Friday, 22 March 2019

The New "Lord Byron"?

You may recall that Byron Dafoe, former NHL goalie, had the nickname "Lord Byron". There haven't been a lot of Byron's to roll through the NHL, but perhaps we may see another at some point soon. It was announced today that the AHL's Manitoba Moose signed graduating Manitoba Bisons goaltender Byron Spriggs to an amateur tryout contract after Eric Comrie was recalled to the Winnipeg Jets and Mikhail Berdin was dealing with a day-to-day issue. Spriggs, seen to the left in an emergency goaltending situation with the Texas Stars this season, no longer has to worry about being an emergency goalie for the time being as the netminder will back up Ken Appleby tonight on the road against the Colorado Eagles!

Some may wonder why the Moose would sign a guy who is 5-16-0 in Canada West this season with a 3.68 GAA and an .897 save percentage. I get that stats are the first place that people go to check, but there's something the stats won't show for Spriggs: consistency. This year's edition of the Bisons men's hockey team was rather mediocre in their play. Just three times in 28 games did they score four goals-or-more, and two of those were wins. 19 times did the Bisons surrender four goals-or-more, and Spriggs' GAA was less than four. The math says that he was likely better than what his stats showed this season, and when looking deeper we see that Spriggs allowed four goals-or-more 11 times in his 21 appearances.

What Spriggs will bring to the Moose over the length of this amateur tryout contract is what he brought to the Bisons everyday: a positive outlook, a never-say-die attitude in the crease, and unwavering support of his teammates. Spriggs is the kind of guy who can take a 12-game losing streak - something the Bisons experienced this season - and make you forget about it by focusing on the things the team is doing right. Yes, it doesn't erase the losses in 12-straight games, but Spriggs won't point fingers. Instead, he looks for what someone can build on. That's invaluable.

His never-say-die attitude in the crease is something a lot of people may overlook about Spriggs. Technically, he's as sound as any other goaltender in Canada West, but it's his flexibility and athleticism that allows him to make saves that leave jaws on the floor. I could tell you about these traits he possesses, but here's some proof.

Spriggs made saves like this all year in an effort to keep the Bisons in games this season. He certainly has enough mojo to be able to be effective at the AHL level if he sees time with the Moose, but I'm guessing the team won't give him a lot of time simply due to having an AHL-experienced netminder in Appleby ready to go.

This is where the addition of Spriggs may be questioned as the Moose likely could have found an NCAA goalie or a goalie from U SPORTS who had better stats, but they know what they're getting in Spriggs. He's worked in emergency roles for the Charlotte Checkers and Moose in previous seasons, and now has a Texas Stars jersey to call his own from this season. Spriggs is certainly capable as a netminder as the Moose keep him in their back pocket as an emergency goalie, and now they're going to get him immersed into the AHL as Spriggs' U SPORTS eligibility has run out.

Spriggs will get a chance to be in and around the Moose for the next few days on the road trip until Mikhail Berdin is ready to go once more. Spriggs will gain an immense amount of knowledge and information from Appleby and Berdin with the team as well as seeing the preparation that goes into being ready for each and every AHL game. Those lessons can only be gained from being with an AHL team, and this audition for the Moose could be his pipeline into professional hockey.

He may not be the new Lord Byron just yet, but Byron Spriggs will certainly do all he can to help the Moose gain a playoff spot as they sit just four points back of the Rockford IceHogs for fourth-place in the Central Division.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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