Of the four seasons of hockey, preseason, regular season, post season and offseason, offseason is the one that all hockey fans dread in equal measure regardless of their teams success in the months previous. It always brings a lot of chance to the rosters we know and love. That is without question. This edition of Them Over There focusses on two of our [Coventry Blaze] competitive opponents in September, the Manchester Storm and Braehead Clan.
I don’t think I can write this without the obvious mention of the move of head coach Ryan Finnerty from the Clan to the Storm. In his years with the Clan Finnerty had brought the team to great success, winning the Erhardt conference for the last three years. His move to the Storm in the summer has people asking the question as to whether he can bring the same success for the Manchester side. He is an experienced player and coach, with many accolades under his belt and with the likes of Matt Beca and Jay Rosehill who have followed the Canadian coach from the Clan, it will be interesting to see if Finnerty can bring something out of the team in a very cmpetitive conference which consists of the Coventry Blaze and newcomers Guildford and Milton Keynes, both of whom will have something to prove in the top league.
Manchester has chosen to keep Mike Clemente in net. He’s a solid goalie and having spent a year with the league now knows exactly what to expect from his opponents. This I definitely think is an advantage for the American goalie and could give him the edge over some of the brand new import goalies coming into the league. This league is unlike many others in the world and experience has it’s advantages. Along with Clemente, Paul Swindlehurst, Dallas Erdhardt and Matt Bissonette are all that remains of Omar Pacha’s 16/17 side. How will these four gel with the new guys and can they form a side similar to the Braehead side that fans of Finnerty have come to expect? Only time will tell.
Braehead have acquired new coach John Tripp and with a few players still to be signed the roster is beginning to shape up. With the wait on visas for some of the import players, it’s taking shape slowly but surely and Tripp seems confident that he can build a fast but gritty team, with a great defensive unit. In his own words he believes that speed and offense will come when they look after their own end. Returning goalie Gary Russell and new acquisition Ryan Nie will be pleased to hear that I’m sure.
With a vastly different team from this past season fans will be waiting on baited breath for the completion of their 17/18 roster. I know from experience how antsy it can be when you can still see gaps, but from the brief interview the new coach seems just as confident as Finnerty used to be that they will have a team worth cheering on. With a solid British core in the form of Matt Haywood, Bari Mackenzie and Craig Peacock to lead the way and help gel the team together, all the signs are positive. Brendan Brooks also returns after a year with the Fife Flyers and at 38 years old and a GB international, he will also prove to be some much needed experience.
Tripp goes on to say he’s not worried at all about who is being signed elsewhere in the league ad his main focus is inward and onto the team he’s creating. This team includes ex-Blaze player Craig Cescon. The 30 year old Canadian D-man has made the move this season from Dundee. Having played a huge part in the Blaze success of the not so distant past, it’ll be interesting to see how he responds on the ice to players he used to skate with, in the arena he used to call home.
Tripp has done well with the signings he has made and considering it hasn’t been that long since he’s been in the country, we’ll see how his coaching skills are when we see the Clan take to the ice of the Skydome this September. With an all Scottish conference to contend with it’s too early to tell just how the Glasgow side will fare alongside the Capitals, Stars and Flyers.
Photo Credit: Hazel Rayson
This article was first published in the September 2017 edition of the Coventry Blaze’s match night program OnFire and has been reproduced here with permission from the editor Stu Coles now the program is out of print.