A very warm welcome to the first “Saturday Morning Question Time”. A new feature from the ‘Stuck In a Box’ Blog.
This monthly article (to begin with at least) will see people from all levels within the Elite League, answer some pertinent, topical and hopefully interesting hockey based questions.
This months panel answering the questions, consists of…
Seth Bennett, is an award-winning freelance journalist and broadcaster. After working for Radio Sheffield for 12 years, Seth turned ‘freelance’ in 2011. Seth has commentated on a rich, variety of sports, and notably also worked at the London Olympic games for the BBC, and has appeared regularly on BBC 5 Live and the World Service. Seth is an avid sports fan, and as well as hockey, regularly enjoys, Football, Cricket, Rugby and Speedway.
David Simms will not need much of an introduction to many of you. From Team Manager of the Solihull Barons, in the late 80s and very early 90s, Dave accepted the challenge to help set up the Sheffield Steelers in 1991, and has rarely looked back. Often a controversial figure, Dave is a speak it as you find it kind of guy, but whose knowledge of British Ice Hockey is second to none.
Neil Russell is the General Manager of the newly reformed Manchester Storm. Before landing the job with ‘The Storm’ Neil was the voice of the Belfast Giants for three seasons, commentating on the excellent “Giants Live TV” as well as also hosting and co-presenting Premier Sports excellent Hockey coverage for 3 years. Neil is a keen, and very gifted cricketer, and led the Northern Irish side Instonians to the league title last season.
Marc LeFebvre is the head coach of the Dundee Stars. As a player LeFebvre, played in North American, UK (Sheffield, Coventry and Edinburgh), France and Holland, playing well in excess of 500 professional games.In 2011 Marc took his first GM/Head Coaches position with the 1000 Island Privateers before moving on to the Dayton Demons where he won the League Coach of the Year award. In 2013 LeFebvre moved back to the UK, accepting an assistant coach’s job with the Sheffield Steelers this soon led to him accepting the Head Coach position in Coventry in 2014, which didn’t work out as well as he hoped. Marc accepted a short-term assistant coaching position in Eastern Europe (MOL Liga) before heading back to the Elite League and the Dundee Stars
Craig Summerton may be better known to some of you by his Twitter handle @block15blaze. Craig is the author of the very popular blog nothingbutgoodthings (nothingbutgoodthings.wordpress.com). A very respected authority and voice on British Ice Hockey, Craig is an avid Coventry Blaze fan since the clubs inception in 2000, and now travels regularly from London to watch the Blaze.
Stuck In the Box: Ok guys, thanks for joining me, I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedules to help put this together. So lets kick things off, we are coming towards the end of October, players and clubs are starting to find their feet, how do you think your club has done so far?
David Simms (DS) All good in Sheffield, and exciting times. Every player has done enough to warrant his position on the team and we aren’t disappointed with anyone. Sure some results not gone our way but still very early days. Injuries now have made a dent but we will get through. So early season report is promising and expecting good things to follow.
Craig Summerton (CS) Not so good in Coventry. 3 wins from 11 games says it all. Nowhere near where we need or expected to be. Struggled to score. Not sure we have adequately replaced the ‘core’ guys that brought us success last season.
Marc LeFebvre (ML) A real positive start for my boys in Dundee. We are competing in every game and showing great character. We need now to get a run of wins together to make a dent at the top
Neil Russell (NR) Given the immediacy that our team was put together, and the fact that Pach is the only import that’s been in this league previously, I think we’ve done well. It takes time guys to bed into a new club, a new league etc. It’s been a frustrating start at times, as we’ve been excellent in nearly all bar one game so far this season. 3rd periods have been our downfall to date, but that’ll be addressed by Pach and the team. I think we’ve surprised teams already with our skill and speed.
Seth Bennett (SB) Steelers have played very well so far and have looked like they will challenge on all fronts this season. They look very strong defensively and have scoring threats on all three lines.
Stuck In the Box: Have you been ‘surprised’ by any clubs performance so far, either good or bad?
CS Coventry, given the supposed talent that the club has offensively and past scoring records it’s been a huge shock quite how much they have struggled offensively.
DS Yes, agreed Craig. Coventry. I thought they would be better, I think we all did. They will be better as well, they have good players there, but their start has surprised everyone.
ML I don’t think there’s been too many surprises so far. It’s good to see the lower budget clubs competing with and beating the big arena clubs.
SB Edinburgh without doubt, Riley Emmerson has recruited really well and that has reaped rewards and already they have won games few gave them a chance in
NR Yeah, Seth’s right. Edinburgh . They have an exciting team, they have a group of forwards who nip at your heels the whole time. Caps beating the Steelers, in Sheffield & minus 4 imports, has made everyone sit up & take notice. They’ve some toughness & size in there too, which is definitely breaking the mould from previous Caps team that we’ve seen, certainly in the recent past.
Stuck In the Box: You have all seen plenty of hockey already this season, is there a player from another side that has impressed you?
SB Ryan Hayes, leads the league in scoring he is a genuine superstar and could be the next 40 goal scorer in the EIHL.
NR I could watch Tyler Mosienko play hockey all day long. Fantastic player.
