the Surrey Eagles into a contending team as their head coach and general manager. Keith spent one season with Chilliwack in 2018-19 before leaving for Surrey in March 2019. He started with the Chiefs in May 2018 and helped lead them to the national title.

Maloney has a fiery spirit and knows how to win in the BCHL. He played for legendary Chiefs boss Harvey Smyl for a season and a half, and as a player, was part of the Chiefs squad that went to the Fred Page Cup final in 1999. After the Chiefs, Maloney played four years at Michigan State University as well as 11 pro seasons split between the American Hockey League, Switzerland, and Germany.

On the other hand, associate coach Brad Rihela doesn’t have the same playing resume as Maloney, spending four seasons in the junior B Pacific Junior Hockey League and seven games as an affiliate for the Langley Chiefs. He does have an extensive amount of coaching experience, including his debut as an assistant with the Prince George Spruce Kings in 2012-13.

The Chiefs’ lack of defensive structure led them to be swept by the Bulldogs. Not only did they give up nine goals in game one of the series, but they also gave up five shorthanded goals to the Nanaimo Clippers in the opening round. If it wasn’t for outstanding performances by goaltenders Lukas Szyszka and Austin McNicholas, the Chiefs might not have gotten out of the first round.

Most of the top teams in the BCHL have a certain amount of pedigree on the bench. West Kelowna has former NHLer Josh Gorges, Penticton has eight-year NHL veteran Cam Barker, Surrey has longtime University of British Columbia coach Tyler Kuntz, and Wenatchee has Vernon Vipers and Salmon Arm Silverbacks legend Troy Mick coaching in its developmental system. With the B.C. Hockey League operating independently from Hockey Canada starting this upcoming season, the Chiefs might need some help behind the bench.

I’m going to have a look at who might be a good fit to join the Chiefs coaching staff to help fill the gaps in their structure.

Bobby Henderson

This option is right in their backyard. Henderson is not only a Chiefs alumni but also a former captain and veteran BCHL coach. Henderson was a hard-nosed defender who played four seasons with the Chiefs, winning two Fred Page Cups, a Doyle Cup, and a bronze medal at the 2000 national junior A championship tournament. As a coach, Henderson led the junior B Mission Icebreakers of the PJHL in 2010-11 and served as head coach of the Langley Rivermen from 2012-20. Henderson turned the Rivermen around after the franchise faced a couple of lacklustre seasons, leading Langley to a Mainland Division title in his first year. He never missed the playoffs in his eight years as head coach for the Rivermen and won BCHL Coach of the Year in 2014.

Troy Mick

Mick, who played with Vernon and Merritt in the BCHL, and Portland and Regina in the Western Hockey League, is currently head coach of the Wenatchee Wild U18 AAA team. Mick has an extensive resume when it comes to coaching, leading Vernon to two Fred Page Cups, a Doyle Cup, and the 1999 national junior championship during his five seasons in the North Okanagan. After his stint with the Vipers, Mick served as Salmon Arm Silverbacks’ president, head coach, and general manager at different times over the course of six seasons. He is a proven coach with a hockey pedigree and was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the seventh round of the 1988 NHL Draft. Mick was named BCHL Interior Conference coach of the year in 1999.

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Duncan Keith

Keith needs no introduction with the resume he possesses. A three-time Stanley Cup champion who recently retired, Keith could bring his full National Hockey League and Canadian national team experience to the table and it would be a good start in the coaching realm for him. He spent 2022-23 as a Player Development Consultant for the Edmonton Oilers and even came through the Chiefs locker room this season to talk to the players about his career and experiences. Hiring Keith would be a monumental one for the Chiefs and bring them in line with similar coaching staffs in Penticton and West Kelowna. It doesn’t hurt that he’s one of the most decorated BCHL alumni ever either.

Travis Banga

Banga is a Chilliwack Chiefs legend, having come over in a trade from the Olds Grizzlys of the Alberta Junior Hockey League before the 1998-99 season. Banga is good friends with Maloney and has coaching experience at the NCAA Division III level at New England College. He has been an assistant coach at NEC for 11 seasons. It might have to be a really good deal to uproot Banga from the New Hampshire campus, but being behind the bench with his long-time friend might convince him to make the move.

Tyson Terry

Terry, like two of the previous suggestions, is a Chiefs Alumni with coaching credits at the NCAA level. He was a utility skater as a player, spending time at both forward and defense. Similar to Henderson, Terry was tough to play against with a physical style. He was an assistant coach with the Wenatchee Wild for one season while it was in the North American Hockey League and spent time as an assistant coach in NCAA Division III at Manhattanville College and College of St. Scholastica. Terry is originally from Abbotsford, B.C. and a return to Chilliwack would be a sort of homecoming for him.

The likelihood of any of the above folks being hired is probably pretty low, but with the BCHL becoming more competitive it will be very hard to stay near the top of the pack unless changes occur. If the Chiefs only rely on their offensive skill and don’t shore up their defensive play, it could be a long time before they bring the Fred Page Cup back to Chilliwack.