LeBlanc Talks U18, Soberg’s New Team, Goalie Question, Beard-A-Thon

Congrats to Broncos Head Athletic Therapist Jamie LeBlanc on being part of Team Canada’s bronze medal winning performance at the U18s. LeBlanc was Canada’s equipment manager in the Czech Republic and called it the highlight of his hockey career so far.

Interview with Jamie LeBlanc (Download)

Jamie is a very hard-working guy and I’m glad to see that work get recognized. He was part of the Super Series staff this year and now the U18 team. I would think that opens the door to further Hockey Canada work for him down the line.

SOBERG STAYING IN NORWAY?

According to eliteprospects.com Steffen Soberg will be moving from Manglerud to Vålerenga in the Norwegian league next season. So what does that mean? As much as I’d like to say this definitively answers the questions about his future with the Broncos, these questions are never really fully answered. Anything can happen in junior hockey as long as you hold on to someone’s rights The Broncos have always told me they are keeping their options open with him and have at least throughout last season kept the lines of communication open.

They can also still chose to prevent him from playing for any other team next season. He only played the second half this season with their permission.

However, this is a pretty good indication that he’s staying in Europe and it may be a long-term thing. It’s interesting because when he first went back to Norway there was talk he wanted to play perhaps in Sweden rather than in the weaker Norwegian league. I don’t know if that could still happen in this case or if he has decided to just stay in his home country.

Soberg did make a small step forward last season. Even though he was not allowed to play for the first half of the year (for leaving the Broncos after having agreed to play for them) he was able to improve his save percentage once he got back into the lineup. It went from 0.884 the previous year to 0.901 this past season. I’m glad for his sake that even after the turmoil of his season he was still able to develop some. He is still property of the an NHL team (Washington) so there is always hope for him.

Is this the end of it? I wouldn’t be surprised. As much as the Broncos have publicly been very conciliatory on the subject and have been keeping the door open… it’s hard to imagine him returning here. How could Mark Lamb rely on him to be their starting goaltender again when he had committed last year and was gone so quickly? It just wouldn’t be prudent management on his part to put all the eggs in the Soberg basket again when he got burned 12 months before. If Soberg were to ever come back I’m sure it wouldn’t be as their undisputed #1 goalie… they will have to have another plan in place one way or another. I know they are working on that.

Now we have to wonder what is next for the position. I’ve talked before about how this is biggest question mark facing the Broncos in the off season. Will Austin Smith be ready for the #1 job? Will another young guy emerge as someone able to take on a bigger role than just that of a developing back up? Will Soberg come back? If the answer to those questions is no… what will the Broncos do?

There are really only two options in that case. They can either take a gamble on another European goaltender in the 2012 import draft or they can make a trade. An import pick is obviously riskier because that player isn’t going to be a known commodity and the Bronocs are now 0 for 2 in being able to secure European goalies they drafted in recent years. However, the upside is probably higher. An import pick might stick around for a couple of years and might come in here and be an immediate difference maker.

On the other hand, the trade market would likely bring a safer option with probably less upside. If someone is going to trade a goalie (and it isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg) that player is either an overage player with someone good behind him or is probably considered the lesser of two options on a team.

If you don’t want to spend a fortune in a trade the most logical way to go is to find a 20-year-old goalie again. There is no shortage of possible returning overage goalies next season. The top guy would probably by Ty Rimmer of the Americans. He led all goalies in save percentage this season and has star prospect Eric Comrie behind hi with Tri City. Some of the other options include Kent Simpson in Everett, Luke Siemens in Moose Jaw (two good young goalies behind him), Matt Hewitt in Regina, Mac Carruth in Portland (with 8 other 92s on the roster), Cam Lanigan in Kamloops (Cheveldave the clear #1), Brandon Anderson in Brandon (NHL guy but Boes established ahead of him), Brandon Glover in Calgary (strong finish but with a 94 starter on the roster) and Keith Hamilton in Victoria.

I’m not saying each of those nine guys will be on the trade market, but there is a good chance most of them will. That should bring the price down (although the top end guys like Rimmer would certainly cost more) if the Broncos are willing to again sacrifice an overage spot for goaltending. If not there could be other trades out there for guys like Mac Engel in Spokane who appeared to lose his starting job to Eric Williams in the playoffs.

