So, with the season starting in a mere couple of days, time to start the official NLA 2009-10 thread!
To help those who couldn't follow the offseason, and hopefully start some debates, here are my takes on the summer moves:
Players in: D David Schneider, D Reto Kobach, F Kirby Law, F Roman Botta Players out: G Karol Krizan, D Nick Naumenko, F Gregory Sciaroni, F Claudio Micheli, F Noah Clarke Imports: D Zdenek Kutlak, D David Schneider, F Erik Westrum, F Kirby Law Other notable players: G Thomas Bäumle, D Reto Kobach, F Paulo Duca, F Julian Walker
Ambrì’s 2008-09 took a turn for the worst when they lost goalie Thomas Bäumle to a season ending injury, forcing them to sign Karol Krizan and to scratch one of their import. Even with Bäumle back, the future doesn’t look bright for Ambrì. They replaced defenseman Nick Naumenko with David Schneider, and the weak Noah Clarke with Kirby Law, hoping that Law can return to his goal scoring level of 2007-08 with Geneva after a disappointing season in Fribourg, while Reto Kobach, after poor stints in Bern and Langnau, returns to the club where he played his best hockey. On the other hand, loosing youngster Gregory Sciaroni was a bad hit.
What to expect: As usual, they will rely heavily on their import players, hoping that Westrum and Law can dominate the league and Schneider and Kutlak can anchor the defense. If that happens, Paulo Duca keeps his great form from last season and Bäumle’s injury remains a bad memory, they may sneak into the playoffs, but that’s a lot of if’s.
Players in: D Martin Stettler, D Dominic Meier, F Lubos Bartecko, F Jean-Pierre Vigier, F Caryl Neuenschwander Players out: F Sébastien Bordeleau, F Ramzi Abid, F Patrick Bärtschi, F Martin Gelinas Imports: D Travis Roche, F Simon Gamache, F Lubos Bartecko, F Jean-Pierre Vigier Other notable players: G Marco Bührer, D Philippe Furrer, D Roman Josi, F Martin Plüss, F Christian Dubé, F Ivo Rüthemann, F Thomas Ziegler, F Marc Reichert
After winning the regular season twice in a row, only to be eliminated both times by the 8th seed in the first round of the playoffs, Bern fired coach John Van Boxmeer and replaced him with Larry Huras, who has been able to achieve great results everywhere he’s been in the Swiss league so far. They got rid of unperforming imports Sébastien Bordeleau and Ramzi Abid, and replaced them with Lubos Bartecko and Jean-Pierre Vigier, and added some defensive depth with Dominic Meier and Martin Stettler, while they lost national team forward Patrick Bärtschi to ZSC, a move they can afford considering their impressive depth on offense.
What to expect: While everything looks in place in Bern and a top three finish is expected, SCB’s season will realy start in march with the first round of the playoffs. After many great regular seasons but no championship to show for it, they won’t settle for anything less than postseason success.
Players in: G Reto Berra, D Richard Jackman, D Philippe Seydoux, F Sébastien Bordeleau, F Curtis Brown, F Kevin Gloor Players out: D Jörg Reber, D Sean Hill, F Eric Himelfarb, F Jiri Bicek, F David Ling Imports: D Richard Jackman, F Rico Fata, F Sébastien Bordeleau, F Curtis Brown Other notable players: G Reto Berra, D Martin Steinegger, F Thomas Nüssli, F Emanuel Peter
After a first season back in the top league spent fighting relegation, Biel made some interesting player moves. They went for known value for their imports, signing Sébastien Bordeleau from Bern and Curtis Brown from Kloten, both safe but unspectacular bets, and added defenseman Philippe Seydoux and goalie prospect Reto Berra, who got some playoffs experience last season with Davos, but prefered to go for a safe number one spot in Biel rather than share the starts with Leonardo Genoni.
What to expect: While the team certainly looks better than last year, when they needed to win the last game of the season to avoid relegation, reaching the playoffs would be an upset. Still, Biel has improved and they should give teams like Ambrì or Langnau a good fight to avoid the last place.
