WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR: Dundee’s case to remain relevant

dundee-stars
Let’s be honest.

Unless you’re a Dundee fan, the Stars are never really prominent on your EIHL radar. Aside from what was a shocking turn around in the 2013-2014 campaign (finishing 3rd in the league and were Gardiner Conference champions), the Stars can usually be found chipping away at the bottom of the field. Is that their fault? The majority of it is no, it’s not.

You can only do so much when you’re handed a budget that is probably half of what teams like Nottingham, Belfast, Sheffield and Coventry are dealt. You’re limited to a few imports and can’t ice an entire roster of Canadians and Europeans like certain clubs. Some fans might get frustrated year after year of this but in my opinion, this makes your club that much better to not only watch but to cheer for.

The players on the Stars realize the reputation they have and that’s going to make them work harder than ever to eventually erase that. They need to be seen and they need to be heard in the mainstream EIHL world.

(Left: MCClusky. Right: Swindlehurst.)
(Left: MCClusky. Right: Swindlehurst.)

One thing that Dundee does for not only their team, but for the good of UK hockey in general is their use of locally and nationally developed players. The budget constraints forces them to work with what they have in front of them. Case in point locally developed defenseman Sam McClusky and national team phenom Paul Swindlehurst have cracked their own dents into the EIHL foreground.

This upcoming season poses to look a bit different.

Throwing away the prominent player/coach role that has seemed to serve the Stars well in the past and going with one permanent man behind the bench seems to intertwine a new era of sorts. To me, that sounds like the club has a bit more money to dish out.

The appointing of Marc Lefebvre as coach seemed a fair bit scary to me. Hear me out! This story has a happy ending, I promise!

Lefebvre had a decent playing career, there’s no doubt about that. Prior to the EIHL, Lefebvre’s only coaching jobs however came in the form of the Federal Hockey League, a league I’m fairly acquainted with unfortunately (I got to lift the championship with the Akwesasne Warriors, but I digress.). The skill level of that league at that time well, was terrible. It was pretty much a free for all.  Locker rooms were very rarely kept and I heard a few behind the scenes rumors that would make your skin crawl.

I mean, when your whole play is “keep Pierre Dagenais cherry picking the blue line so we can get the puck to him better”, you’ve got problems. (That wasn’t Lefebvre’s team by the way.)

(Awwww. To be young again.)
(Awwww. To be young again.)

I wrote a piece last season praising Coventry for appointing Lefebvre as their head coach. Looking at his past with the FHL, I cringed but after spending a year assisting with the Sheffield Steelers, (which is whether you like it or not, a very successful hockey organization), I figured he may have learned a thing or two and this would turn out great.

Obviously it didn’t.

I won’t get into how much a travesty that season was for Coventry, but a lot of the blame was put on both Lefebvre and the players. As it usually does. I got to thinking and in my thoughts I came along the notion that Coventry was too big of a club for Lefebvre to man without any major head coaching experience.

Which is why he’s going to be a great fit and will do great things for Dundee.

F0alwEjPThe Dundee Stars are the perfect mix of low key media presence, reasonable expectations and players for Marc Lefebvre to commandeer. He can learn from the mistakes made in Coventry and grow on successes he built in Hungary from last season. Now that Dundee has a guy that can focus 100% of his time on coaching, you might just see a bit of difference in the Stars this season. Not saying that nobody exceled in the player/coach role but that can’t be easy, especially mentally.

Lefebvre has also taken on the role of the “UK Don Cherry” apparently, so I for one am excited to see what suits he’ll be decked out in. Ha.

So far so good for Dundee this offseason. Keep it up.

(And hurry up with your website! I still feel like I’m stuck in 1998. #geocities)

(Photo: Derek Black)
(Photo: Derek Black)

Coventry Blaze set fire to opening weekend

(photo: Scott Wiggins.)
(photo: Scott Wiggins http://www.scottwiggins.co.uk)

When Marc Lefebvre took over as bench boss towards the end of last season, he was inheriting a beaten and banged up squad. Some wondered if he’d be able to light the match to get the team to compete. As the season came to a close it started to become clearer that he was.

Coaching is 85% who you are able to recruit as players. At the beginning of the offseason questions were asked as to whether or not Lefebvre had the knowledge or willingness to ice a competitive team. Those questions were all put to rest over opening weekend.

The squad that Lefebvre has put together in such a short time is nothing less than brilliant. Yes, I know it it’s only been a couple of games but just take a look at the box score from the game at home against Fife. Same with the home games in the pre-season. The scoring depth on that chart is nothing short of remarkable. It’s not your usual suspects that are coming out of the woodwork. If this Coventry team can stay healthy, there’s no reason they can’t have a shot at being one of the top teams in the league.

New starting goaltender Brian Stewart is a huge welcome addition. Aggressively cutting down his angles with his hybrid style, he’s going to be a tough man to beat and is just what the team needs when coming down the stretch. A career East Coast leaguer with a couple of stints in the AHL, Stewart has always been above .900 save percentage. Decent head on his shoulders and you can’t be displeased with a shutout on your first EIHL game.

(Photo: Scott Wiggins www.scottwiggins.co.uk)
(Photo: Scott Wiggins http://www.scottwiggins.co.uk)

 

Blaze fans should be extremely excited for the rest of this campaign. Last season’s woes seem all but forgotten with this new blue squad. That’s the key though. Stay healthy.

The Coventry Blaze are back home again on September 13th as they welcome the Dundee Stars to the Skydome. The next night they head to down to Cardiff against the Devils for their first Challenge Cup appearance.

Coventry Blaze earn first win for new bench boss Marc Lefebvre

175px-CoventryBlazeWho the heck is this team?!

Some kind of Blaze was lit underneath Coventry last night down in Wales. Coventry came out the gates hard and thumped the Cardiff Devils 7-3 all underneath the watchful eyes of new head coach Marc Lefebvre.

Earlier in the week Lefebvre had issued the ultimatum that the players were in fact playing for their jobs. It was time to man up and be held accountable for their actions. To say they answered that call is a bit of an understatement. This was not the same team we saw earlier in the year under the guidance of Matt Soderstrom. Lefebvre juggled some lines and brought Michael Henrich from defence up onto a offensive line and it worked wonders as he netted two goals. It will be interesting to see if Henrich stays in that position.

The unstoppable and beauty to watch Ryan Ginand continued his league leading ways adding his own two goals to the bunch

Granted, I know it’s only been one game and it was an away game at that. Most teams don’t feel the brunt of the pressure that’s on them until they are in front of their own fans in their own barn. That test will come this Sunday as the Braehead Clan come to town.

Lefebvre with Dayton.
Lefebvre with Dayton.

Marc Lefebvre, a native of Kanata, Ontario, started his career off spending three season in the Ontario Hockey League before heading across the pond. His crack at coaching didn’t come until 2011 when he was hired as GM and head coach of the now defunct 1000 Island Privateers of the Federal Hockey League. The next year, he was hired on by the Dayton Demonz.

I’ve heard numerous stories about Lefebvre surrounding his time in the FHL and most aren’t very good and very encouraging. However with this first game and win under his belt, the jitters are gone. The team is has responded and understood the message that’s been clearly sent.

You want to keep playing for Coventry, you need to Bleed Blue.