Congrats are due to Swift Current Broncos Captain Adam Lowry as he was named Husky WHL Player of the Month for December. Lowry scored 13 goals and 21 total points in 11 games over that stretch. He had an 8 game goal scoring streak (longest in the WHL this season) and has carried a 15 game points streak from the end of November into 2013.
Interview with Adam Lowry on Wednesday before the announcement (Download)
Over the month of December Lowry was in on 21 of Swift Current’s 34 goals (62%) and accomplished the very rare feat of scoring on shorthanded penalty shots in back-to-back games. It was good timing for him to put together the best stretch of hockey he has ever played as the Broncos went on their BC swing and he was able to show fans that don’t normally see him the kind of game he can play. He also suited up against his father (Victoria Head Coach Dave Lowry) for the first time and move into the top 10 of WHL scorers. Lowry current sits 7th and has the most points of any player in the Eastern Conference.
There are some impressive stats in the release like the fact that he was named one of the three stars seven times over the month. Anyone who saw him play knows that in addition to bringing it on offence, Lowry’s physical game continues to set the tone for Swift Current’s hard-nosed identity and he has thrown more big hits than any other elite scorer in the league. A great example was the final game of the month when the Broncos got down to Medicine Hat and Lowry ignited the comeback by throwing some huge hits and scoring a goal late in the 2nd period to give Swift Current some life. That kind of leadership has been the norm from him all season and especially in December.
Lowry’s success is of course also linked to strong play from his linemates. Coda Gordon broke out with 14 points in December after only 6 in November. Colby Cave has 8 points in 5 games since being added to the line. Reece Scarlett improved his production from 3 points in 11 games in November to 7 points in 9 games last month. Did Lowry elevate their games or did their improved play elevate his? I’d say a bit of both. The Winnipeg Jets draft pick has been very consistent throughout the season, but it takes a combination of factors to have the kind of month he just did.
In talking to Lowry yesterday it is also a matter of him physically getting up to speed after 6 lost months due to wrist surgery in December of 2011 and getting used to a new position. Lowry is now settled in at centre and perhaps better for it because he can get so actively involved in all elements of what is happening on the ice. He feels like it has contributed to his physical game and I know Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb has suggested to me that Lowry’s continually improving skating can only have benefited from how much of it he does in his new position. It’s hard to imagine him as anything but a centre now given how effective he has become in that spot.
He kills penalties, helps lead the most dangerous shorthanded attack in the league when combined with Chance Lund, matches up with the other team’s best players and leads the attack every night while wearing the C. He has even double shifted in a few games to help guys like Denis Bosc and Justin Spagrud to their most impressive performances as Broncos. You really couldn’t ask for anything more from a guy than what he delivered in December.
The two biggest questions coming out of the month are a) Is this a new level of play for Adam? As in, will he be able to maintain this kind of performance or close to it? and b) Could Lowry be moved before the trade deadline on January 10th?
For the first question it’s clearly impossible to say yet. I don’t think you can expect anyone to play the way he did throughout December all the time. However, I do think he’s better than “just” the point per game player he was throughout much of last year and the very beginning of this season. I think you can now point to him as the best power forward in the league and among a handful of he best players in the WHL. Team Canada really missed out and you would have to think the lack of an invite to their training camp did fire Lowry up a bit throughout December.
Will he be traded? I wouldn’t count on it. Playoff teams don’t make a habit out of trading their best players. The Broncos are very confident they are a playoff team this year and believe they are capable of beating anyone in the league when they play their game. Who would want to face them in the playoffs? They’re big, strong, physical, very good defensively, have excellent (possibly game stealing) goaltending and one of the best players in the league. Is it so inconceivable they could knock off a couple of big dogs come playoff time?
The Broncos may even be looking to add. They’ve talked about trying to bolster the goal scoring for a group that has often been one goal away in very close games. If they picked up the right piece it could be a big game changer.
On the other hand (as has been discussed extensively in the comments section bellow) the Broncos aren’t right now among the elite of the WHL record-wise. Some will say if you aren’t ready to load up and make a run for a championship this year, it could be a mistake to hang on to an asset as valuable as Lowry without bolstering your lineup for years to go with the right deal. You can say that about other valuable veteran pieces on this roster as well.
My view? I’m glad I don’t have the final call. I believe this team is better than their record and would give any team they faced in the playoffs absolute hell. I also understand the argument some have made that this team appears to be building to a peak of 2-3 seasons down the road and it would be a missed opportunity to not add to that cluster with whatever return you could get for an elite player who likely only has a few months left at this level.
I will note that this isn’t the same situation as the Eakin trade. Two years ago the Broncos had much less depth on the roster and even less in the system. The Eakin trade allowed them to stockpile assets at a time when they desperately needed to and also dropped them far enough in the standings that they could draft a franchise talent like Brycen Martin. However, the system is a lot stronger now and the needs aren’t the same. That kind of youth/depth for star package wouldn’t make as much sense now as it did two years ago. Are there offers that might perk the interest of Broncos management? Possibly. I don’t think any player is truly impossible to trade for. It’s just unlikely that we would see teams part with the kinds of pieces that would really get Swift Current to listen.
We should never forget the value of the playoffs as a learning tool either. When Edmonton first made the playoffs in the midst of their rebuild they just snuck in and got valuable experience for a lot of guys on that roster who would go on to win the league championship a year later. Prince Albert just snuck into the playoffs two years ago and after a year of flux in between they appear poised to go on a long run with a lot of the guys who got a taste of “the dance” during that brief run. It’s not automatically a waste to finish 5-8 even if you don’t win a round… and there is no reason to say the Broncos couldn’t win a couple of rounds either.
All these words to say basically that I don’t know what will happen and I don’t know what should happen. Hockey genius eh? There is no doubt Mark Lamb’s phone will ring with calls about Lowry. What contender wouldn’t have interest? He would significantly improve any of them. In the end I don’t think teams will be willing to make the type of “offer you can’t refuse” in order to get him to consider it. That’s just my hunch.
The good news for both sides is either decision is a win/win. I’ve already been over why either decision could work for the Broncos. For Lowry if he sticks around he gets the experience of leading a team on a playoff chase and hopefully into their first playoff action in three years with real dark horse possibilities. If he ‘s traded he would get a chance to help bolster a top end contender. Both are very valuable learning experiences as he heads towards a likely NHL career.
If he does stick around Bronco fans should count themselves lucky they get to watch one of the best players in the CHL for at least a few more months. It will be Winnipeg’s turn soon enough.