Black and Laurikainen Say Goodbye

The Broncos salute the crowd (Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

The Broncos salute the crowd (Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

Interview with Graham Black (Download)

Interview with Eetu Laurikainen (Download)

Terry Pavely and Shawn Mullin discuss the graduating players (Download)

It’s always tough to see guys move on at the end of a junior hockey season. Whether it’s for fans who have loved watching those guys play, community members who have dealt with them on a personal basis, media members like me who travel with them and deal with them on a daily basis, billets who live with them and become family… and especially teammates and coaches who really are a family by the time a season is done.

I really believed this season’s team had a chance to make a good run in the playoffs. A win over Medicine Hat would have given them a chance to host a series with Kootenay. As good as the Ice have been playing that’s no slam dunk, but it’s not a chance a 5th seeded team gets very often. On top of that they were playing the best defensive hockey they had all season and Eetu Laurikainen had never been better than he was in the series with the Tigers.

Unfortunately the Tigers didn’t give an inch either. They played a fantastic series and their veteran defensive group was as hard to break as any I’ve seen in a playoff series in recent years. That poise is hard to teach.

There was lots of good news. The community really came together for the Broncos in a way I’ve never seen, the team played a very gritty series and battled until the end and they gained very valuable experience. The entire defensive group is eligible to return next season and a great percentage of the forwards could be depending on the pro status of guys like Colby Cave and Coda Gordon. This could be the kind of series and experience that group needs to prepare them to really make a run next season?

Unfortunately they have to do it without three of the most important and talented pieces of this season’s team. We say goodbye to speedy forward Graham Black, athletic goalie Eetu Laurikainen and all-around veteran Nathan Burns. Replacing two #1 centres and an elite starting goaltending won’t be easy on or off the ice. That’s as good a crop of overage forwards as I’ve ever seen. They are also all great young men who I personally will miss dealing with. I believe they’ll be successful in whatever they do and hope they will get the opportunities they deserve in the professional ranks if that’s what they decide to pursue.

More thoughts on the end of the season to come…

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About shawnmullin

Play by Play Broadcaster for the WHL's Swift Current Broncos on 94.1 FM The Eagle.
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12 Responses to Black and Laurikainen Say Goodbye

  1. Ken Audette says:

    I’m going to be a little critical. The Broncos have won ONE playoff series since 2004-2005, that’s 10 years. Can that be considered successful? Personaly I don’t think so. When is “just being there” gonna become unacceptable? I am a frustrated fan, but not making the playoffs and first round exits are not a success in my opinion, and that’s all we’ve seen for 10 straight years. My two cents, thanks.

  2. Trucker says:

    Well Ken…not that I know much, but when Lamb got here, I was excited!..and then we faltered big time, and I became a skeptic of him!
    But in my opinion, he has turned this club around and because if the cyclical nature of junior hockey, next year should be the year has been building for. I know “next year” is a bad cliche but I firmly believe that!
    I think we somewhat overachieved this year under Lamb at the helm.
    Broncos should be a BEAST next season and if we don’t happen to go very deep next year I may tend to agree with you.
    Patience for next year is what we have all been waiting for!

  3. james says:

    I would have to lean towards Ken’s point of view. The trading of Cody Eakin was supposed to signal in a new era where this organization was no longer going to be satisfied just scraping into the playoffs only to be fodder for teams with real Memorial Cup aspirations. Since then, however, I’d suggest Lamb’s tenure as General Manager has been marked by timidity and a lack of focus on that mission statement.

    Two years ago at the trade deadline this organization – which at the time had a borderline playoff team – chose not to deal Lowry or Scarlett even though they faced the grim task of facing either a very strong Calgary squad or a juggernaut in Edmonton. The results were predictable. This year at the trade deadline they were again a rather middling playoff contender, albeit in a much better position than last year. And yet again, nothing of significance was done. Now perhaps this was due to a lack of assets (a spotty draft record and the failure to accrue assets for Lowry/Scarlett not helping in this area). Regardless, in the most wide open Eastern Conference in a number of years this organization chose to yet again sit on its hands. The results were again predictable, this time falling to a much weaker Medicine Hat squad.

    I will agree with Trucker that the ingredients (particularly on the backend) are there to suggest a strong season is possible next year. Lamb the Coach has instilled a strong identity and culture with his players over the years and I have no doubt he will get the best out of them. The real question is whether Lamb the General Manager has the acumen and the courage to make this team a true contender. Or will we see more “playing it safe”, the maxim that has shaped the mediocrity that this organzition has been for the last 10 plus years?