I suppose the third option would be trying to snag an unlisted Junior A guy and hope you hit the jackpot. That isn’t very likely.

It should be interesting to see what direction they go. I’m sure ultimately they just don’t want to start the season with a big question mark there again.

BANTAM DRAFT COVERAGE

Just a quick note on the Bantam Draft… I won’t be there. Last summer we had the luxury of having a full staff complement that week and it allowed me to take off for three days to Calgary for the awards, the draft and a bit of down time with some friends of mine. This year we don’t have that same luxury and I will have to cover things from the office in Swift. On the surface that sounds like worse coverage, but it really shouldn’t be. I will work hard to stay in touch with Mark Lamb, Jamie Porter and company while following the draft live on WHL.ca (they’re webcasting it) and getting in touch with the drafted players for immediate interviews. Last year I wasn’t able to interview the players myself because I was in Calgary. We’ll see how it works.

I’m just disappointed I’ll miss it because it’s a good time and all the big players around the league gather there. Taylor Vause is also nominated for the Humanitarian of the Year Award and I hate to miss being there for that. That’s just how it goes sometimes. From your perspective I don’t think you will be missing anything. That’s the most important thing.

EDIT: for the record this is my decision based on us being short staffed until our new news person starts the week after. I like going but I don’t think it improves the coverage we can offer enough for me to make someone else work on their day off so I can take a nice little trip. Realistically I can cover the draft in a more complete way at home because the prospects aren’t actually there.

Our company has always been willing to send me to anything I’ve asked to go cover and I’m sure we would have made it work. I simply felt that would have been selfish of me because the main benefit of going to the draft is my own enjoyment not the level of our coverage. If you have an issue with that blame me not the company as it was my call.

We try to cover as much news and sports as we can. If you think we’re missing any events or sports we should be covering feel free to let me know and we’ll look into it. My door is always open. shawn.mullin@goldenwestradio.com is my work email and our newsroom phone is 773-NEWS.

On that note I did want to wish Edmonton and Portland congratulations on making the WHL final. It’s amazing how far the Oil Kings and Winterhawks have come since their down years. For Portland it’s a chance at redemption after losing in the final last year. For Edmonton it’s a chance to wrap up one of the most impressive playoff runs in recent memory with a big exclamation mark. They have only lost one game in three rounds for goodness sake. However, they have yet to face an offence as dynamic as what Portland has to offer. I’ll still take Edmonton in 5. Their depth, defensive game and goaltending is a notch above Portland’s. That should be enough to compensate for the exceptional skill on the Winterhawks.

Hey I predicted the winner of every Eastern Conference series so far… I can’t be wrong! Just please don’t look at my NHL predictions. I think I’ve got 3 players left in our Eagle 94.1 FM playoff pool. So much for the guest “expert” in that one, eh?

BEARD-A-THON

Here is the part where I ask for your kindness and generosity. I’m in the middle of the NHLPA’s new “Beard-A-Thon” initiative where fans join the fun and grow playoff beards while raising money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. As someone who wears a beard normally and has a family that has been touched by heart disease, I felt like it was natural for me to get behind this new venture. So far as you can see from the picture there isn’t anything too radical about my playoff beard. However, we’re only through 1/4 of the playoffs so far. If I’m going to carry around a Grizzly Adams beard it has to be paying off for something!

If you can spare even the smallest donation please do so at http://my.nhlpabeardathon.ca/shawnmullin

Thank you and enjoy the rest of the playoffs. For what it’s worth (not much) I’ve got Nashville over Phoenix in 6, St. Louis over LA in 5, New York over Washington in 7 and New Jersey over Philadelphia in 6. From what I can tell the only former Bronco left in the playoffs (should Cody Eakin stay in the AHL) is Michal Rozsival of the Coyotoes. Phoenix also a sentimental favourite for Mark Lamb because his old boss Dave Tippett runs their bench.

Should they be the unofficial team of the Bronco Nation bandwagon?

Later this weekend I will start our march to the Bantam Draft with a look at what the Broncos have in their system and expert analysis on the class of 2012. I’ll talk to you then.

About shawnmullin

Play by Play Broadcaster for the WHL's Swift Current Broncos on 94.1 FM The Eagle.
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