Branham’s efforts keep Grizz moving forward
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The Utah Grizzlies are busily preparing for the 2015-16 ECHL season, and for head coach and general manager Tim Branham, that primarily means recruiting.
Utah advanced to the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs in May, losing to the Ontario Reign in five games after bouncing the Pacific Division champion Idaho Steelheads in the opening round.
“We definitely experienced a lot of positives,” said Branham, who just completed his second season in Utah. “The boys battled hard to get into the playoffs, and then to beat Idaho in the first round was really amazing.
“The series with Ontario, every game was close, but they’re a tough team, and when you don’t have your top line out there because of injuries, it’s tough.”
The Grizzlies made qualifying offers to eight players from the 2014-15 squad. The offers will remain open until Aug. 1, at which time they become null and void. Then, the club can sign the player to any salary or let them pursue other options.
Branham made offers to forwards Ryan Hayes, Brenden Walker, T.J. Syner, Barry Almeida, Alex Krushelnyski and H.T. Lenz, along with defensemen Marc Cantin and Mike Folkes.
Hayes and Folkes have signed with pro teams in England for next season, but Branham hopes the other six will choose to come back to Salt Lake City.
“Those are obviously eight players I’d love to have back,” said Branham. “Walker and Krushelnyski are pursuing (American Hockey League) opportunities, so good for them, and Cantin is looking at job opportunities outside of hockey.
“If any of these guys come back to this league, we’d love for them to play here. We want guys who want to win and who want to move up, and they’re all capable.”
– Matt Mackinder