ML I like Jeff Lee on Fife. Plays hard. Goes to the dirty areas
DS Joey Martin in Cardiff for me.
CS I will pick a Steeler like Neil, I like Levi Nelson, he skates well, never stops working, brings energy, hits, makes plays, scores. Just dynamic.
Stuck in the Box: OK, and on the flip side, is there a player, who you thought might have done a bit more, or maybe performed a bit better?
DS Every important forward in Coventry
ML Just purely going on numbers, Drew Fisher in Coventry
SB Chris Holt in Braehead has not been as good as I anticipated, his stats are strong but some of the goals he has let in have been surprising
NR I’ll leave Simmsey to all that!!! One player though that I think will break out, given time, is Carl Lauzon in Coventry. Fast, skilful, and a superb one timer of a shot.
CS I am with Seth on this. Chris Holt (Braehead Clan) When Clan signed “the KHL All-Star” we were told that he would be all things to all people, the best netminder ever to grace the EIHL etc etc. Well, so far all we’ve seen is an ‘ok’ goalie, repeatedly tweeting that he needs to be better. For sure he does. Much better in fact. Finnerty’s job is probably riding on it.
Stuck in the Box: Moving away from the Elite League slightly. What did you make of the Steelers and Clans performance in the CHL?
SB I thought both teams gave a great account of themselves, I saw the Steelers games and they could have won 2 of their four games with a bit of luck. We are a long way behind Sweden and Finland, but the gap to the DEL is much smaller than it was 10 years ago.
ML I thought they represented the league well both on and off the ice. Positive step forward in gaining respect for our league
NR I fully agree with Marc, I thought both teams acquitted themselves superbly. Yes, a couple of the games showed a difference in class, but overall, both sides represented the EIHL with aplomb. Clan’s victory over Ingolstadt was great to see.
CS Steelers preparation was good. Thompson had them well set up. Aside from 20 minutes in Frolunda they matched far superior opposition. Created good scoring opportunities. If they had been a week or two more along they might have taken a victory.
Braehead not so well set up to compete with the Swedes but played well in Germany, indiscipline costly. Win over DEL team somewhat hollow given they pulled netminder but credit where it’s due. DEL pays well but standard proven to be far from great
DS Yep, I thought it was outstanding, we (Sheffield) played 11 great periods and got took apart in one by one of the best teams in Europe. Loved every minute and want more of the same next year please.
Stuck in the Box: Staying in Europe, do we expect Coventry to qualify out of the Inter Continental Cup Group:
DS Yes, let them walk home if they don’t. They should sail through the QF stages.
ML On paper yes but the way they’ve started the season it would not be a shock if they didn’t.
NR In a word, YES. I think Coach Weber will soon get his team firing offensively on a consistent basis, and when you’ve a goalie in the shape of Brian Stewart, you’ve always got a chance to win. He may not have started this season off as well as he ended last year, but he is a top drawer nettie.
CS Anything less would be a big disappointment. It will come down to a winner takes all vs. Tychy. Blaze are favourites.
SB It all depends on Brian Stewart, if he is on then Coventry have every chance.
Stuck in the Box: Something that may be a bit controversial; how do you think the DOPS system has worked so far this season?
CS Good communication. Reviews relatively quick and explanations precise. Need to maintain consistency.
ML Inconsistent as usual for me I am afraid
NR Overall, I think it has worked well. I think the media work produced by Seth Bennett is excellent, the decisions are broken down & explained fully to the fan watching, and that’s important. Is it a perfect system? Nope, not yet. Is it an improvement on what went before? ABSOLUTELY.
SB Yes – I think there has been a slight shift in emphasis under new boss Simon Kirkham, to try and keep the players on the ice.
DS Its OK, its transparent, its clear and it works. Everyone will moan about some decisions because we are all one eye’d as far as our teams go. As Marc points out there will be inconsistent decisions, in fact there already has been, but that will happen. Until there is a better system in place its what we have.
Stuck in the Box: Ok, its time to finish up, just tell me before you all head off, who is going to win the Elite League this season?
CS Its Sheffield for me
ML Yeah, Sheffield by far the best team we have played yet.
NR Realistically, given budget & depth of squad, any team from Cardiff, Belfast, Braehead, Sheffield & Nottingham can win this league, in my opinion. <Stuck in the Box> Come on Neil! Ok, I’ll leap off the fence then my head say’s Sheffield. My heart says Belfast, “so it does”! Watch out for my Manchester Storm though upsetting a few teams along the way, we might not win the Monteith Bowl, but I have a feeling come the end of March, we may have influenced where it ends up.
SB Braehead – I still believe they have the best chance of winning the league title, they are strong and despite not playing as consistently as Ryan Finnerty would like they have some very good players and I think they will come through, but I also expect he will make a couple of changes in the next 6 weeks.
So thats it, the end of the first Saturday Morning Question Time. Thanks for taking the time to read.
Huge thanks to Craig, Marc, Dave, Neil and Seth for helping put this together. If you would like to be considered in future monthly editions just let me know, or if you ever want to put a question in for consideration, just DM @DRPLogistics or email at email@example.com. Obviously I cant guarantee I can do either, but I will always try.
Hope you enjoyed this, and good look to your teams, whoever your playing this weekend.