Lamb Talks Edmonton Games

Coda Gordon (Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

Coda Gordon (Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

The Broncos played a couple of pre-season games at the annual Oil Kings invitational this weekend. They had a 4-3 lead before losing 5-4 to Edmonton late in the first game and came back from down 2-1 to beat Red Deer 3-2 in the shoot out in their second game.

Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb Interview

Andreas Schumacher had a couple of goals for the Broncos in the loss against Edmonton, while Jordan Harris had a 3 point night and Brycen Martin helped out with a couple of assists. Coda Gordon had two points and the shootout winner on Sunday, while Lamb pointed out Glenn Gawdin’s strong play.

The Broncos have also had pretty good goaltending so far in the pre-season which is very important for a club that is going into the season without the security of former starter Eetu Laurikainen. Landon Bow was very good in pre-season and to start the season in 2013-14 and at least in his first game the numbers and Lamb suggest he was strong. Child had good games in his first two despite some late troubles against Edmonton.

Lamb is expecting to cut the roster down before the lone pre-season game in Swift Current coming up on Friday. Don’t expect that to mean there won’t be young guys putting pressure on veterans. One of his last comments in that interview suggested some older guys could be on the hot seat.

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Rookie Game Audio, Broncos Sign Five

Photo by Marc Smith of DiscoverMooseJaw.com

Photo by Marc Smith of DiscoverMooseJaw.com

Interview with Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb

Interview with Broncos F Cole Johnson

Well that’s a nice way to start a season. Despite playing an at times frustrating, penalty filled game… the Broncos came from down 3-1 to win in overtime over Moose Jaw. It’s the rookie game and it’s pre-season, but the comeback kids picked up right where they left off as a squad that never gives up on a game.

I thought the penalties really took the flow out of the game and at times guys were trying to do too much and it showed. Once they simplified things the guys you expected to shine started to shine. It’s been an impressive stint in camp so far for the 1998 class and things are continuing in that direction as the Broncos locked up five of their young guys to WHL contracts. Those are more long term additions. Tyler Adams and Jaydan Gordon are both entering their 17-year-old seasons and as such might be guys the team is looking at making pushes for the roster this year. They are also both list players and it’s always nice to get a find that way. The signings of Owen Seidel, Matthew Parsons and Colby Sissons strike me as deals with an eye to having them really compete for spots next season… although strange things have happened.

Tyler Steenbergen and Cole Johnson looked very strong. I was again impressed by how well Max Lajoie can skate with the puck to make things happen. Luca Leoene showed some good hands around the net in sparking the comeback. Dakota Odgers stood out again for me for the second straight game as he seems to have an extra step coming from last season.

It was also a strong game for Travis Child when they needed him. He made some very clutch pad saves when Moose Jaw could have put the game out of reach. I thought he got better and calmer as the game went on.

Up next? Two games at the pre-season invitational in Edmonton this weekend. Again expect to see a lot of young guys so the team can evaluate them in actual competition. I think there will be very fierce competition for the final forward and defence spots on this team. Don’t be too comfortable if you’re a returning guy.

Also congrats to former Broncos PR man Keegan Goodrich on getting a job with the WInnipeg Jets. I knew Keegan back in the BCHL. He was a class guy then and obviously a hard worker who has climbed up the ladder. Enjoy the show!

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Broncos Extend Lamb, Audio from Black and White Game

Mark Lamb (Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

Mark Lamb (Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

The Swift Current Broncos stabilized their leadership today by locking up Coach/GM Mark Lamb to a contract extension. The three-year deal includes the coming season and will take Lamb through the 2016-17 season.

Interview with Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb

Interview with Broncos Chairman Liam Choo-Foo

Lamb heads into this season as the coach with the longest current consecutive tenure with one WHL team. It’s a large leap from being a coach with no head coaching, junior hockey coaching or management experience when he took over. The former Dallas Stars assistant coach has had opportunities to get back in the pro game again throughout his time in the WHL. As much as some have speculated that he would only be here for a few seasons honing his resume to get back to the NHL, Lamb told me today he is only interested in one day leaving if it’s the right job. He’s not looking to be an assistant… he’s interested in a different kind of challenge as he continues to become a well-rounded hockey executive.

There are a couple of things that stand  out for me about Lamb’s tenure in Swift Current so far. I remember him telling me in our season-ending interview back in 2010-11 that he wasn’t pleased with how few NHL draft picks and pro players they had been producing at the time. That’s not to say they weren’t produced in the previous regime… just that at the time it wasn’t a good part of the cycle. Since then the Broncos have seen players drafted every year with as many as three twice over that span. They have also seen more alumni have success at the minor pro and NHL level since that time. That’s largely due to drafting and developing pro ready players, but it doesn’t hurt having a coach/gm with so many pro connections and a good reputation helping get his players opportunities.

