Wednesday, 15 January 2014 15:18

To succeed this season Broncos need to run wild right now

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard’s Eye View
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Mark Lamb has said time and time again that he will not gamble the Swift Current Broncos’ future to build a winner.


Well, get ready because the future is now and it may not be as bright as you’d hoped.
Over the past 375 days, the Broncos head coach and general manager has traded away the team’s second, third and fourth-round picks in this summer’s bantam draft, along with a sixth-rounder in 2015.
If goaltending prospect Alec Dillon and malcontent forward Wyatt Sloboshan don’t report/make their new teams in Edmonton and Saskatoon, the Broncos will surrender their third and fourth-round picks in 2015 as well.
However, make no mistake, the early returns have been impressive.
As this season goes, Nathan Burns is an upgrade over Connor Sanvido in the top six. Geordie Maguire should be an upgrade over Denis Bosc in the bottom six. Jay Merkley has added secondary scoring that Josh Derko couldn’t provide. Stephen Shmoorkoff has helped stabilize the Broncos’ third defensive pairing. Andrew Johnson has been valuable in a checking role.
So in one respect it’s hard to blame Lamb for rolling the dice as he has.
The Broncos have been the East Division’s best for around two months now and that’s got people justifiably excited because it signifies improvement over last season, which in turn was an improvement over the year before.
On paper, this might be the best Broncos team in over a decade.
Lamb’s contract also expires after next season, at which time he’ll be 50 years old. The window for him to return to the NHL won’t stay open forever and a successful playoff run this year or next would surely punch his ticket back to The Show if he so desired.
(Heck, Dean Chynoweth only had to win one playoff series in five years with the Broncos to earn his way there.)
In reality, the Broncos are the “belle of the ball” in the worst division in Canadian major junior hockey.
Sixteen of the Broncos’ 23 wins have come against teams that had losing records as of the Jan. 10 trade deadline.
Against top-four teams in either conference, Swift Current’s record is a dismal 2-10 and there’s no reason to believe that will change any time soon.
Sure the Broncos are a better team this year for their moves ahead of the trade deadline. So is almost everyone else.
Calgary acquired three dangerous forwards in Connor Rankin, Adam Tambellini and Mike Winther. Edmonton and Victoria bolstered their defence corps by acquiring Blake Orban and Travis Brown, respectively.
Portland and Kelowna picked up game-breakers in Matt Dumba and Marek Tvrdon.
Swift Current will have to get past at least two of those teams, if not three, in order to lay claim to the WHL championship.
And oddly enough, it probably represents the Broncos’ best shot for the next five years.
Unless that level of talent is already in the system, they are running out of chips to even make a run at those types of players down the road.
Unlikely as it is, next year’s Broncos could also be without Coda Gordon, Colby Cave and Dillon Heatherington, in addition to graduates Burns, Graham Black and Eetu Laurikainen. Glenn Gawdin and Jake DeBrusk seem now like elite prospects, but there is no guarantee on their development.
And depth isn’t likely to be a strong point for at least a year or two after that based on what the team can be expected to draft this summer and next.
(In addition to the draft picks surrendered, it’s very likely that of the five players acquired over the past year, only Merkley and Maguire will still be Broncos by even this time next year.)
It may very well be now or never for the Broncos.
And if it’s going to be now, Magic Mark is going to have to pull one final rabbit out of his hat.

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