Players in: D René Back, D Tim Ramholt, F Daniel Widing, F Mathias Joggi, F Gregory Sciaroni Players out: G Reto Berra, D Florian Blatter, D Lukas Gerber, F Robin Leblanc, F Michel Riesen, F Andres Ambühl, F Petr Sykorea Imports: F Alexander Daigle, F Jozef Marha, F Petr Taticek, F Daniel Widing Other notable players: G Leonardo Genoni, D Beat Forster, D Tim Ramholt, D Jan Von Arx, F Reto Von Arx, F Peter Guggisberg, F Sandro Rizzi, Dario Bürgler
The offseason was unusually busy for Davos. Perennial first liner Michel Riesen left for Rapperswil after 8 seasons, while national team regular Andres Ambühl signed with the New York Rangers organisation. They also lost defensemen Florian Blatter and Lukas Gerber, power play specialist Robin Leblanc and Czech forward Petr Sykora. Being forced to sign more players than what he’s used to, coach/GM Arno Del Curto went after depth defenseman René Back, lured Tim Ramholt back from North America, and replaced the lost offense with elite goal scorer Daniel Widing from Brynäs, while staying true to his strategy of signing talented young players he can then train to fit into his system, namely Mathias Joggi and Gregory Sciaroni.
What to expect: Despite all the important players going away, betting against Davos wouldn’t be a smart move. They made some solid signing and Del Curto knows what he’s doing. He can still count on his long time centers Reto Von Arx, Jozef Marha and Sandro Rizzi to anchor his lines, and the team has impressive depth on both offense and defense. Davos defending the championship definitely isn’t a stretch.
HC Fribourg Gottéron
Players in: D Lukas Gerber, D Gaetan Voisard, F Serge Aubin, F Robin Leblanc, F Corsin Casutt, F Vitaly Lakhmatov Players out: D Alain Reist, D Philippe Seydoux, D Wesley Snell, F Caryl Neuenschwander, F Gilles Montandon, F Kirby Law, F Marc Chouinard, F Laurent Meunier, F Sandro Abplanalp, Geoffrey Vauclair Imports: G Sébastien Cardon, D Shawn Heins, F Serge Aubin, F Mark Mowers Other notable players: D Michael Ngoy, D Alain Birbaum, F Julien Sprunger, F Andrei Bykov, F Sandy Jeannin
After years of futility, Fribourg has been able to sneak into the playoffs two seasons in row, and both time knocked out a top seed. More success is now expected from the excited fans, and rightly so. Serviceable but unspectacular imports Kirby Law, Marc Chouinard and Laurent Meunier left the team, along with some depth players, the only notable losses being Caryl Neuenschwander and Philippe Seydoux. On their way to Fribourg are MVP caliber center Serge Aubin, forward Robin Leblanc, who after having to settle for a power play specialist role in Davos now hopes to find a regular spot on an offensive line, plus some players to make up for the lost depth, namely Corsin Casutt and Vitaly Lakhmatov on offense, and Gaetan Voisard and Lukas Gerber on defense.
What to expect: The new players, especially Aubin, added to the team’s core, goalie Sébastien Caron, defenseman Shawn Heins, forward Sandy Jeannin and forward Julien Sprunger (who will however miss the first part of the season after an injury he got during the world championships), allows Fribourg fans to be rather optimistic heading into the season. If everything goes as expected, they shouldn’t have to worry about qualifying on the last days of the regular season, but they need to be stay concentrated because the other playoffs contenders certainly don’t look much weaker.
Players in: F Grant Stevenson Players out: F Roman Schlagenhauf , F Curtis Brown Imports: D Radek Hamr, F Kimmo Rintanen, F Tommi Santala, F Grant Stevenson Other notable players: G Ronnie Rüeger, D Félicien Du Bois, D Patrick Von Gunten, D Benjamin Winkler, F Marcel Jenni, F Sven Lindemann, F Roman Wick
After coming one goal away of winning its first championship since 1995, Kloten decided to bet a stability, with Grant Stevenson replacing Curtis Brown being the only notable roster move, which may look like a lateral move. Still, the Jenni-Liniger-Wick line showed great thinks last season, and Rintanen and Santala will produce, whoever is put on their wing, and the defense looks as solid as ever while goalie Ronnie Rüeger is now considered a proven playoff performer.
What to expect: With the team finnishing third last year and going all the way to the final, there’s no reason to expect anything worse this season, especially with all their young players having one extra year of experience.
Players in: D Jörg Reber, D Nick Naumenko, F Aurelio Lemm, F Brendan Brooks Players out: D Janne Niinimaa, D Martin Stettler, D Reto Kobach, F Mathias Joggi, F Daniel Steiner, F Jeff Toms, F Steve Kariya Imports: D Curtis Murphy, D Nick Naumenko, F Oliver Setzinger, F Brendan Brooks Other notable players: D Simon Lüthi, F Fabian Sutter
Things don’t look bright in Langnau. The team is in deep financial trouble and had to cut player salaries, thus leading to the departure of long time team leader Jeff Toms. Top scorer Steve Kariya left, as well as local boy Daniel Steiner who’s trying to get a contract with the Columbus organisation, and Mathias Joggi. Defense is also an issue with Martin Stettler and Reto Kobach leaving. No notable players where added, Jörg Reber and Aurelio merely providing some depth while Nick Naumenko had fallen out of favor at Ambrì and Brendan Brooks arrives from Norway with the hard task to replace Jeff Toms. Add suspect goaltending to the mix and the situation couldn’t be worse.
