Newly announced head coach Dan Lambert sat down with Chiefs’ Director of Public Relations Brian Cobb last week for a quick interview to discuss his coaching style, influences and more. Listen via the SoundCloud player below (click here if the embedded player does not appear), or read the transcription at the bottom of the page. Welcome to Spokane, Dan and Go Chiefs Go!
Q: How would you describe your coaching style? What part of coaching do you think is most important?
DL: Well I think at this age, there’s no doubt that communication and developing their individual skills does become very important. Passing, receiving, skating, angling, stick angles. Those are all things that become very important as far as skill development. As far as my coaching and systems, I love to play with the puck. Life is a lot easier when we have it and if we don’t have it, to try to get it back as fast as we can. That’s taking away time and space, making players comfortable in having good gaps in the D-zone.
Q: You had a long, successful playing career both as a junior and professionally here (in North America) and overseas. How do you relate that to your coaching? Is there anything specific you bring from that side of your experience?
DL: I think, first of all, as a player I always tried to look at things through the coach’s eyes so when I think about coaching, I always try to think “What are they thinking?” I think it’s important to have that good sense of caring about their feelings. Everywhere I’ve played and everywhere I’ve coached, I think I’ve picked something up and it’s all been very valuable information.
Q: After leaving Kelowna and spending a couple years in the professional ranks as a coach, is there anything that maybe you didn’t know in Kelowna that you’ve picked up now and will now bring back to Spokane?
DL: Certainly, I believe that I’m a way better coach today than I was in Kelowna. Fortunately for us in Kelowna, we had a very good group of players and a good group of people. When you look at Spokane and where they’re at in their cycle, I think they’re there as well in terms of having a lot of good young players and players with good character that want to grow.
Q: Do you think you’ll have to change any of your coaching techniques from last year to this year? What is the biggest change coming to juniors and working with a younger group?
DL: You know, it’s kind of funny because the American (Hockey League) has really become a young league as well. For a lot of players it was their first year out of junior, plus we had Alex Nylander who was an 18-year-old, so we really had a young group. I think in junior you have more of them, but at the end of the day, we had a young group there as well so I don’t know how much changing. Maybe more tweaking than anything else.
Q: Back to when you were in Kelowna and you had that real long, dominant playoff run (in 2015). You lost three games through the WHL Playoffs. Was that a testament to just skill on that team, just all things clicking, or what do you attribute that run to?
DL: I think a big part of it was just the group continuing to learn about each other, continuing to grow together. We traded for (Josh) Morrissey and (Leon) Draisaitl that year and as soon as we got them, we struggled, to be honest with you. Everybody thought, oh my gosh just give them the cup, but it was an adjustment for everyone and I think learning to adapt and how those types of changes can affect the room and can affect individuals and really trying to walk players through that. I think that was maybe the biggest growth I had as a coach and the players also learned to buy in to what needed to happen.
Q: What do you remember about Spokane from being on the other side of the bench?
DL: I remember often we would come in here and if we got two goals, we better not give up three or we had to not give up much because if we got two, that’s all we were going to get. They were very low-scoring. They were tight-checking. They were a hard team to play against. That’s what I remember. Whenever you came in here, if you took two points, you felt pretty fortunate.
Q: Anything you remember about the town or the building?
DL: I love the building. I love just the feel of the atmosphere around the rink as well. The fans were into it, the fans were excited. You could tell there was a lot of pride there with their Chiefs.
Q: Who are your role models as a coach? Any coaches you try to mimic or kind of do your own thing?
DL: There’s no doubt that I’ve had a lot of coaches that I’ve had as a player and then there’s coaches as a coach that I talk to quite frequently. Ryan Huska is a guy that was my first coach that I worked with and to this day is a mentor. Dan Bylsma is a guy that I frequently talk to. I communicate with other NHL coaches – Barry Trotts, Ken Hitchcock – you know, it’s all kind of a frat. I think there’s a lot of coaches that have shared their number and said “if ever you need anything”. I think as a coach, you continue to learn every single day.
Q: Finally, what made this the right job for you? What was the thing that made you think “okay, this I what I want to do?”
DL: The day I saw this job become available, I told my wife “oh, what a great gig that would be for someone” and why that is, I think, is just the history of the Chiefs and the great city, the great ownership and, obviously the great fans. So right away that popped into my head, now I certainly didn’t realize that maybe that somebody was going to be me at that time. Dan (Bylsma) was still the head coach of Buffalo and I was still the head coach of Rochester and I didn’t see that changing. But, it did and I was very fortunate that Scott Carter and Bobby (Brett) were patient and allowed us to go through this process.
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