With one of the Western Hockey League’s youngest, most promising defensive corps at his disposal next season, Dan Lambert didn’t spend a lot of time weighing his options.
The 42-year-old Lambert will return as an assistant coach with the Kelowna Rockets in 2012-13 after signing a new two-year contract.
“You look at the kids that are coming back, specifically on the back end, and I think this team has a real bright future,” said Lambert, who first joined the Rockets coaching staff at the beginning of the 2009-10 season. “There’s some talent and quite a bit of potential there, so I think it’ll be a lot of fun to work with these guys, and see how they progress over the next couple of years.”
A skilled defenceman throughout his junior and pro careers, Lambert has been largely responsible for the growth and development of the Rockets blue line corps over the last three seasons.
With the likes of up-and-comers Damon Severson, Madison Bowey, Jesse Lees and Cole Martin continuing to develop, and Mitchell Chapman, MacKenzie Johnston and Myles Bell providing experience, Lambert is optimistic the Rockets are on solid footing defensively for the foreseeable future.
Rockets president and GM Bruce Hamilton said Lambert’s work with the team’s defense and his compatibility with the rest of the coaching staff made it an easy decision to re-sign the St. Boniface, Man. native.
“Everyone of those players made headway last season and a lot of that sits with Dan and the work he did with them,” said Hamilton. “They all got progressively better, especially after Christmas.
“I like our group as coaches, too, Dan fits in well, they push each other to get better. I have no doubt other opportunities for him will come along in the future.”
While Lambert’s long-term ambitions include being a head coach at the major junior level and possibly higher, his current job in Kelowna is close to the ideal situation for both him and his family.
“When I consider everything that’s involved, it was the right move to stay here,” said Lambert, who has three kids, aged 17, 15 and 10. “My family enjoys it here. My kids have been moved around a lot over the years, so it’s nice for them to stay put for a while.
“There’s no doubt I want to be a head coach someday,” he added, “but to be in Kelowna as an assistant is a real nice alternative.”
And with just three seasons of full-time coaching under his belt, Lambert admits there’s still plenty to learn as a right-hand man.
“I enjoy it here and I do feel like I have a lot to offer,” Lambert continued. “With coaching, you need the right personality, and as an assistant I’d say I’m a bit like a liaison between the head coach and the players and, for now, I’m comfortable with that role. In this business, you never stop learning. There are a lot of upsides for me to be here.”
Lambert will rejoin head coach Ryan Huska, and assistants Ryan Cuthbert, Kim Dillabaugh and Kim Gellert for the 2012-13 season. All have two years remaining on their respective contracts.