What to expect: Ever since they came back to the top league in 1998, Langnau has yet to qualify for the playoffs and it’s hard to imagine the streak will end this year. Langnau will be happy if they can stay in the NLA and improve their financial situation.
Players in: D Johan Åkerman, F Jeff Hamilton, F Roman Schlagenhauf Players out: D Krister Cantoni, F Thierry Paterlini, F Patrick Thoresen Imports: D Petteri Nummelin, D Johan Åkerman, F Jeff Hamilton, F Randy Robitaille Other notable players: G David Aebischer, D Julien Vauclair, D Steve Hirschi, F Hnat Domenichelli, F Romano Lemm, F Brady Murray, F Raffaele Sannitz, F Kevin Romy
Despite having made few roster moves, Lugano’s offseason was quite eventful. Top scorer Patrick Thoresen left for Russia and was replaced by Jeff Hamilton, and national team regular Thierry Paterlini went to Rapperswil. Still, the team look stronger than last season as their best moves don’t appear in the list of new players. Hnat Domenichelli got a Swiss passport and thus doesn’t count as an import player anymore, allowing the signing of Johan Åkerman. Steve Hirschi’s injury nightmare seems to be finally over after three wasted seasons, Brady Murray will be there from the start, as well as Romano Lemm, who was injured during the first half of last season. On top of that, coach Kent Johansson is back with the team he led to three championships as a player in the 80’s after a lot of success behind the bench in Sweden.
What to expect: With the addition of Åkerman and the return of Hirschi, the defence won’t be a two man show of Petteri Nummelin and Julien Vauclair anymore, and with Domenichelli and Murray not counting as imports, the offensive depth is impressive. On the downside, David Aebischer has been inconsistent for years now and doesn’t look like a goalie able to carry a team throughout the playoffs. Lugano should finish in the top four, and then go as far as Aebischer can carry them.
Players in: G Daniel Manzato, D Thomas Pöck, D Florian Blatter, F Michel Riesen, F Thierry Paterlini Players out: D Patrick Fischer, D Gaetan Voisard, D Sanny Lindström, D Marc Schefer, F Markus Bütler, F Stefan Hürlimann Imports: D Thomas Pöck, F Christian Berglund, F Niklas Nordgren, F Stacey Roest Other notable players: G Daniel Manzato, D Cyril Geyer, D Florian Blatter, F Loic Burkhalter, F Thierry Paterlini, F Michel Riesen
Big investments were made in Rapperswil during the offseason. What was gained in talent clearly overshadows what was lost in depth, with defensemen Sanny Lindström and Patrick Fischer being the most notable players leaving and being adequately replaced by Thomas Pöck and Florian Blatter. While veteran Thierry Paterlini will provide experience and toughness, the biggest additions obviously are sniper Michel Riesen and goalie Daniel Manzato.
What to expect: With Manzato providing a big upgrade in goal and Stacey Roest still being a dominant forward, if Riesen proves he can score without Reto Von Arx, there is no reason for Rapperswil not to bounce back from a disappointing 2008-09 season where they missed the playoffs. Still, depth should be an issue and the playoff spot won’t be clinched until the very last days of the season.
Players in: G Tobias Stephan, F Jeff Toms, F Stefan Hürlimann, F Kris Beech Players out: D Olivier Keller, F Igor Fedulov, F Serge Aubin, F Byron Ritchie, F Jean-Pierre Vigier Imports: F Juraj Kolnik, F Tony Salmelainen, F Jeff Toms, F Kris Beech Other notable players: G Tobias Stefan, D Goran Bezina, D John Gobbi, F Thomas Déruns
While Servette could retain league top scorer Juraj Kolnik, they lost three key players, including an MVP caliber one, in Serge Aubin, Byron Ritchie and Jean-Pierre Vigier. They were fortunate to sign Jeff Toms, who was supposed to stay in Langnau but was released after refusing to take a pay cut, and signed Kris Beech on a two months contract while coach/GM Chris McSorley hopes to take advantage of his contacts in North America to sign a player cut from an NHL training camp. But the pessimistic atmosphere turned into an optimistic one when goaltender Tobias Stephan was unexpectedly signed from the Dallas Star organisation.