    • Trucker says:

      I believe we didn’t trade Lowry and Scarlett because of the Eakin trade. Had we traded away the leagues MVP and our best defensman at that time, what was that goin to say to the team?
      When Cody Eakin was traded, you could see the “deflation” on the ice. The lacklustre play we had to endure was pathetic at best for the remainder of that year…watching the same 2 lines come out, time after time. And the rebuild began.
      I believe that in order for the players to find confidence in their coach, Lamb had to keep Lowry and Scarlett. To have traded them away after the same group watched Eakin get traded, could have deflated that team.
      So now here we are….a defensive core that should all be returning next year, and could quite likely be the best in the entire WHL. A good taste of playoff hockey this year, will prove valuable next year. It’s all cyclical. I think the timing will be right this coming year for those Bold moves you mention, as I feel next year IS the year.
      I didnt agree with the bored handing Lamb a new contract. But I have been pleasantly surprised by the lamb era as it continues. He has a career of proven winning, and I don’t believe a person ever looses that drive to keep winning. I am putting my hope into next year, and reading between the lines, I would suggest that Lamb Is planning for big things as well next year.

      • shawnmullin says:

        I also think it’s worth noting Lamb may have considered trading Lowry or Scarlett if he could get the kind of price he got for Eakin. Those deals weren’t out there. I don’t think you could have received full value for those players and instead they were a huge part of setting the table for the culture this team has built. From talking to him at the time he made it clear there was never even close to value for either of those players to make him re-think keeping them.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Here is my take on the current & the future of the Broncos. The series against the Hat we just didn’t have the speed upfront to match them..There were times in that series where they were all over us with there skill & speed down low. Coda Gordon looked like he was always a step behind the play & yes he was drafted, but in todays game you better be able to skate & it was very clear that he will be back as a 20 year old next yr. Our other 20 will be taken up by Cave & to upgrade our 20 year old position we have to go out & get a 20 yr old forward. To be able to compete with the Hat, Koot, Edm, Brandon next yr we need some major upgrades or its another exit in the playoffs & we aren’t fooling anyone here. Without a doubt Mark will be drafting a Euro forward & lets hope he hits the jackpot with that pick. Our D will be without question the best D in the league, so it doesn’t take a lot of thinking where we need upgrades. Bottom line is I feel we are 3 forwards away from going deep into the playoffs. I have been around the game way to long to see you don’t win with pretty boys on your team. Guys like Merkley & Gordon might be good hockey players, but you don’t win hockey games with guys that are not willing to pay the price or give 100%. Mark you have been around the game long enough to know these two were useless in the playoffs & have zero grit. You played with heart & know what it takes to play this game..its time to move some of these so called pretty boys. Why does MH win every year.. because they bring there lunch pails to work.

    • shawnmullin says:

      I don’t mind talking about the team’s future in a critical way, but let’s not go after the individual players too hard. Merkley and Gordon aren’t physical power forwards. They are guys who think the game exceedingly well, pass well and shoot very well. They both had chances. Merkley could have had 3 or 4 goals if pucks bounced right.

      I know fans want everyone to be Jonathan Toews or Milan Lucic out there, but not every player is Mr. Everything or they’d be in the NHL at 18.

      You need a mix of different elements to win and teams do need smart players who are great passers and shooters to win too. Both did a very good job killing penalties also.

      The bottom line of the Medicine Hat series was it was exceptionally close but their best players (Bredo, Valk, Cox, Lewington) were generally better than Swift’s best. That’s what wins you 2-1 games when the goaltending is as even as if was… That little extra from your best guys. I think the result of that will mean that Swift’s best guys (several of whom could come back) will have learned a lot about what it takes to take that next step from playing a team with a tradition of doing it. The character of these guys makes me believe they will be ready.

      I also agree the upgrades will come up front. Another European home run would go a long way. So will the development of Gawdin and DeBrusk. I’m interested to see what they will get out of Steenbergen and Cole Johnson. 16-year-olds can’t be counted on too much, but both guys are proven winners and producers at a young age.

      I believe Bow can be the man in goal too… his early season stint and general improvement from his rookie year make me think he will thrive when given the ball. I guess we will find out in five months.

      There is work to do and yet a lot of reason to be excited.

      • Anonymous says:

        With Honka likely a first round pick, the Broncos would get to use two import picks. I’d like them to continue the Finnish foray and take their guy first. Then a flyer pick on a top rated guy like Kapanen

  5. Trucker says:

    Just a question for ya shawn…With Gordon signing with the heat now, what does that mean for his future here? Is it just to play with them till their season is done, or is it long term…meaning next year as well?

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