Lamb & Child Maple Creek Audio

Travis Child (photo from scbroncos.com)

Travis Child (photo from scbroncos.com)

Interview with Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb

Interview with Broncos G Travis Child

Click here for my recap of Saturday’s game. So what are your thoughts coming out of the pre-season? Who has impressed you? What are you excited about and concerned about? The regular season starts at home on Friday against Moose Jaw.

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Lamb & Lajoie Interviews on Friday’s Game

Coda Gordon in the shootout

Coda Gordon in the shootout

Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb

Broncos D Max Lajoie

Click here for my recap of last night’s game. See you tonight in Maple Creek! It’ll be a lot of fun and we are all ready to get on with the games that count again.

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Broncos Friday Audio (Gawdin, DeBrusk & Vause)

Taylor Vause and Tiger Williams

Taylor Vause and Tiger Williams

The Swift Current Broncos are headed up to Saskatoon as we speak for the last weekend of the pre-season. They’re 3-2 in exhibition play so far with a win in the rookie game and two split weekends. The roster is sure to be younger with different players getting opportunities in bigger roles this week due to five guys attending NHL camps.

I was at last Saturday’s loss in Moose Jaw and caught up with Glenn Gawdin on the loss and his pre-season so far. I had a brief chat with Jake DeBrusk on Tuesday to tee-up this weekend and on Wednesday I ran into former Broncos Captain Taylor Vause who has signed with Colorado in the ECHL and is attending Calgary’s AHL affiliate training camp after winning an AHL championship with Texas last season.

Broncos Forward Glenn Gawdin (Sept 6)

Broncos Forward Jake DeBrusk (Sept 9)

Former Broncos Captain Taylor Vause (Sept 10)

After tonight’s game in Saskatoon the Broncos are in Maple Creek tomorrow hosting the Blades to finish up their pre-season schedule. There’s a sold out fan bus going from Swift Current to the game and it’ll be a very unique atmosphere. I really enjoy when the team branches out this way to bring more fans into the fold from the surrounding area.

Here are some Broncos links from this week…

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Spagrud Among Roster Cuts

Justin Spagrud and Edgars Kulda (photo by Darwin Knelsen)

Justin Spagrud and Edgars Kulda (photo by Darwin Knelsen)

Interview with Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb

The Swift Current Broncos made some roster moves yesterday that included a tough release. Gull Lake’s Justin Spagrud was among the cuts Swift Current announced after their first three pre-season games. The 19-year-old has been a pro on and off the ice, but knowing the numbers game may catch up to him the team let him go early so he would have a better chance of maybe catching on somewhere else.

The reality for this team is that there are too many older players who would slot in that third or fourth line type role. As it stands you could predict Colby Cave, Coda Gordon, Jay Merkley, Glenn Gawdin and Jake Debrusk will be in a top six role. That leaves one more top six spot open for everyone else on the roster that wants to move up. Say Andreas Schumacher ends up taking that spot… the Broncos would then have had Andrew Johnson (20), Tanner LeSann (19), Zac Mackay (19), Austin Calladine (19) and Spagrud as older junior aged players all looking for spots in the bottom six. You can’t have five players in that age range in your bottom six. It just doesn’t allow enough room to develop young guys and how many veteran players at that stage of their career want to be in the press box half the time?

I would even be somewhat surprised if they end up keeping all the older veterans they have now. There might be at least one other tough decision to make here among that group before the end of camp.

Spagrud is a guy who obviously has a bigger connection with the local audience than a typical player because he’s a local (Gull Lake) product and he has been very active in the community. We have watched him grow up as a player making contributions to minor hockey in this area before making the big club and heavily involving himself in team sponsored activities. As the Broncos said in their tribute to him on facebook, Spagrud marched in parades, read to kids, played floor hockey with them and was here in the summer when other guys were gone stepping up when called upon. He was never a distraction when he didn’t play as much as he would have liked to and always kept his head up.

The unfortunate thing for him is a terribly timed injury snuffed out the best hockey he had played in his WHL career. Spagrud was playing so well last November that Mark Lamb had him out on the ice in overtime. He usually doesn’t run more than 4 or at most 6 forwards in any given regular season overtime. Just as he was getting that opportunity an ankle injury struck him down. Justin returned six weeks or so later and just wasn’t the same. I talked to him some this summer and he told me his ankle never felt right down the stretch. Those kinds of injuries don’t heal on anyone’s timeline.

It’s lousy because that was his opportunity to establish himself in a bigger role. Trying to do that now in pre-season with some young guys making a push is a lot harder.

I hope he’s able to catch on somewhere else if he’s interested in doing that. If not he was an admirable Bronco and had a very strong minor hockey career.

The other moves saw 16-year-olds Owen Seidel and Matthew Parsons head back to midget with contracts in their back pockets. Both guys would have absolutely had to blow the doors open to get on the roster the way it was constructed this year. Instead they showed enough to earn contracts and commitments they will get another good opportunity in the future. Going back to a team where they can play a bigger role is probably the best thing for them at their age.

17-year-olds Brandan Arnold and Brayden Uhrich were also re-assigned. Arnold turned heads at last season’s camp to earn a WHL contract. That’s no guarantee you’re going to be on the roster the next season. This cut also doesn’t mean there is no hope for him making it again in the future. He’s a feisty and competitive guy who has a lot of heart. Another year developing won’t hurt him either. Uhrich stayed as long as he did in camp by showing a gritty side. He was in people’s faces and making noise out there. There are roles in hockey for those kinds of players if they can do enough other things. Again another year developing those other skills certainly won’t hurt him.

Dominic Schmiemann going back isn’t even a story really as he is a 15-year-old and can’t play. Schmiemann showed well and I’m sure will push very hard for a spot next season. We will get to see him a few times this year as he’s playing Saskatchewan Midget AAA for Notre Dame.

There are now 16 forwards, 9 defencemen and 2 goalies on the roster. Remember Julius Honka isn’t included in those defencemen so if he comes back from Dallas that would mean the Broncos have to make an additional cut.

I don’t expect much movement until guys start coming back from NHL camps. In addition to Honka the Broncos will see Dillon Heatherington, Brett Lernout, Brycen Martin and Colby Cave head off to pro camps. Cave is the only one who could stick in the pro ranks by playing in the AHL. All the others would have to crack the NHL and the odds are they will likely be back for the season after some valuable experience. It’s more a question of how soon.

Friday the Broncos host Moose Jaw in their next pre-season game. They visit the Warriors on Saturday.

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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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