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Elite League Questions: Belfast Giants, Cardiff Devils, Coventry Blaze

British Ice Hockey has one burning question for each of the Elite League’s member clubs before pucks are whacked in the 2022-23 season, starting with the Belfast Giants, Coventry Blaze, and Cardiff Devils.

Adam Keefe, Belfast Giants (Image: Scott Wiggins)

With less than three weeks until the puck drops on a new Elite League season, excitement levels are on the climb.

It has been a busy summer, with teams across the competition redesigning their rosters in preparation for the upcoming campaign.

The Nottingham Panthers have built a new front office. In Coventry, the Blaze are preparing for a Luke Ferrara-less future. And what about Fife? Todd Dutiaume has improved his squad, vaulting the Flyers back into the playoff picture. Clearly, hockey fans are in for a fascinating year.

With that said, British Ice Hockey has one burning question for every Elite League club before the 2022-23 season, starting with the Belfast Giants, Cardiff Devils, and Coventry Blaze.

Belfast Giants: Has Adam Keefe Adequately Replaced J.J. Piccinich?

J.J. Piccinich played a crucial role in delivering a historic Elite League and Challenge Cup double to the SSE Arena last season, registering 80 points (35 goals, 45 assists) in 52 appearances for the Giants.

However, he opted against a return to Northern Ireland and will participate in the Norwegian Fjordkraft-Ligaen with Stjernen instead.

The 26-year-old’s departure complicated the summer of head coach Adam Keefe, forcing him to search high and low for an elite point producer in free agency.

J.J. Piccinich, Belfast Giants (Image: William Cherry)

Elite League Questions: How will the Belfast Giants fare without J.J. Piccinich? (Image: William Cherry)

It remains to be seen whether the Giants landed on a direct replacement, but they made plenty of interesting additions to their squad, including Steven Owre and Colby McAuley, and could replace Piccinich’s points tally by committee.

Also of note: Belfast retained several key members of their double-winning squad, with Scott Conway, Ben Lake, and Kevin Raine back for another year.

Cardiff Devils: How Will Rookie Head Coach Brodie Dupont Fare?

It is official, now. After leading the Devils to playoff success as interim head coach last term, Brodie Dupont is all set for his first full season behind the bench.

Cole Sandford, who re-signed in Cardiff this summer, praised his coach shortly after securing the 2021-22 Elite League Playoff title, but will hard-won momentum from last season carry through into the new campaign?

Brodie Dupont (left) guided the Cardiff Devils to Playoff Finals Weekend success as interim head coach (Image: James Assinder)

Elite League Questions: How will Brodie Dupont adapt to being a full-time head coach? (Image: James Assinder)

“I think he’s been great,” the 27-year-old explained. “He was in a tough spot: it’s not easy to step in halfway through or at the end of the season like that. He had quite the season for us: playing at the start, taking over as assistant, and then stepping in as head coach.

“The proof’s in the pudding – look at our defensive zone: we bent but we didn’t break. Brodie deserves a lot of credit.”

Adjusting to life as a full-time head coach is never easy, but Dupont seems well-equipped for the role and has plenty of goodwill in the bank after last season’s heroics.

Coventry Blaze: Can Paavo Hölsä Fill C.J. Motte’s Skates?

C.J. Motte arrived in Coventry in the middle of a netminding crisis: the Blaze were not receiving the saves they needed from Jamie Phillips, with head coach Danny Stewart concluding that his team needed help between the pipes.

But, with the season already well underway, his options were limited.

Motte’s reputation was also far from its peak at the time. He had just lost the starter’s job with HC Innsbruck and was on the outside looking in for the first time in his career.

With that said, nobody expected Motte to dominate the Elite League. But he did. The left-catching netminder posted a .923 save percentage through 75 appearances, emerging as one of the best puck stoppers in the country.

Elite League Transfers - C.J. Motte, Coventry Blaze (Image: Scott Wiggins)

Elite League Questions: With C.J. Motte back in the AHL, will the Blaze receive the saves they need in 2022-23? (Image: Scott Wiggins)

The 30-year-old’s fine form saw him snapped up by the American Hockey League’s Iowa Wild this summer, ending his stay at the Skydome Arena. But what does the future hold for the Blaze?

They signed 27-year-old Paavo Hölsä as Motte’s replacement and Stewart is bullish about the Finn’s chances of success.

“He’s very agile and competes for every puck,” the Canadian explained. “He’s a hard-working guy that is keen to keep getting better. He wanted the challenge of playing more games and being our go to guy, and we are delighted to bring him in for this season.”

Hölsä is a player to watch as a result.

Elite League Questions: Part One

Before start of the 2022-23 season, BIH will be setting an Elite League question for each organisati0n. The second and third parts of the series will feature the competition’s remaining clubs, starting with the Dundee Stars, Glasgow Clan, and Fife Flyers later this week.

2022-23 Elite League Roster Pages

Throughout the offseason, BIH has been curating squad summary articles for each of the Elite League’s clubs. You can find them below:

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