The Elite League Ice Hockey Team 2013

September 10, 2013 10:38 pm

Rapid_DisciplinaryWith many teams now well underway with their pre-season matches, I take a look at this years Elite League Ice Hockey teams and give you my Blog From Block 15’s predictions for the upcoming season!

 GARDINER CONFERENCE

 

Braehead Clan

 

Coach: Ryan Finnerty

 

Last Season: Last season was a difficult one for the Clan with coach Drew Bannister accepting a job in Canada just 2 weeks after agreeing to stay on for the  2012/13 season. Then in January, they suffered another blow when Krestanovich decided to leave shortly replaced by Paul Gardner. Although they narrowly won the Gardiner conference, they failed to make any real impression in league finishing only 8th after being tipped as outsiders to win. They fared better in the Challenge Cup, beating Coventry in the Quarter Finals before losing to Sheffield in the Semi Finals. However their play-off ambitions were dented at the Quarter Final Stage by Cardiff after losing heavily in Cardiff.

 

Blog From Block 15’s player to watch: Ed McGrane – This veteran forwards career is far from shabby. He has averaged a point a game in the regular season every year since 2005 including 5 years in the CHL with the Colorado Eagles and last year with Grenoble in France. I can see him doing a job for the Clan very similar to that of Ling at the Panthers last season and it makes him an exciting proposition.

 

2013/14 Comments: Many people had tipped the Clan for an outside shot at the league title last season on the basis that they would take points off their conference rivals easily, a prediction that never came to fruition. However it seems like Finnerty has learned something from his spell in Sheffield and has signed a roster that can play as opposed to being the proverbial ‘Goon Squad.’ The additions of Kevin Bergin, Julien Corriveau and Ray Macais will please fans whilst they have a top quality forward in Ash Goldie who is capable of repeating his 34 goals from last season. New nettie Kyle Jones feels like an upgrade on Daren Machesney who I felt had some issues with his temperament last season.

 

2013/14 Blog From Block 15’s Predictions: Braehead under Finnerty will be a stronger outfit and it is hard to look past them for the Gardiner conference title. They will also be challengers for the league and I expect a decent showing in the cup competitions although the increase in quality in the Erhardt conference will make any challenges for silverware that little bit more tricky.

 

Gardiner Conference: Winners.

League Position: 3rd.

Challenge Cup: Semi-Finals

Play-Offs: Semi-Finals

 

Dundee Stars

 

Coach: Jeff Hutchins

 

Last Season: Dundee remained competitive within their conference and were close to taking the honours before a late rally by Braehead pipped them at the post. However they only managed a ninth place finish in the league showing that they hadn’t really moved forward when taking points from teams in the Erhardt conference. Their Challenge Cup dreams ended in the Quarter-Finals after a huge defeat to Sheffield and they failed to qualify for the Play-Offs.

 

Blog From Block 15’s player to watch: Rory Rawlyk – This tall Canadian D Man has predominantly plied his trade in the ECHL but has been in Europe for the last 4 seasons. He scored 14 goals in Germany’s 2nd division in the 2010/11 season which means the Stars will be able to count on him for a few this season. With roughly 1,000 PIM’s to his name throughout his career he will also be able to provide his team mates some protection in what has certainly become a tougher league.

 

2013/14 Comments: It’s difficult to comment on exactly how Dundee will fare this season as they have a number of import slots left and they will be looking for some extra quality to join the team. Francis Meilleur’s recent decision to join a club in France as opposed to the Stars will have also been a big blow. Alot will also be resting on Canadian Netminder Dan Bakala who had a difficult time in the 12 games he played in the CHL last season with a 4.04 GAA.

 

2013/14 Blog From Block 15’s Predictions:

 

Gardiner Conference: 3rd

League Position: 8th

Challenge Cup: Quarter-Finals

Play-Offs: Quarter-Finals

 

Edinburgh Capitals

 

Coach: Richard Hartmann

 

Last Season: The Caps finished bottom of the conference however they were only 5 points back from Braehead due to some good results against Erhardt conference teams. They also managed a 6th place finish in the league. However they were eliminated in the group stages of the Challenge Cup and were defeated by Belfast in the Quarter-Finals of the play-offs.

