A Lord for the New Year Honours
Give a take a game or few, we’re approximately halfway through the season and I’ve got my coach of the year picked out already.
To be clear, this isn’t one of those predictions or calls that I have to stick to, but purely based on what we’ve seen so far and for me, Andrew Lord is a very early contender for Coach of the Year.
I can hear the howls of derision already, especially coming from Sheffield Steelers, who are top of the table with a coach brand new to the Elite League and there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind Aaron Fox has done a terrific job there in some adversity.
But Cardiff are very much back in the mix with a team that have had some rocky times and are finding the sort of momentum we’ve seen from them in recent years – a foundation for the success they’ve had.
Lord has steered them through the choppy waters to the point they are breathing down the necks of their Sheffield rivals, waiting for a slip so they can take advantage.
In a time when their rivals have changed things as they’ve gone for one reason or another, Lord has kept faith with his team, making only one change when Matias Sointu moved and Shaone Morrisonn came in.
Compare that with Sheffield, who have moved on three players and brought in five, but you can add the caveat that injuries have forced them to be more active than they would have liked.
Belfast, since the start of the season, have moved three on and brought four in, including recent signings Elgin Pearce and Rickard Palmberg, rumoured to return to Sweden in the New Year.
Nottingham have also switched things around after a poor start to the season have swapped three for three and Tim Wallace’s changes have had a positive effect.
The point I’m making is Lord has remained true to the team he put together at the start of the season and have got themselves out of the indifferent early season form, which is why, arguably, Lord is ahead of his counterparts round about him.
Of course, there are so many twists and turns to come and I expect, if Cardiff’s season does go south, someone will remind me of this blog. It’s always easy to be smart after the fact, but Lord’s record stands up.
On current form, Devils have had the best run over the last 10 games, taking 17 points – a point more than Sheffield and two more than Guildford, winning eight out of their last nine.
Make no mistake, Cardiff are out to make amends for last season. The league title swiped from under their noses, a Challenge Cup loss in the quarter finals to Glasgow Clan and only the play-offs to show for it. They want more this year.
In Lord, they have a coach who knows what it takes to win and with a record of three out of three in the league over Sheffield and one in three (three points from six) against Belfast, this is a man for the big occasion.
There’s no prizes won in December/January, but don’t be surprised if Lord is smiling again by the end of the season in what has been a tough test for him and his team so far this season.
Who’s next for honours?
Speaking of New Year and honours, Buckingham Palace recently announced the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list and as always with these things, there was plenty of debate and discussion over who got what.
There’s no surprise to learn that nobody from ice hockey were on the list, but it got me thinking about who should be on there for their services to the sport.
Tony Hand received an MBE in 2004, an award richly deserved for everything he has contributed through the years and is the best example.
In the modern game, there should be candidates such as Colin Shields for everything he did in a glittering career, which ended with THAT game for GB against France back in May.
Pete Russell is another one that could come into the conversation for his work with the GB, including two straight promotions and keeping the national team in that tough World Championship group.
There’s another great candidate in David Longstaff, still playing now well into his 40’s with Whitley Warriors and a fantastic ambassador for the game in the North East.
Let me know who you think should be on the honours list by tweeting me @BIHCraig
…and a Happy New Year
It’s the last Monday After of 2019 so many thanks for reading this blog through the year and I’ll return with more of the same in 2020.
On behalf of everyone at British Ice Hockey, have a brilliant New Year and a have a great time.