What to expect: Becausee Ritchie and Vigier haven’t been replaced yet, Servette’s season could be heavily influenced by McSorley’s choice for his fourth import. However, Stefan is a gigantic upgrade in goal, Toms is a solid alternative to Serge Aubin, Kolnik will once again rank high in scoring, and McSorley knows how to make the most out of his team. They should make the playoff, but an overall lack of talent will prevent them to take a shot at the top five.
Players in: D Alain Reist, F Patrick Bärtschi Players out: D Severin Blindenbacher, F Kevin Gloor, F Aurelio Lemm Imports: G Ari Sulander, D Radoslav Suchy, F Jean-Guy Trudel, F Domenico Pittis, F Peter Sejna Other notable players: G Lukas Flüeler, D Mathias Seger, F Jan Alston, F Patrick Bärtschi, F Ryan Gardner, F Thibaut Monnet, F Adrian Wichser
Saying that ZSC’s 2008-09 season was made of highs and lows is an understatement. They won the inaugural Champions’ Hockey League with some impressive display of team play and finished second of the regular season, only to be swept in the first round by seventh seed Fribourg. However, this season there will be no CHL to cause distraction and cost energy, so ZSC can fully concentrate on league play. Defenseman Severin Blindenbacher signing with Färjestad was a huge loss, while Patrick Bärtschi will give them some impressive depth on offense. They are the only team that decided to start the season with one extra impot, and judging by last year, all five will take their turn as healthy scratch, including Ari Sulander as Lukas Flüeler has proved he can be an adequate NLA goaltender. However, because of the loss of Blindenbacher, Radoslav Suchy might not be included in the rotation.
What to expect: ZSC will shot for the top again, but after Beat Forster left in the middle of last season, losing Blindenbacher without signing any high caliber defenseman severly weakens their defense. They still will easily reach the playoffs, but after that, 40 years old Sulander will have to steal them some wins. Not that he’s not capable of doing it.
Players in: G Jussi Markkanen, D Micki Du Pont, D Wesley Snell, D Marc Schefer, D Patrick Fischer, F Thomas Rüfenacht Players out: G Lars Weibel, D René Back, D Dominic Meier, D Patrick Sutter, D Jay Harrison, F Patrick Fischer, F Brad Isbister, F Corsin Casutt Imports: G Jussi Markkanen, D Micki Du Pont, F Josh Holden, F Dale McTavish Other notable players: D Rafael Diaz, F Corsin Camichel, F Duri Camichel, F Paul DiPietro
Last season, Zug made the playoffs by finishing two points ahead of Langnau, who choked big time late in the season. This year, they elected to go for an import player in goal, with Jussi Markkanen replacing Lars Weibel. While the upgrade at the most important position is obvious, Dale McTavish and Paul DiPietro aren’t getting any younger, and the offense was weakened by the surprise retirement of local boy and former NHLer Patrick Fischer. Add a lot of player movements on defense that could make an issue of team chemistry early in the season, and Zug could be facing a really tough task.
What to expect: Zug will have to fight for a playoff spot until the very end, and to achieve this goal they will need their leaders to be up to the task. While Markkanen could be the difference maker in this quest, Zug’s main competitor for the last spots, namely Rapperswil, Fribourg and Genève-Servette, all have strong goaltending as well.
after 17 games, we have :
the leader zoug 17games at 35points and bienne ranking 8th with 16 games at 27 points. For comparability you can remove 2 points to zoug and bern that have 1 more game. so you would have zoug with 33points and bienne 27.
6 points difference for the 8 first teams.
in other words bienne (8th) has only 18% less points than the first.
Then among the 4 followers we have two special cases namely Lugano and Fribourg who are their because of .... we do not know what (if you have an idea call the leaders, they'll be happy i am exagerately funy ... Fribourg has almost more injured players than active players from the basis roster) but they clearly have the potential to be in the first 8. (Lugano 100%, Fribourg .... a bit lesss i guess)
I am impressed how narrow this championship is.
any thoughts on that ?
I take it as a clear sign of improvement for the hockey level ... while obviously some teams have mind blowing rosters compared to others ... results are what they are and do not respect what the rosters comparatives would suggest.
The points distribution ... 3 2 1 and 0 favours this ... ONLY when teams do not win in regular time. it means that in fact it would have a widening effect if more teams would win in regular time. So this point distribution does have an impact on the dispersion of the teams. But the nature of this impact is only to stress the tendency of the championship. in other words an equilibrated championship would have closer teams (in terms of points) while a desequilibrated championship would on the contrary have a more widely distributed ranking.
If this synopsis is too complicated or clumsily expressed ... the morality is that the points per game are not the reason for this concentrated rankings on the standings.