 

Blog From Block 15’s player to watch: Martin Cingel – The Caps captain netted 15 goals and contributed with 31 assists in the league last season and alot of pressure will be on his shoulders to carry the team in the new season. However with 29 goals in the 2008/09 season he has shown he can find the net at this level.

 

2013/14 Comments: Losing Rene Jarolin, albeit for family reasons, will hit the Caps hard as they need to replace the 30+ goals a season he provided to them over the last 2 years. At the moment they only have 2 defencemen in their roster and unless they can sign some real quality in the latter stages of the off season it could be a long season for them. The Capitals website has them at the top of the league and realistically this will be the only time you will see this happen!

 

2013/14 Blog From Block 15’s Predictions:

 

Gardiner Conference: 5th

League Position: 9th

Challenge Cup: Out at group stages

Play-Offs: Fail to qualify

 

 

Fife Flyers

 

Coach: Todd Dutiaume

 

Last Season: The Flyers were embroiled in a tussle for the conference title until the final weekend of the season where they missed out by 1 point. They also finished a respectable 7th in the league and lost to the Panthers in the Quarter-Finals of the Challenge Cup and Play-Offs. On a personal note the Flyers earned alot of respect last season for some of their performances and after beating the Panthers 4-2 in the first leg of the play-offs, their will have been one or two fans worried an upset was on the cards.

 

Blog From Block 15’s player to watch: Andy Contois – The left winger has been playing in Denmark over the last 2 seasons scoring 28 goals in the regular season. Prior to that he has played in Germany and also had a brief spell in the CHL with the Mudbugs scoring 5 goals in 15 games. He has averaged almost a point per game if not a point per game since 2007 and Fife will be looking for a similar output.

 

2013/14 Comments: Fife have retained a fair few of last seasons roster and this isn’t a bad thing. However they have yet to sign a netminder and this will be crucial to their success. My only other concern is that Contois aside, their other import forwards don’t look as if they will bring them 30 goals a season and in order to compete with a stronger Clan side they are going to need to address this.

 

2013/14 Blog From Block 15’s Predictions:

 

Gardiner Conference: 2nd

League Position: 7th

Challenge Cup: Quarter-Finals

Play-Offs: Quarter-Finals

 

 

Hull Stingrays

 

Coach: Sylvain Cloutier

 

Last Season: Whilst it is pleasing that Hull remain in existence after their financial issues back in 2010, I don’t really see that they have made any real progress on the ice. They finished 4th in the conference but 10th in the league and as such failed to make the play-offs. Despite managing to get out of the group stages in the Challenge Cup, they lost to Belfast in the Quarter-Finals.

 

Blog From Block 15’s player to watch: Guillaume Doucet – This right winger joins the Stingrays after 2 years playing in France for Morzine-Avoriaz. He has scored 21 goals in the last 2 league campaigns over 52 games whilst also chalking up 19 assists.

 

2013/14 Comments: I can’t say that Hull have recruited this badly this off season, yet I can’t get too excited either. The signings of Huttel, Suderman and Muncy aren’t bad but then I fail to see why they have wasted an import slot on Derek Campbell. Alot will also rest on the shoulders of young nettie Ben Bowns who has shown potential by being picked to play for GB. Don’t get me wrong, I like Hull, it is a great away game but part of me wonders whether this is a situation similar to that in Coventry and a change of coach is needed to freshen things up and offer new ideas.