The other thing that really stands out for me in the recent years of Lamb’s tenure is the development of an identity. It wasn’t as clear in the beginning as he got to know the league and the organization. After the Cody Eakin trade triggered a rebuild the organization has created a rugged, blue collar style that has helped define what it means to be a Bronco in this era for the organization. I and others have said before that a player like former captain Adam Lowry really defined what the identity of this team has become… and it seems like players are coming in even as rookies with that kind of attitude in mind if they want to be a part of it.

Now after all the work they’ve put towards rebuilding their system and crafting an identity it seems like the roster is in position to take another step forward. Two straight very competitive first round losses against very good teams should be the kind of learning experience that can push this group to new levels. This is what Lamb has been building towards since coming back home. He has had a lot of success taking steps towards this point on and off the ice. To really succeed in his goals the team will have to make a bigger push in the playoffs while showing that the model they’ve developed is one that can last.

Matthew Stanley and Brayden Uhrich battle

Matthew Stanley and Brayden Uhrich battle

BLACK AND WHITE GAME

You can get my recap of the Black and White game by clicking here. I did some interviews after the game…

Interview with F Ryan Sokoloski

Interview with F Tyler Steenbergen

Interview with G Hunter Lorenson

The Broncos take 33 players into the typical exhibition season. Before that they will start pre-season Tuesday night with the rookie game in Moose Jaw. I plan to go check it out if it works out for me with work. Apparently the Broncos will made enough signings to really be able to ice a squad mostly full of rookies. Those young players may not have a lot of spots to play for on this season’s team, but there will be significant turnover after this season and the Broncos have to be prepared. It should be a good look at the future.

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Andreas Schumacher Interview

Andreas Schumacher (photo from scbroncos.com)

Andreas Schumacher (photo from scbroncos.com)

Interview with Andreas Schumacher:

What you’re going to get out of your import draft is often one of the biggest questions of any WHL training camp. The Broncos have been lucky enough to draft very successful imports in three of their last four drafts. Richard Nedomlel, Eetu Laurikainen and Julius Honka are close to as good and as valuable as any trio of imports in the WHL over that span I’d argue. What will the Broncos get out of this year’s draft? It looks like Maxim Letunov is unlikely to join the team and he was more of a big swing. However, Andreas Schumacher could be exactly what the doctor ordered anyway. He’s 6’4, skates well for his size and has a strong shot. Some size like that would really look good in the top six for Swift Current. I had one observer say they saw a bit of Adam Lowry in his stride yesterday. I don’t think we want to set such lofty expectations for Schumacher. At the same time if he can use his size to shake off checks and create space he could be very valuable to a skilled group on the top lines.

We won’t really know what the Broncos have in Schumacher until the regular season. However, this camp and exhibition will at least give us an idea where we can start to slot him. Initial impressions are good. He’s well spoken, enthusiastic, has a family history with the CHL, knows he needs to use his size and seems to understand he’s got to be a two-way player. Now that he’s said all those things we wait to see what he can actually offer on the ice.

I only saw bits and pieces of the first day. For those of you who were in attendance what grabbed you? Who stood out? It’s nice to see a big part of the future like Tyler Steenbergen scoring the first goal of camp. I heard a lot of raves about Brycen Martin’s game yesterday. Anyone else stand out for you?

Scrimmages again run at 4pm and 6pm today. It’s going to be a lousy weekend outside so you might as well hit the rink. I hope it’s a big crowd for the Black vs. White game at 1pm on Sunday.

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Broncos Camp Starts, Cave/Heward Interviews

Colby Cave (Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

Colby Cave (Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

The Swift Current Broncos open training camp today with scrimmages at 4pm and 6pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You can get full details on the schedule and more information on the Broncos website.They included a full list of the training camp roster for the first time I can remember since I’ve been here.

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A couple of players worth noting on that roster list? Austin Calladine got the invite to Swift Current’s camp after spending time with both Calgary and Saskatoon in the WHL. He had 3 points in 37 career games. Calladine spent last season with the Flin Flon Bombers of the SJHL where he scored 35 points in 46 games. Calladine is also a former 2nd round WHL Bantam Draft pick so certainly was highly touted at one point. We’ve seen a few of these types or reclamation project type additions by the Broncos in recent years work out. Could Calladine or Luca Leone be the new Ryon Moser or Levi Bews? Time will tell.

You may also note a familiar name on the list for Team Sakic. There is a second Spagrud on the roster as Justin’s younger brother Cody is making a run at things. Cody was dynamie in bantam and could have some potential here moving forward. Another brother in camp is Coda Gordon’s brother Jaydan making his third appearance here.

