EIHL: Roster Updates, Comings and Goings (and Coming Again)
The hockey world is never static, be it injuries, trades or the odd firing of an under-performing head coach. The biggest casualty of the new EIHL season is Coventry Blaze parting company with head coach Marc LeFebvre.
With the acquisitions the Blaze had made in the off-season, many – including myself – had expected good things and a team that could have had a good shot at the league. Instead the Blaze haven’t lived up to their potential, and certainly haven’t been lighting too many fires with their performances. Marc LeFebvre had been an assistant coach with the Sheffield Steelers at the start of the 2013 season, but shortly before the shake-up of the Steelers personnel, LeFebvre took on the head coach role at Coventry.
Taking over from LeFebvre in the interim is Alternate Steven Goertzen, assisted by defenseman Mike Egener, who is currently on IR. Goertzen previously stood in as interim coach for the Sheffield Steelers last season so is no stranger to the role. There’s no doubt that the Blaze are on the look-out for a more permanent replacement.
Coventry let Swedish forward Niklas Ottosson walk at the end of a short term contract. Mike Devin has also departed, but incoming have been Czech forward Jakub Sindel and defenseman, and ex Fife Flyers Captain, Justin DaCosta.
Around the league
The Giants have been delivered a huge blow by the injury to starting netminder Stephen Murphy. Murphy is one of the top goalies and him being out will likely cost the team some points in what is still a tight league – at present only five points separates the top five teams. Incoming netminder Carsen Chubak will play alongside regular back-up Andrew Dickson.
In addition to the injury to Murphy, the Giants are also without Mike Kompon and Mark McCutcheon.
The big catch for the Giants has been the signing of NHL-er Kevin Westgarth. Westgarth was a 2011 Stanley Cup winner with the LA Kings, and a former Carolina Hurricane and Calgary Flame, prior to landing in Belfast. Westgarth has three points in four games, and brings with him a lot of skill and physicality. He may need some time to adjust to the ice and the style of play.
Cardiff had for a moment also brought Paul Bissonnette back to the EIHL, however just a day after announcing the signing, Biz was staying in the US to sign on with Portland Pirates. The Devils did extend player-coach Andrew Lord’s contract a further two years though, and based on their performances this season that’s looking to be a good move.
The Devils had been missing defenseman Carl Hudson after a hand injury kept him sidelined, but he has just taken back to the ice.
Many people will have heard about 21 year old GB player Paul Swindlehurst’s trip to the NHL with a tryout at the Chicago Blackhawk’s rookie tournament. Obviously an opportunity to suit up in a ‘Hawks jersey was not to be missed. Sadly, the long-term chances with the Blackhawks or AHL affiliate Rockford Icehogs didn’t materialise, but Swindlehurst is now back with the Stars after a brief stint in the ECHL.
Outgoing players are defenseman Joonas Liimatainen and forward Rob Ricci. Incoming has been defensemen Ryan Grimshaw from the ECHL, and back with the team from a stint in the ECHL is defenseman James Isaacs.
The Capitals are down defenseman James Wallace at present, but have brought in relief with American Loren Barron from the ECHL. Barron is only a season into his professional career but the 25 year old should bring some freshness.
Richard Hartmann, Sean Beattie and Joe Grimaldi have been out with concussions but all look to be returning soon.
Stingrays have had their fair share of injuries already this season, being short-benched on a few occasions. Notable injuries have been to player-coach Omar Pacha, who suffered a broken arm in a home loss to the Capitals in September which was aggravated at the beginning of this month. Also to Zach Hervato who has had absences due to a wrist injury.
Forward Matt Larke requested a release from his contract to return to the States. He was replaced by 25 year old Will Frederick, who at 6’3″ brings some size and physicality to the team. Also departing was defenseman CJ Chartrain who had a few issues settling in the UK and is now playing for ECHL side Gwinnett Gladiators.
It’s a case of will he stay or will he go with Swedish netminder Mattias Modig. The goalie was signed to a short-term deal to cover for Craig “Killer” Kowalski after being plagued with injury. The 2007 Anaheim Ducks draft pick departed after Kowalski returned to practice, but was back just a week later with Kowalski’s latest injury scare. In his first tenure, Modig was named player of the week, and it’s expected we’ll see more performances that led to that award.
The big departure for the Steelers is forward Pascal Morency, who after a further concussion which resulted in skull fracture has seen Morency return home to recover. It looks like this will result in his retirement from hockey. A replacement has been sourced in Danny Bois who is coming in from European competition. Unfortunately, after one game for the Steelers Bois is out due to concussion.
Forward Robert Dowd is back after a wrist injury, but out is Jason Hewitt with an MCL strain.
The big coup for the Steelers came with the signing of GB defenseman Ben O’Connor. O’Connor was initially signed on a short-term contract to cover the injuries to Morency and Dowd and was expected to return to Kazakhstan or onwards to Russia. In a bit of a coup, the Steelers managed to sign O’Connor to a three-year deal.
Braehead Clan, Cardiff Devils and Fife Flyers are all without any known roster changes or long term injury.