 

2013/14 Blog From Block 15’s Predictions:

 

Gardiner Conference: 4th

League Position: 10th

Challenge Cup: Out at group stages

Play-Offs: Fail to qualify

 

ERHARDT CONFERENCE

 

Belfast Giants

 

Coach: Paul Adey

 

Last Season: Despite turmoil surrounding the ownership of the club, under Doug Christiansen the Giants were competitive on all fronts last year. They won the Erhardt conference, narrowly lost out on the league title and reached the Semi-Finals of the Challenge Cup and the final of the Play-Offs where they were beat by the Panthers on both occasions.

 

Blog From Block 15’s player to watch: Calvin Elfring – This veteran Canadian D Man has a wealth of experience on his CVL including over 300 games in the DEL and over 150 games in the ECHL which will add strength to what was the 2nd meanest defence last season. He is capable of achieving over 30 points this season and with only a few fights to his name over his career he doesn’t look a liability. In my opinion the Giants have got a quality player with a great pedigree who was reportedly a target for a number of Elite League teams.

 

2013/14 Comments: Despite Adey being a more than capable replacement for DC, the players Belfast have signed this season in comparison with the other conference teams gives the impression that they have had a budget cut. I expect, as with any Giants side, that they will be competitive throughout the season however alot will be riding on the returning Adam Keefe and Kevin Saurette. Keefe is a player I love to hate, which means he does his job well for the Giants however the other conference teams have recruited some big guys and Keefe will have his work cut out this season. Ultimately unless their final signings are proven snipers, the Giants biggest downfall will be a lack of goals.

 

2013/14 Blog From Block 15’s Predictions:

 

Erhardt Conference: 4th

League Position: 5th

Challenge Cup: Quarter-Finals

Play-Offs:  Quarter-Finals

 

1295634136059Cardiff Devils

 

Coach: Gerad Adams

 

Last Season: Last year was difficult for the Devils as they underperformed throughout. They failed to make the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup, were 5th in the league, 35 points behind the Panthers. After beating Braehead to make the Play-Off finals weekend again, they were beat in the Semi-Finals.

 

Blog From Block 15’s player to watch: Matty Myers – Nothing new in this selection however as the song goes ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’ and this signing was huge for Cardiff. As a Panthers fan I loved the intensity with which Matty played as well as the fact he wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work every shift. This sort of positive energy will a boost to the rest of the Devils squad and that is only a good thing!

 

2013/14 Comments: As the rest of the league seems to have improved on the quality of their signings, the Devils have certainly not been left behind. Recovering from the loss of Doyle in net they have signed LaCosta who looks like he can do a good job at this level. Upfront they have retained the services of 35 goal Mac Faulkner, with Birbraer and Blight good for another 40 goals between them. When I look at the Devils squad, it looks like one that has got the right balance and I think the Devils will be competitive on all fronts this season. I don’t think they’ll win the league, although they’ll be in the hunt for the majority of the season, I fancy Cardiff to win the Play-Offs this year and should they do so, it is no more than their fans deserve.

 

2013/14 Blog From Block 15’s Predictions:

 

Erhardt Conference: 3rd

League Position: 4th

Challenge Cup: Quarter-Finals

Play-Offs: Winners

 

Coventry Blaze

 

Coach: Matt Soderstrom

 

Last Season: Last season was difficult for the Blaze as they under performed following recent financial troubles. A 4th place finish in the league doesn’t look terrible but the fact they were 31 points behind the champions tells another story. A narrow Quarter-Final exit in the Challenge Cup at the hands of the Clan will have been disappointing however they managed to make the Semi-Finals off the Play-Offs before being beat heavily by Belfast in what was Paul Thompson’s last game in charge.

 

Blog From Block 15’s player to watch: Michael Henrich – Michael joins his brother Adam at the Blaze for a pairing that would comfortably get into any other team in the league. 3 seasons in Italy with Asiago yielded 73 regular season goals and as such he should be scoring plenty of goals in the Elite League.