Take a look at the rosters for yourselves. Who stands out to you? There are lots of returning players and not many open spots so players are going to have work really hard to stand out. One area of note in training camp will be 1998 and 1999 players fighting for WHL contracts. The Broncos didn’t have as much skill depth in the last draft because of missing 2nd, 3rd and 4th round picks. There is some room in the system for people to step up.

After fitness testing I had a chance to chat with Broncos Assistant Coach Jamie Heward and returning captain Colby Cave. Heward was impressed with everyone’s fitness after Dakota Odgers crushed the beep test and also noted a couple of guys who have bought in and improved their condition. I heard Jay Merkley was in the best shape of his career and Heward singled out Jordan Harris for making major strides.

Interview with Jamie Heward:

Interview with Colby Cave:

Cave related some great news for him that he’s attending Arizona Coyotes camp in the middle of September and is hoping to get into some exhibition games. Cave was at the summer development camp in Phoenix as well. Could this mean an end to his junior career? It’s possible. The Coyotes could have some spots open on their AHL team. It’s a great opportunity for Cave and you can’t help but cheer for him to be successful. On the other hand it would sure be tough for the Broncos to lose him this year. That’s a story to watch.

Speaking of turning pro… last week the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL announced they had signed former Broncos forward Nathan Burns for this season. Burns was just an outstanding addition after being acquired from Saskatoon and was probably Swift Current’s playoff MVP. He really found an extra gear in his overage season just in time to start what should be a promising professional career. He was also at Arizona’s development camp in the summer. Instead he found a home in the Rangers organization. I heard there might be another former Bronco headed there too.

Some other news out of camp yesterday included the fact that Geordie Maguire has left hockey to start on his education. I understand he is headed to Queens which is a terrific school. I feel like we never really got to see what Maguire could be in Swift Current. An ill-timed bout with mono really stole away too much of his time here for us to evaluate his abilities or how he would mesh. It’s a shame because he would have surely been in the mix for a bigger role if he had a good camp/pre-season. On the other hand he’s going to a great school and got to experience WHL life which will help pay for that schooling. It’s a no-lose scenario for him. I’m sure all Broncos fans wish him well.

I’ll leave it there for now. I won’t be able to see every scrimmage session so please leave comments or tweets with your thoughts on what you’ve seen. The Black/White game is Sunday at 1pm. The rookie game is Tuesday in Moose Jaw.

More to come!

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Elmwood August Update, Labour Day Tournament

elmwood

The Elmwood Golf and Country Club is gearing up for their annual labour day classic. It’s a unique format that carries you through the whole long weekend. They also have a deal now where you can play golf for the rest of the season for free if you get a membership for 2015. GM Sheldon Reinhart has details on that and an update on renovations.

Interview with Elmwood Golf and Country Club GM Sheldon Reinhart (Download)

Elmwood is a sponsor for this blog so anyone who is a fan of it please support them!

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Broncos Orientation Camp Audio, Honka Update, Dale & Holt Interviews

Broncos staff talk to their young players

Broncos staff talk to their young players

The Swift Current Broncos welcomed a selection of their young players and the draft class of 2014 to their orientation camp this Monday and Tuesday. It’s an opportunity for them to introduce the young players to the Broncos organization and to one another. I had a chance to chat with Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb about that and some other pressing matters leading into training camp.

Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb interview (Download

Goaltender Curt Doyle (Download) (Download

List Player Tyler Adams (Download)

List Player Landon Mackenzie (Download

For now it’s just a process of introducing themselves to the system. As main camp starts up it becomes time for these young men to really show something. Obviously with a full time job at Standard Motors and a couple of kids at home I can’t be at camp as much as I have been in previous years. That doesn’t mean we won’t have coverage here and at Swift Current Online. I’ll be there as much as my schedule permits and hope you will all chime in as well with your thoughts about what you’re seeing at camp. I think exhibition is really where the story will be told this year given how many returning players are going to be here.

ALUMNI INTERVIEWS

I had done a couple of interviews at our annual Click Before You Dig Broncos Alumni golf tournament at Elmwood Golf and Country Club. I figured I would post them here now since they had been collecting dust. Colin Powers did use them for a couple of articles on Swift Current Online, but here are the full interviews. They include Dale telling the story about his new athletic career. I think it’s pretty cool and it would be awesome if a former Bronco was in the Olympics down the road.

Daniel Dale Interview (Download

Todd Holt Interview (Download) 

The tournament was a blast. Kudos to the Rondeaus who have done a great job heading the committee in recent years and to everyone at Elmwood. I enjoy being a part of it and hope I can continue to be in the future.

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