 

2013/14 Comments: There is no doubting that the Blaze have signed some talented players. A forward line including the Henrich brothers and McMillin will give opposition defences plenty to think about this year. Zacharias is a definite improvement in net on Peter Hirsch who I felt was a liability at times last season. Egener and Olson in defence will ensure that the Blaze aren’t bullied during games. However despite the signings on ice, the biggest question mark for the Blaze this season will be how new head coach Matt Soderstrom fares. Many would agree that under the stewardship of Thompson the Blaze were become a little stale so this is fantastic opportunity for the Blaze to move in a new direction, hopefully a silverware winning direction. Although I have predicted the Blaze to finish bottom of the conference, it isn’t as bad as it sounds. All the Erhardt teams will take points off each other this season and I can realistically see only 10-15 points between the conference champions and the team who finishes bottom. I think all the Erhardt teams have the potential to win the league and the Blaze fans should be entering the season with a renewed sense of confidence, however I think this will be a season too early for Soderstrom and they will fall just short.

 

2013/14 Blog From Block 15’s Predictions:

 

Erhardt Conference: 5th

League Position: 6th

Challenge Cup: Finalists

Play-Offs: Quarter-Finals

 

Nottingham Panthers

 

Coach: Corey Neilson

 

Last Season: I am not going to spend time debating whether the Panthers won the ‘grand slam’ or not but last year was a historic one as far as the team went. A long awaited league title was added to the Challenge Cup and Play-Off trophies that were already residing in our trophy cabinet.

 

Blog From Block 15’s player to watch: Leigh Salters – This left winger is the one player I am the most looking forward to seeing in action. I think he has the potential to do the job left by Matty Myers and get dirty along the boards and in the opposition’s end. In addition to that he has shown an ability to score goals at ECHL level with the Florida Everblades and if that scoring ability continues then he could contribute some good numbers.

 

2013/14 Comments: It will be interesting to see whether now that Corey has broken his duck so to speak he is able to coach the Panthers to another league title. However given so few imports from last years squad have been retained, it’s going to be like starting from scratch for the Panthers. Last year Ling and Graham contributed over 70 goals between them and as of yet it’s hard to see who is going to replace them in terms of goals scored. Robert Farmer is training with the Panthers at the moment ahead of a move to Alaska and as much as I want to see him do well, part of me hopes that he ends up back with the Panthers at some point during the season in order to boost our fire power. Ultimately, unless a spare import is signed, with the potential distraction of a Continental Cup campaign, I feel that although we will be competitive, the league title will just be one step too far.

 

2013/14 Blog From Block 15’s Predictions:

 

Erhardt Conference: 2nd

League Position: 2nd

Challenge Cup: Winners

Play-Offs: Semi-Finals

 

Sheffield Steelers

 

Coach: Doug Christiansen

 

Last Season: Despite an appearance in the Challenge Cup final, the Steelers underachieved last season under Finnerty. They finished 12 points behind Panthers in the league and were knocked out of the Play-Offs at the Quarter-Final stage by the Blaze, the 2nd year in a row they had failed to make the finals weekend.

 

Blog From Block 15’s player to watch: Maxime Lacroix – The centre joins the Steelers from Odense in Denmark in a season where he scored a point a game during the regular season. In the 2008/09 season he managed 33 goals and 31 assists during the regular season with the South Carolina Stingrays in the ECHL. If Doug can get the best out of this guy I think he has the potential to be one of the best in the league, if not the best and that can only be a good thing for the Steelers.

 

2013/14 Comments: After being surprised by the signing of Tim Spencer, you have to give credit to Doug and the Steelers for some great signings. Defensively they have one of the best units in the league with the signings of Dustin Kohn and Gord Baldwin only serving to underline that. In Rob Dowd they have a player easily capable of scoring 30 goals this season. My only concern is the perceived lack of balance in their forward lines, but make no mistake about it, if Doug can get these players to gel, they could well be the team to beat this season.

 

2013/14 Blog From Block 15’s Predictions:

 

Erhardt Conference: 1st

League Position: 1st

Challenge Cup: Semi-Finals

Play-Offs: Finalists

 

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